Tag Archive | Major depressive disorder

Keep it real

burn out

It’s official. I have been diagnosed with “Burnout” with extremely high levels of both anxiety and depression. That’s the bad news (It is horrible) but the good news is that my psychologist diagnosed the issue almost immediately, recognised my symptoms and causes and told me that I can recover with help and support. My Dr has known me for a long time, just over 20 years, and knows me well. This is a huge advantage when fighting an illness like depression/anxiety because there is nothing worse and more frustrating than seemingly wasting time and energy going through old material. It takes up precious time and energy which I can ill afford.

So very briefly I have a plan. A plan feels good and at long last I truly believe that I can crawl out of this mire and get back to my life. My plan is discussed and agreed with Doc Fraser and involves a number of active strategies to make the best of a bad lot.

Firstly, I will be starting work at 10.00am and not 9.00am on the days I work in Birmingham. This one hour adjustment appears pretty minor at first glance but has major advantages for me with the least disruption to my work and employer. Based on train times, believe it or not, it actually means that I get an extra hour in bed every morning and a much more relaxed start to the day. The later train is far less crowded and I don’t have to fight for a seat or sit next to a really annoying person who insists on sitting next to me and puts their makeup on and plucks their eyebrows (Sorry, but whilst I sort of get the make up I think it’s revolting to pluck eyebrows/ trim toenails in public) So immediately I am faced with less stress!

Doc Fraser also understands that I am my worst critic and expect far too much of myself when feeling under the weather. He directly asked me the question, “So Caroline, you feel hopeless, helpless, despondent, tearful, you have loss of memory and confused thinking. You are mentally and physically exhausted and you expect to perform as normal?”

Me: “Yes”

Mmmm…..this is where the Doc suggested that I might like to “get real”.

negative thoughts

The reality is that I am ill. It is not a choice it is a fact. I couldn’t run a marathon with a broken leg so why would I expect to perform a cerebral job as normal when mentally impaired?

Ok, fair point. So let’s get real and manage expectations.

Positive thinking 2

I now have a list of homework tasks to do before my next appointment on Thursday. Nothing too demanding but focusing on those aspects of my life which I find most difficult. Small steps and steady progress.

Let’s keep it real.

positive-thinking-quotes (1)


“I’m Fine”…….


Last week I went back to my GP asking for help with a sudden onset of a severe depression. At the time, she suggested that I might need some time off work to recover and get myself back on track and, true to form, I said, “No, thanks, I’m sure I’ll be fine; it’s just a blip”.

That was a tad optimistic to say the least and over the week and weekend it became patently obvious that I wouldn’t be “fine” and having wrestled with both the disappointment and stark reality of my illness, this morning I was at the Drs surgery at 08.15am waving the white flag.

I am now off work for 2 weeks. There is no doubt that I need the time out and we spent a good 30 minutes going through my mind-mapping exercise so that I can plot my recovery properly. Anti-depressants only go part of the way to lifting mood long-term and therefore we identified a number of things that I need to do over the coming weeks and months to secure success.

My biggest challenge? To be kind to myself.  My GP recognises that this is the crux of many of my issues and that with the high standards that I expect of myself  I live with constant disappointment. I have to achieve. It is deeply ingrained in my core and unless I am achieving something, however small and insignificant, I am a failure. I can’t just do something and enjoy it, there has to be a purpose otherwise, what’s the point?  I know that I have to work very hard on turning this ethos upside down and hopefully persuade myself that I can do something purely for enjoyment.

Challenging this mindset is going to be difficult, it has been part of me for almost half a century and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t collecting certificates, accolades, trophies, rosettes and badges for my efforts. I even have all the photos taken over the years to prove it but it is time to stop.

Depression the illness and the recovery is exhausting and I spent a few hours this afternoon asleep. When I woke up, the skies had cleared and the sun was out and whilst there is a stiff breeze, I went for a short walk around the village to get some fresh air and stretch my legs. I don’t want to spend the next 2 weeks in bed however tempting that may be at the moment so I am going to pump up the tyres on my bike and get cycling. That should help to clear the mind and gentle exercise will hopefully stimulate those endorphins to multiply exponentially!


Magnolia, Garden of Remembrance, Lubenham

Pied Beauty-Gerard Manley-Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Fighting battles

I am naturally someone who wants to help others. I can’t help it , it’s my nature. I am a frustrated medic in that I am sooooo squeamish I couldn’t possibly entertain a career as a surgeon, nurse, or even as I tried, a physiotherapist. I hate to see people hurting whether it be physically or mentally; it kills me.

