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.

4 Tips for recovery from Depression

Anyone who knows me or who has been reading my blog will know depression has crippled my life. For me I feel like it is an illness I will now live with for my whole life but it is about how I can manage it to live a full and happy life.

Nearly two years ago now I fell into the second deep depression of my life. Suicidal, self harming daily, I became extremely poorly and withdrawn from my normal life.

Now as I begin to come off my anti-depressants after feeling stable for quite a significant time I wanted to reflect and share on my journey to recovery.

These are my 4 tips:

1. “It will get better” at my depths two of my great friends who I shall call B and M regularly reminded me of this. M would turn up on my doorstep regularly and state this when I was so low I couldn’t even talk. B using her own personal experience of her husband would remind me of this during our long chats.

At the time I couldn’t see it. At the time I wanted to shout back no it’s like this forever. At the time I wanted to commit suicide as I saw that as the only way out of it. Looking back they were right! When I couldn’t see it. When I couldn’t believe it. I needed people to remind me there was an end in sight to how I was feeling. So tip number 1 try and believe it will end sometime.

2. Don’t try to rush the recovery. It’s honestly taken nearly two years for me to feel better on a more regular basis. I still have low points as well. I wish I could wave a magic wand. I wish I could make you immediately better. I wish there was a magic pill. Countless times I have prayed and begged to feel better. I have willed it to be over. I have beaten myself up for it taking so long. I have told myself off. But I have learnt it’s no good trying to rush it. The only way is to accept whatever time it takes. There is no one pattern fits all. For some it maybe a quick journey for others it may go on for years, decades even. Please don’t try to rush a recovery. Please don’t criticise yourself for taking your time. You deserve patience for yourself.

3. Take whatever help you need. If anti-depressants help – take them. If they don’t – don’t take them. If you need time off work – take it. If you need to work to keep busy – do it. If you need to stay in bed all day – rest. If you need to go for a run- get out there. If you need to talk to anyone who will listen- talk. If you need to hide away from people- find somewhere safe. If seeing a counsellor helps – talk as much as it makes you feel more like you. If seeing a counsellor is far from anything you can manage – don’t feel guilty.

Depression is so different for everyone. There is no right way. I have taken anti-depressants (4 different types) to varying degrees of success and I’m still a bit skeptical. I have been seeing a counsellor for 18 months and I will continue to do so because I think it helps me. I have friends who I can chat to when it gets tough. I have things I like doing to get some space from the world. Do what you need to do to survive.

4.  Try and find some joy again. It maybe something small. Whatever it is look for the spark of joy. Try and find something that makes you smile. Try to find something that makes you happy. Try to find something that gives you something to focus on. It might be a pet. I have heard they are good to stroke and take care of, something to distract the mind. It might be a new project. For me writing helped. It enabled me to pour out my feelings. It might be your family. For me I have learnt to try and hold on to the moments of joy I get from my two boys. When I have been really low it has helped to go back to those times. Whatever it is try to find something that helps give you a bit of love of life again. However small something positive can grow.

Ultimately recovery is a journey for everyone. It is going to be completely different for everyone. I can only offer my thoughts. They have helped me.

I also know I still have a way to go to be exactly where I want to be. There are still issues that I am working on. My self confidence and self esteem is still not where I want it to be. My self doubt and self image are still very low. As a result this makes me question every conversation; I am my biggest critic.

My self harm hasn’t stopped. It has decreased. It isn’t such a crutch but it is still there. Another goal is to remove it. Let’s hope.

Recovery is an unfinished journey. I’m not ever sure I will be fully rid of depression. But it can get more manageable. It can get better.

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.

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!

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.

Positive things…

I’ve had a good couple of weeks. From the depths of depression I have once again managed to find a way out. The ladder was there. The last week has been a positive one which is nice to share.

It started with my brother in law’s wedding last Saturday. A wedding not normally an event I look forward to because of the anxiety that lots of people causes me. But I had a lovely day. I was in a positive mood going into the day which helped but it was truly relaxing and enjoyable as well.

My boys made a huge difference, they were amazing. They made me smile and laugh. Both were kings of the dance floor! Also my husband’s family are so lovely. I am truly lucky. Thankfully they get me and there is never any pressure and people just make me feel at ease.

The working week then passed without much drama. Friday turned into a bonus day off where I managed to get loads of work done, the joys of motherhood. I was mid teaching period 1 when I received a phone call from my son’s nursery requesting someone pick him up immediately because he had been ill. Hence the day of tv and me managing to mark all my year 10 mock exam papers. I felt productive. I was pleased to have got that job out of the way.

Saturday and the normal events of swimming lessons and time in the garden on a gloriously hot day were great. Just the chilling out I needed. Saturday night a date night with some friends. A lovely curry. Great company and even a newly planned holiday for 3 weeks time!

