Is This Normal?
One question I ask myself a lot as a person living with mental health problems is ‘is this normal?’. Now I don’t mean that in a societal norm kind of way, I’ll never be that girl, I like to think of myself as a free spirited adult evolved from the rebel child of my teens. So I think the better question would be ‘is this normal for me?’.
This past month I have been working too many hours and in problematic patterns. I can sustain full time work but not when it includes days and nights which disrupts my sleep pattern. Sleep is so important to good mental wellbeing, I can’t stress this enough (check out my video on Sleep and Mental Health). I definitely hit burnout sometime last week but I’ve been in my ‘normal’ stage for almost a year now so every time I start feeling different I begin to worry if I’m falling into another episode: This time it’s depression that is on my mind. I’ve suddenly noticed over the past few weeks how my home has become messier and messier, I’ve noticed that I can’t be bothered doing the things that I normally do, the activities that I normally love. I’ve noticed that I’ve been being lazy and I’ve gone two days sometimes without a shower, which for me is usually my tell that I’m heading into a depressive episode. I’ve started to feel a little lost, a little hopeless and a little less positive, but is this actually me moving into depression or is it just due to the fact I’ve had one day off this month and over worked myself, under slept, haven’t eaten as healthy as I should have and have hit a major burnout (Check out my video on Burnout).
To put this into context, here is a little excerpt of my life. I went shopping yesterday in the local supermarket, pretty normal thing to do right? Only for me it was such an out of body experience I was drained by it and had to lie down when I got home. The whole time I was in the supermarket I felt like I was watching myself walking down the aisles in slow motion. Everything around me was a blur of lights and colours, the people walking past, the produce on the shelves, nothing had any detail to it anymore. All I could hear was a white noise mix of the conversations and general sounds around me, a cacophony of various noises that didn’t make any sense to my brain. I walked around for what seemed like ages, not really remembering what it was that I was looking for. I remember stopping a few times to think, to try and fight through the fog inside my head to work out exactly what it was that I was doing and why I was there. It felt like I was stood still for hours but I guess in reality it was only a minute or two. I kept looking around, watching people doing their shopping in a sort of morbid fascination about these humans existing in the spaces around me. I remember looking at a couple laughing and thinking to myself ‘they’re happy’ like it was a concept that I wasn’t familiar with. That sparked a debate in my mind, am I happy? I can’t really tell, I have absolutely no reason not to be happy right now. But the lack of being happy doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhappy, more that you aren’t anything really. It’s a void of feeling, a lack of emotion. If anything I felt suspended in time and space, neither happy nor unhappy, just dangling precariously in a semi-opaque state and taking in the world around me like a visitor to a new place.
A couple of times as walked down those aisles I felt close to tears, I’m not sure why. Maybe crying means I am unhappy, but I’m not convinced of that. Everything was just so bland, a whole world tinted in a melancholic grey that only I could see, perhaps. Wait, why am I here? Oh yes… avocados.
The confusion of everything changes the way that I hear sounds around me, I hear my heart beat and my breath louder than the chatter of excited children in the toy section. I’m so acutely aware of my body, the inhale and exhale that is keeping me alive, the softness of my flesh and the pounding of my heart that filters to a dull thud in my ears. It was the absence of thought that really struck me, the loss of time from moments stood, staring, immobilised from the deafening hum of life around me but not comprehending anything at all. How long have I been here?
I managed to pull myself together after what felt like an eternity of exploring aisle after aisle like an ancient catacomb maze. I bought my items, always forgetting at least one thing that I came out for, then went home. I lay in bed that night and I tried to work out what was going on in my head. Am I falling into a depressive episode and this is the part where the world slows down and I start to feel like I’m fighting my way through sticky treacle just to make one step forward? Perhaps it’s just major burnout and because of the hours I’ve been working I’ve stopped exercising as much, eating as well and a culmination of all these things have grinded my brain to a screeching stop, almost as a warning that it was going too fast or too far. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a combination of numb and then sadness, but I’m not sure what I’m sad about. It’s just an overwhelming feeling of sorrow and disdain that taints my senses and my thoughts.
My plan going forward is simple, no matter how much I feel like I want to curl up in bed and stay there for eternity in the safety of my duvet fortress I’m going to try and get myself back on track. The first thing to change is my sleeping, I need to regulate my nights strictly again. I’ve already reduced sugar drastically in my diet and I’m going to force myself to go to the gym. Exercise is an excellent way to raise those dopamine levels and I’m clearly lacking in that department right now. My mind is full of great intentions and this will be the tell whether it is indeed burnout or I am heading into a depressive episode. That question ‘is this normal’ is something that I am asking myself all day every day, analysing myself, my thoughts, my feelings, my behaviour, it’s almost a bit of an obsession now. But that is always the key to managing my mind, excellent self-awareness.