Sunday, 11 August 2019
A Balancing Act
A friend of mine described managing mental illness as ‘balancing on a high-wire’. She couldn’t be more right, in so many ways. Everything is a balancing act when you live with a mental illness. Push yourself, but don’t expect too much. Connect with others, whilst maintaining appropriate boundaries. It’s okay to ask for help, but not so much you become co-dependent. How many times am I allow to ask the same person for help before it starts becoming a co-dependent relationship? Or does it depend on the type of help I ask for? Anyone who says there’s a straight forward answer to this stuff is lying to you (also watch out ‘cause they’re probably going to start talking about yoga).
Even my tried and tested coping mechanisms can become unhelpful if I use them in the wrong way. For example, I love walking. I find it the easiest way to meditate, something about the physical act of stepping forward helps me leave the shit behind. But in the midst of my eating disorder when I was not eating enough regularly, my healthy walks became an unhealthy excuse for exercise. A helpful coping mechanism, turned harmful. I can’t think of one coping mechanism that I haven’t wrestled with in that sense. Constant self-reflection is exhausting.
Let me give you another example that might be more relatable. Everybody needs ‘me time’. It’s natural, it’s normal, it’s okay to need some time to yourself. But after how many days on the sofa does self care become unhealthy avoidance? And to follow that up, what if you’re someone who has periods and 3 days into your self care sofa slouching you get PMT, can you get an extension?
What I’m trying to tell you is I’ve spent the last 4 days on the sofa. I ran out of food in the house yesterday and instead of going outside I ordered some falafel, but by the time the delivery man came I’d become so wrapped up in my thoughts I’d completely forgotten about ordering anything. I got so freaked out by an ‘unknown’ man turning up at my door I hid behind the sofa. I realised who it was the third time he rang the doorbell and chased him down the street for my food. I eventually sat down to dinner feeling relieved nobody had seen me crouched behind the sofa, and simultaneously realised I’m probably not in a great place. No need to ring the alarm, hiding from falafel isn’t what I’d call a crisis, but, on balance, probably an indication my sofa slouching has gone beyond self care… and now I’ve started bleeding.
If you even think the word ’hormones’ I’m coming round to free-bleed on your floor. Anyway, that’s not the point, the point is some days you look at the plethora of tools you’ve gathered through recovery and think “nah” to all of them. Some days it’s all you can do to just take another breath. I won’t sugar coat it, it’s a shit place to be. But it doesn’t last forever and, spoiler alert, you can spend as many days on the sofa as you need. It’s not an excuse to disengage from recovery, it’s actually the opposite. Sometimes recovery means self preservation- making an active decision to step back (or sit down) in order to rebalance.
If you live your life without ever thinking “fuck off, no to all of it” I’m deeply envious of you. To the rest of you who can relate, my friends, my kindred souls, try to remember that you’re not alone. Take the time you need. Sleep, cry, découpage your childhood trauma, whatever works. I can’t tell you how long it takes to get off the sofa, but here’s my best advice while you’re there:
Try not to be judgemental. Be patient, kind and ensure a sufficient supply of comfort food (soups are good).
There’s inevitably going to be a lot of binge-watching TV and forays down digital rabbit holes, try and throw some positive mental health stuff in there. My recommendations are The Mighty, Gal Dem Magazine, and Aisling Bea’s new sitcom, This Way Up.
Be around animals, animals are way better than people.
Essential oils cover up the smell of stale, unwashed human like a treat (Bergamot or Frankincense are both calming).
Don’t give up, you’ve still got a couple of motherfuckers to prove wrong.
Love and strength