What gets you out of bed?

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I woke up today wondering what I’m here for. Why have I been given another chance – another day? It’s one of those days in the week that I’m fortunate enough to have to myself, with Star in nursery and husband working, I had peace and quiet. Thankfully my sleeping pattern is aligning, due to various factors I’ve put into place – yet it still takes me over an hour to haul myself out of bed once I’m awake.

I had the feeling this morning that I don’t have a strong driver for myself, call it motivation if you like. You know when you feel like you’re going through the motions of life. To be fair, it’s taken me 4 years to get from total emptiness, to a bit of self care and learning – but what am I caring for myself for? It feels a bit inside out. Unsettling in a way. So bear with me whilst I work things out here.

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I have the role of a mother and wife, but when all the labels are removed, who am I left with? For me the labels of mother or wife have never sat that well or stereotypically. I think it comes back to my values again. I did a values exercise and my top 5 values are: Making a difference, Balance, Compassion, Family and Quality. It’s obviously not as clear cut as just 5, but it’s a start to understanding what my priorities are. Looking at it now, the first value of making a difference is something I might feel more purposeful about, if I worked on it in the sense of the world at large.

I’ve spent a large part of my life studying and then working, then had quite a few years gap due to anxiety and getting ill after childbirth. But the world of work is calling me now, I do however want to take it slowly. My ambition involves helping people make changes in their lives and playing a part in finding solutions for society. This seems to be taking me into the health and wellbeing sector. So maybe I just need to accept that and with more of a financial boost, I’ll be able to travel more with my family and enjoy arts and culture like I used to those years ago.

Maybe I’ve been wanting my motivation to be something more exciting or glamourous! The not good enough feeling starts to come into play. Love. I just want to love life…right now I like life, so that’s a start in the right direction. I’d like to take more risks too, as that’s where enjoyment comes in for me. I need to figure out how and where to take what risks.

I’m also a role model for Star, so I want to show him the world and what life’s all about. It’s a bit trickier in lockdown and tricky getting over my anxieties of being in public. But I’m getting there.

I was once told that life is like a three legged stool, with the legs being routine activities, necessary activities and pleasurable activities. You need a balance of all three to be stable. I’m getting more comfortable with my routine, and working hard to make it healthy. I’m building on my necessary chores, which have a way to go. Then in terms of pleasure, that’s probably where I need to dip my toes into some risk taking, but for now it’s more soothing activities like reading, writing, music, meditating and drawing.

How do you motivate yourself? Do you feel you have a purpose or role in this life?

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My rocky relationship with Sleep

I want to talk about sleep. It’s a core factor to my good health, but perversely, it’s the thing that gives me a lot of trouble and contributes to poor health, especially when I get too much or too little of it. By poor health, I mean mania or depression.

Let’s talk mania first. I tend to have a lot of ‘projects’ on when I’m manic, and usually get into arguments which feed my paranoia. I get into the spiral of not wanting that much sleep, so that I can get the project work done, which mainly consists of slightly grandiose ideas. Then I over commit to things, which fuels the anxiety and makes me want to sleep even less so that I can get all the overdue work done. I might crash and get some random blocks of sleep, but on the whole it’s an unhealthy amount of sleep that leads to more paranoia, psychosis and hospitalisation. So I know I’m not manic, when I’m interested in sleeping on time…but this interest in sleeping on time does not mean I’m not depressed.

Being on lithium keeps me from going manic. However additional drugs, like fluoxetine, have made me psychotic and manic too. The majority of my life I’ve dealt with low levels of depression and anxiety, even when on lithium.

I saw this quote “Everyone thinks I’ve gotten better. I haven’t. I’ve just got better at hiding it.” and it reminds me of how I’ve been functioning in public, whilst hiding in bed when at home a lot of the time.

Getting out of bed in the morning is the main struggle for me, but even when I manage that, committing to the day by having a shower and getting ready can be extremely anxiety provoking. I can procrastinate like nobody’s business at the point before jumping into the shower, and I have done on many many occasions. So it’s my thoughts and fears about the day to come that get me into negative overthinking.

