Last time I posted some therapy notes I was going to therapy regularly, right at the beginning of the end of the world as we know it. Now, at the butt end of whatever strange apocalypse it’s been, I’ve got more notes to share being back in therapy regularly.
Feelings are not facts
It took a long time to learn not to interpret my biased perception of the world as How The World Is. Sometimes, things aren’t stuff. Sometimes, the world just objectively is, and I, by chance, exist in it, and there are feelings that exist inside me. My anxiety intensifies my emotions, my depression dulls them, and the whole spectrum in between the two of those extremes is painful and difficult to try and navigate.
I use sentences that start with “I feel…” a lot more now. I kind of understand why it was, but in hindsight it’s odd that that was somehow a bad thing in my mind for a long time. It’s been a whole time with Covid, to really need to convince my left over, unrealised anxieties from my experience with SARS that it wasn’t a very super specific unsurmountable concoction designed on purpose to break me and my mental health work from the last few years.
The reality of 2020 is that I don’t think I could have made it through this far if it weren’t for the 2 years of serious therapy pursuits I already had under my belt. The world isn’t out to get me specifically, even if it feels that way.
Mental health is not about being happy all the time
To be mentally healthy is actually about your abilities to cope with things when they aren’t going well. It’s more like an emotional immunity system than a destination or a mood.
This whole line of thinking could not be more relevant to where I am in our current world situation. I've been watching droves of people post about it being ok to not be ok and essentially feeling depressed for the first time while not wanting to, and it's been eyeopening. No one should expect to feel happy all of the time, but social media really has struggled with that concept and given people false hopes that a bath bomb or a candle is going to give them back a long term happiness lost in the pandemic.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't be posting or sharing things that they find helpful. Social media is there for us to curate and carve out a space to enjoy the things that we are interested in. My point is that I'm seeing toxic positivity running rampant operating under a misconception of what being mentally healthy should be, and what we should be aiming for.
Over the years I've grown to really appreciate emotional regulation abilities and event processing power, and I work on these two bits of my mental health to get better at both. Telling me that a face mask or yoga is going to make me happier in this conversation is like selling essential oils to someone chronically ill. Say literally anything else.
Most things aren’t about you
This is specifically something I've learned in response to my periodic flip outs, which tend to happen after I think too deeply and too intensely about something good or enjoyable. Good emotions became attached to paranoid ones over a long time of being gaslit, and it's taken a lot of careful pointing out by trusted friends to realise that I don't need to be like that anymore.
If someone ghosts me, or if someone lashes out at me, or if an isolated incident of any kind sends me into a spiral, my mantra has become Most Things Aren't About You and it's been surprisingly useful. This isn't saying that I'm never at fault or I don't carry any kind of responsibility for the situations that I find myself in, but rather a diffusion tactic to battle a specific kind of anxiety and panic caused by past trauma. Once the panic subsides enough for me to think straight, I can choose what action I take with a relatively clear head.
I'm not OK
As someone with long term depression and anxiety, it's hard to see an entire campaign around the concept of asking if your peers are OK and not feel some way about it. The focus of a nationwide campaign on asking the people around you a question that reflects the bare minimum level of care seems patronising to say the least, and ineffective to say the most.
I'm not OK. I've not been OK for a long time. I'm really quite tired all of the time and occasionally don't have the effort to hide it. It's a long, quiet, daily battle that I wake up to everyday, affected by my diet, my relationships, my meds, my water intake, my environment, my dog, my body condition and what tasks I have to do and who I have to see and how the weather is and whether or not I slept well and if I've forgotten something or if I've made any mistakes in the last 24 hours or 4 years or 3 days.
It's not good, but sometimes it's better than not good. Most of the time, it's relatively tolerable. I put up with it, and just move on as best I can. What else can I do? Die? The closer to death I've gotten, the less I want to die. So am I OK? Please, ask again.
I'm not OK. It's fine. I've lived with it all up until now and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future, right up until the day I decide not to. I'm making peace with that. I love my job, I love my dog, I love my relationships and most of the time I get enough of the meds/water/diet/exercise situation correct and I move forward. I'll be not OK tomorrow, too.
Yeah, you probably know that I'm tired. I've posted about that bit before, but what's new is that I'm pretty certain I'll also be tired tomorrow. It's fine. Time is passing, we're all hopefully doing what we can with what we have, and life will probably continue. The pandemic will probably pass, as unlikely as it seems, and a year after that we'll go back to being frivolous and silly and together when it suits us, and things will be good sometimes and bad sometimes.
We will still be ok, probably.