Tag Archives: depression

But the last day of summer Never felt so cold

This year summer seems to be over as soon as it began for the school age children. All the good sunny weather happened before they broke up but I am pleasantly surprised that it remains light for so long in the evening still, 9pm last night. I know this specifically because I went to bed for a nice afternoon nap at 3pm having got home from work and a lovely lunch catch up with a friend. I woke up at 8.30pm and was completely confused, I thought it was morning because of the daylight outside, I was in a completely disorientated panic which lasted about half an hour. Horrid adrenal pumping head ache inducing way to wake up.

 

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But I know that soon the evenings will be drawing  in and eventually I will find myself in a subterranean like world of leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. I am a huge fan of autumn and winter, of Christmas and lamplight (so good on the complexion), of cosy blankets and bed socks but equally I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

The NHS define it as follows:

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They’re typically most severe during December, January and February.

SAD often improves and disappears in the spring and summer, although it may return each autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.”

If I am not mindful then it can end up utterly flooring me. It doesn’t happen over night, it is the slow creeping in of lethargy, equaled to the diminishing of day light. Life starts to feel flat, if I don’t start dragging myself back up he hill at that point then the feeling can remain with me for months.

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I have no magic remedy, though I have found SAD lights to be very effective, 10 mins a day while at work. I have been lucky enough to have at least one exceptionally hot and sunny holiday each year so I feel I stock up on sunshine and energy. But I am also kind to myself, darkness does produce lethargy, that is normal, just as the spring sunshine makes us want to throw on coats and go on long fresh walks.

I’m not trying to wish summer and sunshine away but I know from experience that now is the time to start thinking about where I put my SAD lamp, time to transition into the new season in the healthiest way I can.

Marking the transition of seasons, as ridiculous as it may sound, helps too, so it isn’t just the long stretch towards Christmas (the best time of the year ever) that we are waiting for. And I love an excuse for a celebration. One of my favorites is the Autumn Equinox, Mabon, it happens around 21st-24th September, the The White Goddess tells us the story behind it:

“Mabon marks the middle of harvest, it is a time of equal day and equal night, and for the moment nature is in balance. It is a time to reap what you have sown, of giving thanks for the harvest and the bounty the Earth provides. For finishing up old projects and plans and planting the seeds for new enterprises or a change in lifestyle. Mabon is a time of celebration and balance.

This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess.

The passing of Mabon is inevitable and The Sun God should be mourned. We too, must remember that all things must come to an end. So the Sun God journeys into the lands of winter and into the Goddess’ loving arms, but endings are a good time to celebrate our successes, thank our selves and those who helped us, and take part in the balance of life!”

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And I wonder if you know How it really feels to be left outside alone

Duvet days

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Baby Lulu helping Mummy out with the guest list at Fabric

A friend of mine from Instagram recently posted the following quote ‘main caption above recently. She is a fellow spoonie, a fellow endurer of autoimmune disease and chronic pain and fatigue. Her post got me thinking a lot about how being so unwell really changes ones relationships in a way that can be really hard to deal with, from both sides. I spend my time either at work or at home, there are no other destinations for me these days. I am too tired, too sick, in too much pain. This is not how it used to be. I have spent half a life time working in clubs, I am a naturally sociable and curious person, I like being out and about, meeting people, talking, eating out. Having fun.

If I thought having baby might curtail these activities (it didn’t really, my ex husband and I just let Lu slot into our lifestyle, with a few less ‘out until at dawn’ scenarios) then it had nothing on that the impact developing fibromyalgia had on my life.

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Pimms in Nottinghill

I understand that at times friends don’t ask me to go places because they know I won’t be able to and I imagine that they don’t want to put pressure on me or make me feel bad when I decline. I cannot cope without rest, lots of rest, so that does put a stop to evening afterwork shenanigans. This has also meant that I don’t make plans anymore, ever because I have had to cancel at the last minute more often than not as my illness varies greatly day to day, I could be fine one day and then barely able to walk the next. I hate hate hate feeling like I have let people down so now I just don’t make any plans. I spend my evenig and weekends with my mum and my daughter. I know it probably isn’t hugely healthy, that I should be with friends, to let off steam, chat, be ‘me’ but we don’t always get to do what we want. I know I am doing my best.

