The good old days

Some of you may have seen this doing the rounds on Facebook but I love it (even though it makes me feel very old)

As a child I saw Tarzan almost naked, Cinderella arrived home after midnight, Pinocchio told lies, Aladdin was a thief, Batman drove over 200 miles an hour, Snow White lived in a house with 7 men, Popeye smoked a pipe and had tattoos, Pac Man ran around to digital music while eating pills that enhanced his performance, and Shaggy and Scooby were mystery solving hippies that always had the munchies.

Those were the days!



Illusion. Something that a person wrongly supposes to exist. A false belief about the nature of something.

Illusionist. A person who produces illusions. A conjuror.

Right on both counts but as with many illusions, when you discover how they are carried out, a tad disappointing. Empty. Lacking in substance. Devoid of conviction. False.


Inner peace

“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”

Something which does not come naturally or easy to me is much longed-for peace of mind. Always opinionated, passionate and incessantly active my mind chatters away leading to mental and physical exhaustion when I fail to switch off. This year in particular has been emotionally draining and has left me with an underlying craving for peace. Clearly this is something I need to work on if I am to avoid a similar burn-out which I experienced early in November. Nothing is worth that awful feeling of impending doom, hopelessness and lack of control over my emotions, concentration levels and sleep patterns. I need to become more emotionally intelligent, confident in my ability to say “no” and gain authority over my inner self.

In the last week of 2010  I start to think ahead to the new year beginning on Saturday and what I can do to improve my quality of life without depriving myself of all those things I enjoy.  After some soul-searching and contemplation I have decided to make just one Resolution.  I will work towards attaining inner peace. Easier said than done I fear but sheer determination can overcome many hurdles and I am determined to succeed. Failure is not an option if I am to avoid melt-down in what  will  be another busy year.  I believe that if I can acquire some equilibrium and become happy with myself then everything else will fall into place. This year, I refuse to put myself under pressure to lose weight, get fit or work fewer hours. Instead, by focussing on what I enjoy doing and making time to relax, I will achieve a balance right for me.

So having determined my goal for 2011 I need to work out how best to meet the result desired. I need a plan flexible enough for it not to become a chore and it must take into account my unpredictable work patterns.

I have all week to map out my route to success……and so my journey begins.

Lesson (2) to be learned

Back in May when I admitted to my friends, family and colleagues that I had been treated for depression for the last thirty years I was besieged by an onslaught of congratulatory, inspirational and supportive messages.  Whilst I had prepared myself for the announcement I was not prepared for this display of  overwhelming appreciation and amazing outpouring of positivity. Why had I left it so long?

Out of all the messages I received, and there were hundreds, one stood out. At the time, I didn’t understand why but it meant a lot to me and I said as much to the sender. We both shed a few tears at the time, but I didn’t really know why. Only that I felt very moved.

Six months later, I am not just moved, but incredibly humbled not only by the original comments but now also the subsequent admission by the sender of that message.

Only yesterday, this person thanked me again for my bravery in admitting to my mental illness. Welling up with tears and clearly struggling with mixed emotions, she told me that I have helped and inspired her to come to terms with her brother’s death from epilepsy. Up to now she has been unable to face this tragedy and I knew nothing of this. She went on to say that for the first time this year she has bought her Christmas cards from an epilepsy charity. Again, this is something she has wanted to do previously, but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Following my email in May she thought “If  Caroline can do it, then so can I”.

Lesson 2-Is there a mosquito in the room?

I think that the best way to sum up this experience is firstly to say “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Someone you know may appear to have a lovely life, but you never know what is going on behind the scenes. There are not many people around who manage to avoid heartache at some point in their lives and, if you compare yourself and your lot with others, you may not be comparing like with like.

Secondly, I would like to quote Anita Roddick.

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

I never thought that my admission would have such an impact on others. If I had known, I would have done it much sooner. You can make a difference, however insignificant you think you are. Don’t underestimate yourself or your impact.

Lesson (1) to be learned

I’ve had a strange couple of days. Not at all unpleasant, and in fact better than I anticipated and therein lies the clue to the first lesson learned. I should really say lesson reinforced rather than learned as nothing that I have experienced over the past two days is anything new but it has been an opportunity to bring certain things to the forefront of my thinking and with a little self-awareness realise that old habits die-hard.

Lesson 1-The negative vicious circle of depression

Like many others, negative thinking is a real threat to my well-being and general outlook on life. Most of the time I manage to control those demon thoughts and they rebound immediately from my conscious the moment they fly in. A skill I have learned to execute perfectly over the years.  This week however, with a new lap-top scheduled at work, I let all those fears and dreaded predictions of disaster take hold so that I was not looking forward to this morning one bit. My mind was racing with thoughts about the loss of data, scrambling of documents, eradication of my contacts, and having to spend hours on the phone to our in-house Helpline to retrieve it all. I have little patience with IT equipment and gadgets and my philosophy is that if it comes with a manual, it’s too complicated. I want to get-and-go and from listening to others with their new laptops, that wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know whether my subconscious was also working overtime but I was awake and up at 04.00am this morning preparing for battle.

