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: How to understand the invisible?

Blog posts are starting to flow, which means I’m feeling poorly. I always write when I’m not quite right. Depression and anxiety always gets my creativity going.

Tonight I feel again like this is my life forever. However many times I try to get over depression and anxiety I fail. It has become me. It is not something I will ever be completely be free of, it’s something I cope with.

Today I came across a lack of understanding of mental health. Stigma exists. Mostly I would say this stigma isn’t intentionally hurtful (although sadly that does still exist). But an honest lack of knowledge. An honest lack of experience. An honest I don’t get it.

It’s really hard to help people understand what cannot be seen. I get why people don’t get it. I appreciate how hard it is. I don’t blame them for their lack of knowledge. Depression and anxiety are so irrational in many ways that we can’t explain them clearly.

This doesn’t mean I will give up. This doesn’t mean I will stop trying to help people understand.

Being completely honest about what goes on in my head scares me. I worry that if my husband, counsellor, doctor knew they would section me immediately. My head is irrational and dramatic. It isn’t all bad.

More than anything opening up truthfully often leads to advice. I’m not one for people telling me what to do. I like it when people listen. I don’t like not being in control. It’s not that I always know best but I have had this for a long time now and I know what does and does not work.

So I’ll try to be honest to help people understand if you promise not to worry!

  • I self harm every day.
  • When I’m at my worse I have had suicidal thoughts daily.
  • I have been about to commit suicide.
  • Even now much better than before I still think about suicide sometimes (luckily not seriously currently).
  • Sometimes I can’t get out of bed I feel so low.
  • Sometimes just to get out of bed is an achievement.
  • I feel like I have a tonne weight on me holding me back.
  • Anxiety makes me sick.
  • I worry about everything I do, say, write. I analyse it over and over and over.
  • I am scared of everything.
  • I have zero self belief or confidence.
  • I think I am a rubbish mum.
  • I think I am a rubbish teacher.
  • I feel worthless.

And these are just a start.

No mental health illness is the same. I have friends who have issues but theirs jare different to mine in many ways and same in others. Essentially I’m not sure you will ever fully get it unless you have it. But I do ask that you all try and show a little bit more compassion. You make time to listen. You make time to learn more and try to understand.

Never felt so ill.

This morning was a new low for me. Never before (even when I was off work for 6 months) have I felt as bad mentally as I did this morning. With no reason for the depths it was crippling.

I felt like the black dog was sat on my head. I could barely carry my head on my shoulders. I felt like the storm cloud was pouring down on me. I felt sick with anxiety, which I couldn’t pin point a cause to. I felt lifeless. I felt dead inside.

I got up with my boys as it was my husbands turn for a lie in. I pushed myself so hard to feel better. I even made healthy muffins in an attempt to refocus the brain. It didn’t help.

By 9am I was lying on the bed staring into space. I craved just lying there all day (like I have done before). More than ever before, to a deeper extent, I felt like depression was eating away at my soul. It was like I was truly losing who I was.

I forced myself into the day. With a husband streaming with hay fever and complaining that I am so hard to live with when I am like this (which I am). His concern that I must take some time off work because I can’t go in like this, kicked me into action (I’m desperate not to let work down again).

I forced myself into the shower and started to tackle the smallest of tasks. My youngest and I popped to Tesco whilst the eldest and my husband navigated the tennis lesson.

After lunch I sat in our lean to outside feeling that the dementors from Harry Potter had truly stole every living part of me. I was trying to put on a brave face for my husband and children whilst snapping at them so easily. I finally gave in and went for a nap.

Being woken an hour and a half later by my youngest putting teddies around my head, I felt extremely groggy. My head was that horrible, gritty sleepy that I get if I sleep too long in the day. But thankfully the depression had lifted a bit.

As I told my husband I will take the sleepy grogginess over the depression any day. He commented that I was brighter. I was. I felt i could feel again. I felt like life was there for me again.

Please don’t expect people with depression and anxiety to always explain why they are ill. There isn’t always a reason. I have a poorly head. My brain is sick. I don’t necessarily need to have had something happen in my life to cause that.

Please don’t call people who commit suicide selfish. If you have never experienced depression you can’t possibly understand what it truly feels like. People who commit suicide do not want to die. They are instead desperate to end the pain of depression. It is the worst feeling you can ever encounter.

It isn’t like the pain of childbirth or other extreme physical pain. It is a deep and gut wrenching ache. It’s like someone has cored our your heart and soul as easily as you core an apple.

Please don’t judge.

Please listen.

