A Step In The Right Direction

Hello readers and welcome to the latest installment of my disjointed ramblings on mental health! I realise I haven’t written a blog entry in a few weeks and there are some very deliberate reasons behind this.

One of the most common and unpleasant symptoms of depression is the loss of all hope. It is hard to see a way out of the darkness, and you begin to feel ensnared in your own thoughts and often all prospects of recovery become synonymous with the impossible. Over the last month or so I regret to admit that this is exactly how I have been feeling. I am not sure why this decline in my mental health has occurred – I often wonder if it is this time of year’s disdainful promise of new beginnings and better circumstances. Or perhaps it is just the lack of sunlight. For whatever the reason, I decided I would wait until I had gained some perspective on my current feelings and mental wellbeing before writing a new blog post. When I first made this blog, I was determined that it would carry with it a hopeful message, and whilst negative thoughts and feelings are just as valid as their counterparts I wanted to save this space for a place of support and positivity – not just for my readers but for myself.

I have since gained some clarity on these last few weeks and although I have not been well, I have made some significant steps toward recovery and after allowing time to go by I can now recognize these important steps, and no longer ruminate on the bad things and catastrophize my situation. Catastrophization is a very useful term I have learnt in therapy, meaning to view a situation as considerably worse than it is. Many sufferers of depression and anxiety will be able to relate to this – it is one of the reasons we lose hope.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to hand in my first essay at University for almost an entire year. As hand-ins are often a regular occurrence in students’ lives, many of you may not consider this to be much of an accomplishment – but for me it was huge. Only seven months ago I could not open an essay on my laptop without being consumed by panic. I was unable to walk past the library, let alone go inside. I couldn’t even think about university without breaking down. Seven months ago I had pretty much came to the conclusion that I was never going to be able to write an essay again– the prospect of overcoming these panic attacks and anxiety that had became an immovable obstacle in my life seemed completely unattainable. I was scared I wouldn’t complete my degree and even more scared that I would never get better.

And yet here I am – one essay down, two to go. Although there is still a lot of hard work ahead of me in my road to recovery I can take comfort in this small yet significant victory. The bottom line is that there was something that my illness had told me I couldn’t do – and I held up two fingers and did it anyway! The thing is – depression lies. My mental illness tells me to think negatively, that I am worthless and will never achieve anything I set out to do and yet this one small step is proof that this is simply not true.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. After handing in my essay things did not change. I still get regular panic attacks and have destructive thoughts – I’ve even had to call in sick at work a few times due to my mental health – something I have never had to do before. It is easy for me to focus on all of these negative set backs and convince myself that I am not getting better at all – that possibly I will never get better. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation please know this is NOT the case. After a lot of contemplation I have came to realize that the road to recovery is not linear – we are not always going to be travelling in one direction. So I will continue to ride the constant ebb and flow of recovery, possibly for the rest of my life. But with each small victory I add another tool to my toolbox of mental wellness.

Wishing you all good mental health!