A couple of weeks ago I went to Bude in Cornwall for two nights, to give myself a break, but I almost didn’t go because the days leading up to my trip weren’t plain sailing.
On the Friday, the day before I was supposed to go to Bude, I woke up late with an anxiety headache. I get these every so often and it’s a sign that things are not right. At the most extreme level of anxiety the headache can be followed by me throwing up and a day of recovering in bed. Several years ago when it first started happening I didn’t realise it was a function of my anxiety because it tended to happen the day after I’d done a long drive (like to London and back) and I blamed it on exhaustion and dehydration.
Still having a headache, I went to do a van booking helping someone move house I had in the afternoon thinking I would be able to manage. I had been for a walk beforehand, which always helps when I’m feeling anxious but I don’t think it was enough. After I got to the pickup address I started to feel worse, and it became obvious there was a lot more stuff than I was expecting. The van was crammed full and I knew it was all going upstairs at the other end. The way I felt, I started to think that I just wasn’t going to be able to do that. So I text Jody, my go-to helper to see if he was free and able to help. With amazing luck he had just finished walking a friend’s dog roughly en-route between the collection and delivery addresses. So we picked him up on the way, and from that point on he and the customer did everything, I just drove. When we got to the delivery address, I said to him “I’m just going to sit still and try not to throw up” and I got back in the van and left them to unload. About 5 minutes later I threw up. I was parked with the drivers seat on the road side, so the customer didn’t see me. So I managed to avoid embarassment and the need to explain. I then managed to drive us to pick up a bed nearby, after which I went home to bed and slept for about 3 hours.
When my mental health takes a dive I usually try to figure out what’s happened recently that’s caused it, which can be difficult, but when I do I tend to find that I feel better about feeling shit, if that makes sense. On the Thursday morning I had my 4th (I think) telephone session of CBT from the local (outsourced) NHS mental health service. During that session it was decided that on the basis that it should be helping me and I was actually feeling worse, that I should be referred for more intensive CBT. This would involve a wait of several months. While I agreed that this was the right decision, I had waited a few months to start the sessions and had a lot of hope it was going to help me. While it was only a few months I had been on the waiting list, in a way it was help that I had waited for for far longer.
When I was first ill in 2012 I tried to get help from the equivalent service available at the time, who also offered CBT. They told me I was too ill to engage with the service, so my GP referred me to be assessed for “secondary services” ie higher level mental health care. I had this assessment, the result of which was the decision that I wasn’t ill enough to qualify for help. So I fell between the cracks. The result of this was that I spent several years with the attitude of “fuck the NHS they’re not going to help me”. It’s worth saying that the two GPs I dealt with a lot during my darkest times were brilliant. So a while after that a decided to pay for private counselling.
So I guess all of this from the past added a lot of weight to how my brain processed this most recent setback. So I think it’s actually perfectly understandable that I felt to terrible the next day.
I was due to set off for Bude on the Saturday, and had booked two nights in a nice hotel with a sea view. As my brain and body were recovering from the Friday I was pretty far from feeling up to a 3 hour drive. I did think about just not going, but it was £200 I’d paid that I really couldn’t afford to lose. So I rang the hotel and asked them if I could push my booking back by a night. Luckily they had availability for the Monday night and agreed. So on the Sunday I set off on my trip.
I’m glad I went, it was really good for me. It rained heavily quite a lot of the time I was there, but I didn’t feel like doing much anyway, and I was happy sitting in my room looking at the sea while I read my book or meditated, wrote my journal or watched TV. It was dry in the afternoon on the second day so I went for a short walk along the coast path, and it was pretty windy but the coastline there is beautifully dramatic. As Bude faces west I had hoped to see the sunset while I was there, but it was so overcast both evenings that you couldn’t even tell the sun was there! Maybe next time.
I’ve been taking these short trips away for two or three nights every so often since a couple of years ago when I started putting £10 a week in a savings account as a holiday fund. For several years I’ve been in quite a bit of debt and struggling with money while I build up my business, and for a long time I just didn’t feel like I could afford any trips or holidays. Putting a little money aside each week has made me feel like I can justify it, and these kind of trips are really good for my mental health.
The inconvenient thing about trying to write a blog focusing on my life struggling with mental health is that, like most things, it’s difficult to get myself to do it, meaning I only really write it at times when I’m feeling relatively OK. So that’s why I’m writing now about something that happened two weeks ago.