Every day is like Sunday

I haven’t written I quite some time. Months. I’ve been incredibly busy and feeling pretty bloody good about the world. Until now.

Now I’ve not written a blog while being here. In my dark space. I’m not even sure I can put into words how I feel… or even what I want to say. I guess I just feel a need to let it out. Because I’ve done what I tell others not to. I’ve shut it all up inside.

I always want these blogs to have a purpose… a message. But when I’m feeling really low, very little has purpose! I get crushed under the “what is the point of anything” boulder. So what is the point of writing about my feelings right now?

It has to be for purely selfish reasons. To purge myself. To pick at the scab and let out the infection.

And because it’s Sunday. My bleak day. My nemesis day. The day where my depression seems to crowd in on me.

Let’s rewind to what has triggered this latest round of malaise.

I’m part of something extrorinary… an amateur burlesque troupe that puts on shows for charity. Over the past 4 years it has given me purpose, confidence, courage, something to focus on, a hobby and a chance to meet some incredible women. From rehearsing to costume making, it has kept me very busy! And I’ve NEEDED it. Having to work to a goal of a show, having that adrenaline rush of performing live has been addictive.

But its ended. Or is ending soon. And I am grieving!

Now I know that sounds bloody ridiculous. But I feel as if a chunk of my life is being cut away. We have one show left. So we’re still rehearsing and I’m having to suck it up and make glittering costumes and smile through routines as we practice. But I’m struggling. It’s almost worse that were still together doing something so wonderful, but knowing the exact moment it will end. As the music fades in our finale number in the last show.

So there’s my trigger. There’s loads of shit that’s happened alongside this. Falling outs, terrible vitriolic group messages, friends blocking friends. It’s devastated me.

I will, and do, avoid conflict in every way I can. It makes me physically sick. So I’ve retreated into the social media shadows for a bit. I can’t be a part of the anger and mudslinging.

Add to all this the time of year. Autumn sucks. For me it’s a time of loss and the draining away of light and life.

Christmas has always been a beacon of fun and joy for me in the midwinter. Which is what the original celebration was for! To mark the shortest day and remind us we’ll soon return to the light.

But at the moment I just feel flat about the season of goodwill. Which I suppose is better than last year, where I was dreading it. It was our first Christmas without my beloved cat Sticky. Last year I was desperately low and it took me a good while to scrape myself together.

So here we are this year. Another, if totally different, feeling of loss. Another time of plastering on a smile at the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. A time of hiding the aching pain in my chest and shortness of breath. Time to keep blinking back the tears and trying to swallow the lump in the throat.

So today is not ok. But tomorrow may be. I may feel more like opening up. I may just feel ‘lighter’. My dog might stop sitting on my chest and breathing in my ear.

So no purpose. No message. Just a stream of ‘This is how I fucking feel’.

Darlin’ reach out…

I’ve not written for a while… tardy!

But I have written this piece for a blog at my work where I’m one of the Mental Wellbeing Helpers.

Anyhoo. Thought I would post as hopefully it’s relevant. SO here goes.

This week you’ll be seeing a lot in the press, on social media and on telly about mental health… That’s because it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. For some of you it could just be a bit of background noise or of passing interest. But for others it could resonate very deeply. Some of you may be going through a tough time at the moment and may be able to relate to the things you’ll be hearing about.

You may have a long standing mental health issue (like me) or you may be experiencing stress, anxiety or depression for the first time. You may be worried about someone you know who’s experiencing difficulties with their mental wellbeing. Whichever it is, know this. You are not on your own and there is help out there.

So, this piece is a little bit about my experiences and why I think it’s important to be able to talk about mental health. I will pop some useful and interesting links to sites at the end. I do want to say before I start, this is not professional, or indeed, any kind of advice. I just want to share thoughts and let people know they can, if they feel ready, open up about their feelings.

