Coronavirus lockdown UK

My last post was nearly 5 months ago. Blogging has always been essentially been for me first, a cathartic process of letting out my feelings and emotions; so without the need to do this I have stopped writing. Today I feel compelled to write again, after having a deeply distressing low day yesterday I feel the need to write to process.

So the isolation from everybody because of the coronavirus has now been going on nearly 3 weeks. It’s been a strange, hard, unique and joyful time! I’ve found the complete range of emotions mind boggling! I’ll start with the difficulties and challenges.

1. My parents are struggling but putting on a brave face. They are both in their 70’s so trying to stay at home apart from a daily walk. This would be hard in itself, but when you throw into the mix my mum is the carer for my dad who has Alzheimer’s it is extremely distressing for them both. All of his groups have obviously been cancelled and my mum’s breakaway trips to the gym are off too so it’s hard as there is no rest bite. He can’t do anything for himself and there are many added challenges too private to share here. I’m doing all their shopping and calling them twice a day. I have also encouraged my brothers to call them as often as they can.

2. My mother in law lives on her own and is lonely. Once again we try to call her twice a day and do FaceTime. Once again we have been doing all her shopping for her.

Both my mum, dad and mother in law have been in tears multiple times over the last 3 weeks. I know I am inclined for feeling empathy for others but worrying about these people has been really affecting me recently as I just wish I could do more to help them all.

3. Young children at home! My boys are 6 (in year 2 at school) and 4 (still at nursery). They have generally been great (I will go into the positives shortly) but it has also been a real challenge. The youngest doesn’t want to work as “we don’t do work at nursery”, the eldest has a strop every 5 mins “I can’t do it”. All I can say is hats off to all you parents trying to do some form of education at home. I’m a teacher (something I love) but teaching my own children is pushing me to the limit (and we only do 20 min chunks). Also when we don’t do work at the weekends and have no schedule they are worse! The initial novelty of being at home is wearing thin. They are “bored” and no matter what I come up with it lasts 5 mins or they aren’t interested! I’ve done bike rides, walks, learning, computer education, movie afternoons, puzzles, train tracks, Lego games, board games, making batman crafts, making Easter cards, making elmers, treasure hunts, obstacle courses, the list is endless! Yesterday when I had a minor meltdown it was because their low mood got to me. The eldest in particular was so sad and teary because he was missing his friends and grandparents. I felt this so much because there is nothing I can do to make it right, other than cuddle him which I did!

4. My husband. I love him so much but two people inclined to depression together on a lockdown can be tough. He like me is moody, up and down like a yo-yo and snappy. I’m not accusing him of anything I’m not like myself, we are both as bad as each other but it’s tough. He is like a caged bear at times, before this always known as the restless one who was constantly popping to the shop to get something. He is also not so creative with the children. He is a great dad but believes in letting them play all the time, whereas I like to do little things with them and then letting them play. It’s hard because I feel like I’m coming up with all the ideas myself.

5. We are having a house extension. It has been seriously slowed due to the lockdown. The windows and doors were meant to be delivered the day after lockdown started, they have not arrived. We have been living in a building site (inside and out).

So let’s not end up on the negative! There have been some unexpected positives too. My beautiful boys really are the light of my life. I have in general loved spending more time with them. Highlights have been bouncing on the trampoline, racing in the garden, playing tennis, snuggling on the sofa, having late night adventures, making cakes together and being with them. My husband and I have signed up to Disney + and started watching all the marvel films in chronological order, which has been great; mummy and daddy alone time in the evening snuggling down for a film. Finally although there building works on our house are slow, I keep trying to think of the finished project and my contentment when it is all over!

Lockdown is tough for people for all sorts of reasons but it also has its added positives.

Most importantly the sacrifices are worth it to rid our country of the coronavirus.

I keep thinking of someone I know who is the lead nurse of icu at our local hospital. He must be having such a tough time at work right now but he never complains. We just need to stay at home, it’s our bit to help the fight! It’s our job! We can do it! Stay at home and save lives!

