Category Archives: #mental health
The shock is still reverberating about the death of comic genius and all-round nice guy Robin Williams heartbreakingly sad suicide.
“Fancy, all that fame and money and he couldn’t find happiness”
“What did he have to be depressed about?”
“You’d never have guessed”
These are some of the comments I’ve heard today. Offensive? possibly. Naive? Definitely.
Of course you didn’t know. Depression is not something that we shout about. You don’t hear someone loudly informing everyone in earshot of their mental illness do you? No, we leave that to those strangely proud “intolerants” in restaurants who seem to wear their illness as a badge of honour. If you ask us how we are, we say “fine, thanks”, we don’t tell you that we feel like we’re going to smash into a million pieces at any moment or that sometimes the terror of being suffocated by the sadness makes you want to scream.
My illness comes with a badge of shame and until I decided to “come out” there were very few people who knew about my it, and by very few I mean three or four at most. Even now, although I am quite open about “my struggle” I only have one, possibly two people who I can really open up to and be brutally honest with regarding my depression and how it makes me feel. Even then, it makes me feel guilty for burdening someone else with my “problem”, because this disease is so hateful and sinister it makes the sufferer embarrassed about suffering – how perverse is that?
But really, let’s ask ourselves – honestly. If Robin Williams didn’t hide his pain behind a clown’s mask, if he wasn’t as hilariously entertaining would you have loved and accepted him as much? Would you have wanted to see him on a chat show regaling you with tales of how he sometimes couldn’t get out of bed because the blackness had enveloped him? No, of course you wouldn’t. We took the bits that made us feel good and disregarded the rest.
Because the “rest” is embarrassing isn’t it? So, we pretend it’s not there and make sure it stays hidden.
Today has left me feeling sad and scared. It makes me think that if it can get someone like him, with all that talent, energy and “joie-de-vivre”, if it can extinguish his light what chance have I got? It’s made me hate mental illness even more. It’s a nasty, insidious, opportunistic stealer of souls and all of you brave warriors out there battling it have my love, my compassion and my empathy.
I found a quote today that really touched me: “They didn’t know. But now you do. Tell a friend. A family member. A complete stranger. Tell me if you want. Because it can never be worse than what you’ll leave behind.”
Maybe something good will come from Robin Williams death if it makes us all a little less judgemental and a bit more understanding and puts us on the road to ending the stigma attached to mental health. God knows, it’s about time.
July-December: July came and brought me pneumonia! I didn’t just inherit my Grandma’s cheekbones and youthful looking skin, I got her bloody chronically weak chest too (hidden behind a fantastic pair of bazoomas even if I do say so myself!) but I soldiered on heroically, I then got the letter confirming I was surplus to requirements (it actually said that in writing!)the day before I went away on holiday, talk about a kick in the teeth from the lizard-faced incompetent with the freakish neck.
So off we went to Mexico and I tried to put it to the back of my mind. The beautiful Mexican sun as well as time with my two beloved men warmed my soul and healed my chest. The country and people were as wonderful and beautiful as ever and I tried my hardest to be positive I really did but I could feel it looming, that menacing dragon was gathering her strength and feeding on the pain I was trying desperately to hide.
We came back from Mexico and the depression hit me like a spade in the face. I literally felt like one of those cartoon characters you see with all of the stuffing knocked out of them and it took every ounce of my strength to fight it, but fight it I did – it was either that or end up in a mental ward wearing clashing patterns and letting my hair go grey, soooo not my style dahling!
So, I jumpedon the “searching for a job”train. I was very lucky, I got an interview for the first job I applied for. It was almost exactly what I was already doing and looked to be tailor made for me! Except the person who wrote the job description must have been at the sherry…
I arrived for the interview nervous but quietly confident. Pleasantries were exchanged etc then followed the most excruciating, arse-clenchingly awful 30 minutes of my life. It became very clear, very quickly that the job description had no bearing at all on the actual job and I sat like a rabbit in the headlights trying to answer questions that might as well have been asked in Korean for the sense they made. I should have stopped it there and then. I should have had the balls to say that there had been a mistake but no, the misery continued with me wanting to ram my whole fist into my mouth rather than spout any more of the drivel I was coming out with!! Needless to say, I didn’t get the job – I wouldn’t have taken it if they’d offered it – there’s no way I’d work for an organisation who’d employ the babbling idiot I’d presented myself as!
