Current snapshot: a mental health ‘selfie’

It’s only a week before my Christmas holiday starts and I’m currently taking time out to chill because of my mental health issues (read as: crying at work). I’m a bit embarrassed by that but it is what it is. I started crying, thought I could get it under control & discovered I couldn’t and subsequently went home from work. That was early yesterday.

Since then I’ve played cards on my laptop mostly. I also watched a film and put dinner in the slow cooker, and made a dessert for last night’s dinner (unusual for me). Today: put some washing on the line, made a pie with leftover casserole from last night and played cards. It’s a beautiful day outside and I don’t feel like I’m making the most of it. Possibly because I’m not!

So right now, I’m choosing to write – to face some of my current stuff that I don’t really understand, in the hope that it will be clarifying to write. I often learn about my stuff when I write it down. Except I don’t write much these days but here I am feeling the need to at least look at the issues, if not address them.

I’ve realised that I seem to get into a space like this about this time of year – I get stressed, tired and irritated, don’t sleep well and am irritable. But it’s not like I have a lot to be stressed about – even if I minimise the stressors, I still seem to wind up here. I’m not depressed or anxious, or even worried (at present). There’s nothing happening that’s time critical – but I get stressed and/or emotionally fragile in the build up to Christmas.

Historically, Christmas has been one of those difficult times when I don’t see much of my own family but spend it with my husband’s family and his elderly father. I feel guilty about not spending time with my family and haven’t made a huge effort to work on my relationships with family members in the past few years – feel guilty about that, and yet I don’t want to spend time with my siblings because I fear being judged by them. I’m not sure if the fear is realistic, or just me being paranoid. So historically, it’s about guilt, shame and fear.

This year is a little different. I went to a family wedding in February, (which I was both looking forward to & dreading, due to my issues around family); got drunk, made a bit of a fool of myself and felt even more guilt and shame than usual. After much soul searching, I gave up alcohol a few weeks later, started participating in an online programme to look at alcohol: into the effects of alcohol on the body, why we drink etc – and really threw myself into trying to address some of my stuff (-predominantly the ‘why I drank’ stuff). I learnt about cognitive dissonance and how we sometimes have a desire to both do something and not do the same thing at the same time (for different reasons) and tried to identify and minimise some of the things I felt cognitive dissonance around.

I returned to a embrace a relationship with God, started going back to church after a number of years; looked at my health and how I could make positive choices about looking after my body in terms of food and exercise. I developed a sleep routine that meant I started to sleep better. I started to meditate and learnt about mindfulness, not buying into my thoughts, and realised I could simply observe my thoughts as they come and go without having to engage with them etc. I’ve learnt about taking time to paint, to garden, to enjoy listening to music, to enjoy simple pleasures. I’ve learnt about finding  rest. I’ve learnt a number of skills that I’ve come to really appreciate, and was proud of taking responsibility for my own stuff, for learning about myself and how I function, and what I can do to help myself as I navigate through this life. I also spent a little time with some family members and told them about my struggles and learnings this year, and was really delighted by their positive responses, support (and my sense of acceptance).

Fast forward to today, and I’m in this place I didn’t expect to be in – haven’t been eating so well, perhaps not looking after myself so well overall; not meditating or following the sleep programme…. and wondering why I feel like I do. Here’s that lightbulb moment: gosh, I haven’t been looking after myself, and maybe it’s time to do so!

Normally, I’d beat myself up a bit at this point. However, right now I see that this is just another day. I don’t have to see this space I’m in as a pattern or an ongoing cyclic event. Maybe it’s just a wake up call to get back to what works for me – looking after myself -making sensible food choices, sensible choices about sleep and how I use my time; looking after me in a way I haven’t really in the past few weeks (or more). Maybe this is just my wake up call to simply get back into taking care me, and of the child inside who needs to be loved and cared for, nurtured and cherished.

Perhaps it’s time for a cup of tea, and then maybe taking the dog for a walk in the sunshine… and taking time to just ‘be’. No expectations, just self care, self acceptance and self compassion. And time.

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