Emily Dickinson

pexels-photo-203088.jpeg

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

 

Advertisements

Knowing My Limits

pexels-photo-277013.jpeg

I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been managing my depression and anxiety fairly well for the last month or two. Part of this is due to going down to working only two days a week, giving me enough time to heal and practice self-care. Recently, I’ve started my part-time Master’s course and taken on another working day somewhere else. Since then, I’ve my control slip and my illness regain some footing in my daily life.

But what I’m stuck with now is what to do? There’s one thing being aware of your triggers and mindful of your mental health, but it’s a whole other thing to know what to do when you spot the signs.

I enjoy all of the things that I’m doing and I want to continue to do them, but I’ve suffered from taking on too much before and I promised myself that I would always put my mental health first. The problem is, with someone mentally well, it would not be an issue – if you enjoy everything then continue everything especially if it’s only 3 working days and 2 study days a week. But despite this, I know (and already started to feel) that, should I continue in this vein, my depression and anxiety will begin to chip away at everything I enjoyed until I lose all sense of happiness from them. So where do I draw the line?

Knowing your limits is a huge challenge when suffering from mental health because it’s all on you. Your brain, your perception, and your decision. Say you had glandular fever but you still really wanted to go on that 20-mile cycle you do every week – you just wouldn’t. Everyone else, including your doctor, would also suggest you stay home because you need to recover and not risk the illness getting worse. Or say you’d broken a leg so badly that for the foreseeable future you had to accept that due to the injury you won’t be able to attend the gym the same amount of times as you would normally. Naturally, you’d be suggested to and likely take it easy, reducing your workouts in intensity and quantity – making sure that you didn’t prolong the damage to your limb.

But it’s just not as simple with mental illness. Logically, I know that something should give because otherwise, I’m risking making it worse and extending my recovery time. But when it’s not as concrete as physical health, its nigh on impossible to make a decision based on this reasoning. We’ve never been taught to put our mental health first in the same way we’ve been taught to look after and listen to our bodies.

I’m listening to my mind now, and it’s telling me that I can’t continue as is. But what do I do? I refuse to risk my mental health deteriorating again after the progress I’ve made, but a huge part of me mistrusts my reasoning. It’s been hammered into us that we have to take every opportunity that comes our way and we’d regret it if we did otherwise – but things aren’t so simple when you’re recovering from a life-threatening illness.

At what point do I accept that I’m limited more than mentally healthy people? I guess that’s what I’ve got to figure out.

Heading In A New Direction

pexels-photo-459300

I’m heading back to University! Who knew that I’d be saying that…

Ever since beginning this blog, my love for literature and writing has blossomed into something more powerful than anything else in my life. Reading and writing saved me and it started to seem silly for me not to attempt to include these things in my work. So I started to think about careers in writing and publishing but both are hard endeavours. I settled into Communications, combining my writing skills and my marketing skills into one role.

I’m now in a new part-time comms role, something which has done wonders for my health. It was really tough to accept that maybe I just couldn’t do full-time right now, but it was 100% the right decision and I started to feel the difference almost immediately.

As my mental health started to improve, I looked to the future. I wanted to use my extra time each week to recover and do the things I love. My aim was to begin writing my novel and that’s exactly what I did. After diving in, something occurred to me – I need help!

And that leads me to where I am this month – a matter of weeks from beginning a Masters course in English Literature & Creative Writing. It all worked out so well and I thought that if I don’t do it now, then I probably won’t. I’ll be studying literature and honing my creative writing skills part-time; gaining valuable knowledge to pursue my own fiction and move on to publishing in the future. Alongside, in my job, I’ll be working in a familiar and fulfilling environment which challenges me whilst facilitating self-care.

I feel quite humbled and emotional about this new path that I’m about to take. Mere months ago I had lost all hope and would never have imagined this. I suppose it reminds you that no matter how dark the world looks, the future is still unwritten. I really struggle with having faith in life, but if I hadn’t held onto the little that I did have, I wouldn’t have had the chance to point myself in a new direction – full of things I enjoy. Because really, that’s what life should be all about.

 

Sickness Stigma

pexels-photo-230131

There’s a fine line between being rightly annoyed about lack of sympathy and being a needy little bitch. I believe I might be floating around that line with this post, so if you’ve had personal experience in this area, I’d love to know what you’ve been through.

I’ve never been off sick for a long period of time or left work due to a physical illness, so I can’t fully compare the difference between this and being off sick or leaving work due to mental illness, but from my experiences, it smells like mental health stigma to me.