I managed to get over the crippling shame and embarrassment with the help of my lovely friend DerekBee who set about sending me voice messages of hugely inappropriate answers to interview questions, which we both found hilarious (you had to be there I suppose).
It’s now nearly the end of the year and my humongous chest has let me down again. Pleurisy this time which ended up with a Boxing Day visit to A&E begging an Eastern European doctor for strong drugs! So Christmas was a little subdued to say the least but it’s still been nice – if you like that sort of thing. I’m not a Christmas fan, never have been. In fact when I was single and lived alone I steadfastly ignored it! Now I have my family it’s not really acceptable to do that and I tried making a fist of it when Child was younger and still try my best to be festive and hide my Grinchyness!
Hmmm, that’s about it really, not desperately exciting, definite highs and lows. Thank you very much for reading my blog this year – it’s really nice to be indulged! I’ve loved writing it and if I wasn’t such a lazy cow I would have written more often. I could make it my New Year’s resolution to do so but I’m not big on those either!
So, adios 2013, I’ve had better years but I’ve also had worse; come on then 2014 let’s see what you’re made of…..Now, where did I put that Weightwatchers leaflet?….
My word you’re made of strong stuff! You’ve come back to read more about my scintillating year? Well, I don’t blame you. There’s bugger all on the telly and it’s too bloody windy to go for a walk…
So, where were we?
April-July: things were trundling along nicely, I ate my body weight in chocolate having discovered the joys of Hotel Chocolat on a shopping trip with a friend. I indulged the family with eye-wateringly expensive Easter eggs from said chocolatier – I might as well have gone to the pound shop for all the notice they took – Philistines!
Work was going really well, I don’t think I’d ever loved a job as much. There was a meeting in May where the head stated that the school was in a terrible financial situation and jobs might have to go. I wasn’t unduly worried, I mean I’d only been in the job 6 months,yes, but there was no one else to do the work I did, I was crazy busy all the time and obviously they wouldn’t have taken me on if they knew…yada, yada, yada….I almost convinced myself until the slimy-looking incompetent who’d let the place get into such a situation came into my office with a letter and “heartfelt” apologies. That was at 11am. By 2pm I was in a meeting with the slimy-looking incompetent who was telling me it was a fait accompli. I was being binned on 31 Dec and there was nothing I could do about it. I resisted the urge to karate chop him in his ridiculously protruding Adam’s Apple or to knock his ugly head off his idiotically long neck and behaved with dignity and decorum for once in my life. But inside I was a weeping, wailing mess. I wanted to lay on the floor in the foetal position and have someone stroke my hair. But I smiled and carried on because that’s what you do isn’t it. You get punched in the stomach and for good measure someone grabs your heart and has a kick about with it but you carry on…..don’t you?
Insomnia is a bitch. Strangely, the new irritant in town seems to affect most of my female friends yet its not something I’ve ever heard the men in my life complain of.
It is now 03:59 and I have not been to sleep yet. Husband, Child and Dog (all males) are slumbering noisily – the cacophony of their snoring is strangely comforting to me.
I am wide awake but so tired I feel physically sick, my neck is aching, my eyes are stinging and my body is crying out for sleep yet sleep is eluding me.
It’s a horrible state to be in, it’s not like those times where you want to be awake all night so you don’t miss a single second of the experience you’re having – such as those long-ago nights of passion with no sleep and going to work deliciously tired but inexplicably able to function.
I have spent the last 3 hours worrying about the state I will be in tomorrow. Friday will basically be a write-off, I will have about as much energy as a saggy old cloth cat and will be rendered incapable of anything other than basic mum/wife/dog mum stuff.
Husband, Child and Dog will be refreshed and rowdy in about 6 hours time. I will be a shouty, irritable harridan, dampening their day before it even starts.
