Thursday, 22 March 2012

Help! I'm losing my mind to depression!

Dear reader,

Those dark, heavy days have caught up with me once more. A fat-grey bellied cloud follows me around and something sits heavy on my chest. I am struggling once again with day-to-day life. I still attend group therapy everyweek - in fact, I had a session this morning where I spent the hour sobbing fat tears, panting like a baby, trying to catch a breath. To be honest with you, I am at a cross-roads - where do I go from here? I take the maximum dosage of anti-depressants to help me daily, I have undergone CAT therapy, I have undergone CBT, counselling - call them what you like, but now I am trying group therapy and I am still in bits. Will I ever be able to exorcise this demon?

The answer to my own question is I do not know... but what I do know is that I have no choice but to try for as long as I exist (and I'm barely doing that just now, sleeping 18 hour days) I have to try. Where am I going with this - apart from releasing a bit of steam from the pressure cooker, I guess what I am trying to say is that even though things are hard just now (a bit of an understatement, try bloody-well impossible!), I guess in some ways therapy is a place for me to exist - exist in a different climate, to cocoon in a safe place to talk to other like-minded individuals, who offer shared anecdotes, jokes, their own woes and above all, the one thing a non-sufferer and most of society cannot offer you, EMPATHY. A shared understanding of the horrors that salvage your body and mind as this poison flows through your being.

Because, accept it as we must whether we like it or not, there are not many people in our working lives, personal lives or social lives who can understand this - they can try, but they are only human, after all, and become annoyed by us. We can seem, at times, self-indulgent (though why we would wish to indulge in mind-blowing pain, I do not know) we can test the patience of others, but, at the end of the day we are suffering. As the adage goes: just as a person suffers a sore leg and needs help, so too does a depressed person.

I am about to sign off and retreat to my bed on his gorgeous warm spring day - I can't choose life at the moment, because I have no choice. Depression has chosen me and subsequently, I am exhausted. I need my rest. What I want to say to all you out there is please get in touch if you wish to talk, because, although it may not seem it at the moment, talking and having some empathy from others has helped me slightly. Someone, I believe, saved my life today. How long for, I do not know. But as long as I exist, I will have to try and fight for my life.

Goodnight for now.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Group Therapy

Dear reader,

I heard someone refer to an image the other day of a duck treading water - a duck that, on the surface, looks to be calmly gliding through life, yet underneath the aforementioned duck's legs are frantically flapping about, attempting to keep afloat. This is how I have felt recently.

Trying to put on a brave face, I have been getting through my days by treading water, putting the looming, ominous feelings associated with my depression to the back of my mind... yet deep down, I am frantically paddling, trying to keep afloat. You see, at the moment everyday is a struggle. The all too familiar destructive behaviours associated with my depression are back and, not usually one to lie down to defeat, I try to battle these behaviours on a daily basis, but let me assure you it is hard... Depression exhausts the sufferer making to difficult to fight. It eats your days, your time, and these are things that cannot be recycled and reused later. Depression has the unfair advantage.

I have been recently attending Group Therapy - a form of talking therapy in which 10 sufferers of depression and/ or anxiety/ addictive behaviours meet up on a weekly basis to discuss and provide advice on depression and its behaviours (this is something I would like to write about in more detail in the next coming months). Although in the early days, I have found this therapy most helpful - certainly more helpful than the other forms of therapy I have undergone before.

What makes this different from other talking therapies you ask? The difference is that this type of therapy challenges the traditional approach of patient and doctor. Instead, a group of sufferers bring their stories to a group situation each week to discuss their obstacles in life and the problems depression brings to their life; what makes this therapy useful is that every person in the room is in the same boat: we are all sufferers of depression despite having very different backgrounds and very different stories. It has been refreshing and has even challenged some of my stereotypes.

One thing we all have in common is depression and in spite of our different backgrounds( one group member is an ex alcoholic; one had abuse issues; one has lost his children; I have major self-esteem and some childhood issues and so on) we all share common symptoms of depression: fatigue, sadness, isolation, disengagement, low self- esteem. However, one of the approaches to improvement is to think about destructive behaviours that depressed sufferers have and how to combat these... This made me think of mine...

