Mummy Conquering Anxiety talks to us about her battle with recovery from mental illness.
Following my mental breakdown, I felt pressure at a certain point to return to “normal”. I was in recovery from mental illness, and ‘normal’ isn’t as simple as it appears.
We often bask in news stories of 70-year-olds running marathons, or a celebrity having a baby at 45 years old. But why? I’m here to tell you, there is no normal. And there certainly is no limit or norm, as to when you should be doing things in life.
“Go at your own pace. Live life how you want to live it.“
What is normal anyway?
Oh, the word “normal”. I dislike using this word because everyone’s definition of it is unique to them! It’s the incorrect way to describe the opposite of suffering from a mental health condition. It implies you’ll be fine once you return to a ‘normal’ state. For me specifically, I’ll always live with high levels of anxiety, and therefore placing this impossible-to-achieve, the aspirational word in the mix, just makes me feel worse.
Why I’m writing this post.
I’m writing this to let you know that there’s no time limit to recovery from mental illness. But, I want to talk specifically about self-improvement because this is what naturally followed after I hit rock bottom. Sharing my story with others became something I had to do. Hitting rock bottom is a great motivator.
My self-improvement timescale.
To put it into context for you, I’m almost forty. I didn’t truly feel like I had any direction in life until my early thirties. My husband and I got together then, and I was thirty-four when I had my first child. It’s only now, within the last year, I have any confidence at all and I’m finally going after what I want in life.
A forced timescale to recover from my breakdown.
In the aftermath of my breakdown health professionals would regularly tell me returning to normal would help. To which I repeatedly told them the culture at my workplace was the trigger for my breakdown. How could returning to the situation help me? Now I ask myself, how there can be any time limit on recovery from a mental illness? Surely everyone is different? It’s inevitable that some people may take longer to recover than others.
As you can imagine, having a ticking clock placed pressure on me when I was still in a fragile state of mind. It was incredibly damaging and it worsened my mental state. I was still recovering. But, I felt pressure to recover quicker. I felt alone and had an overriding feeling that the doctor wouldn’t help me anymore because I hadn’t recovered in a suitable period. A period which they deemed to be acceptable.
Where I found support.
The only people who supported me during this horrendous part of my life were my family and friends. I had my workplace ticking mental health boxes by conducting meetings for a catch-up. Mainly because they hadn’t adhered to the sickness policy. I had the doctor telling me it wasn’t their responsibility to issue continuous sick notes and to, instead, agree on something with my employer. There I was in the middle, struggling and trying to communicate with a workplace where communication was non-existent.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Although I’m now mostly recovered, my daily life is still a struggle. I have doubts, high levels of anxiety and some horrendously bad days. As I write this, today is one of them. Everything has been getting on top of me lately, due to a change in circumstances following redundancy. I am looking for a job, after never being unemployed since my first Saturday job at 15 years old. My toddler is fully in the terrible twos stage and I am looking after her more throughout the week. Send help! I just feel alone, like all I do is cook, clean, and deal with a toddler. I am sure there are other parents out there who feel the same. You are not alone and you’re doing a fantastic job!
Career and mental health.
I talk openly about mental health on my blog. But at my last job, I would never have admitted I needed a day off for mental health. I see a lot of posts on social media from companies, claiming they care about the mental health of their employees. However, I still feel like you have to prove to employers you are in complete crisis for it to be considered mental health leave. I am conscious I had a recent bad experience and not all employers behave this way. Hopefully, I will have a different, more positive experience with my next employer.
I hold out hope, and won’t stop raising awareness until we can make it standard procedure to ring work for a mental health day like we would if we broke our leg or had the flu.
People often talk about a timescale for achieving things, in terms of age. You regularly hear people saying they are too old to change. An employer wouldn’t want to have them on the team. I am here to tell you, it’s complete rubbish!
Talking about having a baby at a certain age and classifying it as normal, implies any other age isn’t. It’s simply not true. Societal pressures we perceive to be normal can be dangerous. Why are we living up to a standard or expectation some person once decided was normal? Times change, life moves on and society changes. Go your own way in life.
Why there is hope for recovery from mental illness.
Everything happens for a reason, your time will come.
I know some people don’t buy into this, but I do. I genuinely feel like this is the right time for me to change and I don’t regret my path up to this point.
I’ve only just realised I stressed myself out for years and my thinking only changed because the department we worked for was closing down. And we had the fear of an impending redundancy. For me, I couldn’t wait to leave and returning for a few months before leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was a brand new person, going back to the situation that broke me.
The world is a horrible place sometimes – don’t take it personally.
The lengths we go to when don’t want to feel feelings. In hindsight, I should have foreseen everything was coming to a head, but mental health problems tend to sneak up of you. Why, then, do I still beat myself up for not seeing it?
Life is uncertain. All we hear lately is bad news and horrendous things going on around the world. I think all of this is contributing to the struggles people are facing. We are all human. None of us is perfect and we all make mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Be kind to yourself – give yourself a break.
There are many factors in life we cannot control and I try my best not to focus on those anymore. What’s the point? After having a baby and facing severe mental health struggles, I’ve gone completely the other way now. I ask, is this worth my energy. I pick my battles carefully because I realise I can’t be superwoman anymore.
Although I’ve taken my time in sorting my life out, I don’t regret a single move I’ve made over the years. Even if I think differently about my experience now. My decisions and experiences have made me the person I am today and led me to this point.
Give yourself a break and treat yourself with the same kindness you would show others.
I recently returned to the park bench, where I regularly sat following my breakdown. I sat in the sun and took in the surroundings, just like I did months ago. But I felt a lot better than I did when I first had my breakdown. And this my friends, is called progress. Regardless of the timescale, all we can do each day is keep moving forward. If your progress is getting out of bed in the morning, that’s okay. Please dont pay attention to anyone else’s definition of when you should be making progress – they are not living your life.
The power of belief.
I remember completing some training on a mental health app and the psychologist said your brain cannot tell the difference between telling yourself something and it actually happening. Therefore, positive thoughts are extremely powerful. By the same token, negative thoughts are extremely damaging. I spent years telling myself I wasn’t good enough and listening to the negative self-talk in my head.
Until I decided I would only allow positive thoughts to flourish. Even on my worst days, I work extra hard to push the negative thoughts out of my head. Left to grow, like weeds in the mind, I know the result. And it isn’t pretty. And I am never going back there again! Nor will I ever allow anyone to tell me what normal is or place a timescale on my development in life.
How amazing is it, we can literally lie to our brain and it doesn’t know the difference. Positivity is powerful!
There is hope – I’m living proof!
I sometimes look back and think about how long I suffered before I got help. However, what matters now is I’m living in the present. My mindset is more positive and I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities and family support life brings me. That’s enough.
All we can do each day is our best. And remember, everyone’s definition of the “best” they did will be worlds apart.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness, respect, and empathy. And ditch the ridiculous societal traits you bound yourself to or the unhelpful stories you tell yourself in your head.