In living with mental health problems, we are aware that moods fluctuate. From a giddy high where the world seems bathed in a blanket of sunshine and positivity, to the plunging depths of bleakness and despair.
If we are lucky, we can cognitively determine the triggers or circumstances which provoke the lows and work on challenging negative thought patterns, IF we are lucky… all too often depression will take rational thought hostage and no amount of negotiation will gain its freedom.
Last week, although hectic with appointments, was actually a good week, one where I was able to work towards my goals and ambitions, where I was able to have sufficient time to balance relaxation with stress. One where running, blogging and poetry gave me a huge amount of satisfaction and where I managed to keep my mood buoyant. And I coped through the weekend, despite angry teenagers and unmet plans, I felt good.
And I blogged about my recovery and about how things were going so well. But…
… the problem with depression is that we can never become complacent because of the fluctuation in mood, because given enough external stressors, we may fall into its clutches once more and when that happens it takes determination and persistence to fight our way out.
Yesterday, my husband and I had a meeting with the therapists who will be working with our older son. I knew this meeting would be difficult for me as it would involve a lot of talking, most of which would be about our son’s difficulties and the stress it places on our family. In addition, I currently struggle with word recall and with fluent conversation, so the mental effort involved for me just to manage the 2 hour appointment was enough to drain my energy, even without the tears that such appointments provoke, without the re-experiencing of trauma triggered through recollection and discussion, and without insufficient nutrition, lunch being a rushed snack before school pick up, as we were out of the house from 11am to 3pm.
I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My mood, which was so good on Monday, had tumbled down a steep hill. I just wanted to hibernate, go off radar for a while, step aside from my responsibilities and wrap myself in a metaphorical cosy blanket. All memory of the good things in life was replaced by all the bad, as depression flooded my brain with negativity and left me with a pervasive feeling that things will never change. I was very aware of why I was feeling this way and I knew that it would pass, but at that very moment in time belief was impossible.
The flip from high to low, instantaneous like the toss of a coin, was a stark reminder of why I carefully construct my life in such a way as to minimise stress and promote recovery.
The only reason I am as well as I am, is because I work so damn hard at it.
[BTW I’m ok, but I wanted to write this to give an understanding of how fragile recovery is and how easily one can slip from those highs to lows]