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Ups and Downs of Depression

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Well, today I’ve been up, showered and dressed. Upwards progress from yesterday. Yesterday I stayed in my dressing gown until 3.30 pm when I changed into lounge pants and sweatshirt. I had breakfast at 9.30 am, chatted with hubby, played fetch-the-ball with our puppy for a bit and then slept from about 11 am until hubby woke me at 2.30 pm with a bowl of hot soup. Actually, today (Friday 27th Oct ’17) is only the second day I have been dressed all week – the other day was Tuesday because we needed to go to the supermarket. Depression. It’s a pain in the arse! I know I need to get showered, get dressed, and maybe even do something other than to sit in my chair and rot. The world is passing me by. My life is passing me by, and I’m just glazed and dreamy – when I’m awake, or I’m sleeping. I used to take the piss out of hubby because he was always sleeping. He actually had un-diagnosed sleep apnoea! Who knows I may have that too but I mainly wake up with pain from my rickety, 47-going-on-87 hips and spine. I’m going to try to NEVER mention those again as to be 100% honest I’m sick of them. Long story, not going there – unless I get a heap of emails really wanting to know 😉 Actually really don’t do that! Please! It’s a crap story. Right there that part ends.

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Anyway, back to the progress of being dressed and mentally and physically ‘present’ for the second time this week! I’m in the cafe of the first picture of the ups and downs and I didn’t have to buy reasonably priced drinks and snacks there as I also managed to achieve making stew and dumplings for hubbers – it’s one of his favourites (and he did actually tell me it’s better than what his Mum used to make – she’ll be turning in her grave I’m sure!) In between being a domestic goddess and kitchen queen today I’ve been trying to catch up on all the stuff I’m subscribed to in order that I may continue working towards the ambition to become a published writer. One day. But, then I also realise that being here is working towards that, right?  I mean, if we count the fact that this blog is published – after I click that lovely blue button at the top right hand of the screen – then I already am and you’re reading me. My drivel at the mid point of my Friday night, when nearly 30 years ago I’d be down the pub half cut by now! Life is so exciting at 47. Thanks for reading though. I’m grateful and I am smiling with thanks so I managed to do that more than once today too! 🙂

So, ups and downs. I’m aware from previous experiences of depression – if you read my previous post you’ll know I had a previous stint – that there are crap days, where I’d rather just be not here. Thankfully, this time I’m not having those scary thoughts of the world being better off without me (if you’re having these then please, please call someone who can help or the Samaritans, and if you’re a younger person and don’t like the idea of an older-sounding organisation like the Samaritans (apologies peeps over there) then please call Papyrus). On those deep pit days I just pull the duvet over me and pretend to not be here – adult den building is a fun analogy that sits better with me on positive days . Just ignore that there’s a world outside of the duvet – until the ageing bladder decides to remind me that if I’m not going to pee myself, like a 4 year old in a den not wanting to come out (usually they’re having fun whereas this type of den isn’t!) that I’ll need to get out of bed and face the world, hubby, pets before I lie in a big, warm puddle. Actually, let me say here that this is something I just would not do. I’m a little OCD and pissing the bed is far, far removed from the lowest, unpleasant act I’d do out of laziness, or fear of living.  I admit that there have been dark days where I’ve wished I wasn’t so bloody clean so I could stay there in my own pee-pee and admitting that here on a public platform strikes fear into my heart…but I’m leaving it here.

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When I’m not in adult-den mode and have achieved removing my butt from the bed I spend my time in a recliner chair, which I needed during the 47/87 unmentionable words, ongoing saga/era as I had to sleep downstairs. The 300+ year old cottage I live in has 2 staircases and neither were okayed by the physiotherapists for me to use post-operatively. It’s where I spend the majority of my life when I’m home these days, which is a lot of time. And when I’m having a bad day which isn’t as bad as an adult-den day it is where I’ll be, staring through the TV, trying to actually watch something. The amount of programmes I’ve sat through then realised I’ve missed a major part of the story or an important piece of action can no longer be counted on my hands, probably not my feet either.