 My destructive behaviours include: burning the midnight oil by staying up past midnight (it is 2.48am as I write this and I have to get up at 6am for work) thinking about and anticipating the days ahead with dread; working myself to the ground when I have deadlines to hit, not taking time out for me, closing myself in and isolating myself from my peers by not attending social occasions, not seeing or speaking to family or friends if I can help it, cleaning my house frantically, taking too many painkillers to combat the piercing, throbbing headaches I get (mainly because I am sitting up to all hours in the morning) and sleeping too much during the day- what are yours?

As I sign off, I think about these behaviours and really wonder if they contribute to the cycle of depression I find myself in or is depression something that is inherently in us? Will I ever be able to exorcise this demon?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Is work making me ill?

Dear reader,

We are now in the second week of January and having just been back for little over a week, after the festive period, I am already starting to feel the effects. To let you know I am a secondary school teacher; I teach kids from 12-18 which can be the best job in the world, but it can also be the worst.

For example, whenever I sit in a taxi cab and the conversation turns to work- I am usually met with sympathetic nods of the head and sympathy tuts when I reveal my job: "Wouldn't want to be you, pal!" "Kids these days, I couldn't face it!" are just some of the retorts that have passed the lips of others.

However, I want to put a stop to the myth that the kids are what makes my job difficult (although they can at times!) For me it is the other adults in the school. Sit in any teaching staffroom with a bunch of overfilled egos and you are bound to come into conflict. Better still, sit in a teaching staffroom with overfilled egos, while suffering a mental health issue, self-esteem issues and a general feeling of melancholia, exasperated by great feelings of inadequacy and your wellbeing suffers. Tremendously!

I have been told that I am good at my job: I am in quite a nice school (albeit a very highly pressurised environment) but, in general, the kids are nice. However, none of that matters when you feel the way I do. Each time I stand in front of a class, delivering my lessons, my body goes into automatic drive. My self-esteem plummets and voices shower through my mind: I am no good. I am pathetic. I am a fake. Good job I am a good actor then- isn't it? I often wonder though, as I come home and crash on the sofa, exhausted, emotional and overwhelmed how good this is for my health?

What makes matters worse for me in work is that I work with people who regularly boast about their super-teach skills, their talents and their wonderful personalities. I know I should close my ears to such talk, but the question is how? Why do I have to compare myself to others so much? And why am I so skin-crawlingly uncomfortable in my work environment? I sometimes see life as futile and wonder is this it? Will I always feel this way? I was reading an article last night about the possibility of life on another planet-Kepler 22b. Here's hoping that if there's an alternate world out there and I'm in it,  I'm having a better time out there than I am on our earth.

I 'd like to finish by thanking those of you who commented on my New Year Blog. It meant a lot to me and I'm sorry there are other sufferers out there. Your comments have been very helpful and fill me with a little bit of joy.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year

Dear Reader, 

As we trod expectantly into the new year that is 2012, we are met with a blank sheet ahead. A blank sheet to be filled in any way we wish- that is of, course if we are indeed masters of our own destiny. What do you think- are we masters of our own destiny or is life decided for us? 

A tricky one that- of course, there are religious believers who may think that out path is marked out, God is the decider of our destiny; then there are those who do not believe anything of the sort- life is what we make it. Full stop. 

I am on the fence, to be honest. For one, I do hope that there is a higher power from above, guiding us on our path through life (but only if that path is filled with sunshine and lollipops!) but then again, I am a bit sceptical because, after all, if we had to sit and wait for someone to make our lives for us, would anything ever get done?

Then there are those of us who suffer depression... I, myself, being in that category. I can only write from my own experience, but as a depressed person, fighting desperately out of my prison, I am trying to make my own destiny, to make things better. Trust me, my intentions are all good. But then, depression strikes and every plan I have is crushed and my depression decides if today is the day I get to make my own destiny. Take New Year's Eve as an example ( before 12 struck to bring in the new year, my depression struck first WITH A VENGEANCE!!

