Depressed Mum: Having a bad day

A mental health condition can really take its toll on those around you. My husband takes most of the brunt of my illness. He is the one who puts up with the constant changes in my mood. My lack of patience. My tiredness. My swell of emotions. My frustration. My grumpiness and general discontent with life. He is a saint. He is my lifeline.

I try with all my might to hide my illness from my two young boys. I am not ashamed of it. It is not that I think it is something that shouldn’t be shared. But they are only 3 and 1 years old. They are too young to appreciate what depression is. What it means to live with a mental health condition. They need me to be Mum. To love them. Protect them. Take care of their every need.

I do believe in sharing my depression and my two sons are part of this belief. But not yet. In the future when they can understand. I want them to know that it is good to share feelings. It is ok to not be ok. It is good to be yourself and accepting of who you are. I want them to not suffer the stigma and judgement of mental health that I have. I want them to know how to care for others. I want them to listen and be there for the people they treasure.

So what happens on days like today? This morning I woke so heavy that my mind felt like it was in the thickest fog. My body felt like it was weighed down like I was wearing a suit of armour like the knights of the past. I couldn’t seem to think clearly. Everything was a blur. It was like I hadn’t put my glasses on (my eyesight is really bad) but they were sat in their normal place on my head.

So you ask why? Why did you wake up like this? Did you have a bad nights sleep? Is there something worrying you about today? Are you upset about something? The answer is no. I had a good night sleep. I was not worried or anxious about anything in the day ahead. I have no idea why I woke up like this. This is the illness. Depression doesn’t make any logical sense at times.

Yes I haven’t had any medication since Tuesday. Instead of weaning off the anti-depressant that was giving me an allergic reaction the doctor told me to stop it immediately as the reaction was getting worse. This is not advised. Stopping anti-depressants suddenly can make you more unwell. Added to the fact I haven’t started taking the new drug yet as the doctor wanted to try and get the allergic reaction to stop first; I am without medication. I am going solo in the world. Something I haven’t done since November 2016.

“Mummy can I have my breakfast outside?” “Mama, Mama, MAMA!” I had just jumped out of bed, well I was rather dragged by my 3 year old 5 minutes earlier and already it was full on. As any parent knows there is no let up. I was desperately trying to pour milk and cereal into bowls, clean an outside table for them, navigate the kitchen without bumping into my husband, who was trying to get his lunch out to take to work. All this whilst feeling so low I wanted to cry. Whilst wanting to scream I can’t handle this today.

And then it happened. A stupidly innocent accident which spiralled my morning out of control. My husband bumped heads with me. I fell to the floor and cried. Cried and cried like I was uncontrollable. I also swore quite a bit too. It did actually hurt but the reaction was more the illness. How blinking ridiculous. How could something so small push my already fragile brain over the edge. Well trust me it can.

I sat on the floor sobbing. My husband and children appeared shell shocked. After a few minutes my 3 year old came to sit on my lap. He is the most sensitive soul (just like me) and cuddled me. “It’s alright mummy. Are you ok? Why are you crying?” Of course I reassured him, scooped him up and squeezed him tight. “Mummy just bumped her head darling and it hurts, I’ll be ok in a minute.”

Today it wasn’t ok in a minute though. My depression had struck. I tried so hard to pull it together but I couldn’t for a while. I cried on and off for hours. I tidied furiously as if that would solve not only my depression but the wars of the world. My youngest drove me absolutely crazy. His normal, loveable cheekiness this morning made my blood boil. It was like he was intentionally winding me up. Of course he wasn’t, I just wasn’t in control of anything. I felt dizzy. I felt so low. I felt wild to be honest.

There was an alien inhabiting my brain. I didn’t feel like I was running my life. The illness had won. The battle was lost. Where had Mum gone? I hate the way depression can effect my children. The exhaustion from the overthinking can make me very snappy. The frustrations I have with myself can mean I lack patience. The emotions that I fail to control can mean that they see me cry. I hate this. I really don’t want them to suffer because they have a Mum that is ill.

I try so hard to ensure that they don’t have to witness the effects of my depression. Mornings like today are thankfully few and far between. Mostly I manage to hide the me that is suffering from them. They need me. I need them. Their love for me is what keeps me going at times when I feel like giving up. Mummy will get better boys and in the mean time she will try her hardest to make life good for you.

