This is where I’d like readers to be able to share their own experience, in whatever form, with mental health problems, and hopefully in the process help us all to realise that there really is no need to feel shame for who we are and what we live with. We’re like everyone else, just doing the best we can!!

If you’d like to share here, please send your piece to fiona@sunnyspellsandscatteredshowers.org. I won’t edit or amend anything you send other than to keep the formatting intact. This page is for your words and your views – I just post it. If you’d rather remain anonymous that’s absolutely fine. I look forward to hearing from you!
Image credit: Michael Leunig

I’m hearing voices in my head

Aidan O’Connell, End the Stigma

I have had a variety of diagnoses thrown at me over the years. I was told I had Generalised Anxiety Disorder,  I was told I had OCD. After I buried my girlfriend in 2008, I was clear I had PTSD. I have a Pain Specialist who has diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. As a kid, Aspergers , High Functioning Aspergers was mentioned. I have displayed symptoms of Bipolar II with what could be called Hypomania. I now have a very definitive diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which explains a lot and explains why I wasnt satisfied with the above diagnoses, given by various specialists. The concern now though is I am hearing voices. Read more.

A good girl goes to rehab

Caroline McGraw, A Wish Comes Clear

“They tried to make you go to rehab, and you said yes, yes, yes. I’m so proud of you for saying yes to life … to this opportunity to find healing, peace, and adventure.”

Sitting on my bed reading those words out of a close friend’s card, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. My friend’s paraphrase of Amy Winehouse’s famous lyrics made me smile even as her encouraging words made me choke up. The card arrived just when I needed it most. I’d already traveled from my home in Alabama to Washington State’s San Juan Island. I’d also spent several days as a full-fledged Participant in The Clearing’s residential rehab Program. Read more.

Dialectics

Lucie, Square One

Exactly a year ago, I was all excited leaving my DBT Skills Group.  I was on my way to collect a puppy.  That same puppy is lying at my feet as I write this just hours after finishing my final Skills Group.  That day, I wasn’t long into DBT.  I was still working full time, feeling “fine” about it all, struggling a little to make sense of it. I was helping to organise a large fundraising event.  I was doing a lot of overtime. That was about to change. Read more.

A different point of view

Michael Fox, Clinical Psychologist, mindproblem.com

I have received a lot of criticism from people experiencing depression for suggesting that depression is not a “mental illness”. I believe the term “illness” perpetuates the idea that depression is a medical/biological/ genetic problem, involving faulty genes, brain wiring or brain biochemistry, for which a medical solution needs to be found. That solution is always just around the corner. It my view that the medical view is completely wrong and it is the widespread certainty of this view that has prevented the mental health professions from reaching a true understanding of depression and actually being able to eliminate it. From my perspective the “illness” model promotes the hopelessness that leads to many suicides because depression is seen as a life-long incurable condition that needs to be managed, and continually struggled with. It promotes the idea of the incurable broken mind, or the broken unpredictable person, that fuels the stigma that is associated with it. I believe that the very idea of being “mentally ill” makes depression 10 times worse for many people and it crushes them. In the last 12 months I have treated 2 people who were experiencing depression and anxiety simply because they believed that they were still “mentally ill”, and therefore deeply inferior to ‘normal’ people. Read more.

I sprained my mental health

Daithí, Reeling in the fears

I recently sprained my mental health, twisted it badly. I’m on crutches for a couple of weeks, possibly longer. “What happened?” they said.  Happened out of nowhere. I was driving home one day, pulled into the driveway and then BANG! It just went from under me. I managed to get inside and to sit down and have a look. It was swollen and ugly. Bruised and delicate. The slightest touch and slightest movement just too much to handle and I was worried I might cause more damage. Read more.

Letter to Fiona

Niall Breslin (Bressie)

Over recent times there has been a huge injection of positive and progressive interaction on mental health, on social media and various blogging sites. It’s important to take an objective view of this development and celebrate the gradual but very real erosion of an archaic and suffocating stigma. A blog that has been gaining much respect and exposure is the powerfully honest and personal sunnyspellsandscatteredshowers  (a brilliant analogy and blog title).

Recently, the author of the blog, Fiona, made contact with myself over on twitter. It was regarding a Facebook  and blog entry she posted regarding the portrayal of mental health in the media and the roles certain people play in this, including myself. Read more

The fight for my life

Marie Duffy

About 18 months ago I got sick. Very sick. I ended up in hospital, and was to stay there for almost nine months. I was embarrassed and ashamed and felt that I couldn’t tell anyone where I was. I told some people I was on holidays, others that I was away for work. But the truth was that I was on a psychiatric ward fighting for my life. I say fighting because that’s what I felt I was doing.

It all happened rather quickly. One minute I was bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding and the next thing I was inpatient on an acute psychiatric ward. It all happened so fast and in a number of weeks I unravelled in spectacular style. Read more

Mental health and Irish education

Sinead Keane

I have thought long and hard about writing this. Why, you might ask. Mainly I have never really thought people would be that interested in my ongoing journey with depression and anxiety (and I also have Asperger’s syndrome to boot). What has been going on in my life for the past few months as made me want to scream out at the top of my lungs. I feel like my head is on the verge of exploding, that there is a type pressure deep in my body that is about to explode. I fell like Violet Beauregard from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ when she eats the chewing gum she is not allowed to and turns purple and all her limbs start to swell up. You see, I am currently going through one of the worst periods of my illness in about seven years. Read more

Cuts to mental health services – a literal death sentence

Lisa

We recently elected a new government, not that you could tell it in looking at our currently defunct parliament. In the 36 days since our votes were counted and those who were chosen by the people were officially elected, we have sat around watching them squabble like children, unable to pick their teams in a way that made anyone happy. They’ve racked up a whopping 1.75 million (and growing) wages bill – and that’s just the TDs – for their playground politics. Keep that figure in mind when you see the next one I give you – a proposed cut of 12 million from the 35 million budget ring fenced for mental health services. In our already fractured mental health system, the government is prioritising other things and taking funds away from helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I’m angry. Read more

Transition from child to adult mental health services

Anonymous

I am seventeen years old and attend the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). My mother works in the in-patients building, so I’ve heard bits about that. I was referred to this service by Jigsaw, and only had a couple week’s wait for either service. For this I am extremely grateful, you know the difference time like that can make. I know more than several young people attending CAMHS, Jigsaw, and other service like myself. Schools of late have been running workshops and events based around mental health and wellbeing. I am so fortunate to have all these services and things to help myself and others my age. Read more

Ramblings of an anxious mind

Anonymous

Every day is a struggle. Forcing myself to eat, not sleeping without strong sleeping tablets to take the edge off, and even at that not sleeping the whole night, constantly shaking, heart racing, a tightness in my chest, hyperventilating, sweating, eye twitching, zero concentration, jumpiness, a heightened sense of awareness, sounds seem louder, sensations more intense, smells seem stronger, worrying about every little thing, sometimes unable to even leave the house, leave my bed, did I mention constantly shaking? In a constant state of panic. But at the same time I feel numb. Like an outsider watching my life unfold. If you had told me this time last year that this was how my life would turn out I probably would have laughed at you. I used to laugh a lot. Read more

The girl, the wolf, and the Woodsman who never was

Hubby

I’d like to start by asking you to step through this link to the beautiful stories and art of Emily Carroll. The Big Bad Wolf. I’ve been a fan of Emily’s work for a while now, but The Big Bad Wolf stands out as a fascinating piece work in a lot of ways. The first time I read it, my mind kept returning to the story, turning it around and exploring my interpretation of it.

It didn’t take long for parallels to appear with The Girl and Fiona’s weary battle with her own Wolf. Read more

We need to talk about………..suicide

Matthew Williams

Wait!! Come back!

OK, so it isn’t the most enticing headline ever and the first thing I ought to say is that no, I am not suicidal.  Far from it. But in the past I have been.  And I feel that I have something of value to say on the subject.

I have received a lot of comments on my blog, many praising me for being brave in sharing my thoughts and feelings in the way that I have.  Such feedback is always a real pleasure to receive and it means a great deal to me.  But to be honest, doing this has never felt brave; this is who I am, and I am happy and secure with who I am, regardless of what happens to be going on in my life.

But this post is different.  This is tough.  This is uncomfortable.  And that’s why I feel that it is important that I write it. Read more

A letter to my son

Michelle Ryan

Dear Joshua,

A year ago, you decided to enter into this world. You weren’t due until the end of March, but you arrived early for a reason. You knew that I was struggling. My anxiety levels were worryingly high. Let me explain why.

I had had a tough six years before your creation. I had succumbed to the Black Dog of Depression, time and time again, culminating with a hospital stay of four months in St Patrick’s Hospital. I had missed six months a year for longer than I could remember, as my Generalised Anxiety Order controlled my thoughts, and ultimately my mood. I have a worry problem, as oft people do, but alas, mine used to get out of control. I would worry about things that were unrealistic, and often, untrue. The mind is a powerful thing, and when I was anxious, my brain would convince me of the most horrendous things. When my worries became so great, and I revelled in catastrophising, I would shut down. Read more

Fear and yearning

Nick is Founder and Facilitator at SHARE, a Mayo based support group for adults survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

I came across one of those quotes that fly around Facebook. It read “Some days you’ll feel sad without knowing why. Like you lost something very precious but forgot what it was, or like you miss someone you’ve never met” Whether intended or not, this is a very accurate description of my underlying feeling of having BPD, except that it is not “some days”, rather every living breathing moment. It is this feeling of intense desperation combined with such a deep gut wrenching yearning for this something that although you don’t have any idea what it is, you believe it will make you a whole person; it will make sense of who you are; It will breathe life into you and give you a name, give you an identity. Every moment of your life is fuelled by this aching sadness as you look for that something; that meaning; that thing you cannot name. With the realisation that it or they never existed you desperately try to ignore, try to bury the yearning deep down so far that you can no longer hear the voice telling you that all this is a result of chemical imbalance in the brain or childhood trauma. With that voice comes complete and utter despair. You know that this sadness will always exist without it ever becoming bearable. You are continuously pulled apart by the conflict between the sadness of the loss and the knowledge that the thing or person you miss more than anything in the world, does not exist. Read more

ECT

Anon 19/9/2015

My story has never been completely told.  Most of it I blocked out for many many years.  It was only after falling to pieces a year ago July 2014, and being hospitalized that I started to let the pieces of the story come out.  I was put in hospital for not being able to promise that I could keep myself safe.  I was self harming to the point that permanent damage was a real possibility.  Once hospitalized I was diagnosed bipolar, with major recurring depressive disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I don’t even remember all of the medication I was put on.  Prior to being hospitalized I had been in therapy for well over a year, on medication for equally as long, but had become resistant to everything.  Whilst in the hospital I still managed to continue with self harming behaviors, which was not taken to very well. Read more

Sparkle

Lucie K
Lucie is a See Change Ambassador – you can chat with her over on facebook at Square One

We’ve talked a lot about stigma in recent years. Thinking back to my teenage years, I wouldn’t have known what the word meant in the context of mental illness and yet I know how desperately I tried to hide the symptoms that terrified me. Looking back, it seems so obvious that I should or could have talked to somebody at home or at school but that was just not even remotely an option. I hid them. The more I hid them, the better I got at hiding. By the time I was twice the age of that teenage girl, I deserved (so my counsellor tells me) an Oscar for my many performances. Read more

On being a therapist and a client

Nick Groom, 17/6/2015

Not so long ago I was catching up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for several years. We went through the customary “How is work?” , “How are the family?” . I happened to mention that I was working towards my professional qualification as a psychotherapist. There was a silence for a moment as we stared at each other. Then my friend said “Oh I see” and that was the end of that conversation. I admit that whenever I mention my current training as a therapist or talk about the support group I run, I am met with either genuine interest or that embarrassed silence where I can see the panic in the other person’s face that looks like “Oh shit. He is going to ask for a hug or some weird shit like that”. On occasion I have heard comments made about other therapists that amount to, “I wouldn’t go to him (or her) they have enough problems of their own without me adding to them”.This last comment sums up what many people, especially clients feel about their therapist. They have their therapists on pedestals that look down on their mortal clients with a benign smile reminiscent of statues of the Virgin Mary. The client often sees the therapist as some asexual being that has risen above the normal day to day life issues and achieved total enlightenment. Read more.

Impressions

Life in a Bind 6/2/2015

Fiona recently posted about the fact that nothing had grabbed people’s attention more, than an image she had shared through her Facebook page, comparing a possible response to someone with depression, with an equivalent response to someone with asthma. The image struck me as much as it had struck so many others, and I started to think about why it had made such a powerful impression. Read more

 

It can be the simple things

Gabhain Ó Donnabháin, (Running for Sanity) 15/10/2014

It can incredibly difficult to be a young Irish male these days, let alone being a young Irish male living in a rural area with mental health issues. Without going into it in a whole lot of detail, I had a very traumatic upbringing, with major grief and loss on a personal level, to put it mildly, along with growing up in a household with addiction in it, I also survived stage 4 cancer. As I got older I tried and tried quite successfully to bury pretty much every memory of childhood that I could, almost to a stage where I was not sure if had very had a childhood. Read more

Making friends with the black void

Kate Phelan, 20/9/2014

Last October, Conor Cusack wrote a blog post titled ‘Depression is a friend, not my enemy,’ about how he came to see depression as “a message from a part of your being to tell you something in your life isn’t right.” He acknowledged the damage depression can do, but said that for him it had ultimately created positive change. As unpleasant as it can be, I’ve come to agree that depression is your body and minds’ way of telling you something you need to hear.

It was an amazing piece and a brutally honest account of mental illness that was a long time coming, and it had and continues to have a huge impact on those of us who recognised ourselves in it. It was both sad and hopeful to read, in that the passages below led me to think about depression in a new light:

“I believe depression is a message from a part of your being to tell you something in your life isn’t right and you need to look at it. It forced me to stop and seek within for answers and that is where they are. It encouraged me to look at my inner life and free myself from the things that were preventing me from expressing my full being.

Once or twice a year, especially when I fall into old habits, my ‘friend’ pays me a visit. I don’t push him away or ignore him. I sit with him in a chair in a quiet room and allow him to come. I sit with the feeling. Sometimes I cry, other times I smile at how accurate his message is. He might stay for an hour, he might stay for a day. He gives his message and moves on. Lao Tzu believed that action was something that arose naturally from stillness. When you can sit and be with yourself, it is a wonderful gift and real and authentic action flows from it.”

Over the last two months, I’ve had every intention of sitting with my own ‘friend’ and hearing what it has to say. In order to do this, I felt I had to remove myself from the living and working situations I was in and just be with whatever is in there in a peaceful place where it would be easier to avoid distractions.

I’ve since learned that there is no end to the things I can turn into distractions. Mindful meditation is the ideal means for doing what needs to be done to get to the root of whatever my unnamed problem may be, yet over the last few weeks I’ve felt myself getting paradoxically closer and yet further away from the point of being able to sit and be with myself. I’ve created multiple seemingly essential tasks for myself to complete rather than doing the thing I’ve known for over a year I need to do: make friends with the black void.

I’ve thought and read and written about depression in those months, but always in an objective, impersonal way that doesn’t put me at too much risk of being exposed or made to feel vulnerable, which is what I fear the most. I’ve almost subconsciously sought to protect myself, even as I’ve begun to accept who I really am.

I’ve tried to be funny and light, because a lot of the time I am light, but I am also dark and terrified. I have chosen not to dwell on that side of myself, in part because I don’t believe it to be of interest to anyone else and in part because I haven’t fully embraced it myself, or even looked at it properly with any compassion.

I’ve told people I’m depressed, but I haven’t intentionally thought about why. If I’m being honest, I haven’t even let myself fully feel it either. I’ve allowed my medication to lift my mood to a very acceptable level and gone about my every day business without really addressing the actual issue or asking what it is my depression was trying to tell me. There is a subconscious aversion there to getting to know myself fully, and I continue to allow it to win out every day.

As a result, over the last few weeks I’ve felt myself becoming irritable, panicky and increasingly compulsive. I’ve spent entire days urging myself in one direction or another to the point of exhaustion. I’ve applied this sense of urgent compulsion to meditation and forced myself to sit or lie for forty minutes with supposedly mindful awareness.

I’ve found it very helpful and been able to do the practice without putting pressure on myself to get it “right”, yet I’ve spent most of these minutes observing rapid-fire thoughts. For the most part, instead of watching them come and go (as is the aim of the practise) I’ve felt myself being pulled in all directions except inward.

Initially the eternal pessimist within hypothesised that I wasn’t making much progress, but on reflection the noticing of the speed, forcefulness and sheer volume of the thoughts I was having was in itself a revelation. It’s been a cumulative process but I have realised, as if stepping back and suddenly seeing the dots join up, that there is actually recognisable pattern within the obsessive messy madness that is my brain.

There have been times when I’ve approached the black void. These are the times when my mind objects most strongly. As soon as I come close to being in the present moment in my body, and I find an awareness of the intense sensations of fear that make my body eternally tense, my mind throws up a thought of something to do, somewhere to be. Anywhere but here. It is the equivalent of the person in the cinema shouting “Don’t go in there, he’s behind the door!”

Yesterday I managed, finally, to push past it, not by forcing but just by acknowledging the intense urge to avoid and letting it go. I found the edges of what I affectionately refer to as the ‘black void’ and explored what they feel like.

It turns out it’s a sense of my stomach being hollow, but also raw. The sides of my stomach feel sore and raw. In my chest, it’s a tightness all around my ribcage and diaphragm, a sense of holding, weight and tightness. When I thought about how I would go about releasing whatever needs to be released, the sensations of fear in my stomach intensified and my mind went, “Hey, quick, get up and put on the laundry or the world will end!”

I can see that my mind thinks it is helping, but I’ve realised my body knows a lot more about what emotions are there than my mind is willing to admit. My mind is trying to help by telling me it would be much more sensible to go and make a collage than to go anywhere near the dark pit of unease in my stomach. It has not made the connection that the feeling doesn’t go away, and the more I ignore it the more uncomfortable it becomes.

