Miserden Fun Ride - a truly momentous occasion!
I was going to give myself three days off after my seven-post series for Mental Health Week, but I have decided to recommence today with a quick update.
I’m determined that this blog isn’t going to become a diary because I don’t find those types of blogs very appealing, but sometimes there are things that are important to document and I think today is one of those times.
Last weekend was really quite a momentous occasion for me because I went to see some friends and was able to engage in former passions like riding and socialising without having even a moment of doubt or deliberation.
The restrictions of the last few months have meant that there really hasn’t been an opportunity to test myself out in any kind of social situation but having just spent the weekend catching up with friends, I can now confidently say that I am finally back again!
The enjoyment of riding
I went to a fun ride on Sunday with my great friend Cindy who has never once doubted that I would get better. It was so incredible to be able to laugh and joke with her like we always used to, and I really enjoyed jumping the horses again which I haven’t been able to do in years.
I didn’t particularly want to jump the fence in the water because it was quite big and I felt so rusty, but the photographer was there, and I wanted proof that I had left the floor, so I kicked on and did it! Luckily it turned out ok and it would appear that I haven’t lost my bottle so that’s good! Still no plans to return to eventing though before anyone gets excited!
Unfortunately, I had to completely give up on any hope of riding or doing any of my former passions while I was ‘dying to stay alive’ with bipolar disorder. It’s hard to understand this for a non-depressive but I had absolutely zero energy or interest in anything at all (including living). If I did try to push myself to ride, socialise or whatever it was, it would be such a monumental effort that I would just be longing for it to be over so that I could bolt home and pull the curtains again.
This is why the messages we’re getting in the media are useless for mental illness (walk, talk, socialise, activities) – because we can’t do any of those things!
Explaining the nightmare of the past
Socialising is an absolute NIGHTMARE for the depressive. You haven’t got the ability to connect with people and your self-confidence is obliterated, so trying to converse with others ends up being an act of excruciating effort and doesn’t make you feel any better.
All you have been doing is lying in bed ‘dying to stay alive’ with depression and mixed state and you have absolutely no news to share or impart, which makes having a conversation rather challenging to say the least!
Trying to feign interest in other people or anything at all for that matter is impossible and you can’t very well say ‘I want to die’ so you end up doing the ‘Hollywood performance’ of smile, smile, (lie, lie, lie) and leaving at the earliest opportunity. Afterwards it’s just such a relief that it’s over that you vow never to put yourself in that position ever again.
In the end I realised that there was no point in going out or even trying to socialise when I was ill, and I gave up with it completely. It was exactly the right thing to do, and I would advise others to do the same when they’re in the throes of mental illness because forcing yourself to engage with life when you are dying to stay alive doesn’t help at all.
What you need to do is conserve your energy, find the right medical intervention and then wait until you feel that you want to engage with these things again. Unfortunately, recovery can take a long time and although it’s extremely difficult to do this, you really have to have bucketfuls of patience and persistence and ride out the storm.
I can say all of this because now that I am well, socialising, riding, walking, running, reading, writing, shopping, and learning French are enjoyable experiences and not in any way daunting or exhausting. I now do these things because I am WELL and find that they are a great tonic to my mental ‘health’ (well-being) and I get pleasure from partaking in them.
It’s been so long since I have been able to say any of this that I am having to pinch myself while I’m typing this post!
Anyway, the take-out point is that there is always hope of better things to come, even when you feel like life wants the worst for you and that you will never ever feel better ever again.
I am living proof that it is possible to not only ‘weather the storm’ of severe mental illness, but to reclaim a fully functioning and productive life. Hopefully this is just the beginning because having lost out on so much over the years, there is now so much I want to do in the future!
The first thing to do is to try to help everyone else which is what I am trying to do through my blog posts, talks and articles. I can only do this if I reach enough people though, so please keep spreading the word and sharing the site to others.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,
At the fun ride on Sunday - a truly momentous occasion!
Photo credit: Jasmine Punter Photography