I'd like to talk a little bit about mental health. Many of us with MS at one time or another, have suffered, or are suffering from depression – as do so many people without MS.
I’ve been through the mill on my own journey with MS, and still do on a daily basis.
It’s good that mental health issues are so recognised now, but a lot of people are still afraid to seek help.
It’s OK not to be OK
Life can be hard for anyone but I’d figure more so if you’re fighting a physical and mental battle every day. It’s exhausting!
I thought I’d share a few of my little tips for when everything gets too much, feels too hard, and just seems so difficult that you feel like you just can’t carry on.
Be kind to yourself
If you have a really bad day, it’s OK - hold on tight and be kind to yourself. If you need to stay in your PJ’s for a few days and shut out the world that’s OK, as long as you don’t let those feelings take up permanent residence.
Living in the present
The thing with depression (which can include living in the past, ruminating, feeling regret or remorseful about what you have lost, or should have done differently etc) or anxiety (which can be about living in the future, all ifs and buts, worrying over your future, what will become of you, what’s next, how you will cope, etc) – is they stop us living in the present.
It’s something few of us do, but it’s definitely the way to a healthier, calmer, more accepting mental space.
Taking each day as it comes
I try really hard to look at what I have now, today, at this moment in time. In the past when I’ve been feeling very low, perhaps even frustrated and a tiny bit sorry for myself, I’ve had another relapse and then I find myself wishing I was only as disabled as I was before!
So, what is your health like today, what things can you do today, is there happiness and joy to be found?
It could be that you’re not too good today. You’re disappointed. You had plans, but your body said nope, not today. Instead of seeing the despair because of what you can’t do, could you try to find a little blessing..?
Finding something you can manage
If you’re fed up because you can’t leave the house, could you find a little job to do..? Something you’ve been putting off for ages..? Maybe sort out the closet, or do your paperwork, or finally sort out your knickers..!
When we aim ridiculously high, and don’t achieve it, we berate ourselves mentally. That’s no good for us, we’re labelling ourselves.
Aim for smaller, realistic, but achievable goals. This can help us feel good about what we’re doing and who we are.
Be a best friend to yourself
If you’re really poorly today, could you wrap up and sit in the garden with a book and a cup of tea..? And if not, then it’s also OK to binge watch Netflix for today and see how you are tomorrow..!
I see a pattern of people with low mood, depression and anxiety absolutely beating themselves up. If we had a friend who was feeling like this, we would offer support, patience, kindness, love and try to find a bit of joy for them. How come we never offer ourselves the same self-care..?
Give yourself a break
If I’m having a bad time and am stuck at home, I try to give myself a break. I’ll have a nice shower, file my nails, tint my eyebrows and slap on some fake tan. Then I’ll put on fresh pyjamas and go back to bed. Because you know what, that’s all I can manage today.
I try not to stress about what’s not been done because these thoughts make me feel so terrible inside.
Kindness is key
Being kind to yourself is an absolute must! Leave the critical thoughts on the floor with your dirty washing, and make room in your mind for some praise, self love and a reminder that you’re doing your best.
And if you know, deep down inside, that you could be doing a little more or even taking up a new thing, like crosswords, knitting, to stop your mind wandering off, then do it!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but going to bed feeling quite good about yourself for what you have done (even if it’s only one load of washing or finally getting your hair cut) is better for you than beating yourself down!
Good luck peeps! And remember there’s support out there if you need to reach out. Don’t feel you’re alone, you aren’t!
Feeling low or stressed? Download our booklet MS and your emotions: understanding and dealing with your feelings
This blog is based on an article first published in our Warrington Group's newsletter.