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.

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!

“Mum it’s the wedding day”

“Mum it’s the wedding day” are the words that greeted me yesterday morning at 6:15am when I got up with my two boys (5 and 2). I’d been up since 5am and had little sleep all night due to coughing up my lungs. But I left my husband sleeping in bed (I was feeling guilty for coughing all night and disturbing him).

“Mummy are you excited?” “Yes of course”. Whilst inside I was thinking I feel horrendous, my voice is barely back after laryngitis, my chest hurts and I just want to crawl into bed. Add the anxiety thrown in of all the peopling I will have to do; can’t wait!

So here is my day:

1. A two year old is always right?

Having an early lunch I say to the boys “after lunch we will get ready. In the church we need to be really good and quiet. ”

My 2 year old screams “no mummy, we are not going to church we are going to a wedding”

I try and explain that the wedding is in the church and the dancing he is looking forward to will come later in the evening.

What was the point? Don’t try and reason with a 2 year old. It never works. He just kept shouting:

“No we are not going to church but the wedding. I WANT TO GO TO THE WEDDING!”

2. Getting ready and out of the house.

I ask the boys to play whilst I get my make up on. 5 mins that’s all I wanted. I have perfected the ‘that’ll do’ in my own looks department. Mascara was interrupted by “come see my dance moves.”Eyeshadow was disturbed by screaming as the eldest jumped on the youngest. Lipstick nearly got applied before “mummy I did a poo” (in my pants).

The next half hour took a rather chaotic turn:

  • I got boy boys changed and ready whilst my husband sorted himself. I mostly said “stay still” on repeat.
  • Now ready the oldest decided to put a hanger through my tights.
  • The two boys ran around at my feet whilst I tried to pull my dress over my head.
  • The eldest got threatened “you are not coming to this wedding” probably 10+ times.
  • Me and my husband snapped and shouted at each other over how to parent!
  • I polished the eldest shoes whilst they were on his feet as I noticed they were brown not black seconds before we went out the door.
  • Youngest got snot on the eldest’s trousers.
  • Husband has started the car but I’m still sat on the stairs not being able to do up my own shoes.

3. The wedding at the Church

For the first 20 mins (before the wedding began) the eldest clung to me, hid under my jacket and pulled down the front of my dress (always a great one to show the self harm to the whole world). He is majorly sensitive and anxious in social situations (just like his mum).

Through the ceremony I felt like a broken record, whispering “stop it” “don’t do that” “stand still”. The pew in front of us was pushed and pulled in all directions (lucky no one was on it). The knee rest went flying in all directions. I was hugged, pulled, kissed, asked can I have something to eat and is it over yet, several times.

However during the final hymn there was one of those wow mummy moments. Both boys (stood on the pew) hugged into me and each other and stood their cuddling for the whole of the hymn. Bliss. Moment to treasure.

Whilst the register was being signed I turned to my youngest child’s god mother to have a chat. Obviously not acceptable in the mind of my two year old. I got told off “mummy stop talking”.

4. The wedding reception

“Mummy can I go there?”

“Mummy can I have this?”

“Mummy can I have something to eat?”

“Mummy can I run around?”

Mum mind goes into overdrive. Where are they? What are they doing? Who are they upsetting? Are they safe? Are they being well behaved?

I always struggle with the fine line in parenting between letting your children have fun and hoping they don’t cause chaos or upset anyone else.

Dancing, running, colouring, full on wrestling, chasing each other, hiding behind curtains! A tantrum about not having a colouring book, a tantrum about not wanting to eat, a tantrum about sitting at the table. So much could possibly go wrong.

“They are boys, it’s perfectly normal- it only gets worse” people say! Heaven help me!

5. The disco

My boys are divas! They definitely take after their dad! With their pyjamas on. The lights dimmed. The disco lights circling and the music blaring my two are lording over the dance floor. Complete freedom. Not a care in the world for them. Just expressing themselves however they wish. Watching them, joining with them- such joy!

