Tag: mental health

A bad day and the impossible task

I already knew last night that today was going to be a bad day.

“Why didn’t you do something pre-emptive to stop it then, you daft cow?” (those are my words, and maybe what you’re thinking too.)

Unfortunately it was too late. I was lying in bed, fretting, listening to the husband snore, reading a blog I’ve become ridiculously immersed in (I think I’m as far back as 2013 posts from this woman now; her family story is fascinating and her writing is really engaging and fun) and wondering why I couldn’t sleep despite my body feeling so so ready for slumber.

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Mental Health Awareness Week – do I still have depression?

I’ve purposely stayed out of the MHAW blog posts and tweets so far because I don’t really have anything to add that doesn’t look like bandwagon jumping just for views or likes. But I was inspired to write this by an article written by Fiona Thomas for Metro newspaper.

I don’t have imposter syndrome, by the way. That would be more bandwagon jumping.

I’ve shared my early depression experiences and diagnosis previously. I talked about how I had a wobble a few years back when coming off my tablets without supervision.

Now? I’m not depressed. At all. I have a happy marriage, a beautiful home, a settled job with great work colleagues and an understanding manager. I get to go on plenty of holidays and trips, I have a loving and supportive family and a network of friends who know and accept me for who I am, warts and all.

Me

But do I still have depression?

Is depression like an infection, where you take tablets and then it’s cured? Or is it like diabetes (for example) where it will probably need to be managed for the rest of your life? Everyone is different, I guess. Some people fully recover. Some people will relapse or have recurring episodes throughout their life. Me? I’m scared to find out. After afore-mentioned wobble, which put a deep – if temporary – chasm in my marriage, I’m not really in the market for testing my mental health by coming off my tablets. Maybe that’s irresponsible. I don’t care. I’ve been on them for long enough now that they’re part of me, and I’ve never noticed any effects (apart from the obvious and much wanted positive ones) that have made me feel a need to stop taking them (apart from that one fated time, I know I mention it a lot but it was horrible). Not everyone is so lucky, and I appreciate that. For some people, the side effects of anti-depressants can be worse than the reason for taking them. A lot of people have to trial different variants before they find one that suits them. Not me. Prozac and I got along very well right from the beginning.

But, as I said, I’m not depressed. I can’t imagine ever feeling so desolate and bleak as I did when I first started taking tablets. Sometimes I even wonder “was it that bad?” – it’s such a long time ago, literally and figuratively. But of course it was that bad, at the time. You don’t take 3 weeks off work unable to face real life if you’re just feeling a bit low. You don’t think that it would be quite a relief to not be around anymore as long as you get to say your I love yous and goodbyes to people first.

And yes I still have low days, days where I feel shitty and I want the world to stop so I can get off, days where everything is an effort, days where I’m so caught up in my own thoughts that I want to just be left alone. I don’t class those days as part of my depression. I class them as just rough days, that everybody has, right? Or do they? I also blogged recently about not really knowing who I am because I’ve been on Prozac and the contraceptive pill for such a long time. So is a sad day, a flat day, a can’t be fucking arsed day simply a controlled by pills depression day?

Who knows?! (it’s bloody complex, being a human.)

So, if I’m not depressed but I still take a daily tablet for fear of returning to that space, how do I class myself? And because I’m not actively living it, and haven’t for a long time, is it even worth me participating in the conversation? There are people with much worse experiences than me, in the here and now.

My conclusion is that I don’t need to label myself. It doesn’t matter, right now, to have a category to fit into. The important thing is that I’m mentally stable (in the most part). I had my diagnosis, a long time ago, which put me on a treatment path which levelled me out. Long may that path continue, whatever it’s called.

PS. The lovely Tina from T is for Tina has written a very apt post in relation to MHAW. As she correctly states, “we all have a mental health, and we all need to look after ourselves and learn to put ourselves first sometimes.” Regardless of whether or not you have a diagnosed mental illness or condition, it’s important for everyone to to look after their own mental wellbeing. MHAW isn’t just to acknowledge people who’s brains are a bit wonky (I’m being flippant, not rude). It should also exist to remind everyone to take care of themselves. Say no when you want to, create some me time and indulge in things that make you happy. Your brain deserves it.

Read Tina’s full post here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [20] – there are lots of ways to help with mental health

There’s a lot of media coverage about mental health lately, and rightly so; it’s important for such a widespread issue to be out in the open and for people to understand more about it. We’re talking more openly than ever about anxiety, depression and personality disorders, and hopefully it’s becoming less of a stigma.

But mental health isn’t just manifested mentally. It can have a physical effect too, and that can be as important to treat as the root cause.

