Tag Archive | Bipolar disorder

The stigma of depression-hope at last

Many of those who read my blog regularly will know that I talk very openly and honestly about my experiences with depression and how it affects me day to day. I’ve recently been through a very dark and lonely few months but  thankfully those horrible black clouds have started to lift and I can get back to living my life. It won’t be a fast recovery. I’ve learnt not to rush things but instead to take my time (the wisdom that comes with age!)  and I still need plenty of rest so I can recharge my batteries which have been running on fresh air.

During the last few months I have continued to tell people about my depression in the hope that I can help others come to terms with their illness and seek proper help and I know from emails that I have had some success and have made a difference to quite a few people.  This is fantastic news  and is crucial in the fight against the stigma of mental health but still too many are afraid to talk about depression in case they are stigmatised. This only helps to perpetuate the illness and means that it can last longer than if help is sought early.

At the outset, my mission for 2011 was and still remains to help eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness and depression. I believe in this very personal campaign because everyone deserves a chance, and because depression can strike anybody at any time often leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. We  all need to be prepared and armed to cope with the onset should it strike.

Four months into the year I would like to think that I have done quite a lot to raise the awareness of depression, its symptoms, the help available and convince people that if you talk about it openly, the support is there. I have been lucky. I have received a lot of support and wonderful comments from friends, family and colleagues and it does make a difference.

There is plenty more work to do, and I have lots of exciting projects to look forward to but we have made a start.

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

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.

Moodscope

In the early 1990’s I was diagnosed with borderline bipolar disorder previously known as manic depression. This was because the symptoms I presented were similar to those with bipolar and lithium was suggested as a possible drug solution. I was not convinced by this diagnosis, mainly because during my periods of high-energy and unfettered enthusiasm I always felt in control and purposeful and was always fully aware when things started to go downhill. Mania just did not seem the right word to describe it.

With the help of both psychiatrist and psychologist and detailed research into the history of my symptoms, we came to the conclusion that what I have is an extreme form of reactive clinical depression. After prolonged periods of excitement and stress (whether good or bad)  my body and mind need a rest. This is when I get the huge swathes of depression descending and suffer with mental and physical exhaustion. Anti-depressants combined with CBT were seen as the way forward and I still work very hard at trying to maintain equilibrium.

Despite the continuing medication and daily use of CBT techniques my mood can be unpredictable and I am not very good at managing my triggers. I still think I am Superwoman and whilst I have a lot of energy I often overestimate the amount in the tank and as well as running on “empty” I frequently dip into my reserves with the inevitable consequence that my engine seizes up completely.

One on-line tool which I use to help me monitor my moods is  Moodscope.  Moodscope is very quick and simple to use and, after answering 20 questions each day, it highlights swings in mood and attitude often before you become aware of them. This then gives you a chance to think about why your mood has changed and do something about it before negativity takes hold. You can also nominate a friend to receive your results if this will help.

I find Moodscope particularly beneficial during the frantic run up to Christmas and you are given practical hints on how to cope on a daily basis, for instance;

“At this time of year ……it’s probably a good thing to over-estimate how long things will take. And leave a little room for the nicer things in life. After all it’s not likely on Christmas Day that you’ll look back and say, ‘You know what? I wish I’d been more frantic in December’ – are you?”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Mindgym-Guardian Angel questionnaire results

The stigma enigma

Unfortunately, stigma still surrounds those with mental illness and depression,  further increasing the risk of patients feeling ashamed, worthless, weak, hopeless and helpless. So does it have to be like this, or are there ways that us depressives can fight back so that we educate, communicate and resonate?

My mission for 2011 is to help eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness and depression. I believe in this very personal campaign because everyone deserves a chance, and because depression can strike anybody at any time often leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. We  all need to be prepared and armed to cope with the onset of the Beast.

Do I really think that we can educate enough people about depression so that the stigma is reduced? Do I really think that admitting to mental illness will become a matter of fact in future and not a brave thing to do? Yes  I do and here are just a few of the comments I received from my friends and colleagues after my admission in May and you will understand why I am so positive that Change will happen and happen soon.

“A very brave step indeed to publicly ‘out’ yourself, but well done for doing so.  If no ones does, there will be no improvements! 

“I think depression is hugely misunderstood and I think its great that it gets a no-nonsense representative like you!” 

“I wish you every success in getting through to people.” 

“Brilliant, well done Caroline. You’re a lady with a mission and rightly so :-)” 

“Fantastic news!  Well done Caroline, what an incredibly positive thing you are doing xx”

“It’s my pleasure to support the fight against the stigma towards mental illness
It’s like Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” so with more people like you around we’ll get there.”

How do we fight this stigma and how do we educate others? I will give you some ideas next time. Until then, encouraging open and honest discussions about mental illness and depression will start the ball rolling- let me know how you get on.

Further information you may like;

Time to Change
Rethink