Friday night rolled on and I felt exhausted. The week had been so hard; work things, family things, life things. Things form the past, things looming in the future. My brain was truly fried. The heat had gotten to me and I felt as if I needed a hole drilled in my head just to release some of the pressure. I collapsed on the sofa and immediately cancelled my plans. The familiar feeling of having done too much and simply having nothing left to give left me, once again, on the floor.
Sleep was restless. “A restless mind makes for a ruffled pillow”, as one of the Bronte sisters said (I forget which). But never had a truer word been spoken. All night my mind reamed with thoughts, considerations, ruminations and pontifications. All, of course, to no avail or finality. I awoke characteristically early. Usually about half five when I ironically have barely slept the night before. I looked awful. Sweaty hair, face heavy with dark shadows, creaky muscles. I was truly done and shattered and I had a whole weekend of plans to get through before I could rest.
Well, long story short, I did what I had to. I drew those curtains, switched on the T.V. and promptly hid from the world. Very much like a cocoon; waiting and hoping to reemerge into a semblance of normality. I drowned in my gloom. Endless tea and quick release carbohydrates to follow; I indulged my desire for solitude and peace like never before. The day slowly passed by and, gradually, I reemerged from hibernation mode. I had regained enough strength to sleep.
Sunday came and I felt more serene. I had about 9 hours sleep and I feel like I had updated. My face was back to normal. I showered and washed my hair and began to feel like me again. I did my usual skin care, ate healthily and wore clean clothes. I tidied and cleaned my flat and before I knew it; I felt able to speak to other people again. I decided a walk would be necessary; a stupid walk for my stupid mental health.
I’ve always loved the feeling of a packed-rucksack. I feel like I can go anywhere and cope with anything. I typically carry: 1 hoodie (in case it gets cold), some snacks and water; sun cream; some playing cards and some earphones. I wore my clean clothes and met my partner at the train station. Our spirits were high and she showed me that she was forgiving of my mood the day prior; she understood that sometimes I get like this. We walked and chatted, caught up and laughed our old familiar jokes. The train was exciting and we both alighted feeling connected and motivated for the journey ahead.
It didn’t take long before my happy hormones were flying. We ate in a chinese Noodle bar and I felt confident and engaged when communicating with the staff. We took photos of each other smiling and laughing, and our conversation flowed readily. It was a happy day and a proud day. One we both shared a sense of calm and serenity about, which is about a million miles from how I felt the day before.
The sleep helped, the self care charged me, tidying my flat helped ease my mind (it was pretty rank before). The day trip excited me and the walk in nature soothed me. I was able to stop ruminating and instead position my mind somewhere between mindful appreciation of nature, and a gentle optimism about the future (e.g. “God, I’d love to live in the countryside again!). It pleased me and I felt genuinely happy. Good to be alive and feeling content with things as they were again.
The moral here is simply that, no matter how long you have suffered with mental health difficulties, and no matter how many times you’ve pushed through, sometimes we get it wrong. It seems like an almost impossible calculation to be able to predict exactly when you’re going to have a crash, with the more neurotic of us being affected by even simple adjustments to the weather or a changed plan – we’re going to mess this up. And that’s okay. What’s important is that when we do have our lapses, we manage them effectively and in a way which gets you back to full health soon. For you and those around you.
When the proverbial hits the fan (and it will) you need to be prepared to communicate this to people. Don’t go into radio-silence mode; instead communicate to your people that you need some time. There’s nothing like a good support network when you feel you are at your lowest ebb. You have to have boundaries with people too. It’s all too common for good friends with the best intentions to assume what you need right now is a pint. This may well be the case for you, but if it isn’t – let them know and do not go. If you need silence and peace, then give yourself silence and peace. You don’t have the bank balance to afford otherwise. You have to prioritise your needs first and there’s nothing wrong with this. The sooner you rest and feel better, the quicker you can return to those around you so you must get out your overdraft as a matter of urgency.
Better than this is not getting yourself into this mess in the first place, but we are after all only human, and we will make errors. This is, I’ve found, the best way to overcome those lapses when they occur. Listen to your body, notice your signs, come back to you and don’t be ashamed to do so. That battery needs charging regularly and if you let it run out it will – usually in the least opportune time imaginable and you end up rowing or disconnecting over something trivial. Communicate your needs and back yourself up; you will get through this and come out shining on the other side.