Feels like I haven’t written in forever (was only Monday!) but it’s been another week riding the mental health rollercoaster. On the one hand I’ve stood in front of two rooms of people talking about my own journey and my role as a Mental Health First Aider / Site Lead at work but on the other I’ve privately struggled with my low mood which has been pretty relentless over the last 7 days.
I’ve enjoyed Yoga, Runs and watched plenty of Horse racing which I have a real passion for but the lift I’ve had from these things I love hasn’t been enough to keep me out of the doldrums.
My problem is I’m very quick to beat myself up when I feel ‘off’ and it then manifests into a prolonged spell of darkness and dipping into my mental well-being toolkit by running, reading, yoga, etc will only give me a short term boost. The beast is too powerful and pushes me down into the ground which naturally makes me more vulnerable to falling into a depression, anxiousness and thinking about self-sabotage.
I’m not alone. This cycle is very common and I’m sure many of you will be able to relate. Going along in life with everything seemingly ok then for no clear and obvious reason the mood dips, the fatigue arrives and irritation kicks in. We acknowledge the change and try to fight it with something tried and tested in the past (in my case running for example) which gives the short term dopamine release and a lift in how we feel but what the medical journals often avoid sharing is that the dark cloud is only temporarily parted by the sunshine before the storm returns.
Given the way my mind works it is no surprise that I struggle the way that I do. I’m a very process driven person who likes to be able to de-compartmentalise things and understood why it has occurred or why I’m choosing to do it. With our brain we don’t get the luxury of being able to understand it. It’s a complex machine and no scientist in the entirety of history has been able to solve the deep routed workings of our internal computer system. It frustrates me that I can’t work out why my mood has dipped or why I go from feeling great one minute to being tempted by self-sabotage the next.
Others in recovery who I speak to regularly in social media circles will often point out this is my beast trying to derail me and send me back into addiction. I don’t disagree with the idea we all have a beast or an equivalent inside of our head because I’ve read various pieces of literature over the years which explores the idea of managing the different characters living in there. ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr Steve Peters is a best-selling book that I read years ago and that introduced me to the concept that we have two thinking brains (one being our Chimp) and how we can learn to use them to the best of our ability.
The problem I have at this stage of my life / recovery is that when my anxiety, low mood and subsequently depression rears it’s head it becomes so much harder to focus and apply the fundamental ‘rules’ of shutting the beast up. The beast is loud and annoying which is the last thing you need when you feel vulnerable.
I also wonder why I always seem to feel like shit ahead of something I’m meant to be looking forward to. Me and my wife are heading to Portugal for 3 nights next week for our 10th wedding anniversary. Our first trip abroad since 2017. I can’t even get ‘excited’ or feel happy about this because I have this constant feeling of guilt that I’m doing something nice for myself. Stupid isn’t it? We work hard and go through the monotony of life week after week then when something deserved and different is arranged / booked or bought the guilt hits. I’ve always been the same.
But again, is this just the voice in my head saying this? I have more practice to do to get things in order in my head, that’s for sure.
Anyways, where have I put my passport?!