Redefining my limits

It’s hard to get your life balance right, as things can often feel like they are too much, or too little. People often complain about working too much, or sleeping too little. When you are lumbered with a mental or physical illness, maintaining balance can become an almost impossible task as altered needs, warped perceptions and significantly shortened limits affect you. My lack of judgement and self-awareness when I’m at my worse often leave me dumbfounded upon reflection. I’m usually a fully-functioning adult with a job, flat and relationship, and yet I occasionally forget to eat, or throw toddler-style tantrums about things that are not worth thinking about. Depression and anxiety strip back the various layers of adulthood and leave you with the basic fight-or-flight instinct instilled in all humans.

One of the hardest things I have had to accept in the past year is that I can’t handle as much as I used to. Since I first started on the road to recovery, I’ve had to redefine my limits. With a lot of trial and error, I’ve learnt a lot about how my brain works, and how to keep myself in balance. I’m still learning new things about myself everyday, and I often get things wrong, but here’s a few bits and pieces that I’ve realised since first writing this blog:

1. Any alcohol is too much (but I never learn)

Drinking is a fun, social activity that enables me to talk to people like I used to before I became ill. On the flipside, it can make me anxious, depressed, confused and reckless. It’s been one of the hardest things to re-balance, as sometimes three drinks will leave me feeling jolly, yet at other times, one drink is enough to make me feel rather unwell. I’ve learnt that it is best for me to not drink alcohol at all, but the allure of a Rekorderlig in the sunshine is all too tempting. I end up breaking my rule, and ruining the finely-tuned balance of my emotions, but sometimes feeling like my old self again is just about worth the side-effects.

2. Sleep is more important that I once thought

I once had a good friend whose catchphrase seemed to be ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’. I always felt uncomfortable about that sentiment, and even more so now. If I don’t have a good nights sleep, I can just about write off the next day completely. Tiredness disconnects me from the world, leaves me in a disorientated state that makes my mood swings more pronounced. Depression becomes suicidal and mania becomes psychotic. Maybe I should coin the phrase “I’m dead if I don’t sleep” for my own catchphrase.

3. For every high, there is a low (and vice versa)

No mood last forever, that’s just the nature of the illness. But, it’s not just true for those affected my mood disorders, anyone can experience the inconvenience of dramatic mood swings. The best advice I can give is to become aware of your triggers, and your early warning signs, and act immediately to regain balance.

4. People are great (most of the time)

Having a solid safety net of people who understand, care or are just free to listen to me moan has been the most important thing in the past 12 months. The network doesn’t have to be huge, maybe 3 or 4 people, but knowing that people are there to catch you if you fall has a positive impact on recovery. On the whole, everyone that I’ve talked to about my illness has been understanding, patient and willing to help in any way that they can. Fortunately, I have only been witness to the stigma that is often associated with depression a few times. This leads me on to the next point…

5. Words will always hurt

For every hundred people who make the effort to understand and empathise with you, there will always be one who just won’t get it. The hardest thing that I’ve had to learn is to let this go, to accept that not everyone will react in the way I hope. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at defending myself, and tend to take everything to heart. Come next year, I will (hopefully) be in a career where a thick-skin is essential, and I do worry about how I will cope, but I know that as long as I’m doing something that I believe in, I will find the strength to defend it.