Spent – When You Have Nothing Left To Give – World Mental Health Day 2020

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and 2020 needs one.
Twenty-twenty has been a year like no other, and with years since 2016
 getting progressively more difficult, this one really took the proverbial biscuit.
Our state of mind and mental health is paramount,
and sometimes all you can do is look after yourself.

Mind points out: According to our research, with over 16,000 people, we know that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. We know that many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse.

Personally, lockdown was a relief, a moment out of time when my mental health thrived. Staying at home, going out only for necessities and spending time in nature worked wonders on my emotional state. It’s the mixture of chaotic messages, ideas, rules, hypocrisy, and out of control official governmental plans since lockdown ended that have wrecked my mental health.

I suffer with severe anxiety and panic, depression, self-harm and self-destructive behaviour including dermatillomania and eating disorder, and I’m waiting ASD assessment. I live for routine, so any changes are difficult to deal with. When supermarkets introduced one-way systems, masks, social distancing, queues to get in, I took my daughter with me for support. Panic rose every time I went for the first few weeks, with panic attacks inside the shop, and even outside when I was asked why there was more than one person shopping for my household. I will add that Tesco was very supportive when I explained my daughter helping, plus I was also shopping for my elderly father who was shielding. Once I’d got used to it, I then struggled when restrictions were lessened.

Mask © Lisa Shambrook

I had problems wearing a mask to begin with. Sensory issues meant that anything covering my mouth created an unbearable urge to panic. I had to retrain my mind to accept that wearing a mask was a protection for me, and when I added that to my fear of contracting Covid19, and practising wearing a mask, bit-by-bit at home, I was able to wear one.

There are other problems, this year has been especially generous with complications and troubles, but I won’t dwell on them. This year has left many with heightened anxiety, depression, stresses and much more.

So, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with emotional exhaustion, both mental health related and in normal life – because nothing has been normal this year.

This is what I posted yesterday:

Autistic shutdown is often caused by emotional and/or physical overload, meltdown, overwhelm, change, and other situations that become too much. It’s like having a dead battery. Many people, neurodivergent and neurotypical, can experience the sensation of being utterly spent, a lack of spoons (Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino), and emotional exhaustion. Sometimes you have to give in to it. You can watch circumstances overtake you, your battery runs on emergency, and you desperately claw at the edges of the cliff you’re clinging to. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you fall.

What can you do?

Take it easy. Take it one step at a time. Rest, Sleep, and allow yourself to recharge. You might bounce back quickly – a nap might be all you need – but you might need time to readjust, reassess your position, and small steps are fine.

I washed my hair and felt stronger, but aside from eating chocolate, yes, that counts, I didn’t do much until my brain had quietened and I’d been able to shut out some of the things that were shouting at me.

Family © Lisa Shambrook

Words of encouragement help, and here I will link an article I read the other day which made me cry because it was so true. This is How You Love Someone With Anxiety by Kirsten Corely. You can’t ever say “It’s okay,” too much, we answer texts immediately and panic if our texts go unanswered, we read too much into everything, and if it all gets too much, and it often does, we need to be held and be told “It’s okay.” Being hugged by someone who loves you can cure or help the worst things you fear. Real life hugs and virtual hugs are important. Your family can be your biggest support.

Nature is my saviour. When things get too much I get out. I have a dog, Kira, who has severe panic and anxiety, and cannot be walked near people or other dogs, so we go to the forest. I am blessed to live close to Brechfa Forest and there are multiple trails through woods and forest that we can take Kira without seeing anyone. This is a life saver, both for me and for Kira. When Kira’s walked locally by the road on pavement, she’s hyper-alert, aggressive, and full of panic – it’s not fun for anyone. Even a local dog trainer who trains guard dogs, admitted defeat with Kira, she’s a damaged rescue, who has only known real love from a few people in her life. In us, she’s found trust and unconditional love and her mental health thrives in our home. In the forests she is in her element and becomes a soft-natured, fun-loving, relaxed and adventurous pup. And that’s how nature works for me too.

Nature and Dog Walks © Lisa Shambrook

This year, with its trials, has taught us some of the most important things that life has to offer, and family and nature seem to top that for me. My friend Jessica Maybury wrote this piece The Greatest Travel Adventure Of 2020 and it resonates with me. Get out and see where you are. Since first having a dog, twelve years ago now, we’ve explored locally, and it’s a revelation. I haven’t discovered many new places this year, but it’s been a relief to know my locality and where I can go for peace. Go explore!

Sometimes medication can be the best help. Go and see your GP and get professional advice, there’s a place for medication, and there should be no stigma around taking meds that help you. No one blinks an eyelid when someone takes medication for diabetes or heart disease, or medication for thyroid issues because your thyroid is not producing what it should. Mental health issues arise because your brain isn’t doing or producing what it should and sometimes medication can put that right. I have taken antidepressants for periods on and off throughout my life, and I currently take medication for my anxiety attacks.

Cracks © Lisa Shambrook

The same goes for getting diagnosed with any mental health or other condition you might have. It’s tough to get a mental health diagnosis these days, the NHS is severely underfunded and many resources are difficult to get, but please fight for them. I’m about to begin counselling and hope it’ll give me some relief. My adult daughter received her Autism diagnosis just two months ago, after a 30 month waiting list and many years being let down by child and adolescent mental health services in her teens. The resulting diagnosis was definite and a huge relief. Validation can go a long way to finding peace or at least coming to terms with who you are.

And, perhaps, that’s the most important thing, coming to terms with who you are and what your needs are. You are you, and you’re enough whether you are in perfect health, or whether you have physical or mental health issues. Find what works for you, find support, and I hope you find what you need.

What helps you when life gets too much? How do you recharge?
I wish you all peace of mind in these tough years.

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