It’s Good to Share how you feel

Shock. Fear. Confusion. My latest blog post was on Facebook for all to see. What was he doing? Did he not think to ask me first? My husband explained he wanted people to know the fight I’m currently in. He wanted people to be aware of how much I am struggling, even though on the surface I appear fine. He wanted people to know so that I could be better supported.

I write so that people may understand. I write so that people may see the real me. I write to shatter the stigma of depression so that more may truly know how crippling it is. I write so that depression is finally respected as an illness. An illness that needs treatment like any other. I write so that sufferers get the same love, support and care that they would have got if they had broken their leg or been diagnosed with cancer.

Just hang on a minute though. My friends? My family? My work colleagues? My Headteacher? What are you doing husband? Did you not think about the consequences of this snap decision, this tap on your phone? This is suddenly a little more real. These people know me. They see me everyday.

I spent the morning overthinking the implications of this revelation. My depressed brain was really winning this race. My poorly brain would only let me see the negatives in this rash action of my husband. He might have had my best interests at hear but really what would people think? Mostly I was concerned that they would think I was trying to boast. Sharing my own blog so I could get more followers.

And then it started to change. First his post got a few positive responses. Then the floodgates opened. People were texting me. Contacting me via Facebook messenger. Whats App messages started to appear. “I didn’t realise things were this bad.” “I’m always here if you want to talk.” “You are so brave for being so honest.” “I’m proud of you.” “Keep fighting.”

I was starting to see maybe this wasn’t quite such a careless action. People didn’t hate me. People didn’t think I was making this up. People didn’t question what I had to say. People accepted my words. They believed me. They cared enough to go out of their way to contact me. I was truly touched by their love and concern.

Of course my longest friend and those I have confided in over the last few months contacted me and showed their support. That didn’t surprise me. But I was struck by some others. People I haven’t seen in years. Old friends from school. Others who I don’t see very often. People from all aspects of my life took the time to approach me. Their words, the words of people who don’t need to be kind, effected me the most.

My head started to let their words in. My head which usually fights compliments off, that refuses to hear them, actually started to take some of them on board. Maybe my writing was brave? Maybe I should be proud of myself? Maybe it is good to share how I am feeling? My writing actually started to allow me to heal. It was like a plaster was being applied to some of the wounds.

However, it is the other reactions which I am treasuring tonight. The messages I have received from those who are currently suffering like me or know a loved one who is. The thank you I have had from these people means the most. These are the people I write for. These are the people I have always aimed to help. These are the people who I would like not to have to suffer from the stigma and judgement that I have experienced.

Some have opened up about their own experiences. Some have felt able to share with me what they are feeling. Some have sought advice for someone they love. This for me is like winning a gold at the Olympics. I have absolutely loved responding to these people today. I want them to know they are not alone. They are amazing. They are loved. I know their brain may not accept my words. I am well versed in the dynamics of depression. But I want them to know I care. I will always listen. I will always believe. I will always be there.

So thank you to my husband. I already knew that you are my world. You are my rock. You have been amazing whilst I have been ill. But I owe you even more now. Thank you for sharing my blogs. Thank you for making me feel useful, loved and needed.

But also thank you to all of you. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Thank you for trying to understand. Thank you for helping others who are struggling. It is good to share. It maybe tough. It may feel impossible. But the rewards are immense.

The Depressed Teacher

Itching from head to toe. Swollen lips. Hives all over my body. This is what the latest round of anti-depressants has done to me. I’m tired. On no medication. Feeling extremely low but at the same time forcing myself to get back into work.

At times I have wanted to scream today. I want to shout from the roof tops “I’m still unwell, I’m not better yet”. I understand in any job when you return after absence people think you are fine. In my own role if you can teach a class you must be fine now, your illness must have been conquered, your mental health must be good. How wrong people are.

For me I returned because I felt I had no choice for my family. I’m sad to say that money ruled my decision to go back when I did. I certainly have high functioning depression and even at my absolute worse I can do my job in some form. However, the effects of the job on my mental health are immense. Work jeopardises my recovery. Did I feel ready to return? No. Did I feel like it would help my recovery? No. Did I think it could set me back? Possibly. But my two boys and their love of their home and their security here meant I returned unwell.

