You probably clicked on this thinking something the lines of “Jesus, what is she going to say now?” Or maybe it was “Fantastic. I’m ready to hear some deep and dark secrets”. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not what this is. I’ve been deep and I’ve been dark but it’s never been a secret. As much as I may hate it, I’m pretty much an open book. I’m honest about my experiences in real life, so why not put them out into the big wide world? (Please don’t answer that question. It was rhetorical!)
If you’re in NSW at the moment, you will be more than aware that we are in a very long, very real and very scary COVID lockdown. Case numbers are soaring and high hopes are plummeting. And it’s important at this time to look after your mental health (well, it’s important all the time, but I am finding that more and more people are starting to struggle). Me? I’m pretty used to mental health issues, if I’m being honest. I have battled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember. You can call me a veteran of the black dog if you so desire. But, for a lot of people, this may be unchartered territory. In lockdown, many people are isolated, which can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and hopelessness. So here are some of Sam’s top tips to surviving and dealing with shitty brain stuff (aka mental health issues).
Check in with yourself
Over my many years of struggle (dramatic but true), I’ve conquered the seemingly impossible task of becoming self aware. Many moons ago, I would spiral out of control with no idea what was even happening. I would engage in reckless behavior and lash out at those who cared about me when I was going through something tough. People react in different ways to trauma (which is a whole other topic I will touch on in another post), and my coping mechanism was non existent. With more trauma, came more opportunities to learn, grow and create some form of coping mechanism. But most importantly, I learned how to check in with myself. I learned how to know what I was feeling, when I was feeling it. Sounds easy, right? But its a surprisingly difficult skill to master. The key to dealing with shitty feelings, is knowing what those shitty feelings are first. Start by identifying what you’re feeling, putting a name to it and describing how it feels in your body. Think about why you might be feeling that way. Now, sometimes there isn’t a reason. Sometimes, you just feel shitty because your brain is fighting a war. And that’s okay too. But if you can try and find what triggered you by doing some digging around in your thoughts, that’s a good place to start. Once I put a name to the shitty feelings and recognise what it is that I’m feeling, I sit with it. My therapist often tells me, ‘sit with your feelings, don’t run from them or push them down.’ FEEL your feelings. They are there for a reason and they are valid.
Speak your feelings
Say it out loud. Say what you are feeling. It doesn’t always have to be to another human person. It can be to your dog, your cat, your budgie, or just to yourself in the mirror. For example, ‘I’m feeling very sad and very hopeless today’. Just speaking a few simple words of truth can take some weight off you. Once you say it and release the words out into the big wide world, sometimes, it doesn’t seem as suffocating. Other times, it doesn’t work and you still feel like you’re drowning, I’m not going to lie, which brings me to my next piece of advice.
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but there is no shame in reaching out for help from a professional. I use therapy regularly for maintenance of my (now) mostly managed mental health issues. No problem is too big or too small. Therapy is true self care. It’s an hour spent in a space that is just for you. This is the perfect place to speak your feelings, and if you feel unsafe sitting with them alone, you can do it with a trusted professional. Because once you start to sit with your feelings, you can start to work through the why’s and the how’s and begin to pave a way out. Seeking help doesn’t always mean you have a serious mental health problem (although, there is nothing wrong with that), it means you are looking after yourself. Sometimes, the shitty brain stuff is too much to cope with on your own, and there is no reason that you have to cope on your own. There is support out there.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, and it’s getting too much, please use the resources below. And remember, Sammy loves you (you sexy bitch!).