I kind of kept this under control and under wraps until 3 years ago when I “came out” about my depression. Following my admission I received hundreds (yes, hundreds) of emails, phone messages, texts, facebook contacts, wanting to share their experiences with me. This was/is fine but as I have come to realise, I need to take an aloof approach and not try to fight other people’s battles for them. This was probably the most important lesson I learned but it was and remains hard to do.

The causes of my depression are many and varied and are not something I want to repeat here. Despite these debilitating episodes, my basic personality is one of high moral standing (not good for humanity!) and outspokenness (not good for me!). I have learned to curb both these traits so that I am much more tolerant of errant behaviour and those who don’t meet my expectations of them but today I broke my own golden rule and intervened in someone else’s “difference of opinion” with A N Other.

Part of me was wary, no, unwilling to interfere but in the end I felt I had something to say and I needed to say it. I just hope that the person on whose behalf I intervened appreciates that I did it with my best intentions and with much aforethought. Blogging is a forum in which many people find their tribe, their community of like-minded people who are interested and supportive in that particular topic or subject matter. No one has to join in if they don’t feel comfortable and even if they feel strongly enough to criticise, there is also no need to continue the vitriol in some kind of personal vendetta. Just go away and do your own thing sweetheart and leave the rest of us in peace to follow our instincts and develop our own relationships with fellow Bloggers.

Blogging is not a substitute for “real” relationships but everyone has their own reasons for wanting or needing to Blog at a particular time in their lives. For me, even now, today, depression can be very debilitating so that speaking to someone face-to-face or on the phone can be distressing. Not many people at work would see me as a person who dreads the phone ringing, but that’s the reality. I’m just very good at hiding it.

I am lucky that my friends understand this and whilst I may not see them or speak to them personally for years, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care or I am not thinking of them in times of trouble. It’s how I am. I don’t like it and I try my hardest to fight against it and it doesn’t always work but I have learned to be kind to myself.

So, to you “Anon” I say this. Go away and resolve your own issues by tapping into your own resources and friends and leaving the rest of us to commune and support each other without prejudice and attitude in an environment where preconceptions and judgmental attitudes are alien and positivity and genuine concern prevail.

Rant over.

For today.

Where has she been?

Well, talk about the Prodigal Daughter……I’m back!

In the 3 months since I last blogged I have achieved so much that it seems almost obscene to write about it-but from someone who has at times been crippled by depression, I only hope that my turnaround and enjoyment of life as it currently stands will inspire others to sieze the moment as and when they can, and  give everyone hope that things really can and do get better in time.

More about the detail in good time but until then, have confidence that things can change, and do change for the better, but you have to help to make things happen…………………………


Depression-back on track

Thankfully, the last 6 months have seen my mental health stabilise and I have enjoyed a sustained period of “wellness”. I am still wary that low mood can take over again but as soon as I spot the signs I’m on the case immediately and take preventive measures to stave off a relapse. It’s not easy and it sometimes takes a lot of energy and determination but I’m getting there and feel that I have the dreaded “dog” under control. I have to admit that sometimes I am still forced to tell some little white lies to gain some precious “me time” but on the basis that in the medium and long-term my actions benefit everyone, I don’t feel at all guilty and see it as managing my health to the best of my ability in the circumstances. Sadly, there are still too many people who don’t understand the ups and downs and unpredictability of mental illness and I’m not prepared to jeopardise my recovery just to accommodate the stubborn few. I am definitely back on track.

As far as helping and motivating others to come to terms with their mental health issues, cascading information and being proactive is concerned lots of things happened last week which gave me a long-awaited kick up the bum and reinforced my concern that there is still a lot of work to be done and there are too many people out there just waiting for help.

Firstly, I have an interview on Friday with the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) to be appointed a lay-member of their Regulatory Advisory Board. This is an exciting and amazing opportunity for me to become more involved in the field of mental healthcare provision and I will be able to contribute so much…….as long as the interview goes well and I am successful. I hope that they will see how passionate I am about certain matters and give me the opportunity to voice my concerns and suggestions for improvement. My head is bursting with ideas and I need a forum to voice them and (hopefully) gain access to a pool of resource able to help me put them into practice.

At work I have been quietly looking for people who are prepared to join me as a Mental Health Champion on the Disability Steering Group and this week, I have found three people who can help drive my initiatives forward. This is so important as I already have a full-time job and cannot spend the time I would like in developing my ideas into practical solutions for our employees. Small changes can make a huge difference but I can’t do it on my own. More people = more success.

My interview for the Sunday Telegraph magazine went well but won’t be published until later in summer when they get back to normal after the holidays. I look at the delay as a positive as by delaying publication, we will get a wider readership and more publicity. That can only be a good thing.

