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Thinking Day

For all you ex-Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, you may remember that 22 February is Thinking Day. Today was chosen as it was the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell and his wife Olave, who founded the Scouting movement.

You don’t have to be associated with Guides or Scouts to “think” and I for one will be thinking of friends and family at home today.

One of my closest and most special friends will be seeing their psychologist for the first time today. I will be thinking of them and wish them well with the appointment.  I so hope that it provides the support needed and recovery is speeded up as a result. “Good Luck *******”.  I may be thousands of miles across the world but I’m with you in spirit.

BIG hugs!


Stop worrying by Patrick Lindsay

Separate the anxiety from the problem
If you can’t change things,
worrying about them won’t help.
Allow things to take their course.
Options will open up.
Work out what you can do,
then do it.
When you stop worrying,
you think clearly.

What’s something you never believed until you experienced it?

I never believed that I’d find my soul-mate but I have. It has taken a while but the experience is worth waiting for and I feel complete. The last piece of the jigsaw slotted into place.

So what’s a soul-mate for me? It’s a person with whom I have an immediate connection the moment we communicate. A connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before.  My soul-mate understands and connects with me  in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when I am in touch.  And when I am not around them, I am all the more aware of the harshness of life and how bonding with them is a really important part of my life. It is an affinity which you can’t explain but never take for granted.  A soul- mate makes you more aware of the beauty in life and because I have been given a great gift I will always be thankful.

Hurry Down Sunshine

I have read many books about depression but I have never read such a wonderfully written, poignant and honest account of this illness which focuses on the effects of bi-polar depression on the family of the patient, Michael’s daughter Sally,  rather than the patient themselves. That is not so say that Sally, her symptoms and recovery, are overlooked, and reading this book as a parent myself, I felt every sympathy for Michael. I come from a family which has been affected by depression for generations and I live in constant fear that my 15 year old son will present symptoms at some point. I hope not, and so far so good. But how would you cope if your child went mad overnight, which is what seemingly happened to Sally Greenberg, Michael’s teenage daughter.

Michael and his family suddenly have to deal with Sally’s apparent swift descent into manic depression and her extreme highs and lows. Behaviour which they had previously thought of as typically adolescent.  This all changed when Sally was brought home by the police one evening after she had run into a busy road thinking she could stop the traffic. Sally was subsequently admitted for inpatient psychiatric care  and then come the real battles. The family experience the prejudice and the stigma towards mental illness, the heart breaking affect of the strong anti-depressant and mood stabilising drugs that Sally had to take to get her back on the road to recovery and the overwhelming feeling of guilt that they should have spotted the early signs of psychosis earlier and somehow prevented the breakdown. Frightening stuff and Michael does not shy away from the problems experienced by the whole family as they come to terms with Sally’s illness and the realisation that she will never be the same.

Although I found this book to be a positive and intimate account of  Michael’s experiences, don’t expect a happy ending. Bi-polar depression doesn’t go away overnight and the book ends with a summary of Sally’s troubled life to date which gives the reader an indication of the hard work, perseverance and self-awareness that people like Sally have to demonstrate just to lead a life. It is energy sapping just to read about it, but hopefully, this heart-warming story of survival will help people understand a little more about mental illness and it’s effect on everyone concerned and perhaps make them want to learn more.

A great read-*****

Michael and Sally talk to The Times March 2009

Friends

Depression is miserable, and the chances are that if your family and friends have not encountered someone with depression or low moods before, they will have little idea how to help you. They may be embarrassed, feel awkward and frustrated with your continued apathy and apparent hostiity and often they drift away on a wave of helplessness.

It need not be so however, and with a little help from your friends, things can start to improve very quickly. So what can be done to help your friends understand and support you when in the depths of despair, or maybe feeling just a little low?  Here are a few tips from someone who has benefited from the much needed strength and enduring patience of her wonderful friends and family, without whom I would have self-destructed years ago.

“A friend is one who knows all about you and likes you anyway” (Christi May Warner)

Firstly, it’s good to talk.  In my book, a friend is someone you can talk to without fearing reprisals or judgement and who can share your concerns with compassion and impartiality. If you can talk to your friend, you should be able to overcome the barriers of embarassment and stigma surrounding depression quite quickly and discover that a problem shared feels infinitely much better than a problem stewing away inside, draining you of the energy and resolve to find a solution. So next time you get invited round for a cup of tea and a chat, go.

