I like alcohol- wine, gin, beer in the summer. But I can easily go without it. I’ve never smoked (except for a few times at Uni when I was a right knobhead pretending to rebel against something, I don’t even know…). I LOVE SUGAR. But with some simple substitutions and going shopping at the right time of day, I can cut right down. Coffee- tricky to have less, but decaf is fine after midday.
You know the most addictive thing of all, that I could not get a hold on for months, YEARS even? My negative thoughts.
Those nasty fuckers like, “my child will never, EVER sleep”, “it’s SO UNFAIR”, “I am just a slave to everyone else, how has it come to this?!”, “I hate my life”, “I should never have had them” (yep…). Around my eldest’s first birthday there was none of the bittersweet joy I’ve seen other parents talk about, just the thought that “we’ve somehow survived a year of this”. In my darkest times, I used to dare myself to say a version of these awful things in conversation, ultimately, begging for someone to notice how unhappy I was and to rescue me from it.
Of course, there was no knight on a white horse. Even if there had been, I’d have told him to fuck off, because, (a) feminism, and (b) I was not willing to take any responsibility for myself.
My perspective was that depression was an illness that some people had, where they felt low, despite things basically being good in their lives. A very close friend of my mum’s suffered with bipolar her entire life, and I’d seen and heard all about the swings from elated mania to darkest depression, despite what was going on in her life.
My experience was different because MY LIFE WAS DREADFUL. My feeling low was a logical response to my never ending sleep deprivation, my loss of autonomy over my body, time, life, my boredom, my loneliness, my having, essentially, ended up living a life I hadn’t really signed up for. I mean I totally DID sign up for being a stay at home mum, with a tiny business on the side, I just didn’t really know what that meant.
So it couldn’t be depression, could it? Even when I would walk down the street with the buggy and experience an intrusive thought- “if you just walk out into the road now, it’ll all be over”, I was convinced it was a rational consideration.
Here’s what I couldn’t get to for a LONG TIME. Kezza- if your circumstances are making you so unhappy, CHANGE THEM.
I just didn’t think it was an option, so committed was I to this narrative of victimhood and martyrdom. When I eventually went to the GP and was prescribed prozac, I wouldn’t take that either. I was ADDICTED to my struggle, my suffering, AND (I should perhaps be ashamed to say but I’m not so… gimme 5!) inflicting suffering by association on my husband. Sorry babes.
I was so cross with him- we’ve spoken about this lots, I’ve written about it. The inequality, the unfairness, jarring expectations, butting heads, firmly against each other, neither of us really looking for a way out of it because we didn’t realise there was one.
The thing I needed, to be able to let go of this comfortably miserable state, was space. Space to think, to be, to reconnect to myself, to let an awareness creep to the surface- that my commitment to my narrative was literally ruining our lives.
I began to find that space and connection in my business, and then in my new found love for personal development.
Over time I learned to understand my triggers (hard when you feel shit ALL THE TIME), and to address them. This meant making significant changes, over a long period of time, to how we live our lives.
I wanna tell you what I wish I’d understood…
-Mental wellness and illness are on as much of a sliding scale as physical wellness and illness- most days you might feel mostly well, others you might have a minor injury, or mild illness, occasionally something more major. There aren’t people who suffer with mental health issues and people who don’t, in my opinion- just as everyone is vulnerable to physical dis-ease.
-It doesn’t have to be irrational to be mental illness- perhaps this sounds like a no brainer to you, but I think it confused my perspective when I could describe the ways in which my circumstances prompted by feeling low. If you feel low, consistently- you don’t feel well, regardless of whether it’s circumstantial or not.
-Whilst seeking support from a medical professional is sensible and appropriate, there are many things you can do that have the potential to improve how you feel. This includes all the things you’ve heard before I’m sure, like fresh air, daylight, moving your body, being in nature, connecting with friends, getting a massage, eating to nourish yourself, less alcohol etc. But for me, the biggest one of all was and is- CHOOSE BETTER THOUGHTS.
The reason I have in my bio these days, “getting women SHIFT FACED” is because shifting my own perspective, by painstakingly reviewing and improving my thoughts, reframing every situation to fit the outlook I wanted to have, rather than the one that fed my depression, was LIFE CHANGING. I am an actual different person, cognitively- a whole new software update has taken place.
Thoughts I regularly have, spontaneously, these days include, “I am so lucky to… have these children/ be their mother/ feed their minds/ touch their skin/ kiss their cheeks/ hear their thoughts”, “I am so grateful for my life, for all these lessons, for my happiness, freedom, family, and so on…”.
The reason the tactics I listed above help with mental health issues is because it affects chemical change in your body- endorphins, oxytocin, seratonin, etc. You can also affect your chemistry with your thoughts. Actually, it’s not just that you can, it’s that you DO. Your thoughts are always there, and there’s always a more optimistic one available.
How do you actually do it though?
Thinking is incredibly habitual. Every thought you have is an electrical impulse pulsing along a neural pathway in your brain, and the most well trodden routes in that network attract your attention back to themselves, again and again. It is challenging to change your mind.
Things that helped me:
Saying the thoughts out loud or writing them down- I was able to assess them more easily once they were out of my head.
Recommitting after slipping- if you start addressing your thinking, you WILL fall off the wagon- when you’re tired, hangry, in a hurry, whatever. Forgive yourself, and get back to it. Every moment is a new opportunity.
Asking myself- how do I wanna feel in an hour? Is this spiral of thinking taking me there, or do I need to choose again?
Not sure how to reframe?
I’m gonna do a reframing clinic in my Facebook Group– head there to get my input on your specific blocks.
If you are in any way concerned about your mental health, please talk to your GP, Health Visitor, or a trusted friend or family member. None of what I’ve discussed is a replacement for medical advice. I’m a mindset coach, not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I see the commitment to choosing better thoughts similarly to one to choose nourishing food, stay hydrated and practice good hygiene. This practice has not ‘cured’ me, but it has allowed me to emerge from a depressive state, and to stay out of it for the vast majority of the time, alongside a TONNE of practical changes we’ve made in our lives.