Taking care of yourself when you’re physically poorly too is tough – and this week, Sophia gives us some fantastic advice about how to get through!
Trigger Warning: Please be aware, there is a brief mention of self-harm.
The double whammy of being both physically and mentally unwell may feel insurmountable at times. We need a massive mental toolkit to deal with taking care of ourselves when both mentally and physically unwell. If you google the topic there are loads out there on what you should be doing when unwell. However, assuming you know and understand a lot of common sense approaches like eating better or taking vital meds on time – why can’t we actually seem to do them? It’s a lot to do with living with mental illness. Don’t beat yourself up for being “lazy” or “useless” if you aren’t taking well documented or well-meant advice. We know you aren’t.
There is obviously a massive range of illnesses that is Sparks may suffer. From the physiological symptoms of mental illness through to terminal diagnoses. With this in mind, it’s hard to write a cover all blog for every occasion but I will cover what I think may well be the more achievable options.
Firstly, if you are able to, grab a pen and paper or your phone notes app and list all the things you can physically manage to do in whatever time is left in the day ahead. Then order them in order of importance. The things you MUST do come first. Then the things you SHOULD do. Then the things you need to do but CAN WAIT until tomorrow. It may also be necessary to ASK FOR HELP for some of the tasks. Taking the day in chunks is not only proven to make tasks more bearable but helps to structure your day. You will be able to see if you are taking on too much and you will only be writing down what you can physically do.
An example list for someone who is suffering from a severe depressive episode which leaves them feeling bedridden and exhausted:
Take meds at 10am, 2pm and 6pm
Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Change bed sheets
Sending cousin’s birthday card
ASK FOR HELP
Need milk. Ask neighbour or family if they can help. (If they can’t help you, please do not feel unworthy or desperate. Just put the tasks here in the list somewhere above)
If you need to set alarms for certain events then do so. It helps you turn off your mind when you know you will get a reminder beep when it’s time for food or meds.
If you work and have taken some time off because you are unable to work, you must MUST do some things that you enjoy. No one is saying you are able to fly off to Barbados but it would be entirely counterproductive to remain in a state where you do not improve your happiness levels and let off some steam.
Some people who access Spark are in chronic pain. If you are taking all the medication you have as prescribed and doing any necessary physio etc but are still in pain, it can be frustrating. Please ensure you ask your GP/specialist for as much help as you can possibly access. Pain clinics are available for some. If there is nothing else and you are feeling hopeless then you need to Spark with the group. It may not lessen your pain but you will be able to share it with people who genuinely care. This connection in itself improves wellbeing.
You are absolutely worthy of being pain-free. It’s very important that you know this.
If you have been causing yourself pain through self-harm this is a temporary place that you are in that you may (but hopefully may not) need considerable help to escape from. There are a lot of useful groups and websites out there to provide help specifically for self-harm. Again, Spark is always here with no judgement.
I think it’s very important to take ownership of your own pain. It can be quite a lonely and melancholy realisation that pain is purely our own. No option to share it. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for you to use to tap into pain and learn to feel and potentially control it. Headspace is an amazing app for this and has specific sections for pain. There is also a lot of free content that I’ve found on YouTube.
I’m so sorry that there’s nothing that we can do as a service to help with physical pain. There are so many clinical services on offer and it’s important to speak up if you can to access these avenues. If you are in the thick of depression there may be many reasons why you feel you cannot help yourself. At this point I think it’s important to talk to someone – anyone – let them assist you with making a list and cheering you on. Cheer yourself on. You are amazing and strong. You’ve made it this far. Keep going.
Love abundantly, Sophia x