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down” (Oprah Wnfrey)

Moodscope.com-A really useful on-line interactive tool for helping you and your friends to monitor your moods and provide support when needed.  Each day you can track your mood by answering a few questions and will  receive your Moodscope score, a percentage between 0 and 100, indicating how happy or sad you are. You can also nominate a “buddy or buddies” to receive the results so they can monitor your moods and ascertain the level of support you may find useful on any particular day. A great way to keep in touch and prevent withdrawal, a common sympton of depression.

What does depression feel like?

A difficult emotion to explain and an almost impossible one to understand, depression comes in many different guises and is complex and unpredictible. It is crucial however that friends try to understand how depression may affect a person, and the symptoms it can produce. This poem tries to explain to non-sufferers what it feels like.

Caroline’s Poem

Learn to accept help-a friend in need is a friend indeed

Remember, a friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself. They are precious. Don’t lose them.

Sometimes it is difficult to accept help when you are depressed and not in a position to reciprocate whether it be emotional or practical support that is needed. “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” (Bernard Mettzer) and will come to your aid regardless by not necessarily taking “No thank you” or “I’m fine” as your final answer. Clearly everyone will be different and have to be treated sensitively but often friends can be more firm than they think without causing distress or offence to the person depressed. Kid-gloves are often required, but some cajoling and persistence will also be appreciated on occasions.

Top-Tips for friends

DO

Be patient and understanding. Make it clear that it is not the person you are frustrated with, just the illness.

Keep in touch either by visits, phone calls, emails or texts. Facebook and email can be useful if leaving the house is a problem.

Encourage healthy eating and exercise habits

Show that you care by learning about depression, it’s symptoms and impact.

Offer practical as well as emotional support. This often frees up much needed “me” time

Expect the unexpected. It’s a rocky road and a rollercoaster ride for everyone. Be prepared.

DON’T

Tell your friend to “pull yourself together”-they are not curtains.

Expect too much.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Encourage the consumption of alcohol. It doesn’t solve underlying issues and is a depressant.

Remember, a real best friend is someone who can see the truth and pain in you while you are fooling the rest.

That’s what a friend means to me.

Soul mates

Does your soul mate have to be your life-long partner, or can they be a fabulous friend without the complication of sex or intimacy?

Trust is paramount in any relationship and whilst you may love someone very much, you might not be able to trust them with everything. You might feel that you have to keep secrets from them. If you  find a soulmate you will be able to tell them anything.  All  your hopes, dreams, and even your deepest secrets should be safe with your soulmate. But, although that would be nice,  it doesn’t have to be the person you spend your life with.

So what’s a soul mate for me? It’s a person with whom I have an immediate connection the moment we communicate. A connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before.  My soulmate understands and connects with me  in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when I am in touch.  And when I am not around them, I am all the more aware of the harshness of life and how bonding with them is a really important part of my life. It is an affinity which you can’t explain but never take for granted.  A soul mate makes you more aware of the beauty in life and because I have been given a great gift I will always be thankful.

How to survive Christmas and enjoy it!

I have often wondered how so many people seem to sail through the festive season in a waft of present buying, entertaining, endless visiting, relentless smiling, effortlessly sprinkling all in their path with the Season’s Glad Tidings. I honestly have no idea, but this year I have decided to challenge myself one last time in 2010 and enjoy a happy  and harmonious Christmas.

This is not easy for me. I like my peace and quiet, I’m not good in crowds, I prefer routine and home comforts and I don’t enjoy the false, commercial, ringing-of-the-tills financially and emotionally demanding 12 days or so which saps the soul. 

Bah Humbug! 

So how am I going to turn Christmas from being a right pain in the arse, to the enjoyable, family-friendly, relaxing and reflective period it should be? I’m not sure but perhaps these tips will help me cope with the onslaught.

                                                       

Don’t overspend– a difficult one especially if you, like me, have children. There is no absolute answer to this dilemma but I am determined to keep to a pre-determined budget. 

 Shop online– Hurray for Amazon and Tesco I say. Gone are the days when I get up at 3am on Christmas Eve to do the food shopping. Order early and watch the weather forecast like a hawk. If it snows, you may be disappointed and end up eating fish fingers for Christmas Dinner. 

Keep it simple-Christmas may not be the best time to experiment in the kitchen. Even the best-loved chocolate soufflé can collapse if nurtured by the drunken chef. If I can manage a traditional roast dinner so can you so stick with what you know rather than putting yourself under unneccesary pressure.