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Lunch at the Oysterage in Orford, Suffolk

I’m not trying to do anyone a disservice, maybe the people who don’t ask me just don’t wat t see me, I can accept that! But for those who do like me, it is really important for me to still be asked to spend time with you, it makes me feel valued and wanted and all those things we are never meant to rely on other people for but we do. Each time a friend invites me to do something, knowing that I will probably say no or cancel at the last minute, it makes me feel really included which is so important when one has an illness that can be so debilitating and isolating.

So please, if you have a friend who is unwell, be it depression or any other illness, please remember, when they say no to an invitation, don’t be hurt, don’t vow to not bother again, it matters that you asked, it matters so so much.

 

Ooh aah just a little bit, oooh aah a little bit more

Hello world, it has been ages since I last blogged and it hasn’t been due to lack of desire but merely because I couldn’t think of anything to write about that may be of interest to anyone, including myself. I’ve been off work poorly again with my latest diagnoses of fibromyalgia and am still waiting for my Pain Clinic referral so each of my days are a bit like groundhog ones. I am exceptionally tired, constantly. If I do nothing but rest all day I am beyond tired and could sleep for days, if I do ‘things’ then I am physically exhausted by 5pm and can barely speak. This is the most difficult illness to manage that I’ve had to date, in my mind anyway.

The generally accepted wisdom is that exercise creates energy so off to the gym I go for gentle exercise, I pace myself but the next two days are always a write off, this illness isn’t one of those that works that way and I find it incredibly frustrating. I feel like I am constantly having to think three days ahead all the time. If I go for a swim today will I be able to get up tomorrow to take Lucia to school? It goes against everything I am, I am a single mum, with a full time job, a puppy, about to commence a Phd, I am the one that does lots of stuff, and I enjoy that, I fit it in and I manage but Fibromyalgia is standing on the sidelines mocking me. If I am planning on driving anywhere I have to consider that I won’t be able to take my painkillers as I cant drive on them, so I have to calculate how long it will be until I can take them and then accept that I will be in a lot of pain for that time.

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I massage my hands and knees and elbows with frankincense aromatherapy oil before I go to sleep – its good for inflammation. I take turmeric and ginger tablets, as well as a B Complex (can help with mental health), primrose oil for ‘that’ time of the month and cod liver oil for healthy everything. I have fresh juice each day with fresh ginger, I have a smoothie with berries, soy milk, banana, nut butter, dates, a spoon of acai, and a spoon of maca for energy. I have overnight soaked oats with chia seeds and linseed for breakfast. I drink water – though I hate it. I am doing the things that I should, and these are things I like. My mum bought me up eating tofu and brown rice in a time when people who did that were thought of as cranks (anyone remember the restaurant Cranks? amazing baked potatoes rolled in oil and rosemary before baking). I take the puppy for walks in beautiful locations that feed my soul, I’m trying my absolute best to ignore my cravings of Cadburys Big Chocolate Buttons, but I am also being kind to myself,.I am lucky that I have positive people in my life, my daughter is always the light at the end of the tunnel, she is my joy personified.

But, isn’t there always a but, I am back to work tomorrow and I am frightened. My biggest fear has always been the inability to cope. In my mind if I can’t cope then that’s it, game over. Like a house of cards, it will all come tumbling down around me. And I am feeling guilty, all the time. Guilty that I am tired and don’t go to the gym everyday, guilty that I am tired and am not up with the lark chasing the day, guilty that I let Lucia eat her favourite meal of fishmongers and chips everyday because I don’t have the energy to try and make her eat something I have created for her, guilty that some times I am so tired that I don’t have the energy to argue with Lu and I let her skip her homework for a night, guilty that when Lu wakes up at 6am on a Saturday morning I give her the iPad to watch so I can get some more sleep, guilty that when her dad collects her every other weekend for her Saturday night stay that I am relieved that I will be able to go to bed and not have to cook or play or have a bath if I don’t want to, guilty that I bought plants at the school fete and they have been sat in their pots for days because I am too tired to weed the veg patch and plant them, guilty that I want to be bathed in my pjs (thats if i have actually got out of them) by 7pm and that I just can’t muster the energy to go on a ‘date night’ with my partner. I worry he’ll think ‘this isn’t what I signed up for, what happened to the woman I met two years ago?’