Isolating

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while and the truth is this is because I have been really well. The truth is when I am well I don’t need to write. The truth is when I am poorly (and unable to talk about how I’m feeling) blogging is a very cathartic process.

Truth be known I’m not finding it easy to share with anyone how unwell I am at the moment. Even for those that do know I’ve hardly spoken a word. With a friend (who is also my boss) I wrote a list, unable to speak. She then contacted (with my permission) two people who she knew could help. Others I have either not said a word and hidden it perfectly or I have just said very little.

Honestly I don’t want to share because I’m scared. I truly believe that people are completely fed up of this endless cycle of depression that I never seem to get out of. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be felt of as a waste of space. Mostly because I already feel that of myself!

Currently I’m doing a good acting job most of the time. For many reasons, which are deep and subconscious and which I will not go into now, work is impossible; but I am hoping that most wouldn’t realise it. I’m still teaching with enthusiasm and vigour. I’m still managing my job (mostly). I’m still making conversation and smiling politely.

In the last week 3 different people, once knowing how ill I truly am have urged me to get signed off. But I am clinging on desperately. Being off ill in the past I currently don’t want to go down that road. Why when even though those who know are urging me to for my own health? For a few reasons 1. I don’t want to be a let down at work again 2. I am scared of being off because sometimes the loneliness of it can lead me to spiral 3. I want a new job and being off sick is not a good selling point!

I’ve even been lying to my counsellor and telling her everything is well. Next Friday is meant to be my last session after 18 months. Last session when I’m at such a low point, I know madness. I think the only sense I have reasoned right now is that after cancelling yesterday’s session, next week when I go I will be honest and extend it for now.

I’m not sure where this current depression will lead. I know it’s really bad in my head right now. I know all the worst bits of the past are very real. I know isolation is not a good plan for I’m scared to do anything else. Perhaps this blog post at least stops the isolation a little.

Is this what “normal” feels like?

For the last 10 years (perhaps even longer) mental illness, depression and anxiety, has plagued my life. In my blog I have tried so hard to articulate how this feels, to try and help those who have never experienced the black dog of depression understand just a little part of what it is like. Living with this illness has become my norm. Until now.

My last blog post shared how a new antidepressant had started to help. For just over two months I have been on citalopram. Over the past 10 years I have tried numerous antidepressants. In all that time not one has really rid the depression. Yes some have helped for a short while, or at least made me feel a bit numb to the intense emotions and anxiety so I have been more able to cope.

I know I have frustrated friends who haven’t understood why I have wanted to wean off them after a while. In all honesty it has always been because I have still felt ill even on them. Yes they might have helped in some way but not enough. As a side effect I have felt a bit out of it and dulled.

I had got to the point where I truly believed they did no good. Worse still though, I was blaming myself more and more. Perhaps I was making this depression up? Maybe I don’t have anything really wrong with my head? Maybe the chemicals really are all in balance and I’m just a big fat failure.

So when the latest attack of the depression hit, and I hadn’t been on any medication at the time, it took a lot of convincing mainly by two very good friends for me to return to the doctor and seek more medication. This time everything is so different!

I keep asking myself is this what it feels like to have a normal brain? Is this how it feels to not have a mental illness? I feel like I have had one for so long I have forgotten what it is like without one? It’s almost impossible for me to put it into words but it is like I have woken up out of a nightmare that has been my head. No longer is everything surrounded by grey. No longer am I in a fog.

I just feel content. Not happy. But just level and balanced. Last night I went for a drink with an old friend. She actually interviewed me for my first teaching job and we have remained close friends over the years (we always joke she is my surrogate mother). She said to me “do you mean the person I interviewed for that job 14 years ago is back?” And I laughed “yes”. She said you waltz that interview that day and you shone from day one.

It stayed like that for a while. Then I got ill with the depression and since then the fog has been there. I have had moments of being able to lift out of it. Moments of shining. Moments of pure joy. But beneath it has always been grey and depression.

Now it feels like it’s lifting. I feel so clear. I feel like I’m not fighting a battle with my head every day. I feel like I have so much more energy and enthusiasm for life again! I’m making decisions about my future. I’ve got a fire in my belly again for what I want. Life is there again. I’m not fighting to stay alive.

