Been a while…

Wow, it’s really been a while since I’ve been on here…

So what has been going on with me? A lot has been going on with me…

Firstly, I got used to my antidepressants, started counselling, finished counselling, and got sane again. Tried to go off the antidepressants recently, got insane, went back on them, got sane again.

Now I’m reassessing my sanity. It’s not something I’ve had, consistently, without extra, medicinal ‘help’, since I was a child. So why am I trying so hard to get to a place where I can be sane and stable, all the time? It’s not something I’ve ever had. It’s not my fault. My brain doesn’t produce enough ‘happy’ chemicals for me to be on an even keel without help. But maybe that’s ok.

Right now, I’m on a low dosage, I’m stable. I have ups and downs that feel natural, and I have worries and sadnesses and self consciousness that comes and goes, just like a normal person. I look at when I last posted to this blog. I wasn’t sane. I wasn’t happy. I felt nothing, everyday. I felt nothing, or I felt like I was about to die with sadness. I had no idea what my issues were or how to cope with them. I had no idea where my negative feelings were coming from or what had caused them in the first place. I felt guilty all the time. I felt awful about myself, and never thought I would know how to feel good about myself. Counselling gave me the tools to understand myself and forgive myself. But that doesn’t mean it could magically fix my brain chemistry. That’s a lifelong journey, and it will probably never end.

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Symptoms of Depression VS Side effects of Anti-Depressants

The question being: how can you tell the difference between the two?

I took the step, a couple of weeks ago now, to start taking anti-depressants. I could cope with the sadness, I could cope with the fatigue, I could cope with the self-hatred and the anxiety and the hopelessness, and even with the constant urge to self-harm. But I couldn’t cope when it all went away.

I mean, literally. My feelings (of which I had been feeling too many, too intensely), all just disappeared. I don’t remember if it happened gradually or overnight, but I remember how scary it was. It wasn’t that any of the physical symptoms of depression that I was experiencing (extreme tiredness, loss of concentration/motor skills, inability to sit still/inability to get out of bed, jaw clenching etc) went away, it was just that all I was capable of feeling was these things. No sadness, but no happiness. No anger, but no sense of humour either. I was also becoming slower, intellectually, having to read each sentence of a book or article a few times to understand it, and taking longer to process and make sense of what other people said to me.

So that was really scary. And even though I had counselling on the cards on the NHS, I knew that A) I would quite possibly end up having to sit on the 15 month waiting list for it (even though I’d already been referred for a year), and B) the counselling would be a long term help, whereas I was finding it harder and harder to physically make it through each day.

So I decided to go back to my GP and ask for anti-depressants after one particularly memorable evening when, despite having no emotions whatsoever, I found myself sobbing hysterically for around 4 hours for pretty much no reason.

The GP visit was interesting: ‘But what life events have happened in the past month to make you more depressed?’ – my only answer to this (I was too depressed to think of it at the time, but it would’ve been kick-ass), was: ‘The main life event that’s made my depression worse has been jumping through hoops to qualify my worthiness for treatment for my depression, and having no idea whether that treatment could start in a few weeks, or in 15 months.’

Anyway, she prescribed me the damn drug, yay.

So here comes my problem. I’m sitting, reading the leaflet in the packet like a good girl, and I’m having a real issue with the side effects listed. In that almost all of the side effects of the anti-depressant were symptoms of depression that I was already experiencing. I think the only ones listed that I wasn’t already having were nausea and weight loss (my depression made me fat).

I’ve been on them now, as I say, for a couple of weeks, and I’m really finding it hard to work out if they’re having any effect. The first couple of days I was on them I couldn’t get out of bed because I felt like I was literally just about to throw up, constantly, for two days, so that’s an effect, I guess. I’d say my appetite is also probably reduced quite a bit, which is really annoying, cos I get all excited about eating something, take one bite out of it, and feel sick. But then I was already getting that feeling for a couple of weeks before I started the drug.