6. Being a mum

My boys are my world. They may: pull me in every possible way, test my patience and exhaust me but they are the light of my life. My joy. I am so proud of them. I love them both for their special quirks and characteristics. I wouldn’t change a moment.

And boys I do try my best. It’s the hardest job in the world being a mum but also the most rewarding.

What happened there…

Anxiety and depression are so fickle

They can come and go like the wind

A good day can turn into a bad

The norm can be turned upon it’s head.

Recently I’ve been in quite a good place,

Most of the time I’ve been quite level headed

Today in the main was no different

Positive lessons made me feel of value.

One tiny incident today changed it all

So weird it wasn’t even anything that would bother anyone else

I wasn’t even a major role player

A bystander that was affected by the events.

My past always seems to come back to haunt me,

Anything that reminds me of certain times

Bully me, torment me, churn me up,

Left to feel sick with anxiety.

I felt I could tumble into a panic attack

I felt like it was going to spiral into the depths again

Fear overtook me for a little while

Completely out of control with my emotions.

For once I was quick to open up,

Instead of burying it and letting it fester like normal

I was honest and shared how I felt

My husband was so kind in his response.

Cuddles, love, understanding

They really can make a difference

He reassured me I wasn’t silly

He settled my anxiety with love and empathy.

A day in the life of a mum with depression

It started pretty normally…being woken at 6:30am by my 2 year old son shouting poo poo- this means he has done multiple wees and his nappy is full.

I woke with dread because a man was coming to clean our oven this afternoon. My husband had arranged it. I hate people in my house and i was dreading it.

Walking my eldest to school and the day seem to be taking a very familiar almost mundane line. The normality of it all was quite refreshing. When I am feeling so poorly at the moment it is easier to drift not having to think too much.

My back was sore and aching. It’s pain was weird it was making me feel sick. This isn’t the first time my back deteriorates as the stress and depression worsen.

Normality continued : Tesco’s, washing, cleaning, tidying. The jobs that just ensure the house keeps ticking over. After lunch my mum came to look after Thomas whilst I went for some blood tests.

Well here it all went a little pear shaped. They always struggled to get blood out of me! I think it now causes me to get worked up prior to going in! It took 4 attempts for them to succeed this time. I was so embarrassed because after the 2nd attempt I came over all faint and sick. I hate being made a fuss of.

When I arrived home the man had arrived to clean the oven. My mum mouthed to me he is a little weird. He certainly was and loved to talk. I was thankful though as I had to go out soon to pick up my eldest from school, surely he would nearly be done by the time I got back.

No when I got back he was still going! My mum kept texting me asking me if he was gone. I kept saying think he is going to be sleeping here tonight. The amount of small talk I had to make was impossible. The anxiety levels were through the roof.

At 6:25pm he finally left the building! 4 and a half hours he had been on the job. Yes my oven is spotless. It is shining. It is sparkling. But seriously!

This meant everything in our house was delayed. My husband out at a parents evening. Me left feeling stressed about the time and getting the boys bathed and put to bed.

I snapped at my two boys as their own tiredness meant they had no patience for each other. And now I feel like I have run a marathon when in fact I have done hardly anything today. I am exhausted from the anxiety. I am exhausted from the adrenaline. I am exhausted of today.

p.s. I forgot on the way home from school my 4 year old declared he wanted to be Gordon (the tank engine) for number day at school tmrw. Hence the major adhoc craft process after school tonight (see image)

What’s going on in my head?

I’ve been very distant recently. Distant from family. Distant from friends. Distant from colleagues. Distant from my blog. I’ve been living in my own bubble of depression.

Things have got really bad the last few weeks. Progressively worse. Going downhill. Whatever you like to call it.

For the first time in quite a while work seems to be the trigger. There is an awful lot going on. It’s a stressful time of year what with exams for the students coming up. But it is more than that.

Essentially work becomes the problem when I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job. As soon as I feel questioned. As soon as I have to justify myself. As soon as relationships become strained. As soon as there are problems that can’t be solved.

