In Pursuit of Mental Wellbeing: The Chronicles of a Woman Who’s Tried Almost Everything to Help Her Head.
“I’ve tried absolutely everything”, I tell Mabel, a Psychiatric Nurse at Homerton Hospital’s A&E.
She raises an eyebrow. ‘What have you tried?’
I start to reel off the list of things I’ve done to manage my anxiety and depression.
Well, I exercise. Do Yoga. Mindfulness and Meditation. Sound Baths. Actual Baths. I’ve got my Medication (SSRIs, Citalopram to be exact). I’ve tried CBT. Somatic Therapy. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy for Trauma. I’ve moved countries. I’ve even been skydiving… cause if you’ve done that, you can do anything right? (Wrong. Jumping out of a plane won’t calm you down). I’ve dyed my hair stupid colours to make myself feel better. I’ve journalled. I had a belly button piercing at 23 (who does that). I’ve taken out a belly button piercing at 24 (that’s better). I go to Pottery. I go away on holiday sometimes, pandemic permitting (fucking pandemic). Even to Retreats in the Countryside. Other times, I stay in. I got a cat (world’s best Samaritan, would recommend). I’ve tried Reiki, even though I was signing up for an expensive nap (turns out, I wasn’t. It was amazing.) I bought a wee Electro-Cranial Therapy machine (more on that later). I’ve been to Acupuncture. I’ve had Massages. I go Wild Swimming. I’ve even tried meditating in Vicky Park (bad idea) through a Magic Mushroom trip.
And there I was, looking up at a psychiatric nurse for some answer on the end of anguish.
Nurse Mabel’s eyebrows crept into her hairline.
‘Have you tried the Crisis Cafe?’
“Well, you haven’t tried everything then.’
Crestfallen, I’m still convinced Mabel was slightly impressed, even if she did defeat me. It turns out that putting in so many preventative self-care measures place me in a ‘protected’ category.
‘You aren’t well, but you don’t think you’re Jesus, so I’m going to let you go.’ She said.
(I can only guess that she’s met a fair few Creative Directors in her time)
I was discharged later that day.
It was when I roamed smelly and free on the streets of Homerton that I realised I was born miserable. I was a precocious, unlovable, unwanted, insecure, fiery little girl who cried at least 7 times a day (verbatim from me, and that was on a good day apparently). By Age 5, I’d learnt to take offence when waiters gave everyone else a menu and missed me out, because I assumed they thought I was illiterate. I’d indignantly say, ‘ I can read you know.’ I still have a complex about my intelligence.
I’d been deprived of a hug or two; was raised on the notion that children must be seen and not heard; saw alcoholism and violence first hand; would scour the crowds at school plays and on sports days hoping to see a parent, but knowing no one would be there; and was made fun of for being spotty, specky and having really long arms (they used to touch my knees when I stood up straight). I’ve got some really questionable relatives, and I’ve met some really hideous men well up to being 27.
All that was left that I hadn’t tried was a lobotomy, but Nurse Mabel told me they didn’t do those anymore. While I remain entirely broken by the feeling of being dead inside, while simultaneously being terrified of death, some of those coping strategies I’ve tried over the years have worked better than others.
Mabel had reminded me that, had I not done all of the things I mentioned above, I’d have been in real trouble.
So I’m going to take you through all of the things I’ve tried to help myself (probably won’t take you through my actual baths though, that would be weird). A bit like mystery shopping, but for protective mental health mechanisms.
What they are.
What they were like.
Why I did them.
What science thinks about them, if there is any science.
Any words of wisdom I’ve got on them.
If they helped me, or if they were a bit shit.
All of that.
Then, when you’re feeling like it’s all too much, you can have a gander at the list, and pick something which might just perk you up. It won’t be absolute truth (what is?), but hopefully insightful.
A word of caution, of course. I’m not an expert. I’m not trained in any way, and I will recount some dangerous and possibly reckless things that I wouldn’t necessarily advise or recommend. ALWAYS consult a trained professional.
The reason for my giant overshare is: there’s really no point keeping it to myself. I can’t always provide answers, but I can guarantee self-deprecating dark humour which might make you feel better. And if nothing else, you can laugh along. Our sense of humour is all we have left.
Chuck us a follow on here or on twitter, and you can be kept up to date as the guide goes live, experience by experience at a time.