I’m going to be at the Change Your Mind Festival on Sunday at the Clayton Hotel in Sligo. This is a fantastic, free, family festival promoting positive mental health with lots of speakers, music, entertainment and so much more. You know about my battle with mental health so here are some things that might help you or a family member that might be going through a difficult time.
If I could go back and talk to myself this is what I would say:
Don’t panic (easier said than done, especially when you are in the throws of a panic attack and turn into a snotty wreck). Things do get better. Maybe not today or tomorrow but trust me they will get better and you’ll come out a stronger person.
Embrace your ‘shadow side’. I fought against mine for months, I didn’t want to acknowledge this dark side of me that appeared out of ‘nowhere’. This shadow will turn out to be your best friend, trust them. For me it all evened out in the end and life was so much easier when I stopped fighting.
Talk. Probably the most important one. Talk to people you trust, your GP, a counsellor, family members. Talking is one of the best therapies even though at the time it hurts like hell. The majority of people understand and if they don’t they may have issues of their own.
Stop googling. I know we all do it. I was convinced I was bipolar or schizophrenic at one stage. I’m not.
Check out the therapists you are going to. Mindfulness is the new buzz word and there are a few charlatans out there who see euro signs. Now I know there are some fantastic people out there too but just be wary. Also you might not be in the right place for certain therapies and that’s OK too. When the time is right you’ll know.
Rest. You may not be able to sleep at night but try to rest as much as you can. You can’t function if you are running on empty.
There is no magic cure. People will tell you to try this, that and the other but what works for some people won’t work for everyone. Walking didn’t work for me but art did – I lose myself when I have a paint brush in my hand.
Have a break. Something you might not have thought of but I found that when I got away from my routine and was in a place surrounded by strangers I felt so much better. It was like there was no expectations for me to be anything other than who I was at that moment.
Keep a journal. At my darkest times I carried a notebook around. When I felt I was going into a panic I started writing. Feelings, thoughts, everything went into it. I look back at it now and I can’t believe it was me writing those things.
Be kind to yourself. The negative self-talk is so easy to do but if you wouldn’t say something to a friend don’t say it to yourself.
For people who may have a loved one that might have depression or anxiety here are some things that might help.
Listen. You might not know what to say or do but listening is a huge help.
Give them some leeway. You will probably feel that the person you know and love has disappeared, they will come back.
Take them out. Obviously don’t force them but suggest a coffee or a beach walk or something they like.
Offer help. They might not feel like doing cooking, housework, shopping etc. and might appreciate the help.
Be there for them. The biggest thing I noticed was how a lot of people ran away from me. People with depression are not contagious. Two stand out moments for me (apart from my family and Havin’aLaugh) were the lady who took me out of the choir when she knew I was in a bad way. I snotted all over her car – sorry! The other one was the lady who called to the house with a cake and chocolate. I didn’t know she was coming and I was just so touched by this kind gesture.
Please remember you’re not alone. So many people out there feel exactly the same way as you do. Depression isn’t prejudice, it can affect anyone at anytime. You may be surprised by just who is suffering in silence. By talking you might just help others. If you need me you can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’d like to come along to the next Havin’aLaugh Coffee Morning it’s on Monday April 9th in The Blind Tiger, Sligo 10am – 12 noon.