An overload and I’m scared

All was going well till Wednesday evening. Then an overload hit and my already fragile state feels poorly.

  • My grandad can no longer have dialysis and he will die very soon. He is 97 so he has a good and long life. But it’s rocked me. He is my inspiration. I have always admired him and loved talking to him. He is so special to me.
  • My dad’s Alzheimer’s is so much worse. I don’t like to share too much here as my mum and dad are very private and there are people who know him who may read this, but all I can say is it’s going downhill fast and although I knew things would happen, it doesn’t make it any easier.
  • My mum is finding it hard to cope with my dad. With my grandad dying it isn’t helping. He is my dad’s dad but it is my mum having to deal with that too. And it’s me who tries so desperately to be her rock.
  • Finally my rock is poorly. My husband is off work with stress and he is very wobbly and shaky. I am trying to support him in every way possible and I hope he knows I will always be there for him. He keeps apologising because he says he should be strong for me right now but things don’t work quite like that in life.

Right now the build up of life is impossible. I’m terribly overwhelmed. In a weird way I feel better than I did a week ago as I’m purposefully trying to hold it together for everyone. But underneath I’m incredibly wobbly. I can really feel the illness circling me like vultures. I’m desperately swatting it away.

I’ve told some colleagues, I’ve told a friend and I’ve told a boss; all to try and get the support there if the fall occurs. Currently I’m ok. Ok as in life is pretty rubbish right now but I’m ticking all the boxes and keeping going.

The best colleagues for the mentally unwell.

Exhausted. I’m writing this in my bed (at 8pm). Shattered. Very much due to my 2 year old being up intermittently for 3 hours last night for no other reason than he is an utter scamp! Oh why can’t he be a good sleeper like his older brother?

In between the various get ups for “Mummy where’s my water?” “Mummy my cover!” “Mummy dog dog gone!” “Mummy I have a cough” … you get the jist, my mind raced. Everything screamed at me, you can’t teach, you are a bad mother, your husband hates you etc. I cried and cried. In the middle of the night I was so convinced that I couldn’t go to work today.

Awoke at 6:15am my mind was still at war. On days like this it is literally like I fight a battle all before 7am. On days like this it is desperately bad. Having a voice constantly tell you how awful you are in every way and you can’t possibly teach is like a 6ft wall to climb before breakfast.

So I text my friends in my department. My job share and one other. I explain that today is a truly horrendous day and I’m battling to get in but just giving them the heads up that no way am I great at the moment. I explain to them it’s my impending guilt and feeling bad for the students that is driving me into work kicking and screaming.

At this point I should explain. Things still aren’t great at the moment. They seem to have come to a head the last few days and I’m very snappy and wobbly. I know some including my husband would be advocating a visit to the doctor and a return to the antidepressants but hold your horses!

Yes I’m struggling but in a weird way I’m ok with the emotions that seem to be much more freer than normal. This is a general problem for me and something I still see the counsellor for so I’m kind of trying to roll with it.

I’m incredibly anxious, which I’m actually learning is the start of the problems and seems to bring on the depression not the other way around which I had always thought. Some current concerns:

  • Mum worry is through the roof. All I want is for my children to be happy but it seems to be such a daily, weekly, monthly battle with so many external pressures to ensure that happens.
  • News about a friend and her career choice brought me into floods of tears and has rocked me in so many unexpected ways.
  • Constant emotion connected with my dad’s Alzheimer’s and the pressures on my whole family.

So back to my colleagues. By the time I had got to school one had offered to teach my year 13’s period 5 so I could go home and get some rest. The other was straight in to check how I was.

By lunchtime I had taught 4 lessons which I had handled fine and generally gone well (I have this ability to teach well even when I am extremely unwell- most would never notice). Inside I still felt like I was being torn apart and the negative voice was still on full blast. But knowing I had got this far I was determined to keep going.

In the staffroom at lunchtime another colleague asking how I was got a perhaps unexpected honest response “I’m not great at the moment”, “what’s up?”, my response was to point to my mucked yo head! She immediately offered to have my children sometime if I needed the space and proceeded to give me her telephone number.

The original colleagues offered to collect my student who was in after school detention and let him work with them so that I could go home straight at the end of the day to get a little bit of a rest.