My deep sleep ends at the same time each day (which is when you could say I wake), and I go to sleep the same time each day. However I am aware that my physical activity is low (partly because a large portion of my morning is in bed), so the quality of my sleep isn’t great. I tend to feel tired in the afternoons and have 2 hour naps sometimes, so that affects the quality of my night time sleep too.

“Just get up, do some exercise and don’t nap in the afternoons – sorted!” Way more easier said than done, so I’m starting with the first step. I’ve now brought it down to the basic of just getting up and spending time in the morning having breakfast with my husband and son (which is something I have huge guilt in missing out on). So the plan is, instead of worrying about getting out into public (the main thing I avoid), I just focus on starting the day. Then in time, the rest will fall into place.

I asked myself, if people can still go about doing things in their day whilst starting it tired, what is it that is so painful that is stopping me? What is my core belief, which leads to my behaviour pattern and feelings that I can’t function when I’m tired?

I’ve discovered that not feeling tired is a mask for me. I don’t feel confident or even able to cope that well when I’m tired. When I say it’s a mask, I’ve realised that much of my insecurities come from not wanting to feel vulnerable, but wanting to feel authentic at the same time. I want to feel and look confident, and I know from my past, that feeling tired does not lead to confidence. So now I tell myself that it’s ok to feel vulnerable or imperfect, and I focus on mindful grounding techniques or gratitude.

I have a night time routine that I’m establishing, which involves putting my son to sleep, praying, reading or listening to youtube lectures, medication and journalling, all before midnight – but I tend to get carried away scrolling on social media, so I’m trying to reduce that, especially as screen time before bed is a big no no. So I feel like I’ve offloaded my worries for the day via praying and journalling, then also fulfilled my desire to learn in a relaxed manner through reading and lectures.

Then for the daytime, my work time is usually 2pm to 6pm, as the mornings are for walking (ideally), then lunchtime. I try and finish eating by 8pm too, with no caffeine after 5pm.

So that’s the story of sleep in my life. Anxiety leeches onto it, so by working on overcoming my main fears and establishing a healthy sleep routine, I hope to get into the upwards spiral of getting up earlier and exercising more, and in turn feeling better and sleeping better. What’s your relationship with sleep?

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What’s in your recovery toolbox?

Things are starting to look brighter. With the start of the new year, or new decade, came a resolve from me to not waste all the tools and techniques I’ve learned from the months of therapy I had towards the latter half of last year. And it’s working so far.

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But I’ve made plans to wake early and be more active etc. before for the last couple of years – what has made a difference this time round? I think it’s a combination of putting in the effort to understand as much as I can about my anxiety and the unhelpful thoughts that make it worse, and working hard to have the balance in my life that I really want. It’s actually by me putting quite a few things in practice, which I’ll try my best to lay out here.

1. Journaling is something I’ve been doing for years, but I started doing it more regularly in the latter stages of my pregnancy. I wrote to Star every day since leaving hospital when I was sectioned at 28 weeks, then on and off since then. I even have a journal book full of notes in my manic psychotic state (when I thought I’d cracked the secret of the universe). However, in the Free to be me group therapy I was introduced to The Examen, which is a form of written spiritual exercise originating from St Ignatius. How I do it is to reflect on my day and find three instances where I am grateful (in my case, to God), I add in how I am responsible for that moment of gratitude then I think of something in the day I wish to have forgiveness for (for example by being critical of someone). Finally I write down a moment I felt most alive that day and a moment I felt least alive. I do this every night before bed and I find it therapeutic.

2. Medication is something I’ve always been very disciplined about, but I thought I’d add it in here as a tool for recovery as it’s still part of my daily routine. Aripiprazole in the morning first thing and Lithium Carbonate at night….around this time 9.30pm (she breaks to take the pills). Now that I’m waking up at more consistent times, it should help the morning aripips in my system. See my older post on medication for more on that topic.

