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.

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!

Good things.

Yesterday I woke up feeling pretty rubbish. My throat was so sore and it had bothered me all night so my sleep had been disturbed. I had to go to work, which is always hard on Friday after my midweek weekend (I don’t work Wednesday and Thursdays). But actually the day went really well.

1. My line manager showed understanding and compassion. She listened to what I was saying and responded with care.

2. When a job that I planned to do disappeared. I marked year 10 exam papers for two of my colleagues. It’s the way I like to be a head of department, leading by supporting whenever I can. It made me feel useful and valuable.

3. After school was the inaugural staff rounders game. We managed to get 12 members of staff together! To say I was nervous is an understatement. Throughout the day I thought about not doing it so many times. Anxiety of being with people I don’t usually mix socially with…sky high!

But I’m so glad I went. I enjoyed it all. I remembered why I always loved sport. Despite being over weight and lacking practice my sports woman of the year award that I gained when I was year 10 (at the same school where I now work) started to come back into play. Some of the skills were still there!

It was a buzz to play. Great people to be with and I can’t wait for next week.

4. I came home to three boys (one being my husband) very excited to see me. Cuddles and kisses galore-what a welcome. I then sat on the sofa and watched pj masks with each of my two youngest boys nestled into me either side and my big boy at the end of the sofa…Bliss.

5. Finally I went to counselling. I haven’t been for 3 weeks for various reasons and I had started to feel like I don’t need this. How wrong I was! The self harm has been awful in the last 3 weeks. It’s scaled up on so many levels and after talking to my counsellor I felt a great sense of relief when I realised this is probably due to the lack of counselling and talking through how I am feeling.

Ultimately my counsellor is the kindest, warmest person. She always makes me feel valuable, special and not at all ridiculous for how I am feeling. Last night again the trust I have built up here helped so much. I once again talked about things I have never shared with anyone. I started to break down doors that I hadn’t dared to open.

The day left me happy. I managed not to self harm at all last night. Good things really do need to be treasured.

Anxiety & self harm.

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

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

X= Xmas time is fast approaching.

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

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

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

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

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

E= ending the cycle of blame is hard

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

F= fighting back the urges to continue

H= hurting myself holds so much power over me.

A= an answer to the pain

R= regretting it as soon as it is over

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

Will I ever be free of depression?

Things have certainly been slowly on the up. My confidence has started to return. My love of my job apparent. My mindset less negative. However why at times does it feel like I still have a long way to go?

Last night I opened up to my counsellor. The honesty was hard to deal with. It had been bugging me though. I wanted to be free of the burden.

Why hasn’t the self harm stopped? It certainly has diminished. It certainly doesn’t rule my life like before. It certainly doesn’t happen so often. But I still feel the need to do it sometimes.

Why is it that I still think of suicide at times? Yes the planning has gone. The actual taking action towards that course disappeared. But why at times do I still feel the pull of it? Is it merely a looking back to the thoughts of the past? Or is it still as real?

Why do I feel like it will be years before anyone at work respects me again? Why do i think I am going to be judged for my illness for years to come? When will people stop thinking of me as unwell? When will they start to trust me again?

So as the depression moves out of focus and wellness returns why do I still have these thoughts? Will I ever be free of depression? Will I ever be free of the lasting effects of the journey I have been on over the last year?

With this comes a real fear. I’m so scared. Scared of going back there. Hanging onto wellness for dear life.

This time last year I thought I was well. Work was generally ok. Then in the weeks before October half term things seem to deteriorate quickly.

At the same point in the year now I’m so worried that it will happen again. I can’t go through that again the depression was so deep and painful I seemed to lose myself. I nearly lost my career as my self-belief disintegrated.

Where does this all leave me? I feel better having shared my worries with my counsellor. A burden has been lifted slightly. Her assurances that it’s a journey to recovery are helpful. She puts in all in perspective.

She tells me I should be proud and amazed at how far I have come. She tells me people around me are probably really impressed at the turn around rather than questioning my ability.

The illness still has a habit of refusing to accept even these words. The illness is my cruelest judge. The illness makes me see the worst.

My counsellor advocates “be kind to yourself”. I will try!

Shatter the stigma : the real reasons behind why I self-harm.

I’m not a teenager. I’m not cutting my wrists and arms. I’m not self-harming for attention. Instead I’m a 33 year old mother of two very young boys. I self-harm every day by picking my breasts to pieces. I am ashamed of it. I would like to be invisible. I’m certainly not shouting it from the roof tops.

Mind’s website is great for information and support about self-harm.  

This is very uncomfortable. It feels very hard to share this so openly and honestly. But it is needed. One of the greatest stigma’s I have ever experienced was about my self-harm. When I was first ill with depression I would self harm by scratching my arm with scissors. I was 26, a teacher, and although I lived alone I was very concerned about hiding it from my friends, family and colleagues.