This story about a teenager who had neglected herself so much through her depression that her hair was matted and looked beyond repair is a great representation of that physical manifestation. She felt so worthless and so low that she couldn’t be bothered to wash or brush her hair, and had just left it to it’s own devices. It was in such a state that she asked the hairdresser to shave it off in time for her upcoming school photographs.

But the hairdresser refused, instead dedicating time and patience to grooming the girl’s hair; detangling it and styling it over a period of 13 hours. And, at the end of it, the teenager said that she felt she could actually smile for her school photograph.

Depressed girl and hairdresser

The power of kindness, the power of feeling like someone cares, and even the power of looking good (as fickle as some people seem to think that is) can all help someone with depression to recover. How lovely that the hairdresser recognised that, and made the decision to nurture the suffering girl, rather than just take the easy route.

Read the full story here.

Thanks ,as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [5] – something to live for

I was in Heathrow airspace when the London Marathon was taking place, but I still caught enough of this story for it to be part of my regular Friday slot.

Part of the story may be familiar to you; a suicidal young man was ready to jump from Waterloo Bridge but was talked down by a stranger who told him that death was not the answer.

The (previously) suicidal guy went on to launch a nationwide appeal to find and thank the gent who had talked him out of his mortal destiny.

In an unexpected next step the two have recently gone on to run, and complete, the recent London Marathon in aid of mental health charity Heads Together, which has some of the younger, more progressive Royals, at it’s core.

What a beautiful story. From the end, to a new beginning, to a burgeoning support network looking after multitudes of people in need.

Good work Jonny and Neil.

Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn marathon runners

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Hormone based contraception when you’re over 35

I’ve been on the pill since I was 17. I’ve been happily taking Microgynon, which is an oestrogen and progesterone pill for 21 days in a row, then having a 7 day break and repeat.

During a recent check up I asked a nurse when it would need to be reviewed, because I’m aware of my advancing years (ick). She told me I would be fine until I reach 40. As I have no intention of reaching 40 (at 39 I’ll start counting backwards) I worried my little head not.

When I put my last repeat prescription request in, only 1 month was returned instead of the usual 3, with a note that I needed to see the nurse. Assuming this was for a standard blood pressure test I thought no more about it.

Arriving at my appointment, the nurse said “I assume you know why you’re here, we need to change your contraception”. Cough, splutter, what? Why? I don’t want to! “Well, you’re over 35 now, and that’s the boundary we set on combined pill taking.” And off she set in outlining the alternatives.

The most straightforward swap is onto a progesterone only pill – the “mini” pill. This is taken every day with no break. You probably don’t get a period and only have a 12 hour window in which to take it (with Microgynon it’s 24 hours). Now, call me bonkers, but I’m quite fond of having a period every month. It lets me know that nothing untoward is going on in the womb region, and no little critters have been fertilised and implanted themselves (I know there are the odd exceptions to this, but generally it’s peace of mind). I’m incredibly lucky to have never suffered with my periods, they’re very light, very pain free and I don’t get PMT (unless the P stands for Permanent, in which case the husband may disagree). Plus my Mom reckons it’s healthy for your body to do it’s natural thing (albeit unnaturally as forced by hormones but, y’know). And, to my shame, I’m sometimes a little bit tardy with my pill taking. Maybe I’ll forget to take it in the evening and do it next morning. But perhaps its the weekend and I have a lie in. A new pill needs a new regime. What if I forget and then don’t have a period to set my mind at rest? And then, horror of horrors, what if I end up like one of those women in Take a Break magazine who think they need the loo and a baby drops out? No, no, noooooo!

Alternative one is a contraceptive implant. I’m not sure about this. The concept behind it seems pretty wishy washy (although I’m sure it’s not) plus they have to cut your skin to get it underneath. I’m not squeamish with things like needles and ops, but they like to put it in the opposite arm to the one you write with, and no way am I having my tattoo cut in anyway! Plus I’m a picker and a messer and I know if there’s something I can feel under my skin then I’ll play with it. Yes I’m a 38 year old child.

Alternative two is an IUD (the coil). My initial reaction to this was absolutely not, as I know my Mom had lots of issues and complications when I was young. But the nurse said problems were generally associated with the copper coil, and there are very few issues with the new plastic one.

So, I leave the surgery with a 3 month mini pill prescription and a couple of leaflets.After a quick perusal I decide I’m going to make an appointment for an IUD, which I share with the husband. “Really?” he asks. “You know that you can feel the strings, don’t you?” This is news to me. I’m not sure how he knows this, since he was quite obviously a virgin at the age of 34 when we got together but he assures me that sometimes the man is able to feel the strings during shenanigans. Google research confirms this and I’m shocked. This seems like a rather odd state of affairs (is it just me that didn’t know this and think it’s incredibly odd that women all over the world are tickling their sexual partners from the inside?)

