Wellbeing Online Editor, Flora Doble, considers the self-perpetuating nature of her mental illness.
‘I’ve got too much going on. I’m on two committees and I’m an editor for Epigram.’
‘Oh, what section are you responsible for?’
I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Neither could the GP I was sitting across from. Here I was, Wellbeing Online Editor, crying my eyes out about my mental health and university pressure despite the many articles I’ve edited and written on the subject.
I don’t know what happened but I had suddenly lost it. I was exhausted and it was the end of term, it felt almost inevitable that I was going to crumble, lots of students do.
I had been telling my friends for a week or so that I could feel something ‘building’. My mind, I said, was ‘too quiet’. It felt like I wasn’t really processing anything but rather I was just ‘going through the motions’.
When I feel this way, I know something is up. Or, at least, I think something is and I act accordingly, preparing myself for the storm to follow.
It’s good that I have this sort of tell, it means that I’m not completely bowled over when my mood suddenly plummets and my anxiety hits the roof.
Helpful though it may be, I have also realised that this, to some degree, is a self-perpetuating act. I think that because I am feeling ‘this way’ that it must be the start of a bad ‘episode’. I assume that I must be spiraling into depression or extreme anxiety and so I essentially sit there waiting for the bad thoughts to inevitably hit me.
I forget that there are ups and downs to mental health and that there is no straightforward and final recovery.
Of course, this is not to say that I or anyone else is ‘acting up’ to their mental illness, whether that for attention or any other ridiculous reason that people claim, please do not misunderstand me.
What I mean is that I am always worried that any sign that things are ‘going wrong’ means that they are, and conclude that it’s best if I just accept that and ride it out rather than try and stop it in the first place.
Therefore, when I’m having a bad ‘episode’, it is not just the ‘episode’ itself which causes me distress. When I start to feel bad, I start to worry that this is the beginning of the end, that this is the first step in an irrecoverable spiral, and that now I can only become as bad as my very worst.
Essentially, I forget that there are ups and downs to mental health and that there is no straightforward and final recovery.
Now, with a clear head, I can recognise all of this but, in moments of complete distress, it’s very hard to remember that. I’m not sure how to fix that, I’m working on it.
It’s also weird that I feel a sense of guilt for all of this because I am the Epigram Wellbeing Online Editor. Like, that is odd.
I’m not some sort of mental health guru and I never would claim to be but I still feel this weird sense of duty to keep my brain calm and composed as if some sort of benevolent god (a debatable fact).
I think it is incredibly important that people try to be self-conscious about their moods and emotions.
I know the position doesn’t really mean anything, I’m no more qualified than the average person to talk about these issues but because I appear as some sort of authority, no matter how minor, I feel as though I shouldn’t let my mental health get on top of me. In a sense, I should practice what I preach.
But that’s silly. I wanted to work on the Wellbeing section because it was personal to me not because I resembled some sort of tranquil sage. I preach about mental health because it is something that I have practised. I can recognise the irony of it all sure but I shouldn’t feel guilty, what does that achieve?
I think it is incredibly important that people try to be self-conscious about their moods and emotions. Subscribing to the idea that ‘I must act THIS WAY’ because ‘I am THIS’ is never a good thing, whether that in regards to anger, love, happiness or any emotion.
I do not have to be constantly down because I struggle with depression, nor do I have to feel guilty because my mental state doesn’t always align with my editorial position.
It is wrong to perpetuate any emotion based on these facets of my identity. I hope to remember that next time I start to feel down.
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