chronic illness · mental health

when the issues are inside your head, they come with you no matter where you go

A pretty simple straight forward concept to grasp, no?

Yet it seemed to take me so long to learn, relearn, and then be reminded again of this lesson. So many times I have tried to run away from things that are overwhelming my brain, running into different coping mechanisms, studying, different jobs, getting lost in traveling the world, moving to a different county. All of these things to help shift perspective, to misdirect my feelings of entrapment, of wondering that maybe these feelings of overwhelm and anxiety come from my immediate surroundings or situation.

And in some respect, they do, of course this will have some impact on my mental health, but what I seemingly (and very naively) assumed, was that by changing situation or location, I would somehow be able to simultaneously leave those issues behind.

But the fun fact about mental health issues? You can’t leave them behind because they’re inside your mind, ALL OF THE TIME. 

It took me so many years to learn this, and now I’m in the process of accepting it and trying to figure out ways to make peace with it.

For years I thought it was being at home, trapped in my illness, that was stopping me making progress in my healing journey; that it was this very house that was stifling my recovery, because I was snagging myself on so many bad memories of negative break outs, PTSD and debilitating depression, and couldn’t break free of the energy that was still held here. I tried to break it by going traveling with some friends, backpacking across South East Asia for 4 months; I had heard so many stories of how traveling could help heal a broken heart and restore the spirit, put things into perspective and help you to see life in a new way. I guess it can, for some people. But for me, every single day of those four months was wrecked with severe anxiety, exhaustion, fear and panic (you can imagine the absolute joy I was to travel with!), yet I was so fixated on running away from my problems that I assumed were left back at home, my stubbornness kept me out there, moving from place to place every day, traveling through different towns and villages, barely stopping for a few days in each place.

The whole process was utterly exhausting.

It’s only now that I look back and realise just how naive I was to think that it was a good idea, and that because of my slower processing function and daily anxiety battles, of course everything felt constantly overwhelming to me.

I see the same pattern developing now; since moving to Swanage, I assumed I could break free of old habits because I’d left them in my old house where I’d lived under my parents roof for 5 years, where I first learned I had M.E, where I finally learned to process past trauma that was welling up inside me, where I broke myself down into a million pieces and began to slowly, gently piece myself back together. I had hoped that all of those coping mechanisms would be left there, that they were no longer part of me. Anxiety was no longer part of me, depression was a companion who left long ago.

Yet, being away from my safe space that I had grown to know how to rest in, finally, that felt comforting and familiar, moving to a place where I know no one, having to relearn a language of this community, stepping out and having to give out so much of my much needed energy that I didn’t realise I still need so desperately for my own healing, is just too much, again. The problems are still there, they’re still hiding, embedded within my skin, still needing love and care.

The depression has come out with a raging head, the anxiety silently ebbs away at my mind, reminding me that she never went anywhere.

All in all, it simply reminds me to bring myself back, once again, strip it back, and learn how to just be with myself again. Allow the anxiety to sit, and simply listen to her fears, listen to her worries, give her a voice, otherwise the inevitable overwhelm will come to the surface and threaten to collapse everything you’ve worked so hard for. Know that you cannot run away from the things that have found a harbour inside your very mind, that they will still be there when you wake up in the morning, still very much there when you close your eyes at night, and no amount of running away will ever change that. The trick is now what to do with that – listen to them, give them a voice, breathing space, and find a way to gently guide yourself to a better place. 

Go gently x

 

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