Depression: living with self doubt.

Self doubt strikes me everywhere. It plagues my brain, invades my being making life tough. It is almost every other thought I have.

It doesn’t discriminate. Too many times to mention. In meetings, conversations with friends, time to myself and even during the weekly Tesco shop.

I seriously see so little value in myself so often. I am super critical of every word I speak. I beat myself up for acting/not acting in a certain way. I replay so much of my life with a overly critical brain.

I blame myself for everything. I often cannot see anything good in who I am. I fail to realise any positive actions I might take. I only see the negative.

I see the worst of me at all times. Boring, ugly, fat, shy, introverted, self centred, moody…the list could go on and on.

I’m not at all surprised when I lose contact with people. I know it is my fault. I can think of so many reasons why people don’t want to see me anymore.

The self doubt causes me to push people away. I’m so scared of losing contact that I often initiate it unwillingly feeling at least this way I am in control.

I consistently fear my husband will get fed up of me. I worry he will want to walk away.

I even spend time pondering how the unconditional love my two boys have for me will one day change. Perhaps when they are aware of my failings.

This crippling self doubt stops me from being myself. It stops me doing what I want to do in my career. It affects the relationships in all aspects of my day.

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Never felt so ill.

This morning was a new low for me. Never before (even when I was off work for 6 months) have I felt as bad mentally as I did this morning. With no reason for the depths it was crippling.

I felt like the black dog was sat on my head. I could barely carry my head on my shoulders. I felt like the storm cloud was pouring down on me. I felt sick with anxiety, which I couldn’t pin point a cause to. I felt lifeless. I felt dead inside.

I got up with my boys as it was my husbands turn for a lie in. I pushed myself so hard to feel better. I even made healthy muffins in an attempt to refocus the brain. It didn’t help.

By 9am I was lying on the bed staring into space. I craved just lying there all day (like I have done before). More than ever before, to a deeper extent, I felt like depression was eating away at my soul. It was like I was truly losing who I was.

I forced myself into the day. With a husband streaming with hay fever and complaining that I am so hard to live with when I am like this (which I am). His concern that I must take some time off work because I can’t go in like this, kicked me into action (I’m desperate not to let work down again).

I forced myself into the shower and started to tackle the smallest of tasks. My youngest and I popped to Tesco whilst the eldest and my husband navigated the tennis lesson.

After lunch I sat in our lean to outside feeling that the dementors from Harry Potter had truly stole every living part of me. I was trying to put on a brave face for my husband and children whilst snapping at them so easily. I finally gave in and went for a nap.

Being woken an hour and a half later by my youngest putting teddies around my head, I felt extremely groggy. My head was that horrible, gritty sleepy that I get if I sleep too long in the day. But thankfully the depression had lifted a bit.

As I told my husband I will take the sleepy grogginess over the depression any day. He commented that I was brighter. I was. I felt i could feel again. I felt like life was there for me again.

Please don’t expect people with depression and anxiety to always explain why they are ill. There isn’t always a reason. I have a poorly head. My brain is sick. I don’t necessarily need to have had something happen in my life to cause that.

Please don’t call people who commit suicide selfish. If you have never experienced depression you can’t possibly understand what it truly feels like. People who commit suicide do not want to die. They are instead desperate to end the pain of depression. It is the worst feeling you can ever encounter.

It isn’t like the pain of childbirth or other extreme physical pain. It is a deep and gut wrenching ache. It’s like someone has cored our your heart and soul as easily as you core an apple.

Please don’t judge.

Please listen.

Please understand.

Please don’t worry.

The last few days have been horrific for my mental health. Primarily a lack of sleep have compounded the fragility caused by recent counselling sessions. It’s still staggering to me how quickly I can spiral into darkness.

The self harm has returned to its worse. Last night I went out with a friend but came back and couldn’t stop. My mind was racing with the conversations and anxiety for today. Self-harm used as my comfort blanket.