I’ve concluded that there is a choice to be made, which is to resist the compulsive urges that pull me away from sitting with and befriending the black void. It is an idea that makes me intensely uncomfortable and afraid, but I think that might be the point.

On Saturday I have a full day of silent mindful meditation with my eight week course: the ideal location to try it out. I’m considering having a prep day of silent meditation tomorrow, avoiding phones and twitter and The Killing and chores, having my own little silent retreat. But I must also resist the urge I’m feeling at the moment to see it as a test of my willpower and yet another goal to focus on, instead of just being with whatever is going on in my insides and giving it a chance to get its message across.

You can read more of Kate’s work on her blog, bundle of compulsions.

Survivor

Anonymous, 12/9/2014

(Trigger alert: this piece discusses the aftermath of losing a partner to suicide and may be upsetting for some readers)

“In the midst of winter, I found, there was within me, an invincible summer.” ~ Albert Camus

I found this blog recently and it has helped me to read the experiences of someone I identify with. I find myself in a unique, but sadly not unique enough situation. My partner lost his battle with depression earlier this year and ended his life leaving me three lines of explanation to read over and over as I struggled with all the questions and emotions that no one can truly understand until they have been through it. I didn’t understand. I never knew there could be so much pain. I was ripped apart and I had to start a slow and arduous battle of recovery, an incredibly lonely and personal journey, despite the great support I received from my counsellor, Console and my family and friends. All of the world put together wasn’t enough to replace my partner. Everything happened in stages. In the beginning there was shock and when I got a moments respite from my mind I seized it knowing that it would be short lived. I couldn’t eat or sleep but I believed that I would recover, and despite going through the most torturous range of emotions and thoughts, that belief meant that I accepted the journey. I still knew him at this stage. I began by going back over every detail of our time together. Starting with our last week and working backwards. My view distorted. I wasn’t thinking about the happy moments we shared but dissecting every clue, every word, every mistakethat I made. Guilt. Guilt had the loudest voice. The what ifs, the if onlys, the whys, circled until eventually the anger came. I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was, all I knew was that I should have been better. I found myself defending our relationship uneccessarily. We were happy, so genuinely happy, but who would believe that after what he did? Nobody doubted it except me. I read other people’s stories and researched suicide. I found out I was a ‘survivor’ of suicide. I got every bit of help available to me. I had a wonderful counsellor who I had seen for four years, who knew me and the intriciacies of my relationship. I rang the Console helpline, a gift during that time, to help me in between my sessions. My friends came and sat with me in bed. My family didn’t leave my side. One day my counsellor said something to me which got me through the first few weeks. She told me the emotions would come in waves, that each wave would hit like a tsunami and then lessen each time. She told me to feel it all and when I had calmed I could rationalise it. She suggested I write as that appeared to be helping me. For six weeks, day and night, I asked why. Every time I thought I had finally gone over everything in my head something else would hit me. Each one appeared to be worse than the last. Looking back they were all as bad as each other.

Finally I saw I was going in circles. There were two pages. One with my partner’s pain and one with my own and no matter how hard I tried they would not sit together. I started to look at myself, my life, my experiences, my illness. Myself and my partner were bonded in many ways, one of which was in our depression. We understood without asking questions. When he died, the depression I had fought and hidden for so many years, was finally unleashed. I was broken and I didn’t have my usual control mechanisms to get me through. My anxiety reached new heights that I never knew possible. I could not go anywhere without driving so I could make a quick exit if I needed to. I had to push myself to get out of the bed. I felt unsafe all of the time. I could not be in a crowded place. I was extrememly sensitive to noise. The world seemed to enter in on top of me. I felt safe in my bed but when I realised that was what I was doing the fear even entered there. My trust had been shattered. The person I loved and who loved me had left me in the most horrific way. I persevered. I found there were people who I felt safe with and I calmed when with them. These were the people who listened without judgement, who didn’t pretend to understand but allowed me to share my darkest thoughts and tell them the same story over and over again. They were then able to tell me my own rationalisations when I was unable to find or believe them. Surprisingly there were new people who I trusted in my support system. I talked and talked and talked. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I had always accepted the highs and lows of my life, believing the lows were worth the highs. That was until my ultimate high was followed by my ultimate low, my relationship with my partner and his death. The truth of my depression was opened up to me. I had been hiding it from myself, only ever dealing with it on a surface level, just enough to get by with. I used escapism, perfectionism, control, personas, rules, change, excuses and blocking quite effectively to keep tumbling through life until I met my partner. He encouraged me to be the real me, warts and all, and loved me for it. He told me I was beautiful and intelligent and he loved the way I looked at the world. I started to believe him. I had always protected myself. I was always sociable and had loads of friends and a few boyfriends but I never let anyone in to my heart. I feared getting too close to someone because they would find me out and reject me. I feared expressing emotion because I would scare them away because after all, I just wasn’t good enough. That all changed. My heart opened and I fell in love for the first time. I finally had my one, my person to share my life with and it felt amazing.Then in one day my future vanished. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said ‘I used to build my dreams about you’. My life ended that day and I had to rebuild it from scratch with little desire or motivation to do so.

I am six months in now. I have made massive progress but when I slip I forget it all. I am able to do most normal things again. My anxiety is still present but is much more manageable. I laugh, I joke, I spend time with my friends and family, I still write, I still see my counsellor, I still see my doctor, I even think of the future. I went on anti depressants after years of fighting against taking them. At first I felt a failure but I needed them. I found the traffic lights and did up my own. It was after my first dip into the red that my counsellor suggested medication. I tracked my mood by the traffic lights and I realised I jumped from green to orange regularly but as I became more self aware I could find new ways to fight to try to stay out of the red. I have slipped into the red four times, during which I have fought for my life trusting only my counsellor with that level of vulnerability. I shut myself off to the world and stayed in bed to stop from harming myself. People have told me to go on a mad one to get my mind off it (worst route to take). People have told me that negativity breeds negativity and that I control my mind and my path. They are good intentioned but they cannot understand the battle that ensues when you lose all hope. Every time it has been different but what remains the same is the despair, the black and white thinking, the loss of perspective, the illogical mind making you believe you are thinking rationally, being unable to remember ever being well or happy, the loneliness and the feeling of being trapped. The first time I didn’t know what was happening. The second I knew but there was nothing I could do about it. That was when the most powerful thought began, it will pass but it will return. As I grew stronger the next two times I was better able to fight it. The traffic lights helped so much in this. I am much better at staying present in the moment. I found however that when I let go and was happy and living I would dip soon after. I realised I felt guilty for living and being happy without my partner. Now I have discovered that revelation I can start the hard work on alleviating that guilt.

I wanted to write my story as my eyes have been opened to the stigma surrounding mental health. I was always open and honest about my depression with my friends but now the world knows and I feel I am being treated differently. I am the same capable, intelligent woman I was before with additional skills of compassion, empathy and a desire to help others that true pain offers as a small gift of recompense. I feel I have to prove this at times. Some people understand. Some people think I am strong and brave. Some people avoid me. Some people pity me. Some people expect me to be over it. I feel the world has been split into three; people who understand, people who try to understand and people who don’t want to understand. There is nothing so incredible as sharing with someone and they do not flinch, they do not judge, they do not change. They still see me. I am not my illness. It is a truly amazing feeling and I hope that one day we get to a point where we can discuss our emotions and mental wellbeing with acceptance and without fear of judgement. I am a survivor of suicide. I have depression and anxiety. I am not perfect, I am human, I am me. I have come a long way with a lot more work to do but I will get there. I can honestly say there are moments of happiness to balance out the darker times and they are getting longer and stronger. I can see my partner again. My view has regained its balance. I will always miss him but now I have to live, for me, for him, and for the wonderful people in my life who have helped me tirelessly.

I wasn’t fine

Hannah Hennessy, 5/9/2014

It’s been over two years since I was first admitted into hospital, away from my friends and family, not that anyone even knew I was there. Over 3 months was spent trying to make myself “well” again.

Of course I thought I was fine. Turns out having such dark, dark thoughts, not sleeping, constantly crying for no known reason, not wanting to breathe anymore & wanting nothing but total isolation wasn’t fine. Supposedly you’re not supposed to live your life wearing a mask. But I did, I still do but thankfully not as much now.

On went my mask. I wore it everywhere I went simply to cover up and to put on that brave face to please the rest of those around me. I ccouldn’tlet my guard down, although I often had no other choice at times.

I felt useless, worthless. I’d make plans with my friends then blow them off at the last minute because I couldn’t face them. I stopped doing what I loved. My love for GAA was as strong as ever but I couldn’t bring myself to play with my club anymore, I wasn’t good enough. My room was my sanctuary. I’d spend all day in bed if I could and wouldn’t sleep a wink at night. I felt and looked like a walking zombie. I made my parents’ lives hell.

From the time spent in the hospital right up to this very moment I’m still learning, still making mistakes. I’m not as afraid of mental illness any more, I am not a monster, I am not a “crazy person” even though I often think I am. I simply am not as well as I’d like to be. Some days are harder than others.

I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs in the last few years, thankfully I have just as many ups of recent as downs. I completed my Leaving Cert successfully and am now officially a college student! Something I never thought I’d be able to say considering I didn’t think I’d make it through secondary school. I proved myself (and a few others) wrong, with the help and support I so luckily got from teachers and especially my principal.

Having depression is like falling into a dark hole that is getting deeper and deeper and not being able to find a way out. It’s like someone is sitting on your chest and you can’t breathe. It’s a never ending battle against yourself. Depression destroys you. It destroys your energy and turns you inward. It takes over your whole body. To someone who has experienced it there aren’t many words needed to explain, for someone who hasn’t hopefully you’ll never fully understand.

Even though I am only 19, having gone through what I have and what I’m still going through every day, I believe it has set me up for life with a different perspective compared to other people my age. I appreciate things more (at times you might not think so!) I look out for other people so much more and try to be there for them in anyway I can. It’s important for me to do so because I know the feeling of loneliness and thinking I have no one to turn to for advice. In a way I am thankful for my difficulties because now I feel like I can face whatever life throws at me. It made me a much stronger person than I was before. Instead of dreading tomorrow I am looking forward to the next step for me aware that it will no doubt be a winding road for me to get there. I’ve learned to both accept that and learn how to deal with it so not to get bogged down with it. That’s where my doctors, counsellor, support groups and of course medication come in.

No matter what you think, help is always there. Never be afraid to reach out your hand and ask for it. Do not be afraid of what people think or worse what you think other people think. We need to be there for each other. Everyone will make mistakes & mess up, life is a learning process. Most importantly believe in yourself & have faith. Remember: the best is yet to come.

 

The Fixer

Donal, 20/08/2014

Being honest I have sat down to write this piece on a few occasions and each time I get a few paragraphs in and have to stop. I feel like when I am writing about my wife’s depression I am betraying her somehow. And yet she is one of the people encouraging me to write this.

On reflection she has struggled with her mental health long before I met her but I just was blind to it years ago. She was better at covering it up back then and to be honest people’s reactions back then gave her more reason to hide it. Real stigma reactions.

I hated seeing her struggle and I was powerless to help. I could see her doubt in her grow worse. I could see every time she was abrupt with the kids she would think less of herself. Intellectually she grew to know it was her illness and not her, but emotionally she carried the weight of it all. Her thoughts were regularly negative and bordered on the paranoid at times, she believed others thought negatively about her and nothing I could say would change that perspective. She pushed me away at times, pushed others away or at the very least found ways to keep her out of others’ lives.

I know she cried a lot, mostly she wouldn’t let me see it but I knew. I found her sobbing to herself on more than one occasion but I couldn’t make it better. I wanted to hold her but when feeling this way she couldn’t bear to even be touched. She would balk and shudder if I tried to.

It’s my job to help as a husband, right? And like a lot of men I tried and still try to be the fixer. To have all the answers, suggestions, solutions and fixes. But I couldn’t fix this and more often than not she wouldn’t let me try.

Soon after our second daughter was born there was a significant change. And it wasn’t a sudden change I could easily identity. It just sort of evolved. Each day getting harder and harder for her. And as the days went by she had less and less interest in life, in being around others, or even me. Her interest in the children has never waned and has probably being the thing that kept her going at times. Her confidence disappeared, her ability to focus and concentrate too. The kids would go to bed and not long after so would my wife. Retreating to her bed and there I would be sitting on my own with the television all before 9p.m. I didn’t know what was happening. Arguments became common and I just learned to say as little as possible. I was feeling so powerless. It tore me up inside to see her retreating like this.

She would have fears and anxieties about being the house at night, she needed me to stay downstairs while she fell asleep but she couldn’t sleep well at all. Often she would say she would sleep better knowing I was downstairs so I slept on the couch that night. She would sleep, the next day she was better for sleeping but we were further apart. This went on longer than I want to remember.

I am ashamed to admit I started to resent her. I knew it was the illness but this went on for so many years I couldn’t help but have self-doubt creep in. I started to blamed her and felt it was me she was rejecting. I know it wasn’t true but still the thoughts came, ‘she doesn’t like me, doesn’t love me’. Then my negative unhelpful reactions would make this momentarily true and the cycle was perpetuated.

I am a mental health professional so I understand all the theory around depression and anxiety but living with it is a whole other entity. I worry I am sounding like a martyr but the reality is, more often than I care to admit I made things worse. I was no angel and could be impatient, irritable, selfish, and snappy and didn’t show her the respect and understanding I could regularly show my own patients. This was personal and completely different to me.

Her depression enraged me inside and I didn’t know it, I resented it.
I begged her to talk to someone and but mostly it was medication she received from doctors and not a listening ear. That suited her at the time though as she didn’t want to talk to anyone.

The irony isn’t lost on me now, there I was asking her to talk to someone and I never thought I needed help too. A partner or family member living with someone else’s depression is in need of support too. And while the medication worked sometimes, mostly it just numbed things for her. So for her and then for us things were just ‘so’, a ‘status quo’ where things just stayed the same. Nothing great and nothing too bad either. And there we were neither one of us talking to each other about what was going on and the emotional distance just grew.

So for me, my days had their own heaviness. This all became a weight I was silently carrying.

I would say ‘I’m fine’ when asked how I was, how often had I heard that myself?

And here, yet again I felt I was betraying her if I spoke up. I had to eventually though and confided in a few close friends. They didn’t judge me or my wife. They just listened and understood. I should have spoken up earlier for the relief I felt helped, it helped to share the weight of the problem.

Spending the day trying to focus on work and the wellness of my own patients was difficult when my mind is elsewhere. Thinking what drama would occur today, what small problem at home would seem huge to her, and leave me feeling powerless to help.

Texts and phone calls that told me things are bad at home, that today is a rough day, knowing that when I get home today I will be met by a wall of silence. I would dread seeing the number pop up on the display at times. And yet I needed to hear from her. It was my only way to help, to be her sounding board, her listening ear.

When home I will walk in and say hi and ask after her day, all in a poor attempt to make things positive and ‘normal’, not that I knew what that was anymore.

I sometimes felt like a fire-fighter. And just when one fire is out up pops another.

On the drive home, the dread in me grew as I didn’t know which personality I was going to meet today.

I felt alone for a long time. You know that feeling of being all alone even in a crowd of people? We drifted further apart from where we started many years ago. She wouldn’t / couldn’t touch me, not hug me, not hold my hand. I spent a lot of my time making excuses why she couldn’t come to the door, attend this family or social event, why she had reacted the way she had. I realise it wasn’t my job to do this and she never asked, needed or expected that of me but I felt the need to.

I have to take responsibility for my reaction and what I was like and what I can still be like. I used to have this internal rage that would build and build until it exploded somehow. This of course just made things worse and now I was to blame in part.

Why could she answer the door to a stranger asking about ‘are you happy with your phone service?’ Where she would be mannered, polite, appropriate, responsive and good humoured but when the door closed her head sank, her tone changed and the anger or glazed look returned. What made me less of a person that I didn’t deserve on occasion the ‘front’ or ‘mask’?

I know I am her husband and therefor she didn’t need to be like that with me. I needed it sometimes though and never got it. I know putting on the mask took huge energy for her and obviously I wanted her to be real with me. But the selfish part of me just wanted things to be ‘normal’. Even the kids would get the mask and I wouldn’t. But then I think even they saw past that mask at times.

Ya big girls Blouse man, grow up and be the man, be the husband you are supposed to be.

What is ‘normal’? I certainly don’t know and don’t even crave it anymore, and over the years my wish has changed for things to just be ordinary, for us to take pleasure in the simple things in our life together.

The medication is over for now and the woman I knew is returning. Now she can sense the world more acutely. This means she still has bad days on occasions but has become more mindful of what works for her to keep her wellness on track. We both try to watch our wellness and how we maintain it. Eat right, exercise more, talk more, have a social life, value family time and generally find a balance in our lives. If anything she is better at this than me these days.

I have learned to reflect on mental health, my own mental health, all of our mental health. I laugh inside when I hear statistics like ‘1:4 people will experience some form of mental health difficulty at some point in their life’. I believe we all will. Why do I believe this? Because I have lived with it, worked with it and seen that I have mental health too, we all have mental health or as someone called it ‘mental wealth’. Those living with someone else depression or anxiety need support too. They need to take responsibility for their own mental health and seek out the support of friends, family or mental health professionals.

My wife’s post natal depression didn’t just happen for a short ‘baby blues’ period after our second daughter was born. It lasted years and was probably there after our first child too. I don’t believe in labels though. Why do we say ‘I am depressed’? , when we don’t say ‘I am a broken leg’.

My wife is more than a label, more than her mental health and the good days are when she doesn’t let it define her. And while I know she lost sight of this frequently she is also a woman, a mother, a singer, a dancer, a daughter, a daughter in law, a wife and my friend.

