Another damp day much appreciated by my garden.
If you’d told me a few weeks ago that I’d be standing in front of an eminent audience talking about my depression, its impact and how I cope at work, I would have been extremely sceptical.
For just three weeks ago I was feeling very overwhelmed, anxious, mentally and emotionally exhausted and my head felt like eggs being scrambled in a magi-mix.
In fact, to prevent any further deterioration in my mood and general well-being I invoked my work-place adjustments. I don’t like doing this. I try and manage my condition day-to-day but I have to admit that I did lose focus on maintaining my own good health a couple of months ago and, true to form, suffered a relapse arising from the delayed reaction weeks later.
Coincidentally, I had been asked to give a ten-minute talk at the Midlandsability network launch yesterday and had already chosen my topic,my workplace adjustments, never thinking that I would be able to quote from such recent history and experience.
Silver linings. It’s hard to have faith sometimes but I keep reminding myself that there are often silver linings to alleviate my downturn in mood.
But thanks to some amazing friends both old and new, a staggering amount of hard work, passion, dedication and sheer determination, yesterday was pure gold.
It’s that time of year. The nights are drawing in; no more sitting outside in a comfortable warmth as it gets dark. The mornings are distinctly chillier and I am more inclined to snuggle back under the duvet than to leap out of bed raring to go. Energy levels are sapping just as work schedules are increasing massively over the winter period.
Of course I have a 16-week break to look forward to between February and June, but it seems a long time to wait just now.
So how do I make sure that I maintain equilibrium in the meantime? I know that I need to rest, stay healthy and as stress-free as possible. But how?
Targets, financial deadlines, Christmas, all words guaranteed to set my soul a-flutter at the mere mention. I am normally very good at managing my stressors but when I’m busy or distracted it’s easy to forget my coping strategies so here are a couple of reminders to myself;
This is really important and saves me from a lot of unnecessary stress. Last week for instance I had to travel to London for a training day. I knew that the train would be busy, the Underground even more so. I am used to working from home in a quiet environment much of which I can control directly so being in a lecture room with a group of colleagues can be daunting. As can shopping for lunch at a busy time at the midday break.
I booked my ticket in advance and reserved my seat. An early train to get me into London before the main rush-hour. I took my lunch with me.
I also booked the next day off as holiday. I knew that I would be tired after a long day traveling combined with the training so I made sure that I had a restful day before returning to work. Luckily the weather was sunny and bright and I spent the day in the garden and in the garage making hedgehog houses. Perfect recuperation.
Maintaining a routine is not easy for me as my sleep patterns vary so much, as do my energy levels. I have learned instead to “go with the flow” and not worry too much if I don’t quite follow my plans to the letter.
Good routines include, at least an hour or two before bedtime, shutting down all electronic equipment. As an information and social media junkie this is difficult for me and I probably pay the price in that my sleep can be disturbed by vivid dreams and I often wake after just 4 hours rest. Instead, I should read (a proper book, with real paper pages and not on Kindle) and in the morning, I should make time to start the day in a calm way by practising something like yoga or writing my journal.
I definitely need to work on this one. I think I’ll start tomorrow.
Hopefully I shall survive my “busy” season with sanity intact having followed my own advice but roll on February.
It was lovely to have some warm, dry days in July and August. We managed a trip to the seaside and I enjoy sitting outside late at night on balmy evenings hedgehog-watching.
High summer in the garden is very different to the lovely, fresh Spring we had when everything was green and lush; juvenile fledglings arrived to munch on the mealworms, frogs appeared in the ponds and hedgehogs came in their droves to feast in their café.
During the hot and dry few days, the fledglings flew the nest and found their own food-sources, the frogs remained in the ponds but were sheltering from the bright sunshine under the pondweed, and the hedgehogs spent as much time drinking as eating.
Now that we are in early autumn, the teasles have gone over with curling brown leaves, and the teasle heads are no longer an attraction for the bees and butterflies. I will have to wait patiently for the finches to arrive and enjoy the seeds.
The bushy and colourful nasturtiums have been eaten in their entirety by cabbage white butterfly caterpillars so that only stalks are left.
I thought this was interesting………
I’m not sure what happened next but I wish that I’d stayed to watch!
Our apple tree is laden with fruit and I am surprised that some of the branches haven’t broken under the weight.
We also have plenty of fresh raspberries…
Now that most of the bee-friendly perennials are in place I thought it was time for something different. I haven’t tried gardening with succulents before and on researching them I was amazed to find how many colours, shapes and varieties there are. My options are limitless but starting small I went ahead with a selection from the local garden centre.