They also reassured me that I wasn’t a failure or a let down. They said I could have been puking and then I wouldn’t have been apologising I would have just gone and mental health is no different.

The rest never quite happened as a petrol pump incident and a poorly, over tired two year old conspired against me but at least I was in my pyjamas earlier than I would have been!

Thanks for caring. Thanks for making a huge difference to my day. Thanks for understanding that I live with a mental illness and it’s just as valid as a physical illness.

Ever so stoic.

These are the words someone used to describe themselves whilst talking about my ability to hold back my emotions today. Ever so stoic. So true. I feel so completely uncomfortable in my own shell that a stoic hiding of emotions feels ever so natural.

Today I led the briefing reflection at my school. I had written the reflection on Friday evening last week when a moment of inspiration hit me. It was all about the inevitability of change. I used my dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s as the focus of it.

Composing it felt natural. Reading it back to myself, perfectly fine. But today reading it aloud was like my soul being torn open. I delivered it fine; no one would have known the effect it had. But immediately afterwards I felt the swell of pain. The deepest, darkest emotions were bubbling.

I am very good at burrowing these feelings away. I fail to admit to myself most of the time how I feel about many things, including my dad’s illness. But today after reading I felt like I had been bowled over by a bowling ball.

A friend remarked on my ability to read it so clearly without bubbling with emotion. I had. But afterwards the emotions were all too much. And now I had to go and teach for a whole day.

I felt physically sick. I felt like I could have been knocked over as easy as a feather. I felt tears just behind the eyes. I felt like I was shaking. I felt scared.

I felt scared because I didn’t feel in control. Teaching my classes was horrific today. My mind was anywhere but the room. A normally patient and kind teacher I felt like I was snapping at them.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to quit the day there and then. I felt like a panic attack was brewing. I felt shattered. I wanted to hide not perform in front of 30 students.

I survived. I got to the end of the day. I feel torn. I feel broken. I feel anxious. I feel unable to cope.

I need to deal with these emotions. It is positive to share. But perhaps before a 5 lesson day wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I’ll think that one over more next time.

The cruelty of Alzheimer’s.

I’ve never written a blog post about this before. To be honest my family have always been the don’t share type. We aren’t great at expressing our emotions or talking about deep things. This way of living which has become so engrained is a problem for me now but is the norm. Certainly my mum’s Irish Catholic proud, don’t want any sympathy or help attitude is something I unwillingly share.

So I’m apprehensive about this blog more than any other. This isn’t really my story to tell. This isn’t something my mum would approve of. This isn’t something my mum would want anyone to know. So I do ask for those of you who know me personally or more importantly know my mum please don’t share that I have written this with her. She is broken enough as it is, she doesn’t need anymore.

But as normal with most of my blogs I really feel the need to pour out my emotions tonight. I’m already crying writing this and it’s tough! My dad is 75 and he has Alzheimer’s and it is breaking me right now.

Alzheimer’s is cruel. Sometimes I wonder is it worse than death? Slowly your loved one is taken away from you. They seem to disappear before your eyes. At times the change is small and unnoticeable for a while and other times it’s catastrophic.

My mum believes my dad has had Alzheimer’s for a long time, over 10 years, although he has only had an official diagnosis for 2 1/2 years ; the proud thing got in the way there.

Why am I writing this now? Because recently I’m finding it harder to cope. There are two things I’m struggling with:

a) being my mum’s rock. She doesn’t talk to anyone else about how she is feeling. I am her only outlet. The tears are becoming more frequent and the desperation more obvious.

b) before I knew my dad was changing but I was holding onto glimmers-this I’m finding harder to do.

What ultimately makes me cry? What is the hardest thing to bare? I think it’s watching this capable, loving, caring, respected, well liked, man, who used to be a bank manager slowly fade. Seeing him not be able to do the most basic of things.

  • He can’t tell the time on any form of clock.
  • He doesn’t know where things are in the house when he has lived there for 30 years.
  • He can’t work anything like the tv, kettle, or lawnmower. Or do jobs he has always done like go up in the loft.
  • He can’t make even a sandwich.
  • He doesn’t remember what he has done 5 mins ago or what he will be doing in half hour even if he is told over and over.
  • He cries regularly about not being able to do things or mucking things up.
  • He repeats himself often.
  • He isn’t allowed/can’t drive.