Please understand.

A breakthrough?

Tonight was the first time I have ever felt the emotion bubbling in a counselling session.

I haven’t been able to tap into my emotions for years. I have pushed them aside. Bottled them up. Kept them firmly out of reach.

Tonight was different. A new location. A different space. A light evening. Feeling more alive. I spoke more freely. I opened up a little more.

I realised more and more how long I have been unwell. I started to process how things have affected my life. I started to look at traumatic events in my past.

I started to piece together some of my past. I understood how things are perhaps connected.

At the end of it all I could feel the emotions building. I actively didn’t want to go any further because I was scared of what might happen. I was scared of letting go. The surge of emotions made me feel sick. It was all so weird.

I was happy that this finally happened. Not completely but it’s s start. My counsellor was so supportive and keen to encourage me to take this very slow. She said I need to be sure I can handle where these conversations will go.

Let’s hope it’s the start of dealing with how I feel. Going below the surface for the first time.

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.

Swings and roundabouts

Ups and downs

Lows and highs

Swings and roundabouts

My life with depression.

Positives and negatives

Energy and exhaustion

Focus and confusion

My mind spirals all in one day

Help and pushing it away

Listeners and supporters

Knowledge and misunderstanding

My life full of different contacts

Too little and not enough sleep

Lonely and yet too many people

No time and too much time

My never ending circle of illness

Don’t give up on me.

Belief me. Listen to me. Understand me.

Respect my illness.

Respect my story.

Respect my journey.

Feeling lost.

Emptiness. Alone. Being eaten from inside. That is how I feel today.

Everything is so hard.

Worried and anxious for a family member. So stressed that tears flow and they look physically drawn. They are struggling so much. But I feel completely helpless. I feel useless. I feel like more of a burden than a support. I don’t know what to do to make things better. I don’t even have much time to talk. My life seems so busy at the moment. I am barely coping with me. Surely I am making things worse for them? The guilt is so hard handle to process. The feelings of I “should be doing more” overpower me. The worry for the person follow me throughout the day. I’m constantly thinking “what can I do to make things better?” But I have no answer.I have managed to cope with the day. Housework, Tesco shop, playing with my 1 year old, doing the school runs. I even hosted a play date this evening for one of my eldest’s school friends. That meant 4 extra for dinner and feeling on edge the whole time.

Right now the worry and guilt is back. I have sat down this evening and I actually feel sick with the emotions that a flowing through me. My husband who has come in from parents evening is being so lovely but I seem to be pushing him away.

I know I’m poorly again at the moment because of my reaction to him. I am struggling to sit next to him on the sofa. He is snuggled into me but my body wants to scream and push him away. I have no idea why.

He is done nothing wrong. He has only been loving. Perhaps it’s I don’t feel I deserve being loved today. I don’t deserve his care or affection. When poorly I also push people away. It is so hard to be with anyone.

I’m desperate for this to pass. Please please don’t sink low again. I was doing so well. I’m really struggling right now.

A letter for those who don’t “believe” depression.

Dear unbeliever,

Firstly I want to start by saying I’ve been where you are now. Before I became ill with depression at the age of 26 I had no clue what it was. If you had asked me I probably would have said people get sad and low sometimes but they can pull themselves out of it. It’s all about mindset! How wrong I was!

How far from the truth. Even now I would agree that unless you have suffered from a mental illness you can never really appreciate what it is like. Although to be fair either can someone who has! Each mental health issue is unique.

But that doesn’t mean I am giving up! Yes you maybe one of the lucky ones and never suffer from depression. You may never know how crippling it is. You may never know that it is as serious as cancer and claims many lives. I hope you don’t have to suffer. But I do hope you will try to understand what it is like for those that do.

I want you to know that I understand it is so difficult to know what it’s like. I want you to know it is hard to see the invisible. I want you to know I have been where you are now.

But I need you to trust me. I need you to believe me. I need you to realise that depression is an illness as serious as any other life long condition. I need you to know that no one would ever make up this hell.

I can’t just snap out of it. I can’t pull myself together. I can’t just be happy. It is not about a positive mindset. Depression is an illness.

I will probably live with this my whole life. I hope it will never attack me again like it has done over the past year. I hope I can keep it in control in the future.

You have not seen. You have not experienced it. But please believe. I am not sure there is any analogy that will really help you understand.

I know you are sceptical. But everyone has mental health. Everyone has a mind. Why does our brain not get as much respect as any other part of our body? I broke my arm and you understood. Someone you know has diabetes and you realise they have a life long condition that needs medication. Your family member has cancer and you do whatever you can to help.