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This illness is depleting me, the ‘me’ of old is fading, I’m not a good mum, friend or partner anymore, I don’t have the energy and to ask other people to live with that is extremely selfish of me, it makes it seem like the ‘Miriam’ show, and that’s not what I want. It isn’t the ‘me’ I want to be, it isn’t the ‘me’ I was  months ago but I fear it will be the ‘me’ from now on. I have become defined by my illness, restricted and curtailed. None of my other illness have ever done this to me, though they are medically more serious, but whats a liver transplant between friends.

But I must tell you a secret, something I quite dislike myself for feeling, something I am really unhappy about and that is how much weight I have put on. I hate that it bothers me, I hate that I cant seem to lose it, it makes me feel like I have no self control, why can’t I make myself exercise everyday? why can’t I curb my appetite? why does my weight bother me? It is so superficial but when I see myself in the mirror, which I avoid like the plague, I think ‘oh god, you look bloody awful’. If I was talking to a  friend I would say ‘FFS get a grip, you are dealing with so many things, the steroids increased your appetite, you suffered  a bout of depression, you are suffering from chronic fatigue, shut the fuck up abut your weight, you are a strong woman, a mum to a wonderful daughter’ but for the first time ever in my 42 years I am thinking ‘If I was thinner I would be happier’ I mean, what the hell??? Anyway thats my shameful secret, I feel like a failure.

Apart from all of that I’m ticking along quite nicely, you?

Ps the blog title refers to using up my energy a little bit at a time, slightly convoluted but I’m feeling the Fibre fog at the mo.

I just don’t know what to do with myself

So, for the last few weeks I have been feeling worse than ever. I realise it seems like I have been sick for ages, and I have, but after a few months of tests it was decided I had Sarcoidosis and after four months off work I started relevant meds and went back to work. The first couple of weeks were fine, I felt energised after making sure I has enough rest, good food, supplements, meditation and lots of water. Then, it all started to go down hill, I was really worried that the sarcoid was starting to get worse again so off to the doctor I went, she arranged an emergency appointment with my Rheumatologist, a few tests later and she talked through my symptoms, chronic pain, extreme fatigue, swollen joints, weight gain and she told me I had Fibromyalgia. I had already started crying at this point, I rarely cry, but the despair was starting to engulf me, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and here was another bloody illness to manage. The list so far in order of diagnosis starting from when I was 20;

Osteporosis

Coeliacs Disease

Bursitits

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Hypothyroidism

Sjogrens Syndrome

Sarcoidosis

Fibromyalgia

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The last four have arrived over the last five months. I am usually so in control of my illnesses, a responsible patient, participatory in my treatment, a really honest and open dialogue with my doctors, I know my illnesses inside and out and they don’t frighten me. I listen to my body and take all in my stride, I’ve never been the type for hysteria.

The Sarcoidosis diagnosis was a relief as we had been considering cancer, Sjogrens is liveable with, dry eyes,mouth etc, the Hypothyroidism is a little more complicated but I am monitored and all is in is order but the Fibromyalgia – I’m not so keen.

The majority of my illnesses are chronic, and those ones are in remission, apart from the Fibromyalgia and from what I can lean it is a difficult one to manage. There are no medications or cures, I have been referred to the Pain Clinic to discuss subtitle medication to enable me to function, but as is always the case nothing is that straightforward. I am allergic to some of the main types of pain meds, the one that don’t really interfere with everyday life, so they are off the menu. Now I shall have to wait and see what they can suggest. I have been signed off work for two more weeks as some of my meds have been adjusted to compensate for the Fibromyalgia and the pain and exhaustion is overwhelming.