In the midst of self-harm one comment broke me. It has lived with me. It has haunted me for 7 years. They believed I was a risk to others. I was so hurt. Shocked. Angry. Nevertheless I was very unwell and not in a position to raise my concern. To articulate and highlight their misconception. Perhaps not everyone would get it that wrong. But honestly do you really understand self-harm? Do you know why I do it? Do you think it is attention seeking?

Ok complete honesty. I’m writing this now because 5 minutes ago I was self-harming and I couldn’t stop myself. This time around I’ve tried every strategy going (from flicking an elastic band at my wrist instead to trying to be aware of the triggers) to try and stop it. Currently I’m yet to have any success. So what do I do? For the last few years (yes even before I came really unwell in October 2016) I have picked at my breasts. I mean finding a little blackhead, spot, imperfection and squeezing or scratching at it. In the run up to giving birth to both of my boys I managed to curtail it because I wanted to breast feed them. Something I didn’t manage to do with either.

So what now? Well since I have been really unwell this time it has spiralled out of control. I can pick them throughout the day. Usually when I am on the toilet, in the shower or changing clothes. I’ve done it at home, at work and friends houses. It has left my breasts being filled by large scabs and scarred.

It upsets me to look at them. It tears me apart to think about it. My husband obviously knows. He is great. He has learnt that telling me to stop or physically pulling my hands away (when he has seen me do it) doesn’t actually help. It tends to enrage me and make me more determined. Instead he will regularly reassure me now. Of course he wants me to stop. He tries to be a positive and reassuring presence rather than a dictatorial one. I don’t respond well to being told what to do.

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So why do I do it? What pushes someone so far that they turn to self-harm?

  1. I have found that self-harm offers some form of temporary release of feelings. It silenced the chaos in my head. .It is a changing of emotional pain into physical pain. When I self-harm I am solely focused on that moment. All the tension, stress, low feelings are released into the act of cutting or picking (in my case). I am able to feel a sense of relief. Although this only lasts a couple of minutes, at most, it is such a freedom from feeling so poorly.
  2. Punishing myself. My depression continually makes me feel like a failure. By self-harming, I am making myself hurt for my failings. I feel like I should be made to suffer for my inadequacies. I believe I am letting everyone down and therefore self-harm is the retribution for being such a rubbish, wife, mum and employee. I deserve to be in pain, it is only right that just as other people are being forced to cope with me being ill, I should too be punished.
  3. It legitimizes how I am feeling. I always feel like I have to prove how unwell I am. I find that the spoken word is inadequate for this. The marks of self-harm reassure me. Inside I can think yes it really is this bad. I really am ill. It is funny how I feel like people will understand something physical far better than just being depressed. I feel like the self-harm almost justifies me being off work and my feelings.
  4. It is a way to feel less numb. Often with depression I have become completely consumed with it. There is no time or space left to think about anything. I live in a complete a haze or fog. In that moment of self-harm the pain in the case of scratching with the scissors or the blood when I pick an old scab on my breasts reconnects me with the world. It brings me out of this other world.

Right now I’m not sure I can write about recovery. I’m sorry to let you down here. It will come. But at the moment it seems a little far away. I could spout to you the advice I have been given or quote from the Mind website but that doesn’t feel like my blogging. I’m keeping it real. Real to my experience.

Instead I would like to offer some advice to those of you who have never self-harmed. To those of you who know someone who is/has self-harmed whether it is a family member, friend, work colleague, employee or me. I know you may not get it. I know you may think it is strange. Just know this I hate myself so much. It is at times a bit of escapism from the hell of depression.

So what can you do:

  • Don’t judge
  • Encourage them to get support
  • Be honest about your concerns and worries
  • Remind them of their good qualities
  • Don’t make them feel like a failure
  • Don’t tell them to stop (it’s not that easy)
  • Don’t be angry or cross with them
  • Show them compassion, concern and love.

I am so lucky.  I have a few friends who know about the recent self-harm. They have been amazing. They have never made me feel silly or ridiculous. They have immediately understood. They have merely shown concern, compassion and encouraged me to get help. I hope other people may have these experiences too.

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#Iwantyoutoknow

Recently @timetochange have launched a campaign to help shatter the stigma surrounding mental health. Asking people to use the hash tag #iwantyoutoknow to share with others what is like to have a mental health condition and provide a source of comfort for those who need help. So with this as an inspiration I have been thinking what would I like you to know about depression and anxiety. I want you to know:

1.Depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at anytime. Age, race, religion, family circumstances, nothing means you are immune. I have a wonderful husband. Two amazing boys. A lovely home. I had a great upbringing. A job I love. Despite all of this I suffer from depression. I believe I will now fight it everyday of my life. It doesn’t help me when you say “but you have a great life”, “you haven’t got anything to worry about” or “nothing bad has ever happened to you”. Firstly how would you know? Secondly so what? None of it matters. Depression isn’t my fault.