I’m not going to lie. It’s not perfect. I still self harm every day. This has become my coping mechanism that even my counsellor says she would be worried about me if I just stopped suddenly. I still have quite a lot of major self esteem issues and emotional issues due to past events that I believe will take years if I truly want to work through them. But despite all of that day to day is 10 times better.

I’ve made a decision. A decision I’m not questioning. A decision I accept for myself. The change brought about by this medication has proved to myself something I believe and try to educate others about. Mental illness is real. If I had a problem with my thyroid I might have to take thyroxin everyday for the rest of my life. The same as if I had diabetes I might have to inject insulin. Well I have a medical condition too. It’s called depression and it’s a problem with my brain. I have to take antidepressants. I’m going to take them everyday for the rest of my life because they are a treatment for my illness.

Happiness

Three weeks ago I started on a new antidepressant (Citalopram) after being off medication completely for 4 months. The first week was horrible with side effects including sickness, dizziness, nausea, headaches and a general feeling of being a different planet. But since that first week things have started to turn a corner.

This week students in one of my re classes said “I was the happiest teacher they have ever had”. A sign of perhaps how good I am at putting on an act. In my head I thought if only you knew; last week I was contemplating suicide! It is mostly easier for me to put on an act (especially in the classroom). As I said to them “well I try to be happy in every lesson as it isn’t fair to you to bring anything in from outside”.

Yesterday though someone else remarked “your so happy today”. I had come into work and felt well. I had gone to see the lady who arranges all the cover for teachers who are off because a member of my department was off and I wanted to see who was doing her cover. She had lots of teachers off and I wanted to help her. I offered to cover a lesson for her and two registrations. My quiet day had suddenly got much busier! But it felt good.

Minutes later back in my classroom I took stock. This week hasn’t been the easiest with my husband away on a school trip and the house being in chaos as we were having new storage. But I felt happy. What was more staggering was I didn’t particularly have a weekend to look forward to; but I was still happy.

I sat there questioning what’s going on? Today I have a doctors appointment first thing -always a cause of anxiety for a doctor phobic like me. Then my husband is going away for the day and night to see a mate. Meaning I have my two gorgeous boys on my own and have little family time. This afternoon I have a play date with one of my eldest sons friends and his mum-another cause of anxiety because of peopling with someone I don’t know that well. Then Sunday when he gets home my husband will be preparing for a job interview he has so once again little family time which I love.

All of this and I was still happy. I sat there in my classroom wondering what on earth was going on? I feel positive. Happy. Level. This isn’t my normal!

Maybe just maybe the tablets are helping. I have never felt they have before in 10 years taking them on and off. Maybe just maybe this is what they are meant to feel like when they do?

I feel like I’m coping. I feel level. I feel in control. I feel like I could be affected by good, bad events or tiredness like any normal person. I’m hoping so much this is not a short term thing. I hope this is more than a day!

Keep your fingers crossed.

Medication

Saturday I went to the doctors. It took 3 weeks of persuasion from various sources including my counsellor, friends and husband. When you have had as many bad experiences,with doctors and mental health, as I have you get a little scared.

Well I had such a positive experience. She was the nicest doctor I have ever met. What was even more special was the time she gave me, the care she showed and her genuine interest in wanting to hear me so she could help me.

I came away with two prescriptions. One for my stomach pains that have been relentless and she thinks due to irritable bowel syndrome. The other a new antidepressant.

After coming off my antidepressants in September I have been determined not to go back on them again. I have fought feeling poorly. I have pushed away any comments from sources to suggest it might be best to consider them.

Why? It’s ingrained. My mum is an advocate for no medicine unless absolutely necessary. Even when it is you try and get off it as soon as possible. I think i just always fall into that trap.

I’m trying Citalopram. I was on it for a few months about 10 years ago. I’m not sure why I came off it at the time, it’s too long ago. The doctor thought it might be worth a try as I was so scared about starting fluoxetine again as the side effects crippled my anxiety at the start last time.

So I’ve taken two so far as she advised me to take them at night to start with to help the bad effects be when I’m asleep.

