From the archive: “Extremes of Mood: Anxiety”, July 2015.
If I’m honest, this still reflects the meltdowns that sometimes overcome me. initially I intended to publish this over a week ago. And I wrote a whole ‘update’ post to go with it. But somehow I couldn’t finish it, I got stuck. And I didn’t know why. It just felt unfinished, so I left it. But when I came back to it today, I saw that it was a complete and well written piece.
So what was wrong? Why could I still not bring myself to publish it? I realised that it was because it was a lie. It reflected where I desperately want to be. Where (on good days) I can convince myself that I already am, but it is not where I really am. The positive here is that it is a place I now know exists. I can write about it, describe it, I can envision what it might be like to be there. And that is not something I could have said when I drew this.
But it is not where I am. And that is OK. To say anything else would be hypocritical in the extreme, given the piece I wrote only a few days before, onradical acceptance for change.
I’m not doing too well with self-compassion today, being in one of those transient low places, but perhaps this is a better place to reflect on this picture from than the more hopeful place I was in when I wrote the text I have just branded a ‘lie’. Because the more compassionate view is that it is not a lie but Hope speaking. I have no desire to mislead people, or to misrepresent myself as coping better than I am. So I have no reason to lie. My intent with this writing is and always has been to give insight into life with mental illness. And that is to give a frank account of highs and lows, successes and failures. And so, I never would have written an intentionally misleading post. When I wrote it, I thought it was true. And to some extent it was, it listed all of the coping strategies I am now aware of. I am fluent in a language I had no idea even existed when I drew this picture. But to know is not necessarily to be able to do.
So, a true reflection on this picture, two years on, is to say that I cannot yet deal seamlessly with my extreme and fluctuating emotional states. But I have made marked progress. Because I am able to come up with numerous strategies for coping with emotional meltdowns. And on many occasions I am able to use them. I find it much easier to ask for help now than I did then, and though not always ideal, the coping strategies I do use are much less destructive than they once were. My emotions no longer completely mystify and terrify me all of the time, although there are definitely still times when I am temporarily blind to the bigger picture. I can at least reflect afterward on what coping strategies might have helped, even if I did not use them. I can acknowledge that the emotional states do pass and that there are things I can do to help. Even if I did not do them. And crucially, my resilience grows and the situations, thoughts and feelings I’m managing are ever more complex; things I could not have even contemplated facing back then.