I realised the other day that I have been really struggling with my mental health for the last two years. For someone who was always active, busy and working losing my mind as it were has been tough to come to terms with.
But no matter what I did to improve my situation, nothing was breaking through in a meaningful way. I have tried so many different types of medication, antidepressants, mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics but everything I tried backfired. I became either more depressed, hypo or angry and my physical health took a massive decline.
Having experimented so much yet failed with different medications I realised that I would have to take responsibility for my health myself. (while keeping my GP updated on everything I was doing of course.)
Gold standard treatment for BPD is DBT, and this is both what my doc wanted me to do, and I myself after researching wanted to do too. BUT accessing a full course of treatment has been difficult. I live in the wrong postcode (yes, it is that old city versus rural health issue again) so I would not only have to travel to the city every week (the lady who has significant traffic and people anxiety), and I would have to pay through the nose for it too. I’m on Newstart, or the dole for the non-Aussies out there and do not have private health cover.
Instead, I purchased workbooks and self-help books, I have downloaded worksheets from peer support groups for people like me who are unable to access the full treatment. However, like most borderlines, maintaining a strict schedule for something as dull as worksheets is, quite honestly really, really difficult. Try as I might, mood swings and motivation do not go hand in hand.
I diligently used my diary cards for a few weeks; I completed a selection of worksheets but with no-one to mark them as such or talk to me about the results it wasn’t long before I stopped doing them.
Mindfulness is something that I absolutely must incorporate into my daily life. Well, into everything I do actually and although far from perfect, I am making sure I mindfully tackle specific daily tasks. When I find my mind straying, I automatically stop and pull it back into focus now. This I know is progress.
I really enjoy mindful walking, but that is difficult as I have a super friendly dog who wants to love everyone to bits, so my focus has to be on him rather than ‘the moment.’ But I have found something that does allow me to be mindful and keeps my mind more active.
I have joined the Skillshare community https://www.skillshare.com/ and am taking a variety of short creative courses. These are great as there is no pressure, so they are stress-free. I can choose what I want to do, and complete it in my own time. Because the video courses are short, I am able to focus my attention on the teacher which is something I am generally not able to do. I use these courses for mindfulness practice. If my mind wanders, I can ‘rewind’ and rewatch each segment.
Most of the courses I am taking are creative, so I am learning new techniques with new mediums and expanding my artistic portfolio. The ‘homework’ exercises are further exercises in mindfulness and some, i.e. watercolour painting I am finding deeply meditative.
Meditation should be daily, I know this, and again, for a while, I was doing this. Meditation is hard for the best of us, but for bouncy, speedy borderline brain it is seriously challenging. When I meditate daily, I get better at it and being honest, I also start feeling better within myself. I am noticeably calmer and more focussed so yes, at least ten minutes of meditation does appear to be essential.
So with formal meditation being a struggle, I am finding mindful meditation in watercolour painting – and I feel I am reaping the benefits mentally and emotionally.
Exercising the physical body is super important too. The mind and body are one, and if we don’t tend to one, then the other goes awol also. Before my new medication-induced weight gain I was walking between 7 and 15 kilometres a day over varied terrain. Then with a quick leap from my normal range of 55-60 kilos to 87 kilos of puffing, red-faced wobbles, I struggled to waddle around the supermarket let alone the block.
As of today I have lost 15.5kgs and take at least 3 walks around the town per day. It is a good start, and now that the weather is cooling, I plan to get back to heavier duty walking and am thinking about how good it would be to join a hiking/trail walking group.
Oh boy! Who would have thought this would be such a biggie? Diet and mental health, yes it is a thing, and there are several studies around the world on the effect of diet on depression and anxiety. I believe there is also a study here in Aus at Deakin University, and although I am obviously not a participant, me being me has been experimenting in this area.
In mid-Feb, my bestie bought me a diet book with brilliant recipes and meal plans.
Talk about life changing. I anticipated the weight loss, but I expected with the calorie reduction that my energy levels would decrease. They haven’t, I feel great. By great I mean I feel fantastic most of the time.
Insomnia? What’s that? I have the occasional night where I don’t get as much sleep as I would like, but I now have more relaxed sleeping nights than I don’t within any 7 days.
Depression? My triggers and what is happening around me have not changed, but my ability to deal with things has changed – dramatically. I still suffer chronic emptiness, and the depression is there, but it is minimal and manageable. I am able to get up, get out, get walking then come back and eat. Whatever lurked there upon waking has dissipated after brekkie.
If I start to feel bad, I deal with it then and there with a combination of immediate exercise (yes before my morning cuppa), a healthy breakfast and meditation or breathing exercises until it has passed.
I am also considerably less anxious and one of the best things of all – entirely without brain fog! I feel clear headed and functional all of the time.
My GP thought I had found a new beau, because at my last visit I looked great, and I was calm, rational and focussed. She said I was the healthiest I had been since she had known me.
Without a doubt, switching to a traditional Mediterranean diet, i.e. fish, whole foods, legumes, green leafy veggies, high fat, high protein and minimal carbs has had a measurable, highly noticeable impact in all areas of my life.
I do feel that if I continue working on the above that yes, recovery IS possible.
That statement is from a place of calm, of focus and ‘gut feel’ – not one of those hypo mood swing short term scatty borderline moments.
I used to be naturally chirpy and positive. I feel that coming back. I have hope now.
Who would have thought? Go me! I believe I can do it now.
And so can you!