I have been ill for the last nine, now nearly ten weeks, diagnosis vertigo. For the last eight weeks and at least the next two I have been signed off work. As the weeks have gone on the doctor has increased medications, adding different cocktails which so far none seem to be working. As you can imagine I am continuously going through a wave of emotions; fear, frustration, anger, sadness, feeling defeated, positive, hopeful to mention a few. I have been very lucky to have never experienced an illness that is debilitating, that is until now. Going outdoors is an ordeal, a never ending feeling that you are going to fall flat on your face or backwards. The earth continues to move under your feet and the world spins around your head, leaving you constantly feeling unstable. You feel paranoid, that everyone is looking at you mistaking your walk for that of a drunk, having one too many. That is the difficulty with having an illness that is invisible to the naked eye, you feel no one understands, they just don’t get it. One of the hardest things for me personally though, is losing my independence. You don’t realise how much it means to you until you have to depend on others (and their schedule) to assist you in the most basic things for example getting a weekly shop. Harder still is what if you don’t have anyone you can depend on? Sometimes these feelings are more frustrating than the illness itself. You feel a fear you have never known, you feel alone. It is you and the world, you against the world and suddenly the world becomes a frightening, threatening and dangerous place.
Finally I hit a wall, overwhelmed, could I do this, could I manage on my own. (If I am honest I wasn’t just thinking about now but later when I am older, this is what illness forces you to think about, will I now pay the price for not getting married or having children, I am now very much on my own, although I know you can be married, have children and still feel on your own) So as you might expect with this type of thinking I broke down and cried, feeling distressed, yet I wouldn’t completely give in to my emotions. That was until later in the week. Trying to change the bed sheets, head began spinning and I fell backwards luckily onto the bed. As I sat down gathering myself I sobbed. I tried to bottle it up, swallow the tears, my fears, anxiety, distress, shoving them all down into the pit of my stomach. Deep down inside though I knew this would only hurt me more, the toxic feelings would poison my body, so I gave myself permission and let it go, let it all out, cried and cried until there was no more tears left.
The following day I set off to see my doctor, finishing earlier than anticipated I had a few hours to kill before my next appointment. Honestly though I was in the mood for nothing, my bed and duvet was about it, however it was either go home and come back into town later and that didn’t appeal. Besides after an afternoon of crying, I needed to lift my mood, increase my positivity, try feel good again even if only for an hour or two. I decided to head to one of my favourite clothes stores to have a browse. Always a believer that you don’t need money to go shopping, window shopping can be just as much fun and I like to pick out clothes that I will buy later when they go on sale. Also for me checking the latest fashion trends taking in the colours and styles allows me to be creative, coming up with ideas for reinventing my own wardrobe besides a good sale with a bargain or two can help lift my mood.
On my way to the store I walked past one of my favourite independent book stores, a sign outside advertised their café upstairs. Vertigo and stairs? No, so I kept on walking but something brought me back. I know for me sitting in a book store, enjoying some herbal tea, reading a great book or writing allows me to escape, relax, unwind and I always feel the better for it. The joy of doing something that I love for an hour or so would be worth the small challenge. So instead of resisting I gave in to the opportunity to escape thinking about my illness and feeling down, even if only for a few brief moments.
After some time in the café, I checked my Twitter account and scrolling through my newsfeed I was reminded of a free music event held every Thursday throughout the summer. I love music, I thought another perfect way to lift my mood so decided to head in that direction.
Before getting there I stopped for some lunch. While I know it is not always possible and often much easier to go for unhealthy foods, if you are not feeling great, experiencing low mood or depression, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of eating foods that feed and nourish your body and mind. I find personally even the colours lift me. Bright red, yellow, plum, orange, green fruit and vegetables, spices freckling your food yum.
On a personal note I am someone who has battled with her weight and I know that far too often people beat themselves up for choosing the unhealthy options feeling overwhelmed, will give in and often give up. As part of the My Fitness App community what I always say to my followers and supporters, is take it one meal at a time and one day at a time. If you have an unhealthy breakfast try again at lunch and then again at dinner. Same for your snacks. Gradually you will get there and isn’t one healthy choice a day better than none?
