When I started this blog back in February, it was mainly meant as a way to track the progress of my recovery and as a platform on which to talk about my experiences with mental illness. The two are, obviously, not mutually exclusive. But when I started writing blog posts at the beginning of the year, I was in a really good place. Maybe the best place I’ve been since I got really ill back in 2013. I was on the fast track to recovery, I was feeling super healthy both mentally and physically, I had a job that I loved and I was looking forward to a school year which seemed filled with endless possibility. As such, I wanted to show the world that recovery from a mental illness is super attainable! Look how much better I’m doing after I went on medication and developed a healthy attitude towards living with anxiety!
I still believe in the honesty of those messages. But I also believe that, in order to be completely honest on Iron Beth, I also need to talk about the times when I’m not doing so well. Because, as I touched on last week, recovery is not a strong and steady climb from a place of mental illness to a place of mental health. It’s a rougher road. There are peaks and valleys. There are potholes waiting to trip you up and bring you down, and even after you’ve picked yourself up, dusted off and kept on walking, your grazed knee is still gonna hurt. Tramping metaphors aside, the point I’m trying to make is this: to portray my recovery as a consistently positive thing would be dishonest. And that’s not what I want this blog to be. You, my readers, deserve the truth. And I owe it to myself not to paint an inaccurate portrait of my life with a mental disorder.
So here’s the truth, as best I can put it into words:
I’ve been pretty unwell lately.
I’m still recovering. Things are still so, so much better than they were a year ago. But that doesn’t change the fact that, for the past month or so, I’ve been feeling kinda off.
So what’s been happening? I’m not really sure. I know I’ve been having panic attacks more often lately. I know I’ve been having days where I just feel flat, where it feels like I’m going through the motions without actually remembering why it is I need to get dressed and go to class every day. I know I’ve been feeling scared when there’s nothing to be scared of, and despite knowing the fear I’m feeling is completely unwarranted.
And it sucks. It sucks more than anything because I thought this part of my life was over. I expected that by now I’d be better, and I’d be doing so much more than I am. It sucks because I feel like there are so many people in my life who expect me to be better and to stay better, who think (like I did until recently) that the Beth who’d rather stay in bed than go out and face the day was dead and gone. And I feel like I owe it to those people to continue to be The New Me, whoever that is. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me until now to be real on here about how I’ve been doing lately.
That’s kinda why I went to Christchurch last weekend, actually. It was a spontaneous decision, very last-minute. My friend Luke found out I’d never been to the South Island before and he was like ‘dude that’s not okay, you need to go, we should just go on a holiday’. The next thing I knew, we’d booked flights and accommodation and off we went. I was so eager to go because I felt like I’d hit a wall in Wellington, like every day was the goddamn same and I needed a break from that. I wanted a change of scenery, a place to clear my head.
Like when I went to Melbourne in May, going to Christchurch last minute reminded me of how far I’ve come. This time last year it would have been out of the question. It would never have been something I’d have even considered doing. I was just too ill. And in times like these, when I feel like shit more days than usual and I begin to question whether I’m actually getting better, a spontaneous trip to Christchurch reminds me that I really have come so far. And it’s getting easier, and it will continue to get easier, and these hard times are to be expected. And more than that, while these hard times suck to live through, when I come out the other side I’ll just be a stronger person for having made it through.
But it’s still difficult. It’s difficult because so many of my friends and family read these posts every week, and I want them to think I’m doing really well. It’s so hard to say that the reality is, at the moment, I’m really not. But there it is. I’m not gr9. I’m not even gr8. I’m actually in a pretty trash mental space right now.
But hey, I’m not just going to sit here and do nothing about it. I saw my doctor this week and told her what’s going on, and she decided it would be best to up my dosage of sertraline from 25mg to 50mg to see if that makes a difference. It’s not uncommon, she told me, to experience this kind of dip that I’m going through after an initial period of improvement on antidepressants. That really helped to hear. I’m still pretty nervous and scared about the adjustment period for upping the dosage, but I know it’s something I have to do if I want to get back to a good place.
I want to look into private therapy options, seeing as how counselling through the uni health services was a pretty big bust. I know I can be better than this, and this time around I’m just not going to fucking accept it. I’m not going to be like oh well, I guess this is just how things are. I’m going to fight it. I’ve done that before. I’ve won before. And I’ll win again. No matter how many times it takes, whenever my anxiety flares up and tries to make my life hell again, I’m just going to kick its butt. It might take me a while sometimes, but I’m determined that I’ll get there.
One last thing: I do ask that you be patient with me while I’m fighting this fight. It’s hard for me at the moment, when most days I’m pouring everything I have into just getting up, getting dressed and eating regular meals – things most people don’t even need to think about. Please understand that in order to win against my mental illness, I need your support and compassion. It won’t help to tell me ‘but you were doing so much better before????’ I know that. It sucks to be reminded of the fact that I’ve slipped from that place. It will be much more helpful if you bear in mind that this is a shitty time for me, and instead of questioning how I am now, you remind me that I can win this battle just like I’ve won all the others.
I don’t expect anyone to win this game for me. It’s my game, and my responsibility. However, I would love to see you on the sidelines, hear you cheering me on, and know that you’re there to pass me my water bottle and orange slices when I start to get tired. That’s all I want.
Thank you for reading this. I’ll keep you all updated on how I’m doing, especially when I start to feel better again.
P.S. I had an amazing weekend in Christchurch with Luke, and it did make me feel better for a while. We ate some incredible food (including the best garlic bread I’ve ever tasted I swear to god), visited a lot of malls (Chch really loves their malls), drove around looking at all the things, GOT SNOWED ON!!!!!! A SNOWFLAKE EVEN LANDED ON MY NOSE!!!!!!, and went for a lovely long walk through the beautiful Hagley Park. Here are some more pictures of our time in the mainland for you to see.
More pictures of me in the snow!
Walking through Hagley Park.
Me and a big bell.
Going in a revolving door!