Unless it’s something you have struggled with yourself, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it’s like living with mental health problems.
My diagnoses are PTSD and Dysthymia. They go hand in hand really.
On top of that, either rightly (or in my opinion, wrongly) ASD (a diagnosis I received when I was 42) is also classified in medical terms under mental health. For that reason I have chosen to keep it off my official medical record. I fear for all the negative connotations that go with it, which in itself is pretty sad really.
What is PTSD?
A disorder characterised by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
The condition may last months or years, or be lifelong, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions.
What is dysthymia?
Dysthymia is a milder, but long-lasting form of depression. It’s also called persistent depressive disorder. People with this condition may also have bouts of major depression at times. Depression is a mood disorder that involves your body, mood, and thoughts.
What is ASD?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly.
New Zealand has been working hard to get people talking about mental health, but in my opinion there’s a very long way to go and we are still really only paying it lip service.
Either consciously or unconsciously, most people will judge a person outwardly. So if you are like me and have become quite a good actor, there’s actually no way of knowing what real struggles anyone is going through, you can only acknowledge that you might have some idea. But I’m reality you probably don’t.
A typical mental health struggle day for me
I usually wake at 6am. It isn’t unusual for it to take me up to 3 hours to even manage to get out of bed.
I know I should exercise regularly. I want to, but the truth is I can’t. I might spend all morning trying to get myself there, and failing.
So so many negative things will go through my mind I know I am regularly self sabotaging. Disassociation is something I have a real problem with. I can find myself just sitting there perhaps hours on end – doing nothing and going nowhere. If you disassociate, you don’t feel. Sometimes I would give anything to not feel the pain and mental struggle.
Sometimes I can talk myself round, sometimes not. But despite the willingness, I don’t just skip out the door like I once used to. Which is a problem in itself. Because I will then beat myself up mentally for being lazy, being less than I used to be.. which is all nonsense. Because this is now and that was then, and they cannot and should not be compared.
Exercise is often both the solution as well as the problem.
Exercise is integral to who I am. It makes me feel like me. But it’s also a reminder of the trauma as well as the physical limitations I now have.
So my OT said I need to develop non exercise based pastimes.
I have tried this so so many times and I am not afraid to admit I’m totally shit at that.
I cannot keep focused enough while sitting still. All I want to be is outside training. But I can’t.
And round the merrigoround we go.
Added to that, is work. I have physically adapted it as much as I can, and dropped the OT (too triggering). But the fact is, I have to put on a face and pretend I’m fine. It’s very wearing. Too much work means I run out of my already smaller energy stores and have nothing left for either my partner or exercise (or anything for that matter).
Steps I have taken to help keep me afloat mentally
- Journal. It’s just a notebook but I write down the thoughts in my head as and when I feel the need. The act of that in itself helps me process them from an ASD point of view. It also serves as a brain dump, like I have deposited them there on the page so my head has a wee bit more space.
- Read. To begin with I was reading things I was interested in, but I found this to be too much of a struggle, so I switched to east read ‘chick flicks’ for escapism. That’s worked reasonably well. I have faltered on that lately because I’m not enjoying the book I’m reading. But my AsD won’t allow me to discard it without finishing it!
- Space – time out. This can take place anywhere. I might sit in the park, watch TV, sit in the garden… something with some peace and no social interaction. This serves as a recharge opportunity.
- Remove barriers. If I struggle to even get up then I’m not going to make it out the door on days like that, am I? So I got a treadmill and put it in the house, next to my bike (on an indoor trainer). The bike used to be in the garage but sometimes even that walk across the yard was too hard. If I don’t even have to go outside I have a lot more chance of doing something. In addition to that I have to constantly remind myself that ANY exercise is ok, because somehow I have this self belief that anything under an hour is a waste of time. I’m working on changing that.
I am very very motivated to better myself mentally as well as physically. The truth is, some days are harder than others. Either way, I struggle to see why I would even talk about this, as I see that as a valuable waste of time. Life is far too short to be miserable.
The fact is though, I hope that even just one person reads something I write and it helps them in some small way.
Be kind to yourself. Take nothing and no-one for granted.