The last few weeks have seen a significant drop in mood for me. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think there have been a few things that have contributed to it….
Firstly work. I am on a secondment, due mainly to my mental health. It was supposed to be a 6 month placement as a Project Manager which was due to come to an end at the end of the month. That means there has been pressure to complete work, and deadlines. Usually this would motivate me….but not this time! This time, it has made me want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world. Pressure hasn’t increased my motivation and output like it usually would, if anything it has had the opposite effect! It hasn’t been helped that there have been delays from other departments, but usually I would be shouting and stamping my feet to get them to meet deadlines….more metaphorically than literally….but I just haven’t had the energy! Luckily my manager has been understanding and she is recommending an extension to the project to give me until the end of the year to complete things. I am pleased, but I know that I will need to step up my work output, and I’m worried I can’t. I feel my productivity levels just aren’t what I feel they should be. I usually pride myself on both my quality and quantity of work, and I feel like I’m doing neither. I know this is because of the depression- I struggle to concentrate and focus, I struggle to motivate, my energy levels are low. Knowing these issues all come from the symptoms of being ill doesn’t make it easier, it just makes me feel defective, and adds to my feelings of self-loathing! I have a lot of issues with self stigma! Work has always been an important part of my life. Having a career has always been important to me, and the job I work in now is what I believed would be my dream job, so I want to be good at it and prove myself. Work has felt particularly important this year as it’s been one of the few constants for me when it has felt like the rest of my life has been turned upside down. This year I have had to deal with a marriage break-up, my mum’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as my own mental health issues. Work gives me stability, it means I can pay bills and put a roof over my daughter’s head. It also gives me routine and structure to my day. I don’t know how I would cope without it, and I hate the idea of being “bad” at it. I’m also worried about my return to my “usual” job. It’s a relatively stressful job and I don’t feel I have the resilience for it, and I worry I won’t have it by the new year either! I was so sure when I took the secondment that my “recovery” would be further along by the time I returned to my usual role. I know that all I can do is keep communicating with my manager, HR contact and occupational health doctor who have all been relatively supportive until now, but it doesn’t stop me worrying and getting stressed about the future. I worry about loss of income if I go on sick leave, or worse if I lost my job due to my health. So, whilst I know I should probably be more self-compassionate it’s hard when it is something that means so much!
Secondly my daughter’s 4th birthday. I know this shouldn’t have been too stressful as I had been picking up bits and pieces for months, as well as making a “birthday list” every time the little one mentioned something she wanted, BUT it was stressful! Because it meant more communication with the ex, and right now I can’t bare to talk to him or be anywhere near him. I guess “hate” is probably part of the grieving process of the relationship, but it’s emotionally hard work. His words and actions often stress me out as he is not very organised and never has any sense of urgency about anything, but sometimes I can recognise that I am being irrational. I think I am possibly even imagining criticism when he has done nothing except perhaps make a passing comment. Before her birthday the idea of spending most of the weekend with him had me in tears, luckily the reality wasn’t quite as bad as I imagined but it was still a very emotionally draining time. It was the first big occasion since we split that we have had to spend significant amounts of time together for the sake of our daughter, as well as having our friends and families together in the same place at the same time. Whilst it could have been much worse, it has now made me dread the idea of Christmas! 😦
Thirdly, anniversaries. It was this time last year that the ex first told me he wasn’t sure how he felt about me anymore. Whilst the split was drawn out until this February (due to his inability to grow some balls and decide it was over), it was the start of an exceptionally difficult time. My mental health deteriorated massively while I was trying to save my marriage, and so this time of year marks a year since my breakdown and going on sick leave. It also marks a year since my mum got diagnosed with both aggressive and indolent non-hodgkins lymphoma. This was a massive shock as although she had a lump for some time (years!) the doctors had always told us that it was benign. It was only when my mum pushed for removal (long story!) that they discovered not just one, but 2 types of cancer cells. Luckily, my mum has now has some aggressive chemotherapy and is receiving anti-body therapy, so the cancer can be considered in remission, but obviously this time last year we did not know what the outcome would be. There is no good time to hear a close family member has cancer,but I can safely say that finding out at the same time as learning my marriage might be over may possibly have been the worst possible timing! Whilst I am not consciously thinking of these anniversaries, I think dates and events are a reminder and I know they have been affecting my mood.