It’s all about me…

I was diagnosed with depression 25 years ago (oooh I feel old) and have been living with my ‘black dog’ my ‘guilt monkey’ and my ‘fear lizard’ for a long time… Come and have a chat and I will explain about the menagerie! I’m mostly well. But not all the time. It’s something I know will always be a part of me, like my slightly crooked nose, addiction to tea and my annoyingly brittle finger nails! I take my medication to keep my brain chemicals in balance and have techniques, tricks and lifestyle factors that help me stay well. I try to learn as much as I can about the physiological, emotional and psychological reasons for depression (knowledge is power), and I am passionate that we talk about mental health issues! That they are no longer ‘unmentionable’ subjects.

Opening up and letting it out!

I read a really awesome post by Blurt Foundation today, called ‘Why it’s not attention seeking to talk about mental ill-health’.

https://www.blurtitout.org/2018/05/10/attention-seeking-talk-mental-ill-health/

It made such an impression on me and reminded me of all the times I’ve spoken to people who’ve bottled up their feelings and have been going through things alone. So many have said exactly the same words to me… So much so that I can confidently list them. Here goes:

  • I don’t want to be a burden
  • I feel guilty for taking peoples time and energy
  • I don’t want people to think I’m weak or that I can’t cope
  • I don’t want people to think I’m looking for attention
  • I’m ashamed because there’s still a stigma around this

I have felt ALL of these. Especially in the early years of trying to work through my depression. And even now, when I’m in a tough place, these things spin round and round in my head and I can, if I’m not mindful, ‘shut down’ and stop communicating.

When I stop communicating I can start to internalise everything. I look inward and become a bit ‘cut-off’. This can mean a bout of me feeling low or anxious can spiral into a full-blown episode of depression.

That is why I’m passionate about dispelling these ideas when I’m mentally well! Dispelling them in my own mind (or at least ‘dampening’ them) and talking openly about them.

By getting these worries about talking out there hopefully people will be able to see that they are not alone in thinking them, they are a universal theme!

Making people aware that those of us with mental illness find it hard to talk, because we feel guilty or ashamed, is important. Knowing how hard it might be to open up can make people more receptive and supportive and less dismissive when we do go to them.

Opening up and being truthful about how we feel to friends, family, colleagues or bosses can be super hard. For me it can be a fight to get the words out. Part of me want’s, no needs, someone to listen and help, the other part of me wants to shove it all inside so I’m not troubling anyone else with my ‘stupid problems’!

I remember the time I had to sit down with my senior lecturer and say ‘I’ve been diagnosed with depression and I’m absolutely not coping ’. She was a world-weary, intimidating woman. I was terrified and convinced she was going to tell me I was being overly dramatic, weak and I was a quitter. Needless to say, that’s not how it went down. She listened, empathised and opened up about her troubles with anxiety, and told me about her best friend in New York who’d just had a complete nervous breakdown. We both had a cry and both said we felt relieved to ‘let it out’.

Now, I know not everyone is going to open up back to you, and I’ve not always been lucky enough to have this level of understanding. A negative reaction can be a real blow and make you want to lock everything away again. I feel it’s important to stick with it… Talk to someone else. By and large I’ve found most people have been supportive. They have listened, digested and offered me their help.

In my experience, those you love and trust will most likely be eager to support you. They will try to understand and won’t judge. They won’t think you’re weak. They won’t mind you talking through the same worries several times. They won’t think you are looking for attention.

What’s is wrong with a little attention anyway? We all need some, especially when we are feeling really low or anxious. This attention could really help you get on the path to feeling better! Attention is a good thing!

But if you genuinely feel there is no one close to you at the moment who would ‘get it’, please know that there are other people, organisations and communities that are there when you do want find support.

Your GP. This doesn’t instantly mean you will be prescribed medication! You always have choices! I think talking to your GP can be a good first step to opening up. You know they can’t by law tell anyone else what you’re going through, they can refer you to counselling or other therapies and and they may be able to suggest some lifestyle changes that will help.

