The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is living with a chronic illness.
Meaning, I have to be aware of my triggers, the things that make me sick, at all times. Excess busyness, excess activity, excess inflammatory foods and alcohol… all those things are difficult to escape in December… but they take a toll on me in ways most people don’t have to worry about.
I go big. I love parties. I love people. I love LIVING life. Until it all becomes too much, and I crash.
This last week I felt a crash. Minimal crash compared to the destructive collisions of the past. I have an excellent support system, I am self-aware, and I am learning to communicate when I need help. So to be clear, I am OKAY. But I knew something was off. I thought I was getting sick. My chest felt tight like I couldn’t breathe, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t get through my typical yoga practice without taking multiple child poses to rest. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to read my new nutrition book (big sign something was off). I was negative with my husband and my kids, who I love more than the world.
I told Richard, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t snap out of this. I don’t like feeling so overwhelmed and negative.”
So we sat and talked. He reminded me that I often get this way in December (I’m self-aware, but not THAT self-aware apparently). He asked what I needed from him. I didn’t know. That’s hard to put into words when the darkness is looming.
I DO know gratitude is a game-changer in rewiring my brain. We went through the year and listed out all the ways our words of the year proved meaningful. It helped.
The key with mental health awareness is catching the signs before it gets worse and making adjustments. If you feel ANY of these things I described, make adjustments before the heaviness makes it too hard to think clearly. That is KEY.
In the coming days I will make adjustments with my nutrition (more plants, please), my sleep, my rest (different from sleep), my movement, and most importantly – grace I give myself to take a break and not run at full pace.
It’s okay to say no to things. It’s okay to say no to food that doesn’t give you mental freedom, even if it makes you look like a weirdo. It’s okay to stop when you get overwhelmed, and actually… BEFORE you get overwhelmed.
It’s okay to FEEL. But always be sure you have a plan in place in order to take a detour. The irony of depression: we make all those cutesy posts about reaching out and calling a hotline number, but many times a person in a full-fledged depressive episode will not do that. They’ve already gone too far.
Being proactive BEFORE it all hits, knowing the signs before they get too overwhelming, whether in your loved one or in yourself, is CRUCIAL for maintaining health.
May we all be more self-aware and proactive and advocate for each other’s mental sanity in 2019.