The truth is with mental illness that sometimes you can take all your medication, try to think positively about your situation and do absolutely everything you’ve been told to do, and everything will still just feel completely and utterly awful. It’s pure helplessness wrapped up in mental overdrive. Your brain then goes into complete overdrive to make you feel as bad as possible about the fact you’re struggling in the first place. Ive tried so hard to do things right. I’ve tried to take care of myself, I’ve tried to do everything the doctors have asked me to do, so why am I being so riduculously, infuriatingly useless and selfish when there are millions of people worse off than me? But the most scary, impossible part about dealing with this feeling, is that sometimes (and frighteningly often), there’s just just no warning at all. You just wake up at 4am and cant shut off. You’re surrounded by people, coping, and suddenly everything blurs and feels completely alien.
My newest favourite comparison for this bit is that part in Doctor Strange where the Ancient One punches Strange’s asteral form out of his physical form. You’re sort of ‘there’ but you aren’t you and you’re also completely not there at all. Dissociation is weird (and sometimes annoyingly difficult to deal with) as fuck. Even if you realise what’s happened, you’re kind of just staring at yourself blankly dumbfounded on how to change things. I tend to get periods of what I call ‘numbness’ as a result, where I don’t feel sad or happy or excited….I just don’t feel, and if I don’t feel how do I exist? IT’S WIERD.
The difficult thing is, when this happens – when those days where everything is too much hit, all you can do is sleep but you’re never really sleeping at all. When you try to read and the words wiggle up and down and blur into alien squiggles in front of your eyes, you kinda give up because all you can do clearly is think! The truth is, when things get really really bad, sometimes the suggestions that come under ways to practice self-care just aren’t realistic. When everything is completely awful and youre physically struggling to get out of bed because everything about your body feels so heavy, sometimes yoga, or a run, or calling a friend, just isn’t going to happen. So I’ve made a little list of 10 things you can try to do (or adapt to what you feel you maybe can try and do), when everything is impossible. These things basically drag me through life. No matter how rubbish things are or how claustrophobic and impossible they get, I hope they might be able to help you too.
Struggling with self care? Try these ideas!
1) Experiment on what works for you!
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that really, you can’t ‘fail’ at self care. No matter what your head tries to tell you, what helps will be different for everyone, and may change daily. Sometimes bedtime yoga and herbal tea to help you sleep is going to calm you, but sometimes if you’re exhausted and all you want is to watched movies curled up in a blanket and order Dominoes. The point of self care is to listen to what your body and mind needs right here right now, and to be as kind as you can be to yourself in that situation. If that means running until you can’t anymore, or curling up with a cup of green tea or meditating on the things you’re grateful for, that’s okay. If that means a long cry, spooning your dog and a whole packet of Jaffa cakes, that’s okay too.
2) Try to make your bed
I know. This means getting out of bed – but trust me, even if it’s only for a couple of seconds, it’s worth it, especially if you’ve been living in your bed for hours or days. If you can, try to strip your bed and throw all your bedding and PJs in the washing machine with a big scoop of softener. Make some tea or play a game while your waiting for everything to wash/dry. Then put either fresh bedding or your now cleaned bedding on! It might not help fix anything, but it’ll maybe help you feel a little tiny better and more human when you climb back into clean, fluffy sheets.
3) Try to take a shower
Again, I know, this sometimes seems like such an impossible thing, but the power of a shower to wash off everything that’s happening and make you feel a tiny bit more like a human being is invaluable. Sit on the floor if you need too, let the water run over your face (hot or cold), try to wash your hair with proper shampoo, shave if that’s something that you prefer to do, use a nice smelling body wash if you have one (don’t worry about applying it properly if you’re too exhausted, just the smell and idea of washing away everything will help). If showering is too much, wipe over yourself with baby wipes, under your arms, your legs, gently wipe the sleep away from your eyes. Brush or tie up your hair. Try to put on clean pyjamas or clothes that you feel comfortable in. You’ve got this.