A support line or mental health online service. There are quite a few amazing organisations out there who may be able to help you. I’ve certainly found them useful. They can listen, they can sign-post and they can advise. Some can arrange counselling sessions, some have their own social media pages so you can chat to others who may be going through similar things.

I’m not the biggest fan of quotes and memes… but this one is true. ‘It’s ok not to be ok’.

But I’d like to add ‘It’s ok to tell people you’re not ok’!

Here are some great places to visit if you want to find out more or need some support.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
https://www.blurtitout.org/get-support/
https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/brain-and-mental-health.htm
https://www.rethink.org/about-us/our-mental-health-advice

Tell me why… I don’t like Sunday’s!

I can’t believe I still suffer with Sunday night syndrome! I’m 47 ffs. But I guess I’ve worn those neural pathways pretty deep, and I’ll probably hate Sundays, from around 3pm, until my ticker gives out and they shove me in a box.

Sunday evening is very much one of my trigger points. That ‘back to school’ feeling turns me over and makes me blue. Now I’m not saying that every Sunday brings on a bout of depression… But it’s a ‘black spot’, a time that I struggle with.

The times that keep on giving

I have a few of these. The few days after Christmas , New Years Eve (God I hate this night), the day after my birthday (yes it’s ALL about me), ALL of September.

I know I’m not alone. These are pretty fucking sad times for many people. I feel a sense of grief when faced with these hours / days / weeks. No real need to explain… Loss of the weekend, Christmas, summer… They are all pretty basic.

Sunday’s and Septembers will always happen. They will come and they will go. And my ‘dog’ will come and go with them.

Understanding and acknowledging that I feel a bit shit and am not the best company at these times has been key. I tell anyone who will listen that these times can fuck me off and fuck me up. All my friends and loved ones are particularly aware of my loathing of September (I’m a ray of sunshine) and are quite good at supporting me.

There will be even more dangerous and difficult dates to cope with. The anniversary of a traumatic time or a true loss can be devastating. Waiting for that date to come around can feel like watching a huge storm slowly rolling in. You spend weeks dreading it and working yourself into an anxious frenzy Or spiralling down into a dark lonely place.

You can sometimes feel ok. You have the date in your sights and feel like you can handle it. But as the day arrives, sadness, panic or full on depression can hit you like a giant powerful wave. Sucking you under and swallowing you up.

So here be the message for today…

  • Identify the times that suck for you and prepare. Don’t let the bastards creep up on you!
  • Talk about it, so people have an understanding of when you might be a bit on the brittle side.
  • Plan the best way for you to cope with these times as much as you can. Do you need company? Are you best left alone? Can you go to work or do you need to plan time off?

And remember, after every Sunday night, there’s a Monday morning to look forward to! (CHRIST… Shoot me now)!!!

Why I’m such a busy bas*ard

When people ask me, in passing, ‘how are you?’ I very often answer ‘busy’ or ‘tired’…. because I am.

I have quite a busy life. I don’t have kids… so let’s face it, I will never be as busy as quite a lot of you out there. Sprogs seem to drain time and energy out of all my parent friends. But I am busy, by choice.

*Skim this bit if you don’t want to be bored out of your skull* I work full time in quite a deadline driven job. I have a wide social group and suffer badly from FOMO. I have a family I’m close to and I try to stay over there once a week. I have an incredible partner and home life and like to spend as much time in the ‘burrow’ with him and my new rescue cat as I can. I’m part of a burlesque troupe, we practice twice a week and I make costumes, help design the advertising stuff and do a lot of the social media.  I am a mental health first aider and general first aider at work, on the Social Committee and the voluntary fundraising group. I’m currently planning a friends hen do with the others on the bridal party. I sew, read a lot, watch too many box sets and write this shit… BLAH BLAH BAHHHHH

Now i’m not after a medal here. This ‘chucking everything at it’ is a symptom of and form of control for my depression.

Does i matter that I’m doing this? Is it healthy? Is it ‘keeping me out of trouble’ or smothering my issues under a pile of things to do?

