Isolating

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while and the truth is this is because I have been really well. The truth is when I am well I don’t need to write. The truth is when I am poorly (and unable to talk about how I’m feeling) blogging is a very cathartic process.

Truth be known I’m not finding it easy to share with anyone how unwell I am at the moment. Even for those that do know I’ve hardly spoken a word. With a friend (who is also my boss) I wrote a list, unable to speak. She then contacted (with my permission) two people who she knew could help. Others I have either not said a word and hidden it perfectly or I have just said very little.

Honestly I don’t want to share because I’m scared. I truly believe that people are completely fed up of this endless cycle of depression that I never seem to get out of. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be felt of as a waste of space. Mostly because I already feel that of myself!

Currently I’m doing a good acting job most of the time. For many reasons, which are deep and subconscious and which I will not go into now, work is impossible; but I am hoping that most wouldn’t realise it. I’m still teaching with enthusiasm and vigour. I’m still managing my job (mostly). I’m still making conversation and smiling politely.

In the last week 3 different people, once knowing how ill I truly am have urged me to get signed off. But I am clinging on desperately. Being off ill in the past I currently don’t want to go down that road. Why when even though those who know are urging me to for my own health? For a few reasons 1. I don’t want to be a let down at work again 2. I am scared of being off because sometimes the loneliness of it can lead me to spiral 3. I want a new job and being off sick is not a good selling point!

I’ve even been lying to my counsellor and telling her everything is well. Next Friday is meant to be my last session after 18 months. Last session when I’m at such a low point, I know madness. I think the only sense I have reasoned right now is that after cancelling yesterday’s session, next week when I go I will be honest and extend it for now.

I’m not sure where this current depression will lead. I know it’s really bad in my head right now. I know all the worst bits of the past are very real. I know isolation is not a good plan for I’m scared to do anything else. Perhaps this blog post at least stops the isolation a little.

Medication

Saturday I went to the doctors. It took 3 weeks of persuasion from various sources including my counsellor, friends and husband. When you have had as many bad experiences,with doctors and mental health, as I have you get a little scared.

Well I had such a positive experience. She was the nicest doctor I have ever met. What was even more special was the time she gave me, the care she showed and her genuine interest in wanting to hear me so she could help me.

I came away with two prescriptions. One for my stomach pains that have been relentless and she thinks due to irritable bowel syndrome. The other a new antidepressant.

After coming off my antidepressants in September I have been determined not to go back on them again. I have fought feeling poorly. I have pushed away any comments from sources to suggest it might be best to consider them.

Why? It’s ingrained. My mum is an advocate for no medicine unless absolutely necessary. Even when it is you try and get off it as soon as possible. I think i just always fall into that trap.

I’m trying Citalopram. I was on it for a few months about 10 years ago. I’m not sure why I came off it at the time, it’s too long ago. The doctor thought it might be worth a try as I was so scared about starting fluoxetine again as the side effects crippled my anxiety at the start last time.

So I’ve taken two so far as she advised me to take them at night to start with to help the bad effects be when I’m asleep.

If you don’t know antidepressants take between 2-4 weeks usually to have a positive effect. The first 2 weeks are also usually tough because until your body gets used to the side affects they can really make things worse.

So what’s happening right now. The last two nights I’ve been awake since 4am with heart palpitations and feeling sick. In the day I’m dizzy, feeling nauseous, and had a headache which nothing has touched. My anxiety levels have certainly risen. I’m super tired and I feel very spacey. I went to work today but I’m not sure I’ll get there feeling like this tomorrow. Not easy when your job involves teaching classes of teenagers.

I know these side effects should subside in 1-2 weeks. I can manage them in the short term, I just hope the tablets help my mental health long term.

Depression curse

That’s what I feel it is right now. A curse that I will never be free of. I’m coming to learn and finally accept that it may follow me like a shadow for the rest of my life. But somehow I have to stop it being such a curse in my daily life.

Right now it’s making me feel so poorly again. Today I awoke and was sick three times with a chesty cough, however in reality it wasn’t solely this that kept me off work. Without it I probably would have gone in. But with it I felt that the combination of physical exhaustion and mental illness was too much.

So how is the curse troubling me? What are the current difficulties?

