Where do I begin?
Taking up my blog again, I realise that not only have I a lot of travels and experiences to share, but I should also bring everyone up to date on my mental health. I started this blog more than 10 years ago after admitting my experiences with depression and subsequently starting to work with my employer, various mental health charities, friends and colleagues to encourage more open and honest discussion and appreciation about and of poor mental health. I broke down barriers and stigma about mental health, I was a media-volunteer for a number of charities leading to articles published in the Daily Mail, Financial Times, Stella magazine (Telegraph) and an appearance every 30 minutes on Sky News! It is possible to suffer from various types of depression and/or anxiety whilst remaining “high-performing” either at work or as an individual. In other words, you can act the part of a “normal, happy person” so that others don’t guess or realise that you are in pieces and struggling to cope. I have always said that I can out-act Meryl Streep every day of the week…… After a while, I retreated from the publicity despite my determination to get the subject of mental health both good and bad out in the open. It was very tiring and took a lot of my energy which I need, even now, to remain mentally stable; I now leave all the media contributions to others who can spare their time and energy. I have mixed-feelings about where we are as a nation regarding poor mental health. Suffice to say that I was saying, explaining and suggesting things 10 years before my time and it all seems rather stale to me now. Thankfully I have moved on. Not just with my own mental health which I now have under control and stablised, but also recognising that, as I predicted many years ago, poor mental health is far more widespread and attributable to many and varied reasons as well as affecting people at different times of their lives than previously thought. Mental health has to be nurtured and maintained alongside your cardio, strength and flexibility exercises. I find it both sad and frustrating that we are still in the embryonic stage of encouraging the value of good mental health habits but any progress is welcome. In the end it’s all about money. Like many other conditions, there is just not enough money or investment in mental health resources. It’s not good enough to rely on charitable organisations to provide support in crisis and we need more qualified psychotherapists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, GPS qualified to deliver mental health care and support, counsellors, Cognitive Behavioural specialists, Psychiatrists on duty 24/7 in A&E departments, less stigma about mental health problems, more training for police and emergency services, and less stigma and more support for those sectioned as a result of their behaviour. I have been lucky….I have always had amazing support from my GPs, employer, family and friends. Not everyone is so lucky…so whilst I am not directly involved in mental health initiatives at the moment, I do have a lot of information to impart if you need it. Happy to help 🙂
Today I arranged to visit my friend Jenny who has a 10 week old puppy that I just have to see. I have seen some photos and he looks adorable and I made sure that I took my camera with me.
I arrived at the house, opened the door and he came to greet me straight away; no nerves and no barking just much tail wagging. What a cutie.
As with most pups he is all big feet and long legs which are still not quite under his control when he runs around after Jenny-mummy everywhere she goes. He bombed around playing with his toys until he flopped and although he fought to stay awake, soon he was fast asleep on Jenny-mummy’s lap.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
When I read this article this morning I cried. Not because I was sad or upset but with relief because I may have found a way to describe how I feel to someone who looks at me and thinks I look OK. Someone who thinks that all my moans and groans about being tired, exhausted, and wiped out to the point of collapse and tears of frustration and pain are fiction. That’s the problem with an invisible illness. You look fine but underneath you are fighting to stay as normal as possible with every ounce of energy you have. If I could only find a way to explain that feeling, I would feel better. People would maybe understand and not judge. A little empathy and genuine concern costs nothing but you would think it costs the earth for its paucity.
I face any number of battles every morning before I go out of the house. I often use all my spoons before I get to work, and then I’m in deficit; running on empty whilst all the time destroying my engine. You can run on empty for a while. We all know that there is always something in reserve from what the car manufacturers tell you. Unfortunately when your body says enough is enough it’s usually time to wave the white flag and retire to bed for a while. Rest and recovery is vital in managing chronic fatigue syndrome and I spend most of my weekends in bed, either resting or asleep, just catching up from the week’s exertion. What a waste of time.
I hope that you will read about the Spoon Theory and imagine how it would impact you and your daily routine. It is the closest explanation I have seen for normally healthy people to start to understand what it is like to have depleted energy resources and reserves. I used to take my high energy for granted; Sport, competition, manic activity and multi-tasking were key skills of mine and I thrived on it. Now, I have to manage my energy supply. I only have so many spoons.
This week has been National Depression Awareness week in the UK and my thoughts and opinions about all things depression have been much in demand. I was interviewed by Sky news for a piece on antidepressants, the Sunday Telegraph about the dangers and risks of taking antidepressants and Thomson Reuters about my experiences of depression generally. In addition I have contributed the odd comment or two at work and on Facebook so it has been a busy week. I am looking forward to the 3-day weekend to recuperate a little.
