Climbing Out of the Rabbit Hole

 Today is World Mental Health Day and I have been reflecting on how to navigate the day, how to talk about it or whether to pass on posts by other people on FB and Instagram. So in pondering, so far I have failed to properly mark it. Not that I don't want to repost information from others, but I do this throughout the year and sometimes it's good to let others be vocal and take a breather from being the shouty bird.

It's been 5 years since I had a major meltdown and fell head first down the rabbit hole. Its taken a long time to come back up the other side and nothing in that journey was solved by quick fixes. So rather than take you on a long winding revision of that time, I thought I should focus on some smaller areas of life that help me stay afloat.

I don't believe that you 'get better' from depression. I feel there are a multitude of ways that you learn to cope with it, once you realise that you are susceptible to the kraken's reach. In many ways the idea that you can wake up one day and be cured from mental ill health, is a wish that many hope for, but realistically doesn't exist. Whether you take medication or use a battle box of armoury from other sources, you never really find yourself in a disney-esque fluttering of happiness day-in-day-out. Hopefully you learn to recognise when the arms are starting to reach out for you and you learn the tricks that keep your sword at reach, ready to strike and kick that fuck-wit back down the hole.

For me, I have learned to recognise the signs that I am starting to get dragged down. I look for basic ways to keep myself on track. I try to eat what I need, when I feel like I don't want anything and I try to sleep when I can sense that tiredness is making it harder to stand tall. Most of all these days I use bike therapy, walking or running and find that getting myself out amongst the trees, to hear the birds and to try to remember what keeps me happy, content, grateful for life.

As anyone who has ever needed to access mental health services will know, it aint very easy to do, at the time when you really need their help. It's not that those services are not good at what they do.. they are just so super stretched for resources, that they quite rightly focus on those who they know are on the ledge. They provide a lot of additional help for everyone else, but they often don't have time to look for those folks who are half way up the stairwell, searching for the exit.

Which is where everyone else can help. What seems like a really simple check on your mate, can make the absolute world of difference when your world is crumbling around you. For me it's the small words and offers of help in those early days of feeling low, that can either make or break the day.

September and October are always a little difficult for me, as anniversaries of previous battles start to pop up on my Facebook timeline, like 'Mark Zuckerberg is whispering in my ear saying "remember that time when you lost your shit completely and posted song 'x' on your timeline, then howled at the moon like a flipping loon for 4 days".. Yeah - thanks Mark.. Much love to you too.

I've since learned that a mixture of meditation, quiet time and sleep, a bike ride or a bit of a giggle with my mate, helps me keep check on where I am at, what I am feeling and how to deal with the days when lying on the kitchen floor feels like the absolute best way to deal with the world. ( ie. hoping it will all go away). 

I've spent quite a lot of time this year pondering Buddhist philosophy and practising a more mindful approach to my thoughts and feelings. This mixed with working with a coach called Nathan, who shouts at me in 5am bootcamps, doesn't put up with my grumpy morning shit, often tells hugely inappropriate jokes and affectionately refers to us all as c**ts from time to time, in a way that only a cheeky brummie drill sergeant can get away with. What can I say? I respond well to routine and banter.

So when I was out with the dog and I saw the stairs in the woods this week, it seemed to me that there are times when your perception of self, your position on the staircase and your happiness in your surroundings are all driven by many things. Some of which you can control, some of which are more limited.

How I felt this week, looking up at the stairs, is that I am at the bottom of this staircase, but I feel okay with that. I am much higher up the hill than I have been before and I am looking forward to finding out what is further up. On that day I felt able to climb the steps quickly, enjoy the colours of the trees on my left and right and to stop midway to listen to the birds.

In previous times, I have been at the bottom of the stairs and feeling shit about myself, feeling incapable of moving up the stairs at a pace I feel comfortable with and wondering what the f**king point is, with trying to move up one step, let alone all the others. 

Some days I would move more freely if my mate was half way up and I knew I could have a chat about how I was feeling. Sometimes I need that drill sergeant to give me a nudge, remind me I am capable of running up the hill and giving me a high five when I get to the top. How I respond to each style is not going to work for you. Neither my mate or my coach know where I am at every day, but if I tell them, they are patient and will try to help as best they can. 

If I have lost the ability to talk, then I can't reach my friend and the shouty banter just becomes noise and the listening stops - At that point nobody moves, the sun goes down and the woods fall into darkness. The route to the top of the stairs gets much much harder to complete and all sounds become scary and weird. Nobody knows what to do.

None of us know how the other one is feeling or about where they are positioned on their own stairwells. Whether steps are internal, external, assisted with some kind of help, or whether you are at the mid way point trying to suss out if its okay to keep climbing, or drop down to the lower waiting area where you know you are safe. Reaching out to friends and family is important.

When you think your mate is struggling, don't wait for them to tell you. Keep talking.

Keep letting them know you are happy to wait for them, or let them know how to reach the handrail. They may not take to it immediately, but they will find their route more easily, knowing that they can reach out if they need to xx

If you are struggling and need support, please contact Mind.Org for help for yourself or others

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