The suicidal thoughts are back. I’m honestly not about to go and do anything at this moment. (Husband…take a deep breath and calm down). But the ideas are certainly flying around my mind. Walking past a previous precarious location at the weekend sent my mind wandering where it is not wanted.

The lack of focus is really bad. I haven’t really got back into reading since this episode of depression started 18months ago. But a tell tell sign for me right now is that I can’t even focus on anything to watch. I can’t make a decision even about that.

Another sign I’m doing the pushing people away thing. At work I’m too scared to talk to some people because they will immediately read how unwell I am. Other friends I’m putting off and not wanting to see because I’m just too tired and can’t face company.

And the sleep completely gone to pot. This never helps and makes me feel perhaps much worse than I would if I had some good sleep.

But please don’t worry. I haven’t shared this to get you all running. I haven’t written this because I’m in crisis. I haven’t written this because I want any different treatment.

There is a part of me which is trying to hold onto the message that it will get better. There is a part of me which is trying to hold onto what a good friend said yesterday “the tiredness is making this so much worse”. There is part of me which knows it will hopefully turn a corner again sometime soon.

I can still function. At work today I sat with colleagues as the directors spoke to us and I felt comfortable and at ease. At home this evening I played with my boys like I didn’t have a care in the world.

Let’s hope a good nights sleep helps.

P.s. I went for watching the film nottinghill on Netflix as I can just zone in and out of that I have seen it so many times!

Rocked by revelations

In an attempt to be rid of depression I have counselling once a week. I force myself to go through it. I make myself go. I battle the fear. I battle the thoughts of your well you don’t need it.

Counselling really does help me to feel better. I have seen a few different people over the past year but I have been with my current counsellor for nearly a year now. What sets her apart is her kindness. Her pure care and concern. Her constant reassurance.

She is the voice my head is often missing. She is the kind, understanding voice that the depression has squashed. She shows a concern for my wellbeing when I feel like a burden to everyone.

But at the same time counselling is incredibly difficult at times. My last session on Friday brought a new realisation. We have been working through things from my past slowly. Essentially I know it is a long process to wellness.

But it’s also a really hard one. Talking through things has made me realise so much about the past. It has opened my mind to why I feel like I do. A series of revelations has rocked me. I can’t stop processing it. Questioning it. I keep going over and over it.

By Tuesday things had built up so much that the depression and anxiety took a real turn for the worse. I couldn’t sleep at night. The anxiety was making me feel sick. I was very low. I couldn’t process anything. My mind was just wobbling everywhere.

My husband advised I took the day off work. He was worried. He didn’t want it to spiral again. He didn’t want me to become overwhelmed with the illness again.

Yesterday I did take the day. I slept much of it. I went for a walk in the country for the rest. It really did help put me back on a level keel. I felt much calmer and ready for life to throw at me.

However, it is still plaguing me. It is something I will have to talk through with my counsellor on Friday to try and get some clarity. Before it eats me alive completely.

There isn’t always a reason why depression strikes!

A week on holiday. It has been good. Friends, family, days out, holidays and mainly great weather. All week I have been good. Positive moods. Happy. Content.

But depression doesn’t have a plan. Depression is an illness that can strike at anytime. Depression doesn’t always have a reason. Today depression hit me hard.

The lowest day I’ve had in months. There is no reason for it. Nothing to worry about. Nothing I didn’t want to do. Just time at home with the family, the garden and the sunshine.

But depression came calling. A deep dark shadow hang over me all day. The black dog sat on me making me incapable of any action. All day a black storm cloud rained numbness down on me.

Today depression sucked the energy out of me. I had plans. I had ideas. But I couldn’t do any of them. I felt like I was stuck in quick sand. Being sucked into a complete abyss of nothingness.

Today I largely gave in to it. Today I mainly sat. Today I mostly spent the day consumed with my dark cloud.

My husband has been good today. He has been patient. He has been kind. He has been a great friend as well as a husband.