I am working a 4-day week this week then I am on holiday for 10 days. I need the break and I am looking forward to having my son back in the UK after his watersports holiday in Spain, seeing my sister and my newly engaged lovely niece Pippa and meeting my nephew’s two new kittens (to date, nameless).  

Roll on Thursday!

I’m fed up…

no, not with life. With the constant stream of celebrities and high-profile sportsmen and women admitting to having depression. In itself this is not a bad thing, it’s just that it’s getting boring. Those of us who suffer with depression know how debilitating it is; know how it affects work and family and even with the spurt of admissions from well-known people over the past 12-18 months has anything changed?

I’m not sure. It all seems very “old hat” and repetitive. So what we need now  is for someone to highlight the next steps. What has the Government, NHS, businesses, charities, anyone done to improve treatment of depression and eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness? Undoubtedly it helps if more people talk about mental illness but someone needs to listen to the man and woman “on the street” too. Everyone who is struggling to cope under difficult circumstances not just those in the public eye.

I have particular sympathy with sportsmen and women with the ultimate in competitive personality  who don’t get the psychological support required in this day and age to cope with the extreme ups and downs of competition. That is a failing in our sporting structure that we are aeons behind other countries in looking after the mental health welfare of our sports stars but even so, they are only a small minority when considering the impact of depression on the population as a whole. Have Freddie, Stan, Brian et al had to endure a “fit to work” assessment from ATOS?  I’d be interested to know what the GB Olympic Committee have done to minimise the risk of post-Olympic depression as suffered by some after Beijing. 

I’m lucky. Having admitted to my depression 18 months ago, my employer has made mental health it’s priority for 2012 and is involved with several initiatives to try to help all employees who are debilitated by mental illness and to educate all employees in how to avoid stress-related depression. We are not perfect but we are trying. I hope that the recent revelations by the likes of Freddie and Stan lead to positive action being taken to help everyone.

Afterall I believe that this is no longer an illness suffered by the minority. It is more widespread that anyone can imagine.

Let’s DO something about it.

Devastating depression

As Mental Health Champion at work I regularly get calls from my colleagues asking for information, support and guidance about depression either for themselves or for others they know who are suffering. I am often talking to people in confidence about their life, friends and family and privy to sensitive and personal information revealed as a result of their low mood and obvious symptoms that something is very wrong. All this in the hope that I will be able to help in some small way.

Thankfully I am pleased to say that I can usually help if only by giving them information about where to get the help and support offered by our employer, friends, family and mental health organisations together with the clinical support critical to early diagnosis and improved chances of complete recovery. I pride myself on my ability to listen without judgement and to offer practical solutions to immediate concerns. By being open and honest about my experience with depression I am helping others fight and come to terms with their own battles against mental illness and importantly fighting the stigma still attached to mental illness.

Not a lot shocks me any more. As Indiana Jones quotes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” and I have covered a good few many miles over my half a century so all in all I tend to take things that people tell me in my stride. Since being back at work after the Christmas and New Year holidays however I have been truly shocked. Shocked not with what people have confided in me, but bowled over by the sheer number of calls, texts, emails and meetings I have had with colleagues asking for help. This is so sad. January is always a difficult time for many with long, dark days. Too much month left until PayDay and an overall deflated feeling after the over-hyped celebrations of Christmas and New Year but somehow this year feels worse than usual.

For me personally I have already seen a good friend signed off work for a month with suspected BPD; A team trying to deal with open and misguided prejudice against a colleague off sick with depression; someone else re-admitted to The Priory Clinic just 5 months after a failed suicide attempt. If I know this number of people and a lot more besides who are suffering with depression, anxiety or other mental illness how many more are out there? You may know a few; a lot; no-one if you are lucky but please spare a thought for those in despair and try to help where you can.

We all know that the economic situation ain’t great. People generally have less money than before and reading the newspaper headlines can be depressing in itself. But remember. You don’t need money to show compassion and help others who are struggling to cope. Depression is non-discriminatory and is no respecter of riches or achievements. Depression can strike anyone at anytime and I for one would like to know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends, family and colleagues to be patient, kind and understanding so I can get back on my own two feet as soon as I possibly can.

Bear this in mind, not just this month, but all year. It’s not too late to add another resolution to your tally.

“Be kind”

The Samaritans

08457 909090

I’m “coming out!”

“Coming out” and admitting to my depression wasn’t the easiest thing that I’ve ever done, but it has been one of the most fulfilling, challenging and rewarding decisions I’ve made and furthermore I have no regrets. So how about someone who has “come out” twice? Firstly as a  gay man and secondly as a depression/anxiety sufferer.


