Back in about February I was looking through my planner and thought to myself “At least April’s going to be a lovely month.”
You don’t want the details, but suffice it to say that I was wrong, and this idea seems absolutely wild to me now. Admittedly, the things I thought I’d like about April were very good: I had three and a half lovely days in Denmark and a night at the St Hugh’s Ball where at least I looked above my personal average.
But there were also sleepless nights (and not the good kind), 229 hours in the office and a kind of stress that made my face ache (the feeling was so unusual that I would regularly check if I was having a nosebleed).
I’ve struggled with depression before and since then it’s always been vaguely comforting to me when my distress has a very obvious external cause, and it’s not just my own brain deciding to mess me around for no comprehensible reason. But that’s a fairly cold kind of comfort, and sometimes you just want to feel better, regardless of whether or not feeling bad has a traceable reason.
In positive news, this was a great month for discovering some good things and some ways to help myself. Where negativity has been pressed on me from the outside, I have looked for ways to help myself reframe, to take myself away from it or fight back against it and I’m going to share five of them here with you, like a little mental health edit.
The Gentlewoman has this little column where people write about things they’ve only just discovered are great which everyone else has known about forever, and I am very much considering writing to them about Snapple. I should say, I am not being paid by Snapple (heck, I wish), and nor is it a spoof product placement like 30 Rock did.
But, blimey, that drink has done a weird amount for me this month. It makes everyone think of New York, which is generally a mood-lifter. The iced tea has under 10 calories, which is great if you’re weird about your food like me. It comes in a glass bottle so you can recycle it as a water bottle or a vase. It has little tidbits on the inside of the lid, which are sometimes deliberately false (in case you ever run dry of #fakenews). Sometimes they are uplifting, sometimes they say “Even fish can drown.”
- Ruby Tandoh
This is the point where I lose half of my readership by admitting that I don’t watch The Great British Bake Off and I’d never heard of Ruby Tandoh until I saw her on twitter slagging off Tories. Have I said: I love her, she’s great.
And then I read this article by her which quite frankly blew my mind by talking about people with eating trouble who don’t get the support they need for their eating disorder because it isn’t chronic enough or because they aren’t dangerously underweight even though it has effectively taken over their life. I was staggered by the extent to which I related to it (and I’m probably going to write about it at some point later on).
I’m gradually working my way through a new mental health zine that Ruby has contributed to called “Do What You Want”, which I can very much recommend as both a publication and a mantra.
- Parks and Recreation
I confess, I have resisted watching Parks and Recreation for ages, though it has been recommended to me many times. I’ve told people that I just haven’t got round it, but that’s not been entirely true.
The truth is, I can find depictions of seemingly relentless positivity quite grating. The clips I’d seen of the protagonist Leslie Knope made me think that she’d annoy the hell out of me. But I wanted a sitcom I could watch in 20 minutes and it was free with AmazonPrime and I was pleased to find that in the show as a whole, Leslie is actually a much more rounded character and behaves more like a real human than a walking smile. The show also has a very varied ensemble cast, and is hilarious. And, you know, laughter, medicine, etc.
And “Treat Yo Self” has got to be up there with “Do What You Want” for affirming things to say to yourself when you’re feeling down.
- Illustrations by Mari Andrew Mari Andrew is an illustrator who posts gorgeous, simple, clever and crazily profound little drawings to instagram and they’re just there like tiny, free little drops of light, and you should follow her account right now.
- Indulge in, hoard, collect and enjoy anything good that you can
This sounds bizarrely obvious, but it is worth remembering to actually keep enjoying the things you enjoy when you’re having a hard time. I have a definite tendency to treat the things I enjoy as excessive and to feel guilty for enjoying myself if everything in my life is not pretty much in order. This is a completely counterproductive feeling, and definitely doesn’t make you feel better.
I’ve had a pinterest board for ages where I just save anything that catches my imagination for the better and I’ve been making a similar playlist since the start of the year – I’m definitely one of the millennial hoarders that The New Yorker takes the piss out of but I don’t really care. I can’t afford half of the nice things I want but saving them to a pinterest board makes me feel able to claim them a tiny bit by recognising their worth (is this absurd? idk, at least it’s cheap). What I’ve found really helpful is just taking a few minutes out to focus on something really nice, with overwhelmingly positive associations to breakaway from negative brainspace for a bit and have found it really helps my mood.
In short, April was like the person in the room that no one likes but sometimes has annoyingly good ideas. So I’m going to nick the ideas and run for my life.