This is list is endless.

But what upsets me most and I suppose is more a recent thing is how he is with my children. My dad has always been the best with kids. Endless patience. Playing on the carpet for hours. Great fun to be with.

Now even with his Alzheimer’s he has still shown this. My eldest son who is 5 is besotted by grandad. He is his best mate. But recently I have begun to see my dad even struggle with this. He seems to lack the patience, he struggles when my two boys both want to play with him. He is either overly negative with them or the opposite extreme he is like another excitable child. For the first time I am starting to see him struggle with the thing that makes him my dad the most for me. The other day my youngest who is obsessed with puzzles was desperate for grandad to help him, but got quickly frustrated when grandad couldn’t even help him with his simple child’s puzzle.

I am scared of the changes. I’m clinging the times where the dad I know shines through. I worry that I won’t remember him as he was before. I really don’t want my boys to lose their love of grandad because it would break me and him.

Alzheimer’s has no cure. But it also has no common path. No one knows what is next or how long it will be. It’s cruel because physically my dad is so fit and well but it is like he is being eaten from the inside out.

I hope your loved ones never have to suffer. I hope I can be strong enough to support my mum. I hope my dad is proud of his daughter. I love you dad and always will.

Depression turmoil

My head is spinning it’s turning me in and out,

I don’t know whether to hide, cry, scream or shout,

Even writing is hard right now a desperate release,

I would love to escape it all, forever or for just one day please let it cease.

I’ve been poorly for weeks now laryngitis, chest infection and now my ear is sore,

It’s left me tired and broken, I’m not sure I can take much more,

The pain is now increasing, but when to fit in a doctors visit I can’t think,

Life is too full, too busy there is no time even to blink.

Being poorly has stopped the exercise my way to stay sane,

The weight is piling on again, all I seem to do is gain,

The pounds increasing are making me low,

Every time I try to crack the weight something sends another blow.

Work is exhausting, especially when feeling ill,

I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on till,

Each day anxiety is there, the self doubt creeping in,

In front of 30 students anxiety can quickly mean the lesson should be thrown in the bin.

Outside of work other things are playing on my mind,

I’m worried about my eldest boy at school I don’t want him to be behind ,

What can I do to help him, being a mum is a constant worry

I don’t want the lines between loving mum and teacher to be blurry.

Other things are hurting me more than I can express,

Alzheimer’s is the cruelest disease it’s hard I confess,

Watching parts of my Dad disappear before my very eyes,

Hard to be the rock for my mum and hear her cries.

Right now life is really overwhelming me,

I’ve come off the antidepressants leaving me alone and free,

No counselling for 4 weeks my lifeline missing at this time

I think a new strategy shall come to play … bedtime!

Feeling emotional.

I haven’t written a blog post for a while now. To be honest I’ve been feeling so well. I’ve been happy and content. I know I should be sharing this as much as the bad but for me my writing only ever seems to flow properly when I feel low.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful 6 week summer holiday with my two children and my husband (who is also a teacher). But the last two days I have felt absolutely pushed and pulled in all directions. I feel drained. I feel very teary. I feel uptight.

What’s the cause? I’m getting better at trying to think this through rather than leave it as a jumble in my head which usually disintegrates into depression.

1. My children are driving me crazy! I love them. They are my utter world. I would do anything for them. But right now I am seriously thinking of changing my name to Bob, anything but mummy. The last few days they have been so whiny, demanding, moany and not only that they have been winding each other up as well. For one hour this afternoon my toddler must have screamed at his brother every 5 mins.

I know they both have colds. I know they are both tired as they have been up at night with coughs. I know some days it’s harder to be kind to your brother when you are stuck in the same room of one house. But seriously mummy is struggling.

And the worst thing is they are so loud about it. We went out for dinner tonight for my mum’s birthday and the whole pub would have heard them whine at every little thing.