3. Sleep Routine is crucial for those with Bipolar. I love my sleep, so I get to bed by 11pm at the latest, but getting out of bed was the main struggle. I’ve managed to be up at 7am now for 5 days in a row (a record for me), and not had any naps during the day (apart from 45mins yesterday evening watching Jumanji on Netflix). My outlook for the day is more positive too thanks to the more psychological tools I’m implementing.

4. Wake Routine is the newer one. I’m using an alarm clock, my toddler and my husband to wake me up and the first thing I do after morning meds is to make my husband a cup of tea or coffee. I was advised this by someone in the Bipolar Support Group that I attend, who suggested I eat or drink something nice or did something nice for myself. However, as I am Intermittent Fasting it’s easier to make him a drink and I feel like I’ve done something good for someone else. I then do all the bathroom rituals and get dressed for the day ahead. Psychologically, using the Holistic CBT model from Free to be me, I’m understanding my core beliefs, rules for living and thinking more helpful thoughts to combat the ingrained negative unhelpful ones as soon as I wake. For me paranoia or the need to put on an act in public plus perfectionism are what fuel my anxiety, so being aware when I have these thoughts and thinking things like, “we’re all souls” and “it’s better to do something imperfectly than nothing at all” are the CBT way to beat the critical self. I also tell myself my positive qualities, which is a tool from the Self esteem group therapy.

5. Anchoring, Mindfulness and Defusion are all techniques from The Happiness Trap program, which you can get from the book or an online course. Anchoring involves being aware of your thought (usually anxiety in my case), taking a deep breath, connecting with your body and then your surroundings – I love it as it only takes a minute. The mindfulness I practice is less meditation and more involving the five senses, for example when I shower I feel the water, hear the drops, smell the scents, etc. This awareness is good when I’m eating or walking alone. Defusion is an awareness that my negative thought is just a thought. So I would catch myself and say ‘I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that I can’t cope’. These are all ACT Acceptance Commitment Therapy techniques. Self compassion comes here too, which I learnt from my Self esteem therapy, but I need to work on that more I think – talking to myself with kindness.

6. Weekly planning is something I’ve been attempting for the last year, but I never was able to make it work. Mainly because I would never wake when I planned to. There was a session in the Free to be me therapy which looked at balance and is struck me that I was spending all my time dwelling on what I should be doing rather than doing it. I realized that I needed to get outside to just be out of the house as well as for exercise, so I have incorporated walks into my week. I enjoy my crisis volunteering and have added in design work on those days too – so I have allocated ‘work’ time. The rest of the time is with Star and I have made plans to get outside and do more with him out of the house. In the odd gap times, I have started to do bits of creative writing. The bit I need to improve is the housework, but I have a plan to do one enjoyable thing a day and one chore a day to start with – no matter how big or small. My husband reminds me of bits of work I can do to help him at home when I forget, so his support is crucial here. Faith plays a big part in peace of mind too, so I connect with God a few times each day too to ground myself. Connecting with other people is something I was severely lacking, but self confidence and social anxiety makes it so hard. I found my family support to be strong and comforting, so now I’m branching out and making extra efforts to meet friends, old and new.

Have you used any of the above techniques or some which I’ve not mentioned here?

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Overanalysing thoughts

I was once told by a Clinical Psychologist, that I’d make a good Psychologist, possibly because I grasp the concepts quite quickly. I also like problem solving, so maybe at some point down the line I’ll go into the counselling realm. Right now I’m working on myself…but maybe working a bit too hard!

I’m doing a 15 week course on Self Esteem, another one called Free to be me, and an online program for The Happiness Trap (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). I’ve rearranged my childcare and car usage so that I can go to these courses, so they are very important to me, but I’m wondering if I’m psychologically overloading myself.

I had the task this week to look at triggering situations and the associated negative thoughts. Just mulling over my negative thoughts and feelings…and then behavior, got me into overthinking and talking about the same situation a few times to my husband. He proceeded to tell me to give the journaling and thought analyzing a break, as I’d done it enough, and to just relax and enjoy a movie – which I proceeded to do and felt good about.

