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Posts from September 2009

  • Just for laughs

    by Daniel S on 30 September 2009

    After a little thought following my previous post I decided to continue blogging here (for a little while longer at least) - and I then considered looking at whether well-known people's claims to have suffered from depression have raised the profile of the illness for better or worse.

    So I started doing a bit of rudimentary web searching and soon had to stop for a childish giggle: in an Independent feature called "Celebrity on the couch: 40 faces of depression in the spotlight", Melvyn Bragg explains how he will occasionally "feel a wang that goes in my head".

    Now, I don't doubt that Lord Bragg is a clever bloke, but the fact that "wang" is commonly used slang for... *puerile chortle*... "willy" is obviously a small gap in his large knowledge.

    Hey! It's not often one gets a chuckle out of depression - even if it is only a juvenile one.

  • Ups and Downs

    by Laurey on 29 September 2009

    Why is everything so hard? Just as I felt like things were on the up, I find myself in a slump. Its as if it knows, waits for me to let my guard down, and then bam! I feel like I'm slipping back to the way I was before and thats scary. I'm hoping that recognising the signs means that I can fight it better. My anxiety is sky high at the moment, and it gradually rises throughout the day. When I'm not anxious I'm depressed, not just feeling low, but having no motivation to do anything at all. I'm snuggled in my blanket at the moment and haven't even got dressed. I even had friends to meet this week but I had to cancel. I'm too scared to meet people at the moment with my ocd being so bad. The bad thoughts just keep popping into my head and the more I don't want them, the more they come. My compulsions are getting longer again too, I start to say the things I need to say and then more thoughts keep interupting me. I had to cut myself for the first time too. I say 'need' cause that's how it feels. I have to punish myself for the bad thoughts.

    Its been about a week since I started this post. I'm pleased to say that things have improved. Im still having trouble with anxiety but my mood has lifted. Not being so low helps my ocd greatly.  I'm seeing my support worker tomorrow, the CPN Thursday and I'm in for daycare on Friday so plenty of things to keep me busy and stop me dwelling on my situation. I'm trying to focus on the positives, and things are feeling a bit better.

  • Self harm

    by AdamM on 26 September 2009

    I said last time I blogged on here that I'd write a little about self-ham (even as a writer I'm unsure whether to hyphenate that or not). So here goes.

    When I was first depressed, several years ago, I had no compulsion to hurt myself per se. I wanted to not exist; I wanted to be dead, and I thought a lot about suicide, but the hurt part of it wasn't something I wanted. More than anything I wanted to get hurt just enough. Just enough to wake up in a hospital and have the people I loved there, just so I could be reminded that I was loved, and just so they would know how much I was in trouble. I fantasised about having a car crash. I used to let go of the steering wheel and grab it back just in time. I never did it, I never got hurt, and I got therapy and pills and I got over that bout, but it bubbled along inside me for a few years.

    This bout has been very different in many ways. I've not had time off work like before. My main memory of the real lows of last time was sitting in the bath, crying, for two weeks (obviously I'd get out every now and then and re-fill it). This time I've been much more functional. I've gone to work and even managed to have a bit of a laugh there from time to time. But from the very start I've been plagued with ideas of death, thinking of different ways I could do it. Mostly that's gone now. The car-crash idea is still there sometimes. The idea of going in to hospital, just giving up for a while. I was wondering what it would take to get me committed, just so word would spread and the people I think hate me would understand why I've been the way I've been without me having to try to approach them again and risk rejection.

    So those thoughts were at the start of this bout. And then, one night, just after my best friend got married and I had to come face-to-face with my most recent ex and my first ever girlfriend (now married), on probably my lowest night so far, I picked up a bit of broken mirror laying at the bottom of a box in my room and started scratching it into my chest.

    I'm still not sure why. The classic explanation of self-harm is that it externalises the pain that you feel inside, and there was probably an element of that. I was attacking a part of my body I hated, being unfit and wobbly (and knowing that the bloke my last ex left me for was gym-mad, muscular and far better looking than me). I wanted to see a bit of blood. I think there was a bit of me which wanted to see what the fuss was about for all those people with depression who do it.

    Three cuts later I was stinging a bit but I stopped crying and had a great night's sleep for the first time in ages.

    It continued. I moved from the mirror to a razorblade. Every time I did it I hated myself the next day. Why was I doing this? Surely it's what 16-year-olds do? It didn't hurt at the time but it did for days afterwards. I worried about infection. I worried about scars. I'd keep lifting my shirt in private to look at what I was doing. I made sure I would never be seen by my housemates walking between the shower and my room. I'd also linked it (incorrectly) with a need to sleep. I'd stopped drinking, which I had been doing to excess just to numb everything and let me get off at night; cutting myself seemed to be a replacement for that.