Make up your moods

Rowena Ruth 6/8/2013

I want to share my experience with you and anyone who will listen to me. Last year I had a breakdown. It completely broke me and has taken me the last year to get to where I am today, which is good but I need to keep minding myself and hopefully not go back to those very dark days again.
Now it didn’t come out of the blue. I’m 38 now and when I was 23 I took an overdose… and so my journey with depression began. My overdose was more of a cry for help. But you know what though that cry wasn’t heard at all. It was kept quiet and I had to just get on with my life with no support or help and to this day I don’t know how I’m still here.
Over the years and up until last year I’ve gone through waves of depression , but last year tested me to the last. It wasn’t just the mental side of it, it was the physical pain that went with it that made me wish I could just go to sleep and not wake up again. Still after all these years I had no support. Now and again I was checked on but as usual people were just busy, going through their own stuff or didn’t know what to say to me.
I’m now writing my own blog about my journey and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. I want to be totally honest and no holding back. It’s everywhere and I want to help others by writing my story.
You can keep up with Rowena on her blog, makeupyourmoods.

Misunderstanding

Gerry, 9/05/2014
Sunny spells note – this post originally appeared as a comment in response to Dear HSE. The author agreed to let me share it here  and amended it slightly for me. Please be advised this may be triggering for some readers as it’s in relation to his suicide attempt and subsequent treatment in hospital. 
 

I will start by saying that if you are thinking of taking your own life of harming yourself DON’T DO IT. Talk to somebody. A family member, a friend, a colleague, anyone. Talk to the Samaritans if you have to. My advice would be to get yourself to the A+E unit of a hospital that has a psychiatric unit as well if you can. Even if you have to travel a long distance. If you are not successful, and thankfully most attempts are not, you could do serious permanent harm to yourself. Also, avoid alcohol and drugs at all costs if you are thinking of making an attempt. I was so lucky to have survived and not to have done any permanent harm to myself. It was not my time to go though. Remember, the night is darkest before the dawn.

The post Dear HSE really struck a chord with me. I once tried to take my own life by taking a huge overdose of a cocktail of psychiatric drugs washed down with Absolut vodka. I’m not a great believer in God or anything like that but something came to my rescue that night. I don’t recall with exactly what happened over the course of the night presumably because I blacked out under the influence of drugs and the alcohol. However, I must have managed to get upstairs, undressed and into bed because I woke there the following morning. I don’t know what time that was exactly. I spent the following day in bed all alone feeling a mixture of remorse and terror wondering what I might have done to my body. I couldn’t really speak for some reason so I dreaded that the phone would ring. It didn’t but maybe I would have ignored it anyway. I didn’t text anyone at all. I was totally alone that day. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror at times and my pupils were extremely dilated. I tried drinking lots of water to flush the substances from by body but I couldn’t urinate. I wasn’t in any internal pain but I had a few external injuries and bruises. I couldn’t walk properly. I can’t remember now if I slept the following night. Perhaps I did. I presume that my memory is foggy due to the drugs etc.

The following day I decided to get medical help as I was very worried about myself. I called a relative and told her what I had done. I then had a shower and put on some clean clothes and got a taxi to the nearest A+E. I was seen relatively quickly and bloods were taken, then an ECG and I was put on a drip. The relative I have mentioned came and spent some time with me but eventually it got late and I told her to go home. I was left sitting in a chair in an interview room all night with somebody outside the door. My phone battery had long gone dead so I was totally isolated. Eventually a nurse brought me a pillow so that I could put my head on the table and try to sleep. I couldn’t.

The following morning I was put on a trolley in a cubicle. There was a security guard at the end of the cubicle the whole time. He was making me feel quite paranoid. It was only when I asked him did he say that he was watching over me, for fear that I would do something irrational I suppose. I wasn’t going to. I was seen briefly by a medical doctor and then a psychiatrist. I was asked if I felt remorse for what I had done. I said that I did. I was asked if I would attempt anything like it again. I said that I wouldn’t. I spent the following night on a ward unguarded.

The following day bloods were taken again. Later on in the day another ECG was done and my heart was found to be beating normally. The psychiatrist met me again that day and asked me if I intended on making another attempt. I told him that I didn’t. Then the blood results came back from the lab and they were normal so I was discharged and allowed walk out the door unaccompanied. I got in a taxi and made my way to the A+E of another hospital with a psychiatric unit. I was eventually seen by a medical doctor at 3am. I won’t forget the conversation that I had with that man. He gave me a sedative and put me on a trolley. Early the following morning I was woken by a psychiatrist. I was interviewed and admitted to the psychiatric unit.

The whole experience was just a nightmare. What is worse is that I have rarely spoken about it since except in therapy. I can just feel so ashamed. Some of medical staff that I encountered were amazing but some of them were quite unsympathetic. At the end of the day though they are trained medically and don’t know how to deal with psychiatric illnesses. However, there is so much ignorance surrounding mental health in this country and I presume that a lot of medical doctors are not immune. It is the dark secret that people are ashamed of. I have had mental health issues in the past but am generally well today. However, I never reveal the fact to people readily for fear of being judged or labelled as a bit queer in the head or something. I left the last company that I worked for and one reason is that I made the suicide attempt while I was working there so I was off work for quite a while without an explanation. Of course I couldn’t tell the truth about my illness to anyone at work when I got back. I just had to make something up in case anybody asked. Why is that? In the current job nobody has a clue and I am happier with that. You know, it is amazing the way that comedians will sometimes respond to a heckler with something like “did you forget to take your medication today?” and so on. Ignorance and misunderstanding

The Train

Orla, 6/05/2014

I write this as I lay watching my son fall asleep. I have been mulling it over since I saw this post yesterday. In the spirit of mental health month I see this as an opportunity to help stamp out stigma. I am sure that the lady who said this is lovely. I just think that it is very fortunate that she never suffered with mental health problems. But it is comments like this that I have heard once too often.

‘If you had to give advice to a group of people what would it be?’ ‘When life knocks you down, suck it up and get on with it.

It is not the major life events that get me down. They alone don’t wear me down. It is the little things that get me: the comments that I over analyse, the fear that my child will go through the same thing that I did. Sometimes I don’t even know the reason. But whatever the cause, when it hits me, it can be paralysing. It is like a heavy weight holding me down and kicking me. Ever since I can remember I have identified it as a dark cloud. It blocks out all the light, the positivity. These are the hard times for me. In these moments I cannot suck it up and get over it. It is like being on an express train and I don’t know how to get off, and more and more passengers get on. These passengers are my fears, my critics.

How do I get out of this? I can’t do it on my own, or at least I haven’t fully figured it out. If the train is going slow I can hop off, but I keep getting back on again. If the train is going fast, I have to crash and scream for help.

My faith is important to me. Knowing that I am loved and that it will work out. Family is important too. No matter how crazy things get I can count on them to be around. Friends are important too – they make me laugh, smile and keep me sane.Weekly counselling, medication and getting outside all help me to function for the most part. And I do most of the time.

I am just not functioning right now as well as I’d like to be. I suppose hearing that I have to ‘suck it up’, well it doesn’t help, and it makes me feel weak for not being able to.

If I had advice to give to a group people, what would it be? Sucking it up is the worst thing to do. It will not go away. There is no reason to be ashamed of being vulnerable or asking for help. I wish that I spoke up a long, long time ago. If I had I wouldn’t be on this train now.

The Smallest Twine

Miranda DeBarra, 1/5/2014

Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite plays…. it really is an awful lot of fuss about a fairly flimsy bit of plot which would clearly never happen in real life – BUT – that isn’t the point ! I still like it and I watched the 1993 film version starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh just the other day.It was Shakespeare’s birthday this week and I choose to acknowledge that by stealing one of his quotes for this post. Leonato, the uncle of the lovely young Hero, is staggered to discover that she is accused of being wth another man the night before her wedding. It turns out in the end that she wasn’t but he doesn’t know that at first and he is absoutely beside himself with despair. The priest believes she is innocent however and suggests to him that they pretend she is dead until they uncover what has actually happened. ( ! I know ! ) Leonato, in his anguish says “Being that I flow in grief, the smallest twine may lead me”.Now, I’m no expert, but I don’t think ropey, deliberately concocted lies about a bride-to-be’s virginity are commonplace tragic issues any longer, but that evocative line really jumped out at me. For me, it totally descibes that extraordinary feeling in the grips of depression when I simply cannot think for myself any longer.When I’m depressed I have a really limited capacity for feeling. The hollowness and sheer desolation of depression steals that away entirely. I feel numb, blank and removed from myself. I have found that I become quite open to emotional suggestion. If a notion occurs to me that feels like it will relieve or change the living death in which I exist, I will follow it like a broken, unthinking, whipped animal .This suggestion, or “small twine”, can be positive or negative or even a psychotic hallucination, but it holds great power. For example, the notion of suicide …. the absence of positivity and the potential of a tortured mind is a lethal cocktail. The desire for an end to the pain is so strong that it doesn’t take much to get lost in the idea. Or, the promise of healing and disease management from flower essences, homeopathy and various alternative therapies when anything seems worth trying. I tried but to be honest my terrifyingly immense waves of mania black holes of depression have overpowered any and all alternative methods. I always end up hospitalised and drugged to the gills. I know that there is value to alternative treatments – I desperately wanted them to work for me, but they never did. Or I will simply heap all my faith and hope at the feet of some perceived “guru” who I imagine to hold all the answers and explanations to my problems. I have gone after bits of twine all over the place – good , bad and some truly fantastical. There is limited, dubious and often totally absent judgment in the mind when it is ill, suffering and in pain. That is when questionable and dangerous choice are made.So I call out to those who care about us. I call out to the husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, partners, lovers, daughters, sons, friends and colleagues of the 1 in 4 people in this world who live with the daily soul-destroying erosion of the spirit visited upon us by illnesses NOT of our choosing or design. When you feel you simply cannot understand, when you feel frustrated, confused, rejected, lost, manipulated, abused, taken for granted, forgotten – when you feel we make too much out of it, when you feel it has no substance or is some modern indulgence (after all, people never had mental illnes in the old days) … when you feel powerless, helpless, ineffectual and alone and you want to escape it all too….. please know that the smallest things can lead the way. For you and for us.We don’t need superhuman, epic feats of heroism. A simple inner resolve on your part to keep trying, listening and learning may be the small twine that we can reach for. You do not have all the answers and you cannot fix us. But, there may come a moment when you are the sole reason we choose to carry on. For that, we thank you.And as we flow in our grief and confusion, may we yet find the twine that draws us to safer shores.If you’d like to read more of Miranda’s writing you can visit her blog here

Dysthymia

A Dublin Dysthymiac in his 40s!

22/4/2014I don’t know where to begin so I will start with the breakdown I had a few years ago. There were some several circumstances leading up to that. One summer I had been seen by a psychiatrist for the first time. I was presumably referred by my GP. I can’t remember now. I had been suffering with anxiety and a good deal of paranoia. I was prescribed something but I can’t quite remember what it was now. Maybe a couple of drugs. I had taken anti-depressants in the past as well by the way. I was taking seroxat at one stage. Possibly others.

I had never met my father. That summer I managed to locate him and his family but I did just meet some of the family first. I didn’t actually meet my father in person until the winter of that year. I met a girl that summer also. We had quite a short relationship but I think that I did fall in love with her, or at least it felt like love. I suppose that it may have been the closest I have ever come to being in love anyway. The relationship ended unfortunately and I was deeply hurt. I became quite depressed and suffered other symptoms of mental illness as well. I was behaving very strangely now on reflection. I was carrying on with my work and my life though but I was very unwell when I think about it now.

I did eventually meet my father in person. We met one afternoon and spent a few short hours together. We did plan to meet again but he cancelled our next meeting claiming to be unwell. I never did see him again after that. The following spring I had some difficulties at work. I wasn’t really performing at my best. I am normally a very good worker, very diligent and committed. I had been put in a very difficult situation though and I made a mess of something and tried to cover it up. I became extremely anxious and stressed about that. In the end I had a breakdown. I was shaking and felt absolute terror. I was hospitalised with a diagnosis of psychotic depression. I spent several weeks in hospital, a time which was awful. I was very delusional with all sorts of crazy thoughts. In the end I was discharged and eventually I went back to work and carried on with my life. Whilst in hospital I was put on venlafaxine (Efexor) and risperidone (Risperdal). I have been taking these drugs for 6 years now.Roughly two years I became ill again. I was living alone at this time. On this occassion I attempted suicide by taking an overdose. I survived the attempt fortunately and brought myself to accident and emergency. I ended up in a psychiatric unit for a few nights afterwards without my belt or my shoelaces. I was discharged and sent to a day hospital for a few weeks. They gave me back my belt and shoelaces! I was put on pregabalin (Lyrica) in addition to the venlafaxine and risperidone when in the day hospital. I had asked the psychiatrist for something that would deal with anxiety specifically because I was feeling so much of it. The doses of the other drugs were increased dramatically also. I was told that I had had a relapse of the previous condition. They had got my files from the first hospitalisation. I felt that this relapse wasn’t quite as severe as the first episode though and I recovered a lot quicker. It did feel quite different and I didn’t so many of the delusions, just an awful lot of terrible anxiety. I recovered a lot quicker this time also. I’m not fully sure what brought me to attempting to take my own life by the way. I think on reflection that I was quite out of my mind though and it seemed like the only option available to me then. I had been reading about means of disposing of oneself on the Internet for a while. It wasn’t a cry for help or anything by the way. I was living alone and I was off work for a few days so I would not have been missed or found for a while. I wasn’t going to be rescued by anyone at the last minute.Bringing this up to the present, I still live alone and I am single. I met someone last year though and we had a brief relationship. I was quite optimistic about all that at the time. It was nice having someone to e-mail during the day etc and there was companionship and the intimacy. The relationship ended abruptly though. Circumstances brought me to confessing that I had had difficulties with my mental health in the past and that I was seen every so often by a psychiatrist and taking medication. I see a therapist on a semi-frequent basis too by the way. I had kept all that secret for fear of being rejected. The relationship ended shortly after my confession.Regarding my illness, it is rather questionable how ill I actually am these days. Until recently I had been suffering with insomnia for many months and certainly had some symptoms associated with depression such as irritability/short temper plus a lot of anxiety and paranoia. My life circumstances have changed for the better however. I moved jobs not so long ago. There used to be a lot of stress and long hours in the old job. There is no stress in the current job. It’s a much better environment and the hours are regular. Since the move the insomnia is totally gone at least and I feel a lot better generally. With the help of the Internet I have done some self-diagnosis though. I believe that I am a dysthmyiac to some degree. Apart from the couple of acute episodes I feel that I have suffered with dysthymia for many years. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysthymia. I can relate to an awful lot of this, in particular “a low capacity for pleasure in everyday life”. Like Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no satisfaction”! I feel that I just don’t enjoy things as much as I might. Even though I can get lonely I don’t get always as much pleasure from social interactions as I feel that I should. While everyone in a room is laughing very often I am not. I don’t think that I have ever never got much enjoyment from life. I find it very hard to have fun sober.I may as well say a few words about my drinking now. I didn’t really drink until I was in university. From the very beginning I was drinking excessively and blacking out when I drank. I was a total binge drinker. I used to binge at least once a week. I continued this way for many years. There were periods also when I would drink almost every day. I used to suffer intense anxiety and paranoia as a result of the drinking. This could last for days. Very often I would be totally paranoid about what I might have done or said but just I couldn’t remember. I don’t drink at all now and I hope never to touch alcohol again. I call it Satan’s piss! I didn’t mention that I take disulfiram (sold as Antabuse) now along with the other drugs. This is to prevent me from drinking of course. Even though I have no real desire to drink these days it is there in case I am ever tempted. I think that I actually hate alcohol and what is used to do to me.I would like to come off the medication entirely though, except for the Antabuse. I am on a very high dose of venlafaxine for example and I feel that it is excessive. I worry a lot about the long term effects of these drugs. As I say, I have been on constant medication for 6 years now! Right now I feel quite normal, apart from the dysthymia and that to be honest is quite normal for me. Sometimes I can get a bit anxious about things but who doesn’t? I really wonder if I need to be taking these drugs any more. What’s the plan? Am I to take medication for the rest of my life? Sometimes when I see my psychiatrist we will make some changes to my prescription. The doses can be changed, normally reduced but sometimes increased also depending on the drug and how I am feeling at the time.It is my personal feeling that some psychiatric illnesses may have psychological origins. I would tend to doubt that there is something fundamentally different in the neurochemistry of all those who are mentally ill. I feel personally that environmental factors can play a big roll. In my case I didn’t have the most ideal childhood. I remember suffering from a great deal of anxiety from a very early age. A friend of mine had similar childhood experiences to my own and she has had difficulties with her mental health also. Can it really be true that we were both born different? I am not saying that every psychiatric illness has a psychological origin but I think that in a lot of cases this may be true. That’s all that I wanted to say.Thanks for reading 🙂

So I decided today to write to you.

Anonymous

28/03/2013

I’ve been low recently, and I find that talking about it helps. So here goes:The day I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety and depression was the happiest day of my life. I have never felt such relief. Such utter joy that finally someone had listened to me, taken me seriously, and taken me at my word.For years I had felt there was something “not quite right”. I thought for awhile that maybe I was depressed. I mentioned it to a good friend of mine at the time, who was a nurse. I thought her medical training might help. She said “not at all, sure you’re the life and soul of the party, you just need a holiday”.A couple of years passed and I got on with normal day to day living. This consisted of drinking very heavily at least 3 nights a week. At the weekends, partying all night, sleeping all day. Alcohol can be amazing for drowning the constant anguish in your head, but boy you feel it for a few days after !! So you drink again to drown out those thoughts, and it keeps spiralling into a vicious circle.I also managed to hold down a job, but as far as my boss was aware, I had the dodgiest stomach around. I constantly rang in “sick”. The flu, migraines, bronchitis, stomach bug, back pain….all ailments my boss marked me absent for. All these days were spent in bed, with the world shut out as I couldn’t face it.Relationships came and went. Most ended in me demanding things that the other person couldn’t provide. One night stands and short term flings suited me better. No soul searching, no commitment, just short term gratification. When you also have low self esteem and body image issues, you build up your ego by quantity over quality, and then feel shit afterwards, thus fuelling your insecurities and your need for more ego boosts.I had a particularly low period in my mid twenties. I knew I HAD to be depressed. I went to my local GP. He said, “yeah, probably, we can put you on anti-depressants”. I explained that I would rather not. He then gave me the title of 3 books to read and sent me on my way.