Depression is an illness. It is real. It needs help. It needs understanding. It needs compassion. It needs treatment. Perhaps the problem is that it is different for every person. For some medication helps. For others it is counselling. For others a combination of different strategies.

So unbeliever I am not making this up. I cannot just have a positive mindset. I wish it was that simple. I have an illness which I live with. Sometimes I have it in control. Sometimes it overtakes my whole life. But it certainly is real.

Believe me. Listen to me. Try to understand me. I am 1 in 4 with a mental health condition. But I am 1 in 1 that has mental health. Yes all of us do! So take care of yours and respect other people’s.

Love from

Becky

A letter about mental health for my children

Dear my gorgeous boys,

When you are older I will explain to you what depression is. I will tell you how it affects me and that it is an illness. I will encourage you to show empathy, understanding and kindness to others when they need you.

What do I want you to know about depression? What do I want you to know about your mum? What do I want you to know about yourselves?

Most importantly I want you to know it’s ok to share your emotions. It’s also ok to not be ok. I want to encourage you to talk about how you feel. I want you to know I will always listen without judgement if you need to let it out.

It is important to know that mental health is important for everyone. Physical health and mental health both need consideration and looking after. I hope you live in a world that becomes kinder and fairer to those who have a mental health.

I believe that you will grow up to be people who will understand mental illness better than me. I’m hoping my openness will ensure it is something that is not kept secret but brought out in the open. I believe you will help others.

I am sorry my dear boys for all the times my depression has got in the way of our family time. I’m sorry for the times I have been so low for no reason I have gone to bed. I’m sorry when my mood has been so bad I have snapped at the slightest thing. I’m sorry I haven’t felt like doing much some days. I’m sorry some days I have been distant and vacant, physically but not mentally present.

But I hope you know mental illness doesn’t make you any less of a person. It is not something to hide. It is not something to be ashamed of. I hope you know that you can still have an amazing career and a lovely family life if you get the right support.

Boys I hope you won’t suffer like I do. I hope this illness is not something you have to learn to cope with like me. But boys if it is I’m trying to educate more people so that you may have a smoother ride. So that more people may understand. So that more people may help.

Boys if you’re lucky enough to have great mental health I will help educate you on how to support others. I hope you will be there for the ones you love, friends or colleagues. I hope you will listen.

Love your

Mummy

8 quotes for depression.

A few months ago I started using Twitter (again). I was set on a course to help overcome the stigma of mental health. I used quotes to inspire me. Months on I wanted to write a post which picked 8 which are important for my mental health journey.

A bonus one is the one as the image of this blog post. This for me is the most important. We can’t always see what others are going through or the illnesses they have. Depression is often invisible and many of the stigmas I have struggled with are due to people’s lack of belief because they can’t see anything is wrong.

1.

Depression is all consuming. It can eat you a way till you feel like there is nothing of your being left. It is exhausting. It is a battle just to get out of bed. So for me this quote is so important. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to just have breathed today. That’s an achievement!

2. I often use the words fighting a battle in your own head. Trying to overcome the war. Every day is so tough.

3.

As someone who has been extremely suicidal this is so true. Suicide is so misunderstood. People think it’s the cowards way out; that people haven’t consider who is left behind. That is so far from the truth. For me the depression was so bad I felt I was a burden to everyone in my life. I thought no one needed me as I was a complete failure. Therefore winning the fight and not throwing myself off the top of a car park when everything in my whole being was screaming to do it was the bravest thing I have ever done.

4. At times I wished I could have had the right words to explain how it felt. There are at times no words that can express what is going on, especially when you don’t understand it yourself.

5.

When I was at my worst two friends kept reminding me of this. It always felt genuine coming from them. One was a fellow depression sufferer and the other had a husband who had overcome the illness. It’s the message I think everyone with depression needs to know.

6.

This is a key tip for someone trying to support someone they know with depression. Being there and listening is key! You can’t solve depression like a problem but showing you care can make so much difference.

7.

This quote relates to the one above. Being heard and understood is so important to someone with depression. When your whole being lacks self belief and confidence it is very encouraging to know that there is somebody in the world who believes you.

8.

Lastly I would never want to inflict this illness on anyone. I certainly would get rid of it in a second if I could. However, it has taught me so much about how to help others. I have learnt strategies for supporting other people with mental illness mainly because I know what has helped me. I also know what has made me worse! Therefore I do think it is those who have experienced depression or some other form of illness or difficulty that will try to help others.