Not coping well is a massive fear for me and it has been since I experienced depression. Being diagnosed with this mental health illness came as a complete shock to me and is still something I haven’t quite gotten over. Deep down, I believe that I am a strong person and when you are diagnosed with depression, it basically shits all over this belief. Being diagnosed with depression makes you feel like you aren’t coping, that during this time period, you can’t cope at all with life. In fact, it’s so bad, they’ve even had to put a name to it.
More recently, it has basically been suggested by my therapist in my CBT sessions that I have what is known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder. GAD for short. This explains so much to me as although I have intrusive thoughts and compulsions that nicely fit into the criteria for OCD, I also worry about every tiny little thing and over think things so far into the future that I basically have my life all planned out in one sitting! This, I have always known, is something a little bit more than OCD. OCD seems like the mental health illness that acts as a coping mechanism. I carry out rituals and repeat things that don’t feel “right” in order to protect myself from something bad happening because GAD makes me believe that something bad is going to happen ALL THE TIME. And the reason I prepare myself for this is because if/when something bad happens, I believe that I will not be able to cope.
Complex isn’t it? And it’s an understanding of my mental health illness that I probably would not have really figured out on my own. It’s taken talking about it with my therapist and addressing these thoughts, looking them right in the eye and accepting what my deepest, darkest fears are. I suppose I should make it clearer what I mean when I personally feel like I’m not coping:
– Overwhelming anxiety/fear/emptiness/dread
– Distressing thoughts racing at 100mph into the future
– Lack of concentration
– Not being able to enjoy life
This is what it has been like the past couple of weeks. When I wrote in my previous blog post about having a shit time, it’s because I had to start the hunt for a placement all over again. Sorting out a placement for my counselling course has been a big stress for me since probably the first week on the course in September. I was in such a rush to get something sorted because I knew that it was going to stress me out until it was all done and I could forget about it. So, when I was faced with finding another one, you can imagine what turmoil that sent me into. I spent a good couple of weeks being completely wrapped up in my own head, not feeling a part of the world. I felt completely disconnected and could only think of all the terrible, awful things that were going to happen during my hunt to find another placement. For me, I defined this as barely coping.
When I told my therapist this, she highlighted that it didn’t sound like I had barely coped with having to find another placement, to her it sounded like something hadn’t quite gone to plan and I got myself out there and sorted it. Maybe I wasn’t coping well, but I was coping nonetheless. And that is what I mean by the title of this blog post: perhaps when we feel like we’re barely coping, what we actually mean is that we’re coping, but maybe just badly. Or not as well as we’d like. We’re still getting up every morning, showering, getting out there in the real world, achieving things. But all the while we’re crippled with anxiety- butterflies in our tummy, heads completely elsewhere, nausea, lack of sleep. The physical feelings of anxiety make me feel like I’m barely coping as I’m sure they do many people. We need to put our foot down with anxiety and tell it: “Look, I know you’re telling me I’m not coping because I feel this way but do you know what? I think I am.” Don’t let this mental health illness tell you you’re not coping. If you’re struggling with anxiety AND living as part of this world, we are coping x100. Not only are we trying to fit into a world that is emotionally exhausting and fast paced anyway, we’re also doing it with a debilitating illness.
And that my friends, is something we should be proud of. If you’re like me and feel shame or embarrassment for believing that you are “barely coping”, let’s make sure that the next time this thought consumes us we tell ourselves that we ARE coping. We’re just not quite meeting up to those high coping standards we set ourselves. We’re coping but we’re coping badly right now. And that is FINE.
We got this.