It’s safe to say I’ve never really been a fan of me. I don’t like the way I look, I’m great at self deprecation, and my default has been to drag up things from decades ago to feel guilty about and torment myself over. I’ve spent hours mulling over situations and people or friendships I have no control over.. but that’s changing.
I had an epiphany a few nights ago. I was having my usual Friday night internal tussle about whether to drive to the supermarket and buy a bottle of wine, or something stronger. But I managed to stop myself. I told myself that I love myself too much to fuck things up, so I didn’t go.
Let me rewind a bit. Over the past few years, well much longer if I’m really honest, I’ve turned to booze to fade out my negative thoughts or if I was feeling stressed, depressed or anxious about something. At the worst point last year that I was able to polish off about 3-4 bottles of wine in a week and the occasional bottle of port (at home) and lots more if I went out.
I had occasional embarrassing blackouts, where I have zero recollection of the last few hours of the night or how I got home. Scary stuff.
I think for me, the biggest thing that has helped me start to change (and not just the drinking) is becoming more self aware.
Over the years I’ve had boughts of depression, some horrendous and almost life changing (I’ll spare you the details) and some where I’ve just been unable to leave the house, or get out of bed. Over the past 20-something years though, I’ve become much more aware of what’s happening to me, I was able to see the signs that a depressive phase might be creeping up on me and to try and combat it.
I’ve accepted that this happens from time to time, and I know what some of the triggers are. I can see it coming most of the time now. I’ve learnt that reaching out to my sister or certain friends (not everyone knows how to handle someone having a mental meltdown) but I know who these people are, and that they can, and will, support me when I reach out.
After all, not talking to anyone about how I was feeling and what I was going through, was nearly the end of me in my early 20’s. I learnt that lesson the hard way, but I am much more aware of how I’m feeling now than I ever was. And I talk about it.
Back to more recent times. Last year I began making some plans to change up a few things in my life. I was feeling low, but not disaster-inducing low. It was time for change. The first change I made was the decision to look for a remote job. I landed one. I curbed my drinking to just Friday nights as I wanted to put everything I had into my new job. Working remotely also gave me the freedom to look for somewhere else to live. I could work anywhere in Europe.
So on top of the change in job, I decided to move country again, this time from France to Portugal. I’d never been to Portugal before and didn’t know anyone there (my closest friends would now be in South west Spain). Having made a few decisions like this, I was already starting to feel better. I was back in control of my life and the direction it was taking. Instead of feeling trapped, broke and unhappy, I could see that my future was looking brighter.
Being broke and barely making it through each month had really taken its toll over the past 3-4 years. I had one full time job and two part time jobs to try to make ends meet. It was a constant struggle and as they saying goes, all work and no play makes for a very unhappy person.
With my new job and change of location, I’ve become a lot more financially free, and my, what a change it’s made to my spirits! Having that weight off my shoulders in the past few months has been fantastic. I’ve got a few months to go before I’ve settled out my French account (I’m still paying off my trip to Peru) but I can see and end point. I’ve even been planning on topping up my pension, yes that’s right – me, planning for the future. Who’d have thought?!
I am aware that I’m overweight and the only thing I can do to change my physical appearance, is to loose weight and do more exercise. I found this app called Noom a few months ago (or should I say, it found me, through a targeted ad campaign on Instagram). It’s been great for me since not only is it a weight and food tracker, it’s packed full of cleverly written and often funny articles about mindfulness, learning to practice self love and understanding. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Noom – you rock!
Celebrating small successes
Sometimes it really is the small things that make a difference or give you a lift. I’ve learnt (through Noom, talking to friends, some self help books and blogs) to notice and appreciate the small successes I have day to day. It could be as simple as making my bed, doing the washing up before going to bed or cleaning the bathroom. It’s a good way to look at the things I can achieve, no matter how small. Lots of little things start to build up to bigger things, like cleaning the whole house, tidying up the yard or even doing something big like moving to a new country I’ve never visited before. From little acorns…
Getting a good night’s sleep, and not one where I’ve passed out from too much alcohol, is really beneficial. I have at least 8 hours every night, and I wind down for at least an hour before I actually go to sleep by reading in bed for around an hour. It’s become a good habit and means I wake up fog-free and ready to tackle the day.
