Tag Archive | Mood

Angels & Demons

Firstly, apologies to any Dan Brown fans reading this post who maybe thought that the title refers to his 2000 bestseller, Angels & Demons. I hope you are not too disappointed.

Instead, during the week I was reminded of a famous quote by Tennessee Williams whilst I was discussing my experience of depression with a colleague. You may, or may not know that Williams was a homosexual in an age when being gay was less tolerated than today and it caused him much angst. When encouraged to “change” his sexuality his response was;

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels”

 Since openly admitting to my long-term experiences of depression I can identify with this as I feel strongly that I am a better person for having had this illness, battled through it and am now in a position to help others do the same. By diverting the energy previously used in hiding my illness and pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I am now much more creative and have found that I have rediscovered talents and abilities long forgotten and buried under the black clouds of depression.

Other advantages include me having a much more compassionate nature and attitude to others who may find themselves feeling vulnerable and not functioning in their personal, family or work environment. I find that I am much less judgmental than many and much more tolerant of people’s often uncharacteristic behaviour when clearly not themselves.

I have always been open and honest with my teenage son Will about my depression and low moods and he has often borne the brunt of them. He has grown up with an understanding of this illness and has always been a credit to himself, his friends, his teachers, his family and his football team regardless of difficult patches in his life when I have been unable to support him as much as I would have liked. He is by nature very caring and with the additional experience of living with a mum who is often debilitated by depression he has developed a tolerance towards any of his friends and school colleagues who show signs of stress and other mental illnesses such as mild Asperger’s syndrome and autism. His friends will often gravitate towards him for advice when needed and like me, he has had to learn to “offload” some of this responsibility occasionally so that his mood is not adversely affected. He does this admirably and I am confident that he will be an amazing support for all his friends in future.   

Watching TV this morning, I saw a feature about Angie Stevens who suffered very badly from post-natal depression and whose husband gave her some sketch books in the hope that she would be able to express herself by her drawing and return to something that she excels at. His astute gift worked and she gradually recovered by sketching her 3 children every day and writing a Blog about her experiences. Sketching is something she is good at which gave her confidence and something to focus on. Writing the Blog encouraged her to post regularly and again, was a big focus in helping her to recover.  

Check out Doodlemum it is simply brilliant.

And just think, if she hadn’t had her demons, we wouldn’t be sharing her “Angels” now.

 

ATC Saturday

I woke up this morning feeling very tired, frazzled and unrested which led me to I think that the past few weeks have finally caught up with me just as I knew they would. My mood is grumpy and wavers between teary and angry. I am generally unsettled and frustrated with feeling out of sorts.

I know that it will pass and that I need to be patient. I have to rest and ensure that I sleep well and not fret about things that I have no control over. Easier said than done but needs must.

Today I have therefore abandoned the mountain of ironing, consigned the Hoover to the corner and left the washing in the basket. Instead, I have swapped being a “Domestic Goddess” for being an “Artiste”. I have been making ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) mainly because these take no time at all to complete and they are perfect for me to do in my current state of flux. Flux for me means that my concentration levels are poor and as I can’t face starting any bigger projects I now have more ATCs to add to my collection.

I laugh at myself as the point of ATCs is to trade them with other craft-bunnies but I haven’t got round to that yet and so they are accumulating in piles around my workspace.

Here are today’s efforts….

Goals are dreams with deadlines…

so it says on Page 1 of my running programme. Well, I have achieved the one goal I set for myself today; Run 1, Week 1 complete. Big tick. Let’s eat a bar of chocolate to celebrate. (Only joking)

The “run” was much harder than I thought it would be, part of me still in denial that I am now 3 1/2 stones heavier than I was 3 years ago when I was running 5k three times a week and enjoying it. Still, who is to say that this time next year I won’t be 3 1/2 stones lighter and running 5k three times a week and enjoying it? It has to be one step at a time and for those who are familiar with the Depression Alliance, their motto of “A journey of a thousand miles begins with single step” is inspirational when pounding away on the treadmill. Wise words indeed and one of the many mantras that kept me going through my 27 minutes of exercise.

27 minutes of exercise? That’s not even half an hour.

There was a time when I would laugh in the face of 27 minutes of exercise being an achievement. I would deride it as insignificant and a waste of time. Hah! I know different now and am much more tolerant and supportive of anyone who does any exercise for however long-good on them as I know what it’s like to haul yourself off the sofa and start something new.