So after that I felt totally alone. Was I depressed, or was I not ?? Was I imagining all this stuff in my head. Was it real? Am I sad or just mad ? I had so many questions, but in true “depressed person mode” I put it to the back of my mind and just got on with life.

About 5 years passed and I ended up travelling to Australia. The most amazing country where the sun shines every day. Surely no one can get depressed there. Well, guess what, you can, and I did. All the months of stressful travelling and partying took it out of me. One day I just couldn’t get out of bed. I stayed there for a week. Coughed a lot and told my flat mates I had a flu. They believed me. Why wouldn’t they?When I went back home I knew that I just had to be depressed and I had to do something about it. I got a good job and was doing well, and decided to go to my GP again. This time he took it more seriously and referred me to a Psychiatrist. She gave me a questionnaire to fill in, asked me a few questions and told me to come back to her in a week. When I went back she gave me a list of things I “suffered” from. She was not a very nice, barely looked me in the eye and told me how much she cost a week, which was WAY out of my budget. I left her office, went home and cried for two days.I again, just got on with life. Working, socialising, spend a few days in bed. Work, party, bed. Work, party, bed. A week here and week there was how I coped. I would go for it for a month or so, and then would need time to crash. But when I crashed, it was big time. No socialising, no emails, no phone calls, no texts. Everyone would be excluded and the barrier would come down.People talk about depression and explain it in different ways….a black cloud, the black dog. To me, it feels like I have a huge barrier wrapped around me. I can just about stretch and look up and see the sky, but the barrier is so high and goes on forever, so much so that sometimes the sky is barely a dot of light. There are no sides as it’s around me, so I have nowhere to turn to or no space to manoeuvre into. A circle is infinite with no beginning and no end, and the sky is so far away.It’s consuming. It takes everything from you. Every ounce of energy, every thought, every breath. I want with ALL my might to knock down the wall. I kick and kick and punch and kick and punch and kick until I have no more energy. I want to get out of my head, but I can’t. So I just stand, with the barrier wrapped around me, and wait. Eventually it will pass. But the waiting means days in bed with no contact.In the meantime, I met a man. A wonderful, amazing, kind man. I knew he was the one. From the moment we first met, I knew. How utterly ridiculously clichéd, but it’s true. On our second date we had a Hollywood chick flick moment where the world stopped and there was just the two of us. Maybe it was the wine, but it felt real. And he felt it too, so it wasn’t just my dodgy brain playing dodgy tricks on me again.

But he lived in a different part of the country. So more stress to add to my stressful life. Work, party, travel, bed. Work, party, travel, bed. That was it for a few years. We had our honeymoon period. We then had our “we’re killing each other because we are starting to find out how the other person really ticks” period. Then we had our “I love you and want to be with you” period. This was going to be for life, oh dear !!! So we had to make the decision who was going to move. For financial reasons, it ended up being me. So plans were starting to be made for this, when my Mum had a stroke. A very serious stroke that had her in hospital for a long time, but thank goodness she survived all intact with just a bad memory, as bad as anyone her age would have.

But it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was back home, saving on rent to save for a house. I was working eight to eight Monday to Friday. I then went to the hospital to visit her each night. I got home most nights at 10 or 11, and then had to do all the housework, wash clothes for her etc. My Dad couldn’t cope. He melted and I had to support him and my Mum. Sometimes I didn’t have time to wash and dry her pyjamas so I had to buy new ones on my lunch break. When she came out, we had months of rehab at home.I called on my brother to help me but he was too busy with his new family. My other brother lives in a different country, so I was pretty much on my own. At the weekends I escaped to my boyfriends, in the country. I just slept. We had dinner, wine and I would sleep for the whole weekend. So then my Mum got better and better and eventually things were looking up. We decided that now was the time for me to move. I had done my daughterly duties and I needed time to focus on my own life.And that’s when I hit my lowest ever. In the space of less than a year, my Mum had a stroke, we bought a house, I moved from my home town, my job, my friends to a new place where I knew no one. I didn’t have a job, and don’t drive so I spent my days in our new home, online trying to get work. Or watching TV. Or cleaning. Lots of cleaning, so much cleaning that I would argue with my man for walking on the floor I just washed, or not putting the towel back in the right place. You know, normal things that people with anxiety get totally obsessed about when they’re depressed.I started crying a lot. At movies, at ads on TV, reading books. But really crying, a LOT. I then started crying during the day. I then found myself constantly crying. I remember sitting one day on my back doorstep, smoking a cigarette with the snot running down my face because I was so sad. I sobbed like a baby. Full on sobbing and crying, as if someone had died. But of course, no one had died, I was just majorly depressed.As I was new to the area I had no one to ring to meet up with. No one to go to the cinema with. No one to have a coffee with. I felt so lonely and alone, yet I was so happy to be with my boyfriend and we were starting our new life together. My happiest and my saddest time, running parallel to each other.But I knew this time it was worse. I felt hopeless. I felt desperate. I felt claustrophobic. I couldn’t see the tiny bit of the sky when I looked up. The barrier had a roof that was shutting out everything. I felt like that was it, for the rest of my life. I was doomed to feeling this way, forever. How could I ever bounce back from this one ?? I knew I needed help. I was recommended a local GP by my boyfriend’s best friend. He knew nothing of my mental state, but I just asked him for the name of a GP as I needed to talk to someone about women’s things. Say that to a man and they ask no questions and don’t get involved !!So I went to this new GP and told him everything. I cried and sobbed and cried and sobbed and cried some more, just in case he didn’t get the idea !! He got the idea, and he offered me anti-depressants, again. Again, I told him I really didn’t want to take any. He insisted, so I reluctantly took them, but he also referred me to a community mental health nurse.All I can say is THANK YOU Ms Nurse. I went to visit her. I called her my counsellor, but she is so much more. This woman saved me, saved my life and saved my sanity. The day I went to see her, she properly diagnosed me low feelings. She never once mentioned anxiety, depression, self esteem, body image. She told me that number 1, I was not mad, even though I thought I was. And that number 2, all those years I thought I was feeling depressed, that yes, I was. Very much so. For my whole life, from about 16. WOW, wow, wow, wow, wow.Suddenly EVERYTHING made sense. Everything fell into place. I’m not mad, I wasn’t imagining it, and I will be OK. The “I’m not imagining” it is the most important part for me.

For years I thought I was just being silly. How could I be depressed? I’m funny. I can make people laugh, after a few drinks. I have a good life, a good job, parents who love me, a man who loves me, a nice home. But depression doesn’t work like that. It can be genetic, hereditary, brought on by alcohol, drugs, stress, anxiety. There is no one reason why people have depression. They just do. So the day she clarified it for me, was the happiest day of my life. I was normal. I am normal. I am not mad. I am normal. And other people like me are normal too. During the years we started putting names on my low feelings. Depression, anxiety, I can say it now.

So I went to my counsellor every week, for 5 years. She became my friend. Someone who always had my back. She was always on my side, fighting my battles. Helping me fight my battles. She was my Mum, my sister, my friend, my teacher, my cheer leader, all wrapped up in one wonderful person who helped me through some of the most awful times of my life.

Time went by and I have been lucky enough to learn the tools to help me live my life. We did CBT, which helps me. It doesn’t help everyone, but then everyone is different. I came off the medication as quickly as possible as I really didn’t like the numb feeling I had on them. And I’m very independent so like to do things my way, on my own terms.

One thing that helped me so much was spotting the triggers that set me off on my little journey into oblivion. That has been hard work, and you have to face many things that you would rather not, but it’s essential to acknowledge what can be good for you and what can be bad for you. So eventually I was deemed suitably brainwashed to be able to go out and face the world on my own. Scary, very very scary. But I have done it.

I had a blip after I had my son and suffered PND. I went back on meds for that and back into counselling. Six weeks of meds and a year of counselling and I was all set to go again.

So here I am. Depending on myself to make myself better when I have moments of low. It’s a very tough thing to do. Every day is hard. Life is hard, for everyone. But a simple thing like packing a suitcase for one night away, or knowing I am going to a wedding in a posh place can have me wanting to crawl under that duvet so fast. But I try not to. I take it, each day at a time. Some are good, some are bad, some are awful. But that’s ok. Even the normal people have bad days. Normal people like me and you.

Never Too Late To Talk

Alan

16/02/2014It is great to see the stigma of depression being tackled in such an upfront and honest way.As a marrried father of one i can recognise the same feelings that you spoke of when you mentioned guilt in relation to admitting to having depression. As a fellow (30ish!) aged person i have only recently in the last few months finally admitted to my wife,family and (myself!) that i have and have in the past had depression. In some ways i think that it may have already been suspected by others- but i guess i always wore a good mask and was able to hide it well. When i first developed symptoms during my teens,there was an aspect of avoiding the issue within myself,but the coping mechanisms i developed to battle this ( isolated myself from friends,bury feelings deep inside) consequently caused me to question myself,become anxious and foster guilt that it was my fault and that i should definitely not reveal how i was struggling. But as i have come to realise from going to counselling, i need to look back and forgive myself on this and realise that at that age that was the best way i had of coping.My wife has been amazing in helping me since i’ve revealed my depression. She has helped me with contacting Aware, going to GP, finding a counsellor and generally being a rock to me.In some ways these things were never talked about growing up,and it was an issue that was avoided, but i really wanted to take action now as i wouldn’t like this to be the way when my daughter grows up- i want her to be unafraid and able to talk to me about anything no matter how hard.Another aspect of the depression was the fear i had- if i admitted to struggling (i have had it on and off for 18 years)- then i would lose everything,would be seen as weak….and all those other great catastrophizing thoughts! In some ways i am in awe of my wife,she has the power to ask and look for help and speak openly about feelings,where i guess i’m just learning not to keep things to myself. Some people are willing to tackle the stigma,address the issue and i really think this is why your story is so powerful to me,you have really made a difference.I can relate to so many of your points that i will just list them: anxiety/social situations,hard to take compliments,comparing to others,kindness to oneself,the daily rush to work,not at home with my daughter guilt, looking for validation (pat on the back from others) to feel i’m good enough. Sometimes the littlest thing can trigger a feeling and the spiral of doubt etc kicks in. But using CBT with my therapist i’m working on catching those thoughts and other techniques. Am going to the therapist weekly and finding it really helps- kind of look forward to it,never thought i would say that. Am also on medication,they seem to be helping and not having any side effects.However am having the whole “am i becoming over reliant on them?” self conversation.In terms of where i am now- will continue with counselling,maybe do group work. Have signed up to mindfuless introduction evening and am also doing meditations daily. Am also trying to take more time for myself,more exercise etc My daughter and new Jack russell are really helping on that!!I guess the main message i have is: It’s never too late to talk,believe me.If you’re a teenager and don’t know what it is you are feeling. You are not alone. Talk to a friend,relative, someone close.They will understand.I know that having someone when i was that age would have helped and that revealing how i was feeling would have benefited me- i know it is helping me now for sure.If you are older and have kept your depression or feelings to yourself it is never too late to open up. Believe me there is relief in it. Years of bottling things up and struggling by myself caused problems for me and those around me,but opening up and communicating with those around me was the best decision ever. It will be hard,i won’t lie, but you will feel an inner peace when you do.As someone who waited and battled it alone for a long,long time i can say that it’s never too late. As i mentioned above i thought a myriad of thoughts- “I’ve waited too long.i’ll always be like this-no point admitting to it now”, “I will lose everything,i’ll be seen as and feel weak”,”the deck of cards i’ve kept hidden will come crashing down,and people will see that i’m no good”. But speaking from my own experience,revealing how i was feeling was the best thing i ever did.There is a feeling that i am now open with myself and everyone else and even though there are struggles now and then there is a great hope for the future presenting itself.

Really love the following quote from John Steinbeck i saw when involved in the vast hours researching depression:  “And now that you don’t have to be perfect,you can be good”.

Here’s What I’ve Learnt So Far

Jackie

5/2/2014

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” Theodore RubinEssentially, your mind when you are feeling depressed lies to you in the most seductive and alluring way about everything and everyone. And when you are used to trusting your thoughts and that whole thing of being self assured and confident, it takes a long time to realize that the torrent of negativity in your brain may not be an accurate representation of what is called “reality”. It’s hard not to trust your thoughts and it’s hard to sit and mull over what is true and what isn’t, but it’s an important exercise to become aware, even if you only do it in small doses. Like Morrisey said, there is a light in you that never goes out.“Embrace and endure. If you embrace, you will endure.” James Frey, “A Million Little Pieces.”There’s the fear though of saying that you are somehow broken, somehow not right, not fitting in and not fulfilling the role that is expected of you. Like wars and love affairs, being mentally distressed is a thing that is easy to get started but difficult to bring to a close. It’s a process, it changes and you start to manage what helps and what doesn’t. I try to avoid stress and that includes both people and situations that would sometimes be too much to be around. That’s actually ok; it’s really ok to do this. Television could overwhelm me sometimes so I switch if off. I can’t do alcohol or drugs and be around any sort of situation that involves lots of either of these substances. That’s not a judgement of anyone or anything, it’s just how it is for me and I know what works for me.This is what I have learnt so far.Accept what is happening. Acceptance is not surrender. it is simply the opposite of refusal and it is difficult but very powerful, especially in a world where taboos still exist around the discussion of mental health issues but it is crucial. Acceptance is taking back control.Disengage from those who make you feel worse. They aren’t your problem and they probably aren’t helping. While no one can fix your problems for you, those that can’t be helpful are a bit more likely to be hurtful. You know who those people are, you really do and you have to be ruthless in your efforts to put yourself first.Talk to people you can trust. When people listen, really listen, it’s so freeing. Whatever is happening is just another life challenge, not some deeply-seated, irreversible character flaw. I cannot emphasize enough the value of having blisteringly honest conversations with those you trust.Know when to get professional help and don’t be afraid to do it. My attitude towards psychotherapy used to be “that’s nice for people on TV shows, but it’s not for me.” It took awhile to realize that this was nothing but fear of the unknown steeped in a weird sort of judgment. I have come to see that speaking to someone about your darkest thoughts and fears is courage exemplified. Sometimes it takes a professional you have absolutely no other connection to, to help bust through the wall—so what ?! They are trained and have pretty much heard everything and the best of them, have a sort of integrity that is beyond words. We don’t think twice of seeing a family doctor for a sore throat so don’t spend too much time agonizing about the fact that you might need to see a psychotherapist.

Therapy taught me that I’m not who I think I am, that some of my reflexes and instincts are unhealthy and that they can be changed and that I can accept however I am right now if I really want to change.

Treat your body well. I hated this piece of advice when I came across it but it’s a fundamental must and it’s so practical and it is a daily thing to do. Exercising and eating well is like proper car maintenance and it helps.

I know what it’s like to be in the thick of things. I know it’s almost indescribable. It’s abstract and painful and heavy and horrible, and every other adjective in existence.

I wouldn’t wish any sort of mental distress on anyone and it has been the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me. But I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me. I kept things together – we all have different ways of coping and choices to make. It has been strange to write this as it’s almost like writing about another person. It seems trivial and indulgent but it’s something I really want to tell because it’s the type of thing I would have wanted to read when I was desperate for re-assurance. I just wanted someone else to say “it’s ok, I’ve been there and it changes”. I was lucky in that I had several people who did precisely that and much more.I watch myself and how I am and I’m always aware that I need to take care of myself and for that I’m grateful as I realise it’s something I didn’t do well before and it’s so necessary. As Prof Ivor Browne said once “in dealing with emotional problems, there is no therapy the psychiatrist or therapist can apply to the person to bring about real change. The person has to do the work of changing themselves, with the support and guidance of a therapist. This concept of “self-organisation” is synonymous with what it is to be alive. Anything that diminishes our state of self-organisation lessens our control over and management of our health and will be a step towards sickness.”The most important thing I have learned in all of this is that terrible things may befall us, but they are nothing compared with the misery we heap on ourselves. You can’t control events, but you can control how you react to them. When you’ve gone through any kind of mental distress, it truly does feel like being reborn again and again. As Stephen Fry said recently “ one in four people like me have a mental health problem. Many more people have a problem with that.” So I think it’s better to talk and be open, the more we talk, the more open we are, the less stigma there is and we realise that we are all just struggling to get through life in one piece. The one thing that bothers me is when people dismiss any kind of mental distress as something that you just need to snap out of. Trust me, it’s not that easy. It’s one day at a time and it all changes eventually and I know it’ll change again because it’s all a process and some days won’t be ok but that too can actually ok.

The Guest House

 

 


This being human is a guest house.


Every morning a new arrival. 


A joy, a depression, a meanness,


some momentary awareness comes


as an unexpected visitor. 


Welcome and entertain them all!


Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,


who violently sweep your house


empty of its furniture,


still, treat each guest honorably.


He may be clearing you out


for some new delight. 


The dark thought, the shame, the malice,


meet them at the door laughing,


and invite them in. 


Be grateful for whoever comes,


because each has been sent


as a guide from beyond.

 

Rumi

 

Finding a new way. A way that helps.