I am certainly not on my own. Apparently wedging as much in as you can, is a bit of a thing amongst people who find it hard to sit, and be quiet with their own thoughts. I have a friend who can’t even sit through a few episodes of a series. Her brain won’t let her.

I think there are three ways of ‘being’ – FIGHT, FLIGHT or FACE. I’m naturally a ‘flyer’. I want to run away. I guess this ‘busy bee’ business is a form of ‘running’.

Bees-in-flight-fromorgnanizedchaosdotcom

I’m not a fighter. People say I’m a bolshi tart and look feisty… but it’s all red lippy, mouth-like-a-docker and general front! Fighting, or anger, does not come easily to me. I kind of wish it did.

So, when I’m feeling OK (which is most of the time these days to be fair), I have learned to face things. To take time to try to understand what’s going on in there. To understand that this shit is emotional, psychological and physiological. To educate myself on how the old grey matter works, or sometimes doesn’t work. There are some good books around… like Beating Stress, Anxiety and Depression by Prof Jane Plant and Janet Stephenson (both have suffered with mental health problems).

Visualisation, mindfulness and meditation can really help. It’s not all new age hippy shit. It can work if you can get into it and are willing to practice. But that’s all for another time.

However… sitting still and contemplating my lot is fine when I’m feeling alright… But when I’m depressed… contemplating is… well… fucking dangerous! To let my mind wander just a little bit can be like dropping a cup of poison into the well. Soon the whole thing is toxic.

So I think that is why I have packed my life to the maximum, and am such an awful keener busy-body! It’s a mechanism and a habit. A crutch and an addiction. Better that than crack eh?

I’ve just read this back and realised… there is no real point to this rambling post. Apologies there is no insight, no answer or light-bulb moment.

I guess I’m just ‘keeping busy’.

 

 

 

 

 

The big fat guilt monkey

I’m guilty! Or I certainly feel like it a LOT of the time. It’s very much part of my personality make up. Whether because of my depressive nature, or as well as it, who knows? But I’ve been plagued by the guilt monkey for as long as I can remember.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do stupid things that I SHOULD feel remorse over. Most of these are alcohol related… Ahh sweet sweet destructive booze… But the weight of that guilt monkey, and the length of time he hangs around, can be disproportionate to the crime.

I still carry a TON of guilt for something I did back when I was 22. Now nobody was hurt or died… But I did something that disappointed my mum. Even thinking about it now, 23 years later, makes me shrivel inside. I’ve never talked to her about it and I doubt she even remembers the event, but the guilt haunts me still.

I’m good at appearing quite bolshi. But the truth is, I talk the talk and that’s it. I’m kind of sensitive. Yikes. If I feel I’ve upset or hurt someone, then Mr monkey will come sit on my chest until I do something about it.

The other day I had a really bloody stressful day at work. I vented, ranted a bit, and was generally a bit whingey! I actually had just cause to be pissed. But when I got home, (vented a bit more to my man) and cooled down, I started to feel pretty awful. I woke up at five in the morning and could not let that guilt monkey go. I felt as if I’d been disrespectful and annoying, and until I did something about it I couldn’t settle. So I bought a card and some ‘apology biscuits and said sorry to everyone who’d been in earshot.

This genuinely made me feel better. Now is this a selfish or selfless act? It’s both. By apologising I released my sense of guilt, got assurances that I was not a hideous harridan and was right to be pissed off. But I really did feel bad and want to say sorry and do something nice.

So wtf does this have to do with depression, I hear you ask.

Well I feel guilty about my depression! I know this is a common thread amongst those who walk their ‘dark corridors’, because they tell me. I’ve spoken to so many people who’ve indicated their guilt for ‘bringing everyone down’, for feeling like they have a gaping hole in their heart when there’s ‘nothing wrong with their life’.