I’m not proud to say I’ve had to move on from different roles because of (at least in part to) my depression. It’s either been an abrupt one due to my condition or after a period of absence and yet both times I barely received a single goodbye, let alone a card or get well wishes.

I’m not blaming particular individuals here because if it was just certain people then it wouldn’t have happened more than once and it wouldn’t have been such an epidemic across institutions. So it’s my assumption that it’s the work of stigma’s sticky little fingers.

Either people aren’t educated enough to know what to say in this circumstance (although a simple ‘get well soon’ or ‘sorry to see you go’ would suffice) or they don’t truly understand or sympathise with people in these situations. Should a colleague feel no other option but to resign due to *insert serious physical illness here*, I believe they’d get a well-deserved send off and sympathy concerning the situation, along with lots of ‘get wells’. Yet twice in my own personal life, it’s like entering a vacuum or going back in time as if I’d never worked there.

So what’s going wrong here? I never actively obscured my illness to colleagues, quite the contrary really, so it can’t be due to ignorance. I think about the closeness of my relationships and consider maybe that was a factor, but when it comes to office gestures, a level of real friendship is barely a factor (happy birthday Sue, I’ve spoken to you once but have a great day!). Then I think, what’s the common denominator? Me. Is it my fault? Am I not worth a goodbye or a get well soon?

And I suppose this is where the power of small gestures really makes a difference. When someone has a dementor constantly yammering in their ear about how little they’re worth, a simple lack of thought can create a huge well in self-esteem. For the life of me, I’ve tried to find a reason why this has all happened, but I’ve come up empty except for blaming myself. Maybe it’s just that people aren’t as nice as I’d hope and, as someone who looks for the best in people, my expectations are too high? Or maybe I’m just completely over-thinking the whole thing – who knows?

But what I do know, is that a simple gesture, even if you’re unsure about how to approach the topic of mental illness, can make a huge difference.


If you’ve had a similar experience, please share it below. 

William Styron

pexels-photo-289367.jpeg

For those who have dwelt in depression’s dark wood, and known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet trudging upward and upward out of hell’s black depths and at last emerging into what he saw as “the shining world”. There, whoever has been restored to the capacity for serenity and joy, and this may be indemnity enough for having endured the despair beyond despair.

Excerpt from Depression by William Styron

Wonderfully Bored

Who would’ve thought I’d miss being bored?!

If your depression is anything like me, it zaps all energy and motivation to do anything meaning you can never be bored because you never want to do anything but nothing. I’d never get bored just sitting in front of Netflix endlessly and never interacting with the world. But, alas! Change has come…

Since my dose has increased, it’s made life a little easier to approach every day. But also, I’ve had a few good things happen to me lately, giving me hope – enough to arm up against my dementor. But as I’ve started to feel better, I’ve also started to get really, really bored.

Being bored is wonderful, isn’t it? No? Just me? But it means I actually give a crap about what I’m doing! It means I think there’s something else I could be doing which I might enjoy. Albeit, it’s getting a little tiresome now. I’ve got more energy too, which means if I don’t do something with myself I can’t sleep properly at night – I need to tire myself out! Who knew this could happen again!?

So what am I going to do with all this time I have? Well, I’m starting a new job next week which I’m really excited about and I’m looking into doing a Masters on the side. But for now, I’m going to use it to see my friends and family who deserve to be reminded how grateful I am for their support, patience and love.

When Mental Meets Physical

I’ve been going through a lot lately. I can’t share the full details of the situation, but let’s just accept that even the most mentally stable people would be struggling in my position right now.

Has anyone else managed to keep going even though there’s an endless barrage of bad news? Well, I’ve been doing that for a while but then there’s a point where you can’t cope anymore. One thing will just tip the scales – the straw that breaks the camels back.

I broke. It was the afternoon and I was just gone in an instant. My mind ceased to function – I couldn’t even form sentences properly. I was lying on the bed frozen, physically and mentally. I fell asleep – providing some relief – but when I woke up I was physically gone too. I’ve never truly realised the impact that mental health can have on physical until this point. It’s like my whole body shut down. I was dizzy, nauseated and I could barely stand let alone walk. I had a horrible headache and my eyes could barely open. You know when you’ve got the flu and everything feels…slumpy? It was very similar to that. I couldn’t even eat. In the end, I went to bed, not because I wanted to but because I had no other option.

I couldn’t quite believe what was happening, and I don’t think I could ever understand what it was like if I hadn’t gone through it myself. It was so awful. Thankfully, it passed. That’s the only thought I could hold on to.

I just want to say I’m so sorry to all the people out there who have to experience that too. But you’re not alone.

