A few weeks ago I published a post on Instagram stating that I wasn’t feeling very well. Suddenly, I felt dark, depressed and totally overcome by it all. Suddenly, once again, life felt too much. I wished that I didn’t exist; I hoped my life would magically end.
I found it hard to write at the time. I find it hard to write now. Why? Shame.
I have worked so very hard to get better and after making so many changes, it really felt like it was my time to enjoy living again. Relapsing made me feel frustrated. And embarrassed. I felt embarrassed because I saw this relapse as a sign of my weakness, my flaws. To me, it was a sign that I was broken beyond repair. I was ashamed that I still wasn’t well.
So I stopped writing. How could I write when I was clearly such a fraud? Spouting all this ‘advice’ when I was in no position to talk about mental health. All I could talk about with any authority was being ill, not well. I’ve felt gagged – unable to express myself. Shocked at feeling so unwell again. In disbelief that I wasn’t cured as I had let myself believe. It has all been very unpleasant and I’ve judged myself very harshly.
I have tentatively been posting on Instagram again but I am cautious. I stop myself from commenting, worrying that I am getting it wrong (getting what wrong? I don’t know). I feel like I have no business talking to ‘normal’ people because I am substandard. And whilst I know that this is not true, this relapse has weighed very heavily on me. And my silence is a reflection of the torment and pain I’ve been feeling.
Part of my issue has been that I could not work out why I suddenly felt so awful again. In my mind, I had quit my job and stopped trying for a baby so I should be better. I had been feeling better, so what’s had happened to make that change?
Well? Honestly, I am way hard on myself.
- I worked every hour possible (waking at 4.30 every day to work then writing blog posts til gone midnight).
- Cleaning the house became obsessive. Suddenly I could see months of grime and felt so ashamed that I am such a terrible housewife. Why can’t I keep on top of housework? Why do we live like pigs? Side note: we don’t. There is all the chaos a toddler brings, my house isn’t the way it was pre baby, but it’s not as bad as I judge it to be.
- I made plans for every day and felt like a failure if I stayed at home all day. Gone were messy play afternoons at home. We had people to see. And whilst this was wonderful, I probably didn’t need to catch up with everyone straight away
- I set my expectations so high that I was bound to fail.
- Being unemployed made me so worried about money that I set up so many small streams of income that I had no time to do any of them well.
- I changed the MO of my blog from a place for me to talk about miscarriage and mental health, to a place that I could make money. Whilst this is ok in some ways, I suddenly felt that some topics were censored. I also felt obliged to talk about certain topics that were less enjoyable for me to write. Suddenly my blog wasn’t my happy place. My blog was work.
- I took on too much.
All of these things had been making me feel overwhelmed. I wrote about it and searched for a solution. At no point did I see the solution in front of me: say no, do less, slow down. I didn’t see that solution until dark thoughts forced me to take action. Feeling suicidal is terrifying. If someone else threatened my life I would feel terrified and traumatised. When the person making you the threat is me, the feelings of terror and trauma are the same. Only I also have to contend with guilt. Because I know that I am very privileged and taking my own life would only be passing my pain on to others. I hate feeling this way. It is awful. So I stepped back.
But while the feelings of overwhelm subsided, the feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and fear remained. I still felt very unwell. My mental health was still spiralling. This has been awful. I’ve tried to put on a brave face. I’ve worked hard to feel better. But I have had no idea why I kept feeling so awful. I felt like a bouncy ball – doing OK then suddenly feeling awful multiple times a day.
I had left my job. I had stopped trying for a baby. Why did I still feel traumatised?
Well, today my therapist helped me see why. I still live in a state of trauma because I am still traumatised. When I made big decisions, I closed the door on the trauma and walked away. But it was still there. And when I was reminded of it, those same feelings of trauma were triggered. Having been diagnosed with PTSD before, I should have realised: this is a trauma response. This is going to take time. I need to open that door and sort through the trauma. I need to reprocess those memories so I am not reliving them many times each day.
Every time the postie arrives: trauma.
Every time I receive an email: trauma.
Every time my period comes: trauma.
Every time I see my prenatal vitamins: trauma.
Each day, I feel this trauma response at least 10 times (which for me is a physical reaction like i am in great danger: Adrenalin, alertness, racing heart, feeling jittery, being terrified …). It is exhausting. Especially now I am trying to function like a ‘well’ person. Trying to work, parent and generally function and making no allowances for what I am dealing with. When it happens, I want to lie down and hide from the danger. But I cant. So I am exhausted.
But realising that this is not really a relapse, just part of the process of dealing with trauma, helps. I am saying ‘no’ more. I am prioritising quiet me-time. I am working less. I am limiting my plans. Basically I am making space in my plans to deal with my trauma response. And in doing so, I am being kind and compassionate to myself. My expectations of how I should feel now have changed. I don’t expect to suddenly be OK. I know this will be a slow process and take a lot of work. That is OK. It is OK that I am not OK. I don’t feel ashamed.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be well. I want to feel better. I really really do. Right now. But I know that it is OK that I don’t. It is OK that I am not OK.