Guilt, recovery and distraction

Recovery for me, and I suppose others to, can feel like a bit of a hamster wheel or a cycling chair lift you can’t jump off from. Leading up to Christmas I felt quite mentally unwell. I neglected family and friends for months, I wasn’t involved in the family Christmas, I said and did things I’m not proud of. I know I used to be a good person, but I am struggling to get back there. Each time I make a step forwards I am hit in the face with the guilt of what I’ve failed to do, the people I’ve let down, flashbacks to behaviors I’m not proud of . Having mood swings feels hard, sometimes I can achieve loads and keep to commitments – often planning outlandish ideas or taking on to much and other times I can’t do anything, daily functioning is treacle. I think people struggle understand the fluctuation and at times I wish it was just one way or the other.

This weekend I was hit with further feelings of guilt and shame, I’d read some pretty negative literature of how the difficulties I have can make me a hopeless parent. Without any support or anyone to talk to about the autism diagnosis I’ve been given or any other suggestion of my failures which are put on the table when I have my ‘care’ reviewed, I feel at a loss.There’s a lack of educational information either online or in writing about how to parent better or function in work if you are finding things hard. I just want to know how to do better and I don’t know how. I’m on a sinking ship with a big sign for help in my hands.

At the moment the only string to my bow is the outdoors, when faced with feelings of guilt and shame it’s really hard to get outside. I was desperate to get to the sea this weekend, but couldn’t face the journey on the motorway, the worse I feel the higher the anxiety is. It feels so pathetic to give in. I nearly wrote off Sunday, but something in me wanted to push on, to do something, anything. I managed to pick a place on the map and plan a walk to somewhere we hadn’t been before. Normally I distract myself from feeling bad by taking photos, but on this occasion the weather was too overcast for many photo opportunities. Instead I listened to the humming of the bees and flies in the green lane we were walking through, it reminded me of the soundtrack to a wild west film, the humid air and lush vegetation making me feel like I was in the jungle. I kept my mind busy by naming all the things I could recognise in the lane – wild garlic, cow parsley, pink campion, speckled wood butterfly and tuning my ears into the bird song, trying to find the right song on the avian radio. The distraction of navigation continued to keep me occupied – there’s something about walking through English farmland which feels like a moveable puzzle, pushing the pieces around to get them into the right place, debating the right way to go and using the map for clues. Away from the chaotic sounds of the city I did feel a bit better, I wanted so badly for it to fix me, to take away the loathing. We came to a beautiful still lake, I could still see the beauty, the ability to still see this beauty hasn’t been taken away from me. I always like to end a blog with a conclusion or a hopeful point, but the water in the lake is muddy, there is algae and I don’t know how to swim away. Perhaps a blog can end with a question, distraction is a useful tool to have in your armory but what happens when it isn’t enough?

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4 thoughts on “Guilt, recovery and distraction

  1. Another interesting and very readable post
    You’re very critical of yourself here, but people that comment on your social media posts think very highly of you – both friends and colleagues. So you must be doing something right 🙂 I know how difficult it is to accept praise from others, when you don’t feel like that yourself. But please remember that others value you.
    On your point about distraction not working – if I badly need distraction, I go to somewhere very familiar, such as Hyde Park. That’s because I know for certain that I will see birds I like e.g swans and grebes. If I’m feeling bad I don’t take the risk of going somewhere where I may not easily find birds.

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  2. Jayne Louise

    I read this and cried, it was so relatable, and so perfectly described your situation and your feelings in a way I never could. If you’re half as good a mother as you are at expressing yourself, you should have no worries on that score. The literature you read clearly painted a negative picture of difficulties you ‘can’ face, but not necessarily ‘will’ face. You are undoubtedly very intelligent, articulate and capable. Three attributes to be proud of, thankful for, and which will help you to make a success of any aspect of life to which you apply yourself. You may feel so at times, but you are not alone in this world. I hope you find it comforting and reassuring to know that there are others out there, like you and me, struggling with mental health but, despite that, want to provide mutual support for other sufferers. I am grateful to you because this post has helped me tremendously. I hope that knowing that helps you to feel better about yourself.

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  3. Jayne Louise

    PS In answer to your question, distraction only works for so long It doesn’t ‘cure’ the underlying cause of your distress. Easy to say I know, but acknowledging and accepting your feelings is a must. And self love. Be kind to yourself as you would be to a friend in mental distress. I’ve started a daily journal called My Five a Day, and as a go to bed every night I write five positive things about the day. Even small things count, like taking a beatiful photo or listening to birdsong. In other words, end every day focussing on the positive … helps sleep quality and mood on waking the next morning. Hope this helps x

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