It’s strange to think about, but I’m so much more aware of my mental health now that I realize how messed up I let it get. I know I’ve said before I used to have the mindset that being physically disabled meant I couldn’t have mental health issues, because that would just be too much. But it wasn’t just my refusal to recognize any mental health issues that made it easy to put in the back of my mind. My mental health was better when I was younger because I had a network of people who saw me every day who could do the troubleshooting I didn’t know needed to happen. Now it’s more or less up to me.
So I’ve gotten better, not great by any means but better, at recognizing stressors and anxiety triggers and doing what I can to relieve stress before it builds up to an unmanageable level. I’m using the resources at my disposal and reaching out, though probably not as often as I should, to talk to people outside of my every day. I’m also paying active attention to my brain and my mindset in the hopes of getting ahead of the next anxiety attack or complete meltdown.
I can identify the feeling most of the time now. I think of it like this: I’m sitting in the middle of this frozen over body of water. I can always feel the ice under me. A lot of the time it’s firm and I can tell it’s thick enough that I’m not in danger of it cracking. Sometimes it’s thinner and I’m maneuvering slowly, doing my best to get into a position where I won’t go under if it does crack.
Then there are times when it’s fairly thick but maybe the cracks start somewhere else. It’s closer to the edge, so I’m not worried. But before long, it’s under me maybe coming from multiple directions, and I can’t do anything but brace myself for the fall. Because it’s here now; the bottom is falling out and I wasn’t ready. All I can do in those situations is tread water.
So, that’s what I do. I tread, maybe I sink a little first, but eventually I tread. I pull my head above water, suck in as much air as possible and try like hell to get up out of the water. Once I do, it’s back to square one. I feel the ice under me, look for cracks. Rinse and repeat.
I don’t pretend that this is in any way a good long term solution. It’s not a solution. It’s barely a contingency plan. But I’m working on that. I know from experience my mental health isn’t an area where I want to find myself on thin ice.