So today I taught my second lesson since returning three weeks ago. It was period 5 the last lesson of the day. This didn’t help the anxiety which escalated as the hours ticked past. Every minute was one closer to when I would have to step into that room and put on an act. Lucky for me I had a fall back, my good friend was in there to support if I needed her to.

I walked in the room and immediately the students were saying “Miss your back”. Others said “good to see you miss”, one even came up to me held out his hand for me to shake and said “missed you miss”. I was perhaps taken aback by this. I stuttered and fumbled my way through the opening minutes of the lesson. My anxiety and nerves were definitely winning.

But for me teaching is like riding a bike. Once you have learnt you never forget how to. I had got back on that saddle and the peddling came automatically. I’m also the best actress in the world. I should win an Oscar for my performances in front of a class. I seem to have a switch inside of me that steps into a room as a teacher and transforms into something unrecognisable to my other self.

I’m confident, know my stuff, enthusiastic and full of energy. I have always tried to make lessons fun and believe my own attitude can inspire them to learn. Today was no different. They were quiet when I talked. Respectful when we discussed the kingdom values shown by people in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and Grenfell fire. They engaged with the subject and worked well.

They walked out that room with smiles. As I stood by the door they took the time to say bye. What they didn’t see was the real me. I hid that so well. In a game of hide and seek I would never have been found.

What they didn’t know was that I was trembling beneath the surface. I was so scared of what they might say or do. I was overanalysing everything as it occurred. I was beating myself up for stuttering or not doing something quite right. What they didn’t know was that in the hours before I was so anxious I was sick. What they didn’t know was in the hours afterwards I would criticise myself for all that happened.

Just like the students, my colleagues and managers seem oblivious too. I don’t blame them, its an invisible illness and I certainly don’t share it easily. My line manager and others said to me today I heard the lesson you taught yesterday went really well, that’s good. They seem to think I’m well now. It’s all ok. She is back teaching a class. She must be well.

I’m far from well. Tonight I have scratched my breasts and torn at scars and scabs until they have bled and bled. Tonight I haven’t been able to sit still or focus on anything because my mind feels so unwell. Tonight I have contemplated ending it all with suicide because I really hate feeling like this. Tonight I have snapped at my husband because I can’t bear to be in my own skin let alone share a room with him. Tonight I have replayed every second of the day over and over.

What do I do? How do I get this across to people? Do I need to? Everyone thinks great she is getting back to normal. I want to shout. I want to scream. I want people to see the agony that is hidden behind the façade. I am not healed. I am on a journey. I came back to work too soon. I will try and stay at work. I will try my hardest not to let anyone down but please understand I’m still not well. I’m the depressed teacher.

 

 

 

Victory or Failure?

So today I taught my first lesson for 6 months. I’m a secondary school RE teacher. I have been teaching for 12 years. I have always loved teaching. Loved the buzz. Loved how every lesson is different. Loved how inspiring it is to work with young people.

But in November 2016 that all changed. Money troubles. My Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. My husbands post-natal depression. Returning to work after my second child. Job sharing my role for the first time. There were lots of changes, worries and stresses. It all became too much and it came to a head the day I reversed off my drive into a parked car.

An event that now bails into insignificance at the time was a disaster. I cried. I had a panic attack. I was out of control of my emotions in the aftermath. Doctors visits. Anti-depressants. Counselling sessions. All were meant to help but it just got worse. I last taught on 10th January 2017. Depression struck me down completely for the second time in my life.

The anxiety crippled me. I would literally shake. At times of stress my breathing became rapid and shallow. My shoulders ached. My chest was sore. I started to worry there was something wrong with my heart. Physical symptoms of the anxiety.

The depression bowled me over. I would spend whole days in bed unable to move partly from exhaustion but from a haze that descended over me. It was like my mind had become a fog. Nothing was clear. Nothing was like it had been. I was confused. I was unable to make decisions.

The overthinking was the worst. I could analyse a glance all day. One day I dropped my boys off at nursery and ran into a friend there. She hardly spoke to me. She gave me a cursory  acknowledgment. I spent hours trying to work out what I had done wrong. Why she was upset with me. Why she no longer wanted to be my friend. In reality she was probably just in a rush.

So back to today. I have been back at work on a phased return for a few weeks but today was D day. Or T day as I have been calling it. That T has been over hanging me since this was arranged a few weeks ago. It has been like a cloud of dread. A rain cloud that followed me around insistently. T for teaching.