If you don’t know antidepressants take between 2-4 weeks usually to have a positive effect. The first 2 weeks are also usually tough because until your body gets used to the side affects they can really make things worse.

So what’s happening right now. The last two nights I’ve been awake since 4am with heart palpitations and feeling sick. In the day I’m dizzy, feeling nauseous, and had a headache which nothing has touched. My anxiety levels have certainly risen. I’m super tired and I feel very spacey. I went to work today but I’m not sure I’ll get there feeling like this tomorrow. Not easy when your job involves teaching classes of teenagers.

I know these side effects should subside in 1-2 weeks. I can manage them in the short term, I just hope the tablets help my mental health long term.

Depression curse

That’s what I feel it is right now. A curse that I will never be free of. I’m coming to learn and finally accept that it may follow me like a shadow for the rest of my life. But somehow I have to stop it being such a curse in my daily life.

Right now it’s making me feel so poorly again. Today I awoke and was sick three times with a chesty cough, however in reality it wasn’t solely this that kept me off work. Without it I probably would have gone in. But with it I felt that the combination of physical exhaustion and mental illness was too much.

So how is the curse troubling me? What are the current difficulties?

  1. I absolutely hate myself! I cannot see anything good in me. I feel like the most selfish, miserable, good for nothing person in the world. I feel like a complete failure as a wife, mother and teacher.
  2. My self confidence is so low I’m so anxious. I can’t even look people in the eye. I’m scared nearly all the time. In the classroom is certainly the worst.
  3. I’m lonely. I’m feeling so alone yet I’m surrounded by people. I have two beautiful young boys and a husband with me but yet I feel alone. I have friends only a text or phone call away yet I am lonely. I have colleagues offering to help and yet I’m lonely. Why? I’m pushing people away. With every offer of help I refuse to accept it. With every kind word I shy away. Why because I’m so scared these people who I like will lose respect for me and hate me if they spend even a few minutes listening to me. I almost want someone to force the issue because I can’t but no one does because they don’t know what to do for the best.
  4. The curse tells me it will be this bad forever. For the last two years I have been riddled with this curse. Yes it has been up and down and I have had good times too. But right now I’m beginning to feel like i am a hopeless case. People must wonder what a waste of space I am because I am always ill.
  5. Self harm. I know it is still such a taboo subject but it’s daily in my life. Currently I’ve done it quite a lot recently it hurts. Not only do I have the marks I have the pain as well.
  6. Suicidal thoughts. These are daily too. I wouldn’t say I’m in crisis (I’ve been there and I know the difference) but it doesn’t stop the thoughts going round my head as I feel like everyone would be better off without me.

I keep trying to remember what friends say it will get better. But it’s been going on and off like this for 2 years now and it doesn’t feel like there is any end in sure. I wish someone could wave a magic wand.

My grandad

I know writing this is going to make me stream with tears but I want the world to know what an amazing man you were.

I could tell you about his life but this is not the time for a eulogy. Instead I want the world to know what you meant to me.

You had the kindness smile.

You always asked how I was.

You always showed interest in me.

I loved the tennis games we played into your seventies.

You always made me laugh.

You told the best stories.

You had such a cheeky side.

The bravest man I have ever known.

A fighter even when everyone else would have given up.

Someone who loved life.

You arguing with my nan which was always forgotten in a moment.

Your complete love and devotion to my nan (she was your wife for 77 years)

Your values and beliefs were strong.

Even on my last visit to you in December your character shone through. Dialysis, blindness, fragility, cancer…house bound but what a man. You smiled and laughed at my two boys. I could see how much you wanted to interact with them. You made me laugh about the nurse you had spoken to in the hospital whilst on the dialysis machine the day before. And despite how poorly you were your upmost interest and love for your family because that always came first.

Every day you have inspired me. Fighting in world war 2, the loss of your child and later your grandchild and nothing stopped your spirit.

I have so many happy memories and the last one I have is my youngest son kissing you on the lips goodbye the last time I saw you. 4 generations in one room that day and now you’ve gone but forever in my heart.