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I cannot imagine living like this for the rest of my life and I am panicking like mad, I’m not used to feeling so out of control, usually I just knuckle down, learn all I can about my illness, my body lets me know what I need to and I get on with it. This time its not that simple, nothing I do makes me feel better or more able to cope, I can’t sleep as my mind is swirling, being inside doesn’t help, being outside doesn’t help, reading about it doesn’t help, being with people doesn’t help, being alone doest help, reading, radio, tv doesn’t help,the meds don’t help, and I am worried about the future. What if I become too sick to work, I am a single parent, how can I pay the mortgage? I’m meant to start my Phd in September having deferred it from the beginning of the year due to the Sarcoidosis, what If I’m too sick to start it? My daughter is five, I don’t want her to think of me as ‘sick’ or having the mummy that always needs a ‘rest’. My mum was a single parent and she was sick a lot when I was little and I remember how frightening that was for me. I am becoming depressed, I know that, I can feel it, but I cant seem how to crawl out of the deep well I am falling down, time is running out, I can’t afford to spend what little energy I have trying.

Is this it? The pain may be manageable but the exhaustion? It is crippling and completely uncontrollble. On social media those suffering with chronic illness use #spoonie to identify relevant tweets, this is based onthis article written by Christine Miserandino,  I highly recommend you read it, it is the best explanation I have ever come across (and it uses spoons to explain everything – brilliant).

 

 

 

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore

#whatpeopledontsee is the brilliant hashtag being used by Blurt (Increasing awareness and understanding of depression) on social media that allows people to share their experiences of depression during Depression Awareness Week. If you want a glimpse at how strong and resilient as as well as heartbreaking and soul destroying life can be please pop over to twitter and have as scroll though, I have participated also.

I have written about my own experience with depression before, it isn’t very glamorous or ‘aspirational’ but I wanted my blog to be a place of honesty and my mental health is part of me – or should I say my mental un-health – as we all have mental health, as we do physical health.

I believe passionately that we should provide education in schools about good mental health and what happens when people experience difficulties, in exactly the same way that we are taught about healthy eating and physical health. Otherwise how the hell is anyone meant to know what’s happening to them when their mental health starts to suffer? and of course the stigma remains as people are frightened to even say the words ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’ or ‘mental health’.

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Talking therapies, mindfulness, CBT and meds are all valid ways of addressing the issues that we might experience but no one wants feel like the ‘one who can’t cope’, which makes it even more difficult to ask for help.

Our lives will always contain an element of stress, its part of the human condition, but we need to have the tools to deal with it. Please note I am well much aware of the difference between suffering from stress and suffering from depression but if we can show people and get them to think about the fact that they experience stress, which is a universal mental health condition then its not too big a leap to get them to consider how feasible and okay it is to suffer from other mental health issues such as depression.

It is very hard for those who love someone who suffers from depression, particularly as the reflex reaction is to try and ‘fix it’ but of course it can’t just ‘be fixed’, the most helpful thing is to acknowledge the illness and be supportive, and seek support for yourself as well if you need it.

Having depression doesn’t mean that you are mad, bad or sad. It means you are unwell and like any illness that manifests itself mentally or physically the most important thing is recovery, no matter how long  a road it seems.

 

 

Who let the dogs out?

I must apologise for my prolonged period of absence. I’ve been wracking my brains trying to find a way to explain it but since I’ve been having difficulty understanding it myself, finding the right words to express it to someone else has been nigh on impossible.

I am in the midst of what has been the longest and strongest bout of depression that I have suffered in more years than I can remember and it has knocked me for six, in my darkest days and darkest hours my young daughter, Lulu, has been my source of hope, my light at the end of the tunnel shining brightly. I am taking one hour at a time, one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. I have progressed from the months of summer when I could hear the occasional whimper of the ‘black dog’ at the front door to the present, when he is my constant companion. 