I remember another Psychologist telling me that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which the first two courses are based on.

So I guess I need to be mindful to balance my activities with my psychology homework. A nice way to do this has been to schedule one type of self care in on each day. I drank coffee on Monday, played my keyboard on Tuesday, gave myself a pedicure on Wednesday, watched ‘comedy’ on Thursday, did a face mask on Friday, sketched on Saturday and learnt some dance moves on Sunday. I intend to follow this plan every week, as it felt easier to do my other work/chores/errands this way.

A major step for me has been going to swimming classes with my toddler, I’ve also started going to the weekly walking group – I just need to be consistent with going to the walking group.

A few positive things I’ve thought of as an alternative to my negative thoughts, are that I’m not the judge of people (God is), life is just a test, what would the True me do (visualization), being mindful (using my senses), all humans souls look the same (so I don’t judge), and being grateful. For gratitude, I’m doing an Examen style journal, which helps me monitor my emotions.

My son is currently 2years and 10months old and is being potty trained. He also say ‘I don’t wanna ….’ for almost anything I suggest he does. Just a few minutes ago he had a rare meltdown, as he woke up from his nap demanding my phone to watch cartoons on. I gave in in the end, much to my own personal disappointment. But nothing else seemed to soothe him. His language has improved a lot and he has just started to jump! I read a book to him and put him to bed every night, so our bond has increased.

I’m a Crisis Volunteer for Shout, a textline, which is quite rewarding and sufficiently challenging work for me right now. So my days are quite packed, I’m just working on being the True me – which is partly a lifelong journey, to live as the ideal me would.

So homework this week for both CBT based courses is to assign thinking errors to the negative thoughts that I catch, and to continue with self care.

Have you done any CBT or ACT? Let me know your thoughts if you have.

Identifying the Enemy within

I’m talking about anxiety. That….thing. I’m not even sure if labelling it an enemy is the correct way forward, but I want to deal with it. And to deal with it, for me, means working out where this anxiety is coming from.

It’s causing me major frustration, as I feel my life is at a standstill of misery until I know how to tackle it. I’ve been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder as well as Bipolar Disorder, so it will come as no surprise that I get anxiety when thinking about or trying to do, day to day things.

I’ve completed two types of group therapy now and one online course. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought I’d be able to deal with my main problem of getting up in the morning and facing the day, but I think it’s gotten worse over the last month. I had two weeks or so of illness (cold/cough), which can’t have helped. The courses must have helped me in some way, as I attended almost all sessions and completed the homeworks – I’m quite worried that I’ll forget or lose the essence of what I learnt. So I’m looking at ways to stay on top of the information and keep up the good practice.

Looking at my core beliefs and triggering situations comes up in both courses, and that’s the part I struggle with the most. I know that I have a feeling I’ll be uncomfortable in myself, that I think I won’t cope with the outside world as well as others, and will feel unworthy – but this representation of the anxious thoughts and feelings I get as soon as I’m awake, doesn’t feel quite spot on.

Also, the anxious feelings crop up during the day, for example when I was planning our family’s activities for the winter holidays. I had to go and lie down for an afternoon nap, which I’ve decided I’m not going to feel that guilty about if I can’t resist it.

I’m trying to do the few chores that I do, mindfully and with gratitude. I also focus on 3 things I’m grateful in my daily journal. But then I have days where I just give up on everything and just lie in bed trying to get back to sleep, or work out when I feel I can cope with getting washed and dressed – usually after I’ve eaten something light.

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I have to admit that the anxiety I used to feel in the presence of others has diminished, so I’m very grateful of that. More mindfulness in my task, less comparing with others and less judgement of others has helped – but I know I need to work harder in all of these areas.