Theresa

28/01/2014

For most of my life, I’ve had head chats with myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I should be doing better, being better, feeling better. I kept these chats to myself, masking them with a chirpy smile and assumed that this was normal behaviour. It became the norm to wake with a head full of criticism for where I was in life and to fall asleep with a bucket full of what I should’ve done, who I should be.Since I’ve been writing my blog www.theresarock.com, I’m amazed at the amount of people who have opened up to tell me that they do the same. Many assuming that it couldn’t be any other way. That this is the only way they can live.When we think we should be happier, better, it’s easy to get annoyed with ourselves, to give ourselves a forceful pep talk. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be normal? Look at the guy serving up coffee/ the girl queuing in front of you. They seem OK. Why can’t you?We know this talk doesn’t work. We wouldn’t talk to someone else like that. We know if someone spoke to us like that, it would only make us feel worse. Yet for some reason we think it’s OK to do it to ourselves. You see, pushing and forcing yourself to be better, to feel better is cruel. Plain and simple. It just doesn’t work. It piles the pressure on and gives us the feeling that, as we are now, simply isn’t enough.It doesn’t help that we are constantly bombarded with the idea that we should be 110% all of the time. And if we don’t, well we’ve failed. Leaving us feeling even more isolated, more prone to putting ourselves down.When we let go of the fight to be strong, we become strong. But a different type of strong. We realise that it’s OK not to feel OK sometimes. When we gently encourage and support ourselves, regardless of how we are feeling, something changes within. When we decide we’re done with chipping away at our heart, we can begin to breathe deep again. When we choose to gently support ourselves, to nurture instead of knock our growth, we can begin to flourish.Yes there will still be days where we struggle, when we doubt ourselves. And that’s OK. What matters is that we go slow, and consistent. That when we go back to the old way of self criticising, that we pick ourselves up. And start again.When I recognised how caught up in this pattern I’d become, I tried to find a way of overcoming the put downs. Now here’s what I do. I write. For 10 minutes in the morning. 10 at night. To get the stuff from my head onto paper. To show myself what I’m saying to myself. To see if it’s helping me or hurting me. Because we can get so caught up in the cycle, it’s hard to recognise what we’re saying to ourselves. And then I use that same pen to write down what I do want to think about. The strong stuff. The good stuff. The friend you met for lunch who made you smile. The picture your child painted for you. The courage you had to help someone else today.The harsh pep talks don’t work. They only cause us to wilt. What we really need is kindness and encouragement. Starting with ourselves.

Dimmer Switch

Jennifer
29/11/2013
I’m 35 and depression has walked along side me for roughly 20 years I’d say. Undiagnosed for a huge portion of that time. I knew something was different about how I looked at the world and how the world made me feel. I finally went to my GP about it when I was about 20 and he very quickly wrote me a script and said it was “situational” and would pass. A student doctor happened to be there that day too and followed me out of the room and told me to speak to someone about it. I never did.
During my pregnancy on my 1st child it started to walk alongside me again but I thought disappeared again after she was born. It didn’t. When I look back now I see it didn’t. My second child came along and I had a lovely pregnancy but the tears started 2 days after her birth, 6 years ago, and have never stopped. A chemical imbalance in my brain apparently. Nothing I did or could have done to change that. I took medication on and off for 4 years, as well as speaking to a psychiatrist too. Nothing helped. Finally my GP (a new one!) heard what I was saying, prescribed me new meds, listened to me and told me how brave I was, how good a mother I am, and how I did the right thing by coming to see him. I took these meds for approximately a year and a half. I’m off meds right now, which may or may not be right for me but I thought, if there’s a chance I’m going to be on medication for the rest of my days I’d like to try a small period of time without it before committing myself. This is not for the faint hearted It’s been a tough time. A rollercoaster of emotions. I cry at least once a day, sometimes for no reason known to me. It’s confusing and it breaks my heart. It’s who I am though. At 35 years of age I’m finally able to put it on the table and say this is me, it’s part of who I am. I’m proud of myself for that but there’s still so far to go.
I feel like people stigmatise those of us who have mental health “issues”. I know people have judged me based on this. But I say to them, don’t throw all of my emotions into the depression bucket. Most of my emotions and feelings are just me. Thankfully, I’ve got an amazing husband who is extremely open to talking & listening. He also knows when I need time alone or when I’m so stressed out I can barely breathe. He knows me. And for that I’m forever thankful.
People have asked me in the past what it all feels like. Am I constantly sad? Do I sit in a dark room all day? What makes me different?
Recently, I’ve come up with something I tell people and they seem to get it. I feel like my life is on a dimmer switch. I’m never as bright as I want to be, as I feel I should be. But, thankfully, I’ve never felt the need to turn the switch off either.
I’ve lost friends over the years because of this. It’s hard to be sociable sometimes. A lot of the time actually.
I wish people could try to understand what it’s like. It’s unfortunate but it’s who I am.

Moments

Clare
19/11/2013
I’ve wanted to write a piece for Sunny Spells for a few months now, but every time I sit down to write it out, my mind goes blank. I have written private emails so raw and truthful about some of the awful days I have had, but when it comes to sharing them, or collating them, I just come up with a blank. When I’m not in an anxious or depressed place, I almost forget how it feels. It seems I’m most creative when I’m in the midst of a ‘moment’.And ‘moments’ is what they are. For me, they swing between anxious ones, and low ones, so low that I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Some ‘moments’ are minutes, some last hours, and in the middle of this year, some lasted days and months. The ‘moments’ hit me when I least expect it. My anxiety impacts my physical health – this year I went numb on the left side of my body and was admitted to hospital. The doctors thought I might have suffered a stroke. I’m 25, play sport, don’t smoke, eat fairly well; I’m also a physiotherapist that works in neurology. I knew a stroke was fairly unlikely. Brain tumour, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, they were the things I was frightened of. But it turned out to be anxiety. Two days, a few tests and more than a few hundred $$ later, I left hospital mortified and ashamed. Friends concerned about my admission asked what was my diagnosis, I told them I had a virus. I didn’t want people giving me labels or looking at me differently. Despite the all clear, I became obsessive about checking my hands for muscle wasting, weakness, tremors; I didn’t believe this could all be ‘just anxiety’. And of course, if you look hard enough for things, you will find them. And it just kept going. I didn’t believe neurologists (yes, more than one), colleagues, friends, family, psychologist… the list goes on.
Anxiety has taken up most of my year, and on closer inspection, a big part of my life. I’m a worrier, I’m sensitive; I overthink things and ‘over-feel’ things. I cry at any sad story, song or movie, I can’t watch any horror films; I don’t do rollercoasters, fast cars, airplanes or waterslides. I will never jump out of a plane for fun. When I’m happy, I’m on cloud nine, but it can all come crashing down in an instant. I have a whopper temper. I shake and rage and cry for any minor disagreement, it’s not pretty. I’m excitable, when I get good news I am hyperactive and bouncy and so much fun (as long as you don’t give me good news in a fast car). I’m a pessimist and generally find the worse conclusion in every scenario; catastrophising is one of my stronger points – ‘Mam I’ve failed my maths exam and maths was what I was depending on for my points and I’m not going to even get into college and I’m going to be poor for the rest of my life’…. I got an A1 in Maths in my Leaving Cert. To this day my mother does not entertain my beliefs on me ‘failing’ things. This cycle started as early as primary school and repeated through college, interviews, driving test, career appraisals etc etc.
All these emotions change so quickly; I find it hard to keep up with myself, let alone trying to explain it to others who have never experienced it themselves. So many times, my amazing other half held me tight and said ‘tell me what’s wrong’… But trying to describe the chaos in my head to someone who hasn’t ever felt like that before is so so difficult, leading to exasperation and miscommunications on both sides.
Knowing there are others out there that understand and have been throughthe same, or worse, and can still uphold jobs, relationships and friendshipskeeps me going through the worst ‘moments’. The worst ones have passed, for the most part. A brief spell with an anxiolytic, therapist, and a trip home to my parents helped greatly. But Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers and all of the contributors were also a big part in getting through the tougher times. We are all human, we are not perfect. But it is more acceptable to be physically imperfect than mentally imperfect, and we need to change that, and Fiona is doing a pretty amazing job of doing that, and getting us all to speak out louder and stronger on behalf of those who can’t.
So these days, there are less panic attacks and less low moments. I recognize them and acknowledge them, and 70% of the time, I get through them myself. I’m working on bringing that figure up. I try to share how I’m feeling instead of saying ‘I’m fine’ when asked what’s wrong. I know it’s ‘OK not to be OK’. No more throat closing over, less trembling, no more numbness and less health anxiety. I still have horrible mood swings, I probably will always be a sensitive soul and likely I will be a worrier until I die, but it’s part of my make-up and my personality, and I have to learn to live with it. ‘Moments’ are indeed moments, they will not last forever, and they too shall pass.

Coming off meds, my story.

Anonymous

05/11/2013
I was on anti depressants for 5 years when I was finally ready to come off them. I had attempted a few times over the years but it wasn’t the right time for me. It was very hard every time I ‘failed’ to come off them as I took it as a personal defeat and got very upset but once I realised I was on them for a reason and they were helping me and that I could be on them for a long time if not permanently, I was content. It was a huge step in my recovery, knowing the time wasn’t right but the right time would come and it did.I slowly reduced and did as my doc told me and because I was on a very low dose, I thought it was going to be easy. I mean how hard can it be to come off the drugs when I knew the time was right??? No one had prepared me for how hard it was going to be.While on the meds I had experienced many brain zaps and had gone to my gp about it and even went to a consultant about it and no one could tell me what they were. I thought maybe my blood pressure was low or my iron or I was over tired or too hot when they happened so it was just something I put up with. I NEVER linked it to the meds nor did anyone else. But as soon as I stopped taking them, they happened all the time.The 1st week going on the lower dose was fine but when I stopped them completely, then things really started to go downhill. The brain zaps were awful, I was very emotional and couldn’t function with my daily routine. I was afraid to drive so I asked for a lift to work. On the drive in, I chatted to the driver who I knew very well and cried my eyes out all the way. They made the mistake of saying they thought it was all a bit much for me and I just wasn’t able to cope and that I didn’t have depression at all!! I was so upset, I couldn’t believe this person who I thought knew me so well could come out with what I’d been thinking myself for the last 5 years and had to get counselling and see a psychiatrist to finally believe that this was a chemical imbalance and it wasn’t because I was a bad mother and couldn’t cope. They couldn’t have said a worse thing at a worse time. But because I was ready to come off the meds and had gotten through a very bad patch in my life, I was able to get past what they said and still believe it wasn’t my fault and I was a good mum. That was a huge step for me.
I managed to get into my office and log in for about 20 minutes until I talked to my co-worker and broke down again. I gave in and realised I wasn’t able to work and called hubby to come and get me (something I’ve never done before). I cried all the way home with him (an amazing man who I am forever grateful to for sticking with me), crawled into bed and cried and slept. I couldn’t do the simplest of tasks. I questioned coming off the meds, was the depression coming back, should I go back on them, am I really a bad mother, can I just not cope………The rest of the week was like that, but with each day the brain zaps got less and less and I got stronger and stronger. I rang my GP who certified me off for the week but was very surprised I was as bad as I was. I also rang the psychiatrist who was equally as surprised with the reaction I had but said to sweat it out for a week or 2 and see how I got on.

As no one I knew had gone through this, I had no one to ask was it normal. Until I went onto a chat forum and found one other person going through it. They were 2 weeks ahead of me which was a great help. This person will never know how much of a help she was to me and I have no idea who she is. I googled it too and found there were others who had suffered like I had and someone said it was like coming off heroin. This in a weird way made me feel ok, it made sense (not that I’ve ever come off heroin!!).So after a week of what felt like hell, things slowly improved and I was off my meds. It continued to improve and very soon I was back to my post meds/depression self. My head was clear, not fuzzy or hazey, not one brain zap and one year later almost to the day, I have never looked back. Only a few close friends knew I was going through this and were fantastic but I didn’t tell my family and they probably still don’t know or realise how hard it was. I have bad days but now I know they are just bad days and everyone has bad days but hasn’t depression. I now know the difference and please God I’ll continue this way. I’m under no illusion that I may have some bad patches ahead but at least I can tell the difference now.My husband has been amazing in all of this, he didn’t run for the hills, in fact, he was a pillar of strength. He found it hard naturally but we came through it so thank you. My friends have been amazing too and some family. I say some because I didn’t tell a lot of people so it wasn’t their fault. Not a lot of people knew I had depression but I’m learning to open up a bit more now but it’s hard.When I decided to write this article, I was unsure if I’d get my point across correctly. I hope I have. I don’t want anyone to let this influence their decision to go on the meds but I want people who haven’t experienced depression themselves, to know just how hard it can be for the person weaning off.Looking back I am delighted I went on the meds even afer what I went through coming off them, I wouldn’t change what I did but I just wish I had some warning of how hard it could be. This is not normal but can happen so I want people to know it can happen and be prepared but it is NOT a reason not to go on them. They got me through a particularly rough patch in my life and I wouldn’t change a thing about my recovery. I just wish I had some support to help me through it. Fiona’s blog has been amazing and I hope this helps some others in a similar situation. Well done Fiona and keep up the good work.

Ton of Bricks

Anne, The Netherlands
02/11/2013

It’s hitting me like a ton of bricks. I cried tonight, I grumped, I got angry, I’m super tense, my legs hurt, my heart races, I shiver, I want to crawl under the duvet and never wake up. I’m so afraid of not being able to deliver. And I don’t even know what I’m supposed to deliver. I’m afraid I will fall back, I’m afraid of being not good enough. Not good enough, I’m never good enough.

New team, new project, a young guy I need to start helping out, I’m going to be the one with more experience. Hard deadline. And even worse, I asked to be put on this project, because before I went on leave (1 week only) the deadline wasn’t there!People on this team, except for 1, don’t know my history whereas last time I just started I had absolutely no reason to hold back in telling them how I was, what I had gone through and where I was in the healing process, so they knew exactly what to expect of me and I had the “stress free out of jail card” just in case things got too tough. This time, part of me wants to try it without letting people know, the story gets old, it’s too long ago. I actually thought to myself I should be able to do this on my own without people knowing.
And that is exactly where I need to stop and go into a different direction. I still need to confess and be honest of what to expect from me in order to function. But how? Much should they know?I also need to start writing constructive counterthoughts and evidence to show my fears are only fears and nothing else. But that seems to be so hard.
Luckily I have an appointment with therapist tomorrow morning (which I feel guilty about because it takes time of work, time we need to get to the deadline, although it’s only two hours and the deadline is in two weeks) and hopefully we will be able to discuss plan of action.
Will I ever feel that I’m at my old level again?

The Sinkhole

Anonymous
20/10/2013

I call my depression the Sinkhole. That seems like a fitting name to me as it’s often unexpected, terrifying and it threatens everything that’s important to me. I feel like a vortex of negativity opens up inside of me and sucks all my positive energy and hard work down down down.

I suffered PND after the birth of my first daughter. Looking back now I realise I was probably a prime candidate…I was always hard on myself, we had no family nearby and as the icing on the cake, I was adopted at birth, which in the final weeks leading up to the birth loomed over me like an ever present malevolent cloud. Maybe I wouldn’t bond with my daughter? Maybe I wouldn’t love her; maybe I’d want to give her up like my own mother gave me up? A very long and difficult labour followed, culminating in an emergency c-section and a baby who wasn’t breathing. 2 hours later I held my baby girl for the first time after intensive care had worked their magic on her. Breastfeeding was the next obstacle. It wasn’t successful and in hindsight my heart wasn’t in it. But as a first time mum I was terrified and ashamed of admitting that, even to myself. For about 3 months I would burst into tears whenever I even heard the word breastfeeding, I felt so suffocatingly guilty.
It was almost a year later when I realised that I could not go on feeling how I did. It had crept up on me slowly, without me really noticing. It took my sister (mother of 3) to tell me on the phone one day, that I should see a doctor, that I sounded lost. I was utterly lost. I imagined my life from here on in would be this existence, where I looked in on other people’s lives, saw them having fun, tried to experience joy and pleasure but never really managing it. When I told my Doctor I explained that it was like being a radio that wasn’t quite tuned in. 2 weeks on medication and I literally woke up and felt like I was living life in colour again. Hooray for drugs!
My second episode of PND was different..it wasn’t the sadness but irritability and anxiety that felt were going to cripple me. Everything had to be done my way or I’d freak out or stress out. I knew I wasn’t right but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t like the first time, so how could it be PND? Well, guess what, the bast**d depression comes in many forms. I didn’t really believe my husband when he told me he thought I was depressed (why on earth would l listen to a psychiatrist??!) Quite honestly I felt the blame was with him for not stepping up for baby number 2. Another visit to the doctor. A couple of months and a change of pills later and I am pretty much back to my old self.
But every now and again I feel a dip looming. Somebody will be offhand with me, or hubby and I will go through a rough patch, or the children will be nightmares, and the ever present negative voice starts up in my head. And when you’re a stay at home mum, with few adults to talk to, those nasty thoughts get a lot of airtime in the brain!
I’m working hard to combat it. I saw a counsellor when I came off the meds first time, as we wanted to try for a second child and did not want to be on medication if at all possible. So if I feel that things are slipping out of my grasp, I know I can see her and have a ‘top up’. I take rest. I get enough sleep. I try to eat well, exercise, get enough fresh air, see friends or not, depending on how I feel and most of all I look after myself more than I used to. I’ve accepted I’ll never be free of depression, that it will always be there looming in the background. But I think I’m learning to manage it, understand and predict it. And hopefully a threatening sinkhole can be contained into just a few cracks on the surface.

Depression by another name…?