I suppose my sleep might be a little disturbed, I’m getting more (and really terrifying) nightmares, and possibly feeling a touch more tired, too.

I’m possibly a bit less anxious? Yes, I think a bit less anxious, but then everything’s feeling really daunting, a bit scary, and waaaay too much effort, so I don’t know if that counts as a different kind of anxious.

So I suppose what I’m really saying is that, so far, I’m not feeling a whole lot of better. I’d say I’m possibly feeling a little worse (physically of course. As I’ve mentioned, my only ’emotions’ right now are physical sensations).

The whole point of taking these drugs is to get my emotions back, which I…don’t think has happened yet. I mean, I’m not sure, but I think that not being able to work out/remember whether I can feel anything or not is probably quite a clear indication that I can’t feel anything. I do hope they help. I don’t have that many options left and I suppose I do (in a very disconnected, depressed way), worry, because another mentioned ‘side affect’ of the drug is a sense of flatness or de-personification, which, as I’ve mentioned, is my main problem just now.

But hi-di-ho, I guess I’ll just wait. And wait. And hopefully, one day, I’ll feel some more things. I’ll keep you posted, either way.

Has anyone had a similar experience with anti-depressants? Does anyone know how to tell the difference between symptoms of depression and side affects of anti-depressants? Can anyone tell me why the room’s been spinning the whole time I’ve been writing this?

Answers on a postcard (but written really clearly cos printed text is confusing for me right now, let alone blummin’ handwriting!)

A more accepting age? Why stigma is nowhere near a thing of the past

For how many other illnesses would you have to wait 15 months or more for treatment to even begin, unless you were on death’s door? In treating how many other illnesses do we neglect to give patients a range of treatment options? How many other illnesses cost the economy over £100 billion a year, according to the Centre for Mental Health, but are only allocated spending of just £11.3 billion a year? 25% of our population experiences mental health problems each year, and yet mental illness (including dementia), is allocated just 13% of NHS funding.
Despite a rising demand for services, mental health funding has seen a real-terms cut of 2% in the past 2 years.
Fewer than 4 in 10 employers say that they would employ someone with mental health problems (http://www.mind.org.uk/media/1081517/Mind-Manifesto-Jun14.pdf) and yet we have people writing articles saying that there is no longer a stigma around mental health!
Even on a cultural basis, as purplepersuasion quite rightly points out, we jokingly call people ‘mental’ or ‘psychotic’ if they act strangely, we say that we’re ‘depressed’ if we’re having a bad day, we make jokes about suicide, self-harm and ‘mental patients’. We make parties themed around ‘looney bins’ and victorian asylums – and we assume that people with psychosis are violent and dangerous.
So not only does the stigma most definitely exist, but its prevalence in our general consciousness has filtered through to adversely effect actual treatment of real mental health patients. It’s basically a fucking disgrace!

purplepersuasion

STIGMA

  1. fig. A mark of disgrace or infamy; a sign of severe censure or condemnation, regarded as impressed on a person or thing; a ‘brand’.

Example: 1882   J. H. Blunt Reformation Church of Eng. II. 172   Branded with the stigma of illegitimacy.

Oxford English Dictionary

 

I’m particularly lucky where stigma is concerned. Despite having had bipolar since early adolescence, generally I have not experienced much stigma and discrimination. Some of it is to do with how open I am (it’s harder for someone to attack you if anything they could potentially use against you is already out in the open) but some of it must just be pure lucky because almost everyone I know who has a mental health condition has experienced much worse stigma. I know people who have been turned down at interview or hounded out of jobs, people who rejected by friends and family, people verbally…

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Airing My Dirty Laundry

As ever, brilliant. I want to share my laundry with the world too – and if that stops me from getting jobs or I lose a few friends – fuck them! I’m enough as I am, and my depression isn’t going to ever disappear – it’s part of who I am and I have to deal with that. So if it makes you feel uncomfortable that I’m depressed – you can just go ahead and leave my life – because I don’t need you. I have enough on my plate.

