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.

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.

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!

Rocked by revelations

In an attempt to be rid of depression I have counselling once a week. I force myself to go through it. I make myself go. I battle the fear. I battle the thoughts of your well you don’t need it.

Counselling really does help me to feel better. I have seen a few different people over the past year but I have been with my current counsellor for nearly a year now. What sets her apart is her kindness. Her pure care and concern. Her constant reassurance.

She is the voice my head is often missing. She is the kind, understanding voice that the depression has squashed. She shows a concern for my wellbeing when I feel like a burden to everyone.

But at the same time counselling is incredibly difficult at times. My last session on Friday brought a new realisation. We have been working through things from my past slowly. Essentially I know it is a long process to wellness.

But it’s also a really hard one. Talking through things has made me realise so much about the past. It has opened my mind to why I feel like I do. A series of revelations has rocked me. I can’t stop processing it. Questioning it. I keep going over and over it.

By Tuesday things had built up so much that the depression and anxiety took a real turn for the worse. I couldn’t sleep at night. The anxiety was making me feel sick. I was very low. I couldn’t process anything. My mind was just wobbling everywhere.

My husband advised I took the day off work. He was worried. He didn’t want it to spiral again. He didn’t want me to become overwhelmed with the illness again.

Yesterday I did take the day. I slept much of it. I went for a walk in the country for the rest. It really did help put me back on a level keel. I felt much calmer and ready for life to throw at me.

However, it is still plaguing me. It is something I will have to talk through with my counsellor on Friday to try and get some clarity. Before it eats me alive completely.

There isn’t always a reason why depression strikes!

A week on holiday. It has been good. Friends, family, days out, holidays and mainly great weather. All week I have been good. Positive moods. Happy. Content.

But depression doesn’t have a plan. Depression is an illness that can strike at anytime. Depression doesn’t always have a reason. Today depression hit me hard.

The lowest day I’ve had in months. There is no reason for it. Nothing to worry about. Nothing I didn’t want to do. Just time at home with the family, the garden and the sunshine.

But depression came calling. A deep dark shadow hang over me all day. The black dog sat on me making me incapable of any action. All day a black storm cloud rained numbness down on me.

Today depression sucked the energy out of me. I had plans. I had ideas. But I couldn’t do any of them. I felt like I was stuck in quick sand. Being sucked into a complete abyss of nothingness.

Today I largely gave in to it. Today I mainly sat. Today I mostly spent the day consumed with my dark cloud.

My husband has been good today. He has been patient. He has been kind. He has been a great friend as well as a husband.

I always end days like these feeling guilty. Guilty for the lack of energy. Guilty for the the lack of action. Guilty for the effect on my family. Depression has taken its toll. Today I feel like giving up.

Turning arghhh into a positive

I have learnt a sign of my mental health taking a dip is a lack of patience for everything and everyone. It always starts with me snapping at my kids and my husband. They always get the brunt of it which I feel so guilty about.

This evening the snapping went to extremes. I felt like I had the shortest fuse ever. The tiniest things wound me up. I just wanted to shout and scream at everyone.

I have learnt that it is important to acknowledge that this happened. Being in denial just seems to make it spiral. Being honest with myself often seems to help catch it before it becomes more of a problem.

So here I am acknowledging it. I’m doing more than that. I’m sharing it here. It’s helping to articulate what happened. Rather than bottling it up inside.

Tonight I’m trying a new tact. For a long time now I have wanted to do more to share my story. Although I have extreme anxiety I like talking to groups of people. I know I’m odd. Ive decided to start planning a talk about mental health and my own experiences to share with teenagers and staff in schools.

I would like to turn my negatives into a positive for somebody. I am going to give this a shot. Try and get my creativity working on this. Distract my poorly brain for a little while.

If you have any ideas about what I should include please comment below.

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.

What a liar.

Last night my mental health hit rock bottom again. I feel so upset with myself. I keep going backwards.

The problem is I don’t think I have ever got over what caused it to first rear its head 8 years ago. Part of the breakthrough I had with my counsellor on Friday showed me that I have actually been ill for an awfully long time. Yes I managed to push it to the back of my mind for 7 years whilst I found my husband, got married and had my children but really it was still there. Hidden under the surface.

Today I have hidden this anguish and pain. I have hidden how poorly I feel. I have hidden the desperation. I have hidden the wish to give up. Many times I have been asked “how are you” and each I have lied “good thanks”. I’m sorry for lying to you. I’m sorry for not being honest and open.

I have got on with my job today despite not wanting to go on anymore. I have held meetings. I have taught classes. I have even volunteered and done extra duties to help out a colleague.

I’ve done all this without showing anyone how I really feel. A burden. A failure. Absolutely exhausted. The depression absolutely overcoming my soul.