Only yesterday I told someone who’s been having a tough time, not to feel guilty, that it’s not their fault, that they’re suffering with depression, and that they need to be logical about it and kind to themselves. GREAT STUFF… Except I find it very hard to swallow my own medicine.

When I’m ‘well’ I know all this to be fact… But when that chasm opens up and I fall in… then my furry chimp friend comes along to keep the black dog company.

I’m getting better at recognising them both as they loom on the horizon. And have may ways of dealing with the bastards.

One of which is visualisation. Maybe I’ll write the next post about it. But it really can work wonders for me.

The other thing that helps is doing something about the guilt. Talk to the person you think you’ve upset, clear it all up and get it all out in the open… buy those apology biscuits.

If it makes you feel better then it’s worth making that effort. Even if you’re not totally in the wrong. Working through that guilt, rather than letting it nibble away at you, is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Guilt is a pointless emotion. It’s exhausting and destructive. That monkey is one mean mofo! Maybe one day I’ll learn to tame him.

Hello from bed. A Sunday morning look at Fridays madness.

Work has been insane of late. I’m a graphic designer for a cancer charity, yep virtuous! But it can get wildly busy and when I’m not at my best, stress can lead to a swift spiral into the murky depths.

I can go from 0 to 60 on the stressometer in seconds. But it’s mostly a build up that gets me. A layering of responsibilities. And suddenly I feel like I’m spinning plates… badly.

Not the Friday feeling I was hoping for.

Friday was another plate spinner. This bitch of a day was not going my way. Then I looked at my messages and saw a passive aggressive one that stuck in my craw, and took a call that made me feel helpless and ‘torn’. Pop all this in the same pot and you have a nice bubbling recipe for a ‘chasm’ to open up.

I try to get out of the office and walk every lunchtime. But it was vital on Friday.

Walking is an incredible tool for me against the dreaded ‘dog’. Always has been. When I walk I have to be present and look outside myself. When I’m still I do have a tendency to slide into a thousand yard stare.

So I walked and could hear my internal commentary playing the same shitty tune over and over. Picking words out of the phone conversation, taking a few sentences from the message and mixing it in with a great big dolop of “you are a sham… how did you ever get this much responsibility in your job?… you’ll never get this done to a decent standard… You’re too old and not a trendy enough designer”.

All this can whizz through my small dark mind in milliseconds. And is stuck on repeat.

I could feel myself slipping in… my stress was opening up a nice little hole for the depression to seep in.

I had no time for this. I had to stop it and fast!

So I walked a little faster… I needed the blood pumping.

I started to picture all the people in my day’s “story”. Almost seeing them like characters on Cluedo cards. I set them out and one by one told them how I was going to mentally deal with them that day.

“You are being snarky by message because you don’t feel good yourself today. I can tell you’re feeling as if you are not totally in control. So you want to lash out. That is your issue… not mine. So I’m going to let you get on with it as I have no time for you today”

*turns over card*

By facing each person and problem down in a way I could easily visualize (and made them somehow ‘smaller’) I was able to grab my day back.

I ‘looked’ at all the cards turned over… all neat dealt with… and the sass came back… the screw you attitude.

YES… soon as I reached a mirror, I got out the brightest shade of red lippy in my bag, applied the war paint and re-entered the fray.

Thank fuck it was Friday tho!

Not really thought this through.

Oh crap! I just wrote a load of words and now they’ve disappeared! So my first post will be rather brief as I’m now a bit stabby and can’t really be arsed.

I’m going to be talking all about my lovely depression… my hideous companion for over 25 years.

So there’ll be insights into what’s going on in my head *yawn* talk about my good and bad days *could this be any more tiresome?* and sharing some things that I’ve found help me *Christ really???* In short I’ll generally be boring the knickers off anyone who should stumble across this, while feeding my greedy little ego. Oooh and there’ll be some burlesque stuff *hang on there could be tits*.

So tune in next time if you want to hear a bit about my fucking down days, and what I do to not slide into the gaping maw. And I might talk about tassles 😉