No garden of mine is complete without a girlie-man cave and so to rival hubby’s double garage space, I went to town on my new little greenhouse. It cost me less than £20 and was easy to assemble. It has plenty of room for my stuff, and a chair where I can sit and drink my tea in peace. Naturally it had to be decorated, and so I made a long trail of bunting to hang up.
One of my favourite areas of the new garden is the pond and bog garden. I am blown away with how well it has grown and settled down.
It was only a few months ago that it looked like this……
It will be interesting to see what autumn brings. Our last pictures of the hedgehogs before they go to sleep for the winter; chaffinches on the teasles and lots and lots of apples to pick and freeze.
It’s our village scarecrow festival at the weekend which is always a great event as long as the weather is kind to us.
Keep your fingers crossed for fine weather 🙂
I had a change of direction today. I moved from building homes for frogs and toads, insects and hedgehogs to focus on butterflies and bees.
First of all though I went to collect two bags of these gorgeous pine cones for my bug hotel which were donated by a lovely gentleman from the next village. I even got a tour of his garden while I was there; log piles, ponds and bird nesting boxes attached to the trees showed that he is also interested in wildlife gardening. The piece de la resistance for me however was a pretty light lilac Hebe which was covered in bees and the first butterflies I have seen this year, two tortoiseshells. I didn’t have my camera with me so this is a picture from the internet; I couldn’t resist the glorious colours.
My diversion, although very welcome, meant that I had to get a wiggle on if I was to make the Garden Centre in good time but I did it.
I had a list of suitable plants which will encourage bees and butterflies into my garden and it didn’t take me long to select my favourites; Coreopsis ” Tickseed” (birds and bees), Coreopsis “Zagreb” (birds and butterflies), Sedum “Brilliant”, (butterflies), Achillea “Summer fruits lemon” (wildlife), Buddleja “Empire Blue” (Butterflies) and finally, I found the very same variety of Hebe that was so successful in attracting bees and butterflies, “Sparkling Sapphires.” It even has a lovely name.
Back home, car unloaded it was time to get to work again. My idea was to create a luscious bee and butterfly garden with the Belfast sink making a mini-pond in the middle. I have ordered my pond plants to arrive on Wednesday so I ended up planting around an empty sink. I can’t wait to see what the finished garden will look like with the pond up and running but I will have to be patient.
In the meantime on with the planting and so the bee and butterfly grove was born.
This is only one small area of the larger wildlife garden which is coming together nicely now. I am hoping that it will flow through from one wildlife themed garden to the next and so far, it’s looking good. Next on the list (after planting up my two new ponds), an arch for honeysuckle to climb up between the butterfly grove and the new pond area.
For now, I will have to make do with a glass of vino and a rest on the railway sleeper bench enjoying the fruits of my labours so far.
Just like Tessa!
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?”
Mmmm…..this is where the Doc suggested that I might like to “get real”.
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.
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.
I am really struggling with my latest bout of depression at the moment and am just about getting by but only because I am leading two lives. I don’t think I am unique but maybe a little unusual in the way I tackle and cope with my low mood and negativity. I do it by existing on two levels. Somehow, I have learned to separate my true self from my necessary self. My true self reflects how I feel when you strip away my necessary self; my necessary self is that person who needs to work to pay the bills, needs to keep occupied to fend off the demons and needs to carry on because if I don’t, I will give up permanently.
My true self is that person who remains locked in a surreal existence where I question my worth, my value, and my purpose despite my achievements. Except that I don’t see anything as an achievement, just a lucky occurence. According to my latest mental health assessment, my mood couldn’t be much worse and I have avoided in-patient treatment by the skin of my teeth. I have to go back to my GP to discuss my medication, which isn’t working as it should and I have to organise more talking therapy to help me recover.
In the meantime I feel that I need to apologise and explain my inconsistent behaviour as some people can be very confused by it. A lot of the time, when I am feeling good, I am sociable, chatty, helpful and fearless. When I am in a depression however I am completely the opposite and talking to my best friends is difficult if not impossible however hard I try to force myself. It is at times like this that I need great friends. Those who don’t get miffed when I “ignore” them but accept that sometimes I am happier to retreat into myself and observe from afar. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I’m not interested. Far from it; It’s just that my self-confidence and ability to communicate are at rock bottom and I need some time to come round.
I don’t have many friends. Not because I don’t like or trust people, but purely because I don’t want to let them down by not being there when I am needed. Sometimes I just can’t be there however much I want to be. It’s easier this way and those friends that I do have are treasured and valued beyond comprehension.
So, if I have been distant and uncommunicative, this is just me getting by and doing my best to hang around long enough for the good times to come along again. I have every hope that they will, as they have done in the past.
