Knowing My Limits

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I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been managing my depression and anxiety fairly well for the last month or two. Part of this is due to going down to working only two days a week, giving me enough time to heal and practice self-care. Recently, I’ve started my part-time Master’s course and taken on another working day somewhere else. Since then, I’ve my control slip and my illness regain some footing in my daily life.

But what I’m stuck with now is what to do? There’s one thing being aware of your triggers and mindful of your mental health, but it’s a whole other thing to know what to do when you spot the signs.

I enjoy all of the things that I’m doing and I want to continue to do them, but I’ve suffered from taking on too much before and I promised myself that I would always put my mental health first. The problem is, with someone mentally well, it would not be an issue – if you enjoy everything then continue everything especially if it’s only 3 working days and 2 study days a week. But despite this, I know (and already started to feel) that, should I continue in this vein, my depression and anxiety will begin to chip away at everything I enjoyed until I lose all sense of happiness from them. So where do I draw the line?

Knowing your limits is a huge challenge when suffering from mental health because it’s all on you. Your brain, your perception, and your decision. Say you had glandular fever but you still really wanted to go on that 20-mile cycle you do every week – you just wouldn’t. Everyone else, including your doctor, would also suggest you stay home because you need to recover and not risk the illness getting worse. Or say you’d broken a leg so badly that for the foreseeable future you had to accept that due to the injury you won’t be able to attend the gym the same amount of times as you would normally. Naturally, you’d be suggested to and likely take it easy, reducing your workouts in intensity and quantity – making sure that you didn’t prolong the damage to your limb.

But it’s just not as simple with mental illness. Logically, I know that something should give because otherwise, I’m risking making it worse and extending my recovery time. But when it’s not as concrete as physical health, its nigh on impossible to make a decision based on this reasoning. We’ve never been taught to put our mental health first in the same way we’ve been taught to look after and listen to our bodies.

I’m listening to my mind now, and it’s telling me that I can’t continue as is. But what do I do? I refuse to risk my mental health deteriorating again after the progress I’ve made, but a huge part of me mistrusts my reasoning. It’s been hammered into us that we have to take every opportunity that comes our way and we’d regret it if we did otherwise – but things aren’t so simple when you’re recovering from a life-threatening illness.

At what point do I accept that I’m limited more than mentally healthy people? I guess that’s what I’ve got to figure out.

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