    I told a friend what I was doing, and then I went to the doctor, and told him. I was in the loop for a referral to a gateway worker for an assessment and that was pushed along a bit faster. The doctor told me the pills would just need a bit of time to work. So I went home.

    More time passed and I kept cutting; every few days, maybe once a week. In total I was doing it for about a month, by which time I had my assessment, and we decided I should put my dose of citalopram up to 40mg. At the same time I asked for sleeping pills and got them. Then I went to cut myself one last time, slipped, cut my thumb open far worse than I had wanted to cut myself and ran around the house like a little kid, swearing, dripping blood and laughing to myself at the irony of it. That was pretty much the last time I did it.

    I moved then on to being dependent on sleeping pills to get to sleep; now I have nothing. I'm mostly OK I think but I struggle to get to sleep. I get really tired in the evening but when I go to bed I wake up and spend hours laying there.

    Last week, though, I went to another wedding. I met a pretty girl. I made an idiot of myself, not drinking with anyone else, not dancing, spending long periods sitting on my own while everyone had fun. I tried to talk to her but mostly bottled it. I decided that night that I'll probably be single for a very long time. I'm waiting to hear about group therapy ("the group will help with understanding the value of relationships" apparently - I know the value but feel doomed never to have one again). So I got very low again. The next morning, I cut myself again. Spent the day very very low. And I had my first panic attack later that day. I was driving home, thinking about driving off the road into a ditch, and a car was behind me. I looked at my speedo and noticed I was doing about 25 miles an hour and all of a sudden I started crying and hyperventilating. I had to pull over and call a friend to come help me get home. It wasn't a great day.

    Since then I've had a day off work, in bed, feeling terrible about myself, and then I just got up and got on with it again. Feeling pretty bad again today, though, because I struggle with weekends. I emailed an ex well over a week ago (I'm not sure why, really, and it was probably a mistake) and I've heard nothing since. I hate myself for my ability to push people away, out of my life. I'm trying to come to terms with being alone long term now. I could murder a drink, too.

    What did I learn from self harm? Well, don't do it. It's pointless. It felt OK at the time but now I have a body covered in scars which are healing slowly but might take years to fade. I can't go swimming, or to the beach. It didn't really help me sleep at the time. I risked infections which could have made me very ill, or killed me, or disfigured me. I really wish I'd never done it. It's just left me even more unhappy with myself. Now I have to explain - should I ever meet anyone again (although I doubt this will be an issue) where the scars came from. Another reason for someone to not want to be with me.

  • Doubt

    by Daniel S on 23 September 2009

    I'm beginning to have my doubts about blogging here. What value does my contribution offer? At best, surely, I'm preaching to the converted. None of my experiences or feelings are out of the ordinary; other sufferers of depression will know them all too well.

    At worst, I'm a tiresome ingrate, a man approaching 40 but whining out of self-pity like a spoiled, sullen teenager. Why should anyone care about what I have to write if they're not in a similar mental state?

    The fact, you see, is that I probably deserve to feel the way I feel. I'm not a pleasant person. If you met me, you wouldn't like me; I'm ugly on both the outside and the inside - which makes we wonder whether depression is a kind of corrective measure powered by my ego. It wants me to look at myself and make improvements. Low self-esteem, I believe, is a kind of spotlight shone by the id: it makes one completely aware of one's flaws (and we're all flawed. Don't think you're not.)

    But I don't make the best of my situation. I don't seek to fix my imperfect personality. I prefer to wallow in misery and then demand help from others or expect them to read my self-regarding entries on this website. I'm not a child, and I'm not special; maybe I should take my drugs and keep my thoughts to myself.

  • How do you know you're depressed?

    by Big Jen on 16 September 2009

    I thought I'd add another quick post about this as it can be confusing to know whether you are just down in the dumps or truly suffering from depression.

    One of the things I did as a Practice Nurse was to help the GP's to assess patients with long term chronic illnesses such as Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke, for depression. We actually used a computer system called EMIS for this which would bring up an assessment tool called a PHQ9 (Patient Health Questionnaire 9) You can find a self help version of this tool here however please use it sensibly. If the results genuinely show you to have a degree of depression you MUST make an appointment to discuss your results with a GP. True depression is definitely not something that you can just snap out of.

    I recently applied for a job as a low intesity IAPT worker - yes I had to look it up too. It is actually "Improving Access to Psychological Therapie",it seems the Goverment actually realise what a huge problem mental illness is and how much in sickness benefit is being claimed as a result of stress related depression and anxiety disorders.  Unfortunately I didn't get the job (their loss, I thought I would have been ideal and would have true empathy for my patients!) However I did a lot of reading up prior to the interview and I discovered that new resources are becoming available all the time, Computerized Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) is the new buzz word. The only one that is recommended by NICE is a programme called "Beating the Blues" You can sign up for this free through the NHS via your GP (provided it is available from your PCT - mine is buying it in, in October apparently) I will definitely be giving it a go when its available here as my medication isn't really doing it for me. If you have fears and phobias another CCBT Programme is "Fearfighter" You should discuss both of these with your GP or therapist to discuss if they are right for you, but as a general rule CCBT or CBT are suitable for mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and is as effective as face to face therapies in many cases.

