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Friday, 24 July 2015

Food For Thought. Life (or Life With Mental Health) is Like a Box of Chocolates... #VictoriaLIVE

It’s been a busy week in the media for mental health, which is very positive as far as I’m concerned, but also gives me pause to, well, pause, because I’ve been involving myself in many of the discussions going on and probably need to take a break and make sure I’m taking care of myself.
Monday morning was a bit like Christmas in the world of mental health, and my present was a whole one hour and a half programme on BBC two dedicated to the discussion of many aspects of mental health. If you missed it, the Victoria Derbyshire programme featured both a panel of medical experts and celebrity-come-mindfulness-expert Ruby Wax, and is available on BBC iPlayer for the next month.

Victoria and me. Unfortunately this was the one shot I got.
I look happy. She...not so much

I knew what was coming when Mind contacted me about potentially appearing. An eye wateringly) (more like eye-rubbing-ly) early start and no make-up artists to make me look like I hadn’t been up since 5. Imagine for a moment if you arrived at the airport ahead of your long haul transatlantic flight, only to find that a film crew was waiting to catch your (eye) bags and pallid, pre-holiday complexion. Now imagine that being broadcast to thousands of viewers. And now imagine that you have anxiety and depression, which manifests itself as feeling hyper self-conscious of everything about you that is visible and invisible.

Me - in taxi at 6am and on set at 8am. 
Purple and Pink Hair meets Purple set and shiny forehead
(Plus, can you tell I'm depressed? See, I am, but you can't tell...)

I talk about my experience. And am shiny. You can watch the full show here:

Oh, the fun we had! 80 people with some kind of lived experience of mental health, lined up in the BBC cafĂ© area (not open), drinking coffee, tea and eating chocolate biscuits. I like drinking juice as much as the next person, but there’s nothing like an instant shot of cheap chocolate covered refined sugar.

The master biscuit. I salute you.

Following that, I also contributed to a forthcoming Buzzfeed article – watch this space for that – and also then attended a workshop with @LatimerGroup to discuss ideas for a new advert for Time To Change. It’s so good to meet people who do and don’t have lived experiences of mental health and share our ideas for what would work as a concept to help people to seek help or just find out a bit about what mental health means.

It has been a great week for mental health, but I felt down as early as Tuesday and at that point I knew I had to make adjustments to make things work. I felt tired on Tuesday morning so benefited once again from my “reasonable adjustments” at work, choosing to work my full day from home instead of in the office, which helps me avoid a three hour roundtrip commute. I took a 1 hour thirty minute lunch break so I could have a midday nap.

(Note, this is against doctor’s orders, I’m not really meant to nap during the day.) I got to the end of the day. I got to my workshop, despite still feeling tired and starting to feel low because of the tiredness added to the things that make me sad from time to time – loneliness, stress, negative thoughts about friends, hating my body, hating my stupid illness, and so on. Love the thought process of depression. Really I do. I made it back in time for bed and slept. (And I had eaten four sliced of Domino’s for dinner. Carbs help with sleep. But if you’re reading this for health tips for eating, this is not the post for you!)

The pizza was healing.
I don't care what they say about additives.
These slices were just what I needed.

Sleep, enough medication and, yes, pizza, helped put paid to my anxiety and depressive mood in time for Wednesday, so I made it through the day with a run, full day of work, therapy, dinner and a movie (at home, though, I was pretty tired again!). And I ran again on Thursday and went into work (with cupcakes (see comment above. Not the healthiest week), had a (near) fight with a guy in IT who tried to order me around. (Note to all: this is never a good idea! Cue Jessica death stare con 5. That baby doesn’t usually emerge outside the classroom when year seven need to know to stop. To stop right now.) I had a series of good meetings (that’s because the team I work with are all so lovely) and then came home and rested again.

Mini oreo cookies. Small things come in beautiful 
(sometimes with gooey icing) packages

I have to try to take breaks even when my head is all over the place and when my body feels twitchy all over from the medication side effects or whatever else is going on. I don’t feel like doing it. I feel like stepping outside my body and outside my mind. How bad I feel changes from episode to episode, but this week I never reached the terrible place, not quite, because I was able to recognise enough in the calendar to see I really did have to stop frequently. Otherwise that terrible place might be here again. And it might come without my help, so I’ll do everything I can. And Forrest Gump’s mother was right about the box of chocolates, too, in case you’re wondering.

You said it Sally

It sounds so simple, take a break. (Have a KitKat. Oh, I don’t mind if I do!) If I’m honest, though, I’m just not good at taking breaks. I tell myself, go on, keep going, you can do it, just a bit more, just another hour, just another email, just another half a mile, just another phone call. All those “just anothers” add up to a whole lot of “too much” if I’m not careful.

Just another half a mile. Just another juice. Just another 'just'

On the flipside, I wrote an email to a good friend today where I expressed my frustrations at the things I can’t do:

“I remark on the things I still don’t do – like cooking for example – which I used to love and now find little energy left for after managing with work…”

Kind of ironic. I clearly haven't lost interest in food if this blog is anything to go by. But I reflect and I see that there are positives and negatives. Balance. It's about balance.

I’ve said it before and I say it today: cognitive behavioural therapy is for me, in part, a constant process of trying to be more reflective and mindful of what I’m doing. It’s a double edged sword. I have to do this to get better; but doing it makes me feel terrible. If I can take joy in small things, I will. If I can notice that I got to the end of the day, feeling absolutely horrific, I still did get to the end of that day. (At this point I’d probably have buried my head in the duvet, into the pillow, having shut down the light in the room as much as I could, having cleaned all my makeup off, my mask, from my face, scrubbed my teeth so the mint taste distracts me, and having surrendered myself to bed and oblivion.)

Blurring into Oblivion

So here’s another end of the week. It was a great week for discussion on mental health. It was a terrible week for funding cuts. It was an alarming week for statistics on mental health and men’s suicide figures. It was a good week at work. It was an okay week for running. And it was a week. It was.

See you next week?

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