The musings of a 27-year old battling his mental health demons in therapy every other week.
When I look back at my journey with depression and anxiety, I see it as one of consistently broken promises. I broke promises to my friends and family, but most importantly, I broke a ton of promises that I’d made to myself.
I said I would do a lot to tackle my “problems”, but in actual reality, I only managed to do a little bit.
When you’re depressed and anxious, you’ll kick yourself for only doing that little bit and you forget one very important thing, that you actually did that little bit.
We so often look at issues with mental health as things that need fixing or changing.
It’s the classic case of being in a bad place and wanting to get to a better one, but not really knowing how to do so, or especially, why we want to get there.
Two failed attempts at legitimate therapy and six sessions into my third go, I still can’t answer either of those questions, so sorry to disappoint.
One thing I do know is that this time it feels different, almost like it’s a case of now or never. I quite like having to look at it in that way, even though I know that all hope isn’t lost if I fail again this time.
Another strength I’ve developed (one I sincerely wish I had before) is the ability to accept that it’s ok to not be ok. That phrase is used a lot in advertising for mental health, but it really is true. Once you accept that these things you’re feeling aren’t A) negative and B) your fault, you’ll be able to take a much deeper look at where it all originates from.
I’ve learnt the theory behind how the heart operates from a person’s past experiences. Again, another wishy-washy sort of thing to try and understand, but if you’re able to look at the current objectively, it makes perfect sense.
Logic can often go out the window when you’re in a dark place. It is NOT logical to just say you’re depressed and want those thoughts and feelings to go away, because you haven’t considered how. It is also NOT logical to just go to the doctor and get anti-depressants prescribed. As someone who’s been on these anti-depressants since 2014, I can safely tell you that whilst for most of us they are necessary, these tiny little pills are just one part of the puzzle.
Solving that puzzle doesn’t mean you aren’t depressed or anxious anymore either, again I am sorry to disappoint. Use your logic, ask yourself what else you need to do on top of taking any medications.
The answer you’ll tell yourself will probably go something like this… “I don’t know”.
If you don’t know, ask someone else, because remember that you’re likely being illogical as you’re still coming at this question from that same dark place.
My Mental Health: Knowing The Role
A demon that I’ve tried and subsequently failed to tame is the mental ability to “switch off”. I’m told that advocates, activists, and those passionate about making a change to their community, often struggle in this space more than most.
I can certainly identify with lying in bed and watching television but being drawn to my iPhone simply so I can check if there are any “updates” to the issue I might be writing about that particular week. I can also identify with the urge to log onto Facebook and see if there is “just one more comment” on that blog I posted.
A turning point for me came when I started to turn down that desire a little.
It’s something that will remain one of my main challenges moving forward, that ability to “log off” at the end of the day and tell yourself that enough is enough.
I can tell you that for most content creators and journalists, two things of which I am, that is an extremely difficult skill to master because social media is where both your community/engagement is and where the news is breaking. Both have very short attention spans, so you’ve got to be “quick to post” more often than not.
The logical way of doing things is to plan out your time better. Know when you’re “on” and when you’re “off”.
When I was in that dark place I willed myself to always be on but all I ended up doing was being off. That means that I slept, a lot.
Sleep is an integral part to better mental health in my view, but it needs to be done right.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that these mental health issues have presented me with is the very real threat that sleeping more than you should presents. It can, and will, start to take over your life. It is one of the most common signs to depression and various other mental health issues, and one I know first-hand.
Don’t Be Someone Else’s Scapegoat
To close out this blog, I want to offer you two pieces of advice. The first, be very sure about what your role is in the different situations you’ll come across in life.
For example, if you are a persons’ manager but also their friend outside of work, be very clear about how you make decisions that could impact that person. You can be friends with the people you work with, honestly. But look at things logically and from the perspective of what’s best for business.
The second you step into that friend role and advocate on their behalf, as the manager, you set yourself up to be the scapegoat. People love to shift responsibility for their misfortune, and if you put yourself in that position, it will impact your self- esteem and make you depressed in a second.
Know your role, ask yourself who owns the situation at hand. If you own it, do something about it. If you don’t own it, realize it’s that person’s responsibility to make the change.
The permission you give will have a direct impact on the emotions you feel. When you are depressed, anxious, frustrated, or sad, how can you possibly think that you yourself are owning these emotions?
My final piece of advice is to realize that perfection doesn’t exist.
Striving to be the perfect person in a world and one that can help everybody will leave you with nobody. In other words, stop thinking about what other people want you to do, and do what you think you should do.
As the saying goes, imperfection is only measured by what we perceive to be perfect. What would be perfect for you right now?
Michael Pulman is a wheelchair-bound journalist, blogger, video producer, and public speaker based in Hamilton, New Zealand.