On occasion the effort required to get through a day, to get up, to dress, to smile, is overwhelmingly exhausting. Everything seems a swirling maelstrom of jobs to be done, all as important as the other but the ability to tackle any of them seems just out of my grasp, I am frightened of life at the moment and I want to hide, but I am getting up every day, I am getting dressed, I am winning the battle. But I am exhausted, beyond exhausted, sometimes remembering to breath is all I can manage in a day.

The fact that I have been rather poorly in the last week or so is adding to my frustration, horrid big lumps have appeared on my legs and arms and they are really hot and they really hurt, like big lumpy bruises, I’m incredibly grateful it isn’t summer time or the world would be forced to gaze upon their hideousness. My GP thinks its related to the rheumatoid arthritis they now seem to think I have but I’m patiently waiting for my appointment with the consultant to confirm that and so until that day, in about two months time, I am on rather strong painkillers. I tell you, you hit forty and you start falling apart – I got my first pair of glasses recently and now my eyes have given up producing moisture – no tears for me! Luckily you can get them in a tube on prescription – all very odd.

Sometimes I find myself wanting to cry at the most inopportune moments – when paying for my coffee, when talking to a colleague at work –  there is no rhymne or reason to it. Rather like the illness of depression itself. Maybe its my body’s why of physically wanting to relieve all the tension I’m holding inside? On other occasions I just feel numb but every now and then I can feel a spark of excitement in me about something, maybe something rather trivial, and I remember that I can be happy again, that it is possible. So I shall keep on getting up and remembering to breathe and wait for it all to get better because deep down inside me, I know it will and, in turn, so shall I.


I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

A very dear friend of mine came to stay with me for the weekend. It happened to be her 42nd Birthday but she was not at all happy, it wasn’t her birthday that bothered her, but how her life had turned out. She said to me that ultimately she just didn’t feel that ‘this’ is where her life was meant to take her. She then berated herself and said that clearly this was the bed that she had made and so she would just have to lie in it but she is intrinsically sad inside and it breaks my heart.

My friend has had a very challenging life and has managed to transcend it for the most part but the shadow of her experiences remain part of her and sometimes it just becomes overwhelming and she becomes sad. This impacts so detrimentally on the life that she has made for herself that at these times she appears to be trying to climb a rock face that keeps crumbling beneath her and forces her down again.

She is a talented chef, a mother to two very beautiful (inside and out) children, her husband is a good man and they love each other but still, it doesn’t seem enough for her, so she tells me. She imagined running her own business by now I think, and she has done so successfully in the past, but working for yourself can be tenuous and when kids became part of the plan she needed security and took a job working for someone else. After her children arrived she was made redundant from a job she loved and it became all about the financial struggle which,lets face it, never goes away. The anxiety of dealing with ‘life’ has stiffled her creative streak and she feels ’empty’, lonely and bored.

‘Get up, get dressed and go find your bliss’ you say? So much easier said than done. She suffers from depression, that is literally crippling at times. She wants to be happy, she yearns for it, she is thankful for her family but these things do not fulfill her. I have no sage words of wisdom to impart to her, she is my friend and I love her and when she wants me to be there then I am and when she wants time alone we have an honest enough relationship for her to say that she doesn’t wasn’t to see me, without me taking it personally.

I don’t believe that she is in the minority when it comes to feeling ‘is this where I am meant to be?’, after all isn’t this what mid life crises are made of? But my friend isn’t a statistic and she certainly can’t go out and re live her youth. I want her to be happy, I want her to see the woods for the trees but right now she can’t and its hard for her but whatever she asks of me I shall do because I think she is experiencing one of the most frightening things possible as an adult, not being in control of her own life, her destiny. Aren’t we told from an early age that we are responsible for our own achievements and future and that if we are good and work hard then we shall be bestowed with financial security and happiness? well, what about when you work hard and do your best and it just doesn’t work out? how many chances are there to ‘do over’ again? And where do you find the strength to begin again?