Yes, I do actually still exist. It’s been a while, right? Well, as the title of this blog post indicates, I’ve basically had bad year of mental health and am finally feeling well enough to start blogging and interacting with people again.
What happened? Did I just one day in 2019 sit down on the couch, and then all of a sudden it was 2020? Well, as much as it does feel that way to me at times, there is a lot more to it than that. As is often the case with mental health.
Basically it actually started in 2017 with bad news about a much loved family member’s health. That led to a massive change of routine that had me solo parenting for many months. Then the struggle of trying to get back into the new routine, once hubby was home (and unemployed). Fun times… I was helping my family rehome and declutter an elderly family member and, quite often, really did feel like a headless chook. All the time ignoring my own body’s warning signs that it wasn’t coping. 😦
The following year (2018) continued in a similar vein, said beloved family member passed away, shortly followed by another. Come the middle of the year I then lost my grandfather too and was then really running on fumes when it came to keeping it all together. You see, I’m neuro diverse, and recently it’s been suggested I am HFASD (High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder), though this is unconfirmed so not something I will say I am… yet. But, as throughout my life, when the personal things, the emotional things get too much for me, I just take on more and more responsibilities, more jobs, more tasks, and more projects to bury those feelings and feel useful.
Face it; I come from a long line of (probably) neuro diverse (definite) hoarders. And so, to FEEL something when this depressed, I hoarded things to do. I took on looking after a huge (and amazing) cooking group on Facebook, piled more and more reviewing invites on my plate, ran half a dozen blogs, did social media spruiking for local businesses I was friends with (all for free), as well as my routine of looking after my kids, my home, etc. With my kids I was dealing with three neuro diverse souls with problems of their own… depression, anxiety, self-harm, meltdowns, anger outbursts, the whole kit and caboodle. Totally. Forgetting. To. Think. Of. Myself. I say that all full stops to try and emphasise all the warnings I had.
I was wearing many hats and carrying many, many other people’s burdens. Dealing with my husband’s depression caused by bereavement, dealing with my kid’s mental health problems to ensure they got the best of life… telling myself I was just fine as long as I kept busy…
I started falling behind on EVERYTHING. Budgeting, bill paying, my uni work (yeah, I was still trying to do my degree online too), housework… all the usual House Frau stuff I did. I was living, thinking, decision making, and organising for the 5 people in my house but was the only one cleaning, thinking of paying bills, buying food, cooking things… and life was just growing darker and darker clouds around me. And I ignored it.
I struggled through 2018… hit 2019 and thought “time to make things better”. But by better I felt that meant even MORE of a work load. New book to release in paperback, more and more invites to review, bigger plans on keeping that Facebook group active and fun.
I had a friend from the UK come visit me in April and, by then, my physical health and total LACK of fitness (I’d put on 50kg since 2017 without knowing why – duh, stress) made showing her the sites an absolute nightmare. I had become agoraphobic, hated being around people, hated talking face to face or via the phone… hated existing. Yes, I got to the point where I would just sit on my couch and cry over the fact I existed and prayed… BEGGED not to.
Enter the burn out/ break down. I don’t know which label suits it better… maybe it was both? But I basically stopped getting off the couch. Stopped… everything.
I quit Facebook in the hopes that moving away from what I felt was a toxic environment would help… did it. But not enough. And it hurt that barely a soul from there noticed me missing. Now, I didn’t have hundreds of friends on FB, I stuck to mostly those I knew in person, who I studied with, etc. So about 75 people as friends… My family on there noticed me go, but knew why. Some of my close, local friends noticed too and reached out. A couple of interstate/ overseas friends did too. The person I ran the group for – who I had thought was a friend and who I had spent a lot of my own time and money trying to support – from them I got NOTHING. I wrote to say I had to step back for my own mental and physical health and that they would need to get someone else to help… they posted a “position available” on their group showing they OBVIOUSLY got my message. But a reply? A question of concern? A simple “Are you okay?”… zip. People I thought cared about me for me… not just for the free work I did just disappeared. This hurt and, naturally, added to my depression. I lost a lot of friends by quitting Facebook, but were they REALLY friends if this is how they treated me? I did, however, gain new friends who I had only seen as acquaintances. People who noticed me missing, noticed I’d gone, and reached out to ask if I was okay. What I gained from this is – Facebook is toxic and not a place to make/ keep friends. Find them elsewhere, avoid Facebook.
I spent months just being asleep. I’d sleep all night, get my kids ready for school, sleep on the couch until I had to go get them from school, sleep until dinner time, eat takeaway, sleep and repeat. For. Months. I still didn’t really notice a problem as I really wasn’t noticing anything anymore. I was just numb, tired, and wanted to not exist. I didn’t want to actually kill myself (thankfully) I just didn’t want to exist. I was useless, worthless, good for nothing, and unwanted, uncreative, untalented, etc. I will add that at the same time I was still getting 5 star reviews for my books… and that just gave me anxiety attacks as I really wasn’t as good as these kind souls thought I was.
Around August/ September last year I decided I had had enough of this numbness and so went to my GP. I’ve been avoiding my GP’s clinic as the person I usually saw left… then the person who replaced them left… and all in all it just added to my blankness. But I made an appointment with my original GP from the same clinic, waited a month – as it takes AGES to get to see her as she’s just that amazing – and got help.
