As a general rule, I have this depression/mental health thing sorted. I’ve gotten help from my GP, I’ve an understanding partner and family, I’ve seen a psychiatrist regularly over the last two years. I take my meds every night, I make sure to try to get sleep, I know it’s good to talk. For all intents and purposes, for the most part I like to consider the black dog my bitch. There have been a few dips, of course, to teach me my place, but I put a lot of it down to having too much time to think while out of the workplace. So when I returned to work I assumed I wouldÂ be on the home free road. And we all know what they say about people who assume.
The last few weeks have been hectic, that’s one of the only ways to describe it. Between heading back to work, solo parenting while himself is away with work, balancing childcare pickups and bedtimes and getting out of the house in one piece in the mornings, it’s been mental. Add to that my decision to start driving lessons again (8 hours down now, 2 hour lessons every Saturday), and I’ve not really been able to dedicate much time to what we’d call self care. I’ve discovered myself sinking further back into myself. I don’t want to talk to people in person, I don’t want to leave my comfy cocoon of my house, my bed. I’m tired all the time, no matter how much sleep or how much caffeine I have. I’m happiest in my own company, which isn’t particularly good when you live with someone who wants to spend time with you. Self care and minding my mental health has gone out the window, and I know that’s definitely where I’m going wrong.
This time is different because I know what is happening. I can see exactly where I’m going wrong, it’s blatantly staring at me and shouting at me to cop on. The return to work has lessened the amount I’m able to go out for walks, which has become a very clear issue – my long daily walks were definitely key in my sanity remaining intact. My diet has fallen off the wagon a bit – I hit a 3pm slump and I turn to chocolate, or general bad choices. Tired me doesn’t want to make a healthy dinner, so takeaway is the easy option. Let’s add a nice dose of Mammy Guilt in when I get home ten minutes before having to put E to bed, and him not wanting anything to do with me, and you’ve got a perfect storm. See, all these things I can fix. I just need the energy to get myself together. I need to tell the black dog to feck off, to pick on someone his own size.
I found myself in a therapists office last week. I realised I was after falling down a hole that was getting deeper by the day, and that I needed to do something about it now. As it turned out, the therapist wasn’t the right fit for me – right now I don’t need to figure out the root causes of my depression, I just need to get them sorted out and manageable – but she did put me on the right path. I’m left googling CBT courses, and lamenting how ridiculously expensive treatment for mental health is in this country. I am lucky, it will pinch but I can make it work, and can supplement it with health insurance. I know many others who are not so lucky, and so are left to suffer on until something more attainable can be provided. I’ve written before about how cuts to mental health funding are detrimental to the lives of so many in this country, but it’s when you see that each session with these professionals costs 20% of the average minimum wage worker’s weekly gross pay – it drives me mad.
For me, there is the cost, and then there is the time. Trying to fit in work, childcare, sleeping, and some general time to breathe, as well as necessary physio and medical appointments, doesn’t allow much time to go to someones office and bare my soul and learn coping mechanisms for an hour a week. An hour doesn’t seem like that much time until you only have ten minutes with your child before bedtime. Then an hour is a hell of a lot of guilt. The cycle continues.
I’m looking at a course being run by AWARE online, a Life Skills course, which is opening next week. It’s a “Do it in your own time” kind of course, so I will be able to work around my work and family time schedule, and it’s also free of charge, which is definitely a bonus. I’m hopeful it will do something to teach me to stop falling into the rabbit hole that is where I’m sitting now.
I put so much emphasis on my return to work being the thing that would cure me and make my mental health improve, and if anything it has done the opposite. It’s not work’s fault – my own expectations were definitely not realistic, and it was overly simplistic to think everything would magically change. It’s a matter of getting used to things and creating a new normal that I’m happy with. I’m refusing to let this beat me though. Even if I’m just taking it one day at a time, this Black Dog will not bark louder than my roar.
Today is the last day of the public vote to get into the finals of the Blog Awards Ireland. If you like what I write about and want to see me get into the finals of Best Parenting and Best Health/Wellbeing blog (sure, wouldn’t it be great?), I’d really appreciate your vote. The direct links are below – just log in with your Facebook or Google account, it takes two minutes and I will send you all of the good vibes I can muster.