It can be extremely difficult to live a “normal” life when you have any illness that impacts your daily life, physical and/or mental. Sometimes you have to miss things that you are really looking foward to, sometimes you forget your limits and pay for it later. I’ve done both. When these things occur, it can be hard to keep a good opinion of yourself.
In this post, I want to explore four questions that everyone can ask themselves, whether changes are needed or not. It’s good to reflect while moving forward without messing up your progress.
- What have I missed because of mental health issues?
I’ve missed out on a lot, actually. I’ve had some form of anxiety and/or depression since I was a teen. Over the years, I’ve probably missed out on more than I can list but here are a few:
-My friend Karyl Anne’s wedding. She got married not long after Jake died, and I couldn’t handle being around so many former coworkers. Mallory was one of her bridesmaids and I knew it would be a bad idea to go. Thankfully, she understood.
-Career opportunities. I don’t think I am manager material and am comfortable with the positions I have held. I have turned down things that I don’t think I can handle because my anxiety would get out of control. No job is worth all that.
-Fun times with my friends. Sometimes it’s been just because I didn’t know everyone involved in the event, sometimes it was because I didn’t want to leave the safety of my house. Scott almost dragged me out of my house in early 2016, and I’m totally grateful for that. I am going to miss him so much when he leaves for his new job out of state in a couple of weeks, but it’s going to be a great experience for him. Honestly, there were many times that I just didn’t feel like doing anything, no matter how fun it sounded.
2. What are the signs that you are struggling?
-Lack of motivation. I struggle with this anyway, thanks to anxiety. My therapist and I are working on ways to lower expectations and strain on myself. If my to-do list is too long, I just don’t want to do anything. I shut down. If it’s a day that I don’t have much to do and I still don’t want to do anything, I just take it easy on myself and cheer myself on when something is done.
-Pulling back from people. My friends know when I’m not doing well- Sara and I are great at checking in with each other. It’s probably because of how we met and built our friendship- making sure we were okay emotionally while processing grief. If one of us is quiet for a day or so, the first thing we ask is “You okay or no?” Matthew can also tell. He’s known me for almost 22 years, so it’s not hard for him to realize this even when I try to hide my feelings. I even hang out in my room more and want the kids to leave me alone. My motivation at work is even affected.
-Sleeping more or less than usual. I usually take naps when I need one, because RA is exhausting. In this case, I mean having problems going to sleep at night (not pain-related) because my brain won’t shut down. I also mean sleeping more to escape thinking about what is bothering me.
-Eating more or less than usual. If I am extremely anxious, I don’t eat a lot. My stomach usually hurts too badly to do so. If I am feeling down, there’s a chance I will eat more to drown my feelings. This is probably how I gained 50 lbs over about a year.
3. Biggest struggle with mental health?
Going back to therapy earlier this year. I didn’t have much of a choice because it was that or potentially relapse. I was in a very dark place in my mind and couldn’t see my way out of it. I didn’t want to keep going anymore and knew something had to change. I didn’t have much of an issue getting on meds, that part isn’t upsetting to me. This is probably because I knew that I needed it. I felt like I had failed by going back to therapy, but I didn’t. Sometimes you just need an extra boost. Currently, my therapist is pregnant so we just went back to telehealth. It really isn’t the same as in person, but it’s still doable.
Trying to explain how I see things can be difficult. Even in 2020, some people just don’t get it.
4. What have you achieved in spite of mental health issues?
I will have four years sobriety on 1/1/21. That’s big. I don’t count days, I count years. It’s much easier for my non math brain to work with. I’m fully aware that if my mental health goes to hell, so does my sobriety. That’s it. I have to stay emotionally okay to stay sober. If that means therapy and meds, well, it means therapy and meds. If I can stay sober through this, I think I’m doing pretty well.
Raising these kids- I am trying to get us through a global pandemic in the best way I can. It’s stressful to have teens anyway, but that has been a huge stumbling block. I think Matthew and I have done a good job raising decent kids. We have certainly tried. They’re smart, funny and caring, each in their own ways. I just hope they follow their dreams and live good lives.
Working part-time and being okay with it. I have realized my limits with RA, which was difficult and a career-changer. I have worked full time since 2007 and it was a hard decision to slow down. I can’t do the work I loved so much anymore, so I’ve had to find other work that I enjoy. I’ve been able to do so, which is great. I’ve had to accept that it’s not that I don’t want to, but that I can’t hold up to full time work right now, even if it’s a desk job. I’ve found that part-time really isn’t that bad, especially right now. Being home with the kids during NTI has been helpful.
I still have a full life- friends, family and cats that I love. That makes me lucky.
How would you answer these questions?