I finally arrived at my destination, Wood Quay amphitheatre. I found a seat, with another herbal tea sat back relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful sounds of Laoise OBrien followed by Éamonn de Barra in the gorgeous surroundings. One of the great things about music is it can allow you to connect with your feelings. I would wholeheartedly believe if it makes you want to cry, cry, sing then sing, dance then dance. Music allows you to be honest, real and if you really listen to it, the lyrics, instruments, beats, it is a fantastic way to experience mindfulness. So closing my eyes I allowed myself to drift away allowing the noises of the city rather than distract me, add to the beats of the musicians instruments.
While enjoying the music a friend I recently made came over to say hi and after a brief conversation I headed off to my last appointment for that day.
Later on that evening I reflected about my unexpected day, how it had unfolded and how I felt uplifted. All those little things and the meeting with my new friend that I enjoyed throughout the day. I realised the upset, frustration of being sick, the tears, the anger, for today at least, had been washed away. I felt a smile come across my face. I was happy that I gave into all the wonderful opportunities my day offered me. While exhausted and maybe a little worse for wear it was worth it for those few hours of not thinking about being ill and all the negative feelings associated with it.
What I have learned from this chapter in my life so far? It is important to acknowledge that sometimes you just won’t have it in you to fight it, remember that it is “okay not to be okay”. Our bodies and minds need rest, peace, sleep to heal. However, when and if you can and despite how hard it might be, it is important to create moments where you can feel lifted, happy, thankful, joyful whatever you might call it, for a few moments in your day, even if only for five minutes. If you are having a bad day, experiencing negative thoughts or feelings, sit with them, acknowledge them, then try to push through them, try let go even temporarily. Holding onto negative thinking or feelings can be very toxic and cause you further ill health.
On a side note, I know physical pain is different it is not always possible but if you have moments where you can push through, try, give it your best shot, if you fail that’s okay, you tried focus and feel good for that, then when you feel up to it, you can try again.
What I also learned during this time is that it is important to surround yourself with people and things that make you smile. If you are at home and can’t get outdoors use your favourite cup to enjoy tea/coffee in, wrap yourself in a comfy throw, read books, listen to music, watch your favourite programs & movies, cook your favourite foods, fill your house with colour, if you have a garden also fill it with colour, enjoy sitting in it (even if you can’t plant flowers, paint one of the walls in your favourite colour). Write poetry, stories or just how you are feeling today.
If you can get outside enjoy a walk in your favourite place, a park, or the beach, stop at your favourite clothes shop, café, bookstore, library, restaurant, cinema the list is endless. Spend time figuring out what makes you feel good then make time to do it. No idea what you like? Try different things, when you do something new in that moment ask yourself how it makes you feel, if good? then repeat, if not move on find something new.
Don’t forget your friends, they can be a fantastic support if you let them. If you don’t feel up to going out to see them, invite them over for a cuppa maybe order dinner in. Talking with them about how you’re feeling can help you feel you’re not on your own. Don’t want to talk about you, then chatting to them about what’s going on in their life will allow you to take your mind off what’s going on in yours. Feel you have no one to chat to there are lots of great organisations out there Samaritans, Aware and many more just check online or if you prefer chatting to someone one to one, look into having a few sessions with a qualified psychotherapist. Explore other ways to relax both your mind and body, massage, yoga, Pilates, Reiki there are lots of options you just need to seek them out and find what works best for you, remembering what works for one person might not for someone else and that’s okay. Life is not a one size fits all.
Our battle against illness, low mood, depression, stress, anxiety can be a long, difficult one, all you can do is take it one minute at time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, in the hope of finding some relief, even if only for brief moments at a time. Listen to your inner voice, it will guide you letting you know what you need. Work on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Remember there will be ups and downs, celebrate the ups, learn from the downs, just don’t beat yourself up. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can and that is good enough. Tomorrow will bring a new challenge, which you will face and fight with determination and strength when it arrives. For today try to live mindfully, find those moments of happiness, peace, contentment, rest and enjoy them while they last no matter how brief. Finally, while the world and life itself can be tough you at least can be kind, gentle and loving to yourself.
Check out my #motivationalmonday and #wednesdaywisdom videos over on Instagram including poetry on letting go negative emotions in particular anger https://www.instagram.com/fallenbluehalo/