    My own depression continues to bubble away in the background, I have so many medications, some for MS, some for diabetes, some for depression, analgesics for my back pain, I do wonder if this huge combination of pills and injections are actually doing more harm than good. I am trying to wean off some of them, but having discussed my depression with my GP he is happy for me to control my own dosolupin dosage upwards to a limit which I am, although I'm not too sure they are working particularly well anyway.

    Another train of thought about depression is that exercise is good therapy. I'm sure that for other sufferers out there, like myself, the thought of getting out into the fresh air for a walk, cycle or swim is the last thing you feel like. Some days I don't really want to get out of bed. I must admit though that the days I do make the effort to go for a walk along the seafront, it does lift my spirits a bit - although often my legs and back do their damnest to make it difficult. If you want to see how I cope with my exercise its all on my website I would love to go swimming too, but there is so much of me to pour into a swimsuit and I am so self conscious that if there is anyone else in the pool I am likely to run away forever. Also if I go swimming, I like to swim and not have to slaalom around people standing in the middle of the pool talking - why do they do that?

    Alright, will leave it there for now. I hope this has been useful for at least one person, and please remember if you do the PHQ9 and you are depressed see your GP.

    Jen

  • Distinction

    by Daniel S on 15 September 2009

    The term depression, it says here, "refers to a state of low mood and aversion to activity". Hmmm! That's a description of a hangover. I've had plenty of those, and I've suffered from depression since childhood. They're not the same things.

    Unless you're being hyperbolic or just hopelessly needy, the morning after the night before doesn't make you want to die at the next possible opportunity. And it certainly doesn't stay with you for months or years, always threatening to re-emerge. Feeling gloomy is not the same as being depressed.

    Right now I'm fed up, not depressed. I'm self-aware just enough to understand that. I am, however, suffering from depression. I'm not sure the depressed/depression distinction is one that mental health professionals make, but it's one I use to differentiate in my own mind between my mood and the illness I suffer. I'm listless at the moment (because I didn't sleep well last night and I think I'm sickening for a cold), but I don't feel aggressively miserable and lacking all hope of ever feeling good again.

    That said, the root of my depression continues to thrive; I still despise myself with furious intensity, and I'm certain that it's an attitude that will never change without some relief - which I would welcome in whatever form it may come.

  • Hello all. I'm Adam, I'm 30, a writer and project manager. I have depression, too. I've had it on and off for several years - diagnosed about 7 or 8 years ago, but I've struggled with my mood and mental health for at least 10 years. My current bout of depression has been going on for six months or more; the warning signs were first there about a year ago, and I ignored them, which I shouldn't have done. Still, I'm not sure how much I could have done to avoid this  downer.

    A little about my treatment history: I've tried several different antidepressants. Venlafaxine, Mirtazapine, Flouxetine, and now Citalopram. I've paid a lot of money over the years for therapy, too. First was hypnotherapy, which didn't really work for me (my most memorable experience - and the only time I felt truly "under" - I was asked to describe my subconcious mind. My reply? "like my concious mind, but with better wallpaper". We didn't continue long after that). Next came psychodynamic therapy, which worked in the short to medium term but can't stop it coming back. I've now given up on that - although this may sound counter-intuitive to say, it seems to treat the root cause and not the symptoms. The root causes can't be changed any more. Life will always throw spanners in the works, and I'd like to be able to deal with these better without having to go back in to therapy every time. More than anything else, it's very expensive.

    I've been on my current course of medication for about three months. The side effects of the Citalopram weren't unexpected - they're very similar to the other medications I've been on before. What I wasn't expecting was the lack of sleep, which was a problem before I started and is worse now. I've been on sleeping pills for the last month as well, and I need to come off them because I've become pretty dependent. So far I've had two nights without them and I'm having rebound insomnia - which is where your body gets so used to the medication for getting to sleep you can't do it naturally until the balance comes back. So far, though, I've not fallen back to what I was using before to make me sleep - alcohol or self-harm - so I think things are getting better. I have an assessment on Friday to see if I'm ready to start CBT, so I'll find out then.

    There's so much to write about depression and the different ways it affects me, and other people I've known with it. I could sit here and type for hours now I've actually managed to start. I'm not sure you'd want to read it for hours though, so I'll wrap up this first post now. Thanks for reading. Next time I blog, I might talk a little about self-harm, what a weird compulsion it can be, and how it's affected me.