My Mom further adds to the anti IUD argument. “They’re not very reliable, people get pregnant on them”. So I look at the reliability statistics on the leaflets that I’ve so far only given a cursory glance, and the difference is staggering. There’s a less than 1 in 500 chance over 5 years of getting pregnant if you have a coil. Say what? Those odds still seem pretty high to me. What if I was the 1 in 500?

Unwillingly, and somewhat uneasily, I’ve switched to the mini pill as suggested.

feanolla-mini-pill-contraception

I’m assured there are less mood altering side effects than the combined pill, which is a good job, because I really value my marriage and I’m not sure it could stand a change in my mental welfare, as things get pretty horrible when that happens.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

A post about mental health, for World Health Day

Well, lookie here, no fancy pants title or trying to be funny.

Then again, mental illness isn’t funny.

It’s also nothing to be ashamed of.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for many years. That isn’t supposed to sound as flippantly blasé as I know it does, but it’s a fact. And facts are important.

Ironically, the “face” of depression – the weeping, wailing, staying in bed all day – is about as far away from my symptoms as can be. I did go through a period like that, after I’d been diagnosed but before I started taking medication. I had 3 weeks off work, slept all day and lived on cereal. I also used to laugh with my friends on the phone and go out clubbing. There was a real dichotomy to my diagnosis.

But, for me, mostly, depression is about anger, irritation and the inability to deal with normal situations in a rational way. An overwhelming overwhelmedness.

I had started to be this irrational, short tempered, irritable person who snapped at nothing and everything. I couldn’t see it myself. I was living with my Mom at the time, after she and my Dad had separated, and inevitably most mornings would wind up with her in tears and me thinking it was all her fault. During a brief moment of clarity when I realised perhaps I was partly to blame, I booked an appointment with my doctor. Where I spilled everything and had a good cry to boot.

Being diagnosed with depression when you’re not that weeping wailing ball of sadness that you associate with the illness is a weird one. I had no intention of taking the anti-depressants prescribed by the doctor, because it was obviously just a phase and it would pass. Besides, people on anti-depressants were generally nutters, right? It wasn’t a category I wanted to associate myself with. But the situation worsened over the course of a week and came to something of a crescendo when I threatened to take a packet of Nurofen if my Mom didn’t back off. She carted me off to the pharmacy, with the much hated prescription in hand, and made me take my first tablet there and then.

It would be overly dramatic to say she saved my life, because I wouldn’t really have taken the Nurofen (I think there was only a few in the packet anyway), although there were times during the weeks that followed that I’d have been happy for it all to end. Not suicidal as in I wanted to deal the final blow, but if I could have stayed in bed and everyone came to say goodbye and then I just went to sleep, that would have been groovy. Of course that didn’t happen, and I’m rather glad. She certainly saved our relationship at that point in time, because there was no way we could have continued living together had things progressed any further.

Initially I went through the stigma of not wanting anyone to know and keeping it a secret. I shared it with a few people and then had it thrown back at me, by someone who should have known better, telling me that I had nothing to be depressed about and didn’t know what a hard life was all about.

But I’m not ashamed. I don’t declare it from the rooftops, but I’m open with friends if it comes up in conversation. My husband and I affectionately refer to my Prozac as my “loopy tablets” and they’re a source of relationship glue for both of us. I say that following an episode 2 years ago where I decided to come off them without telling anyone, because I was feeling strong, and unknowingly put our marriage under a lot of strain. Same situation – me being intolerable and nasty and short tempered but thinking he was to blame. Of course that’s not all that keeps our marriage together! But it certainly contributes to the stability of our marriage. Because, let’s face it, who wants to be legally stuck with someone who’s aggressive, accusatory and irrational?

I know you’re not supposed to be on anti-depressants for a prolonged period of time. But I’m also a great believer in knowing your own mind. I’ve been through times where I’ve taken a tablet every couple of days and felt fine. There are days when I take them religiously each day. There have been times when I’ve upped my dosage for a while (although always with a doctor’s consent). The key to me is doing what’s right for me, and what makes me feel ok. And, in the experience I’ve had with not taking them, I can honestly say I need them. Not an addiction, or falling apart at the seams if I miss one. But that little bit of connection between the wires of my brain that don’t quite match up makes me the “real me” and not the “angry me”. And why would I give that up just to not be a statistic?

I love this cartoon, which I’ve seen a number of times and totally sums it up, for me.

Depression cartoon

If I had diabetes, I wouldn’t not inject myself because of the stigma.

If I had a heart condition I wouldn’t refuse beta blockers because I didn’t want to be on them.

So if at some point in this journey of life my mind stopped working to it’s best ability, then I’m damn well going to give it everything it needs to bridge that gap – for my marriage, for my family, for my employers but, most importantly, for me.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x