mental illness · my life · self love

What to do When You’re Laying in the Dirt, and your Wagon is Riding Away

Responsibility is a bit of a double-edged sword. When the going goes great, you feel satisfied and proud of yourself. I certainly do. But when the going gets rough, suddenly every part of your day– no matter how small and insignificant– can feel like a herculean task. Suddenly, going further than your bedroom door is no longer part of your daily routine, but an ordeal in its own right.

I know that everyone stereotypes depression as ‘not being able to get out of bed’, and it sounds like a real cop-out in my opinion, but it is also true. I’m lucky, I suppose, that usually when I fall off the wagon, I can get out of my bed… but that’s about it. The convenience of living in student halls makes it pretty easy to avoid the outside world altogether for over 24 hours at a time.

This is not really healthy.

Will I still continue to do it, despite knowing it’s not good? Probably. But that’s just who I am. Being able to overanalyze every minute detail of my life has lead me to knowing myself– and my demons– quite intimately. I know exactly what my problems are, and in theory, I know how to deal with them.

In theory.

In practice, I’m lazy on a good day, so when I’m suffering from a bad streak and presented with the choice of either laying in bed and feeling sorry for myself or waking up for my 9am seminar, I know which one I’m going to pick.

Cue me, at 7 am, looking at my phone and knowing that I have enough time to shower, to eat, to put on make-up and throw on a cute outfit, before deciding to roll over and wake up again four hours later. Cue me, having been driven back to Portsmouth and treated to brunch, watching twelve o’clock come and go despite my lecture only being held five minutes away from where I live.

But I had, at least, one small victory. I went to starbucks. True, this is also a two-minute walk from my flat (and 30 seconds of those are spent on the stairs of my building), but I left the house today and you can’t take that away from me. I succeeded in keeping one of my obligations this week, which means I’m on par to keep another, and another after that, until I’m back to my usual schedule.

And whilst it’s not even as though I’m swamped with university work, I still feel like I can’t do it. God only knows how I survived the last eight years when I had to go to school for thirty-five hours a week (not including the homework that I never did). At least now at university, when I fall off the wagon, it moves slow enough that I don’t have to sprint to catch up to it. I always believed that university would be a better fit for me than secondary education. I knew it wasn’t just wishful thinking.

Though I think, for clarity’s sake, saying that I’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’ might be a little be dramatic. To stick with the wagon metaphor, it’s more akin to that I went to step off and got stuck, and now I’m being dragged along with it, but I’m not exactly traveling as one should. Luckily for me, this almost makes it easier to get back on– rather than having to make a concerted effort to jump onto a moving wagon, I can just climb back up to the seating area. There’s a lot smaller risk of failing and falling off again this way. There are just a few simple steps that have to be taken.

Firstly, and this perhaps one of the hardest steps, you need to stop beating yourself up about having a few bad days. No one is going to hate you for missing a few lectures and skipping meet-ups. If your friends are good friends, they’ll understand. If they’re amazing friends, they’ll coax you out with something that’s low maintenance and easy– like a coffee date– where you can acclimatize yourself again with the outside world and the process of leaving your flat; because you can forget, and it can get scarier if you don’t do it for a while. I for one, got changed three times because I thought that– despite having worn all three outfits multiple times– that suddenly I looked repulsive in all my clothing.

Secondly, you’ve got to take it one step at a time. I don’t currently have a job, which makes it a lot easier to bury myself beneath the sheets and pretend that I don’t exist. As a side note, when I was working, I actually found it very helpful to go to work and just do something repetitive and easy with people who weren’t caught up in my day-to-day life. When I quit to come to uni, I left behind some of the best friends I ever made, people who I knew could put a smile on my face. But now that I’m at university, there is no place where I have to be three times a week. You can take your day– or your process of recovery– one step, one venture outside, at a time. One lecture in the morning, and maybe the one directly after that.

As mentioned before, no one is going to hate you if you need to take the time to look after yourself. Even if you have to do this once a month, because being a consistently functional human being is hard work. No one is constantly in a good mood, and if you’re like me and your emotions seem to be on an infinite rollercoaster, then you’ve just got to ride the highs and the lows and know that you’ll level out for a bit eventually. Of course, I have ways to manage, to keep my lows from dropping down and placing me at risk of crashing, but you can’t really forget that even mentally healthy people have their off days.

Step three is to stop beating yourself up. I know that it’s already been said, but you need to hear it again. The world has not stopped just because you’re not out in it. You’re not going to fail all your classes because you haven’t been to them. Lecturers, I’ve found, are constantly getting smarter about their use of the internet, and thus are pretty savvy at answering emails and sending over slides and notes. Even if you can’t see them in person, I’m sure they would be happy to hear from you in an email. You don’t even have to explain yourself, as long as you meet deadlines then whatever happened before then is just water under the bridge.

So stop beating yourself up. Take everything one step, one day, at a time. Do something productive. Do some washing up. Wash your dirty clothes. Use the tumble dryer and treat yourself. Buy a nice coffee. Stop beating yourself up. The wagon is still within walking distance.

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