I was to host a party for family, a get-together, a tradition that I have been doing for the past few years now. The preparations were going exceptionally well: decorations were glistening, food was purchased and made, drink was aflow, flat was gleaming. But then at 5 pm, 3 hours before the start of the party, I broke down. It was not entirely unexpected as that morning I had woken up with that all-too-familiar feeling that alerts me to the warning signs of depression: the heavy heart, the slow trod, the vacant feeling inside which makes basic tasks difficult. I tried to fight these feelings- I got on with preparations, I went for a nap, I tried everything but it was no use. I could not even bring myself to wash or have a bath, let alone mock happiness for a night. So what did I do: I cancelled. 

This, in retrospect, was not the answer but I could not go on. I upset my fiance (who, as I have said before is a real sufferer in this). All was not too bad though as family, to an extent, understood and there were other parties to attend. But, this year, for the first time, I spent New Year alone and depressed. I hate it, reader. I thought I was getting a bit better but I'm wrong. I guess the lack of Christmas cheer should have been a warning sign, but you never know when it is going to strike. 

I have rested for the past two days- sleeping away the hours and feel a little better, but my mood is like a bomb ready to explode... I don't know when the fatigue will strike, or the sadness, or the ennui, or the anger, or the frustration, or the self- loathing, or the guilt, or the exasperation, or the boredom, or the fear... I however, in the meantime am going to try my best to make my new destiny. If you have any advice in how to make things better, please let me know.

PS- Staying away from facebook has helped because on New Year's Eve, reading the status' of friends felt like self-harming. It seemed that everybody had the best 2011 and were the happiest they ever could be- a kick in the teeth to me who felt at the worst I ever could... Is it just me who wasn't overwhelmingly happy in 2011?

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas one and all...

That time of year has approached once more... Christmas. Christmas divides opinion: you either love it (so much so that the minute the iconic Coca Cola Adverts chants its melodic catchphrase' Holidays are Coming, Holidays are Coming,' your stomach whirrs with excitement) or you hate it (so much so that the mere mention of the profane word makes you break out in sweats and want to pull the duvet over your head until March.) I am in the first category: I love it.

When I say I love Christmas I think back to the physical, spiritual and emotional response the word Christmas once evoked in me. Although my childhood wasn't always easy- with more than 6 siblings living at home in a small 3 bedroomed house, money was tight and as eldest, I never got very much  (except a never-ending to-do list to help around the house) -regardless, my mother still kept the spirit of Christmas alive. Childhood, although chaotic and heart-breaking at times, was filled with love and joyful Christmas cheer: families around the table, wonky trees covered in garish baubles, which incidentally always fell off the tree, breaking into tiny pieces, casting shards of glass all over the floor which I always, without fail, trod on. Christmas was about anticipation, singing along to Top Of The Pops Christmas specials, gift wrapping, carrots for Rudolf and re-runs of old Christmas TV Specials: Only Fools and Horses, The Royale Family, quiz shows. Christmas was warm in my childhood. I wish I could bottle that feeling.

Then my teenage years approached- I fell in love and Christmas became an altogether new experience: a time for lovingly embracing with the love of my life, in my bedroom with candles aglow dreaming wistfully about future children. Christmas day was filled with presents from the lover: naughty chocolates, sensual nightwear (to be reserved for when living alone) visits as couples to different families, feeling a sense of belonging in the world like a rite of passage- being a part of the grown up world. It was also enjoyed with drunken nights out and endless parties thrown in for fun and good measure. That time was also warm but in a different way. Again, I wish I could bottle that feeling.