I always end days like these feeling guilty. Guilty for the lack of energy. Guilty for the the lack of action. Guilty for the effect on my family. Depression has taken its toll. Today I feel like giving up.

It’s all about balance…being a parent and a teacher.

I have just read an article by @thosethatcan that advocates You can be a great teacher and a great parent. A year ago I would have argued wholeheartedly that she was wrong. Off work with stress and depression from my role of part time head of department in a secondary school, the combination of parent and teacher seemed to have sent me to breaking point.

After going back to work when my youngest child was 8 months old and also having a 3 year old; it wasn’t long before I was off work with stress. Juggling the work load and the extreme student expectations that leadership had, brought me to breaking point.

Depression returned. Self-harm hit me again with ferocity. Suicidal thoughts became reality. 6 months off work. Teaching truly seemed incompatible with parenthood.

Eventually I returned to work. Still very poorly but feeling like I needed to earn money to keep my family afloat. I didn’t think teaching and parenting was a long term option. It had made me seriously ill.

One year on and my thoughts have changed. I have returned to the same job. I haven’t had a day off with stress or depression in a year. I have managed to find a balance between my two loves being a parent and a teacher.

How have I done it?

  1. I have hold tight to the promise I made myself. My first priority are my own children. I want to enjoy them whilst they are young. Be with them. Treasure them. I don’t allow work to get in the way of that.
  2. My expectations of myself are lower. I’m not a perfectionist. I will try my hardest whilst at work. I plan good lessons, I interact with the students and I try to inspire them. However I have learnt to accept some things can’t get done. I have to say no more. I still believe I’m a great teacher without all the extra stuff.
  3. I care less about what others think. One of the things that made me so ill was the expectations of leadership for mine and student performance. Now my attitude has changed. I am content with the belief that I am doing the best I can for the students. My lesson observations are always outstanding. The students enjoy my lessons and want to learn. If I don’t pass these arbitrary targets set for my performance management then what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I know I’m a good teacher and I can’t do anymore or I will be ill again.
  4. At one time progression in my career was so important. Now nearly aged 35 I have been head of department of a core subject for ten years. I have come to terms with new goals. Right now career progression is not on the cards as I don’t have the time or the inclination. My children are my priority. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent and progress your career. It is just for me I have found out balance and wellness comes with being content in what you have.
  5. Rest! What you say parent and teacher when does that happen? I now make it happen. An occasional nap when my 2year old naps on my days off. Watching tv in the evenings instead of working all night. Tiredness makes me stressed and pushes the depression I suffer with out of control.

Now I am at the point where I am most of the time being a great teacher and a great parent. I have the balance right for me. I’m lucky my husband is a teacher too and he gets the stresses and the strains. We also have amazing holiday times when we are all together as a family.

I’m so glad I have found a way to manage. I love teaching and being a parent is my greatest achievement and brings the most joy. You can do both if you work out a way that works for you.

Sun, sand, sea and my mental health.

The last few days we have been away with friends. It has been a treasured time. It has helped myself and my husband relax. It felt like the change of scene was a magic wand.

Firstly the holiday was shared with friends who have boys a similar age to ours. That was so special. Seeing them play their games. Seeing them interact. Watching without always having to come up with the entertainment. Sharing in the pure joy of being away with your best friends.

Secondly being with fellow parents who share your ways with their children. Follow the same type of routines and patterns. New friends that are such good company. I feel relaxed in their presence. Lots of laughter and fun.

Thirdly the bank holiday weather was glorious for us. We spent three days at the beach. The four boys sparkled with complete joy. Playing in the sand. Making up their own games. In the sea pure excitement. The complete bursting fun of a two year old discovering the great time that can be had jumping in the waves. All four of the boys running in and out of the water with such energy.

My mental health really does go up and down like a yo-yo. But right now it’s up on a lovely level page. I feel content. The sun, sea, sand holiday has really settled my brain. It feels like the wind and sea has blown away my worries. It feels like seeing my children’s joy has planted the seed of happiness deep within my being. For now the holiday has lightened my spirits.