Giving Myself A Break From Mental Illness!


When you live with a mental health condition it is important to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you just have to take a break.

Obviously, I am aware that mental illness is not something that you can just switch off, but this doesn't mean that you can't allow yourself the break you need to feel better able to cope. You may have noticed that I have gone AWOL from the blog over the past few months. My moods got the better of me a little while ago and I decided that the best course of action would be to completely disappear. Well, not completely, but I did end up isolating myself from the world, or at least as far as it was possible to do so whilst still living on a busy main road with many shops, and in the middle of a busy city with millions of people in it! Isolation in the city looks quite different to living in a log cabin in the middle of the woods (which would be my dream come true). 

My version of "total isolation" essentially meant creating lots of distance between me and all of the people in my life. This meant avoiding local shops or anywhere that I might be recognised and stopped for a chat, and creating a number of backstreet dog-walking routes, choosing only to visit my local parks on a rotating schedule so as to avoid being spotted by the same people walking their dogs and having to engage in dog-related conversation. 

I also ended up falling out with the few prominent people in my life (not purposefully of course, but it was quite conveniently timed by the universe to aid my plan for total isolation). I also managed to distance myself from the rest of the people I know (not a difficult feat as the number of people I know can be counted on one hand.) I am sure that all of this all sounds very unhealthy and unsocial, but that was the point. I needed space to be by myself because I knew that my mental health was suffering and that I needed time alone to mend. 

And do you know what? It really did help. I began to hear myself think again. I felt more at peace and connected to what was important to me. My days became easier and my direction more clear. I also decided during this time to come off the medication I was taking. I know I haven't written anything on the blog about the medication I was taking, but the gist of it is that it wasn't working for me, and it was time to try something else. That something else took the form of this total detox, from the stressful life I was leading, the people in it who were triggering mood swings, and indeed the medication that was no longer having a positive impact.

So I spent three glorious months all by myself, with just my dog, my cat, and the cast of Eastenders for company. By the time I was ready to start talking to people again, I felt beautifully refreshed and completely balanced. In fact, I might go as far as to say... cured?

Alas, since returning to the realities and demands of people and of normal life I have also had to welcome back the mood swings. They have been small and manageable so far. I am currently referring to them as "micro-mood-swings", but I am keeping my eye on them. 

I have come to the conclusion that out-of-sight-out-of-mind really is a thing. Being around other people and having to respond to the stresses of everyday life and daily interactions certainly brings more of my attention to my disorder. I probably had ups and downs whilst living in my little bubble, but I didn't notice them as much because society wasn't holding up a mirror to my mood swings. There was not much happening in my life to react to, and so the fluctuations in my mood could come and go without having an impact on anything or anyone.

I also stopped tracking my moods so I really had no idea what was going on during this time. I tend to remember my ups and downs in a very subjective way relative to the current mood I am in. This means that if I have been feeling down I probably won't automatically recall recently having felt up, and if I am currently up then I am unlikely to recall feeling down the week before. I am usually reminded of changes in my moods by other people, journal entries, events recorded in my diary, my mood tracking charts, or catastrophes that have occurred as a direct result of my symptoms. At the end of my three-month isolation, when I got back in touch with my sister and tried to tell her that I didn't recall having a single symptom of depression or hypomania, the silence on the other end of the phone was one of heavy disbelief.

Despite loving the freedom of enjoying only the company and the lack of judgement of my pets, I know that this is no way to live. But at least now I am in a much better place than before and I can start to work on myself, my life, and relationships with people again. Sometimes all we need is a break in order to heal, feel stronger and return with a better perspective.

I have been thinking about this blog and where I want to take the project. Something that I have wanted to do since childhood is to write a book. I have attempted many times over the years to start writing a book, the subject matter of which has changed each time. I feel like I am finally at the stage in my life where I have something meaningful to share. Writing this blog has helped me to see that. So I have decided to start writing again.

The book I have decided to write is a narrative nonfiction memoir sharing my journey of self-discovery after I was diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder. This is something I have had on my mind to write ever since starting this blog. I feel like there are plenty of information books, memoir novels, blogs and even films and documentaries out there exploring and documenting the experiences of people who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, but it is very difficult to find anything that represents the specific experiences of the sufferer of cyclothymic disorder. 

After I received my diagnosis my first instinct was to track down as much information as I could, but it wasn't easy to find authentic, detailed, raw, gritty insight into what the experience of living with this disorder can be like for people like me. Instead, I had to make do with the memoirs and films about bipolar disorder, which is really quite different from cyclothymia, although we might relate to some of it. I want to write a book that represents our disorder, a first-hand account, a full book and not just a chapter in a book about bipolar disorder. So wish me luck!

I will try to keep you updated on the blog as to how I am getting along with the writing. I'll also try to set aside some time to write about topics on the blog that I have meaning to cover. If you are new, you can subscribe to the blog via email and receive automatic notifications in your inbox every time I publish something new. I also welcome comments under the posts, so if you would like to say hello I would love to say hello back and answer any questions you might have, or just natter about our ups and downs. 

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I write about a variety of topics, including mental disorders (like bipolar, cyclothymia, depression and anxiety) but also everyday mental health challenges and self-care tips. Subscribe to my mailing list and never miss a post...