The only difference this time is that I am worried that I don’t have the energy or determination to fight this off again. It’s exhausting, demoralising, and I feel hopeless and useless but I refuse to stop trying.
This week has been a real struggle and my emotions have swung from a complete melt-down on Monday, when I truly thought I was heading for hospital in-patient treatment to a mini-high on Wednesday when I thought I’d cracked this latest episode of depression only to dip again yesterday. Depression can be a roller-coaster of a ride and I have certainly experienced the very lows and some mediocre highs over the last few days.
I have committed myself to going back to work on Monday. I am not 100% yet but I have to make the effort and start to get back into routine. It will be tough. Very tough, but fortune favours the brave and I am determined to challenge this illness as best I can and I need to be back with my friends and colleagues.
In the meantime, I have been trying very hard not to sleep during the day in preparation for the long days ahead. I have kept busy without exerting myself too much and although I feel exhausted, I know I must not give in to the fatigue without a fight. A regular sleeping pattern must be established if I am to return to work successfully so no midday naps allowed!
Instead, card making has taken priority today, and another design inspired from an article in Craft Stamper.
Butterflies and Bows.
It is 7.00 am and after spending two days in bed I am up and showered, teeth cleaned and fully dressed, albeit it my shirt could do with an iron. For those who understand depression these are seen as the triumphs they are. For those who have no experience of this illness, these are the daily tasks that we all take for granted when healthy and feeling good. I take them for granted too but on mornings like today I feel like I have conquered the world.
My advantage in dealing with my bouts of low mood is that I have recovered before and I have hope that I will do so again. My GP as ever has been very supportive for which I am truly grateful. I am lucky to have a GP who takes the time to discuss my condition and the best way forward. Not everyone has this advantage and I do appreciate it.
At times like these, little things mean a lot. Thank you “Sally” for an uplifting quote for today;
‘All flowers eventually turn to the sun’
My previous post outlined my responses to some of the traits which are common to Empaths. Here is the second part of that response as promised.
Love of nature and animals: Being outdoors in nature is a must for Empaths and pets are an essential part of their life.
My garden is my pride and joy.
I love being outdoors in open space and fresh air. I hate being cooped up all day and this particularly cold and drab winter has been very difficult to cope with on occasions. Golf is great for me as long as I keep it non-competitive. It combines the outdoors, mastery of new skills and gentle exercise. I only wish I had more time for golf.
I have always had pets and can’t imagine a house without them, even if it’s a hamster sleeping away in the corner all day and only coming to life when I’m off to bed! Our pets give us an immense amount of pleasure and they are totally spoiled. If I won the lottery, my first purchase would be a nice house, with a huge garden and paddocks for lots of animals.
Need for solitude
An absolute necessity and this is the main reason I am unable to work long hours. I need time to myself every day and if I don’t get this time, my mental health deteriorates very quickly. The consequences can be devastating. Getting home late from work, eating, then going straight to bed, having to get up again at 5am the following morning is not sustainable as there is no “me” time built-in for recovery. Some people can do this day in day out and take their mental health for granted. Sadly I can’t and without doubt, my career progress has suffered greatly over the years as I am limited to the amount of working hours I can do. This is something that has caused me much upset in the past but I am now reconciled to under-performing and not reaching my potential despite my best efforts. As someone once told me, sometimes doing just enough has to be enough.
Gets bored or distracted easily if not stimulated
Oh yes! I have a very low boredom threshold and love learning new skills. I have many and varied interests and those who read my blog regularly will know that this year I decided I wanted to learn to ice-skate at the tender age of 50!
Intolerance to narcissism
I have no time for these people.
Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own
The killer blow and something I was not aware of until 3 years ago.
It was in May 2010 that I admitted publicly that I suffer with depression and have done for many many years.
Following my admission and for the next 6 months I was inundated with people wanting to talk to me about their experiences of depression and I was only too pleased to be able to help. The only problem was that it wasn’t helping me and I didn’t realise that I was unconsciously absorbing much of their distress and taking it on board. This affected my mood badly and in November 2010 I was advised to take time off work to redress the balance. I quickly learned that if I wanted to keep helping others with depression, I needed to become more remote and detached from their feelings and whilst I could offer practical suggestions and advice how to cope, I couldn’t fight their battles for them.
Good advice but difficult to do if your natural instinct is telling you otherwise.
There are a good many other indicators to Empath “status” but they will have to wait until another day.
In the meantime I would be very interested to hear your thoughts and comments. This is new but fascinating territory for me and any and all views are welcome 🙂