Socialising when your mental health is at a low is quite hard and daunting.
Today for me, was one of those days. I’ve not been in the best of moods or wanting to deal with other people for a long while. I had this family mini Halloween party thing that the husband wanted to go to and for the last few weeks, I’ve been adamant I wasn’t going… I was wrong. I had to go.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t like my in-laws… they’re great! I guess I just got sucked into my negative thoughts my mind was feeding me. That I’d be watched, judged, scrutinised for how I looked, what I did and what not. That may or may not be true, I’m not a mind reader. However, why should that stop me from doing something different? The husband yesterday told me that I’d be going today so I didn’t really have time to think of a million excuses.
Now the mind is a funny thing. It’s desperate to go and do something, but it doesn’t want to be around people. You can’t really have one without the other. You kind of learn that over time. When you are given something different to do… it comes up with many reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Every bad thing that ‘will’ happen when in reality it probably doesn’t it’s just all in your head. That’s the depression side making you feel worthless and not bothered to go but the anxiety stressing you out making you feel like everyone will be judging and scared of such a social gathering. It’s quite impressive really what our minds can do and come up with. It does however completely and utterly wear you down and is rubbish to have to go through.
However, all that aside… I went. I even kind of ‘dressed up’ if you’d call it that. It was mostly some makeup, fake blood and a dress that itself fit.. okay (it was a bit small) and the extra flappy bits of it not having a chance in heck in doing up unless I removed a few ribs. (I did buy the outfit when I was probably a stone or so smaller… oops) It looked okay.. minus the flappy bits which I now realise I could have just cut off and kept the front plate of the extra design. Hindsight is a wonderful tool.
So below.. are some photos of how it looked. I was going for a sort of vampire diaries vampire sort of look.
My husband is a lucky person who can gain a little bit of weight and still roughly have the same body shape and still fit into most things he owns. So he went for some creepy clown thing that we bought when I bought my outfit. I did his base makeup and the better looking of the eyes, his nose and his mouth. He did the other messed up eye because he was driving me insane with flinching and moving as I did his makeup.
Here he is below.
To be fair, we do normally do couples outfits and it was last minute. He could have done joker and I did have a Harley costume but there was zero chance of that fitting me. (I fluctuate so much because I’m either eating literally everything in sight or nothing at all.. there is no in between) So, instead, we went as a clown and a vampire.
So here’s Coco the clown and vampire Gem.
It was fun, we had a laugh with his family. I was nervous, shy and mostly quiet drinking my drink most of the time. We ended up playing some party games and pass the parcel. The boys kept winning makeup through it though which was quite funny. So I did have fun. It was just rubbish about how my anxiety made me stay quiet and only engage with my husband and housemate if anything. It’s fine though. I went out, I was social and it was fun. I actually kind of enjoyed myself despite everything my mind was saying and doing during it. Baring in mind we were only there for a few short hours but any longer and I think I’d have pushed myself too far so it was happy… nice, bearable level.
The importance of socialising
So what’s the point in my above story and general opening?
Well… I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about how I’m trying to be social and how my mental illness makes me withdraw from everyone and isolate myself. Whilst talking with my CPN, he’s made it pretty clear that obviously that isn’t a healthy thing to do and socialising with others does have its benefits. It’s true, I mean if you’re gonna be more open and honest with your struggles you need to socialise with someone in order to do that. To build confidence it’s another thing you kind of have to do. It’s hard, I know… as you can see from today’s post I’ve struggled and will probably continue for a while. It’s worth it though because it can be rewarding and you’re building those relationships with other people that can really benefit you with your recovery and prolonged positive mental health afterwards.
This excerpt from this article on psychologytoday.com helps emphasise that point.
“You will enjoy better mental health. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections.”
Looking more into it, the independent did an article on the benefits of social interaction and mental health in May 2016 during mental health awareness week which goes further on to emphasise the importance of healthy relationships and your wellbeing.
“According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, social interaction can cut the risk of mortality and developing certain diseases, and help individuals to recover more quickly from illness. However, socialising can be a daunting prospect for those struggling with their mental health. But it is important that people do not become withdrawn, explains Stephen Buckley, head of information at the charity Mind.”
Further, into the article there’s information from Luke Tyburski a man from London who’s been dealing with depression and what he says at the end is something that truly hits home for me. We do indeed forget the importance that interaction and relationships with other people have in our lives and the power it has on our wellbeing.
Tyburski believes that it is his relationships that will give him strength as he continues to deal with depression. “My journey is far from over, but I would urge anyone who is suffering in silence to simply regularly meet up and chat with a close friend, or another human being, as having a connection with someone, from my experience, can go along way to helping anyone feel supported. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, but just start a conversation with a person you have a relationship with, and you may begin to smile on the inside, as well as the outside.”
These and many other articles like these just goes to show the positive impact that socialising can have, especially on someone who is suffering from a mental illness. It’s pretty much why I’m glad that I did go out to that family gathering even though I was reluctant before it and anxious during it. I had fun and it was nice to see different people and do something as a group and not just alone. (Yes, it was mentally draining for me and I have absolutely no clue how I’m so wired to write this but let’s just roll with it shall we?)
So you’re wondering how you can socialise with others? My example of a party may seem daunting and it is… You don’t need to rush into a small room full of loads of people or into a nightclub or anything like that. You can take small steps that I probably will be trying myself.
The previously linked article on psychologytoday.com had some examples. (Okay, mostly with the older generation in mind but the premise still applies to everyone!) Below are some good examples, including some from their list.
- Reach out to some of your friends you haven’t contacted in a while.
- Sign up for a course.
- If you’re religious attend service at your appropriate place or go to one of their groups.
- volunteer with a charity event like a food bank, animal rescue etc
- Meet up with a friend for a coffee / quiet drink
- Play a group sport
- Join a community group/course run in your local area
- Play board/card/video games with people
- Talk to people in one of the support places I mention
- Invite friends over to your house to sit and chat
- Learn a new hobby that someone can maybe teach you.
There are so many ways you can do this. The key thing to remember is to start small, don’t rush in or you’re just going to overwhelm yourself. Maybe set yourself small goals and aim to achieve them, building them up bit by bit each time.
I mean with me at the moment? My goal is to isolate myself less and talk to/bother with the housemate more often again. Maybe then, I’ll move on to other things. I know my CPN wants me to get out and socialise a bit more as it will help my mental health in the long run. I’ve been referred to and given information about places I could go to that will be a social experience with people who are going through similar things to me. I’ll probably try those in time and I know I have an emotion-regulating course to go to in the new year which means I will be socialising with others doing that. For now, at this moment in time. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’ll be building on that as time goes by.
The point I’m trying to make is, you don’t have to suffer alone. If the biggest thing right now is you’re isolating yourself and you’re feeling low or in crisis then the biggest and most important step you need to take is reaching out. That in itself will be a huge help to you and again, by doing this you are being social and getting the help that you need. I can’t emphasise this enough. You need to reach out if you’re feeling that way because there is a point to you carrying on, there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel. It won’t be easy but with the right support, you will get there just like I’m trying to. Anyway, believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve done that and I’m pretty sure if they handed out T-shirts… my drawers would be full.
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