Anonymous
11/10/2013
I am lonely. Heart-breakingly, painfully lonely. I am happily married with wonderful children. I live near my family. I am on the committee of a community group. I am generally a very positive and up-beat person. I am liked and people will say hello to me on the street or in the shops.
It is hard to write this –even harder to say it out loud – because it is so easy to explain this away and tell myself or you that actually things aren’t so bad. But the truth of the matter is that every now and again something triggers this pain -and I’m aware/afraid that even writing this is going to be a trigger. However, I also feel the need to try and explain it and as I am just coming out of a particularly bad patch it is fresh in my mind.
I have wondered whether I have depression, but when I read these amazing blogs there are only a few things I can relate to. So for the first time the other day I ‘googled’ “dealing with loneliness” and read some interesting pieces. Loneliness is like depression and can trigger it and/or be related to it. The key phrase seems to be ‘it is a feeling not a fact’. That’s very slightly helpful. I know I always come out of it in the end. They advise the obvious, such as getting involved in community, join a class etc. I do all that anyway. They advise re-connecting with old friends. Get a pet (I have a few – they still don’t talk back). Reading through this practical advice, I know it helps people. I just can’t get over the thought that my loneliness is not just a feeling, but a fact. I have some friends. I have a couple of good friends. But circumstances have meant that my best friends that I have made over the years have all moved either to opposite ends of the country or abroad. When you see so little of people you don’t want to waste the little time you have talking/seeing each other with pouring out all your problems – and anyway the day you are seeing them is a good day! And besides, what can they do?
Looking back I have had issues with people leaving me all my life, most likely starting with the death of a very close grandparent just after I started school. Then in secondary school my best friend emigrated half way through. Then the inevitable first love heartbreak. Followed by a too long, bad relationship with someone who suffered from extreme distrust and jealousy (unfounded), other lost friendships…all these things have meant that I was probably wary of getting too friendly for a long time, which hasn’t helped, but I was always working and loved the camaraderie of the workplace. Now the kids are in school all day. I potter around doing the various bits and pieces I’m involved in. There’s a couple of people I have coffee with. But I’ve no one to cry with. I’ve no one near me who really knows me and sometimes you just need that. My husband is amazing but doesn’t know how to handle this, so I tend not to share it too much with him. So often you hear of single people being lonely for the lack of a partner, and that’s Ok to admit and talk about to your friends. If you are lonely for the lack of close friends, you can’t talk about it. I don’t want anyone to be friends with me out of pity. And I don’t know how to fix this. For now, just keep busy and distract myself. I’ll make the odd phone call to an old friend and hope they might call me back some time. I’ll get out and involved and hope to click with somebody. I’ll try to convince myself that it’s a feeling, not a fact.

Post Natal Depression

Anne, The Netherlands
3/10/2013Sunny Spells note – Anne asks a lot of questions here. I’ve responded to her privately but please feel free to comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts on anything she has raised.
Thank you for writing this blog. I’ve been reading on and off and admire your honesty, although sometimes I can’t continue reading as I feel the hurt and desperation to clearly and it takes over my emotions.I’ve been struggling with depression for over two years now, starting after two late miscarriages and a big wopper ppd, including anxiety attacks, anger being belief and loosing oneself into the Pit. I’m getting better now, am working again after staying home for a year and half, only managing barely to look after my little girl( now 4) .She’s going to be an only child, as we’ve decided non of us are any better of if we have to go through this shite again. I think from all things, that does hurt the most, that I cannot avoid influencing her happy young life in ways I don’t want and can’t avoid. No sibling for starters.
Do you think it influences your children, and how? (at two years, whenever she came home from daycare with her daddy finding me staring blank faced on the couch, she would say, yeah! Let’s go get chips, mummy ‘s not cooking!) she’s a happy bright four year old now, but very perceptive to my moods, cautious sometimes. I can’t hide it. Mummy feels sad sometimes, like everyone else (only a bit more) Let’s cuddle on the couch and watch Dora together.Did you suffer depression before you were a mum? Do you think you can hide it? Do you want to?For now, I am in a pretty ok spot. I work, I enjoy my little family, I picked up a hobby (making beautiful cakes) (unfortunately that means eating them, and the only good thing about taking sertraline that it made me loose weight…. Ah well) and in therapy work on these hideous automatic thoughts of not being good enough, never good enough thanks to my mum’s devotion to getting me to strive for the best it turns out, at least we won’t be making that mistake this generation, we’ll just make plenty of others, but not that one!)Reading on the internet about what depressed mums unconsciously do to their children scares me a lot, so how do you feel it will influence them, and what can we do? (apart from just doing the best we can, what if that’s not good enough?)Your relationship with Therapist sounds very familiar, the writing desperate emails and waiting for the return email. I hope those days are behind me, but I feel the beast is still lurching around the corner, waiting for it’s moment to come back and eat me..

My sister

Lucy
17/09/2013

I’m not a writer so I’ll put this simply. My sister has had depression for a number of years. The hardest part for me is the silence. I always know if she stops replying to texts then things are bad. In a weird way, I’m relieved to even know this. It took a while to figure even that out.

That’s the problem, depression affects everyone differently. It’s hard to know the triggers and signs if people don’t talk about them. That’s why we need to talk.

YOU CAN NOT FIX SOMEONE WITH DEPRESSION. You can love them, be patient, you listen if they want to talk, you listen even harder if they don’t want to talk. I know that no matter what, I will always be here for her. Day or night.

Depression may make you feel like you’re alone but that’s just one of its many vicious talents. My sister is not alone. She never will be and neither will you.

Blogs like this prove that point.

Smartphones and skewed perceptions

Tríona

5/09/2013

I have long been a smartphone-sceptic. I hated the way people suddenly disappeared into these little black boxes with the perpetual checking of mail, facebook, news updates, quiz battles…I am luddite when it comes to technology and managed to hold out for years before caving to the temptations of viber (free texting is very, very nice thing when you’re an emigrant with family and friends 1,000 miles away) and the lure of the app store. But I still couldn’t really see what the big deal was.Then just last week I had a ‘eureka’ moment. I started to look at all the small video clips my husband had recorded on his trusty iphone on the day of my daughter’s birth. I have previously written here about my experiences with PTSD in the months following her arrival and that experience had left me with the perception that her day of her birth was frightening, traumatic and difficult. It was all of those things but it was also so much more. Those video clips didn’t show a scared, distraught woman – I smiled, I laughed, I was positively radiant (well, as much as you can be after labour – Kate Middleton, I ain’t…) with happiness. I was in love with my little girl and delighted with my new role in life as a mother. How different these films were from the memory I had following the PTSD! And how amazing to realise just how much of a dark and negative filter the PTSD had put over my memories of that beautiful day.Yes, I remember there were a few overwhelming moments when the realities of having just survived a massive haemorrhage hit us, and we were emotional, and we cried. But most of all we were happy. Cosy, warm, fuzzy, lovely happy.So I’ve changed my opinion on smartphones. I can now see a very good use for them, especially if you’re feeling low or in a dark place; recording the little everyday moments as they happen – children playing, a smile or a laugh or a kind word from a loved one – because when the cloud of mental illness hangs over either your present or your past, it can be difficult to remember exactly how you felt. That year that you remember as being ‘the worst year of your life’ must also have held many happy, calm and positive moments, they just get lost in the telling and remembering.So if you have a smartphone, pick it up today, find the nearest person you love and record them telling you that they love you too. You might want to look back and remind yourself someday.

Depression and Anger

Ciarán MacAoidh
20/08/2013
I get angry when I’m anxious. I get angry when I’m scared. I get angry when I’m frustrated or worried for too long. I think it’s easier being angry than being sad or just frightened about how this will all turn out.I know that depression is my problem but anger and irritability are the expressions of it that worry me. And as much as I try not to be angry, it happens anyway. The ‘me’ I want to be, the ‘me’ I think of as myself, is often sitting in the back of my mind shaking his head and asking, “What the hell are you doing?!” of the irritable and mean ‘me’ that is out front, the ‘me’ I’m afraid I really am.Of course, who gets to see this ‘me’? Family, friends. Partner. The people I need, the people I love.What bothers me more than anything is that often these feelings have nothing to attach themselves to. Nothing will have changed since yesterday except how I feel. So my mind starts bouncing around (that’s a cop-out really, I start bouncing around) looking for things to attach the feelings to. Who has done something that they can be branded the uncaring one, the annoying one, the pest or the bully? Poor me. Luckily it’s Summer and no one needs the firewood, so I can stay up on the cross for a while longer… I add the worry that I’ll drive the people I love away to the other worries and this time I think it might well be a legitimate one. There’s only so much a person can be expected to put up with. I worry that I’m grinding them down, especially my partner, making them feel bad about themselves. How long would you put up with that?So, here it is: How do I change the behaviour when I’ve been aware of it for years? How do I learn to lessen the anxiety, to find a higher frustration threshold, to stop being so angry? Or at the very least to channel it into something less destructive?I’ve heard a platitude several times over the years, that depression is anger turned inward. Maybe so, somewhat at least, but what to do when the anger reflects back out and jets all over the innocent bystanders?

R

10/08/2013

(Sunny Spells note – this came in as a comment on the bottom of the page. With the author’s permission I’ve reproduced it here, because I think it should be seen and will get lost in the comments.)

I am sitting in bed feeling drained, having just had an anxiety attack. In bed, on a Saturday morning, next to my sleeping husband, with children playing happily in their bedroom (for once). I have no idea why, there is no obvious trigger, I’ve been fine for weeks and I’m writing it down to make it seem ridiculous (which it surely should be) rather than terrifying (which is how it feels at the time, the sheer randomness of an attack just adds to the feelings of failure for feeling like this for no good reason, as well as adding to your vulnerability as there is clearly no safe place or time to be in).

My immediate impression after the attack was the sheer physicality of it. It built from tremors like an earthquake, it twisted through me like a muscle spasm, it came in waves like a labour contraction. It contorted my body and made me twitch. And I was utterly helpless, despairing and alone in it’s grip next to my exhausted oblivious best friend who was having a well deserved and long overdue lie in.

And now it is gone, as quickly as it came and I feel calm, but slightly uneasy. Torn between wanting to forget it and move on (after all I’m ok now and it’s best not to dwell on these things and build them into bigger problems right?) and wanting to pin it down, dissect it, understand it, remove it’s power.

And the worst thing? As ever, not being able to discuss it. How do you drop into conversation that you spent 5 minutes lying in fear shaking in your bed with silent screams in your head for no apparent reason.

But I remembered this site, that you asked for others experiences, that you said you didn’t know much about anxiety, and I fought off my feelings of unworthiness (after all I only have mild anxiety, I’ve never been hospitilised, the one time I saw my GP he sent me away with a web address and some book recommendations, so what right have I to moan when others have it far worse than me) and I think writing it down helps, bizarrely in public helps as it means I’m not just talking to myself, even though I don’t want an answer.

Thank You.

 

Emo

Georgie
05/08/2013(Sunny spells note – some readers may find this post triggering – if you do, please either take a look at the supports available here, contact your GP, or in an emergency, head in to A&E)
‘Emo’. A stereotypical title regularly given to youths who succumb to the burden that is self-harm. Thankfully, its a label I managed to escape for the most part.When I was 17 , my school year had a rocky start. I lost two very close family members within one week, the week I was to begin 5th year. At first, I thought I was coping fine with the losses, in fact , things were going quite well for a couple of weeks. I was happy out as if nothing had happened.But like the tide, I slowly started drifting further and further out of my depth. I became depressed and rather irritable at home. If I wasn’t in school, I was hibernating in my room with my music so loud that I probably wouldn’t have heard a firework explode right outside my bedroom door.I had no understanding of what I was feeling. I was just so angry and exhausted. Admittedly, the exhaustion probably came from my staying up till the early hours of the morning and only getting two or three hours of sleep. But when your so depressed, sleep can be quite hard to come by. Your mind is just on over-drive. Things you once may have seen clearly suddenly become like white noise.
As you can imagine, a feeling like that can become unbearable after weeks without it ceasing fire.
One night in late September, the feelings I had been feeling vanished, but it took every other feeling in my body with it. I was left with nothing. I was numb. At first, for a mere minute or two, it was nice. It was quiet. Pure silence. Of course, with that sort of silence, it doesn’t take long before you begin to go insane. You just can’t take it anymore. There has to be something to make you feel something, anything.
That night , when I was so desperate, was the first night I intentionally harmed myself. And as wrong as this sounds, it helped. For a few split seconds, my mind actually made some noise. Something I hadn’t experienced in much too long. That night was like a baptism of fire. I knew it was wrong, but it felt too good to let go and so the addiction began.For me, it wasn’t something that was easy to hide. I knew it was a terrible habit and that I had to tell someone, so thats when I told two of my closest friends. And I will never forget their (completely justifiable) shocked faces. They were blown away and couldn’t understand. But despite their confusion, they stood by me and supported me the whole time. Unfortunately, in the end, it all became to much for our friendship to last.
You see not only was I self-harming, I had also developed what I can only describe as an eating disorder. I was going days without eating and spending every day at the gym. The time spent in front of the mirror along with standing on the weighing scales had increased dramatically. My weight on the other hand was disappearing. I lost two stone and was fitting in to sizes that realistically, nobody should be fitting into. But it wasn’t enough, not for me. I was still seeing an ogre staring back at me from the mirror.I reached a stage where school was no longer an option for me. I needed to work on getting healthy again. I needed my life back. So in April 2012 I dropped out. I was 18 at this stage and my parents made me get a job, which definitely did not help the matter. My anxiety levels grew higher and higher and panic attacks started entering my life. I just couldn’t cope with how I was feeling and so I began binging. I would eat at least 8 packets of crisps, chocolate bars and whatever else I could find in the house, every night, in the space of twenty minutes. Clearly I gained back the weight I had lost and that did not sit well with me, but it helped just like self harming helped.I’m 19 now, and a lot of these habits still sit with me. They come to the surface more often than I care to admit. But one thing thats different between then and now is that I am getting professional help. Help that keeps me alive. With out it I have no doubt that I would not be here today.For the most part I am doing quite well and have a lot of progress in the last couple of months, but like with anyone, I have my bad patches. Some particularly worse than others. But I have some very positive things going for me. I am teaching myself to learn guitar(pitifully) and I am also blogging now in the hope of helping people the way this blog helps me.
So, thats a background to my own mental health struggles!
Im Georgie, and I believe it’s ok not to be ok!

Ghost Train

Caron
30/07/2013I was lying awake last night trying to shut off my anxiety and trying to put into words what it felt like. The best I could think of was this.
When I was a kid I hated ghost trains. I’m still like that. I hate anything that could make me jump including balloons and scary movies.I feel like I’m strapped onto a ghost train which is moving along slowly. I have my family with me. There are the usual scares along the ride and I know they are coming and I know there is nothing I can do to avoid them. Each scary bit is in a dip in the ground so that just before it comes I can feel us going down faster and faster until something jumps out. I get such a fright and the feeling lasts for ages. Sometimes there will be balloons popped in my face during the scary bit too which just makes me panic. Eventually though we move on and all seems calm for a bit, I’ve got my family there and I’m ok. But I know the next part of the ride is coming so there is always the anticipation of something horrible coming. The train doesn’t stop it just keeps going round and round, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. I can’t get off though. None of my family with me are frightened of the scary bits and I feel that they can’t understand why I would be so terrified of something as silly as a ride and balloons.The depression feels kind of the same. On a long round ride where you know the dips are coming and they make you sink fast without any control whatsoever.Don’t know if that makes sense to anyone. Just felt the need to write it down xx

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – not just for veterans!

Tríona
27/06/2013
A little over a year ago, I became a mother for the first time: the most wonderful, exciting and special day of my life so far. And also the most terrifying.
My beautiful girl was born healthy and without any complications, for us things got serious after the long hours of labour were over. For some inexplicable reason, my uterus just decided not to bothering contracting in the hours after her birth and so unbeknownst to me and the medical team, I was quietly haemorrhaging away for over two hours before we realised anything was wrong.There I was, euphoric to have come through labour, loved up and delighted with this amazing new life I was holding in my arms and generally basking in that lovely, rosy glow that the arrival of a new baby brings. It wasn’t until I tried to stand up and (sorry for the details here folks…) literally bled all over the floor that we started to get an idea that something might be wrong.I was moved down to the maternity ward and when the bleeding continued, things suddenly took a turn for the dramatic. The room was filled with nurses, surgeons, anaesthesiologists, all speaking at once – I should mention that I moved to Denmark four years ago, so all of this was going on in Danish, a language I can understand, but when it comes to medical jargon, it might as well have been Swahili. I was told that I was having a post-partum haemorrhage and they would have to operate to try and stop the bleed. Best case scenario, they could stop it medicinally, worst case, they’d have to take my uterus – just what you want to hear a few hours after giving birth for the first time…So instead of being allowed to relax with my husband and get to know our new daughter, I was whisked away on a trolley and put under general anaesthetic. On the way to theatre I could feel that things were beginning to go badly. My thought process was slow and confused, I had difficulty speaking and when people asked me questions, I would respond and then realise 30 seconds later that I had given a completely incorrect answer. This is what happens when you lose half of the blood in your body.Luckily for me, that was all I lost. Two and a half litres of blood down, but they managed to stop the bleeding medicinally and my bold, non-contracting uterus survived intact. A few hours later I was finally reunited with my family and two blood transfusions later, I was beginning to feel human again. Much of those first days is a haze to me now – exhaustion and emotion have combined to blur the lines of my memories. I can remember swinging between happiness and tears, being repeatedly overwhelmed by all that had happened in those few hours and the gamut of emotions we had run from elation to fear and back again.Five days later and we were home. I was exhausted due to the blood loss and my wonderful man stepped up and took care of everything. Eventually, we found a rhythm and began our new life as a family and I was happy. The day I was discharged, the doctor who had treated me had come and told me that I had just been through something very traumatic and that I was always welcome to contact her if I ever needed someone to talk to about it. She warned me that it might just hit me one day, out of the blue and to remember that she was there should that happen. At the time, I just said thanks and then got back to cooing at my little baba – I didn’t feel in the least bit traumatised then.
Three months later however, on an entirely ordinary Saturday, I did. Literally from the one moment to the next, I was terrified. I started to have flashbacks to being in theatre and these were accompanied by a deep-seated feeling of fear. And tears. Lots of tears. I remember going out into the garden to find my husband and trying (and failing…) to articulate what the hell was happening to me. These episodes continued for a few days more until he convinced me to go see my GP. Another tearful consultation later, and she had put the wheels in motion for me to meet with the doctor who had so kindly offered to help me, all those weeks ago.We met two weeks later and she explained that my reaction – flashbacks, fear, overwhelming emotions – were perfectly standard responses to a major blood loss; that when you lose so much blood, every cell in your body starts setting off panic alarms because it can feel that things are going very wrong. She described it as a physiological ‘death fear’ – something that is registered in your liver, your skin cells, all the bits of you that your psychological self has no control over which means that once the danger has passed and you’re safe again, it’s very difficult to rationalise with your liver and try to convince it that you’re fine. So what could I do to try and get over this trauma? She said I should talk. And talk and then talk some more. That I had to let myself work through and feel the fear and panic in order to help my body realise that we were fine – we had come out the other side and the threat had passed.And so I did talk but with hindsight, not nearly as much as I should have. I don’t know what kept me from telling more of my friends about how this had affected me. Was it stubborn pride? Was I ashamed that I couldn’t just ‘get on with it’ and cope? Was I worried that people would see me as being weak? Maybe all of the above, but I think mostly the latter. I hated that I had lost control of my mental state, that something could have such an impact on my thought process and mood and affect my daily life. I resented the fact that I couldn’t just ‘get better’, felt angry with myself for what I saw as succumbing to something that other people would have just soldiered on through. In short, I wasn’t very kind to myself. And it didn’t help me get better.Things only started to improve when I gradually began to open up and acknowledge that it had had an impact on me, it had left its mark on my soul and that I needed to be a bit kinder to myself if I wanted to be able to get out from under those clouds again. Slowly, things got better. I could talk about it without crying – that was a big step! I could talk about it without feeling afraid. I started to be able to focus on the positive aspects of the situation – I had had the good fortune to haemorrhage in a Danish hospital – the same complication claims the lives of 1 in every 9 women in some parts of Africa. I began to feel lucky; that I had been given a second chance and to feel privileged for all that we have (and take for granted) here in the West.I didn’t go to counselling – partly an economic decision at the time – but also I think mainly driven by my reluctance to admit that I really had a problem. How foolish that was. I probably could have greatly accelerated the healing process and saved myself a lot of grief. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. I know now, that should there be a next time, I will take any and all lifelines that there are outAnd now? Now things are good again. I can look back on it as a scary, but ultimately positive experience that has given me a renewed appreciation for life. I still have the odd day where I can feel the hint of those clouds hovering at the edge of my mind, feel the ghost of the old fear drifting somewhere close by. But that’s ok. Like the physical scars we pick up during life, those little mental scars are there to remind me that I’ve lived, that I brought a new life into the world and that by supporting each other, we all survived and we all got through it.So if anyone out there is suffering under those clouds in silence, reach out to someone, take the bravest step you’ll ever take and ask for help. You won’t be sorry that you did x