  •  Well, My name is Laura and I'm 22 years old. I've suffered from OCD for as long as I can remember although it was only diagnosed the Christmas just gone. I knew before that I had some traits of OCD like having to say things a certain amount of times. I'm not sure for how I knew, I remember recognising some symptoms in my early teens. When I was a child I had periods where I was terrified of germs, I remember having to say certain things the same number of times to prevent 'bad things' from happening. The thing I remember most is the look people gave me if I tried to explain any of this, it was asa if they were scared and it clearly told me that I wasn't normal. My parents were naturally worried about me , but the smallest mention of a doctor would send me into fits of tears. I'd clam up and pretend that everything was alright, I didn't want to go to a doctor, I thought they would take me away or punish me in some way.

    I was always a quiet child, I've never been able to make friends easily. High school was bad enough for someone like me without being 'mental' too. I had some friends but only usually one or two. I was happpy this way as the friends I had were good friends. I met a friend at high school who I am still friends with today and we had some great times in those five years and my OCD calmed down a bit. I didn't have any weird behaviour that was noticeable anymore, I'd learnt to hide them. They were still there but they became mental rituals. I did fairly well at high school and left with good grades.

    Unfortunately at this stage I lost my Nan, who I was very close to and loved very much. I used to go to stay at hers on weekends, I always loved hearing her stories from way back, she cooked the best chips and made the best cup of tea. One thing that stayed in my mind was that I didn't hug her the last time I saw her, and that I was too upset to go into the room at the hospital. After she passed, we said our goodbyes to the rest of the family, then we got into the car, me, mum, dad and adam and drove home. When we got back, dad said it was too late to cook, we'll order takeaway. I couldn't understand how they were sitting down watching telly waiting for the food to arrive, I felt like I wanted to shout, had they forgotten what had just happened??

    Looking back I can see that they did the only thing they could, carry on. They had said their goodbyes and were greiving in their own way. I don't really know what I was expecting to happen. But this was my first real experience with grief of this kind. I went to my room and cried till I couldn't cry anymore. In the end I came back to sit with my mum and we didn't talk about it, but she held my hand tight and we carried on.

    Next step was to move to Sixth Form. Moving to college was exciting, I was going to a whole new place. It wasn't like high school, people were here because they wanted to learn, not because they had to. At this stage I only had one friend and she only had me. I had high hopes that we would meet new friends too which would make it less daunting. As it happens I met only one new friend, so it was the three of us, and we are still very good friends. I was feeling the pressures of growing up at this stage and my anxietys, which were put down to shyness in my early years, were becoming stronger. The workload at A-Level was now harder, I had pressure from home to get a job and I was too worried about what other people thought of me. I was more concerned with boys and feeling depressed that I'm not in the least bit attractive. My OCD started to thrive again. It was here that it really grew and developed into what it is today. It started that when I was eating I suddenly felt an enormous wave of guilt that I never said thankyou and so I started to pray before every meal. But it became an obsession, I had to say the same words every time in the same order. Then it got worse that I had to repeat it, usually four times before I had anything to eat. And if it got interrupted for any reason, Id have to say it again. All of this was done secretly under my breath or in my head because of course, at college I would be eating with my friends and at home with my family. When questioned why I was taking so long to begin eating, I used to make up excuses: 'Oh I just prefer it when its gone a bit cold', 'I'm not that hungry at the moment'. I know they didn't beleive me and I started to get those looks again, the ones that know something's not right.

    In terms of my education, I had decided during my first year at college that I wanted to study History at University which wasn't something that I was currently studying. I was allowed to start studying it in my second year which meant that what would have been two years at college now became three. I think I was glad in a way as I don't think I was ready for uni. My OCD got significantly worse during the third year at college, although I was doing a subject I was passionate about, my grades were starting to slip, and I started missing classes. I had already secured grades A B C at A-Level for psychology, Biology and Psychology respectively, so I knew I only had to score a grade C in my history to go to the University I wanted to. I was alone now too, as my two friends had finished already, one into work and the other to Uni, the same one that I had applied to. Even when I skipped classes I was only sitting in the common room. I didn't dare go home because I was not sure of dads shifts. What if he catches me?

    It was in this year that the Pure-O kind of OCD really took form. I had frequent unwanted thoughts that would bombard my mind and leave me severly distressed. Every time they came I would have to reassure myself that I know I don't want them and I don't mean them, and I would havee to pray and say I'm sorry. But the more I didn't want them the more that they would come. I had heard of OCD at this point and thought that some of my repetitive behaviours were possibly linked to it. I had never heard of this type where you get these horrible thoughts. I thought I was crazy, I thought I was evil or something. But I knew that I didn't want the thoughts, they terrified me. I didn't understand any of it. I was very depressed at this time and there were so many times when I just couldn't understand why I was here. I couldn't tell anyone either because I was too scared and ashamed. I didn't know how ill I was, these things weren't real, they weren't me.

