This is a guest post by my wonderful friend, the Silver Fox.
About a week ago I had cause to go the Docs about something and we had a brief chat about my mental health issues over the last two years. It started off with me thanking her for being so supportive and telling her how important it had been for me to know that whenever I needed to speak to her that she was genuinely supportive and listening. I was telling her how good I felt and that things were definitely on the up. She then said something I wasn’t expecting.
“I’m so pleased. You really deserve it. You’ve worked really hard at this……. and I know you really have worked hard at it.”
I was quite stunned by that comment but sat back and thought “Yes I suppose I have.” So, this morning in bed I was mulling this over (not that I ever think a lot about things) and thought I’d write down what I did that worked (NLP Klaxon!).
These aren’t necessarily in sequence because some of them take longer than others and are a process rather than a moment in time.
Can I also make clear that I’m not in any way proclaiming that these will work in the same way for anybody else. It’s just what worked for myself in my situation.
1. I realised I wasn’t being weak.
For someone like me to suddenly feel incapacitated is devastating. You’ve spent your whole life achieving and doing things (Actually part of the problem) and suddenly you can’t. This eats away at your very identity until you have no idea who you are. Was that person you were before a complete bluff? Did you fool everybody and this is the real you? “Come on Neil! You are better than this… be strong!” Then I read a book which I’ve referenced on here often “Depressive Illness: The curse of the strong” and my eyes were opened. Okay, so there is a logical reason why this is happening! I’m not weak… Okay, that’s cool… So what do I do?
2. I opened up to everybody including myself and didn’t hide a thing.
Now I had a few false starts with this one. Especially the honesty with self bit. In the end though, through a few occurrences which made me think hard about myself, I took myself back to the doctors and said I needed help. I was completely honest with them and the psychologists and I decided it was time to be honest with all my friends and family as well. This was partly because I didn’t want to be able to bluff anybody later on with the “Yes I’m Fine!” routine. No I wasn’t… I needed help.
3. I truly wanted to recover.
This is an interesting one. When I went to the Doctors which was in about July 2013 I’d really had enough of feeling like this. I wanted to get better. I wasn’t angry anymore. I didn’t blame anyone. I just wanted to be me again. Or rather a newer improved version… I’d done the angry and upset over the previous two or so years. I add that in because that was part of the process and the last 18 months wouldn’t have been so successful if I hadn’t gone through that stage already. I was ready to move on.
4. I resolved to be open to whatever the psychologists/doctors suggested.
I knew that I had to be prepared to change and to adapt. I’d be challenged about the way I’d lived and have to face up to some uncomfortable truths or even some treatments that might have seemed a bit “whacky’ to the old me. This also meant drugs. I was going to trust the experts and get on with it. I knew this wasn’t an exact science where we could take scans or inspect the wound for progress. I had to trust them and form a partnership with them if this was going to work. We would have ebbs and floes but there had to be trust. I also had to throw myself into all the programmes and suggested treatments. There was to be no holding back.
5. I accepted that I had a “major injury”.
I love a model that I can hang my hat on mentally and work out where I am in the process. The one that worked for me was equating what I had with a major sports injury. There was the immediate first aid, then the immediate after treatment to bring down swelling help the natural healing processes start. Then you have the initial physio to help the muscles reknit etc etc… you get the picture. There’s a process. If you rush the process you risk reinjuring yourself and ending up back at the beginning. Understanding that I was in a very similar situation (and one that I was unfortunately all too familiar with, oh those damn ankles of mine!) meant I knew I had to pace myself and again, trust the team.
6. I made my recovery the most important thing in my life.
I’ve left this till last because I think it was fundamentally the most important thing I did. When I went to the Docs and we did the initial diagnosis etc, I made my recovery and regaining my mental health the most singularly important thing in my life. I knew I wouldn’t, be ale to be the Dad I wanted to be again, be able to do all the projects I wanted to do or anything else until I had regained my health. In August 2013 I said clearly to quite a few people that the only important thing in 2013/14 was my getting healthy again. It didn’t matter if I was a pauper or anything else. I wanted to get well again and that’s where my focus had to be.
It’s been quite useful writing that down because in doing so it helps me define what I’ve got to do to continue forwards. But that’s for another time I think.