In the land of mental health, “brain fog” is basically not being able to see the wood for the trees.
I know the signs of impending brain fog now (i.e. depression is seeping through the cracks), but previously brain fog has consumed me because I wasn’t speaking out and admitting I was feeling:
EVERYTHING was an effort
I’d be sleeping none-stop (napping most days)
I’d have an inability to focus on simple things like the TV (apart from all those highbrow programmes I enjoy…)
I’d even go as far as saying it made me forgetful.
Brain fog (depression) can bloody suffocated you.
I know now that I can avoid getting into that headspace again by focusing on my selfcare. Easier said than done but I’m determined to kick depression in the balls and not let it define who I am.
Depression in the past has:
stopped me wanting to socialise
allowed me to lie about my availability to friends/family
stopped me answering the phone to my nearest and dearest
made me constantly negative (not just sarcastic and cynical)
made me eat reeeeally unhealthily (tastes great though)
taken me to Don’tgivaf***ville
let me go for hours (sometimes days) without speaking to someone
I certainly wouldn’t smile when on my own
just about let me feed myself (god bless Deliveroo)
(If I didn’t have a senile cat that asks to go outside every half hour then I don’t think I’d actually have moved from the sofa for days on end)
Until recently (the last couple of years) I’ve been really, really slack at my own selfcare (i.e. not putting myself first and ignoring my feelings). I’ve been completely ignorant to the behaviours/signs that I need to focus on myself and it’s left me feeling weighed down and in a bit of a slump. But I’d be the first to make sure someone else was putting themselves first.
Thankfully my family and close friends spot the signs of the fog coming over, usually before I do. They’ll encourage me to get up or will keep me busy, they’ll also encourage me to keep selfcare in my routine. They also know when to just leave me be.
When I look back to December 2016… I hadn’t noticed that I’d been showing signs of the fog coming over. I thought by “admitting” to family in the September that I had depression then I was on the way to a better place. Oh, how wrong was I?!
I was at the doctors for a regular prescription check-up and when the doctor asked me the usual “so, how have you been?”, for some reason I responded with something along the lines of: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I can’t keep doing this, I can’t keep doing it, I’m just not happy, I don’t know why, does that sound stupid? Am I being stupid? I just can’t get a grip, it’s so embarrassing but I can’t do this. I can’t be f***ing arsed. I just don’t care. I’m so tired.” – utter gobbledygook between sudden sobs of tears.
I was speaking at speed, shaking and I couldn’t actually explain what my problem was.
Turns out due to my ignorance towards my own selfcare, I was sitting in the doctor’s office having a panic attack. Brilliant.
“Mandy, you need to take a break, do some self-reflection and most importantly you need to relax. I’m signing you off for two weeks. Come and see me before those two weeks are up”.
At the end of the two weeks I was adamant I needed to go back to work in fear that I’d somehow end up with a dark mark against my name. So, I stupidly went back. There wasn’t ever going to be a dark mark against my name, I just hadn’t realised that I still hadn’t put my own selfcare first.
Fast forward 12 months to December 2017. I thought I’d been doing enough selfcare, I’d been putting my feelings first, declining things I didn’t want to do, telling people my emotions. But unfortunately the same thing happened again, except this time I didn’t go back to work after two weeks. It took about 4 months before I walked back through the doors at work.
I was broken, I needed some time to heal. I didn’t have a broken arm that just needed putting in a cast to fix, I needed to relax. Except I had no idea how to relax, my mind wouldn’t switch off, I’d be over-thinking every emotion, trying to justify why I was off and felt really guilty that I wasn’t at work.
But I did it. I took the time I needed and faced the fact I wasn’t ok. I did A LOT of talking (and writing). I tackled the increasing tension in my neck and back and had a couple of painful sports massages (worst pain ever!). I faced some fears; had awkward conversations about emotions. I researched depression. I found a couple of hobbies (including blogging!). I made new friends and met up with old ones who I’m never letting go of again.
It was an incredibly steep climb and I still have a way to go, but being true to myself has helped me. So much. Think it’s probably helped my friends and family too (maybe!).
I am making a pledge to myself that if I ever see those signs again I will take a step back and remember it’s ok to not be ok, don’t let the mist take over, and put myself first.
A little request from me to you; if you see the signs in me or in anyone else please don’t ignore them. Depression doesn’t mean I or that person will start crying on you in the middle of Starbucks (well I might if you don’t offer to pay though, obvs).
To help someone get things off their chest might be the one thing that is needed to keep them on the straight and narrow and stop the bastard fog ruining the view.