You know when you are loaded with cold; snotty, shivering and your head is banging? You stand in the bathroom mirror trying to decide whether you should push yourself and go to work or school and perhaps manage the day, or return to bed and rest your aches and pains. I hate this decision, are you being resilient and pushing through or would that be neglecting self care, are you putting your health first or being weak?! Oh to be the age a grown-up could decide for me.
This same dilemma applies also for mental health, but is even harder because there is no visible cough or snot and it all feels like a constant judgement call: self care or weakness? We can’t compare to someone else’s pain or difficulties, so can either feel like no one has ever felt as bad as you or feel simply weak or worse, a fraud. So often we accept the mental labels of ‘lazy’ and ‘useless’ and drag ourselves to work or school to get through the day. Conversely if you have rested and had timeout how do you decide when to go back, or even when to leave the house? Unlike coughs and colds, mental health doesn’t have a time limit and doesn’t respond to paracetamol.
The frustrating thing is that there is no answer to this, it’s about self awareness and balance. Also remembering it’s not all or nothing! It might be a walk around the block is enough for one day, talking with work or school about a couple of half days or an extended deadline. Treating mental health is multi dimensional and involves: timeout, sleep, good food, fresh air, some positive human contact, and small steps. Sometimes it feels like one step forwards and 2 steps back but keep focused on that balance and self care and eventually you will move forward.