Self Care Musings

Between planned leave and taking time to support Lady M as unplanned leave I seem to have ended up with enough down time for my brain to go sideways without a focus. It’s not unlike the scenario of counting spoons as a marker of mental reserve levels, but coupled with a degree of existential flatness that I choose to believe is a side effect of being present for loved ones and work colleagues alike.

One of the best self-care things that I remind myself to do is not feel guilty about doing very little, because in these moments that is what I need; but it’s not easy – my whole upbringing and history has been based on the value of achievement, so my every instinct is to see sitting and doing nothing as a waste of time rather than of taking time for myself.

I find myself being apologetic if asked what I’ve done and responding that I’ve not done much beyond read, play games, or sketch. I should be cleaning, solving world peace, or inventing sliced bread 2.0 for this time on my own to have significance.

Never mind that my thoughts are with my partners, who have both been or are about to be visiting hospitals for different reasons – or with organisational issues around work that really can wait until I get back because I have peers and staff who can and will deal with anything unexpected in a field that is basically getting books and information in the hands of the right people in a reasonable amount of time.

Never mind that I have had no contact or news from most of my family or friends for a while (since coming out mostly, but I’m sure that’s coincidental because I hear through other channels just how busy their lives have been) – or that we’re nearly at a point to be able to have serious conversations about buying our own place at long last, as long as no one else dies or has anything catastrophic happen in the immediate future.

I worry about the future of my work, about my enthusiasm for writing and cosplay, about my health, about the health of my loved ones, and about how tired I feel all the time at the moment.

But, I am loved, in a huge cloud of support that uplifts and surprises me at every turn – from partners, our metamour, my colleagues, my daughter, friends – and it’s nearly payday, which is a nice bonus.

As ever, I know I’ll be okay, especially when I remember that it’s okay to look after myself so that I can recharge my own batteries to keep the black dog in its kennel.

Happy New Year

It’s tempting to say good riddance to a rollercoaster year, where I’ve started and lost relationships; managed to write a huge amount and yet hit crushing roadblocks in creativity, and where my mental health took a plummet, before new friends and a welcome from the cosplay helped me start to rebuild my strength.

Work has been challenging, especially with my health, but the libraries have been supportive even while I’ve had to put the writing to one side for a while.

I’m not going to go into the politics of the year, which have enraged and saddened me at so many turns.

There’s a lot of like to put behind me, but doing so would diminish all the good times, experiences, and people who have featured in life too.

So, it’s not so much “get out of here 2017”, as “hey 2018, up for building some awesome?”

On a Runaround

I shouldn’t have been working today, but life and the trials and tribulations of staffing issues demanded otherwise. This has led to a somewhat rushed day of bouncing from GP appointment to library opening to lunch cover to blood tests to prescription gathering… and now to my first coffee of the day. Phew.

I’m exhausted. I’m supposed to be going out tonight. I’m working tomorrow. Who has time to entertain depression and anxiety? I’m too busy for the black dog today!

Oh but it is nice to just sit in a comfy chair with a good coffee, that most importantly was made by someone else!

Meds Update

Work remains a challenge, which is no bad thing, but on top of adjusting to this week’s upped dosage… well it has felt like it has been a week of endurance rather than success.

The citalopram is now at 20mg – which isn’t huge – but I’ve likened the physical effects to feeling like I’ve drunk too much coffee. Sadly this doesn’t include any stimulant effect.

I’m sure it will pass. As a matter of interest I’ve been told that probiotic drinks help with the nausea, so I shall give them a try and see if that helps.

Onward!

Stigma and ICE

It sounds like the title of some buddy cop show perhaps – at least, that’s where my brain has gone even as I write the words. I’m afraid this is one of those mental health posts – so if you’re maxed out or uncomfortable here’s your “heads up” alert.

One of the things that has made this hard to write is that I know family members read it; along with a handful of people who know, or have at least met, me in person. As a consequence I’m suddenly very self conscious about writing. I don’t want to sound melodramatic. I cringe at the thought of talking openly about just how low I currently feel.

All the adages about not airing dirty linen in public and the sniffiness about people wanting attention are a hard narrative to battle through. I try to do the stoic bit, the tough as nails ‘men don’t cry’ bit, because that’s the expectation I’ve grown up with. It would no doubt be easier to write this if I blogged under a pseudonym rather than putting my name to it openly – but the whole point of this blog has been to own what I say.

I’m writing this blog entry as a distraction. I am not in what is generally referred to as a ‘safe’ emotional space due to a massive anxiety attack on top of my pre-existing low mood and energy. It makes for a dangerous state where everything seems very dark, and I have the energy to do something very stupid if I let myself. As an illustration: I’m writing this because I’ve just pulled myself away from the railings at the top of the Bentalls Centre, where I spent quite some time seriously considering throwing myself off.

In part, it was fuelled by the conviction that I had no one available, or equipped, or willing to listen to me panic. This is of course tied to the lonely falsehood fed me by my depression that I have no friends, and knowing how busy everyone is.

It’s a bit shit really, but that’s illness for you. I shall now reach for the world’s smallest violin. Being a stubborn bugger, I’ve stepped away and started to compose my thoughts on the screen of my phone. That’s what brought the appreciation of mental health stigma to the forefront of my mind. I have a counselling session this evening in which I will no doubt unpick this at great length.