One of the problem areas for me at the moment is exam results driven. Personally I have/am doing everything in my power to help the students achieve the top grades. For many reasons my department is struggling to meet their targets at the moment. I feel judged. I feel inadequate. I feel like leaders want more.

There is no more I can do! Revision every night. Intervention sessions at lunchtimes. Revision materials. Carefully planned lessons. Contact with parents. Practise questions. Additional mock exams.I even wrote a whole 150 page revision guide myself!

Yet I feel seriously under appreciated. I feel like I am expected to do more. I feel like there are so many factors out of my control that no one is prepared to accept.

Last year when I was off work for 6months I promised myself I wouldn’t start thinking like this again. I promised myself that I would keep doing my best and not care what anyone else thought. I promised myself I wouldn’t care about being judged for what is out of my control.

But it’s hard when judgement seems to have become a part of the main stay in many schools. It’s hard when my whole personality is about pleasing people. About making others happy. About doing my best.

It’s catch 22. I feel like I’m completely stuck in an endless loop. I try my best but my best just isn’t good enough.

So yes work is a major factor of what is going on in my head. This week:

  • I can’t sleep
  • When I do sleep I have anxiety led dreams which mean I wake up panicked
  • The self harm is out of control
  • The suicidal thoughts are back
  • The isolating myself is a problem
  • The deep self loathing is there
  • There is a lack of energy
  • There is over eating
  • I can’t concentrate for long
  • I lack enthusiasm or energy
  • I’m snappy and rude.

What’s going on in my head?

Why can’t I talk about it?

I have certainly been very up and down over the last month. It is funny how it can switch so quickly, for example this morning I felt positive for getting up and going to church. After that I really enjoyed having friends over for a cuppa and a play date for our children. Then my mood collapsed.

My counsellor has been trying to encourage me to think about the reasons for the low mood rather than being angry for myself for feeling this way. Today a grumpy 2 year old, a very heavy period, anxiety about work (most sundays for me) and my mind thinking through things from filling in the form for the insurance company for our fence someone drove into last week to what new car we are going to get.

In my counselling session on Friday we talked about how much of the lowness comes from the overwhelmed brain. I become so tired because it doesn’t ever stop. I become irritable because I can’t process all the little parts. I become down because I start worrying about things. My counsellor is always encouraging me to talk about things. She says even discussing something from my brain with someone can help lift the fog.

But there it is the crux of the problem. I can’t talk. Obviously I don’t mean literally, but I can’t talk about anything that involves feelings or emotions. So what ends up happening is everything big and small ends up building up in my head, weighting me down and dragging me into depression.

This is why with friends I’m always “fine”. Everything is always ok. This is why i find I end up listening to others most of the time and really enjoy it being that way round. Talking about anything with emotion fills me with dread. Just thinking about it leads to physical symptoms such as a tightness of chest.

The counsellor said that when I am ready we will explore why this is. But right now I’m not ready to go there. I still feel like I’m teetering on the edge of sinking back into the depths of depression and right now I’m too scared to go there again.

Long term I’m going to have to broach this area. Not talking about anything to anyone, including my husband continues to make me ill. Long term if I want to sustain my mental health I need to try to overcome this. Long term I know this is the key to being free of the depression.

In the mean time, writing my blog is my escape. It’s a way of letting out some of what I’m feeling. It is a temporary release of my emotions. It is helping me stay well.

Excitement overload. Head spinning

So very excited. He can’t contain it. Hyper and full of energy. It is exhausting just to watch him. He cannot settle to anything for long. He is also winding his brother up all the time. Temptation to look at presents is overfilling in him.

I have been so looking forward to this Christmas. Seeing my four year olds face on Christmas Day. And now it is nearly here. I think the build up has been too long. I hope the reality lives up to my high expectations.

What am I looking forward to? Mainly the amazement and joy on the face of both my children when they wake up Christmas morning and see all the presents under the tree.

Christmas Eve today but I feel like I have been on a long Christmas Eve for the last month. Christmas is for children and now I have two that can’t wait.