  1. I absolutely hate myself! I cannot see anything good in me. I feel like the most selfish, miserable, good for nothing person in the world. I feel like a complete failure as a wife, mother and teacher.
  2. My self confidence is so low I’m so anxious. I can’t even look people in the eye. I’m scared nearly all the time. In the classroom is certainly the worst.
  3. I’m lonely. I’m feeling so alone yet I’m surrounded by people. I have two beautiful young boys and a husband with me but yet I feel alone. I have friends only a text or phone call away yet I am lonely. I have colleagues offering to help and yet I’m lonely. Why? I’m pushing people away. With every offer of help I refuse to accept it. With every kind word I shy away. Why because I’m so scared these people who I like will lose respect for me and hate me if they spend even a few minutes listening to me. I almost want someone to force the issue because I can’t but no one does because they don’t know what to do for the best.
  4. The curse tells me it will be this bad forever. For the last two years I have been riddled with this curse. Yes it has been up and down and I have had good times too. But right now I’m beginning to feel like i am a hopeless case. People must wonder what a waste of space I am because I am always ill.
  5. Self harm. I know it is still such a taboo subject but it’s daily in my life. Currently I’ve done it quite a lot recently it hurts. Not only do I have the marks I have the pain as well.
  6. Suicidal thoughts. These are daily too. I wouldn’t say I’m in crisis (I’ve been there and I know the difference) but it doesn’t stop the thoughts going round my head as I feel like everyone would be better off without me.

I keep trying to remember what friends say it will get better. But it’s been going on and off like this for 2 years now and it doesn’t feel like there is any end in sure. I wish someone could wave a magic wand.

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.

Thank you

T- to all the people who have shown me love today. The texts, the smiles, and the offers of help have all helped. They have made me feel valued. They have made me feel cared for. They have made a difference.

H- hiding has been what my mind has desired today. I have desperately tried to do the opposite. Isolating myself is never a good plan, things just get worse.

A- anxiety is probably at its height right now. The list of what I’m anxious about is so extremely long. Without any counselling to release these I feel the list is just getting longer.

N- nights are the worse. I hate the shorter days and the dark. They make it much harder for me to find the positivity.

K- keeping me on my toes are my children. My youngest is extremely whiny at the moment. He seems grouchy about everything and beyond clingy to his mummy. It’s tiring and I’m struggling to keep my patience.

Y-yawning. I’m so constantly tired. It’s not even a lack of sleep it’s more than that. The anxiety on overdrive makes adrenaline course through my body and leaves me feeling shattered.

O- out in the air tonight, I went for a run. I dreaded it but it actually felt good. I only went for 18 minutes (I didn’t have long before putting the boys to bed) but I jogged much more than I walked and I felt such a release.

U- understanding. My major bugbear right now. Today I had a lovely conversation with someone who agreed with my views about the need for understanding of others issues. Not getting mental health, not really knowing much about it isn’t really an excuse for a lack of understanding to others. Come on everyone let’s just so everyone some love.

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.

Unexpected positives

Recovery is possible. Life can be good again. Positives really exist.

1. I love my job:

At times it causes me stress. It exhausts me. It challenges me in the most unexpected ways. But I absolutely love it. For those who are new to my blog I teach religious education to children aged 11-18 in a secondary school in England.

Term has only just begun and it’s hard to have full days of teaching back to back. But this week I have thrived in front of a class. When depression was at its worse I couldn’t even walk into the building!

I love inspiring them! I love explaining new things. I love being honest with them. I love talking to them. I love engaging with them. I love making the most difficult topics understandable.

2. Unexpected praise makes me feel great:

This week I had someone link to my blog and my book from their blog post. So I clicked the link and followed to read a lovely blog post they had written about the book I wrote. I published Be there for me on kindle back in November. It hasn’t had much of an audience and over the last few months I have stopped looking to see if anyone had even looked at it.

So it was very unexpected when a complete stranger had taken the time to read my book and even more had written a lovely review on their own blog. I was deeply touched. Thank you.

3. Counselling is still needed.

I have been feeling significantly better for a couple of months now. Many times recently I have considered giving up the counselling. Mainly because it can be hard to go out at 6:30pm on a Friday evening after a long week. Especially when my 2 year old cries and shouts I want to come with you and my 5 yr old asks millions of questions about my “meeting”.

I know I’m not fully recovered. (I truly wonder whether I ever will be). The self harm is ever present. The self esteem and anxiety not great still. But I’m coping.

But this weeks counselling session was a revelation. I have so so so much still to be resolved. Essentially my in ability to express my emotions is still deeply affecting me. In particular my self esteem and confidence. It’s ok though I’m making progress slowly.

4. Running isn’t that bad!

I have now done 11 runs since starting 4 weeks ago. I honestly hate running. I used to be extremely sporty but it was always the competition element I liked. Running is just boring. Relentlessly tiring.

But I’m learning to love it a bit. It’s getting easier. I’m making progress. I’m following the couch to 5k app. The feeling after a run is glorious. I have more energy. I honestly believe exercise is helping keep my mood good. I’m determined to get healthier and lose some weight too.

Please whatever is positive in your life try and grab it. If you are in the thick of depression I have been there. It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.

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.