The ICE part of the title means In Case of Emergency. This is what I need your help with, because here’s where I shy away from wanting to impose. If you know me and are willing to hear me – even if literally just to say “I hear you” – then message me privately and let me know. Just a simple text or IM of “yes” will do to help me build my ICE list.

I may never even use it – just knowing the list exists feels like it’ll be enough 90 percent of the time. This is reaching out as self-care, and I’m not great at it.

I’m going to stop now. The anxiety is quieter and I don’t want to stir it back up. I’m almost home, thank goodness for public transport.

Little Lifts

Earlier this year I purchased a Buddybox from the Blurt Foundation as something to lift both Lady M and my spirits. It was a one-off, and I’m still undecided about subscribing for regular deliveries. They’re nice, a bit of fun, and yet there’s still that debate about whether a regular expenditure on them is something I can afford or justify.

At the same time I signed up for self-care tips and a bit of marketing – and this has turned out to be regular emails that challenge the worries and dark thoughts. I don’t read them all – sometimes I don’t even notice them in my inbox – but every now and then something nags me to take a look.

It’s a simple enough concept, and yet it’s surprisingly affecting and effective. A simple message with my name inserted in it shouldn’t make me pause, but it does, because it is unconditionally positive.

Today’s was about compliments and gifts, and daring to accept them without trying to qualify or downplay them. For many this won’t be particularly groundbreaking advice – and if you’re one of them then that’s actually great to hear. The rest of you – of us – are nodding, and cringing slightly already.

The paragraph that spoke to me particularly today was this:

DEPRESSION IS LYING TO YOU. The good stuff? It’s for you, just as much as everyone else. It’s not limited It’s not conditional You don’t have to *earn it*

Whatever depression keeps trying to say Whatever low self-worth is making you feel.

The good stuff is for you, too.

And I needed to hear that this morning. So thank you Blurt, and I’m sharing it because I think at least one person here needs to read it too.

A Mixed Week

I’m slowly coming out the other side of a low patch, hence the hiatus in posting and writing. Most of the last week was spent curled up and struggling to get out of bed or off the sofa, but at least it was in company while Lady M and I had a week off.

We did get some nice walks in, and it was good to recharge our physical batteries; there’s been a lot of stress going on so we both needed to shut down a bit.

Now we’re back to work and I’m brushing myself off to get back up to speed. I’m not one hundred percent, and won’t be for a little while yet, but I’m keeping my head down and plodding forward.

Running on Empty

In some ways I’ve missed the big old black dog, but he always reappears to sit on my chest sooner or later. I’ve been trying to ignore him. That said, the flat greyness has been gathering the last month or two, taking fuel from anything that might seem to reinforce my general low opinion of myself.

Today I wasn’t working, and if I’m proud of anything it’s that I didn’t head down the pub, or binge eat; I didn’t hide in bed, and I didn’t do anything stupid to damage my health or general body integrity.

What I did do was get some rest, got up and dressed, washed and did grocery shopping. I distracted myself with the XBox; I doodled in a big sketch pad, and I read for a bit. I bought things for Easter, and a birthday present and card for somebody. Then, when Lady M got home, I cooked a meal and we watched Fantastic Beasts on Blu-Ray.

I’m proud that I’ve managed to do all that, because I don’t feel much of anything at the moment. I’m running on empty. I’m too tired and remote to even feel worried about it; and intellectually​ I know I should be quite concerned about that.

Change of Plans

I’ve woken up this morning with, in the words of Mre B, no spoons. 

This is a reference to the imagery of one’s mental reserves being a drawer full of spoons, and as you interact with people or perform tasks you hand those spoons out. When you are out of spoons, you need to rest and recharge.

A geekier version of that theory, now doing the rounds, is based on the magic system in Dungeons and Dragons, and talks of spell slots instead. The idea can be thought of as a straight substitution, or expanded, because in Dungeons & Dragons spell slots can be different levels denoting different complexities.

All this sounds lovely, and does appeal to the geek in me, but it’s far too much effort for daily life – and especially when in a position of having low energy or lacking the capacity to deal with people and situations.

So I’m sticking with spoons, and the lack of them, in my drawer.

Today, this has manifested in our choosing not to drive an eight hour round trip to discuss something relating to our plans for a renewal of vows in five year’s time. 

Instead we’ve slept in and stayed under the covers with the intention of doing very little this morning. The people we were going to meet will call us back about midday and so we can meet that plan with less spoon expenditure, and possibly even some fresh ones back in the drawer 

It’s also why this morning’s story was not a continuation of the steampunk extravaganza. More bits of that will come, but I needed a break for a moment. 

The whole thing will get edited and compiled into a longer piece once the fragments are on the table – and hopefully will help demonstrate some of my writing process for longer pieces.
Right, back to my cuppa and book – currently reading The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, and enjoying it immensely.

Tired

I need a holiday, there’s no two ways about it. Fortunately I only have to make it through next week and I can spin into neutral for a while – but I’m definitely fading.

I can tell this is true by my losing enthusiasm for engaging with people or projects at the moment – or if I do by overcompensating and frankly being a pain. The old joke: “If I haven’t annoyed you yet, don’t worry I’ll get to you soon” is feeling perilously real.

Perhaps I’m projecting a little into that. I hope so, and that it’s just the low ebb I’m feeling at the moment.