Welcome, one and all, to a new OWLs post. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, hasn’t it? If you don’t know, OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Libery and Self-Respect. Basically, we are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, we will look at a specific theme. But what is the theme for September? Let’s take a look.
9th Monthly Topic: “Self-Care” In favor of positivity and good mental health, we will be exploring the importance of self-care. Sometimes, we are lost in our thoughts and emotions that it can cause a negative impact on our lifestyle and our relationships. For this month’s topic, the OWLS bloggers will be exploring the mental health of pop culture characters and how their mental health affects their environments. We will explore the dangers of mental health illnesses and how it might lead to self-destruction and/or how one has the power to overcome their demons. In addition, we will share our personal stories and struggles about mental health and discuss positive ways in handling mental health issues. Examples: Charlotte, Solanin, Suicide Club
So, with the topic being self-care, I figured I’d do something a little different this month. You see, I’m not going to be talking about a pop culture topic, but rather myself. Or to be more precise, the two times I hit rock bottom. Now, as a side here, I’ve been tagged in the thirteen reasons tag twice. This post pretty much covers why I haven’t gotten around to doing the tag. I certainly wouldn’t have thirteen reasons, but I do have one: I’ve seen rock bottom, and I know that I’m not there. Anyway … onto the post.
There was a time that I thought I was invincible. And I don’t just mean that stage of life where kids think nothing can harm them. The thing is, once upon a time, people who knew me described me as ‘so laid back, I’m upside down.’ To a degree, that wasn’t inaccurate. Most things just washed over me. No matter what issue or disaster befell me, I could just smile and get on with things. It was a useful skill in some ways.
The problem was, it only worked because I didn’t really deal with things that happened. A lot of the time, I just ignored problems and buried them somewhere in my head to continue to ignore at a later date. And I only started doing that because I was previously incredibly emotional about everything. I took everything to heart. And who could blame me? I was bullied near enough non-stop between the final years of Primary School and the first few years of High School. When I escaped that situation, I figured that since I’d survived that much torment, I could survive anything without the need to actually deal with it. I mean, it’s not like the bullying was ever fully dealt with, and I was fine.
It worked for a long time. But I had a limit.
Many years ago now, I went through a period of time where several things happened over a very small timeframe. What exactly happened isn’t really important, but it ranged from the ending of a long term relationship to a plethora of issues at home. If I’d had one thing happen, then a month to bury it, I would probably been fine for a while longer. As it was though, everything happened in quick succession and it just got on top of me. My work began to suffer, my home life, which was already fractured at that point, got worse, and it all just kept piling up.
But still I did nothing. Why? Because I was the laid back one. It was all going to just go away, just like always.
Except it didn’t.
I didn’t know how hard things had hit me until I left my home and started walking away with the intent to throw myself off a bridge. The more I walked, the more I began to wonder why nobody was trying to stop me. That’s when it hit me. Nobody knew what I was doing. Nor would they. I hadn’t told anyone, I hadn’t text, called or e-mailed anyone, I hadn’t set up any delayed messages, and I hadn’t left a note. I wasn’t crying out for help. I didn’t want help. I just wanted to be gone.
Some small part of me obviously didn’t feel that way though, because that realization was enough to make me stop and reevaluate. I went home, and when I got to work the next day, I asked for a private meeting with my manager. I broke down and explained everything, and I was put in touch with (what was then a very good) staff helpline. They helped me find counselling, and eventually, I was able to crawl my way out the hole I’d fallen into.
I learned that I wasn’t invincible. And most importantly, I learned that you do need to take care of yourself, and not just ignore problems. Some things can be put aside, simply because upon reflection, they aren’t big deals. But not everything. You need to know your own limits too; what is in reality a simple thing for you may be a life changer for someone else and vice versa. It was an important lesson.
But remember, I said that this was about the two times I hit rock bottom. You see, even now, I’m not perfect when it comes to self-care. I’m better than I used to be, sure, but I still have some bad habits. Like stalling on dealing with issues if I’m scared how they’ll turn out. I don’t want to ignore everything any more though, so I do try to work through things, even if later than I should. But the truth is, even when you have the best intentions, there will come times when you simply don’t know what the best way forward is. At all.
A few years after I finished counselling, I had moved out of my parents’ place, and lived alone in a studio flat (or apartment if you prefer). It was a nice place; modern, warm, and about as big as I needed to house my video game consoles and CD collection. I had my independence, and had put some distance between myself and the source of many of my problems. Things were mostly pretty good.
Then things took a bad turn. I’d started dating a lady that I’d known for a little while and, long story short, the relationship failed. There were a lot of reasons for that, but it ending was the right thing to happen. At the end of the day, it just wasn’t healthy. Then, after we’d split up, we discovered that she was pregnant. Again, I’m going to skip a lot here. The main thing is that we agreed that getting back together would be a bad idea, and we’d had discussions about what to do. Shortly after that though, we lost the baby. That hit me hard. Really hard. And I knew that I couldn’t just not deal with it.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to handle the situation. My relationship with my parents had improved, but was still a little strained. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my best friend at the time because she was dealing with her own stuff. I didn’t want to be a bother to others that I didn’t know quite as well. And, even knowing that they’d helped before, I didn’t want to take it into work because I was making an effort to keep my problems from affecting my life there as far as possible. So, I tried to deal with it on my own.
I discovered very quickly that the whole situation had left me unable to sleep. The way I dealt with that was to start drinking myself to passing out. Every night. My job at the time let me work flexi-hours, which turned out to be a good thing, because during a birthday buffet at the office, I got drunk. And then went back to my desk and tried to make an official phone call.
Now, I managed to do a decent job on the call, but it didn’t go unnoticed. I was advised to go home and rest up, and had it not been for having otherwise been a good employee, it could have been the end of my time there. In short, I got lucky. When I got home, I immediately poured myself another drink. It was when I was stood there in the kitchen looking at both the empty and full bottles that I realized where I was heading. This had become a problem, and was going to become an even bigger problem.
So, I did the only thing I could think off. I poured the drink down the sink, emptied the full bottles the same, and booked a day off work. I took the time to speak to people that I’d previously decided not to, and started to work out that I needed to mourn. It’s obvious, right? But I was so confused as to what to do, that taking the time to mourn didn’t even occur to me. I also took other steps. With the exception of Christmas, I didn’t actually touch alcohol again for about six years. In more recent years, I’ve found that I can handle a lot less of it too, so I limit myself a lot. In fact, I rarely touch the stuff at all.
But I’m rambling. The point is, as important as self-care is, it’s not always easy. I learned the hard way how bad an idea it is to not ask for help, even at times when you don’t think there is anyone you can talk to. And if there really is nobody in your immediate circle, then there are other options. There are charities and volunteer organizations, there’s your doctor, there’s private counselling if you can afford it. It’s hard to take that step, but sometimes just talking to someone can help you take stock of things and find the way forward that will work for you.
Self-care doesn’t mean doing it all alone. Just remember, that there are things that might feel like they help, but aren’t going to in the long-run. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on a crutch, especially a destructive one. And don’t let yourself forget that you can climb out of any hole with the right help. None of us are invincible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it through.
If you’re here in the UK and you feel like you need help, then this NHS page has some sueful numbers.