Postnatal Depression

Angela, 21/06/2013
*shuffles feet, sighs, stands up and puts hand in the air*
I am Angela, and I have postnatal depression……………..  again.
I have wanted to say that publicly for a very long time, but the stigma surrounding depression has reached me.  I try not to listen to the opinions of others but they do reach me no matter how I try to block them out.
My story (abridged ;o))
I had my first child in 2007, 4 days late and after a 23 hour labour.  I had wanted a child for so long but met and married the love of my life slightly later, so was 35 when he arrived.  I was swept away in a tide of love, to coin a phrase.  He was and still is gorgeous.  He didn’t sleep, he had to be with me all the time,  but I found the strength to deal with it and got through it.
My second arrived in 2009.  This time the birth was completely different.  My husband was under threat of redundancy and on the day he was told he would keep his job, I went into labour.  To cut a very long story short, my baby got stuck, the epidural was administered late and it was (in my mind) a horrific birth.  I took my baby home after 24 hours and sobbed solidly for what seemed like 8 months before my mum told me to get to the doctors as this was not normal.    I was diagnosed and decided to seek counselling.  It was a very long road and just when I thought I was starting to get back to “normal”, I fell pregnant again.
I lost the baby.   I was devastated.  My children saw my grief as they were there at the scan.  Don’t judge me, I thought it would be ok.  I closed the doors, battened down the hatches and somehow found the strength see my counsellor again.  I kept going until I fell pregnant again.
Baby number 3 arrived in August 2012.  He is the most smiley, happy, gorgeous baby.  I have three lovely boys, and a wonderful husband and family.  Nothing should stop me feeling happy but I have it again.  I knew almost straight away as the fog entered my head and I retreated behind those all too familiar glass doors.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone,  I felt uncomfortable even doing the school run.  Just as I realised what was going on my husband was seconded to a different location with work and I lost the car.  With my family in another country I felt totally isolated and I spiralled further and further down.  At my first appointment with my counsellor I spent the hour in tears.  She told me to seek the doctor’s advice about medication.  I listened and so began my relationship with Lexapro and weekly counselling.
I have good days and I have bad days.  I am currently weaning off the Lexapro to see if I can go with the counselling alone.  It is a rocky road but I am getting there.  My husband has had a hard slog, but has been with me every step of the way.  I am very lucky.  That’s what I keep being told.  I know I am but still there is this misunderstanding that I can fix myself by remembering this on a daily basis.   That drives me demented and the sooner people can understand that the better.  I do not understand why it is so hard to understand that the brain can stop working properly.  Kidneys can, lungs can, so why not brains?  Very simplistic way of looking at it I know, but that’s what I do best – simplicity.
So here’s to the beginning of understanding.  For all those with mental illness feeling they are able to talk about it and not be judged.

The Great Big ‘Men Don’t Talk’ Lie

Ciarán MacAoidh, 18/06/2013

Men don’t talk. Let’s have a campaign to get men talking. Because men don’t talk. Women talk. Men don’t.
This drives me nuts. It is a pure self-fulfilling prophesy and it’s killing us; cancer, suicide, booze, what-ever. That is not an exaggeration.
Men do talk. Men want to talk. Not all of us but then not all women want to talk and nothing is made of that. One of the reasons we don’t recognise that men want to talk it is constantly driven home to individual men that other men don’t want to talk. Is this getting repetitive? Excellent.
It is trotted out on TV and radio and it is never questioned, no one ever says ‘hang on a second, my mates talk, my fella talks, my son talks…’ Men end up thinking that wanting to talk is unmanly and its reinforced by the very people trying to get them to open up.
We are fed fake science like ‘women have more words to use per day than men’; this is a nonsense misunderstanding of statistics and even if it’s true has nothing to do with the things men want to talk about. We are told that men don’t have the emotional language to express themselves. I’m casually dismissing this as sexist tripe and a learned, not innate, habit. If we teach our kids how to talk, they’ll talk. Ask any depressed person of either sex why they didn’t open up about it and you’ll see a stream of unisex reasons that are similar across the sexes.
Many men may talk in different ways. Many men may use different language than women. My Dad, who for a long time wouldn’t have been comfortable with emotional talk, let me know how he was feeling about my depression, how worried he was about it, how much he wanted to help me and support me. It took him about ten seconds and was one of the most profoundly, heartfelt moments we ever shared. It didn’t take a long set-up or a lot of exposition. But he wanted to talk and even if he was a little frightened of doing it, he did it anyway in less words and time it took to write this paragraph (I type fast, by the way).
If men think that other men don’t talk, they won’t talk. If they think they do, it will easier to talk. I don’t like blaming society for things because society is people and I’m one of them, society changes when more of the individuals act in a given way than in the way they are replacing. Society isn’t a solid thing, it is fluid. It changes as the individuals, me and you, change. It’s a shit-load easier than you might imagine: remember a couple of years ago when marriage equality wasn’t a wide, public issue? That was people like Fiona and her blog.
When I started opening up about my depression, some people misunderstood. The only person who told me I had a personality defeciency rather than a mental health issue was a woman but her reasons we not to do with her sex. Rather they to do with her very black and white religious convictions, where everything in her world had blame attached. My closest friends were astounded that I’d kept it from them for so long. One, a man’s man if I ever met one, stood outside Bowe’s pub in Dublin City centre and called me a dickhead for not telling him earlier, hugged me and told me he loved me.
But men don’t talk.
Yeah, we do. Yes. We. Do.
How about we start to say this, instead:
‘Some men think that men don’t talk about health or emotions but it’s not true’
So talk and be surprised at how little judgement you’ll meet.

This article has 46 Comments

  1. Comment wherever you like, I'm just really happy that people are willing to share. One day at a time is definitely the way to go, sometimes one breath at a time. Hope you're doing ok today.

    1. I'm sorry to hear you're having a bad day. Try and go easy on yourself – one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one breath at a time if you have to. Know that this will pass, even though it probably doesn't feel like it right now. Things will get better.

    2. Hope you're still doing better. I know when you feel worthless it's hard to hear that you're not, but you have worth!

  2. I have felt suicidal and an intense internal anger on and off since I was around 17. I am now 30. This is the first time I have ever told anyone. I tried once with an ex-girlfriend and she called me selfish. I have never attempted to tell anyone since. I have slipped into one of my quarterly darkest hours over the past two weeks. It will last for another month. I have just learnt to put my head down, work more intensely and fight it through. In my public life I am strong and confident. If I disclosed to friends how I feel when I lay my head on the pillow at night I would feel humilated and weak.

    1. P.S I should add that I am not the same anonymous as the previous anonymous comment. I came across the blog after reading your article in Journal.ie. It made me think. I wish I had the same confidence to tell everyone I have depression. But as a man it is much more difficult. People expect you to be strong all the time. The stigma is heavier.

    2. Hi, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I recognise what you feel so well, I was intensely angry for years and it was extremely difficult to resolve. But, it did resolve, with a lot of help. You say you can't speak to your friends about this, I completely understand that. Could you speak to your GP? Or maybe a counsellor? What you're going through right now is so difficult, you shouldn't have to do it alone. Aware run support groups, there might be one in your area that you could try, or if that feels too much, even call their helpline when things are really tough?
      I hope you're doing ok this evening, go easy on yourself.

    3. Thank's Fiona. Your words are comforting. I have never spoke to a GP or a counsellor. The anonymous dimension of it is attractive to me though. I have not been to a GP for about five years, which was the last time I lived in Ireland. In many ways I am addicted to my anger. But I have learnt to channel it productively, somewhat subconsciously, into my work. When I hear people say "let go of your anger" I often think "fuck you, it is all I have". What gets me most is the personal shame I feel about being depressed. I keep thinking to myself "get a hold of yourself man, your're a mess, an embarrassment, you have tons of things to feel happy about". The thought of suicide is comforting as I know I can end the pain whenever I want. I suppose religious people get the same feeling from their faith. I envy them sometimes. When I feel dark like this the human species appears so meaningless to me. Empty.

    4. Hi Anonymous.

      I've been thinking about your post for a couple of weeks but I've been in the dark myself and couldn't find the words to reply. You've made step one. You've said it to some one, even anonymously, and that's a start.

      I have a lot of anger too. It makes me feel something when I can't feel much else. I find myself feeling angry first and then attaching it to something after. Before I told people about my depression, I was terrified to talk for exactly the same reasons you wrote above.

      When I did talk, the difference was immense. People surprise you. My dad and one of my closest friends especially because I thought they'd no time for this kind of thing. I got some negative reactions. This is ALWAYS going to happen. People can be uneducated, stupid or mean. However, my family, most of my friends, my bosses, my tutors in college were all supportive. As Fiona has said, counsellors or organisations like the Samaritans are there. I used the Samaritans the week before I went into hospital and they were great. No judgement, no intrusion; they were just there. A GP can be good or bad but I treat them in the same way I treat the guy in the grocery shop; with respect but not awe. They give me advice, a referral or a prescription. They are well worth the visit.

      I had to shop around for a good counsellor; it can take time to find a good fit, so if you go to one, don't give up on the idea if the first one doesn't suit your personality.

      If you get back here and read this, I want to say good luck, take care of yourself and please, please, tell some one!

  3. The short version is: for the last four years I have felt alone, isolated and worthless. I have felt empty/dead/hollow inside. I feel like I'm living in a prison with no way out.
    There has to be more to life than this. I feel that life is not worth living and for the last three years not a day has gone by that I have not thought about suicide.
    I feel ashamed and embarrassed. This is the frist time that I have opened up and talked about it.
    Thank you and good luck on your road to recovery.

    1. I don't know what to say. Thank you. I'm so glad that you could identify with what I've written, and felt able to share, although equally I'm sorry that you feel this way, and have felt this way for so long. Do you have any support, someone you can talk to? I can say from bitter experience that it does pass, with help. I don't know if you've come across my facebook page yet, but there are quite a few over there feeling the same way, and slowly but surely we're starting to talk. Feel free to join in!
      I sincerely hope you start to feel better soon, until then, one day, one hour, one minute at a time if you have to. You'll get there.

  4. Re Anonymous of June 16 at 1.55 am . Do please try dropping in to a Pieta House if there is one near you? They offer a friendly support for people who feel just as you do, because they think you are worth it ! And so say all of us ! You ARE worth it!

    Fiona – Why oh why does blogspot not permit posting by anything other than 'Anonymous'?. I am Angela, thesilvervoice.wordpress.

  5. Angela, thanks so much for your honesty and courage in sharing your story. There are so many preconceptions out there concerning motherhood and what it is to become a parent, and such an unbelievable amount of pressure on people to 'do it all'. The more we talk about experiences like yours, the more we can understand and empathise with each other and begin the work of helping each other through what can be a really difficult and emotional time. I'm glad to hear you're working your way back to the light and wish you and your family all the best in the future. Kudos for standing up and telling us your story – that's a great milestone on the the road to recovery! Tríona

  6. Triona, thank you so much for your lovely note. It makes me realise that putting my feelings/experience in writing was the right thing to do. x

  7. You're so welcome Angela. And I thought you might like to know that you inspired me to pluck up the courage to begin putting my own story in words. So thank YOU! x

    1. Just read your story Triona – am so glad I played a small part in you sharing. I hope it has helped you as it has me. x

    2. It did Angela! Just the realisation that I could sit down and write it without crying/shaking/generally feeling scared was a lovely bonus to my day 🙂 Onwards and upwards for us all x

  8. Caron, it makes perfect sense. All the best to you and your family. As you say yourself, you get them through the ride each time so don't be too hard on yourself for feeling scared along the way. We all have a few demons in the closet (or under the bed or wherever they may lurk!) and the fact that you can articulate it so clearly is a really positive sign. I sometimes think knowing what you're up against is half the battle. All the best to you and your family and fair play for writing it all down.

  9. I am sitting in bed feeling drained, having just had an aniexty attack. In bed, on a Saturday morning, next to my sleeping husband, with children playing happily in their bedroom (for once). I have no idea why, there is no obvious trigger, I've been fine for weeks and I'm writing it down to make it seem ridiculous (which it surely should be) rather than terrifying (which is how it feels at the time, the sheer randomness of an attack just adds to the feelings of failure for feeling like this for no good reason, as well as adding to your vulrenability as there is clearly no safe place or time to be in).

    My immediate impression after the attack was the sheer physicality of it. It built from tremors like an earthquake, it twisted through me like a muscle spasm, it came in waves like a labour contraction. It contorted my body and made me twitch. And I was utterrly helpless, despairing and alone in it's grip next to my exhausted oblivious best friend who was having a well deserved and long overdue lie in.

    And now it is gone, as quickly as it came and I feel calm, but slightly uneasy. Torn between wanting to forget it and move on (after all I'm ok now and it's best not to dwell on these things and build them into bigger problems right?) and wanting to pin it down, disect it, understand it, remove it's power.

    And the worst thing? As ever, not being able to discuss it. How do you drop into conversation that you spent 5 minutes lying in fear shaking in your bed with silent screams in your head for no apparent reason.

    But I remembered this site, that you asked for others experienceses, that you said you didn't know much about anxiety, and I fought off my feelings of unworthiness (after all I only have mild anxiety, I've never been hospitilised, the one time I saw my GP he sent me away with a web address and some book recommendations, so what right have I to moan when others have it far worse than me) and I think writing it down helps, bizarely in public helps as it means I'm not just talking to myself, even though I don't want an answer.

    Thank You.

    1. Hi R, thanks so much for posting, that sounds like a really nasty experience. Hope you're doing better today. I just wanted to say, please don't be dismissive of what you're going through – it's difficult, and a problem for you, so you have every right to want to talk about it!! If it continues to be a problem I would suggest talking to your GP again, because you shouldn't have to live with that.
      I also wanted to ask – I think what you wrote could resonate with a lot of people, but it might get lost down here – would you mind if I bumped it up on this page? If not, no bother at all.
      I'm really glad you felt able to post here, feel free to post again whenever you need.

  10. Shakey couple of days but getting back on track I think thanks, although I know there are some underlying things that need addressing or it'll come around again.The trouble is I can't face dealing with difficult things when I feel rubbish, it takes all my energy to keep going. Then when I'm feeling better it's hard to remember/admit/find time to think about them and prioritise properly. Work in progress I guess.

    Bump away, flattered.

    1. Consider yourself bumped!
      Completely understand what you mean about working on the difficult things when you feel better. I find when things are good that I just forget (block out?) the tough parts, so although I'm well enough to deal with them, I can't quite find them. Needless to say without being addressed they always come back!
      Hope things continue to improve for you

    2. This evening not good. Straight from "normal" to commincation shutdown. I could almost feel a big heavy commercial freezer type door swinging shut in my head. The lights may be on but I'm not home. No interim, no warning, no anxiety, just shut myself away and gone onto standby. I need to talk to long suffering other half, ask for help, a hug, something, anything, but whilst the small rational part of my brain is jumping up and down screaming at my mouth to open the cord has been pulled.
      #howtocommunicatetroublecommunicating

    3. Oh R, I really feel for you and if it helps at all, I know exactly what you're talking about. All I can do is repeat what's been said to me when this happens – know that it will pass, try and go easy on yourself and just take it a day at a time. You'll tell your other half when you're ready.

  11. Yesterdays random thought walking home: logic does more harm than good. When something is stressing me out, knowing that it is a silly thing to worry about / almost certainly not as bad as I think does not help. I'm still feeling agitated, now I feel stupid/embarassed/ashamed/cross with myself too, which is really not helpful. And it makes it much harder to talk about it.

    I'm not sure what does help yet, or why I'm gatecrashing Fiona's blog to witter on about it. Maybe the point is that if someone opens up, it might be better to start with listening and empathy rather than logic and answers. Which is hard, because when your instict is to help, you feel like you need to do something, and when there's nothing physical to do, no cut to stick a plaster on, a sensible solution feels like the most helpful thing to do.