The Belle Jar

TW for talk of suicide

Since writing (or being featured in) a number of pieces recently about mental health this week – namely, this one about the challenges I face as a parent living with mental illness, and this one in The Star about the Mystery Room posters in the TTC – I’ve had a number of commenters asking why I’m choosing to “air my dirty laundry.” Why, they wonder, do I want to share such personal information on the internet? Don’t I value my privacy? Or am I just hungry for attention?

What these commenters are really asking is: why do you talk about things as shameful and embarrassing as depression, anxiety and suicide?

What these commenters are really saying is: the things that you have written here has made me uncomfortable, although I can’t quite articulate why.

What these commenters are really wondering is: how can she be mentally ill…

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Guilt

For a while now I’ve been really wanting to write a blogpost about guilt. Because it’s such a huge part of my life. I’ve spent most of my life feeling guilty.

I feel guilty for what I say, what I do, how I feel, where I go, what I look like, what I wear, what I eat.

I feel guilt at some point during every social interaction, during every working day, every time I cook, every time I get dressed. Every time I have a shower.

I feel guilt towards my family, towards my friends, towards my colleagues, towards strangers in the street. Customers. My partner.

I’ve got so used to the feeling of guilt that I hardly register it anymore. I’ve come to realise in the past few months that actually what I’m feeling is guilt for who I am. I have cultivated the conviction that I am not good enough, can never be good enough.

I’m not happy enough, I’m not interesting enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not tall enough, I’m not intelligent enough, I’m not caring enough, I’m not successful enough, I’m not fit enough, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not loving enough, I’m not feminist enough, I’m not bisexual enough, I’m not depressed enough, even.

And when I’m not thinking about things that I’m not enough of, I’m thinking about things that I am too much.

I’m too fat, I’m too sensitive, I’m too self-centred, I’m too loud, I’m too opinionated, I’m too passionate, I’m too agreeable, I’m too short, I’m too ugly, I’m too intense, I’m too introspective, I’m too scared, I’m too depressed, I’m too boring, I’m too patronising, I’m too much.

I don’t know what I think constitutes good enough. I don’t know how much would be enough. I know that I can never be the exact right degree of all of the things I want to be.

Maybe I should let go of everything that I think I should be, and just be myself. But these thoughts are constant. Right now, as I write, I struggle against the voice in my head that tells me that there’s no point writing this, because everything I write is trite and shit and no one will read it anyway. No one is interested in what I have to say. I am a nobody.

And simultaneous to that, I have other thoughts attacking my body, feeling my breasts touch my arms as I type and being actively disgusted by their size, that they are touching my arms as I type. If my breasts were smaller, they wouldn’t touch. My breasts are too big.

And simultaneous to that, I feel that I need the loo and I feel guilty, am actively berating myself for not going earlier, because I’m waiting for a phone call now so I can’t go, and I knew that, and why am I such an idiot? I’m so lazy I can’t even get up and go to the loo when I need to, I leave everything to the last minute and I’m always late for everything and I’m shit I’m shit I’m shit.

And simultaneous to that, I’m thinking about what I’ll eat for lunch, and what I ate for breakfast, and I’m mentally berating myself for eating earlier, because I’m so fat I didn’t need to eat, never need to eat really. One meal a day, maybe. Maybe I could eat one meal a day, but really I should just not eat, see how long I could go not eating, I don’t deserve food anyway, do I? Really?

And simultaneous to that, I’m thinking about cooking dinner this evening for myself and my partner, and the curry I want to cook, and how lazy I am because I haven’t looked up the recipe yet, and I’m mentally berating myself for how badly I will cook this dinner (in the future), even though I don’t even know that I’ll fuck it up.

And simultaneous to that, I’m feeling myself grind my teeth with stress a bit, and I’m telling myself off for doing it, because I know it could fuck up  my jaw and because I know that all I need is a release, to calm my body down and keep me from grinding my teeth and being tense, and I’m obsessively thinking about that release, because that release would be cutting myself, and I know that I’m not allowed to do that, and I’m mentally berating myself for being so selfish, because I know that people in my life would be upset if I cut myself, and that would be like de facto cutting them, and I feel as much guilt for it as I’d have felt if I’d actually cut myself.