4) Water intake
I’m awful at this when things are bad. Nothing feels as awful as being dizzy and perpetually dehydrated as well as a mess inside. Try to drink a glass of water if you can, maybe warm if that’s easier to swallow, and keep one by you to help remind you. If going to the kitchen to get one is too much, or you’re too exhausted to keep refilling and things, try to get one of those big 2 litre bottles and keep it in your room next to your bed. This’ll help to keep yourself drinking enough and looking after your body’s needs without having to face anything or anyone else when things get too hard. Plus, drinking more means you have to pee more and, well it’s a nifty little trick to make sure you keep getting up and about!
It’s hard for me to write this one. I always feel guilty eating, part of my illness is based around over eating and the way I look. When I’m alone and my anxiety spikes I binge eat. I eat until it hurts. So every time that I DO eat now, despite being on a healthier path the guilt of eating AGAIN even though it’s been hours between still niggles at me. However, cooking proper food always gets me out of my head. Its a wonderful distraction. Yet it can be totally impossible when things get messy in that head if yours, but if you can, try to make sure you keep quick little things and like toast and porridge or soup around. Try make yourself something.
6) Watch something familiar
This is a bit of a cliche one too, but it’s safe and it’s familiar and those are always good things to surround yourself with when everything is shitty. Some days realistically I can’t even actually watch anything – it doesn’t penetrate the bubble of numbness I’m in or make me laugh or cry like it should, but especially if you’re on your own sometimes the background noise is enough (this helps pass time too). My go to in this scenario is a list of ‘girlie movies’ It might not feel like it’s helping, but a bit like music sometimes just helps you not to feel so alone.
7) Clean Up/Rearrange
When your feeling bad sometimes a small change to your surroundings can be helpful in shifting your mood. Depending on how motivated you are anything from dusting to completely rearranging a room is helpful! It gets you moving and keeps you busy. It distracts your mind and could tire you out. Give it a shit!
I’m awful at this. No matter how much I try, my automatic and unbearably horrible response to things getting bad is that I just shut off from everyone and everything. The truth is, this is when you need people around you the most, even if you want more than anything to be alone. If it’s all too much, try and keep photos of your loved ones on your phone and save texts from your parents and siblings etc to look at when you’re sad and far away, and maybe try to send on text a day. People care about you, no matter what you do. I tend not to talk about this part of my mental illness much, I don’t ever want to say to someone “I’m forcing myself to talk to you” but you do need to let people care about you. It’s bitterly hard, but the people who love you most really will love you whatever happens.
My sleeping pattern is a notorious mess even when things are more ‘okay’. I can’t get to sleep, or I wake up, or I can’t wake up at all, but I’m always always frighteningly exhausted. Sometimes you just get those days where you can’t do anything but sleep, and that’s okay. You’re not being lazy, promise. Your body needs rest and sometimes the best and most caring thing you can do is let yourself sleep. If you can, trying to get a vague sleep pattern in place is good even if you aren’t sleeping, again just to regulate time a bit I guess – I find that sleeping with a hot water bottle or microwave hottie helps even when it’s not hugely cold outside, just because the warmth is comforting to curl up with. Trying to rest somewhere other than your bed when you aren’t sleeping can sometimes help a bit too, just so that you have a bit of a change of scene. It sounds silly and pointless, but sometimes breaking up associations with your bed a bit will help too.
10) Remind yourself that you’re okay.
You’re here. You’re still breathing, and even if that’s the only thing you’ve done today, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it, ever ever. Go for a walk if you can and notice tiny things to keep you distracted, or open your window a tiny bit if going outside is too much to bear, just to let some air in. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, even if you only cradle it a little bit for warmth and comfort. Remember all the times you’ve felt like this before, and all the lovely or important or tiny memorable things that have happened since. Try to think of a Disney film or book or favourite thing about winter for every letter of the alphabet (but don’t worry about skipping a letter if it’s too hard). Know that you’re safe and valued and loved. You’re fierce, brilliant and astoundingly brave just for existing.
I hope you have found this helpful, and informative! Let me know what works for you and how you self care in the comments section. Until my next post, see you all online! Charlotte x