Happiness

Three weeks ago I started on a new antidepressant (Citalopram) after being off medication completely for 4 months. The first week was horrible with side effects including sickness, dizziness, nausea, headaches and a general feeling of being a different planet. But since that first week things have started to turn a corner.

This week students in one of my re classes said “I was the happiest teacher they have ever had”. A sign of perhaps how good I am at putting on an act. In my head I thought if only you knew; last week I was contemplating suicide! It is mostly easier for me to put on an act (especially in the classroom). As I said to them “well I try to be happy in every lesson as it isn’t fair to you to bring anything in from outside”.

Yesterday though someone else remarked “your so happy today”. I had come into work and felt well. I had gone to see the lady who arranges all the cover for teachers who are off because a member of my department was off and I wanted to see who was doing her cover. She had lots of teachers off and I wanted to help her. I offered to cover a lesson for her and two registrations. My quiet day had suddenly got much busier! But it felt good.

Minutes later back in my classroom I took stock. This week hasn’t been the easiest with my husband away on a school trip and the house being in chaos as we were having new storage. But I felt happy. What was more staggering was I didn’t particularly have a weekend to look forward to; but I was still happy.

I sat there questioning what’s going on? Today I have a doctors appointment first thing -always a cause of anxiety for a doctor phobic like me. Then my husband is going away for the day and night to see a mate. Meaning I have my two gorgeous boys on my own and have little family time. This afternoon I have a play date with one of my eldest sons friends and his mum-another cause of anxiety because of peopling with someone I don’t know that well. Then Sunday when he gets home my husband will be preparing for a job interview he has so once again little family time which I love.

All of this and I was still happy. I sat there in my classroom wondering what on earth was going on? I feel positive. Happy. Level. This isn’t my normal!

Maybe just maybe the tablets are helping. I have never felt they have before in 10 years taking them on and off. Maybe just maybe this is what they are meant to feel like when they do?

I feel like I’m coping. I feel level. I feel in control. I feel like I could be affected by good, bad events or tiredness like any normal person. I’m hoping so much this is not a short term thing. I hope this is more than a day!

Keep your fingers crossed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A shout out to good friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A troubled past

Last week was half term. This meant a week off school (work) for myself and my husband and a week off school and nursery for my two children. What a wonderfully happy week it was in so many ways. Great family time including visits to soft play, lunch with my parents, time with friends and also some quality couple time for me and my husband.

We all really needed the break. Exhaustion and illness had certainly made life at home a challenge over the past few weeks. Everyone was tired, stressed, and very very grumpy.

The holiday gave us all space. Time to just be. To chill. To relax and take stock of the last few weeks. Within a few days everyone seemed to be more relaxed. There was certainly less stroppy behaviour from my children and the adults were more reasonable as well!

But by the end of the week I realised despite enjoying myself and having a very happy week I was still struggling with the depression. I realised that deep under the surface the total hatred of myself is still very much alive.

So I started to think about why. I began to question the feelings. Why within me is this deep well of hate? Why do I feel so poorly? Why do I self harm every day? Why do I question my every judgment? Why do I think about suicide?

It made me think even more about why i have these feelings. It made me explore more into my past. With my counsellor I have spoken about some events that have clearly impacted on me but there are other things that I have never discussed with a soul. Last week has made me realise I might need to open this very difficult door if I am going to heal.

So Friday in my counselling session I broached the subject. It was extremely tough and I only scratched the surface. I haven’t even opened up about all of it yet! I also feel like my memory of events are a blur. I feel like I have blocked so much away. I feel like it has truly affected who I am.

My counsellor said how proud she was of me for sharing. She explained what a long journey it will be. She reassured me she will always be there to listen and help me through it.

Many have a troubled past. Many have it much worse than mine. Many have things that affect their present. I hope to start to overcome mine so I can stop hating myself.

The depression curse: I’m really poorly.

I haven’t written a blog post in over two weeks, the longest period between accounts since I started this blog back in May. Depression is overcoming me. I am isolating myself. I am absolutely exhausted.

To the outside world I’ve been well. Certainly at work I have been thriving. With no time to think. Being constantly challenged. Trying to support a colleague. I’ve managed to take control and shown the best of me. However, perhaps inevitably the stress, pressure and high workload are having an effect on my mental health too.

In other ways I am also being an amazing actress again. I’ve started running again. I’ve been going twice a week with a colleague and friend and at home I’ve tried to do one exercise session at the weekend (usually with two kids jumping on top of me). It would appear to others that I am well, motivated and getting stronger.

Nevertheless this all feels like a show. It is taking enormous amount of effort to keep these areas going. Combined with the image I am trying to portray with friends and family, I feel like I could hibernate for the rest of the winter.

Well it’s time for some heartbreaking honesty. I’m poorly again. I’m struggling so much. I’m feeling very low. It’s so hard to admit this at the moment. This post is almost impossible to write. I feel like I might delete it even before I post it.

I am scared of certain people reading this. Friends and family. I think my husband has already worked out I’m not great at the moment so this probably isn’t a surprise for him. To others there will be disbelief or shock. I’m breaking the illusion.

So what’s going on? I’m not entirely sure. I’m feeling so very low. Completely numb. Devoid of emotions. Almost like I’m sinking into a swamp of confusion. Almost like I’m lost in a dense fog. Almost like I’m being tortured by my own brain.

I hate myself. I hate my body. I hate who I am. My self esteem and self image are not existent. I don’t believe there is anything good about me. I pick at every hole. I pick at every decision. I pick at my own body, the self harm is rife.

Externally I am very snappy at my children. I feel like I have lost all patience. With my husband I am constantly pushing him away, feeling consumed by my own world. With friends I refuse to talk about anything with feelings or emotions. I am there on the surface but underneath my mind is wondering. I have lost enthusiasm for my Facebook group, twitter and communicating with people I have started to know.

Mostly I’m absolutely shattered. I feel so so tired. I have a deep wish to spend a week in bed. I would probably sleep for most of it. I want to hide from the world.

I’m also upset with myself. I’m very angry with myself. I’m cross that this illness is consuming me again. I feel like a complete failure. I feel like I’m worthless. Im sorry I have let you down.