Alcohol-It’s just too tempting isn’t it? Don’t fall into the trap of self-medication to get through Christmas. Chances are it will loosen both the tongue and the willpower both with disastrous results! And remember, it is a depressant.

Lists- You can never have enough lists at Christmas. Food list, present list and the dreaded Christmas card list. How about a kitchen duty list to help spread the workload over the holiday?  This is not the time to prove you are Superman or Superwoman…..try and organise some rest time into your arrangements.

Families- If you are lucky enough to have a harmonious family count your blessings. But don’t forget that Christmas can test the very best of family relationships. If, on the other hand, you consider your family to be dysfunctional and argumentative, chances are it will be no different at Christmas. Avoid contentious topics such as politics and football and try to avoid competitive or combative games if they have caused arguments previously. 

Back to basics-peace and quiet, log fires, appreciating friends and family, walking the dog, listening to music, generally taking “time-out” should be a priority. Try it. 

Communicate-don’t stew in the corner. Keep talking and discuss your feelings and concerns. After drinking Snowballs for the last 20 years, this may be the year to confess that you don’t like advocaat.                                                                                            

So bearing all this in mind, I hope that you are able to make your Chrsistmas a very happy and healthy one and we can all look forward to a wonderful 2011.  In the words of the Ministry of Information during WWII, “Keep Calm and Carry on”.          

BUT

If all else fails, join us on the Depression Alliance Facebook page on Christmas day for some chat, banter, support and much needed friendship from those who know just how you feel!

                                                                    

Dream Alliance-overcoming the odds

I have always loved horses. Majestic, elegant, powerful creatures, full of character and stubborn determination. I have had several “favourites” in my time including Desert Orchid, Sefton, Milton, Master Oats, Tingle Creek and now, Dream Alliance.

Dream Alliance: from slag heap alotment to Grand National hopeful

The fact that Dream Alliance should be challenging the great Denman in the Hennessy at Newbury tomorrow (currently 66-1), weather permitting, and defending his Welsh National title in December is a miracle in itself and I know that his rags-to-riches story of serious injuries, recoveries and subsequent triumphs has made grown men weep. I know. I’ve seen them. So why is this horse so special?

Dream Alliance  was reared on a Welsh allottment above an old slag heap in Cefn Fforest, and is owned by a syndicate of amateurs including an ASDA cleaner, pub landlord, and a tax colleague of mine who heads up the syndicate, Howard Davies.  Almost 2 years ago when “The Dream” was developing nicely and showing great promise he struck into his tendon running at Aintree and  the vets at Liverpool University gave him no chance of racing again. Slicing through the tendons would normally sound the death knell for a racehorse but this is no ordinary syndicate of owners. They decided that experimental stem-cell treatment was the best option for the horse and the team invested a sizeable chunk of the Dream’s retirement fund into the rescue programme. Their faith was repaid when Dream Alliance won the Welsh National last Christmas at Chepstow and then gave the owners a fabulous experience at Aintree in the Spring when he ran in the Grand National itself. A real fairytale for all concerned and a fantastic example of triumph over adversity. What an inspiration this horse and his owners are and I would love to see the proposed film come to fruition and take the cinemas by storm.

They never gave up hope. They cared for their horse and made sure that he received the best possible care and opportunity to come back and show everyone his true spirit.

I am a huge fan of this horse and win or lose this week or next month I will still  send him his favourite treat of Polos or Extra Strong mints via Howard.

He’s a star and he deserves them.

Read more about Dream Alliance;

Santa Run for Depression Alliance

  Hi,

A momentous year in the life of Caroline Ashrafi is about to come to a close and I’d like to finish it off by raising much-needed funds for the Depression Alliance. A charity which does so much for both those with depression and supporters of friends and family with depression. 

With just over a week to go, I took an inventory of the accessories required; Personalised Santa Hat (check), Ear-muffs (check), Wristband Sleigh Bells (on order), Santa socks (on their way)To date I have raised just over £900 so am hoping to crack the £1,000 before the 6th. I would love you to sponsor me now and help me reach my target of £1,000.00. Donating through this site is simple.

Doitfor charity 

My charity will receive your money quickly and easily, and, if you are a UK taxpayer an extra 28% in tax will be added to your gift at no cost to you. Your support is much appreciated.

Thank you everyone who has supported me so far….the photos will be worth it for sure!