Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Compromise

We all know that compromise is important in life, right? It's an integral part of work, relationships, friendships? You compromise with other drivers when you each move over to pass on a single track road...or not when the other driver expects you to drive vertically along the bank while they remain in the middle of the road. When compromise breaks down things end badly (see previous driving example).

What we don't think about so much is compromising with ourselves. I'm thinking specifically of mental health here but it's applicable to all.

For a really long time after I realised I was ill I was determined not to give in to said illness, to the point of obsession. I'm not suggesting I should give in and I'm still determined not to, just in a more sensible way.

In my own weird way I'm a perfectionist and I often slip into all or nothing type thoughts. I refused to let the illness stop me doing things that were important to me. Which then extended to refusing to let the illness stop me doing anything. Which finally grew to 'I must do absolutely everything whether I want to or not otherwise I'm just letting the illness win'. Which is of course ridiculous. And  ironically became part of my crazy.

The thing was, I didn't want to use depression or anxiety or whatever as an excuse. I didn't want it to be something to hide behind. But I became so worried about doing so that I assumed that everything I didn't want to do was due to those things. If I didn't fancy a night out it was because I was depressed and isolating. If I didn't want to go to McDonald's it was because of food issues. And, if I'm honest, there were people in my life who encouraged this style of thinking.

I was determined not to be ruled by mental health issues.... and became ruled by the idea of not wanting to be ruled by mental health issues! I was convinced by the idea that it was unhealthy to wallow. Which it is. But it's healthy to cut yourself some slack and not put yourself in situations that are going to be unnecessarily damaging or cause a disproportionate level of distress.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't condone giving in to negative thoughts and feelings and doing whatever the hell they want....a certain amount of stubbornness can work wonders in some situations. I also don't mean to imply in any way that mental illness is a choice or that people who are ill can just knuckle down and get on with it. Personally I've been lucky in that I've always remained fairly functional....there are a lot of people who can't and who don't have the option to force themselves to do whatever. Everyone's experience is different.

But back to the point. Nowadays I try to be more critical of my decision making. I don't just automatically think 'I must accept every invitation otherwise I'm giving in to social anxiety'. Instead I weigh up all the information. Do I even want to go? Is the event, the location, the company something I'll find enjoyable? Have I had a long day and am genuinely tired or do I need to be up at the crack of dawn and not want to be out til late? All of these are reasonable considerations along with how much money I happen to have, what other commitments I have etc etc.

At the same time, while I still won't give in to my mental health issues I will take them into account. Important events, such as major birthday parties, weddings, meetings with old friends I rarely see, happen no matter what. Most things I'm committed to happen. And I won't miss out on major opportunities (the trip to Mexico last year, for example,  which was hugely difficult but which I wasn't going to miss for anything). On the other hand if I'm having a particularly bad day I feel justified in turning down a casual invitation for drinks or in coming home and reading a book instead of going to the pub after ringing. If it becomes a trend I might start to notice but every once in a while I'll let myself off. Equally if the situation is one that would be particularly difficult (something like clubbing, or meeting with a large group of new people) then I'll assess my ability to handle at that time. The chances of it being really good once I got there and boosting my confidence/mood vs. the chances that it really will be as bad as I expect and I'll leave feeling vulnerable and distressed.

So yes. As I said at the beginning, it's all about balance. But letting up on the pressure has helped me a lot. And by being more selective I'm able to handle the things I do do much better and get more enjoyment out of them. I still find it hard to accept I have limitations but I try to remember all those corny comparisons, if I broke my leg I wouldn't expect to be able to run up stairs right now. I preach about how people shouldn't expect people with mental illness to just get a grip....yet I was expecting exactly that from myself! It's all compromise in life. X

Ps. Sorry, as usual I can't remember where the picture came from :(.x