    Hmm, didn't set out to write advice. Must remember both to follow it when dealing with others and to try and somehow be mindful and accepting next time it happens to me. Easy peasy then….

  12. I keep coming back….to read and to keep telling myself it is not just me. I can't stop crying and feel like nothing matters anymore. My partner has been a rock. As it has not been easy living with someone like me. Some days I'm happy and next I'm like a tsunami. Had depression before and was close to ending it all. This time I have my
    partner. That is what makes a difference. Last week has been awful. Going from happy to enraged the next; like the flip of a coin. Now I'm a blubbering mess and just getting through. I have a lot to be thankful for but to most it must be a seem uncaring and selfish and an absolute dead weight.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you're feeling so bad, but at the same time I'm glad that you feel able to express it here, and that reading about what other people have experienced is helping you to get through. It sounds like you have a really loving and caring partner, that can make such a difference. Keep talking, and try and go easy on yourself. Ask for help if you need to.

  13. I'm not really sure where to go with this, but I have had depression since I was three, i remember being pulled away from the mom, cuz she had been diagnoised with cancer. I didnt know what that meant at the time, but i knew it wasn't good. I became very distressed and turned into a angry withdrawn child. When my mother did recover well I wasn't happy to see her. The depression continued on through my teenagers years and now my college life. But what I find so hard about my condition, is i'm training to be a social worker and I work with people who have mental health issues. I feel I have to put on this mask, and never show any signs of stress or worry. But then when I arrive back to my flat, i feel i have to keep a smile up for friends. I can't feel human until the weekend. You may say well you should be aware of the job you getting yourself into have suppports in place. I had a nurse for 7 years and last year she retired. I have since tried to look for counsellors, but they have insisted I sign forms to agree to that if I ever become a risk to myself, I will agree to go hospital and be assessed. That ain't going to happen. I would just really like for people to listen and give me a few coping skills. I'm trying hard to avoid meds. I recently starting working in a mental health centre, and i'm basically like a counsellor there every day. I was sure cuz I had experieced my own mental health issue that I would really enjoy working in this area, reaching out to others. But now i'm not so sure. I just wonder if you have every questioned if a person lives with depression, is going into a careers that challenge a person mental health really best idea? Or am I just being negative and telling myself i'm not good enough. I have to pass this placement its on til May or I won't graduate with my degree. I think I always had this 6th sense if picking up on a person feelings or always seemed to have answer to the person problem. But when it comes to my own mental health, i often feel like i have been dropped on the moon, i'm out in space surrounded by darkness and silence, and totally confused not knowing how to help myself.

    Does anybody ever fee like their depression can be a barrier to reaching their goals college, employment, and relationships. I just always feel like oh well if I look forward to this, something bad will happen and it will get taking away from me. So maybe its best to stay in this dark hole and be miserable?

    I would just like to see thank you to sunny spells for creating this blog and opening her heart and mind to us. I would also like to give everybody her a big warm hug and pat on the back, and say well done for finding the courage to battle their fight with depression. You aren't victims of your conditions, your survivors. Inspirations to so many people.

  14. I am a new anonymous to those previously posted here. My now x partner of 5 years has depression, diagnosed, but untreated. He is in denial about his illness and has chosen a very dark path, he has chosen isolation in a physical and emotional sense, he finished our relationship, even though I wanted us to face this challenge together. His decision to end the relationship has hurt me more than I could ever have imagined. He believes there is no reason why we cant be friends, because he can feel no emotion, he doesnt understand why I feel as deeply as I do. I cannot be his friend, because I love him, even still and yet I still feel guilty for abandoning him, he doesnt have many people he is close to. I am a woman in my mid 40s who met someone and fell deeply in love and he did to, then this horrible, horrible illness came into our lives and destroyed everything and he has just accepted it. I find it very difficult to deal with this as it doesnt have to be this way, but his D has made the decision and he doesnt even realise it. Thanks for the blog Fiona, so much of what you write reminds me of what we went through, unfortunately the outcome is different. My love is lost to me and I have to accept it. I have asked him not to contact me again and I have not heard from him for over 3 months. Its so sad it has to be this way, but I really felt I had no choice.

  15. I found that when i was in the depths of depression nobody could get through to me. I was trapped inside my mind and the world became very small. It was my bed and the confines of my home. I always took pride in how i looked, that went, i was always happy go lucky, but now i looked angry all the time, i felt dead inside, numb, no sex drive, no motivation to engage with others , i thought my life was over and this was it! It took a long 2 years of mindfulness therapy and digging deep into the past to release all the pain and confusion of abuse and trauma as a child , the impact that had on me, the silence of parents who were supposed to protect me, and the fallout of becoming involved in one unhealthy relationship after another, looking for love and approval. It took its toll at 40 years of age and i had fallen down so far i could not see a way out. Slowly but surely 2 years later I am starting to see some light, it took alot of mental strength to fight my way out of the darkness. I truly understand now how depression is so powerful, you cannot just 'snap out of it'. It is heavy on the body (i felt like weights were dragging me down, not to mention the weight gain from meds) and nothing helped me until i cried out my pain and worked through making sense of it all. You are amazing for being so open about your journey and I hope you find peace of mind and happiness real soon, You have broken the silence and stigma of depression for so many people. Thank you for letting me share my story. xxx

  16. Hi there Fiona,
    I have read and followed with interest your posts on FB and consider your posts carefully and with interest. I am staying anonymous for the moment but have often commented on your FB posts. I have no problem identifying myself directly to you in private mail etc.
    My own history is this – 25 years ago, at a time when my business and life collapsed, I was an in-patient and after medical, psychiatric and psychological inspection, I was diagnosed with a personality disorder. At the time I was too wretched to tale it all in and when the psychiatrist later seemed to minimise the condition in a court sitting, I basically ignored it and got on with my life……..the situation 25 years ago was one got meds to stabilise and regularise and there was no talk of this American fad of therapy or counselling beyond a chat with the doctor/psychiatrist. My life proceeded merrily on as I thought though every now and then my thoughts would turn black but as an ‘extremely high functioning’ person with this disorder (though a therapist thought it PTSD in early 2015) I was able to use yoga and meditation and sheer willpower to control things.
    I had an irrational outburst at a female workmate a few years ago, paranoid and irrational stuff but she was kind enough to forgive me after I outlined my past. A factor in this and other episodes would be alcohol overload and /or depressive state induced by a bad hangover. I had a real public outburst at another workmate just before Christmas and I was momentarily out of control and heard myself say awful things but like someone else was speaking and acting. I hurt this person deeply and a permanent breach is there now.
    I am arranging to see a psychiatrist shortly and know that I need some meds to 1. balance/stabilise my moods and 2. help me sleep. One of my main manifestations is paranoia of an extreme type.
    I short, people, if you are in my situation or similar, please know that it will not ‘go away’ itself, and even if dormant for years, will reassert itself.
    I am aware that personality disorders are intractable for CBT and that only DBT works, and I am hopeful of DBT before too long (I hope!).

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and I’m sorry to hear things have been so difficult for you. Until recently I think I would have fallen into the high functioning category as well, not so much now. Therapy kept me going for years, alongside meds, but now I’m in limbo waiting for DBT. Like you said, CBT was no good for me – made me feel worse because I couldn’t do it right!!! (As I perceived). Fingers crossed neither of us have to wait much longer for support. I hope the appointment with psychiatrist was helpful.

  17. I am a GP in Dublin but much of my work is concerned with depression. I see several new patients every week and my aim is to get them off medication as far as possible using individualised nutrient therapy.
    I went to Sydney in 2006 to learn all about this and now I get patients from outside Ireland too. Recently I got a phone call from a London University consultant psychiatrist who wants to learn about this work. I take a history and do tests on blood and urine,some of which I send to America. Over the next few months most of them, but not all of them, get much better and I get many positive reports .One woman wrote to me : “The suicidal thoughts I had for 40 years have gone” . You can read more about this type of treatment at http://www.walshinstitute.org. I have a short piece on youtube if you put in my name Edmond O`Flaherty.

    1. Hi Edmond, apologies for the slow reply but this sounds really interesting. Have you ever written anything about it? If so I’d love to have a read. I’m starting the process of reducing meds but suspect it will be a long time before I’m fully off. If there was anything that could help along the way I’d be more than happy to give it a go!

  18. I have struggled with depression all my life. I tried to ignore it, live a productive life, and I chased things that I thought I needed, but never found the missing IT. Nearly 25 years of marriage brought me to the point that I had to get out, I felt that I was an irritating convenience (I am very good at fixing things), and that even my core values were otherwise irrelevant. It wasn’t until I got out that I was able to take stock and realise that I had, my whole life, felt that I DIDN’T MATTER. My wife had her own problems (suicide attempt, several periods of up to 3 months in St Pat’s). Her father and elder brother never missed an opportunity to undermine my credibility. The brother teaches in ITT, but has little real understanding or hands on experience of his subject !
    I joined the local “Grow” group which was a great help, but in recent months, I haven’t had the strength to cope with other people’s problems. Right now, I am marking time, and not looking forward to the approaching winter. The one bright spot is my daughter who I would kill or die for. 23y/o, with a BSc, she is one of the best humans that I know. Considerate, polite, eloquent, and passionate about the environment and the outdoors, I am immensely proud of her.

    1. Hi Shane, so sorry for the slow response. I completely understand that sense of not mattering, not being important, it’s something I’ve always struggled with as well, and am only now coming to realise that not only is it ok, but absolutely vital, to take care of myself and put myself first sometimes. I hope things have picked up for you since you wrote the above and that you’ve been able to access support again. I was never particularly fond of groups for similar reasons – have you tried private therapy? Hope you’re doing ok.

  19. My name is Margaret. I am in my early 40’s. I have manic depression and without a doubt im a rollercoaster to live with. My husband is a patient man! I am going through a very difficult time emotionally and i dont know why! im not on medication as that didnt help matters, and i tried!!!! i have periods of great happiness..rainbow happiness and then a storm cloud appears and poof! i dont want to leave the house. i put off doing things. i eat a lot! my husband works in the evenings until late. i have a son who is 20 and lives nearby. He has Aspergers and ADHD. LIfe hasnt been plain sailing for us as a family over the years. My son moved into his own flat in May. I find the emptiness in the house horrendous. i have a jack russell, hes a rescue, he wont walk too far as he has a fear of anything that makes noise! i have tried to find work. im a qualified carer but genuinely dont want to do that anymore. i have a close friend but she has her own crap going on so i wouldnt dream of talking to her. i dont really have other friends. i can talk to anyone but find it difficult to form friendships. i love to walk and bake but i genuinely have no interest in either.
    The only way i can describe is that i feel like my power is failing. i love my family so much but i feel incredibly lonely. i have told my husband but i can see hes lost as to help. i have tried therapy but i was told i was stressing them out! nice! i have tried CBT and found it worked for a while but when stress formed in my life i lost focus of my path. I was sent by my GP to a wellness group and the thing was they were all ladies 20 years and more older than me and it was emotionally draining to listen. i felt so selfish but couldnt allow myself to slip into others sadness. im not giving up on life! i love the feeling of the wind gushing through my hair, putting on my wellies and walking in the rain! i love to smell coffee when i pass a shop and get lost in Dublin city. i live in the country! Ive just hit a bump and ive no energy to climb over it.
    i just saw your page and it was like a lot of what you had written had come from my brain! though im sure you find a lot of people feel that way. im going to work through the storm cloud to see the sunshine. i just need to find the way 😊

    1. You will find the way Margaret, one of these days. It really is a rollercoaster, I’ve been doing really well for a while but after a hectic few weeks my anxiety is through the roof again and I’m going to have to work really hard to bring it back down. I’m starting to realise that I’m not going to ‘fix’ things once and for all, partly because I’m not broken, but also partly because life is challenging and I’m incredibly sensitive. I’m learning to take time for myself, to do what I know helps (wind in my hair is one of them 🙂 ) Today, I have a list of ‘shoulds’ that need to be done, but catching up with stuff I’ve let build up is giving me a sense of achievement which is helping me calm down so……..yeah. It’s about recognising what we need and then somehow having the wherewithal to make it happen. And also not beating ourselves up when we can’t!

      As for therapists telling you you’re stressing them out??! They’re clearly in the wrong job. Don’t give up on looking for support, it can take time to find someone you click with. Took me 5 tries but then I hit gold.

      Hope you’re doing ok, enjoy your jack 🙂 I have two, cracked, the pair of them

  20. Hi Fiona,
    I will try to keep this as brief as possible but after reading your article I felt the need to speak about my own experiences.
    A quick background, I was diagnosed after the usual circus with Bi-Polar nearly 12 years ago, this was just after leaving a high profile job because I felt I wasn’t doing my job well enough (I didn’t know at the time that this was the start of the cycle of depression, something which I now realise I have had since 13/14 years old). The usual mixes and cocktails of meds were tried until finally 1200mg Lithium (max dosage) and 60mg Cymbalta were subscribed. I stayed on these meds for 10 years until I decided with the help of the Psychiatrist that it was time to try and come off them. This started in November 2014 and I cleared all meds by April 2015. Just before I quit I discovered accidentally that my diagnosis had changed a few of years ago to BPD/Emotional Disregulation (Psychiatrist never told me).
    My reasoning for coming off the meds was because I felt it was causing too many other problems –
    1. Weight gain – I had gone from 12.5 stone to 18.5 stone while on meds. Like you said I was eating to stay awake and survive. Coke, sweets, cake anything that would get me through the day. Since coming off meds I have started going to the gym, eating healthy and cutting the junk and by Christmas 2015 I was down to 13.5 stone. I believe the meds were the main reason for the gain and I believe they cause constipation, stomach complaints etc. that I just ignored.
    2. I developed Sleep Apnoea because of the weight gain and spent 5 years with an oxygen mask on my face until February this year. Most people who get Sleep Apnoea never get rid of it but I managed to because of the significant weight loss.
    3. I developed Blood Pressure problems and these required me to go on further meds to relieve the symptoms.
    4. During my time on meds I took up smoking, something that I was completely against and I still can’t understand why I did it. I only stayed on them for 5 years before quitting and I haven’t looked back. Lucky I gave up drink before I started meds and have never thought of going back.
    5. The biggest problem that I had was, I now feel as if I was living in a haze or fog. Looking back now and with the help of some therapy, I can see I worked crazy hours with the reasoning that this was the right thing to do, I neglected family and when I was there I was a nightmare. Short tempered, angry and at times not been a good parent or partner. Some of the things that went on my head were absolutely crazy. It’s almost like someone else was living my life and sabotaging it. I cut ties with my mother and sister, I was doing things on the spur of the moment and everything was falling around me except I never noticed because the meds kept me in this wishy-washy zone where I felt everything was ok and I was indestructible.
    6. I feel that the meds have done long term damage to my personality (taken away the things people liked about me) they also have definitely affected my memory (especially of the last 10 years) and my attention span has been eroded. These are things that I am trying to fix on a day to day basis
    Since coming off the meds I have managed to repair a lot of the damage, fix relationships and generally see things a lot clearer but this has come at a cost also.
    In July 2015 I had 2 major panic/anxiety attacks, the first was after my sister in laws wedding in Galway when I was back in the hotel with my 2 children (at 6am my son had to talk me into going asleep, he was only 16 but he has seen all the phases of my illness), the second I was working on opening a shop in Newbridge (I had opened all the stores from start to finish for the company since they first started in 2004). It had been one of the more troublesome shops and the night before the staff were due to start, I got home at 11.30pm from work and I cried all the way home. As I got in the door my son asked me what’s wrong, I broke down again and balled my eyes out. After 2 weeks off work and the terror of been given Zipoclodin to help me sleep (it did the opposite and drove me crazy), I went back to work with a small dose of Diazepam in case I needed it. I opened 2 more stores before December (I had done CBT with Aware, Meditation and Hypnosis in October and November) and then I crashed again. These months were a nightmare for my wife as I was all over the shop. This time my Psych gave me a month off, when I went back to work in January it was a gradual step back into the swing of things. I was getting back on my feet and I felt good. I even booked 2 breaks for my wife and I as we hadn’t been away since our children were born and I had finally saved some money. Then my MD decided he had had enough and I was given 2 months off with pay to get myself sorted (I felt this was the wrong time as I was getting back into the swing of things, also they paid for weekly therapy as I could not get it from the local clinic). But before I left I was given an option – take a demotion of 3 places back to working in a shop which was over an hours travel from my house or redundancy. I took the redundancy as I felt a lot of paranoia but also I felt after 12 years killing myself for them that this wasn’t the right way to be treated. My son had got a chance to go to Liverpool to play football but he didn’t want to go alone. I said I would go and maybe it might be a fresh start. I organised everything but when I got to Liverpool within a couple of weeks I was getting panic attacks because I couldn’t get work. After 6 weeks my son got homesick and we both decided to come home. I’m now back home 4 weeks and I still haven’t found a job because I am either under qualified (no degrees) or over qualified because of my previous work.
    I’m sorry I had to go on so long but sitting here now I know that if I was on meds this mess would be a lot worse but that if the doctors had subscribed therapy at the beginning I may have had a better chance of getting through the last 12 years. At present I no longer get dark depressed days but instead I get days of confusion. I am trying to get back on the right paths but sometimes I can’t. There has to be a better way of dealing with Mental Health than just prescribing drugs or labelling people. There has to be a better system because I know the effect my illness has had on the other members of my family and they got no support from anyone despite everything I went through.

    One final point, I want to thank you for being so open about your Mental Health and everything it involves. It does inspire me and others to try different methods and to not just accept the illness and get dragged down by it. I just wish I had to courage to be as open, I’m afraid that from my experiences there is still a taboo and that it would affect any future job prospects. I talked to a few close colleagues and they were helpful at the start but since I left the company only 1 or 2 check to see how things are.

    Thank you for reading this hopefully it sheds further light on the ups and downs of meds,
    Eamonn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *