Let me take you back – Remember the ready break advert when the kid comes downstairs, eats his porridge before school, then heads out of the door surrounded by an orange glow, smiling without a worry in the world – I wanted to be that ready break kid, that natural positivity always eluded me.
My brain is like a sponge, it always has been for as long as I can remember, I absorb everything, I’m an overthinker, I used to and still do question and analyse anything, everything and anyone. I would constantly replay conversations, positive or negative I could always rewrite them to help justify how I felt. I could have a full-blown argument with myself verbally and internally to the point of feeling like I was going to explode or implode.
Negative Nancy (what I call her now) was always there to remind me that I was either a… Failure, No good, Unlovable, Fat, Lazy, Ugly or a fraud. Trust me there are many more, but you don’t need to hear about them now, the point I am trying to make is that I used to think that everything I thought was right, fact or true. Looking back, it’s no wonder I felt permanently shit or down because my thoughts were mainly negative, there were hardly any positives.
I would resort to pleasing others in return for some positive affirmations. I sought out their approval but when I got nothing back in return this just reinforce the low opinion, I already had about myself.
I tried to look the part, put on a front letting the world know I was ok. I played the role of housewife, mother, I had the house, the job, the car a job but still, none of these brought me the peace and happiness I craved. It was a constant cycle of negativity that left me feeling physically and emotionally unwell. That’s was until the drugs came in.
The drugs made me feel like I could do anything and soon found solace, comfort and reassurance that I was an ok person. I was invincible, people’s word’s no longer hurt, they bounced off me instead of penetrating me, I no longer gave a fuck. The drugs helped to numb the feelings, but I was like the walking dead emotionally. Everyone has what they call their rock bottom, mine was the shock of being in a mental health ward and not having a fucking clue about how I got there.
So what changed – I now understand that during the run-up to my breakdown, I was on the verge of emotional and mental bankruptcy. All my drug use did was to manage to break whatever spirit I might have had left, leaving just a hollow shell. However, my denial about what was happening to me at the time only served to make me worse.
Acceptance – Early on in my recovery, I had plenty of time to think and with the support from the staff for the first time was able to reflect on my life journey to date. I soon realised, or more importantly acknowledge that I had in fact been emotionally and mentally unwell way before the drugs came along. I realised that my use was just a poor solution to what felt like at the time a very complex problem. Turns out it wasn’t that complex, at all and that I didn’t have the tools to cope.
Learning to drown out Negative Nancy -I used to listen to her a lot, I used to believe everything she said to me. But it wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what she was really saying that I realised that everything she said wasn’t true. Slowly I started to recognise that in fact, I wasn’t a bad or weak person, but that I didn’t really know my own mind.
Have your own pep talk or #Haveawordwiyasen – I mentioned earlier that my mind is like a sponge, we are all consciously and subconsciously taking in and absorbing information that every so often we all need to give our brains a good wring out. I personally find journaling good for me. Sometimes after a good internal pep talk, I will often bang on a tune to help remind me I’m ok. M Peoples “Search for the hero inside yourself “was always my go-to song, back in the early days.
I Stopped blaming others – for years I blamed everyone and anyone for how I felt, I relied too much on others for my happiness. I knew there and then that if I was to get better then the only person that could help me was myself. I have learned over the years to take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings, I admit sometimes this has felt lonely, but I would prefer to be lonely and in control of me, rather than surrounded by others and out of control.
Accepting support – I used to think asking for help was a sign of weakness – I was allocated a community psychiatrist nurse (CPN) She would come and visit me weekly. Just having someone sat by my side listening to me offloading my thoughts, my feelings with no other agenda but to help me get well was a lifesaver for me, I can honestly say it’s the first time I felt heard. She took an interest in me, I was her sole focus in those sessions, she helped me plan my week, set targets which helped give me a sense of purpose. It was just simple things like budgeting, making sure I got to appointments making sure I spend time thinking and doing things for myself.
Become your own private detective – My CPN helped me question all the negative beliefs I had about myself and I started slowly to accept and learn that I wasn’t a bad person and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. She explained about how my internalised thoughts impacted on my feelings, which helped explain how I acted out the way I did. I would offload my past and she helped me unpick all the limiting beliefs about myself that had accrued over the years.
Over the years I have done a lot of personal reflection/investigations. I have gone back and relived crime scenes as I saw them at that time. Doing this enabled me to look at certain incidents from different perspectives and turns out many of what I thought to be fact were actually assumptions based on where I was at, at that time.
Building a healthy support network – I started to realise that the people I had been associating with, weren’t healthy themselves and that if I was going to get better, I would need to cut ties. At first this was hard, because this left me with just a handful of trusted people, who I could turn to. Trust me sometimes it got very lonely. There were many times I wanted to give up, it was tough, but it was worth it in the long run.
Take a risk – looking back I took so many risks, dealing drugs, handling stolen goods worst of all playing Russian roulette with my emotional and mental health. I still take risk’s, but this time they are healthier. There were many a time I didn’t think I had it within me to change, but that was the risk I was willing to take. The change was especially scary when I didn’t know what the new me might look like, or afraid I might fail again. I have learned that nothing in life is guaranteed and every day is potentially filled with risk, it’s how you deal with it that counts.
Develop new ways of coping – I now realise that I don’t need to reach for drugs when the going gets tough, all I need to do is reach into myself. My story is no fairy tale and it certainly isn’t unique by a long shot, I know there are many others who suffer the same. life can be cruel at times, #shithappens to good people but If I have learned anything it’s how you deal with it that counts.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned not to be so hard on myself and practice self-compassion on a daily basis.
There are many techniques that I have tried over the years so I thought I would share some of them with you, but I share them with a word of warning. Just because they worked for me doesn’t mean that they will work for you. My recovery has been a journey of trial and error and yours will be too.
Journaling – Where possible I make time, normally first thing in the morning, before work to reflect on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I can feel anxious for what seems like no reason, but by just sitting with the feelings and writing down the thoughts in my head I can usually find the root cause.
Support groups -Although I don’t attend as many as I used to, I will never tire of being in a support group being surrounded by likeminded people who are working on themselves. it’s both humbling and inspiring to hear people share openly and to be able to listen and a great reminder I am not alone.
Trusted friend – I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, I’d rather have one friend who gets me over 50 that don’t. Someone who I feel safe to share my vulnerabilities without feeling judged. Sometimes I might not hear from some of them for weeks (after we all have busy lives) but when we connect it’s like we have never been apart (cherish those friendships)
Exercise your mind – All too often people focus on physical exercise to improve mental health, but there are other exercises that can help too
Mindfulness – learn how to still your mind or better still learn how to tell Negative Nancy to ‘Piss off” There are hundreds of mindfulness techniques such as meditation classes, guided audio sessions and many are FREE
Have a break from Social Media – Avoid the lure of comparing yourself to others
Practice being in the present – focus your attention and gratitude for what you have got and focus less on what you haven’t got.
Make a to-do list – list all the things that you need to get done, even simple household chores that you have been meaning to do but have been putting off.
Read – make time to lose yourself in a good book whether that be a self-help, fiction, non-fiction it really doesn’t matter, whatever floats your boat, read it.
Bang on some music – sort out some uplifting tunes and play them whenever you are feeling down, create your own positive playlist – this particularly works for me when I’m doing mundane jobs like housework or writing reports.
Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too