    I somehow managed to make it t University. I finally realised that the thoughs are unwanted and they don't mean anything. This was part of my mental rituals to remind myself. I was in more control again and able to hide them. I think that the boost in self esteem that Uni gave me may have helped me to challenge some of my anxieties. For the first time, I felt like I fitted in, I lived in off campus halls in my first year. The block was split into small flats, there were six of us in our flat. I was unbeleivably lucky in the flat mates that I had, we all got along really well and I was really, really happy. It was here I met one of my best friends that I think I'll ever have, she is pure diamond. I was also very lucky that my other best friend was here too, who I had met at college. I also had a boyfriend in my first year, which was my first real relationship. Everything was going great and I was happy.

    I still had to go through my prayers every night which could be time consuming, because if I said the wrong thing I would have to start again. But they were flexible, I was able to say them before I went out in the evening. In second year four of us from the flat moved into a house. Inevitably the anxiety began again, second year was more hard work, I had a part time job now too. My boyfriend was living further away now in his family home because he had finished his course. Everyone was feeling the pressures more, but we muddled on. I started to get depressed again. I'd be in my room crying my eyes out without knowing why. Most days I'd wake up and just want to hide under my covers all day. I kept eating fatty foods and craving comfort food. I put on weight, I was spending too much money, it felt like if I bought something it would make me feel better. It didn't. I finally went to see the doctor about the depression with the encouragment of my boyfriend. I didn't tell him everything, just the depression. I was put on a low dose of citalopram. Things were getting increasingly frustrating with my boyfriend, the long distance wasn't working and we wanted different things, we split in the summer between second and third year. At the time I was really upset about it and the depression deepened, my self esteem issues reared again and I was comfort eating and and I was comfort eating again and piling on the pounds.

    Everything just went from bad to worse after this point, by Christmas I still hadn't done any work for my first semester of my final year, even the thought of made me anxious. I had started seeing a CBT therapist about my anxiety. During one session we were reading through the mandatory booklet on stress when I spotted a small paragraph headed OCD. I read it and said 'that's me'. That was the first time that I admitted that my problems went deeper than just stress. My doctor gave me a sick note for work so that I could go home for the holidays which was much needed. As I sat on the train, I read the booklet that I had been given on OCD. As I read the paragraph about Pure-O type of OCD I actually cried with relief. It was there in black and white, I wasn't crazy, my secret shame that I had hidden all this time were the symptoms of a disorder, a real illness.

    My depression lifted to a large degree after my diagnoses, but my OCD worsened. I first of all left uni and moved back home to be with my family. I wasn't looking after myself that well and I was self harming alot. I came home in the February with the intention of returning in September to finish my course. It took quite a long time to get my care on track here. I was still self harming regularly and one of the forms that this was taking was that I used to hit my head alot. This eventually led to my hair coming out, the impact was causing the hair to break at the root. Eventually it got so big that I had to cut my hair short, about 4 inches left. The missing hair carried on growing until it looked as though I'd shaved down the middle of my head. Once it got this bad, I went to get my head shaved. It's not something I like, but I put a brave face on it. Things carried on getting worse, I lost two stone in weight because I wouldnt eat or drink, it was like a punishment. I'd go days going through the same compulsions, I was lucky if there were two or three hours of the day where I was actually alright. I decided to withdraw completely from university, I couldn't see how I would be better enough to be able to go back.

    I have a great support network, both professionally and those that are close to me. My family and friends have been very understanding and are fantastic at keeping me motivated. Things are a little better at the moment as I recently had a change in medication. In a way I feel like I've woken up from a very bad nightmare. The OCD was ruling my life. I'm a long way until I'm better but at the moment I'm taking each small step at a time.

     

     

  • In the Beginning....

    by Big Jen on 10 September 2009

    Hello, I'm Jenny, I'm quite new to this so be gentle with me.

    Okay, so how come I'm on here posting a blog about depression? Well, I'm actually trained as a Nurse both in general Nursing as an SRN in 1982 followed by a District Nursing qualification in 1989, but since then I've been hit by a number of life events which have knocked me for six.

    To be honest, the first cruel blow came in 1974 when I was told that a genetic abnormality meant I could never have children (I'm actually filling up with tears now so it doesn't bode well for the rest of the blog!) I loved children and always thought I'd be a wonderful Mum but had to rethink and plan to be a career girl instead. So I went into Nursing. I loved it and felt that I could project my nurturing nature towards helping those in need, my patients. The Nursing years passed quickly and were not without drama's and sadness. Any Nurse who says you do not get emotionally involved is talking a load of rubbish and shouldn't be in the profession. My Nursing Tutor always told us to treat each patient as though they were a member of your own family, yes, we all have grumpy family members as well as those we love dearly.