On that basis, I have just performed miracles! 

Exercise & depression-the debate

Personally I have always found that moderate exercise helps my depression and low moods and, as long as I don’t overdo it (easier said than done when blessed with a highly competitive personality) it is definitely beneficial to my recovery from depression and low mood. In fact, everyone I speak to has said the same so I was surprised to learn that there is some debate about the impact of exercise on mental health and that one study in particular has found that partaking in an exercise activity of their choice had no impact in the population who took part.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18335173

Having just restarted on the exercise trail I won’t be unduly influenced by these findings and, like many depressed others, will continue to reap the mental and physical benefits of my exercise exploits whatever they may be.

So don’t stop now!

Mens sana in corpore sano…….

Free time……

For anyone fighting the symptoms of depression and mental illness you will appreciate that “free time” is at a premium.  By the time you have argued repeatedly with yourself that you need to get up, shower, clean your teeth and get going on the day’s activities, forced yourself to go through the motions of eating, working, cleaning, the school-run or just staring vacantly out of the window all day, you have probably used up all your energy and find that day after day, there is no free time. It is such a negative cycle to spin round in but it’s hard to escape. Depression saps your energy and enthusiasm. It dulls the senses and days seem to merge into weeks and months seamlessly.

I know how that feels but I’m lucky. I have managed to shake off the shroud of doom and gloom and am now enjoying life as I’ve not known it for a long time.  So what does this mean for me?  It means that I now have “free time”. Time to enjoy my hobbies, relax, sleep well and recover between work days. Weekends can be spent with friends, planning activities for next week and I actually found time to do some ironing and sort my wardrobe out today. This may not sound like much, and these are things that folk take for granted but being preoccupied with negativity and suffering from mental exhaustion 24/7 leaves no time to spare. A vicious circle indeed.

I am much more discerning about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I can do that now I have the time to think about it rather than stumble along “making do” and my life is much richer as a result.

I don’t have the answers to depression. I only know that from my experience there is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel and things will and do get better.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

By Emily Dickinson1830–1886
 
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Life without anti-depressants….

is good and getting easier.

Many years of CBT treatment are without doubt helping but I still have my reservations about the extent of the benefits with particular types of depression. I do enjoy challenging my thoughts and assumptions and proving myself “wrong” but have to say that being a hyper-sensitive and very observant person, my first instincts are usually right. Hence the limitations of the CBT approach.

Since I have stopped “taking the tablets” my head is clearer and my level of reasoning and ability to follow up on my conclusions have much improved. I have more energy and interest in certain parts of my life which had been sorely neglected. I am also now able to streamline and tailor my life to suit me and my needs.

Looking back I was clearly ready to ditch the meds for a while but without doubt used them as a crutch during some difficult times. Not wanting to jeopardise the equilibrium that they provided with reduced effort on my part I kept popping the pills. That’s fine and it was right for me at the time but no more. This is my time and I intend to enjoy it without the brain fog that  the ADs induced when I didn’t need them.  

There is no one solution to this illness and it would be extremely arrogant and ill-informed of me to say otherwise. You have to find your own answer but it can be done.

Good luck.

Note: No one should stop taking medication without consulting their medical practitioner. If you are considering stopping your meds, seek guidance from your GP/CPN/psychiatrist/psychologist.

 

I’m clean!

I still have to pinch myself but I am now on week 5 living drug-free. No Fluoxetine (Prozac) and no Amitryptyline. For the first time in several years I am off the anti-depressants and  in charge of my life. I’m sleeping well and feel calmer and more content than I have done for a good many years.

I’m not saying that it’s always easy as it most definitely is not. I’m not happy, smiley all the time but who is? Small set-backs can still produce tears of despair and frustration and Monday mornings ain’t great. So it is for most people.

I have worked hard at getting to this stage and I should be proud of my efforts. However, caution makes me very modest and I take nothing for granted. I just enjoy every day as it comes and every day I cope without meds is another secret triumph. I’ve had a couple of really crap days. Serious issues at work combined with minor frustrations would normally have condemned me to a tearful, hopeless and helpless victim of circumstance. But that old chestnut ” Keep calm and carry on” symbolises my approach to the various hurdles I’ve had to face over the last 48 hours and it worked.