Affirmations and meditation
I’m still working on this, but saying things out loud or to myself can really start to build new habits and strengthen the way I’m feeling. Things as simple as “I can do this” and “you’re doing so well” are simple but effective. With meditation, I find this harder to make time for at the moment but I know it would be good to build it into my day. Simple things like sitting still and listening to my breathing for 15 minutes has a really calming effect. I’m going to search out some sounds of waves breaking and save it on my phone to listen to, as I find this really calming and I’m sure it will help.
Do what makes you happy
I’m a strong believer in doing things that make you happy. That’s you and not what people or society think or say you should do. Figure out what makes YOU smile and do more of it. For example I love driving and I love music, so pairing the two together on a road trip to explore someplace new in Portugal, has become my go-to weekend activity. Oh, and singing at the top of my lungs to a good song on the way, also helps! Happy days.
Bright colours make me happy. My wardrobe and my house are full of them these days. I painted my nails in two different colours yesterday and instantly felt a little better. I have a giant elephant drape in about 20 different colours hanging over the spare bed, I love it. Seeing or wearing bright colours definitely has a positive impact on my mental health. It might be that I’m wearing a pair of brightly coloured knickers or bra, no-one else can see them but I know I’m wearing them 😉
Ditch social media
I fell out of love with social media over the last year and recently decided to take a complete hiatus from Facebook and Instagram (I had already ditched Twitter the year before). Twitter is full of bad vibes and negativity and I was posting crazy rants whilst drunk, which I then had to find and delete the next day. Not good. I no longer felt that I wanted to get approval for my posts or photos, so I turned off Facebook and Instagram too.
I realised that social media makes friendships lazy. I stay in touch with friends and family in lots of other ways, plus I don’t get bombarded by advertising on WhatsApp or Skype. I’m not constantly picking up my phone to see if someone liked my post or snooping through other people’s pictures, if I want to hear about what someone is doing, I’ll call them.
I have way too many apps on my phone already, so dropping a few that I felt were giving me more of a negative vibe felt good, and I don’t miss them. You could argue this blog is social media, but I am using it for me, to write down my thoughts, feelings and the occasional adventure. Make a change, don’t be a sheep ditch social media! I definitely feel better for doing it.
I’ve always loved wildlife, whether that’s animals or plants and trees. I love being outdoors, listening to the sounds of the forest, when there are no cars or people nearby. It’s very calming. Recently I bought a wildlife camera trap and some bird feeders. There’s so much wildlife around my house and I want to see more of it. I found four roe deer early one morning in the field at the front of the house, and I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve heard wild boar sniffling and snorting around in the dark. I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m hoping to record them on the wildlife camera. I’ve also been using this app Seek for about a year now, which helps you identify different species and log them. I really recommend it (for adults and kids) 🙂
Learning and reading
I love to learn new things and I love reading, whether it’s a magazine or a good old fashioned paperback. As part of my self-love treats (wine is no longer considered a treat), I’ve re-subscribed to National Geographic and bought a new subscription to Archaeology magazine. I can’t wait for the first few copies to arrive. I’ve been finding new books on Amazon and I’m ordering around 3-4 a month as I don’t want to run out. My thirst for books is sky-rocketing, whilst my thirst for booze is on the wane. Hoorah to that!
I do a lot of writing in my job, but I find it really cathartic to write down personal stuff. I always have, whether it’s been a private post that I never shared with anyone and later deleted, or on a piece of paper that I later threw out. The throwing out part has also been quite satisfying. Bye bye negative thoughts.
It’s the main reason why I came back to this blog after a few years break. Putting things down on paper, so to speak, really helps me feel off-loaded, so if you’re following this blog there will be a lot more to come! And as if they could read my mind, this came up in my Noom feed this week.
I feel like I’ve got a way to go yet, but these past few weeks have been some of the happiest and most self aware I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m actually starting to like my life, the way things are going and maybe even myself just a little bit.
Next on my list to overcome is smoking and getting more exercise, in that order or maybe in conjunction with each other. But it feels achievable with my newly found happy head.
Primal Scream’s “Moving on Up” came on in the car today too and it couldn’t feel more appropriate 🙂