This blog entry is rubbish I know, rambling and badly written but writing is the last vessel in my arsenal, I’m hoping I will bore myself to sleep. Sorry if I’ve bored you too, I promise to be at my sparkly best the next time you pop over here!
I made a pledge yesterday on the Time to Change website that I would talk about my own experience in the hope of getting rid of the stigma attached to mental illness. So here goes…..
I have suffered from depression and General Anxiety Disorder for most of my adult life. I am on daily medication and will be for the foreseeable future. There, I’ve said it.
Are you shocked? Didn’t you know? Surely a clever, outgoing, confident person like me can’t suffer from “that”. Well, it’s true. Most of the time it’s well-managed between my doctor and me and i am lucky to be able to live a very normal life, but sometimes, as it is at the moment, it overtakes me and becomes a life-limiting, debilitating, evil witch of a disease.
I think of my illness as a big, scary, ugly dragon that is hell bent on taking everything I love away from me. Most of the time I’m lucky because the dragon is way out of sight, not even in this country but I know she’s there (yes, the dragon is a she as she has the vindictive, ruinous power that only a woman possesses). Sometimes, she comes into my country, my county, my village and the nearer she is my behaviour and feelings change and my coping mechanisms have to be adjusted to deal with the threat.
The biggest problem comes when she is at my door, as she is now. I am thus rendered incapable of even basic tasks. Showering and dressing, for instance, are a daily hurdle I have to overcome. I have just about enough energy to sit on my sofa silently as my body seems to shut down. My mind is overcome with negative, pessimistic thoughts. I don’t want to talk, walk, cook or smile -and laughing and dancing seem like alien behaviours to me.
But I have to force myself to live my daily life as a working mother, a wife, a daughter, friend, sister etc. I have to struggle to maintain that precious reality and its the hardest thing I ever have to do when I’m feeling this way. You may as well ask me to climb Everest because that is the scale of things to me, having a normal, everyday life is sometimes like scaling the highest mountain in the world. But the only thing that beats the dragon is my normality, getting on with life.
And then there’s the guilt, the evil bedfellow. Oh the guilt is a particularly horrible thing because that makes things 10 times worse. The self-hatred that follows the guilt is all-consuming and, if it wasn’t for the love I have for my family and friends, it would be the thing that finally finished me.
What do I have to be depressed about? I have a husband who loves me, a child who is more precious to me than life itself, a lovely house, I go on fantastic holidays and we have an above average household income…. the guilt taunts me and makes me feel so ashamed.
But that’s the thing, you see, mental illness doesn’t just happen to the unfortunates of our society, it doesn’t just happen to weak people, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got or who you are. Why would your serotonin give a damn about a nice car or a good job? If I won the lottery tomorrow my depression wouldn’t disappear.
I am lucky to have support around me but even my nearest and dearest struggle to understand my illness. One of my sisters absolutely refuses to believe it exists, and she works in the medical profession!
My husband struggles, bless him. He has a very logical mind – things are black or white (grey is just ridiculous because it can’t decide if it’s one or the other!) so even though he does his very best to understand what’s happening, it’s really hard for him because there isn’t a manual for dealing with a wife who is transformed from the confident, capable woman who loves life to a sluggish, unhappy, unpredictable zombie. But he also doesn’t understand how much his logical interpretation of my illness when he’s talking me down saves me, it somehow makes it less scary and more easy to deal with, or how much I love him for sticking by me when lesser men would have run away screaming!
So, at the moment my life is really hard, it’s a daily, no make that hourly, battle full of blackness and tears. I try so hard to take one day at a time but my anxiety fights against that as my mind is constantly in disaster-planning mode and my brain constantly whirrs like a helicopter blade. I have only been out of the house once in the last 5 days. My writing helps, I can find the real me buried inside the darkness when I write.
But I will keep fighting and keep trying. That bitch of a dragon is not going to beat me, day by day I will get stronger and more positive and she can sod off back to wherever she comes from.
Maybe one day she will stay there forever?