My Head Is Not A Safe Place Right Now – And That’s Okay

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I went on holiday last week to the most beautiful place on earth, the one place that has stayed with me throughout my life.  The one place that I truly feel at peace.

I had this grand idea that I would spend my days relaxing, spinning, and otherwise existing in a zen-like state.  In my head I was going to become one with myself and reach … while not quite a higher state of being, certainly a more peaceful state of being.

It, um, did not go well.

The first two days I was just so relieved to exist in my little slice of heaven that it filled me with a false sense of security and achievement, because I was almost zen-like.  I was decompressing, and I was able to spend a good 30-40 minutes just staring at the ocean in a state of quiet.  I think it was more that I was shell-shocked at the sudden change in stresses that my brain just blanked out on me, leading me to a false quiet.

Then my brain came back, and with it my anxiety, and oh boy it was not a nice place to be!  I hadn’t brought any reading material with me, so I vainly scrambled for some fanfiction escapism, but even that fell flat.  I had a burning need to be doing anything but what I am currently doing in my chest, and my brain bounced around the walls of the cabin maniacally.

But I continued to push for that zen aesthetic, that peaceful state of being.  I was firm in this belief that this is the state I should be in, it was the correct state, and I was wrong for not being able to achieve it.  It took me two days of struggling to correct my thinking.  My head is not a safe place to be in alone, and that’s okay.  With that admission, with the acceptance of this fact, I was able to relax once more and implement my distraction regime.

Distraction helps.  Depending on how bad my brain is depends on what kind of distraction I use – I have ‘high value’ distractions and ‘low value’ distractions.  I chose to hit it with all I’ve got.  I’m on holiday, after all, I want to be enjoying myself!

So I cracked out my gaming laptop and put on Two Point Hospital (the spiritual successor of Theme Hospital, my favourite game ever) and listened to podcasts.  With their powers combined I was not left alone in my head and all the bad thoughts ricocheting around quietened down.

Sure, I felt guilty about spending my time inside playing computer games instead of sitting peacefully and admiring the beautiful view, but I realised that my mental health needs were more important than my belief that I must make the most of my location.

I’ve just realised, as I’ve been typing this out, that I have a big Fear Of Missing Out.  It has been drilled into me that I must make the most of every opportunity I have been given.  If I am in a new place, I must always be out exploring it.  If I am in a beautiful place, I must always be out admiring it.  If I am invited out to dinner with friends (which never happens because all of my friends are students, so we’re either too broke or too busy), I feel like I must go to not miss out.

It’s all a lie.  Because while I may be constantly out exploring a new place, I am also missing out on wellbeing and ensuring my physical needs are balanced.  While I may be constantly admiring a beautiful place, I am also missing out on ensuring my mental health needs are met.  While I may be going out to dinner with friends, I am missing out on storing energy to deal with things the next day.

So I guess what I’m saying is – it’s okay to not be okay.  Do what you need to do, regardless of where you are.  If you can’t do the zen thing, don’t force it!  Work with what you have, rather than what you think you should have.

And anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

How to Survive the Festive Season with Chronic Illness

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Now that I am through the festive season, I would like to extend my best wishes to all readers – whether you be transient or regular – for the holiday season, and my heartiest congratulations for coming out the other end.

If you could hear my hysterical laughter you’d understand that ‘surviving’ is about the only thing I can lay claim to for this past holiday season.  I managed to not yell at anyone.  I did politely snap a couple of times – when mum told me not to do a thing with the laptop that had to be done (I do know what I’m doing), and when my amazing human got salty about where we had coffee because we could have had coffee at the coffee place up the road (yes we could have, but we are not, because we are having coffee here, because you said you didn’t care where three times before as we went past cafes and I shoved us all into this one because you were getting grumpy).  But overall I managed.

Which is a fucking feat of perseverance if I ever did see one.  I went into it burnt out from the impromtu therapy session with mum wherein I was the therapist and helped her unpick and reframe a narrative that has been with her since she was two.  The good news is, she’s looking a lot happier, and she’s going to start looking into a therapist.  The bad news is it took so much out of me.

Throw me straight into two very long drives back-to-back (only one of which I had to do), my amazing human’s family arriving for two weeks, and the act of ‘running interference’ to ensure my amazing human doesn’t become overwhelmed by his parents, and you have a very stressed out and exhausted lady at the end of it all.

I rarely had time to myself to plug in my headphones and listen to anything.  I didn’t have time to do any of my self soothing routines.  I was out and about constantly, pushing myself to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible.  I was mediator, decider, herder of cats, support … the works.  My role in my family has always been as mediator and keeper of the peace.  My role in my amazing human’s family is apparently the same, with making decisions (because no one else does) and herding cats on top of that.

I failed miserably at implementing any kind of self care over the holiday period.  It’s hard to say ‘no’ when you’re trying to keep everyone else happy – and that’s a holdover from my childhood.  If I keep everyone else happy, no one will be grumpy, and I won’t be grumped at.  Well it only partly worked.  I still got grumped at.

But, in my rambling way, I survived.  I made it through.  The only incident was the dog eating a part-empty tube of cat laxative and having to clean that off the carpet (she’s fine).

And next year hopefully we won’t have two families combining over the holiday period.