Out of all the things I have discussed this week however, one person has struck a chord with me. When asked the question, “What defines good mental health?” her response was that for her, good mental health is determined by consistency. Consistency of mood and emotions so that she is able to plan events and outings knowing that she is well enough to follow through on those plans instead of having to change or cancel them at the last minute when not feeling so good. Going to bed as one person and waking up as another is also problematic and can lead people with these symptoms to stop planning altogether so they don’t let friends or family down.
I understand this but quite often forget that it is a symptom of my ilness. It’s hard to keep letting people down when they are so patient and understanding and the overwhelming feeling of guilt makes you feel even worse. I have always said that I don’t have many friends as if I can’t guarantee being able to be a good friend to them then I can’t expect the reverse to be true. It’s not fair. It’s not equitable.
But actually, that’s what friends are for. They do understand and they are forgiving. Real friends are the salt of the earth and you should cherish them as and when you can.
But being inconsistent, whilst it is incredibly frustrating, can also be veiwed as a positive attribute! If you are a constant surprise to yourself as well as others, you can never be called boring! Unpredictable maybe, off-the-wall and kooky perhaps.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the pilot presentation entitled the “50 Shades of Women” put on jointly by Kate Nash Associates and EDIT Development. The workshop is “designed for disabled women from all backgrounds, ages and stages of their lives and designed specifically for women in management grades.”
The overarching goal is to help disabled women “deliver work more effectively as disabled women” and we can expect to :
“….overcome self-limiting beliefs and behaviours…”
“…start to find new solutions to old problems”
“Gain some insight into our strengths and development areas in the workplace…..” and
have some practical ideas to start using immediately”
The workshop was amazing and I came away inspired, motivated, hopeful, happy in my skin and thrilled to have met 30 women who I can add to my “tribe.” We all related to each others stories and health conditions and disabilities. We supported each other and we understood exactly what makes us tick. To be in an environment like that it a privilege and an occasion to celebrate. The positivity has stayed with me all day and nothing could have spoilt what was shaping up to be a typical 9-5 work experience.
I took time to share some of my experiences with a colleague at work, with whom I collaborate on disabled matters, and it cheered him up too! There’s nothing like a bit of positive encouragement and acknowledgement that although we have our additional “difficulties”, this should be no barrier to FABULOUSNESS.
In many ways I had let myself forget what I am good at; what I enjoy and actually, what I am excellent at. Although my perception of me is somewhat tempered by self-criticism and doubt, the feedback I get from others is overwhelmingly the opposite and I am, apparently, an amazing role model and inspirational person. Hey, I need to develop this idea and start to believe it otherwise I could lose the opportunity to help others overcome their barriers and fulfill their potential. Nothing would make me more fulfilled than taking on that role.
Of course I have a day job which I love. I need to find a way to combine the two without jeopardising my mental health. This will be challenging but as I discovered yesterday, far from impossible.
I learned so much yesterday that I cannot possible share it all in one post, but share it I will over a number of articles. For today, have faith and believe that you can achieve, you can be an equal and certainly the world is starting to take a more positive approach to people with mental health conditions.
We know that we are just as capable, loyal, creative, determined, resilient and have a lot to give. Thankfully at last I see others believing that too!
As if we haven’t had enough rain here in the UK, yet more is on its way and it is pouring down as I write. Sadly, for many people in the South and West of the country the wet weather is causing much misery and I feel for those who have been flooded out of their homes and businesses yet again. I cannot imagine what such upheaval would be like and I am very grateful that we don’t live in a flood area.
For me the wet weather means a crafty day indoors and I’m sure that I will be able to turn my hand to something. I feel another page of my nieces wedding scrapbook coming on and I wonder if the gorgeous Kaisercraft papers which I ordered on Monday will turn up in the post today? Here’s hoping they do when hubby’s out so I can steal them into my stash without him noticing! Bless him, as soon as I “open my shop” as he calls it, he finds a friend to visit for a few hours, leaving me to spread my stuff all over the dining/kitchen surfaces. He hates mess and is better off out of my way than watching me wreak havoc with his über tidy kitchen.
Two days back at work and I am already noticing the fatigue brought on by the extra travelling but this will improve as I get back into routine, lose some weight and continue with my healthy eating programme. It seems to be working and so far I am 3lbs down on my starting weight. That seems a lot to lose in a short time but it’s how my body reacts and I know that next week it will be on full alert to conserve energy and my weight loss will slow down or come to a halt for a week. I am prepared for this which is just as well as it can be very demoralising to lose weight one week and nothing the next when you have been soooooo good. I have learned not to take much notice of weekly weight loss but look at longer periods like a month-6 weeks. If you keep going you will notice a trend and individuals will have their own ups and downs as their bodies adjust. It’s also a lot to do with the hormone cycle and again, everyone is different in this respect so week-on-week it can change dramatically and affect weight loss.
I find however that it’s easier to keep to my new habits when in the daily work routine than at home where temptation lurks in every corner. The first weekend is always difficult but my determination and resolve is still intact and I will get through to Monday with no blips.