Coming back to identifying the enemy, or why I’m getting anxiety. I looked at the Fennell model of behavior in the self esteem course, so if I look at my own formulation of this, it could help with my core beliefs and rules for living. The free to be me course looks more holistically at influences on my core beliefs, which I will try to identify in more detail.

There is so much more that I need to work on, like creating a balance in my life of enjoyable activities, social and household activities. Now, finding enjoyable activities for me whilst my toddler is around seem next to impossible. Probably something for me to think about more and write about next time.

Practically, saying a verse from the Quran as soon as I wake up and making my husband a cup of tea first thing, is what I’m going to try again. Working on my thoughts will be a build up of daily work on my own CBT model.

Do you try to be ‘normal’?

We all hear the phrase “there’s no such thing as normal”, but what I mean by normal is someone who does not have a mental health condition like I do. You could then argue that everyone is on a spectrum of mental health, but I think living with a condition like Bipolar disorder is different from having an episode of depression.

It’s comparable to living with diabetes. I have to take my medication to stay stable and avoid hospitalization, just like a diabetic takes insulin. However, it’s not the fact that I have to take medication that makes me feel less normal. Popping the lithium pills at night and aripiprazole in the morning, strangely enough, feels okay to me. I think it’s the very least and most basic self care that I do even on my bad days, as I know deep down that hospitalization sets me back a few years in terms of health.

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It’s weird though, as when I was pregnant and off all medication, I felt happy and healthy…but I wasn’t sleeping and becoming increasingly reckless and that resulted in a psychotic manic episode in week 28 of my pregnancy and sectioning.

So it’s not the medication that makes me feel abnormal. It’s the depression and anxiety and the fact that I have to battle to do things that those without bipolar seemingly have no trouble with.

Am I trying to live life like I think an average healthy person does? Is that a losing battle as I will always have bipolar? How do you just accept your condition and not feel totally different from everyone else?

It’s classified as a disability, but not visible, so is it unreasonable to want to feel able as that’s what others see?

Then maybe it’s just about lifestyle. Like a diabetic has to watch their diet and exercise, I have to have a relatively low stress lifestyle – plus watch my diet and exercise.

I think it’s the benchmark that I’m aiming for that is confusing me. What am I aiming for when I think of a life where I have overcome my symptoms of bipolar? I think the trap I tend to fall into is to look at what healthy people’s activities are, rather than their ways of thinking. And it’s very difficult to know how healthy non bipolar or those without mental health difficulties think. That’s where psychology comes in. If you think healthy, then you will be healthy on the inside.

Then there’s the question about personality. I feel like I’ve been this way since childhood, but I have to remember that my true personality shines when I’m in a good mood and that just because I have an anxiety disorder, does not mean I have an anxious personality. Bipolar is a mood disorder, so just because I am manic does not mean I am happy all the time and conversely depression does not mean I don’t have a sense of humour…even though it feels that way sometimes.

Tell me your benchmarks for recovery. How do you know you’ve overcome the bulk of this condition?

That mummy guilt

I have that guilty mum feeling a lot of the time. I think over the last few weeks as I’ve been doing less and sleeping more, my husband took over the basic childcare. I actually am a slightly tearful at the fact that I don’t look after my child like I think most mothers do.

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My husband gets Star ready every morning, whilst I get ready, or whilst I’m having a bit of extra morning sleep (which is really procrastinating waking up), but I helped Star brush his teeth today. We had a big day as I was facepainting at the local toddler group’s Eid party (a muslim festival), plus I had made some food for the one dish party – but my anxiety was more on logistics. For example, how would I cross the busy road with Star on one side and with bags in my other hand. Obviously I managed to cross the road fine. I realise I have a lot of anxiety linked with time pressure, so as I allowed enough time, we were fine. It’s all a knock on effect from getting up on time, which I kind of did this morning.

So why do I feel like a rubbish mum? Because I usually have naps when Star does in the afternoon. So when we were back at home I thought Star looked a bit tired and I certainly felt tired, so I thought we would lie down for a nap. I thought it was 1pm and as Star had eaten a bit in the party, he could eat on waking up.

