Monday, 5 February 2018

How Living in the Countryside Improved My Mental Health

I've suffered from anxiety for most of my life, and eventually depression became a part of it too. I've always lived in the country, mainly in villages surrounded by fields, but when I moved in with my fiance, I went from village living to being the only two houses on our road. I've noticed a huge improvement regarding my mental health and subsequently my behavior.

To go along with my anxiety, I also have an adaptive disorder and paranoia. It can make new experiences oh-so-fun. Before, going out meant I would 100% see other people or have to pass a group of people at some point. Having neighbors meant I wouldn't go in the garden on my own, because I knew they could see me if they looked out of their windows. I would rather keep the shutters closed all day and sit in the dark, than risk opening them and by some chance someone seeing into my room.

It wasn't a great time in my life. This was around the same time I gave up college because it wasn't making things any easier for me. That was now three years ago, and I can't believe how far I've come. I had a year of limbo when I first moved back to the UK, everything was new and I met family members I hadn't seen for years. Then I somehow got incredibly lucky, met B and moved in with him.

Having an outside space, where no-one could see me and I couldn't see anyone else -meant I regularly went outside again. I found joy in being outside, rather than constant panic. I started opening curtains again instead of sitting in the dark. I would sing and dance and do whatever I wanted to do, without the fear of being watched. I became me again.

I started noticing things had changed about a year of living there, and in turn I started to wonder why and what had changed for me to change. There were still very stressful things going on in my life, but I was able to separate them from myself and my day to day life. After some thinking, I think I've got it.

I regained control.

I decided when I went out. I decided when I had visitors. I decided when I went shopping. If I was having a bad day and didn't want to see anyone, I didn't have to. I wasn't listening to voices from the street or cars going past constantly. When I was alone, I actually felt alone. 

I stayed on my medication for a few months after I moved, but I slowly came off of it completely. I went from being an unfeeling zombie to actually feeling again and reacting to things. My medication had been so high that I didn't react to things like a normal person anymore. As soon as I was free from all the affects, I started to laugh more. I actually had fun. I still had bad days, and still do, but I get to weigh them out with good days. 

The slow-paced life of the countryside is what helped me regain control of my life again. Not having to force myself to go out or do things I didn't want to was a blessing. If I was having a good day and I fancied seeing people, I knew the chances of finding a crowd of people huddled up somewhere in a field were very low. I occasionally see a couple of dog walkers, push-bikers here and there, maybe a runner or two, but there's no obligation to talk and there's none of that weird smile-in-case-they-look-but-don't-actually-look-at-them thing. I get to shout "Morning!" and I'll more than likely get a jolly reply.

Giving myself time to heal and to find myself in a place I felt 100% safe was the best thing I could have done for myself and my mental health. The country might not be for everyone, but caring for yourself definitely is.

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