I've written a fair few posts on mental health and mental illness now. All of which are honest reflections, noting problems and difficulties faced, but always with focus on what I have learnt and ending on a positive note. When I write about my mental health, it's often when I have made progress in a particular area and want to talk about the journey I went on in some format; whether that be a post recounting the experience, explaining the importance of specific resources, or through creating a list of tips that helped me. I personally don't like being able to write about my experience, unless I have made a development of some kind. Shifting my attention solely towards the positive outcome from a tough situation, is simply my way of dealing with it and continuing to move forward. It's a way of starting the next chapter afresh, and gives me a form of closure. This does mean I often miss out an important part of suffering with mental illness though; the bad days.
I have been in recovery for over five months now, and as much as I make improvements, there are still days where I notice the presence of my black dog. It won't be constant, but instead it will drift in and out of the room; circling my legs and making me feel dizzy, before retreating out of sight. Sometimes I will have a few bad days in a row, other times it will be a single day of tremendous highs and lows, or (most frequently for me) I will experience intrusive thinking and symptoms of depression in the space of a single hour. In what I like to call my "Cloudy Hours" I experience a whirlwind of emotions. These hours start off sunny, before suddenly becoming overcast. There's a dramatic downpour, and then the rain will clear up again.
I'll start off feeling content, then spiral into feelings of frustration and sadness, before coming back up to the surface. In these hours, I experience exhaustive self-hatred. I feel disappointed in myself, worthless, and full of regret. I become unmotivated, disinterested and tearful. I experience the odd pressure headache and feeling of numbness. Suicidal thoughts come and go like flashes of lightning and thunder claps. They'll pop up out of nowhere -
'You could just end it?'
- and then quickly fizzle out. As I know this is not what I want, I've come to disregard the suicidal thoughts instantaneously. These intense minutes feel like a condensing of all the years I unknowingly suffered with depression. Like it all comes rushing back at once. It's debilitating. And it's scary to think that how at one point, this flood of thoughts and feelings would have been ones I so greatly took into account. Yet now I can visualise it like being caught up in a moving storm, I can tackle it accordingly.
“Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain.”
― Vivian Greene
The bad days once overwhelmed me. Their constant presence led me to believe I would honestly experience these feelings forever. That they were a part of me. That they were who I was.
But it wasn't, and it isn't.
Whilst I have no control over these hours, as they come and go as they please, I do have control over how I view and treat them. As time goes on, the quicker I realise I'm in the midst of a Cloudy Hour, the easier they are to manage. With something that feels like being tangled in a blanket of negativity, I attempt to approach them with as much positivity as I can muster. I do this by viewing them as an excuse to look back on everything I've achieved; mental health-wise and just generally in life too. For example:
if I'm so worthless, how come I've made it this far?
I remind myself that I am here for a reason, and that I deserve a happy life as much as the next person.
Applying quick and counteractive thinking during the rougher moments helps me stay in control. I have found that rather than wiping out my entire day, I am instead able to take Cloudy Hours on the chin, and crack on after they have passed. Now don't get me wrong, they are difficult. They upset me, and some days I find it easier to bounce back than others. But overall, I am thankful that the frequency of these hours continues to lessen and lessen.
Ironically, this is a post I've been wanting to write for a little while. Majorly lacking in the energy department meant any post-writing ground to a halt, but I did it! And I found a way to put a positive spin on it too (
)! So to conclude, receiving a diagnosis of depression was the biggest catalyst for change in my life. I was able to start learning more about myself and the illness I suffer with. This has let me make once difficult obstacles tangible, as well as see any Cloudy Hour as an excuse to celebrate achievements and live my life to the fullest. Everyone has bad days, some of which are incredibly arduous, but every single storm does pass. And even if the rain doesn't seem to be letting up, I'll be doing my best to dance in it.