Fourthly, I still have some big life decisions to make in terms of my divorce, for example where I will live and what we are going to do with the house. I change my mind every day about what I think will be best for both me and my daughter. Part of me feels like I should stay in my current house, but this was my marital home and has lots of memories, yet it is the only house my daughter has known and I would like her to have some stability. It was a house we bought with the intention of “doing up” and lots of life events have got in the way, meaning 10 years on the house still needs lots doing to it, but do I want to do it on my own? Also do I want to be responsible for the entire mortgage? However, selling up and moving is not an easy option either as it is unlikely to be much (if any) equity in the house, and the idea of packing and moving while I am still struggling with my mental health does not appeal either. Also I have no idea how I am going to pay to divorce my ex. We have no savings and he is crap with money so I whilst I think it is only fair to split the cost in half he has said he “can’t afford it”. I desperately want and need to draw a line under that part of my life, but it’s not as easy as it seems.
So, it seem to have a lot on my mind recently, but most of these things are not new stresses but ongoing things, so why the slump in mood? Maybe it’s because I haven’t been doing much selfcare? I know in trying to concentrate on work I’ve dropped doing things that made me feel better, so (until today) haven’t been to the gym in a month, I gave up long, hot soaks in the bath , replacing it with an extra hour of work in the evening, I stopped eating so healthily and instead grabbed snacks and convenience food to “save time”. Except actually much of the time I “saved” doing these things didn’t turn into productive time, but were instead spent looking at my computer with a panicked expression not knowing what to prioritise first! I have effectively proved why self care is important, because taking regular breaks clears my head and gives me back my motivation, the gym gives me energy, good food stops the sugar highs and crashes. And the thing I gave up which I have probably missed the most? #3goodthings! I didn’t consciously stop it…I think sometimes it slipped my mind (as I was running around like a headless chicken), and sometimes I couldn’t think of anything (as all my selfcare that usually makes the list wasn’t happening), and then I think I got out of the habit. But the time it works the best is when things are tough, because it reminds you there are still some good things in your life. Instead I have spent the last month moping about and forgetting what I love and what is important.
So, I have a plan!
I am already in the process of changing my anti-depressants. I’m hoping that it will help. This will be my 4th type of anti-depressant that I have taken this year, and until I saw my GP last week I had given up hope of my meds helping my mood at all. The things that have worked for me most up until now have been the counselling and coaching, neither of which are quick fixes (not if course that meds are either). I just don’t want to feel like every day is such a battle to “Keep Swimming”. But I guess the one good thing that came from a slump in mood was that my GP took one look at me at my appointment last week and told me she didn’t think I looked well (I think the sleeplessness and anxiety had taken a physical toll). She was a doctor I hadn’t seen regarding my MH before (my usual GP is on sick leave), so she took my history from the beginning, looked at my notes, and decided a new anti-d is the best option (and has promised a psych referral if this doesn’t work). She is reviewing me regularly, she was easy to talk to (so I was able to be honest about suicidal ideation etc) and I think I have finally found a GP who is taking me seriously. Of course, only time will tell but in my opinion this is a great first step!
I plan to do more selfcare, as I’m sure it can only help. That means *making* the time! I need to go to the gym 2-3 times a week. I need to make sure I have time to cook, so I eat more healthily. I need to make time for friends, take breaks in work, and NOT work in the evenings when my little one is in bed! It is a bad habit (as I work mainly from home) and it is rarely productive! I just need to look after myself better! Luckily choir has re-started after the summer break, and the singing is always a benefit to my mental health as I only miss it when I have to work, and I try to avoid that when I can, so at least I know that once a week I will be taking care of myself!
Lastly, and from today, I am restarting #3goodthings. I clearly need reminding of the good things in my life (as I seem to easily forget), and it reminds me to look after myself!
I’m hoping all these things may help my mood! They may not take away my problems, but perhaps they will help me cope with them better?!