Then there came the Christmases after the break-up of first love when I was a student, living alone in a tiny little flat living on Mastercard's Credit Limit (which I am still paying off today almost 10 years later!) I remember the first ever time waking up alone on Christmas morning- I was 21 and had spent the night before sobbing childlike tears because it was the first time I would not be visiting my first-love's home in 5 years. I was sentimental. I was hormonal and I was cold. But, I was still Happy. A family Christmas dinner was awaiting me. Nothing could break my festive spirit. I was stoic in the face of adversity- maybe it was the hope that things would get better again but whatever it was: I wish I could bottle that feeling.

And this year- this year I am approaching 30 and I am the most comfortable off, financially, I have ever been, I am living with a supportive partner and I have a family who love me. I have a job and I have security. But, for some reason I just cannot get the festive warmth and cheer. Why is this? Maybe it is the depression, maybe it is life, maybe it is weariness or maybe it is my medication but whatever it is I am in despair and I need an antidote. I want the warm fuzzy feeling, the gut-wrenching excitement back. I am in no way a Scrooge: I have tried everything to keep my spirits up: My Living room is brightly lit with a gorgeous tree and lots of shiny presents which I have lovingly chosen for loved ones- and to add meaning I even handmade special gifts as extras all containing special Christmas poems. As far as I am aware I am going about the right way to get the Christmas feeling but why am I vacant?

I guess  I will have to try to stop chasing the happiness. Maybe the answer is to sit back, relax and enjoy the small pleasures around me: 2 weeks leave from work, fragrant candles aglow, hot bubble baths, the smell of warm mince-pie, the texture of a gift before you tear it open, the look on the face of others when you get them that perfect gift, the smile and excitement of a child and the wonder of the beautiful world. I am blessed. I am lucky. I am more fortunate that those who will have nothing and no one this Christmas, not even basic essentials. But, Why can't I have happiness?

Dear Santa, if you are reading this please make me feel better soon.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Dear reader,

I thought I would throw a little haikus your way to brighten up your day. I enjoy writing haikus-with a structure so simple (5,7,5 syllables) and a message so true.

Get Better soon

Take a little pill,
Smile at the day ahead
Get a little rest

Sending Hope your way

May the sun kiss you,
May the birds sing well to you,
May you get better

Wednesday, 2 November 2011



I have been recently Arthur Miller's play, 'Death of a Salesman.' Have any of you read it? It is one of my personal favourite pieces of literature of all time. So simply written, yet so powerfully conveyed is the mental decline of Miller's protagonist, Willy Loman, that one cannot help but read about the plight of this man. This poor, poor man who does not fit into the society in which he is living. Have you ever felt like that before? That if you were born in a different era, at a different time or walked in a different body your life would be easier?

Which leads me to another question: Why, when I am so down myself, am I compelled to read about the mental decline of others in the pits of despair? Why not reach for the feel good classics? 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is always a wholeheartedly feel good book to pick you up. The heroic Atticus commands respect, admiration and even restores the faith in humanity and the charismatic and humorous Dill draws out belly rumbling laughs.

However, there is just something intensely mesmerising about reading books like 'Death of a Salesman' when feeling at a low ebb. Maybe it's the personal soul searching that goes on when digesting lines which one can feel: 'He's just a little boat looking for a harbour,' or 'He's a human being...and attention must be paid to him.' Maybe it's because when I read this play I can always match the characters up to people I know in my life. Everybody knows a Willy Loman. You may even be a Willy Loman yourself, dear reader. Everyone knows a Biff Loman: a self-indulged child who grows up to waste his own life, while apportioning blame on everyone around him. Everyone knows a Linda Loman- the strong matriarch who keeps the family together. Everyone knows or can identify with Happy Loman- the child who has to fight for his father's attention all his life.

Whoever you are, or for whatever reason you read, "Death of a Salesman" is a play I would recommend. It won't life your spirits on a rainy day; it won't give you hope when you feel there is none; it will not make you laugh. There is one thing it will do, however. It will expose you, first hand, to the psychological decline of a man on the brink: the brink of society and the brink of mental decline. And maybe, through reading this you can feel satisfied that life is hard, your mental illness is justified, to be expected even in this constant whirlwind of stress we call life. It gives you reason and answers for feeling the way you do.