2.I may look ok on the outside but it doesn’t mean I am on the inside. Mostly I appear happy, easy going, friendly, full of life. Most people would never think that I am ill. Sometimes it is such an act to appear happy in public. It involves so much effort . I can’t always hold back the depression for long and I often go home and nap because I am so tired or cry because that is how I truly feel. “The happiest people on the outside maybe dying inside.” Mental illness is as debilitating as physical.


3. That just because I’m back at work doesn’t mean I’m well.
Mental health is so invisible. It is so difficult for anyone to really know how anyone else is feeling. You never really know what is going on behind someone’s smile. Just because I’m not in hospital, or confined to my bed it doesn’t mean I am suddenly better. Although I have had many days where things have got so tough bed has been my sanctuary. It is the place where I can escape the torment of my mind for just a short while. I have what is called high functioning depression which means most of the time I can go on as normal. No one would necessarily suspect anything was wrong. Some days I wish I could hold a placard saying today I feel awful just be kind. I wish it was normal for me to let you know, how I truly am. “I’m fine” is much easier to say.

4. Depression doesn’t make me any less capable. I can still be a success. In the past well meaning people have often made me feel like my illness means I can’t do something. A promotion at work or a new challenge have been made to feel like they are out of my reach. There are some that think depression means I don’t have the potential to achieve new goals and challenges. My illness is just a small part of me. I have so much more to give. In fact I would argue it actually makes me stronger than others. It means I have more to offer. It has also meant that I have developed more empathy and understanding for others. Perhaps one day when I am leading others I will have the chance to shatter this stigma.

5. It is important to educate yourself about self-harm.Self-harm is not isolated to teenagers. There are many different ways people self-harm so don’t presume it is only cutting parts of your body. The worst stigma I ever experienced was the belief that self-harm meant I was a danger to others. I self-harm to release my overwhelming feelings. To make the mental physical. To punish myself. In no way am I a danger to the wellbeing of others. Self-harm is about me.

6. Anxiety makes me seem anti-social, but I’m not being rude . Sometimes I will cancel. Sometimes I will hide away in the corner. Sometimes I leave early because I can’t put a brave face on anymore. I can’t explain what is going on in my head. I know it maybe a gathering of people who love and care for me. Sometimes anything other than being on my own is too much.

7. There is no shame in asking for help Please speak to someone. A friend, family member, doctor. Don’t live with this illness on your own. Talking and sharing how you are is the start of recovery. You are not weak. You are not mad. You are amazing. You are special. You are loved.

8.It would mean so much to me if you would text or contact me. Over the past few months I have been surprisingly touched by these things. Flowers from colleagues, friends and my employer have actually managed to brighten a whole day and sometimes even longer. People going to the effort to write me a card has been so special. A friendly text has meant the world. Without these I would have completely fallen apart. In fact this illness has opened my eyes to how kind people can be.

Depression and anxiety effects everyone differently. I don’t have all the answers. I just want a few more people to understand it. Just remember just getting up in a morning is a challenge for me. So if you see me out of bed and dressed I am already winning that day. Be proud of me for that at least.

The Depressed Teacher

Itching from head to toe. Swollen lips. Hives all over my body. This is what the latest round of anti-depressants has done to me. I’m tired. On no medication. Feeling extremely low but at the same time forcing myself to get back into work.

At times I have wanted to scream today. I want to shout from the roof tops “I’m still unwell, I’m not better yet”. I understand in any job when you return after absence people think you are fine. In my own role if you can teach a class you must be fine now, your illness must have been conquered, your mental health must be good. How wrong people are.

For me I returned because I felt I had no choice for my family. I’m sad to say that money ruled my decision to go back when I did. I certainly have high functioning depression and even at my absolute worse I can do my job in some form. However, the effects of the job on my mental health are immense. Work jeopardises my recovery. Did I feel ready to return? No. Did I feel like it would help my recovery? No. Did I think it could set me back? Possibly. But my two boys and their love of their home and their security here meant I returned unwell.

So today I taught my second lesson since returning three weeks ago. It was period 5 the last lesson of the day. This didn’t help the anxiety which escalated as the hours ticked past. Every minute was one closer to when I would have to step into that room and put on an act. Lucky for me I had a fall back, my good friend was in there to support if I needed her to.

I walked in the room and immediately the students were saying “Miss your back”. Others said “good to see you miss”, one even came up to me held out his hand for me to shake and said “missed you miss”. I was perhaps taken aback by this. I stuttered and fumbled my way through the opening minutes of the lesson. My anxiety and nerves were definitely winning.