Needless to say, after all this energy and effort spent in worrying about something I had no control over it all went rather well and took much less time than anticipated. I still have all my contacts intact, no email derail, and even Facebook is better! (Ssshhhh!)

So next time you are tempted to look on the black side of everything, see the worst in yourself  or view the future as bleak, don’t.  Challenge those thoughts and put an end to those thinking errors.

You might save yourself a lot of heartache.

My DA friends…

Since I admitted to my depression back in May this year I have had the pleasure to meet and make friends with many many people who suffer with depression or other mental illness. Travelling around the UK, football used to be my chosen universal topic of conversation. Now it is mental health, depression and anxiety and, if I can combine the two, I’m ecstatic. So if you are a depressed football supporter (calling all Aston Villa fans!) I’m your mate!

In the past when asked who I admired and who inspired me I always thought of Karren Brady, current vice-chairman of West Ham United FC, business woman, mother, Sir Alan’s assistant on The Apprentice and someone who was back at work just 1 month after a brain operation. A role model for all the down-to-earth talented women everywhere. But, whilst I still admire her, she is no longer top of my list.

So who are at the top of my list of people whom I admire or inspire me?

I’ll tell you. All those people who frequent the Depression Alliance Face Book page. Those with or recovering from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia. Everyone who is still here despite the setbacks.  They are still here because underneath this beast of an illness they are strong, decent people. They have families who care for them; they are waiting for treatment for months on end but never give up hope; they are open and honest about their illness and most of all they inspire me to do the same when I’m not up to it.

So to all my new friends at DA, “Thank you for being you” I wouldn’t want it any other way and I hope that 2011 brings us all health and happiness because that’s all that matters.

Sod’s Law….

also known as  “Murphy’s Law” or “”Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

But why is it that…

You will always run out toothpaste on the morning of an appointment with the dentist.

You will always catch a cold within two weeks of starting a new job.

The cost of living will always rise to exceed your income.

If you buy a new one, the old one will turn up immediately.

Whichever way you turn on entering a lift, the buttons will be on the opposite side.

You make a mess of your home and you will always get visitors.

If you switch queues the one you just left will start to move faster than the one you are now in.

The telephone will always ring the moment you get into the bath.

At the cinema, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle will always arrive last.

The spot never appears until an hour before the first date.

Whenever you tell someone what you paid for an item, you will always immediately find out where you could have bought the same thing for less money.

The partner who snores loudest always falls asleep first.

The plate you break will never be the one that was chipped already.

Bags of rubbish leaning against the wall will always split and fall towards you.

The dog will only ever knock the vase over when it’s got water in.

Fuses never blow during the day and,

The phone always ring when you’re changing the baby’s nappy?

If you can provide the answers, please let us all know!

Thank you to “The Little Book of Handy Hints”

Acing depression

This time next week, many of us will be glued to the TV on Sunday evening waiting to see who will be voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2010. I worry sometimes about this award as many winners in the past  don’t seem to have much of a personality but perhaps I expect too much.

As an avid sports fan I have spent much of my life competing at various levels in a number of sports and  I am very competitive. Too competitive. I find failure incredibly difficult to deal with, and put too much pressure on myself to succeed. If you expect too much, you are frequently disappointed. The more you want to succeed, the more effort you expend trying to meet your goals. Unfortunately, I could not cope with this pressure mentally or physically and did not fulfill my sporting ambitions although I came close on occasions.  Disappointments which I still have to live with on a daily basis. My son Will has inherited these sporting genes and I now find it hard to stand back and not live my youthful ambitions through him-it’s hard.

As we know, depression can take over for no apparent reason, it just does, but I can also understand why sportsmen and women are prone to suffering from depression despite having monumental sporting talent and apparently having the world at their feet.

In his book, “Acing Depression-A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match “, the former US Number 1 tennis player Cliff Richey describes his clinical depression; “It lies at you 24/seven that nothing is worth doing. It’s a bully because it comes at you when you’re in a weakened condition.”

I can identify with that as I’m sure many of you can. Depression is rife amongst sportsmen and women and Cliff is one of those brave personalities who has admitted to his illness in order to educate others and help fellow sufferers come to terms with their illness. A brave move indeed.

Cliff Richey and his book ACING DEPRESSION

It is good to hear personal stories from high-achieving sportsmen about their experience of depression  because it makes you realise that it doesn’t matter whether you are an Olympic Gold Medallist, World Number 1, a multi-millionare or apparently unbeatable in your chosen sport, depression can take hold and make your life a misery without warning, and without discrimination. It doesn’t care who you are. You are just another victim to be gobbled up in an endless black pit of despair and despondency.