So, that’s a BAD day; Adult-Den Day, a SO-SO day; reclining chair, vacant, absent, and GOOD day; achieving a shower, getting dressed and cooking a meal, oh – and writing my experience of the ups and downs, good days and bad days of depression for anyone out there to waste a few minutes of their day/evening/night with. I’m off to go nowhere as I’m in my chair but please do find someone to confide in if you’re struggling. My writing is a release for me (I write fiction and poetry when I’m not here) but other people may need to find something else. Please use one of the links I included above and know you’re not alone. Thanks for reading 🙂

 

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Anxiety, Depression, Stress

The above three words strike fear into the hearts and minds of many. But why is this? Mental illness of any kind still carries negative connotations – historically labelled as ‘lazy’ or ‘work-shy’ and those experiencing it face an almost impossible, up-hill battle for recognition of their illness at the very time they’re struggling the most; when they’re experiencing the worst symptoms. Mixed depression and anxiety is the most common mental illness in the UK with 7.8% of people meeting the classification criteria. NICE (2011) Common mental health disorders. Guidance and guidelines. NICE online. Available athttp://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg123

GP’s prescribe antidepressants but other than that there is very little immediate help available as many health authorities struggle with budget cuts, and it is left to the patient to self-refer to talk therapies i.e. counselling or CBT, all of which can have waiting lists of several months when the individual needs the help now. Additionally it’s the mentally ill who struggle to cope with initiating contact with support organisations, fearing contact over the phone or face to face – just one of the symptoms which should be considered at the early medical intervention stage.

I’m currently experiencing depression. I recognise it because I had a major battle with it 14 years ago. It took 5 visits to my GP over 4 months to get a diagnosis as I was extremely fatigued, suffered a complete lack of social skills, would cry at the smallest upset, struggled with insomnia and, unusually for me, had no interest in self-hygeine or appearance.

The depression came about due to pushing myself too far. At the time I had a demanding job, a young son, a home to run and was Chairman of a local charity. From 6am to 11pm I was busy. On Christmas Eve everything stopped for the Christmas holidays and after wrapping the last few presents I came to a standstill and instantly felt extremely unwell. On Christmas morning I awoke feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  Everything ached and there were aches on top of those aches! We were due to have friends over for Christmas dinner but had to cancel and instead I sent my husband and son to the in-laws for the day and spent the day lying on the sofa; in between broken sleeps looking at the Christmas Tree and all the opened presents around it crying because I felt so ill, lonely and extremely sorry for myself. 

By Boxing Day morning I had to see the out-of-hours service who diagnosed tonsillitis and prescribed antibiotics. 2 weeks later I was on my second extended course but still unwell. Fast forward to mid February and I was still fatigued and a mess. The doctor diagnosed depression and I had my first experience of antidepressants. They literally turned me into a zombie! Any small remnants of me that had remained throughout my pre-antidepressant stage disappeared. The way I describe how I felt was as if I was existing in a glass cylinder. Any conversation bounced off the glass and never reached me, or just sounded as though my family and friends were talking to me through water; muffled, deep noise. I was prescribed a new antidepressant a couple of months later which made me feel more with it – able to start being present rather than elsewhere.

I slowly started to improve but returning to work was a mistake. I was returning after months, having exceeded the maximum amount of days considered allowable for sick leave so whilst they did the risk assessment process, deciding what I could or would be able to tolerate there was the stress of knowing that any further sickness would mean an oral warning. Welcome back! I couldn’t cope with the pressure of knowing that if I slipped back by even a little I’d have to go through that process.  What if I became ill with something else like a stomach bug? This was highly likely as I could catch something like this from my son – bugs being rife in schools at any time of the year. Six weeks later I just couldn’t cope and I spiralled downwards at speed. It wasn’t quite back to square-one but I think I was back at square three or four.

The next few months were counselling – finally – and a stress management course held at my GP surgery one evening per week, where I learnt how to relax my body and cope with the pressures. Feeling stronger for these exercises I returned to work again. 

That period was 14 years ago and I can always feel if I’m starting to get depressed again. I can recognise the markers from that period of time and I still use coping mechanisms learnt all that time ago.

Thankfully, despite many, many challenges – physical and mental – I’ve managed to stay strong, however since July this year I’ve felt the symptoms of depression take a strong hold again. I’ve lost my fight against a physical disability which has been coming on since May 2011. I consider myself an eternal optimist and try to find positivity in every situation but now every day I’m battling with myself. I lack motivation to do anything and I sit around all day doing nothing. I’m literally scared to contact friends because it’s been weeks since I last text or messaged them. I fear judgement for that but also because I’ve become nonchalant. I’ve attempted to set goals to give me a purpose, a reason to get out of bed every day, but it’s not working – other than being present here, writing this blog. I get up but can spend days in my chair, in my dressing gown doing nothing. Today I got dressed at 1.20pm, yesterday I didn’t dress but showered and stayed in my dressing gown.