Nope. Star was in a halfway mood where I knew he was tired but he wanted to play. Or maybe, on reflection he wanted to eat lunch then. By this point I was in nap mode and had tried to wind him down, then I resorted to my mobile phone and YouTube cartoons. I thought this would last half an hour or so, but nope, over an hour later he finally fell asleep next to me watching cartoons. It was then that I realized I hadn’t changed his nappy for a while, but that would have to wait till he wakes.

So no proper lunch, a delayed nappy change and YouTube. He is still asleep whilst I write this, so it means a very late lunch on waking, followed by a nappy change and then finally some playtime with me. The other thing I feel I’m not good enough at.

Anyway, I’m over the guilt now as I spoke to hubby about it and he said I’m doing fine. I did really well this morning and am starting to feel more comfortable in the mum and toddler group with some lovely welcoming ladies there. I just wasn’t on the ball with Star’s needs, but I’m always with him, so I can’t be all that bad. I was telling myself it’s neglect, but I love him and he is not being harmed. With Post Natal Depression and Anxiety a lot of the times your needs are important too. I needed the nap to function, so that’s what I had to do.

Are you fulfilling your basic needs?

I’ve just come out of three days either side of the weekend, where I spent the majority of my day laying in bed wanting to fall back asleep. The motivation had gone and anxiety had done it’s job in making me avoid absolutely everything. It’s utter self neglect. I find it too much effort to even drink water or go to the loo when I’m in that state. But, I managed to eventually take my morning Aripiprazole before noon and wake up when Star gets home with hubby.

I had social plans for the weekend and I had to be with Star, so I was ok for those days. Then I saw a post on Instagram by @lisaoliveratherapy about Showing up for yourself, and I realized that’s exactly what I wasn’t doing. I had plans for my days, I was just overthinking them. I wasn’t fulfilling my basic needs for my own wellbeing.

What are these basic needs?

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  1. Sleeping enough. This I know is not a problem thankfully. I went through a horrid patch of insomnia from the end of my pregnancy till 4 months postpartum, but now I generally get 6 to 7 hours in the night. My problem is too much laying in bed.
  2. Staying hydrated. I’m on Lithium, so I need to keep fluid to look after my kidneys. But I don’t on my down days. However, I now enjoy getting to 2 Litres of water a day with my new 1 L water bottle, as I only have to refill it once in a day. I’ve noticed it reduces dry mouth, which produces extra saliva – so I can speak a bit more confidently now too.
  3. Eating plentifully. I love food. But I need to lose excess weight. So I’m doing intermittent fasting of generally 16 hours on water only, then 8 hours where I can eat what I like. I’m trying to go for higher protein and healthy fats, as well as more vegetables in my meals. Again, on my down days I find it hard to prepare any food – so it’s sometimes bread with peanut butter when I’m starving and drag myself out of bed. I meal plan for the week too, to make sure I get a good variety of food.
  4. Moving your body. I think it’s an element of social anxiety that keeps me indoors. But I’ve stuck YouTube on for dance tutorials when I’m at home sometimes, and I will try to get back into my yoga style stretches in the evenings. I’m yet to join the walking group, but I am due to go for a walk with a friend soon. This is my biggest challenge, the physical side of things.

Showing up for the day by committing to my morning habits and then looking after these basic needs is a great first step for recovery. There is obviously a lot more to life to bulk up a day, like spending time with yourself doing what you enjoy and what’s necessary (chores) – but that all comes when you can take care of yourself.

My plan for my plan

I have a plan. I have a plan for every weekday and a loose plan for the weekends. But when I don’t stick to my plan I tend to beat myself up about it and find myself not able to enjoy the rest of the day – i.e. lying in bed is the only solution in those cases.

Waking up feeling positive and not anxious is something I’m striving for, and having a realistic plan which incorporates my goals is a good start but I need to meet my plans more to feel confident in the mornings.