Firstly, as a band aid, my Zoloft was upped to 100mg a day (from 50mg). The improvement was nearly instant. My numbness was losing its power over me. I got into a weight loss regime with my GP, got into seeing my Physio about my back and neck pain, tension headaches and the whole lot. I found myself again.
Now it’s not been an instant fix… I mean, it’s now February 2020 and I’m only just now feeling strong enough to get back into blogging, reviewing, etc. But I am getting better and getting my life back. And I am thankful I sought the help I needed. Though admit now that I took a break from my GP and Physio over the Christmas holidays so better pull my finger out and contact them again. 😀
Oh, and being someone who has always strived to seek the positive, even throughout last year, I have to say I found an amazing thing within myself. Now, as some might know, I’m a crafty person. And, yeah, I tend to obsess and hoard crafty hobbies. See the several suitcases full of old clothes I’ve collected to repurpose into rag yarn, bags, etc to keep them from landfill. 😀
Well, along those same lines, I found wire weaving and beading. Oh, and I have been avoiding the craft area of beading for DECADES as I felt it would be something I would seriously get addicted too and already had a lot of clutter. Well, yeah, I was right. I got into beading, I now own MILLIONS of beads and am obsessed with the damn things! BUT! I found a new love that helped me get out of the darkness. I buy old, often broken, necklaces from Charity Op Shops and I use them with wire to make Trees of Life.
I just started doing it as a way to make Christmas presents for friends and family… and it grew from there. I’ve had commissions, I’ve got my art now hanging on walls and around necks in both Australia and America… and it’s gotten to the point I’ll be looking into creating an art studio in my shed and looking at the feasibility of opening a small business. I share my pieces on Instagram (the evil little sister of Facebook, I know) and recently gave my new love its own account called CraftilyRecycled. There is an Etsy shop of the same name where I hope to sell my pieces too. Plus I’ve been asked if I’d want to attend a sustainability fair in March… but that’s just too soon for me. I need to find my feet and my place in beading before I go THAT crazy.
I still do rag yarn, I still collect textile waste and hope to use it to make reusable gift bags to send my trees to their new owners in. Heck, I’ve even started repairing and remodelling old necklaces for friends to make into something new.
Sadly, old habits die hard and, yup, the majority of stuff I make and share I do for free. I’m trying to teach myself to ask for money (and the proper amount based on materials and time) but I’d much rather share than sell. One of my biggest downfalls as an author too.
And so here I am. I’ve not yet recovered… but I am at least on the right path to recovery. I have my tree making (or as I like to call it: this crazy lady’s basket weaving) and I am finding myself again. I want to exist, and I want to take part in life again.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end… it’s been a while since I’ve written anything and so am pretty sure I waffled A LOT. But I wanted to be open and honest and share my personal hell with people in the hopes it might help someone going through their own hell. You are not alone, there are those who will help you… but you have to let them try.
Later this year there will be news on Bonnie’s Story coming out in paperback with a new cover… and possibly even news on book 3 of the Other World series – We Represent the Demon Guild.
But, for now, more tree… This one is in a tin slightly smaller than a deck of cards and, when finished, will be auctioned off to raise money for the Australian bushfire recovery. So keep an eye on my twitter feed to see when that is. Yes, I still use Twitter. It is far more straight forward and honest as to what it is than Facebook will ever be and, for that, I am thankful. Yeah it still has trolls and idiots, but it also has mute and block.
Until next time,
February 3, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Reblogged this on Janis's Journal and commented:
Hi everyone, I will be resuming my review posts shortly… but this post from my Author blog should explain where I’ve been and why I’ve not been reviewing.
February 3, 2020 at 8:13 pm
I really admire your honesty and it made me feel I was not alone in having a truly crap 2019 .Glad you have a good GP and cultivate those true friends. Here’s to a better 2020 (and I love my two Trees of Life) xxx
February 3, 2020 at 8:28 pm
Thanks. 🙂 I know not everyone talks so openly about mental health, but we really should. It makes us feel more isolated and like we’re the only one dealing with issues if we stay quiet. ❤
February 3, 2020 at 8:58 pm
I’m so impressed with this post, and your honesty, Janis. Strangely, this last week you have been on my mind for some reason. Mental health is so incredibly important to recognise as an illness in exactly the same way as we recognise that autoimmune disease, cancer, or any other chronic illness is. Thinking of you.
And, my goodness, those trees are beautiful.
February 4, 2020 at 8:26 am
Aw, thanks Leonie. And you’re right about mental health needing to be seen in same light as physical health. You’ve been in my thoughts a lot lately too… we were missed by the big fire here just before Christmas by a wind change, hoping you were as lucky. ❤
February 6, 2020 at 11:44 am
We have been remarkably out of the fires. Some of the people further to the south in our shire, have been impacted by the Kerry Ridge fire, but fortunately, every time it’s been a catastrophic day, the fires have behaved themselves.
I’m so glad to hear you have been safe, and thankful for that wind change. We do keep looking around us and wondering why we’ve been relatively safe, but we are very thankful for our local firies staying on top of any small blazes. Still, summer is not yet over. However, today we have light drizzle. So refreshing.