    Most of my Nursing was spent working on Night Duty in acute areas such as Coronary Care and a Respiratory unit caring for patients with sleep apnoea who would die if their breathing was not supported at night. We had patients in Iron Lungs, yes even in the 1980's. There was a lot of responsibility and I enjoyed it. It was lovely going home to a nice warm bed on a cold frost morning when others were braving the elements on the way to work.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, at the age of just 29, I had to take ill health retirement when, having just become a District Nursing Sister I injured my back. I found myself on the receiving end of Nursing Care and extensive physio and steroid/analgesic injections into my back. I was devastated. Not only was I going to be childless but my career had been taken from me too.

    Fortunately, my own GP was looking for a new Practice Nurse, and having seen me at work in my Red Cross capacity (I joined them at the age of 14 as a means of impressing the Nursing interviewers) as a First Aider, asked if I might be interested. It was only 12 hours a week and as I was receiving a small pension, Industrial Injuries Benefit and Reduced Earnings Allowance, it was a wonderful way to keep my Nursing skills and knowledge up to date and continue to deal with patients. I was once again useful and needed. I stayed in that job for 4 years, there was no lifting and my back held up well. I left when I got married (thats another story for another time!) and moved a few miles away.

    I spent a few years happily as a stay at home wife before once again getting itchy feet and hankering after my former career. I completed a return to Nursing Course and joined an Agency, where I could pick and chose the shifts I did. I began to get regular work at a Nursing Home where I was left in charge of a team of staff on a unit caring for patients with chronic conditions, mostly Multiple Sclerosis. It was a friendly place and instead of lifting I was more in charge of overseeing care and dispensing medications. I then saw a job advertised for a Practice Nurse at a nearby Surgery. I got it! and was the Heart Disease specialist Nurse at a time that the Government was rearranging things and putting more emphasis on preventative medicine. I took a course in Heart Disease and gained confidence in my abilities to cope in a number of areas of Primary Care.

    A few weeks after completeing the stressful course I had continous pins and needles in my fingers, I began to drop things as the feeling was going. It became difficult to do things like dressings and stitch removals. I carried on for a week or so, knowing I had a holiday coming up. The next week my toes felt the same. It was a Saturday, I phoned the GP who said if it was no better by Tuesday (Bank Holiday weekend of course!) I should see him. By Tuesday my lower regions were affected and it felt like my trousers were damp on my legs and I was sitting on airbags, very strange sensations which are very hard to explain. My arms itched at the slightest touch and I was absoulutely shattered.

    I was sent into hospital quite quickly as it was thought I might have a condition called Guillaine Barre syndrome, the truth though was possibly even more devastating. An MRI scan showed lesions both on the brain and spine, no, not a brain tumour but Multiple Sclerosis. I must stress that it is not a contagious condition and purely coincidental that I had previously worked in that unit. However it was quite scary as I had obviously seen the worst case scenarios for the condition. Whilst I was in hospital the numbness crept up my legs and I was unable to walk for a few days. Fortunately a course of IV steroids sorted out the condition (but played havoc with my blood sugars, I had diagnosed my own diabetes the previous year!) and although i was left with numb fingers and toes I got my legs back. I was so upset that once again my life was over, and wondered how on earth I could bounce back again. I was started on anti depressants for the first time.

    My employers were brilliant and I was moved from a job requiring fine dexterity to a more admin role and given the title Clinical Quality Manager, whilst still maintaining patient contact as the CHD Nurse. Now I was helping the Practice attain the targets in a number of clinical areas. We did and reached 100% in all the areas I was responsible for. I felt better and stopped the anti depressants under my GP's guidance.

    About a year later I went on a two day course on Stress Management. I have absolutely no idea why, but from the moment the tutor came into the room I burst into tears. I was sobbing absolutely uncontrollably, the nicer people were the worse it got. This must have been what was meant by a "Nervous Breakdown" After the two day course, which I managed to complete somehow, although fortunately the tutors were so understanding - possibly something to do with the subject matter! I went to work and to see my Manager, and again burst into tears. I was off sick and sent to my GP who started another course of Anti depressants and saw me once a week. The first ones, SSRI's didn't work and I was changed to another called Dosolupin which I am still on today. I was well enough to return to work after about 6 weeks, whilst my GP continued to monitor me for another month or so.