And simultaneous to that, I’m upset about the death of Robin Williams and I’m upset about the fucking mass murder happening in Gaza and I’m upset about the Yazidi people, huddling on a mountain while IS attack them because of who they are and what they believe, and I feel incredibly guilty that I’m thinking about my own problems and my own, silly, insignificant little life, when there are people dying and being raped and being mutilated and so on and so on, all over the world, and I have a nice little life, and why can’t I enjoy it? Why? Why?

 

Hmm. Maybe I can’t enjoy it because I am constantly stuck in a cycle of guilt. And I decide to try to work out why.

I grew up with a very strict moral code. We were C of E Christians, and of course the church has a lot of guilt in its rituals and rites.

But living with Christian morals, in my day-to-day life, I think has affected me a lot more than just the church stuff. The idea of, in every situation, in every conflict, in every social interaction, inspecting and judging my ‘performance’, and whether I’ve done anything wrong, definitely comes from the idea of treating others as you want to be treated. It’s a great message but I think we can easily become obsessed by it, picking apart everything we do for signs of doing wrong by other people.

It’s a shame because I think it’s a really great message, but the best part of it for me is when you flip it. ‘Treat others as you want be treated and remember that you deserve the same treatment. There’s no point in treating others well if you’re treating yourself badly.’ And I really want to try to get better at remembering that. I suppose, however badly I feel about myself, there’s no reason why I don’t deserve to be treated as well as anyone else does. There’s no reason why I don’t deserve the respect and love that I give to others.

Here’s hoping. Sorry if this post is rubbish*

*See what I mean with the guilt?

Depression

Wrote this as a kind of response to Robin William’s death, and as a kind of explanation of why, despite all my best efforts, I’m not blogging as much as I want to. Possibility of triggering (or of just pure boring emo-ness, oh well, this is my corner of the internet, fuck you if you think it’s emo. It probably is emo.


 

I’ve been finding it hard to write because I’ve been finding it hard to move
I’ve been finding it hard to do
I’ve been finding it hard to move
on with my life, move
towards the light, move
away from my pain, move
towards something more sane.

So I’m sorry I’m numb
So I’m sorry I’m blue
So I’m sorry I can’t
connect with people like you.

But your world seems so light
And your world seems so full
And my world seems the same
from where you’re standing, I’m sure.

But what use is a life
where people love you and care
If when you close your eyes
you see that nothing is there?

I wish I could see all
of the beauty around
but right now I have to concentrate
so hard to walk down the street
that there’s no other option
than to look down at my feet.

I’m sorry I’m wrong
Sorry I can’t love
in the way that I wantSorry I can’t be tough.

I’m just feeling so weak
and I want to give up
and I want to keep goingbut it feels now as though
the only way to keep going
is to carve up my pain
quarters, fifths, eighths, sixteenths.

And I know that that’s wrong
and I know that that’s bad
and I know that would make
all of my loved ones sad.

So I’m walking along
or I’m crawling in pain
and I’ve nothing to take
all the numbness away

But I’ll keep walking on,
or at least crawling in pain,
‘cos, well, that’s what you want
I know you want me to stay.

So I’ll stay, I’ll survive.
Don’t worry about me
I won’t drown, though it’s hard
To ignore my lungs filling.

Don’t worry about me
Sorry I made you cry.
I’d prefer if you forgot me
and just let me die.

But you won’t, and that’s fine
but please don’t ask me to be
just like people like you
the way that you think of me

‘Cos I’m just not that girl
that you thought that you knew
I can’t keep going on
Without stumbling still.

There are cracks in my heels
there are tears in my throat
there’s a loneliness here
that belongs to me alone

And I’m sorry you can’t touch it
I’d love if you could
but you can’t, so please, leave me alone.