2. Today is my mum’s birthday. A day I now find quite difficult. So in the weeks before her birthday I usually now buy my mum a present from my dad as his Alzheimer’s means he can’t do that. I then have to somehow give it to him to give to her without making him feel like I’m taking over or him feel like he is useless. I then worry all day about how my mum will feel. Dad used to be great at birthday presents and taking her out on her birthday etc. Now she has none of that from him and I end up feeling bad for her.

It also always hits me hard on occasions like today how much of the dad I used to know I have lost. Sometimes it is easier to forget how things have changed as I like to block it out but today I can’t. It really hits home to me how difficult it is for my mum and how different my dad is.

3. Sometimes my husband drives me mad! I know he will probably read this blog post so it’s a risk writing this here but it’s not meant to be a criticism so I hope he doesn’t take it this way. We have a different way of parenting at times. He is loud and snappy at the kids at times where I prefer the softly approach. I’m not saying either is better or worse, there are probably times when one is better than the other. But today I have struggled with his snapping at the children and his demands on them. He is completely right to expect better behaviour than we have seen today but I just can’t handle anyone else shouting and screaming!

Also he is very short with me at the moment. Sometimes I seem to ask an innocent question and he jumps down my throat with the response. He is super defensive all the time and I feel on edge that I’m going to do something to upset him.

4. Finally work is round the corner. My glorious 6 weeks that I was desperate for and look forward too so much is nearly over. Im feeling sad. I’m gutted. Work isn’t too bad. I like the people I work with. The students are generally amazing. But it’s work. Back to juggling being a mum and a job. Having more to worry about on a daily basis. Having the prospect of the added stresses throwing my depression out again.

I know these aren’t major things. But for me life is feeling a little topsy turvey. I’m very emotional and just need a massive hug (minus the whinging or moaning that can come with it)

Managing the depression on a family holiday.

So we've been away since Friday. It's been 5 days. Staying in Aldeburgh on the east coast of England. Me, my husband, two boys, my mum and dad and mother in law.

I find there is a lot of anxiety before the holiday begins. What do we need to take? Will the holiday house be ok? Will my husband like the place when he wanted to go elsewhere? What time should we leave? Will the journey be ok? But this time my son being poorly was thrown into the anxiety mix. On the day before we went away he had a temperature (probably another ear infection as he seems to be particularly prone to them). Should we take him to the doctors before we go? Will he be ok? Will he be too ill when away? So many questions. So many unknowns.

5 days in and all the worries have gone. The holiday home is perfect. The location next to the beach and the shops perfect. My husbands remarks that he loves the town, also perfect! Everyone gets on. The weather has been glorious. The day trips enjoyable and well chosen.

I feel relaxed. I feel happy. I feel content. The night we arrived, having a drink at a pub for our 5 year wedding anniversary, my husband said you seem chilled out. And that in general I have been. It has been lovely to be away from my home town. Good to get away from the day to day. And there is something very special about sea air. Walking by the sea. Listening to the crashing waves. Throwing stones into the water. All are special, especially when your home town is a two hour plus drive to the nearest coast.

It has been a pleasure to see my boys happy. I love seeing my dad light up in the company of my children. He has Alzheimer's and at times struggles with adults now but he is a magician with children. He always has been to be honest. He plays and plays with them for hours and hours. He never tires. He was like that as a dad when I was younger too. The best dad.

So I am happy but that doesn't mean the depression has disappeared. Most of the time so far on this holiday it has been hiding. But it is still there lurking in the shadows. There have been times where i have felt its presence.

My son was very poorly the first two days. His skin was so hot I could have fried an egg on him. The worry involved in being a mum seriously causes problems for my depression. I can get so wound up in worry and stress that it tires me out even more and drags me down. So when he has been poorly and extremely whiny and clingy, I have struggled when I just want a moment to myself.

One of the things about my depression is my need to be alone. I need space. I need down time. I need time when I don't talk to others. I need headspace. It is quite difficult to get this when away with children, husband, parents and in laws. There isn't really any space. There isn't time alone. It would be rude to take myself away in the day. I have gone to bed early. Reading a book my outlet (the first book I have managed in 6 months due to the illness).

There have been times when I have wanted to shout and scream. Times when I want to have space. Times when I'm so tired I lack any patience.

But in reality I'm having a great time. I'm really enjoying seeing my boys so happy. I love that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I am loving the change of scenery.

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.