Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty tells us of her experiences with set backs in her mental health and learning to not feel guilty for taking a rest to recover.
I was recently telling a friend of mine that I experienced a dip in my mental health, I had a complete breakdown. He told me that sometimes, we need the façade to slip to help us feel better. I found this to be extremely true, it reminds me of an article I wrote last year about how it’s much braver to lay bare and be brutally honest about your feelings instead of resorting to the usual “I’m fine, just a bit tired”.
As I write this, we are just starting the sixth or seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic and understandably mental health across the country is suffering. Mine took a particularly big hit in the last few weeks, to the point where I found writing and other things, I normally love to do, a chore rather than a joy. I am slowly but surely getting out of this hole and the mind is slowly becoming clearer. I am finding joy in writing again and getting those creative juices flowing. I also use this time to reflect on an article I wrote back in May about lessons I have learnt during lockdown and think about what’s changed.
Here’s an update since that article. I have been able to see my boyfriend after five or six months of not seeing him, this was lovely for the both of us. We have formed a social bubble so we can stay the night at each other’s homes whenever needed. The gym opened up again so my Mum and I are able to do our early morning swims, this has been brilliant for the both of us. Fergus the guide dog still continues to make me smile as I take him for his walks.
One of the lessons that stuck out in my mind was not to feel guilty if you need a day of not doing a lot if you need to recover from a foggy brain. I have found this lesson has been harder to learn than the others. Especially when my mental health has been bad of late. When I try to relax and recover from a bad episode of mental health, I feel so guilty. I also found that my negative thoughts and insecurities are loudest when I am doing something that is meant to be relaxing. I have just completed another round of counselling to help with these complex feelings.
My reason for writing this is to remind you and myself that setbacks and relapses in your mental health recovery are not signs of weakness. There will be times when your mental health will dip and there will be times you will have to go back to your therapist or doctor. This is perfectly OK. It is also more than fine to take days off to not be productive and do things you enjoy. If it’s a day in your pyjamas watching films and eating food, do it. If it’s practicing mindfulness and yoga, do it. Whatever helps you to feel better, do it.
For me; some days, that’s baking treats for friends and family, other days it’s watching films and playing PS4. I also make sure I walk the dog, just seeing him makes me smile.
It’s OK not to be OK, I know I have said this countless times but it still stands true. Relapses, dips and setbacks in mental health recovery are not signs of weakness; they are signs of fighting a battle and being strong for far too long.
Words: Lotty Whittingham
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal feelings or other mental illness or mental health problems, here are some helplines you can call or websites you can visit for support and information. Click the name of the charity or service to access their website:
Samaritans – 116 123
MIND The Mental Health Charity – 0300 123 3393
Papyrus UK – 0800 068 41 41