• Tom Robinson

Journaling – the art of self-protection and prioritising the battle to stay well above all else!

Updated: Jul 6

Since starting this new blog in January, I have been concentrating on discussing some of the mental health articles and news items that have cropped up in the media.


I’ve been doing this by dissecting a story, threading in my own experience, and then discussing past aspects of my bipolar illness.


However, over the last week there has been a bit of drama and disruption in my personal life which has caused a slight fluctuation in my mood and energy levels.


Because of this, I am going to be using my writing as more of an outlet this week, as a demonstration of how journaling and blogging can be of benefit when it comes to prioritising our own mental health!












Retrospection


Since finally reaching full remission from a horrific twenty-year ordeal with severe bipolar disorder, I have been steadily working on building my confidence back up, and trying to reclaim some sort of normality.


It sounds ridiculous, but when I recovered, I didn’t even know who I was anymore because the illness had ripped away any interest I had in myself, in living, or in any of my former passions.


My daily routine had consisted of ‘dying to stay alive’ in bed with the curtains closed for years at a time, and I had totally given up hope of ever socialising, riding, or writing ever again.


So, it was with huge shock and surprise to myself (and my family) when I was able to get through a day without wanting to hide under a duvet, and last autumn I started riding out for the local racehorse trainer, earning a tiny bit of pocket money, and feeling more like a competent adult rather than a useless waste of space.


But annoyingly there has been another bump in the road!






A recent shift and more disruption


I wrote a detailed post a couple of weeks ago about the summer solstice and how I’ve noticed a depletion in my energy levels in more recent weeks.


Unfortunately, everything I do at the moment involves helping other people and that means that my energy is constantly being drained. This wouldn’t matter, if only it was being bolstered through gratitude and appreciation, but sadly that has not been the case recently, and I have been feeling very run-down and dejected as a result!


I don’t mind helping others at all, in fact, I would rather do that than do anything else, but I have to prioritise my mental health above all else, otherwise it’ll be back to square one and I’ll be useless to everyone.


I know that I can’t survive anymore suffering at the hands of bipolar disorder, so I really have to do everything in my power to avoid it ever returning. It’s been so unbelievably brutal that there’s no way that I can endure anymore suffering - it’s just far too painful and distressing.


There has been a recurring pattern of illness and loss that has made living alongside this disorder so unimaginably hard, and this is what has made the recent disruption so difficult to contend with.









Raking up the past


Anyone who has had depression or bipolar disorder will know this but when you are in the throes of the illness, it is absolutely impossible to live in the present moment.


The brain constantly ruminates over the past and then worries about the future, and it’s such a repetitive barrage of self-hatred that you get to the point that you’d do anything you could just to stop it happening.


I have been reminded of this recently because the routine, consistency and (tiny bit) of independence that I had craved and finally, finally, reclaimed, has been ripped away from me in a rather brutal and unfeeling manner! (Insert bear with paws over eyes and crying emoji).


Annoyingly, I am now having to contend with another obstruction to my progress – just when I thought I was making headway and racing towards full independence and normality – I mean FFS!






Relying on other people


Unfortunately, because of my illness, I have had to rely on others to help me to stay alive and recover, and that has brought with it its own set of problems.


It hasn’t been easy to give up my independence and live with my parents until the age of 40, so it doesn’t help me at all when I get accused of ‘sponging’ off them and being lazy. (Not by my parents by the way!)


What people need to understand is that the bipolar brain is unbelievably sensitive, and that literally anything can set it off into an episode of mania or depression.


It is a life-long mission to stay well and a daily battle for equilibrium, but when you have been as ill as I have then that unfortunately means that you are going to have to rely on others for help.


This is where the problem lies because not everyone understands how hard it is to live with a severe mental illness, and that is the issue I’ve been left wrestling with over the weekend.











Self-care and putting myself first


With all this turbulence, I decided to prioritise my mental health above everything else this weekend and I did everything in my power to stay on an even keel.


I seemed to sleep fine on 6mg of quetiapine and have reconciled with the fact that I’m not going to be getting off the pesky drug any time soon! Thankfully, things on the sleep and therefore mood front seem to have settled down a bit this week which at least means that I’m not feeling like a hungover zombie anymore!


On Saturday, I went to the garden centre and bought another plant so that I can continue my new-found passion for growing things - even if it is in other people’s gardens! This made me feel a bit better and I spent a lot of the day outside in the sunshine (reaping vitamin D) or watching the tennis from Wimbledon which never fails to make me happy.


On Saturday evening, I went to a friend’s 40th birthday which was really great fun and was a nice reminder of the fact that I am still doing brilliantly because there was no ‘social awkwardness’ at all and I breezed through the whole thing.


Yesterday, I went for a really long walk on my own in some beautiful meadows, spent some time reading (accessing present moment), listened to some music, had a long bubble bath and just generally exercised self-care and attention.


This is something that I would never have considered doing before the illness, but now that I am finally comfortable in my own skin again and not continuously fighting with my own mind, being alone in my own company is something I look forward to and revel in.


Note to self – follow plan to stop relying on others, achieve full independence, move to France ALONE, garden, walk and live la belle vie!









Thoughts as I move forward


Somehow, I am going to have to find a way of becoming financially independent so that I don’t have to answer to others and walk on egg-shells constantly to keep them happy!


Annoyingly, I have not been able to earn consistently because every single time I’ve started getting back on my feet, the rug has been pulled (illness and/or unhelpful individual) and I’ve lost every scrap of hard-earned progress!


The past week has also been a great reminder of the importance of the ‘depression troop’ and selecting wisely the people who I can trust to help me manage my illness and those who I cannot!


Hopefully, this week will be less stressful, and I can start to build up my confidence again by making new goals and plans!


I really hope to be able to get paid to write some articles in the future rather than devoting hours and hours to writing free ones on here! Let’s hope someone notices the importance of all of this soon and that I can get my book published too!


Anyway, we will see what happens I guess, and in the meantime, I will just keep helping the people who contact me through the blog and who appreciate what I’m trying to achieve with my writing and charity work!


Once again, I feel so much better for getting that out through words this morning – journaling and blogging is literally the best thing I do for my mental health!


Thanks for reading,


Speak to you soon,

TR

www.dyingtostayalive.com