Sunday involved an hours drive to Hemel Hempstead to pick up my 97 year old nan. She has had a bug. My grandad, who is also 97, has been in hospital with it as he has to manage dialysis 3 times a week as well. Bringing her back to Bedford for a few days break staying with my mum and dad. After that job was done my husband and I enjoyed some cinema time watching the new avengers whilst my mother in law babysat. Then an hour planting in the garden with the boys=Bliss.

Bank holiday Monday and once again we have been blessed with a beautifully hot sunny day. A bbq for my mum, dad and Nan. Time in the garden with my husband and the boys. Relaxed and fun.

I wanted to share how life with depression can be positive too. It takes it toll on me a lot of the time. There is no guarantee whether tomorrow will be a low or high day. But this last week has been a good one and sometimes it is about taking the positives when you can. Even trying to hold onto them when the depression curse strikes from no where.

A shout out to good friends!

Yes I’m pretty low again at the moment. It always amazes me how some friends are so good at times like this. My mind tells me I’m worthless, everyone hates me, no one wants to know me so it surprises me when some rally around.

I wanted to do a positive post even though I’m feeling poorly. I want to say thank you to some friends. I won’t mention any names here, but I know my friends will know who they are when they read it. In no particular order:

Friend a: I might not have known you long, but I feel you understand me well. You are very kind and good at listening. Your hugs are amazing and alway lift my spirits. Our boys love to play together and I hope theirs and our friendship lasts for years to come.

Friend b: you have always said you don’t know much about depression. You always claim you don’t know what to say. You took the time to read my book to help you understand. Let me say you are amazing. The little texts show you care. The fact you are another teacher means you understand the pressures schools can be.

Friend c: over the last year you have been there through everything. Your late night chats have saved me from suicidal thoughts. At the moment I know you are struggling too. I wish I could help you like you helped me. I know things are tough in your life right now. I will always be there for you whatever.

Friend d: you sparked this post. Today you made an amazing difference. I always push you away when I’m poorly. But you are relentless (and annoying lol). You never fail to be there for me. You have seen me at my worst, been there at my lowest ever point. You probably understand my depression better than anyone as you suffer the same. I know I have helped you in the past but the friendship feels a little one sided right now. I’m sorry about that. Having worked at the same school at me in the past you have a good understanding of people and issues. It helps to rant to you. But most importantly your advice today was spot on, I just wish I had the courage to do it!

Friend e: finally this isn’t one person in particular but the collective! There are too many to mention them individually. But these are all those who listen, take time to support me, send me words of encouragement. I appreciate it all. It makes a massive difference. From the Facebook message from France to the what’s app message from a colleague to make me laugh.

Sometimes there is a lot of negativity around the support for mental health. I do feel it is lacking in many areas, that is a post for another day. But I want to recognise that many of us do have great support from friends and family and without them we wouldn’t be here, or we wouldn’t be coping half as well as we do. Thank you.

Social anxiety

This is my life! I make arrangements. I look forward to them. I get to the day and I don’t want to go. My mind puts up an obstacle course. It plans every excuse. It makes me feel panicked. I feel physically sick with dread.

Why? I want to do these things. I look forward to them. I plan them. I am excited. So why does my brain play tricks on me?

Take tonight as an example. I have known about it for the last month or so. I am going out with my national childbirth trust (nct) friends.

We have been friends for over 4 years now (since before our children were first born). They are the group of people that when I am with them I feel most comfortable. We have shared a lot in our short time of knowing each other and there is lots of trust between us.

In the past I have been out with them for many meals and drinks. Each time the same has happened as tonight. Prior to the event I have dreaded it. I have build it up in my head to be something awful. Each time I have fought these emotions I have had a great time when I have been out.

I have smiled. I have relaxed. I have laughed until I have cried. I have enjoyed myself in every way possible. So why knowing this do I still turn something i am looking forward to into complete dread?

I hate the way the anxiety spikes. I hate the way it makes me feel. I hate the way it is so irrational. I hate the way I cannot control it. I hate what it turns me into.

No one realises what a battle it is just to get through the door each day. Sometimes it is a battle just to get out of bed. The arguments that go on in my head.

I never know which side of my brain will win the battle. If I cancel on you in the future or have in the past this may be/ may have been an element of it. I may have made up an excuse. It may have been true. But it might have just been my head playing tricks.

It’s 5pm. I have no idea which side will win the battle tonight. I am hopeful I will manage to overcome the anxiety. I can’t tell you what I am worried about. I don’t even know! I have counselling at 6:30pm as I do every Friday so I am hoping this will help! I am hoping talking through how I feel may allow me to win the war in my head this once.

What I gained from taking the biggest risk of my life (so far) part 3 of 3

So both back at our old school as teachers. Two friends. We hadn’t been in contact much over the past few years. The early months I was in complete denial that there was anything between us. A feeling of I’ve been there done that arose. He had asked me out 3 times in sixth form and each time I had turned him down.