But for me teaching is like riding a bike. Once you have learnt you never forget how to. I had got back on that saddle and the peddling came automatically. I’m also the best actress in the world. I should win an Oscar for my performances in front of a class. I seem to have a switch inside of me that steps into a room as a teacher and transforms into something unrecognisable to my other self.

I’m confident, know my stuff, enthusiastic and full of energy. I have always tried to make lessons fun and believe my own attitude can inspire them to learn. Today was no different. They were quiet when I talked. Respectful when we discussed the kingdom values shown by people in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and Grenfell fire. They engaged with the subject and worked well.

They walked out that room with smiles. As I stood by the door they took the time to say bye. What they didn’t see was the real me. I hid that so well. In a game of hide and seek I would never have been found.

What they didn’t know was that I was trembling beneath the surface. I was so scared of what they might say or do. I was overanalysing everything as it occurred. I was beating myself up for stuttering or not doing something quite right. What they didn’t know was that in the hours before I was so anxious I was sick. What they didn’t know was in the hours afterwards I would criticise myself for all that happened.

Just like the students, my colleagues and managers seem oblivious too. I don’t blame them, its an invisible illness and I certainly don’t share it easily. My line manager and others said to me today I heard the lesson you taught yesterday went really well, that’s good. They seem to think I’m well now. It’s all ok. She is back teaching a class. She must be well.

I’m far from well. Tonight I have scratched my breasts and torn at scars and scabs until they have bled and bled. Tonight I haven’t been able to sit still or focus on anything because my mind feels so unwell. Tonight I have contemplated ending it all with suicide because I really hate feeling like this. Tonight I have snapped at my husband because I can’t bear to be in my own skin let alone share a room with him. Tonight I have replayed every second of the day over and over.

What do I do? How do I get this across to people? Do I need to? Everyone thinks great she is getting back to normal. I want to shout. I want to scream. I want people to see the agony that is hidden behind the façade. I am not healed. I am on a journey. I came back to work too soon. I will try and stay at work. I will try my hardest not to let anyone down but please understand I’m still not well. I’m the depressed teacher.

 

 

 

Well here goes nothing….

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Ok that really makes you want to read on right? As per normal I am overthinking everything. Questioning every single decision. Should I write a blog? Is there any point? Would people even bother to read it? Millions of questions and never any answers.

So this is me. I have an illness called depression. It plagues me every day of my life and at the moment it is majorly out of control. I am desperately trying to get well but the harder I try the worse it seems to get. Every day I fight a war, but this is an invisible war to all but me because this war is in my head.

So why write a blog? What is the purpose? To shatter the stigma of mental health. I have personally suffered from judgement, misunderstanding and misconceptions from people who have never experienced a mental health issue. How can I ensure others don’t have to experience the same?

Talk about it. Share my own experiences. People can only get a better understanding of mental health if they hear about what it is like first hand. They need to know that I may look ok on the outside but that doesn’t mean I am on the inside. Every day depression cripples me. Overthinking. Feeling like a failure. Exhaustion. Confusion. Numbness. To name a few of the symptoms.

Depression is like being held back by a tonne weight. It is like my head is full of jelly. There are so many analogies that I can use. I hope to use common every day images to explain to people who have no experience so that they may enter my world for just one moment.

I want to shatter the stigma of self harm. Self harm is not isolated to teenagers. Yes I’m a 33 year old mother of two boys who self harms every single day. I hide it from the world because I am ashamed. I do it as a release of my feelings. I do it to put the mental pain into physical pain. I  do it to punish myself.

I want to shatter the stigma of suicide. I want people to know that it is not the easy option. Suicidal thoughts are serious and shouldn’t be belittled or overlooked. I want people to be more confident of knowing how to help.

For those living with someone who has severe depression I want to give you a hug. I want to say thank you. I need you to know that its ok when you lose your patience. You are amazing. Maybe you pick up the burden by doing more around the house. Perhaps you listen. Perhaps you stay quiet when you are desperate to speak out. Perhaps you smile when you want to cry.

How can I help? What if I say the wrong thing? The blog posts will also give advice for those who want to help a friend or family member. I would also love employers to read so that they too could support rather than hinder those who are ill. Essentially please listen. Be there. Don’t give up. Don’t judge me. Believe in me.

For those suffering like me. You are not alone. There are people who understand. There are people who are experiencing similar to you. Talk, share your story and ask for help whenever you can. Whether online, at home, friends, doctors, counsellors …. share how you are feeling, it will help you process your own thoughts.

I promise to be open and honest. I will bare my soul on this blog. I want you to know what depression is like. I want better help and support for sufferers. I want the stigma to be shattered.