    In 2006 my much loved Auntie died, and last year I received a legacy that enabled us to pay off our mortgage and move to the Isle of Wight. Hubby and I love the Island and I hoped that the change of air and scenery would help lift my mood and clear the depression. Mind you moving hasn't been the cure all that I had hoped for although I wouldn't want to go back to the mainland despite this, I'd much rather be depressed here than in Suffolk. I had to leave my job, where I was treated well and was an important member of the team. Now, I can't find a job - no-one wants a Nurse with MS and a back condition. I can't be a traditional Practice Nuse due to my fingers and can't work in a hospital as I can't lift and get so tired with the MS. I have written to a couple of GP Practices explaining what I CAN DO, but am afraid that they are only seeing what I CAN'T DO! So now I'm in a vicious circle. I'm depressed beacause I can't find a job, and I can't find a job because I'm too depressed to bother, thinking no-one will want me. I am in a state of limbo - I need to find a Nursing job to keep my Registration which I worked so hard for, only a few hours a week would do, but what can I do?

    So thats me, Jobless, Childless, have MS and Diabetes, am Obese due to the amount of hormone therapies in my teens and twenties, losing my hair due to injections I take for the MS and Back injured by the job I loved, oh yes, and I still  have depression. I really think someone somewhere hates me or I must have been really bad in a former life!

  • Accept Yourself

    by Storm&stress on 09 September 2009

    "Every day, you must say Oh how do I feel about my life?"

     

    I saw my therapist again yesterday, and I have this wonderful feeling that things are starting to get better. Although, it's a complete antithesis, because this feeling is met with an opposite one; that of fear that I am jumping to the wrong conclusion, and am being prematurely happy, or happy without a cause. I start to remember times when I've been happy in the past, supernaturally so at times, and it has just led to me falling back into that horrible pit again, having that feeling following me around. The Black Dog indeed. This has happened before - and I am learning to forewarn myself. It's like a rollercoaster I am not aware of being on. There's a steady incline to the top, but I can't tell at that point. It's only when I'm at the top, and feeling the exhilaration suddenly of the wind on my skin and the life in me, that I hurtle down at a frightening speed, so terrifyingly that I'm scared to ever feel alive again, in case the drop is just coming around again. 
    But this is different. I think I might be feeling better. And it's ok to feel happy, isn't it? I shouldn't be too worried? The only thing that makes me feel awful are my own thoughts. If I can control my own thoughts, I can control my own condition.
    Me and my therapist are coming to the end of our time, now. I can't say I'm not worried, because - after such a long time - I feel like I'm going to be losing a safety net, and the odd comfort of a friend in a clinical setting. It's been over a year since we've been working together, so now it's ending I feel both proud and anxious. However, she's taught me some good things. CBT is all about learning to give yourself therapy over time, so that's worked for me managing my anxiety and my depression (just about). The main thing is the Schema Therapy, which I think is all about looking back into one's past and working out where your core beliefs have come from, and how they have a rippling effect through the rest of your personality, and how to alter the core belief so that the changes will show throughout.

    I've learned two important things from therapy:
    1. Never underestimate the power of a healthy sleeping pattern
    2. Try to keep yourself occupied with things that make you feel good about yourself.

    The latter is important today, because today, I met with a charity called Music and the Mind. They're new, and I'm working closely with them. Their aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to try to bust the stigma of mental health. It's also in place to showcase the talent of some service users, which is where I originally came in. Did you know, that there is a very high correlation between abnormal mental states and creative output? It's true. Music and the Mind aim to show this to everyone, and to explain what mental illness is, and to help educate people in what to do if they become ill, what to do if a friend or family member becomes ill, and why it isn't the end of the world. I'm very happy to be working with them. I felt very at home today; I was singing in a room occupied by three manic-depressives, a depressive, and me - a bordeline personality. It was nice not to be judged, and we all spoke quite openly about our worst experiences, and how we came to realise we were unwell. One man didn't get diagnosed until he was 33, when he simply went to the doctor and said "Sometimes, I have so much energy that I can't sleep for days and days. Other times, I have no energy for weeks, sometimes months". We had a little joke together about medications, too. "What's the worst you've been on?" sort of thing. I think we all agreed that anti-psychotics are the absolute pits. "I couldn't do anything for a week" "No, me neither. I was basically comatose" .

    So we spent the day working out things about concerts we could put on everywhere, where to get funds, how to publicise etc. It felt so good to be involved in something I feel so strongly about. I've always had a passionate hate for altruism, but this is far from it - this is something I feel I just need to do.

    I'll post when I have more information about all of this. For now - I'm happy. I'll try my best to stay that way.    

  • These Things Take Time

    by Storm&stress on 08 September 2009

     

    The title of this post I suppose relates to my feelings on depression (as well as being the title of a Smiths song - maybe this will be a running theme...). 