My plan is in timetable form. I recall calling the PANDAS helpline (a charity for mothers suffering with post natal illnesses), and the mother I spoke to talked about how her bipolar was managed by having a routine for everything. I have a plan to have a routine, but my self confidence gets in the way.

What do I mean by that? I overthink the day ahead and procrastinate getting ready for it. I need assurances that I’ll feel comfortable doing my planned activities in what I’m wearing, and that I’m fully prepared for it. It’s the control side of me that takes over and the fear of failure. I think I don’t like uncertainty. But who likes feeling uncomfortable?

What is it that makes me feel uncomfortable? Essentially, it’s my own critical thoughts or judgements about myself. I find myself judging others, but now I have a technique where I catch myself. So instead of an ‘Evaluation’ I go more for a ‘Description’. For example, I assume there is something wrong with being fat when I see a fat person, but that is an evaluation – so I replace that with the thought that I’m observing a different shaped person. I sound horrible, but I am horrible to myself – that’s why I have bipolar depression. Lack of self compassion and being too hard on myself.

This way of being worked for me in some way when I was younger, to achieve, but it didn’t help me to be happy. So finding new ways to undo many years of harmful thinking takes hard work. It’s a combination of thought techniques and practical life skills.

I feel like I have the tools to challenge negative thoughts, I just need to practice them more. My new plan is to wake up earlier (with the help of my husband), so that I can start the day with Star and feel confident in what I’m wearing for the day – as that helps lessen that worry. As always, being physically active will help me, as that’s the goal I have yet to meet. It starts with a walking group this week, so wish me luck.

Simple techniques

I’ve been struggling this week and I can’t find any particular reason for it. Just the way recovery goes – up and down. I physically am unwell with a cold, so that tends to get me down.

I wake at 7am naturally but lie in bed for a few more hours, usually listening to the morning activities of my husband and son – then feeling guilty that I’m not getting involved in engaging Star in active play (he’s turning to the phone quite a lot unless distracted). Then I guess I’m finding ways of recovering my mood from that as the day goes on. It’s also half term, so I find it difficult being out of my usual weekly routine, which I’m still building up. The main part I need to build up is doing the morning walks – but that’s all dependent on me waking up on time. I’ll get there.

The things that are working for me:

  1. Consistently doing something for my mind – this is my Positivity Journal and Gratitude Journal. Each day (usually after I’m dressed), I write down a few positive things I have achieved or experienced the day before. I try to find something that made me happy and something that made me proud. The gratitude journal is simply three things that I’m grateful for…my car, my husband cooking dinner, hot water, etc. It’s nice to look back at from time to time.
  2. Learning what I think self care is for myself. Self care varies from person to person. As good as it is walking in nature, on bad days, leaving the house is hard enough – so I realized I need things I can do at home that are easy and do not encourage my need for perfectionism. For example, drinking a cup of tea or doing some mindful colouring. Writing here feels good and is easy. I think it’s finding things that I don’t criticize myself for doing imperfectly or not good enough.
  3. Psychological techniques like OBSERVE and STOPP. These are basically pausing to observe any negative thought like a story, breathing and taking a step back, and then either continuing your activity mindfully, or putting your thought on ‘trial’. I don’t usually do the STOPP technique as much, but when I find myself judging others (which is a reflection of myself), I ask if it’s a description or evaluation.
  4. When I have a random worry, I ask myself if it’s a real problem now or a hypothetical one. If it’s the latter, I just let it go. If it’s real, then I take action to solve it with the what, when, how questions.
  5. I am getting to have a consistent night time routine after dinner, so hopefully I will be able to do my evening things more regularly on a day to day basis.
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It’s easy to get down and feel like I’m going back to the beginning of my depression, but reminders like this list show that I’ve come a long way from the days when I’d just lay in bed or not want to do anything. Incorporating little things I value, like a youtube spiritual talk over lunch makes a difference. Again, I like to build the habit so that it’s consistent. I also went out with a good friend and Star this week in the sunshine, which I really appreciated – support systems are so important.