Mental Podcast Show

So yesterday was the 12th of May, also known in the UK as Mass Observation Day! Every year, the Mass Observation Archive asks people to keep a diary for the day in order to record the everyday lives of the UK population. I’ve been keeping diaries for most of my life and I think that the idea of pulling together all of these accounts in order to get a picture of an ordinary day in the life, whatever that might look like, for a big group of people is really, really cool so I always try to participate. Here is my contribution for this year.

Some important things to know before reading: I’m neurodivergent, autistic and ADHD, and struggle with multiple mental health issues (Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder) and physical health problems (Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Having spent eighteen months in the worst depressive episode of my life, I’m recently back on medication and trying to get my feet under me again, working hard at both therapy and hydrotherapy. I’ve also recently released my latest single as a singersongwriter, ‘House on Fire,’ and am working towards several other projects.

I slept through two alarms, completely exhausted. I’d had a really late night in London seeing Ingrid Andress in concert (supported by Nick Wilson), which was absolutely amazing but between the energy expended and how late I got home, I was beyond tired.

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A post shared by Lauren Alex Hooper (@laurenalexhooper)

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A post shared by Lauren Alex Hooper (@laurenalexhooper)

When I finally managed to force myself awake around eleven, I lay in bed for a little while: I did a quick check in with social media (I’m trying really hard to find a healthy balance around time on my phone), did some Duolingo practice, and read a little bit of my book (both of these things are habits that I’m trying to practice daily). Then I got up and got ready for the rest of the day.

At one, I had a Zoom date with one of my best friends. We had a good catch up about what’s being going on for each of us, with many a tangent on kind of bizarre topics like alternate universes or the different sounds that insects make. And then we continued watching the TV series we’ve been watching together for the last few months, a series we both enjoyed when we were younger; we love it but we also love making fun of it so we always have a blast. We managed to watch two episodes and had a great time before I had to go. I didn’t have long before my therapy appointment so I got my bag ready and then fiddled around on my guitar until I had to leave (I haven’t been able to play for long stretches of time recently since I hurt a couple of my fingers so I’m trying to build it up again).

I was so tired and really sleepy (one of the ongoing symptoms of my health struggles and quite likely a side effect of my medication), plus my chronic pain was pretty bad (my shoulder and knee have been particularly painful for several days now), but I tried my best to push through and engage the best I could with therapy. In some ways, it was a fairly chilled session (as they go): my therapist had asked me to send her the poetry I’ve been working on over the last month or so, which I did. But it was also hard and I felt really vulnerable because most of the poems are so honest and so revealing. There were some that I said, before we even started, that I couldn’t talk about; just writing about those topics and sharing them (my anxiety about them was so high that I was really tempted to leave them out) was a big step forward. Obviously I want my therapist to know about these struggles but talking about them is beyond difficult (just the thought of it makes me want to scream or run or both); this is the best I can do for now. So we went through the poems, talking about what inspired them and my feelings about those people or experiences or struggles, which inevitably turned into bigger discussions. That meant that we didn’t get through all of them but we did cover some important stuff. I’ve been back at therapy for a while now – several months – but my new therapist is still getting to know me and I’m still getting comfortable with her; there are many things that I can talk about but there are still things that I can’t, things that I’ve never been able to. It’s a process, as I often have to remind myself.

Back home, I talked with my Mum about some of the stuff that had come up in the session but I’m always completely exhausted after therapy – I have been known to fall asleep on the sofa afterwards, hence the late afternoon appointments – so I checked in with the cats, put on The Good Place (my current rewatch), and lay on the sofa for a bit. I called one of my parents for a catch up, had some dinner, and then spent the rest of the evening working on some different things for this blog.

What should’ve been a fairly pleasant evening was complicated a bit by how bad my hair pulling has gotten. That restless, anxious energy that drives me to keep doing it is so hard to resist, especially when I’m tired, and the longer I do it, the more it hurts: my scalp, my neck, my shoulder, my elbow, my hand. But I can’t stop. There have been periods of time where different coping mechanisms have at least reduced the amount of hair pulling but I don’t have one that’s working right now. It’s frustrating and it’s exhausting and painful but I just can’t stop, regardless of how much I want to. I did look into Hypnotherapy briefly a long time ago but didn’t get very far with that endeavour, maybe because it always felt like there were bigger things going on, but maybe I’ll try again because it’s been ten years and it would be really nice not to do this anymore.

Given how tired I was, I tried to go to bed earlier – I’ve been going to bed far too late – and while I did go to bed a bit earlier, I still ended up staying up too late, catching up with my diary. I had multiple cats curled up with me, which was very sweet, so it could’ve been worse and, after all of my problems with sleep, I did at least go to sleep quickly and easily; I’m always grateful for that now, having struggled so much over the last couple of years.

So it wasn’t the most fascinating day of my life but it’s pretty accurate to my life right now and I guess that’s the point of the exercise. It’s a normal day in my life and this is what normal looks like right now, for the most part.

If you keep a diary or want to note down some thoughts about what your 12th of May looked like, the website is here, where you can learn more about this project (and their other work) and submit your entry if you would like to.

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