Put your overalls on, pull up your sleeves and get ready for a crash course in mental maintenance. Actually that’s not really true. There is no ‘One size fits all’ course you can do. I’m not an expert, so I con’t sit you down, pat your knee and say “If you just do these things everything is going to be alright” Sorry but that’s just the way it is. Plus there’s a horrible truth as to why we need to have mental maintenance. Read on.
I will try to give you a few pointers and maybe a little guidance so that you can find some tools and strategies of your own.
Why Do I Need Mental Maintenance ?
What do I mean by ‘Mental Maintenance’. Well, I see it has what we have to do on a regular basis to keep ourselves from slipping back into the depths of whatever has been our nemesis. This can be minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. However often it takes to keep you an even keel. You have to be honest with yourself and star making sure that you are aware of all the possible ‘triggers’ that can send you spiraling down the rabbit hole.
I can only speak from my own experiences but some ‘workarounds’, if you like, might help. If not, then they could at least get you thinking about what might work for you.
You Are The Advocate For Your Condition
Sorry for the long-winded title, I just couldn’t find a better way to explain what I’m about to say. In the early stages of my second bout of depression I had manged to be referred to a counsellor. This had taken about six weeks from the onset. It was what it was. How that went is worth a whole page, if not more, on its own.
After what seems like an age I had finally had been prescribed an anti-depressant.(Initially the doctors wouldn’t prescribe anything until I wasn’t drinking anymore, my counsellor managed to sort that)) I know the jury might out on whether taking pills is the best course of action but for me, I had no problem with it. I was just happy that someone was saying “Hey, if you start taking these then there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel better”
My issue was that the original prescription was for a month, twenty-eight days, to be exact. Towards the end of each month Iwould have to phone the doctors practice at 8 o’clock so I could make an appointment for that day. Who you saw was kind of like, pick and mix. If you wanted to see a specific doctor there was no guarantee they would be available and you couldn’t pre-book. Again, it was what it was.
So I would go through the motions, make the appointment and then travel to the surgery. I wasn’t driving so I had to co-ordinate it with my wife for a lift or walk. Once there I would wait to be seen, appointment timings were pretty good, so you were never kept waiting overly long.
Once in the room I was asked the question “Hello, what can I do for you” Then I would have to explain why I was there. It was never as easy as just being able to ask for a repeat prescription. Most times I had to explain why I was asking. If I was on top form, I’m sure none of this would have mattered, I wasn’t though. I was nervous, anxious, unsure of myself, paranoid and I felt as if I was having to beg for my prescription. I really used to dread going.
After this had been going on for a few months I broached the subject with my counsellor. He told me to tell them exactly how I felt and that I needed a repeat prescription set-up and that the time span should be longer between actual visits to the surgery…. So I did and the doctors said “Ok, no problem” Done. What a relief. In one instant, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted.
This is a rather long example of mental maintenance. Taking steps, in this case with the help of others, to remove something that was causing me undue stress. To diffuse a situation before it has happened. Remember, you are the patient, you are the one in pain.
Don’t Be Afraid To Say No.
Sounds simple enough. Wrong. Saying no to friends, family, loved ones and even strangers, can be difficult. You’re going to have to be selfish in a ‘self-preservation’ kind of way. No one else knows how you feel. Some may empathise, sympathise and even try to understand when they don’t.
Life will carry on around you for much of the time and sometimes you’ll find yourself being swept up into whirlwind of conflicting emotions. Even a shopping trip to the supermarket can feel like walking the plank. Who knows? You do. Anxiety is a happy bed partner of depression. Feeling like you do, the last thing you might want to be part of can be a shop full of people. Lots of people, pushing and shoving, noise. All these externals can cause your stress levels to go through the roof.
If you have no choice but to join in, then prepare yourself. Work out all the variables, where are you going, how long will you be, who else will be there, if you need to leave early, can you ? If at all possible, make sure you have a ‘wing man’. Someone who has one eye on you at all times, who can see how you are coping. If, with the best will in the world, you really can’t face it… Say no. No one will be offended or upset with you, well, no one who cares about you.
Take Every Win You Can
With all of the above being said, when you have stepped right outside your comfort zone, when your stress indicator has banged against maximum but you’ve come through, then you need to congratulate yourself. Take the memory of your success and stick it at the front of your mind. Keep it right there within easy access. Now you have something to build on, a crutch, if you like. You’ve done it once, you can do it again. Well, you might want to have a breather in between. Either way, keep your successes close at hand so you can constantly draw on them. Self-doubt is natural, so it is important to have something real to combat it.
Talk is good but it’s not as good as experience.
Here’s the part you might not want to read. I am not you, so this might not apply. Might as well be prepared anyway. I’d beenthrough depression once and come out of the other side. As far as I was concerned we were done, thank you. How wrong I was. For me, depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts were all sat waiting. They were insidious. Watching for an opportunity to pounce. Pounce they did, side-swiped me when I was not expecting it.
You see, no one can predict the future. You never really know what’s around the corner. All you can do is prepare. Something in your life will happen, unexpectedly and BAM…here we go again.
For-warned is for-armed. You’ve seen its face. Stared it down and beaten it. This time you have the advantage. Yes it might take you by surprise in the first instance but then you’re up and at it.
There is Only One Winner
Mental maintenance is the key to keeping the bad stuff away. Taking out the variables that put you in bad situations is only one part of it. There are more ways to put the odds in your favour. We’ve talked about exercise, diet and sleep and these collectively will add to your arsenal. There is also mindfulness, meditation, NLP and other processes you can learn that will give you choices in how you move forward through life without carrying the constant worry of having to go through the whole thing again.