The depression isn’t coping very well at the moment though. My brain feels foggy. My mind so tired and exhausted. My thoughts very cluttered. My anxiety heightened.

I’m trying to push this all to one side. At times I feel like the dark cloud is going to overcome me. I’m desperate to enjoy this time of year. Perhaps I’m trying to hard. Perhaps I’m wanting to much. Perhaps my hopes are too high. But I’m scared to let go and just be.

I’m an expert now at this illness. I feel like I am learning more and more how it works. At times that puts me at an advantage, whilst at others the battle I’m always geared up for is just too much to cope with.

In half an hour I will get ready to go to church and perhaps it will help to be busy. All this sitting, waiting and building up of emotion is sending my brain into overdrive. Living in the now is tough when you are waiting for tomorrow.

I hope you all have a happy Christmas. This year I will be making a wish for you all that mental illness becomes more respected and the stigma is slowly shattered more each day. I wish you the strength to deal with it and the tools to cope.

Anxiety & self harm.

A= anxiety turns my stomach inside out, my chest tight and my nerves a jangling.

N= not knowing why I feel this way leaves me feeling angry with my self and cross.

X= Xmas time is fast approaching.

I= I am really looking forward to sharing the joy of my children on Christmas Day.

E= excited about that time but still churned up with expectation.

T= talking to my counsellor tonight I finally realised the source of the anxiety.

Y= yet I am still not sure if I can overcome it.

S= self-harm has been really bad in the last week

E= ending the cycle of blame is hard

L= looking for ways to punish myself for the crime of being anxious

F= fighting back the urges to continue

H= hurting myself holds so much power over me.

A= an answer to the pain

R= regretting it as soon as it is over

M= making plans not to do it again. Fingers crossed this works.

Teacher and student stress.

Schools can be full of stress and anxiety. The combination of expectations, pressure and a range of people can make it a hive of tension. Today I witnessed this from many angles.

Students

Many of the students that I teach are in their final GCSE or A level year. At the moment they are tired, stressed and anxious. It has been a very long term. We are coming towards the end of it and now added in to the tiredness they have mock exams coming up.

For some the pressure is from their own high expectations of themselves. They are desperate to do well. They want to get the top grades. For others the pressure is from their parents and the demands they make of them. For others there is a stress because they would love to do well in reality but they know they haven’t put the work in and are therefore worried about how the exams will go.

This stress comes out in a variety of ways. Today I have witnessed teenagers strop over a revision game. Today I have witnessed teenagers argue over exam questions. Today I have witnessed students cry over words between friends. Today I have seen students snap at each other and even me.

Staff

Like the students staff are also extremely tired. It is sometimes hard to muster up the energy and enthusiasm to teach a class of 30 youngsters when you are so exhausted. Add into the mix the tiredness of the students and the combination is tricky.

Instead of winding down for Christmas school life seems to wind up at times. With the mock exams comes marking and report writing for the teachers. When I used to be a primary school teacher I remember winding up for the Christmas productions! Throw into the mix the usual winter illnesses, colds, vomiting bugs etc and wow the end of the Christmas term is tough.

Today I have spent an hour planning and setting cover work for a colleague who is off work. Today I have listened to a colleague who is struggling because they are so tired. Today I have visibly seen how drained some teachers are. Today i have apologised to colleagues for forgetting things, my brain is a little foggy with tiredness.

This is the stress pouring out. I love taking the time to support colleagues or students with times of stress. My message today has been one of compassion. I have tried to listen. I have tried to offer them an ear or place to offload. I have tried to advice. I have tried to encourage. And most of all I have advocated that students and staff rest as much as possible. I more than anyone know the downward spiral that stress can cause. I have recent first hand experience of depression triggered by stress.

So rest when you can. Take time for yourself. Try to balance your work commitments with your you commitments I.e things that give you life.

I am an advocate of you will be more productive and better prepared when you are rested. That’s why I’m always telling my most conscientious students to remember to rest. This is why my message now to colleagues is to encouraging them to rest.

Rest before the stress beats you.