This is not an appealing thought, I know, just hear (read) me out.
I’e had two years off because of my mental illness and I could have spent the time lounging around at home, watching my benefits roll in… It would have been easier that’s for sure, leaving the house is really difficult for me sometimes. It feels like an army of negative thoughts and potential problems are standing on the threshold of my driveway, waiting to pounce the second I leave the safety of my home.
But this is not how I spent my two years off. Even at the worst of times when I didn’t want to be alive, I still lived under the firm belief that if I was going to be alive then I may as well live. Truly live. Hiding in my house and accumulating money which I could only spend on online shopping and ice-cream wouldn’t have been living my life – it would have been surviving but that’s it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some God of mental health who was able to go skydiving and walk into crowds of people without feeling nervous. There were days when I couldn’t go far from home and a trip to the local Tesco was an achievement. There were days when I couldn’t face walking and had to drive to friends’ houses in the safety of my car, only venturing out for the distance of their driveway. There were days when I couldn’t face leaving at all, sometimes even the idea of moving from my bed was too much. So don’t think I’m encouraging you to live a perfectly normal life without taking mental health into consideration, I certainly wasn’t able to do that for a long time. I’m encouraging you to push yourself, just a little bit.
If you really can’t get out of bed, that’s fine, why not bring a book or a movie or even some work into bed with you? Or maybe you’re feeling strong enough to limit your time in bed? I’ll spend an extra few hours here, but then I’ll try to pop downstairs for a bit. Maybe I have to spend today in bed, but I won’t let myself do that tomorrow.
If you’re unable to leave the house then at least make sure you take a trip into the garden, it get’s stuffy spending the whole day inside and it’s not going to make you feel any better. If you’re feeling super brave why not try to take a walk (or drive) to the shops and reward yourself when you get there? If that’s too much you could try driving to a friend’s house or taking a very short walk. Even stepping out of your front door is a brave step!
I did two years of this, so I know it’s hard. Just take where you’re at today and try to push yourself one step further. One tiny, baby step. Reward yourself afterwards: a glass of wine, a bag of sweets, a chocolate bar or some time out to watch your favourite programme. It’ll prepare you for continuing life once you’re feeling a little better; I’m restarting my life now and couldn’t manage it if I hadn’t used those years to train my body into the habit of bravery!