Then it all started to change. Yes I have to admit it was his obvious love and affection for his nephew that did it. A family man he was. 5 months after we started going out we were engaged. A year later married. 2 years after that two children! The biggest risk of my life was worth it…I found love.

So reflecting back am I still happy about taking that risk? Going into the unknown was scary. I was always certain I would go back to primary. But after the latest bought of major depression I am not sure.

Whilst unwell and off work I went for and was offered 3 different teaching positions back in the primary classroom. I was drawn to those happy times in my memory. I am so glad I did because it made me realise I don’t want to go back at the moment. Never say never but it’s not an option right now.

Never make major decisions when you are ill with depression. I always advocate that. I was about to do that when my wise friend offered me some amazing advice. Go back to work first. See how it is before you make a decision to leave.

It wasn’t a smooth ride going back. The anxiety was through the roof but I knew I shouldn’t rush into another career move. I was too poorly.

I had always planned to go back to primary at some point. I certainly couldn’t see myself in leadership in a secondary school. I also couldn’t see me doing my current job much longer I needed a new challenge. But another wise friend said stop planning too far ahead and enjoy the now.

So where does the risk I took 9 years ago leave me now? I currently love my job. I love the people I work with. It’s stressful and hard work but it’s rewarding too. And it has taken nine years but for the first time I’ve come to accept I might even like it enough to stay longer. There may even be options to progress or look at new avenues in this job. But for now I’m just going to accept the present.

So think through every risk. But don’t be too afraid to give it a go. The rewards are unknown but they could be amazing!

Most difficult things to do with a broken wrist.

Another lighthearted post! I’m kind of in the mood to laugh about the wrist today. There have been moments it has made me feel like a failure and exaggerated the depression. But today I’m out for a bit of fun!

1. Hardest thing I have done so far… try to peel a carrot. Seriously impossible. If I held the carrot in my good left hand it hurt too much for my bad wrist to do the peeling. Holding it in my right and trying to peel with my left just didn’t work!

2. Changing a 1 year old’s pooey nappy! Yes Thomas likes to roll. So it kind of involved holding him down with my elbow whilst trying to hold his legs up to wipe with my shoulders. Then once clean putting a new nappy on one handed whilst he is wriggling around.

3. Sleeping! It so annoying having a massive, hot, heavy extension to your arm. Finding a place to put it has been a nightmare. I have even hit my husband in the night with it (apparently).

4. School work! As a teacher I write quite a bit. I can’t write at all! I have done a little with my left hand when I haven’t found an alternative but it is frustratingly slow. It also looks like a five year olds writing. I guess no marking in books just yet!

5. Opening things. Seriously I can’t get any grip or power out of my fingers on my poorly wrist. My teeth have become my second hand!

6. Carrying things! I just can’t. It hurts to put any weight on my broken wrist. Even a class set of exercise books I had to do in three lots! This is extremely frustrating. Everything is taking so much longer than normal. Be patient. I will do what I can.

7. Carrying my son down the stairs. If you have ever been to our house you will notice we have the most beautiful stairs but also the worst for children. They are so dangerous for little ones. Thomas can’t get down them himself yet. So currently I have to carry him down with a rather precarious one handed lift!

8. Eating my dinner. My husband is fed up of having to cut things up for me. A knife is just not needed at the moment I can’t use it anyway.

9. Have you ever tried cutting an apple or spreading butter on toast with your non-dominant hand? Give it a go. Good luck. Wow breakfast time is hard. My boys always have cereal and then apple cut up and toast. I curse every time.

10. Hanging out washing on the line one handed is very comical. How do you peg and hold at the same time. Yes it can be done but it’s very slow.

11. Building lego. So my oldest son was 4 last week. Some friends bought him lego. Yesterday on my day off from work I had a brilliant idea about making some of it with him whilst my youngest was napping. I never realised how much two hands were needed. Also it hurt to push pieces together so I soon gave up!

12. Shampooing your hair. So in the shower my broken wrist is inside this plastic sleeve so it doesn’t get wet. This means I can’t even hold anything in it or use it to balance anything against it. So I kind of get the shampoo bottle with my left hand open it with my teeth and then squirt an unknown amount on the top of my head. Today it was too much and it started running in my eyes. Other days it has been far too little so hence repeat. After the squirt it is a rather unsuccessful rub into the hair one handed.

P.s. Opening a jar! Just stopped the postman and asked him to open something for me 🙈🙈🙈Update: winning at life tonight! Just survived two days looking after two little ones on my own with a broken wrist. Just made two sets of dinner (one for the boys and one for me and my husband) washed and dried up! Wrist killing now but not surprised with all I have had to do today! Work with a broken wrist might be a doddle tomorrow???