Reaching Out

A couple of months ago, as you may know from my previous posts, I dropped down to the depths of a black pit called d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n. But then I managed to make it out. I found a rope that’s been there the whole time and climbed it.

But as expected, I couldn’t maintain it for very long without help, support or a change in circumstances. Down I dropped again and now I’m back in the pit. I’m just about clinging on slightly above the bottom – but it’s really tough (understatement of the century).

I was urgently referred to the local mental health centre and something sparked inside me; flourishing change. But two months later and I’ve heard nothing. I feel abandoned and forgotten about. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know why I seemed to have completely dropped off the system. But it’s not okay.

I returned to the doctors today to review my situation. I’ve been bumped up to the highest dose of my medication and my own GP, who referred me last time, was pretty damn angry that the mental health team failed to contact me or offer any of the help they suggested at my meeting.

But the point here really is to emphasise how hard it is to reach out for help. I’ve done it soooo many times and each time is like climbing a mountain and re-living all of the shit that got me there. When I was a teen, I went back and forth to several different GPs who didn’t take me seriously or left it all down to me, the extremely depressed teenager with no motivation to do anything, to deal with. I had an amazing GP a year ago, but I couldn’t stay with her because I moved house and by the time I’d finally got to the top of the list for counselling (6 months later) the letter went to my old address meaning I completely missed out. Now, again my GP has been great but the mental health team has completely abandoned me. If this happened this much with something like treatment for heart conditions, there’d be uproar.

Almost all of the political parties in the election promised to put mental health on par with physical, but do they really know what that means? It means a complete rehaul and huge investment into the sector. Plus a massive drive in preventative care.

What’s awful is that I’m almost sure I’m not the only one. The likelihood is that the staff in the centre were so overworked and swamped by patients & bureaucracy whilst also being hugely understaffed and underpaid that I slipped through the cracks.

I’m not saying don’t reach out – it’s the only way. But it shouldn’t be this hard.

You’re Depressed; You Can’t Be Happy. 

If you’ve read my last mental health entry, you’ll see that I reached a turning point in my condition recently and I’m now pretty damn stable and happy considering the not so distant past.

I’m really trying to embrace my positivity. I don’t want to waste this chance, so I’m committed to making the most of my cheerier disposition. I’m keen to be around people who’ve only seen me at my low points to show them who I really am, and I’m keen to keep fuelling the fire of my happier mood.

But because of this, I’m facing some weird reactions. I know I’ve been a pretty dank person to be around, but I feel like I’m now being judged for being too happy…

I’m allowed to laugh, I’m allowed to cry, I’m allowed to be quiet and I’m allowed to want to join in. I have a mental illness, but I am still a person.

But now I’m scared people are going to think I’m faking it. Aside from how ridiculous that would be, the stigma I’ve faced before proves to me that it’s possible for people to believe that.

But what are my options? Act miserable and then become miserable in response just so ignorant people know I’m still depressed and I wasn’t faking? No, I refuse to allow that to happen. I’m going to continue encouraging my new found sunny mentality because my life is so much better doing so. But my anxiety about what others think nips at my heels still.

I’m sure many others who’ve started to recover, or even just had a good week while living with depression have felt this way too. But I’m going to keep living like there’s no stigma because that’s how it should be.

Well, This is Weird…

I hit rock bottom the other day. I got a call at the very moment was contemplating death from a guy at Hello Fresh who saved my life. He ended up completely ignoring his job and giving me a motivation speech instead. I need to thank him, he was a complete stranger who had faith in me, and that’s what I needed.

That desperate pit I found myself in continued until the next morning and I realised I couldn’t go on. I called in sick and went straight to the doctors. All of the last few months came streaming out of me at my appointment and I was a mess. I was referred for an emergency appointment with the local community mental health team which I got later that day.

In that second appointment, something just clicked inside of me. It was like I finally managed to perform a full-bodied Patronus and the dementor scattered, shocked and terrified. But I have no idea how I did it, it just happened. I walked out of there knowing that this was the turning point; I was going to get better.

I suppose when I got to that point, I realised that I had to stay alive. I made that choice and the power of it lifted me; changing everything.

Since then, I’ve felt like a different person. I feel like I’m finally getting better and I’m the person I’ve been trying to be for so long. It’s so strange, I really don’t know how I’ve done it.

I’m lucky. I know it won’t be plain sailing from now on, but I managed to turn it around. Not everyone can do that, and if something hadn’t just clicked, I wouldn’t have been able to either.

I know my depression hasn’t gone, it never really will. But, suddenly, I’ve got it under control. I’m absolutely exhausted, naturally, but I’m doing it. I’m living, not just surviving.