My psychologist always told me that the best cure for depression is how you live your life. It all sounds so easy and we have had many a debate about his apparent all too easy attitude towards the treatment of depression but I do understand what he means. My life has changed for the better since I have indulged my creative tendencies and not pooh-poohed them as an extravagance. For me now, to be creative is a necessity and an outlet which must be allowed to function daily for as long as necessary. If that means I am up to all hours making things, writing, painting, or just thinking up ideas then so be it. It is no longer a luxury. It’s a must and it keeps me sane.

What more of a reason do I need?

Day by day

Showing people that having bouts of depression is nothing to be ashamed of, alarmed at or permanently debilitating gives me great satisfaction and, although I could do better myself by following my advice, I’m still here and living life as best I can.

Depression is something that many of us have to live with and coping on a day by day basis is the only way forward. It is difficult to plan when you see no future or have no energy to spend beyond getting past the next milestone. But we must all remember that depression is only one part of our make-up and does not need to define who we are on a daily basis.

 I have been very lucky to have received psychological support and guidance from a highly qualified and experienced practitioner and I have benefited enormously from his expertise. However, despite all the clinical diagnoses and treatment, the medication and science, his mantra for depression is and always has been; ” The best cure for depression is how you live your life”.

If any one of us can inspire and encourage those suffering with depression to start living their life again, do things they enjoy and engage with family and friends so that the “cure” can begin, then we should do so and take great pride in that. I am  thrilled therefore to introduce a new Blog to the world of WordPress which was born this week! Day by Day is a very personal account of one person’s struggle with depression and her attempts to overcome its influence on her life. I have known Sue for only a short time but already she is showing the positive signs of someone determined to beat depression once and for all. Good for her and may her Blog inspire many others to do the same.

Choices

Everyone has choices.

However, the ability to see choices rather than traps is very much dependent upon your state of mind and mood.  I know from personal experience that when self-esteem and confidence are at their lowest ebb events take on a sinister inevitability and I feel trapped and claustrophobic unable to manufacture the changes which would bring about an uplift in mood and fortune. It often feels like there is only one choice, Hobson’s Choice,  very restrictive and unrewarding. This is perhaps ok when buying a car…..”any colour as long as it’s black” (Henry Ford) but faced with life’s choices it is demoralising and depressing.

At no point should major life-changing decisions be made when feeling below par but you can and should take comfort from the belief that your choices will still be there waiting for you when you feel stronger and have more energy to tackle the underlying issues with confidence.

Frustrating as it is, you will need to be forgiving of yourself during dark times and a lowering of personal expectations will help to put things into perspective and recover your mood more quickly than if you remain stubbornly self-critical. The choice is yours-be kind to yourself. Trust in those friends, family and colleagues who are supportive of your fears and anxieties and beware of those that don’t.

When faced with difficult choices, I also know that it is all to easy to hide behind your low mood, taking refuge in the hope that problems will miraculously disappear. They rarely do and denying that choices exist and avoiding the issue will only add to the negative downward spiral into disappointment and a self-fulfilling perception that you are a weak and ineffective person. It is not true. You probably just need time to recover your equilibrium. Try not to deny that you have choices but instead acknowledge that choices are there but now is not the time to make important decisions. This is a positive action and will help restore confidence as you start to regain control.

Chose to believe. Chose your friends and most importantly, chose to love yourself.

9000 and counting….

Even with a bit of a break over the summer, I am amazed to notice that more that 9,000 views are registered against my posts since the Blog’s inception last November. The competitor in me hopes that I will make the 10,000 mark by the end of October as it seems a nice round number but honestly, something I never in my wildest dreams expected was such a loyal readership when I started on my journey.

I know that some people get millions of hits (Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor stats) for their blog posts but I am so grateful and proud of everyone who has taken time to read my efforts. It is very humbling and I only hope that in some small way I can help others open up and talk about their depression without fear of stigma and discrimination. The latest stats about mental illness is that 1 in 4 of us will suffer during our lifetime.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that in the next 20 years depression will become the most common cause of ill-health worldwide, overtaking heart disease. We need to be able to recognise symptoms early to improve the speed and chance of recovery and we can only do this if we raise awareness by talking about it.

I’m doing my bit :)