It’s not just me struggling. My husband suffers with anxiety too (yes we’re a right pair aren’t we?) His anxiety has been on and off for about 6 years but his current episode hasn’t improved at all since July 2014. He’s had some very hard times and he’s also had to support me through multiple surgeries, 2 of which were the most traumatic orthopaedic surgeries anyone can have, and he’s had to care for me throughout, recently becoming my full-time carer as I finally admitted this disability is life-long and not ‘temporary’. His anxiety seems to be exacerbated by how well I’m doing or not doing. For me this is hard as I feel if I could be more able physically, less frustrated with my physical limitations and thus less depressed about it all that he’d get better too. It very much feels like a vicious circle and its a roundabout I’d very much like to jump off!

Returning to the negative implications mental health issues raise and how many companies and institutions still just don’t know how to deal with it. My husband’s employers were aggressive in their stance, pretty much threatening him regarding his absences and with a strong underlying accusatory tone, implying he was just lazy. The administrative process protects the employers not the employee, despite the wording of the sickness absence procedures. I understand that if you’re absent the job you’re employed for isn’t being done, however there should be long-term pastoral support available for employees. Prior to my husband’s absences he very much felt valued by his employers. His bad experience with them has left him fearful of any formal situations and he struggles when having to attend interviews with the DWP and sometimes even struggles to go to GP appointments. 
I know this blog post is just me putting whats in my mind out there. I know everyone will see and understand situations differently and I hope you’ll just read this and not feel like you have to contact me to tell me my view is narrow-minded or naive, etc. I just want this to be a stand alone ‘comment’ on something still not understood despite statements to the contrary. 

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Thoughts about a Writer

a writer is simply a photographer

The quote from Brandon A Trean is one way I think about writing. I can sometimes write for pages after the briefest of thoughts but at other times get very little done. Sometimes the odd snippet of conversation I’ve overheard or a song I either get in my head or hear on the radio (prompting me to look up the lyrics online) can bring some surprising results. It makes me wonder if a writer’s brain works differently, or whether it’s the people who want to write that notice these little scraps of imagery and file them away, much like a photographer captures images on a camera and saves them to use later.

Meditative writing is something which seems popular today. You sit at a keyboard and write freely, not thinking about what you’re putting on the page. On the 2 occasions I tried this I was surprised at what I had written and the way I’d written. I was then surprised to see that the correspondence course in Creative Writing I’m currently doing (via Writer’s Bureau) mentions stream-of-consciousness writing, which is the same idea; the main difference being that meditative writing is done at any time of the day, but with stream-of-consciousness writing you do it first thing in the morning. You just allow whatever is in your head to flow out onto the page (either handwritten or typed in to a document). You don’t edit this and it’s good practice to not read back what you’ve written until a later date. The exercise clears out the clutter from the day before and gets you ready for that days writing. Getting into a routine by doing this every morning is good practice for any writer – like clearing down folders on your computer to make room for new documents or, to use the photographer analogy again , uploading the photographs they have taken in order to review and filter out those which aren’t quite sharp enough.

Returning to thoughts I do random word exercises as I sit down to write. I usually go to an online random word generator like Text Fixer or random word generator.  I currently have several poems and 3 first chapters for novels from doing this, plus I have lists of words to refer to if the internet goes down!

All of these methods encourage images which I then interpret into writing. Of course I realise, as a reader and a writer that the images I have in my head differ from those another reader, (or writer) may have in their head. We don’t all interpret and imagine in exactly the same way – How many times have you read a book, to later watch a movie and leave the cinema disappointed because the movie didn’t look or feel the same as the story did in your head whilst reading the book? Using the ‘photographer of thoughts’ analogy again to illustrate this; take, for example, a wedding. You’re standing next to 10, 20, 30 guests, all with your cameras or smartphones at the ready. You all take pictures of the happy couple’s first wedded kiss. A trip to the couple’s Facebook pages the next day shows numerous photographs of that kiss but they’re all very slightly different – by the angle the picture is taken from, the distance – did the photographer zoom in? or even the light as they may have chosen to use the flash to create a sharper image, or if they’re very good they may have edited the photograph to make it feel more special to them and hopefully the couple. One event, multiple photographs – for a writer several potential literary morsels!

So,  Brandon A Trean’s  ‘A Writer is Simply a Photographer of Thoughts’ is a noteworthy way to describe writers and how they obtain and retain snippets of information and imagery to transform them into articles, inspiration for a book or even a simple little blog post like this one.