Teaching is what I do. It’s been my life for the last 12 years and before that if you consider I have always wanted to be a teacher.  This illness has torn away any self confidence I have ever had. I have lost all belief in myself. I feel like a failure. A burden. This illness has stolen my career.

Yesterday I was so ill about the prospect of today. I cried and cried. I slept the day away at times. I had many suicidal thoughts. I didn’t believe I could do it. I know I am still unwell. Every ounce of my body and mind were rebelling against teaching.

This morning the anxiety was extreme. The physical effects on my body were clear. I couldn’t handle seeing anyone. I had to deal with the impending disaster myself. I walked into that classroom like I owned it. I didn’t settle or feel comfortable but I showed no fear.

I followed my plan. I taught with a confidence that I have no idea where it appeared from. My job share supported me in the room and she praised the lesson. It was outstanding. It was brilliant. Please share it with me she said.

Afterwards I had a sense of relief. I had done it. I can still teach. I still have my career ahead of me. I have achieved a great victory. I have won a war. But this didn’t last more than a few minutes.

You see I am still unwell. Currently on no antidepressants as I wean off one that I had an allergic reaction to. Waiting to start the fourth in 6 months! I know my head isn’t in a good place. I am still self harming daily and the suicidal thoughts haven’t disappeared. So instead of taking the victory my mind started to see the lesson as a failure.

Instead of you did this. You managed this. My mind has been beating me up in the hours since. You didn’t challenge this student about their behaviour. You didn’t ask this student to move. Not many of them actually completed the task. You could have got more discussion. The pace of the lesson was a little slow. All I can see are the failings.

This is the illness talking. This is depression. I know today was a big step. It was a massive hurdle that I managed to overcome. I need to try and accept this. I need to listens to my friends and my family who tell me so. I will try. I promise.

Well here goes nothing….

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Ok that really makes you want to read on right? As per normal I am overthinking everything. Questioning every single decision. Should I write a blog? Is there any point? Would people even bother to read it? Millions of questions and never any answers.

So this is me. I have an illness called depression. It plagues me every day of my life and at the moment it is majorly out of control. I am desperately trying to get well but the harder I try the worse it seems to get. Every day I fight a war, but this is an invisible war to all but me because this war is in my head.

So why write a blog? What is the purpose? To shatter the stigma of mental health. I have personally suffered from judgement, misunderstanding and misconceptions from people who have never experienced a mental health issue. How can I ensure others don’t have to experience the same?

Talk about it. Share my own experiences. People can only get a better understanding of mental health if they hear about what it is like first hand. They need to know that I may look ok on the outside but that doesn’t mean I am on the inside. Every day depression cripples me. Overthinking. Feeling like a failure. Exhaustion. Confusion. Numbness. To name a few of the symptoms.

Depression is like being held back by a tonne weight. It is like my head is full of jelly. There are so many analogies that I can use. I hope to use common every day images to explain to people who have no experience so that they may enter my world for just one moment.

I want to shatter the stigma of self harm. Self harm is not isolated to teenagers. Yes I’m a 33 year old mother of two boys who self harms every single day. I hide it from the world because I am ashamed. I do it as a release of my feelings. I do it to put the mental pain into physical pain. I  do it to punish myself.

I want to shatter the stigma of suicide. I want people to know that it is not the easy option. Suicidal thoughts are serious and shouldn’t be belittled or overlooked. I want people to be more confident of knowing how to help.

For those living with someone who has severe depression I want to give you a hug. I want to say thank you. I need you to know that its ok when you lose your patience. You are amazing. Maybe you pick up the burden by doing more around the house. Perhaps you listen. Perhaps you stay quiet when you are desperate to speak out. Perhaps you smile when you want to cry.

How can I help? What if I say the wrong thing? The blog posts will also give advice for those who want to help a friend or family member. I would also love employers to read so that they too could support rather than hinder those who are ill. Essentially please listen. Be there. Don’t give up. Don’t judge me. Believe in me.

For those suffering like me. You are not alone. There are people who understand. There are people who are experiencing similar to you. Talk, share your story and ask for help whenever you can. Whether online, at home, friends, doctors, counsellors …. share how you are feeling, it will help you process your own thoughts.

I promise to be open and honest. I will bare my soul on this blog. I want you to know what depression is like. I want better help and support for sufferers. I want the stigma to be shattered.