I wonder how many other folk experience difficulty actually recognizing when their mental and/or physical health is starting to deteriorate?
For me personally my awareness of any deterioration in my health – be it my physical or mental health really does depend on how sudden or great the deterioration is and sadly there doesn’t seem to be a detectable or predictable pattern in respect of either my mental or my physical health and additionally one often impacts the other.
For example, in respect of one of my physical health issues – my CFS – it either hits me suddenly or seems to creep up on me and the same tends to be true of my mental health. Generally speaking, in respect of both my physical and my mental health alike I would have to say that any sudden change or deterioration tends to be quite radical and thus instantly recognizable. Although with my mental health I am not always left in a position where I myself am able to recognize that change.
Again, generally speaking, any gradual deterioration or change tends to be less noticeable – which of course makes sense really – and so can often be missed. And this leads me to ask myself two important questions…
1. Is it possible that there are signs and indications which are normally there when this happens and that could be picked up on if I, or those around me, were aware of them, and
2. Is it possible for those changes, especially in respect of my mental health, to be so gradual as to change who I am without my even knowing it?
In answer to the first question, I have to say that I think there possibly are signs and indications and if I had to give an example of them, in my own personal situation, they would primarily be present in conversations.
To explain that a little I should perhaps share that I personally live alone and seldom go out. So as a result of this, I have very little regular or frequent interaction with the outside world and so if anyone is going to notice something is wrong it would more probably than not be in my conversations and would I think be in the presence or the amount of ‘f words’ that I use. But possible not the f words that instantly come to mind since I seldom if ever cuss. Let me give you an example…
A couple of days ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to paint a design on my bedroom walls. Some months back now my son and his partner were kind enough to paint them deep green for me. (Not everyone’s taste I know, but I like them and they were kind enough to do it for me). But having had them that way for a few months now it suddenly occurred to me that it might be nice to break them a little by painting a design on them.
So I thought about it and came up with a concept and decided that I would do just that and so then set about moving all the furniture around so as to make room for the painting of this design. The problem is of course that moving all the furniture around was too much for me as, once again, I was not aware that I was just not physically able to do the job.
“Why did you start it?” Was the question asked.
“I just didn’t realize how fatigued I was.” came my honest if not seemingly dense reply.
“But you have mentioned feeling ‘fatigued’ several times over the past week or two.” came the response.
The truth is that I have been feeling fatigued for days even weeks now, and thinking back they were right. I had even mentioned it on several occasions when asked how I was coping or feeling. But somehow that fact hadn’t registered in my brain.
Ah yes that is one of those ‘f words’ – ‘fatigued’. And there are others…
‘Frustrated’ that is another f word and one that often accompanies it’s mate ‘fatigued’. Since I all too often get frustrated at the situation, and indeed myself, when I get fatigued and thus can’t do something – such as finish this darn design which in the past would have taken me less than a day to complete.
And there are other ‘f words’ too. ‘Fuddled’ and ‘Foggy’ being two that I apparently often use when someone asks me how my mind is and when it isn’t good.
‘Fuddled’ and ‘Foggy’. Certainly they are good descriptions of my mind at the moment and yes they are words that I often use when asked how my mind is. But there seems to be a disconnection between my knowing this enough to answer direct questions concerning the current state of my mental health and my continual awareness of my mental health.
It is, if this makes any sense and to use a nautical theme, as if in my ‘fuddled’ and ‘foggy’ state a direct question is enough to offer me just enough light for me to locate and steer in return a clear conscious thought but outside of that I am just bobbing along aimlessly – albeit often in a frustrated state.
Last night I couldn’t sleep (nothing new there) and so I lay there replaying what I could remember of the conversations that I have had recently and there are without doubt – or so it seems to me – certain things that I say which are in fact indicators that things are not what they should be. Those ‘f words’ that I have listed are indeed ones that do seem to fit that bill.
And following that ‘f word’ theme let me address the second question that I posed. “Is it possible for those changes, especially in respect of my mental health, to be so gradual as to change who I am without my even knowing it?”
F for ‘Foreign’. How I am now seems so very foreign to who I used to be.
Over the past months, perhaps even year or so, I have gone from being fairly active and fairly sociable to being far less active and quite unsociable. (Please don’t get me wrong, I am not antisocial just unsociable.) I really don’t have the inclination or the motivation to be with people and I am, on the face of it, quite content with being alone.
Things have happened that have somehow impacted me and I am not even sure what all of those things were any more. Actually I am not even sure I was aware of them all when they were happening.
Certainly there are things that I can put my finger on and which on their own seem fairly insignificant but which when combined have no doubt hurt deeply and had a very real impact on me.
Could it be that their effect has been so gradual, so residual, that they have changed me. I think I know me, and I think I know the me I was, and the me I am, and I am fairly sure that the me I am is ‘foreign’ to the me I was. And I have to question in all of this just how much of a role my mental health has had to play in it all.
Part of my mental health, and here is another ‘f word’ for you, is ‘fastidiousness’ when it comes to my expectations of myself. I have very high expectations and I postmortem everything that I do. Analyzing it and almost ‘fixating’ on it (almost but thankfully not quite fixating) to see if I could have done better, understood it better, reacted better, whether I hurt anyone, offended anyone, etc.
I hear or see some of the ways in which I respond to people or to situations (or more accurately I replay them and then notice) and I don’t like them and don’t recognize myself in them.
Of course that is not to discount the bad, sometimes hurtful behavior or words or wrong attitudes that sometimes cause those responses in me and at the same time I do feel that my mental health is so very ‘fragile’, ‘fractured’ and ‘frail’ at the moment and that it has actually been that way for a long time now.
So I can’t help but ask myself if this ‘foreign’ me is something I have created or become just in order to cope and to not experience another breakdown or alternatively if it is simply the person I have become as a result of all that has happened and that is going on with, in and around me?