Tag Archive | bipolar

One year on….

from my last devastating relapse into a severe depression and how am I doing?

Quite well actually.

This time last year I was suicidal, hopeless, uncommunicative and emotionally numb. Fluctuating between tears and staring into blank space, spending 16-20 hours asleep too exhausted and uninterested to get out of bed I knew I was in trouble and with my reactions to this illness  honed from previous episodes of depression I switched to auto-pilot and found myself at the GP surgery seeking help.

The good thing about recovering from bouts of depression is that you know you can do it. It gives you hope. It keeps you from buying THAT bottle of vodka which you want to mix with the Valium/Tramadol tablets stored in the drawer upstairs for just these desperate times. When asked by the Doctor if I would consider killing myself my answer is unequivocally “Yes.” Why would I want to live my life feeling (or not feeling) like this? What do I have to live for? I have failed in everything I have done. I have no skills. My husband could look after himself without me.  My son is now 18 and can live independently. Who would miss me anyway?

These were hard times yet I had done so well being off my antidepressants for 18 months. But the sudden and unpredicted spiral into a major depression convinced me that it was just too hard to carry on without the support they give me. I’m not ashamed of taking them. They work for me and if they enable me to enjoy a certain quality of life, continue working and stay alive then bring them on.

Thankfully I have a great GP service. I have a Clinical psychologist who has known me for more than 20 years who understands me and my illness. They work together and come up with the best treatment for me. My medication was changed to suit my symptoms, which now include anxiety as well as depression, and the dose was adjusted until I reached a stable mood level. Sadly, I am one of the lucky ones who have this support. Everyone should have this expertise and care but the funds just are not available. This is appalling and condemns too many people to an existence that need not be.

More funding; more understanding of the complexity of mental illness; more mental health professionals; a review of the police reaction to suicide attempts and those with mental illness; respite facilities; talking therapies and counselling; regular drug reviews; support for families etc etc etc; I could go on and on but there is so much work that needs to be done in the treatment of mental illness I would be here for a year trying to explain.

We have made a great start by encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences whether good or bad. Everyone has their own experience of mental illness which should be respected. One size does not fit all but there are basic things we can all do to help those with mental illness- being kind and understanding is top of the list.

 

Ruby Wax on Mindfulness

003Last Monday I was invited to the Barbican in London to attend a mental health event featuring Ruby Wax. I duly made my way down to the Metropolis from Birmingham  first to enjoy a drinks reception kindly hosted by my employers, KPMG and Linklaters followed by the event itself.

The reception was a great place to start the evening as everyone there has a personal interest in mental health. The reasons for their interest were varied, interesting and often surprising. You just never know what goes on behind those shutters and it is humbling to hear others talk about their experiences of their own mental health issues or those of their family. The best thing though, is that we were all talking about “it”. Thankfully the stigma attached to mental illness is slowly but surely being whittled away so that more people are prepared to stand up and admit to their illness. I have seen first hand the amazing results that being open and honest can bring about and listening to others in “my tribe” it appears that the word is spreading with life-changing impact.

Bold and brash. Modest and mindful. In simple terms this describes the very distinct and diverse traits of the complex personality that is Ruby Wax. Polar opposites-the Ruby Wax of old and the “new” Ruby that is now the proud owner of a number of Diplomas in subjects related to mental health. At first I was rather sceptical, but as the evening wore on, I soon realised that this woman knows her stuff. She also knows that she has limits, and most of the “show” was given over to her interviewer, Radio 4’s Claudia Hammond and Psychologist  Dr Tamara Russell who specialises in Mindfulness.

005And this is where the evening got really interesting. I have been a fan of Mindfulness and MCBT (Mindful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for many years and often practise MCBT techniques to get me through the day. Ruby Wax has clearly cottoned on to its benefits, and if I understand correctly, her new book describes Mindfulness and how it can help with depression. She herself uses the techniques and finds it does help her condition. Good for her for sharing and if it encourages others to follow suit, it has to be a good thing.

Mindfulness is described as;

“the awareness that arises
when paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in
the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”
(Kabat-Zinn 1994)

and there are numerous books and websites which contain information about Mindfulness and how to practise the techniques.

Personally, I have a Mindfulness bell set up on my computer so that it chimes at certain times of the day when I recognise that I am usually at my most vulnerable. On hearing the bell, the Pavlov Dog in me immediately takes in a deep breath and starts 2 minutes of breathing properly. In the moment. Calm and peaceful. Relaxed and refreshed. It works for me.

 The evening was very different to what I expected but pleasantly so. I wasn’t disappointed-far from it I was impressed by Ruby’s approach and demeanour and she came across as a genuine “sufferer” and someone who is determined to help herself. She is no victim, but she remains vulnerable and for this, her admissions are commendable and inspiring to many others who find themselves unable to “come out” just yet.

I don’t think I will be buying her book which comes out in June, and I didn’t learn anything new on the night but it was a great idea and I would recommend going to listen to her talk about her battles with depression and Mindfulness if you get the opportunity.

It was £10 well spent!

Useful links:

 Oxford Mindfulness Centre 

Mindfulness bell