Maintaining My Mental Health

Image courtesy Salvatore Vuono – www.freedigitalphotos.net

I, like many other people, have suffered bouts of depression throughout my life. I am not ashamed to admit this or to admit that I have been prescribed anti-depressants or that I have had to take leave from work to deal with my mental health. Luckily I have always been able to work through them and have come out of them stronger.

I have always been highly-strung, anxious, a control-freak, emotional and, to put it bluntly, a worry-wort. When things are going well, I am in control, I can do what I need to do and I know it’s all going to be fine. However, when things go wrong and I can’t control the outcome or I am not sure what the outcome will be, that’s when I struggle to cope and that’s when my mind-set starts to slip…

As a special needs parent I place a great deal of importance on maintaining my mental health so I can be the mother I need to be. I can’t afford to do nothing or live in denial when my mind-set begins to slip. I need to function so I can care for my kids. I need to have the mental resources to help them through their own mental struggles.

I need to always focus on maintaining my mental health.

Over the years I have come to recognise my own warning signs when my mental health is starting to slip. I have learned to take action when I start seeing these signs and to not feel guilty when I do take action.

My warning signs look like these:

  • trouble going to sleep and staying asleep
  • extreme tiredness
  • ongoing headaches
  • general feeling of sadness, worthlessness & despair
  • worrying about things I shouldn’t worry about
  • crying over insignificant things
  • crying more than a couple of times in a week
  • not seeking or avoiding social interaction
  • inability to make even the smallest of decisions

I know now that when I start seeing these signs, that’s when I need to have a look at my mental health.

Anyway, last week, I started to see these signs.  It all stemmed from the return to school for my kids and the return to the grind of the daily routine for me. It led me to post about my son’s difficulties with returning to school after the holidays and my worries for my daughter. Add in a week of inclement weather, irritable children, sickness in the house and fatigue and I was basically a sitting duck for these feelings to overwhelm me.

After 3 days of feeling worried, upset, having trouble sleeping, suffering from an endless headache and not coping with my kids’ cabin fever, I decided to do something for myself and have a day off work. I hoped that intervening early would help arrest these feelings before they could take hold and give me a 4 day buffer before I had to face work again.

My husband was feeling the same way so we had a mental health day together. It was lovely for us to have some rare child-free time alone and, to begin with, we both felt like truants who should be back at school! But we quickly got over that feeling and enjoyed the day going to the movies, shopping, and lunching together – some rare “we” time.

By the time we returned home, I no longer had a headache and we had enjoyed some conversation about our joint fears and feelings for our children. It had put things back in perspective for me and I am hoping it will help get me through the remainder of this week. The long-awaited paediatrician appointment for our daughter is on Thursday, and whatever the result, it will be a pivotal day for all of us.

While I am trying to remain optimistic about it all, I can’t help thinking of the last time I felt the downward pull of depression. It was the year leading up to my son’s ASD diagnosis. I felt all the feelings then that I feel now and that scares me. I basically had a mental breakdown – I was off work for 5 weeks on sick-leave, I ended up on anti-depressants and started having regular visits with a psychologist.

I found myself incapable of doing the most simple, basic tasks. I felt worthless, I had no confidence in anything I did, crumbled at the merest inference of criticism and truly believed I was a burden to my family.

I don’t want to end up in that mental place again.

I really hope I can prevent it happening to me again. However, if I can’t stave it off, if I keep falling back into it’s grip, I am not afraid to seek help.  The best thing you can do in this situation is go to your GP, ask for a Better Access to Mental Health Care Plan and get a referral to a psychologist. You are not giving up by turning to someone for help and you are certainly not weak if you can’t overcome this on your own.

On the contrary, it takes strength and courage to admit you have a problem and to recognise that you can’t cope with things the way they are.

If my experiences seem familiar to you or if you want to know more about the general signs and symptoms of depression please visit BeyondBlue – the national depression initiative which holds a wealth of information about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and postnatal depression.

Thanks for reading this – and if you have a similar story and feel comfortable in sharing it please leave a comment. It is always comforting to know that you are not the only one struggling to get it all together!

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19 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Thank you for posting this. So encouraging for me.

  2. I have my moments, but that sense of demotivation that I get, coupled with the lack of drive to do anything to change it, just sucks so badly!

    Keep fighting the good fight, Kirsty!

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks so much for that David. Demotivation does suck – feeling that at the moment too. I will continue to fight the fight – this post was part of that process for me!

  3. Thanks for posting this honest piece Kirsty. whilst I have never suffered depression myself, my work as a counsellor has exposed me to many cases and the most significant factor in their success in dealing with depression is the ability to recognize the symptoms early on. It is wonderful that you are so in tune with his, and better still are able to do something about it when you feel them coming on. And even without a diagnoses of depression, we all need to listen to our bodies and our emotions…and sometimes take some time out. Best wishes to you and your family 🙂

    • Kirsty says:

      So true, Martine. I am learning about myself all the time – fingers crossed I’ll be all good! Thanks so much for your thoughts, I really appreciate your comments.

  4. Apart from the honesty and openness with which you admit to depression…. I could have written this post word for word. Symptoms – same. Situation – scarily similar. As you know my son {2 1/2} was recently diagnosed with ASD, and all does not seem right with my daughter now too {only 16mths}. In the back of my mind I’m already dealing with and accepting that when she too is over 2 y/o, the pediatrician will hand us another heartbreaking diagnosis. Your strength and honesty is inspiring and I absolutely LOVE the ‘Couples Mental Health Day’. I will be recommending one of them very very soon!
    Stay strong and no you are not alone. xx

    • Kirsty says:

      Carly, I’m glad that you’re getting something out of my posts. I write because it helps me cope – and it has allowed me to connect with others that are going through similar challenges. It is true, none of us are alone, we just have to keep remembering that!

  5. Hubby and I had a mental health day last Sunday – went down the Coast, went swimming, then had a nap in the back of our station wagon (we have a mattress) with the boot open, so relaxing just listening to the ocean!
    Janet @ Redland City Living recently posted..6 Foods I didn’t eat til Adulthood

    • Kirsty says:

      Mental health days are very necessary at times – it does so much to lift the spirits and adjust your view of the world. Glad you had that opportunity Janet!

  6. Tegan says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. Along with the Mental Health Care Plan there is another plan called ATAPS which can give a person up to 18 free sessions with a psychologist. There’s no shame in seeking help and as a friend said on my blog recently, if you plumbing done then you get a plumber so it’s only natural tht if your head needs work then you go to a professional about it.
    Tegan recently posted..Housos live next to me!

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks for that Tegan – this was written some time ago so some of it is out of date but it’s good to know that there continues to be support for people to access the specialist help that they need.

  7. Lisa says:

    Such a timeless post Kirsty.I have family members who suffer from depression and it is usually harder to support them once they have disappeared into the black-hole rather than identify the signs in the beginning.
    Lisa recently posted..Be Like Nike. Just Do It.

  8. Tina says:

    Very topical for me at the moment and my downward turn occurred 1 year post diagnosis and I spoke about it in ‘fixing me’. I can see the signs again and have made the necessary appointments. Brilliant post x

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