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Day 21 in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge which my daughter has set me and it has dawned on me this morning that I am nearly at the end of this challenge.

I feel that I have been challenged and also gained so much through doing this challenge and I am so grateful for the questions which have been asked each morning and I am looking forward to today’s question…

DD 21

Good morning honey,

Well now there’s a question which I think isn’t going to be that easy to answer.  But I will certainly give it my best shot.

And I think that I would like to start my answer by high-lighting and explaining something which I believe is true for a lot of us who experience mental illness or poor mental health.  And that is that sometimes the things that we do which affect our mental health badly – we do because of our mental illness or poor mental health.

Likewise, very often the lines between our periods of good mental health and our periods of poor mental health can be blurred.

By that I mean that, for those of us who experience fluctuations within our mental health, sometimes it is hard to define when the fluctuation or change has actually started taking place.  And because of this it is often difficult to distinguish between things that we do and which affect our mental health badly and things that we do – which affect our mental health badly – but which are in themselves resultant from our mental health already declining.

I hope that makes sense honey?  And I promise you that this is not a cop-out from accepting responsibilities for my own actions.  You know that if anything I am over-critical of myself when it comes to my actions.  And that there have been many a time when I have gotten angry or frustrated at myself and you have encouraged me to be more forgiving of myself and more understanding of the fact that sometimes my mental illnesses cause me to do things that I shouldn’t do, or to not do things that I should do.

The above having been said, there are without doubt certain things that I have done or still do and which do affect my mental health badly.

Hiding, not communicating, withdrawing and isolating would of course be right up there.  I had spent most of my life hiding my mental illnesses and it is a hard habit to break. And whilst I am now fully open about my suffering from mental illnesses I am not always very good at communicating when I am actually struggling as a result of them.

Very often I will hide the fact by totally withdrawing or isolating, or I will steer conversations or change conversations away from such a subject.  And I think there are many reasons for my doing this.  Perhaps previous experiences with someone has already taught me that that person isn’t a good person to share such things with.  Perhaps I am still trying to process stuff even to a point where I do feel able to discuss them.  Perhaps I am concerned about how the other person is and don’t want their becoming aware of my current difficulties to get in the way of their sharing theirs.  And of course their is always the thought that folk will get tired or fed up of me sharing when I am struggling.  

I am trying to improve where this is concerned honey and I hope that you can see this.

Another thing which I sometimes do and which does affect my mental health negatively is in keeping my study/office and my home tidy.

I have learned over the years that the neater and more tidy my study or home is the healthier it is for my mind and my mental health.  And indeed one key indicator to the state of my mind is the state of my home or office,

And it would seem that the more cluttered or disorganised my mind is the more cluttered or disorganised my desk or study or home becomes.   But here again honey I really don’t know which comes first?  Although I am, of course, willing to accept that sometimes I could push myself to address this and to thereby slow down the rate of descent of my mental health.

Another area – which yes I accept would be a very big one – which I could address and something that I do which affects my mental health badly is doing too much.  And certainly my poor physical health is also a huge factor here.  

Very often – in the desire to help or to be there for others – I will take on too much.  And likewise I will often do too much at once and not pace myself properly.  The way that my physical health works is that although I often feel and think I am doing OK and coping when doing things like housework, physical exercise etc., the minute I stop my body just crashes and I am in a huge amount of pain for hours.  Which often means that I am not able to rest properly or to sleep properly.  Which of course has a knock on effect on my mental health.

Additionally I then get frustrated and angry at myself for ‘yet again’ not pacing myself.  And this also has a knock on effect on my mental health.

I can tell you honestly that this week has already been a very busy week and that I am in so much pain with my knees and legs today.  Predominantly because I have done too much and that this led to a very painful and unsettled night.  And whilst I did manage to force myself to have an extra 40 minutes lay in this morning, I was still up before 8am when actually there is nothing that I really absolutely have to do today and I should really be laying in bed with my legs elevated and resting.

But somehow laying in bed resting just doesn’t come easily to me.

So there you have them, and I think honey, that they would have to be the main things that I do which affect my mental health badly.  Although I am sure that there will be others.  Over-thinking, over-analysing, being too self-critical, taking onto myself the blame when things go wrong and when actually someone or something else was at fault.

But as I said above honey, sometimes it is very hard to know which things are in and of themselves directly resultant from my mental illnesses and which therefore I have less control over.

And honey I am sure that there will be things that you are aware of and which you wonder if they are affecting my mental health badly.  And if there are things on your mind or heart honey, please do feel free to talk to me about them.  Sometimes we need others to lovingly, gently challenge on on these things and sometimes we do need people to remind us of things and to hold us accountable.

I hope that al, answers your question honey,

With much love.

Dad 

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