Today I met such a person and the more we got chatting the more I recognised the similarities between the two admissions. The  fear of stigma, personal reconciliation, the “journey” towards self-acceptance followed by public admission, reaction of friends, family and colleagues. All were common themes in our discussions and their experience gained over a period of almost 20 years will help me develop a similar support network for my colleagues who have experience of  mental illness. This support network needs to address concerns about confidentiality and anonymity and honest and open communication depending on what stage of the “journey” towards self acceptance and admission people are at. Not an easy task but one which is suddenly made easier to tackle by working with someone who has been there twice!

All this has come about because of my willingness to talk about my experience with depression and regular readers may recognise my mantra: ” I’m not saying it will be easy. I am telling you it will be worth it”.

How true are those words today.

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Depression Alliance


Guest post courtesy of “Fighting the blues”

One of my friends who suffers with anxiety writes a very open and honest Blog about this condition and how he deals with it on a daily basis. As with depression, there are good days and bad days, but with some patience and a lot of hard work the good days might just start out-numbering the bad ones soon.

Here, with his permission, is his latest post and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to publish it on my Blog today.  So I introduce, Fighting the blues.

Doing the opposite- by Fighting the blues

  • As I read back over yesterday’s post I am struck by a few things.  None of them are particularly positive.  That is to say as I read over the text I  observe a ‘me’ I don’t like very much.  I blogged truthfully, I said what I felt and I felt what I said but nevertheless I am left with a strong feeling that I have painted a picture of myself that is none too pretty – for the first time since I began my blog I feel I have presented myself as a little self-indulgent, an impression of self-pity.
  • That was not my intention and if anyone else read it that way please accept my apologies.  And to those who left comments (here and on facebook) thank you – thank you for replying as honestly as I tried to blog.
  • As a result of these reflections I have tried to get up with a more positive attitude.  Those who struggle with depression and anxiety know that is very easy to say and very difficult to do. The deeper the anxiety the more difficult it is to challenge.
  • Followers of this blog know I have to move house because my job in the army has changed and the second word of ‘posting order’ is ‘order’!  Is morale low – yes.  Is the move this time a fearful event (at least in my mind) – yes, of course it is!  But I have taken on board some excellent (but frankly terrifying) advice given to me by my psychologist – to treat my anxiety almost as a person.  And when feeling low (as I have been lately, in particular, worrying about my son – student loan, job prospects etc. – despite the advice and assurance of those who know us both who say my anxiety is almost certainly unfounded) to do the opposite of what the anxiety expects and demands of me.
  • What did it demand of me this morning?  To give up, not bother and do nothing.  Oh yes, let’s not forget a large measure of self-pity thrown into today’s ‘misery pot’!
  • So I’ve tried to follow the advice I have been given.  I got up – well, come on, it’s a good start.  I’ve been outside all day in the fresh air although the sun has been mostly cloud hidden.  I’ve got a lot of practical things done ready to move and I can see the results of my labour.
  • Most importantly doing the ‘opposite’ has made me feel a lot more positive.  Simple as.  My hope and my prayer is that this may encourage me to believe that my anxieties are unfounded and I start to feel better about myself with a degree of consistency.

Ideas, ideas and more ideas…..

It is almost a year (next week) since I admitted to the world and anyone who would listen that I have had bouts of moderate to severe depression all my adult life and what a year it has been since. I will save the details for a celebratory anniversary post due on the 26 May but one of the most incredible and unexpected side effects has been an outpouring of creativity which has clearly been suppressed for too many years. As a trained Tax Consultant with an analytical mind, creativity took a back seat for a good many years and sometimes I wonder whether this has contributed to my frustrations. A creative soul harnessed by the practical need to pay the mortgage.

Since last May however I have often felt like I have been turned inside out whilst a gush of ideas and creativity exploded from within. Melodramatic as this sounds, it has felt very physical at times and I have spent many hours writing down my thoughts lest I forget them. I think my cork well and truly popped.

As well as writing this Blog, which I count as a daily essential rather than a “nice to have”, poems, articles for magazines, photographs, watercolour painting, scrap-booking, etc etc, I seem to have a supply of “ideas” which involve others in the creation of something just a bit out of the ordinary.

And so we have the Depression Alliance “Big Picnic” taking place on Sunday 5th May all over the UK.  I’m hoping that we can put a 2012 calendar together using photos taken by the wonderfully talented members of the DA Facebook page and I am also helping my colleagues and my employer deal with depression more effectively and efficiently.

So, whilst I do admit that depression can be a milestone, it can also be a source of great innovation and creativity. If only everyone could find a way to release it as I have done.

I wish you all the luck and success in the world. You CAN do it.