So what do other sports stars say about their experiences of depression?

Neil Lennon: Footballer- “It’s a bit like walking down a long, dark corridor never knowing when the light will go on.”

Paul Gascoigne: Footballer- “Everywhere I looked life seemed to be full of problems and they were just going to go on and on. It was never going to get any better.”

Frank Bruno: Boxer- “It’s like a kettle. If it’s a kettle, you turn the kettle off, you know what I mean? I wish I could put a hole in my head and let the steam come out. The steam was getting so high and the pressure was just getting a little bit much for me.”

Graeme Obree: Cyclist- “When you’re depressed, everything becomes distorted.”

Obree attempted suicide four times after suffering from repeated bouts of depression. He first tried to kill himself at the age of 19 by sniffing acetylene gas.

Dame Kelly Holmes: Athlete -“I became depressed and I cut myself with scissors and stuff.”

Serena Williams: Tennis Player- “I went through depression. I never even talked about it to my Mom. No one knew I was in therapy, but I was. I was so close to my sister.”

Serena suffered a slump in form and bouts of depression after her eldest sister Yetunde was killed in 2003.

Marcus Trescothic: Cricketer-“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t drink and, obviously, being in India that was a big problem. It quickly manifested itself after two or three days, after telling someone, ‘I can’t stay here any longer.’ My first reaction was, ‘I’m ill, I’ve got cancer or something.’ ”

Marcus talks about stigma

John Kirwan: All Black’s Rugby Player-“It just comes on you and it squeezes everything. Your heart races, you panic.”

Sol Campbell: Footballer- “People like to put people in little boxes and if you don’t fit you’re odd. But they don’t really know anything about me.”

Dean Robertson: Golfer- “Depression is an illness that can affect anyone.”

Sadly, not all sportsmen survive their experience of depression and end their lives prematurely. Robert Enke, German national footballer, David Bairstow, the England wicketkeeper, and Justin Fashanu, the football centre-forward, all took their own lives whilst suffering with depression.

Brian Moore writing in the Telegraph following  the BBC TV programme “Inside Sport” on depression last November said “We need more…. brave athletes, more discussion and less cynicism. It should not be thus, but if well known figures can be used to alter our attitude to mental illness then thousands of ‘ordinary’ people who suffer similarly might find the courage to ask for help.”

Hear. Hear.

I for one am looking forward to reading Brian’s own book called ” Beware of the Dog” which has recetly won him the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2010. Brian’s second autobiography details his experience of sexual abuse as a child and his subsequent battles with his low self esteem as well as outlining the highs and lows of his sporting career. It should be an enlightening read.

I have also read Andre Agassi’s “Open” and John McEnroe’s ” Serious” both of whom have fought their demons over the years and am fascinated by their honest and open approach.

Let’s hope that whoever wins on Sunday does not experience this beast of an illness but instead remains successful and most importantly, happy with their lot.

Useful links

Depression Alliance
Samaritans; Men on the Ropes

John Kirwan talks about his depression
Brian Moore-Beware of the Dog

Hugs-the ultimate antidepressant?

Is it the cold weather we are having or are people getting stressed over Christmas? Whatever the reason,  HUGS are definitely the order of the day. With a language of their own you can say a million words in a hug but the greatest thing about hugs  is that to give one you have to receive one. Everyone’s a winner with a hug!

You don’t need an excuse to give someone a hug and a hug can say anything you like. The next time you say to someone “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”, give them a hug. That hug says “I really mean it”.

Hugs can heal by passing on your strength through touch to anyone suffering from an illness or low mood. Apparently we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and twelve hugs a day for growth. You can never have too many hugs.

We all need to feel wanted and appreciated and a hug is the perfect way to reinforce these feelings. Whether between friends, family, partners or even a group hug, it feels good to belong.

A hug can make you feel safe and secure; A hug can signify forgiveness and acceptance; A hug can be serious or playful, a gentle squeeze or a rib-busting bear hug but without doubt there is a hug for all occasions.

Even if you can’t hug someone physically, there is no reason to miss out. There are plenty of virtual hugs available to send on-line and if you are texting or communicating on social networking sites, a hug is written as () (open and close brackets). A big hug is (()) and a REALLY big hug is ((()))! Go as big as you like.

Please be mindful however that for some, hugging can be uncomfortable and in some cases can cause fear and anxiety due to any number of reasons so be respectful in your approach to hugging. You may not always be welcomed with open arms. Thank you to Puncturerepairkit for reminding me of this very important viewpoint.

Until your next hug, here’s one from me to keep you going… ((((())))))!

You may also like;

The Hug Therapy Book-Kathleen Keating