    I would like to write about my first experience with depression, but since I feel it's always been with me, I'll at first write about the first time I saw it was severely interfering with my life. 
    I was 18 when I felt it hitting me, but at first I didn't know what it was. I remember, I had left home about 18 months before, and had just moved in with my then partner. I found I was starting to crumble under the pressure of my new responsibilities, and was feeling increasingly inadequate as a person. I was a full-time college student, too, studying English and Music, and I had good prospects. My ambitions stretched far and wide; some days I fancied myself as an academic, gathering degrees here and there and writing books about my own theories; other days I thought I would travel the world and teach English as a foreign language; most days I thought I would probably become a very famous singer-songwriter and thus become very rich, and my problems would all go away. It wasn’t mindless ambition, it was simply the day-dreaming of an 18-year-old girl.

    But things started to take a rapid turn. I found I was eating a lot more, and my thirst for alcohol was barely sated. I would wake up in the middle of the night, full of worry, and wasn’t able to get to sleep. I was quite ignorant to what was happening to me at first, because I just didn’t link all of these symptoms together. My diagnosis of depression was just as much of a shock to me as it was to everyone else. I even thought the doctor was lying to me in order to hand out antidepressants. I thought I was too good to be depressed, too strong-willed. I couldn’t even see what problems in my life could ever cause me depression, so I shrugged it off. But I noticed that more and more insidiously it crept into my life, slowly destroying everything.

    My ambition eroded and I quit college two weeks before my final exams because I just knew I would fail, same as I failed at everything else. I started to have mood-swings; spinning on a spectrum of contempt, love, hate, resentment and anxiety constantly. I was never satisfied. I would wake up in the morning; get up, get dressed, and just before stepping out the door, I’d sneak back off to bed again because I couldn’t face the day. I thought people would laugh at me outside, people would be able to see my bitterness and sadness all over my face, and maybe even pity me. So I didn’t go out much at all. And that’s the thing about depression - it often comes as a package. Low-mood, some level of paranoia, anxiety, feeling unreal, strange thoughts... I find it rarely ever is “just feeling blue”.

    I capitulated to antidepressants at this time and - whilst I understand they work for most people - they didn’t work for me. At first I was on Citalopram, but this seemed to trigger some sort of hypomania in me. I couldn’t settle down for 3 days, and I looked increasingly “strung-out”. The doctor decided I should come off of Citalopram, and try Fluoxetine (Prozac) instead. Now, I suppose it worked to an extent. I started leaving the house, I got a hobby, I cheered up somewhat. But I found that suddenly, I had no feelings. As a friend once worded it, “It’s like you understand the world is a horrible place, but you no longer care about it”. It was an eerie feeling, but in my head, I couldn’t work out where I’d be without it.

    I stopped taking the Prozac a few months after that (a few months of friends and family asking me, “are you okay?” constantly), and admittedly - I was scared. I had an on-off dalliance with the stuff for a further two years... but I don’t take it now. The moment in my life I am dancing around, was the day when enough was enough. Since I had stopped taking my tablets and was still waiting for the doctor to recommend therapy, I had slipped back into a depression, only this one was far worse than anything I’d ever experienced before. I found myself going for weeks without bathing, and never answering the phone. My friends were worried about me, my parents beside themselves. I cut my family off, because I couldn’t understand why they would want to talk to me. I developed strange beliefs; one of them was a fear of going upstairs alone. I had convinced myself that there had been a hanging in my bathroom, and if I went in there alone, I would see the corpse still swinging. It was terrifying, and being left alone in the house was a concept that gave me frequent panic attacks.

    I got myself into strange patterns, for comfort I suppose; every day I ate the same food. Brie on bread, and a 9-inch stuffed-crust pepperoni from our local take-out, washed down with 2 bottles of red wine and a couple of beers. I would go to bed at 8am every morning, and get up again at 5pm because seeing the daylight was something I avoided at all costs. My house had become a hovel; dirty, unclean, stagnant, sticky, pungent with what might as well have been the smell of my own decay. One night, during this episode, I went to the bathroom alone to confront my fear. I sat in the corner, crying and petrified. I hadn’t hallucinated anything, but I found that I was now having intrusive thoughts, telling me that I should end my miserable life. This thought was hard to rationalise because at this point, I felt I had nothing left. So I started to process of my own suicide. I know deep down that my intention was never to die, but I do believe my intention was to punish myself, and also to get some help. Sometimes these things are cries for help, but let’s face it - I’d been passed around from GP to GP for however long, and their only option was always antidepressants, and “reduce the stress in [my] life”.

    The rest of that night is a blur, and I just remember being in an ambulance, getting cleaned up, bandaged, questioned, tested, assessed. I told them of my family history, which shows a strong history of various mental illnesses. After an hour or so with a psychologist, he came back with the news that I would be referred to a psychiatric service and be assessed for further treatment. I was sent home, and a week later, I had a phone call from the Early Intervention Service. They assessed me too, over the course of a couple of weeks. Given my family history and the way I was living my life at that time, they said I was at an "At Risk Mental State", which meant that I might go on to develop psychosis, if I wasn't experiencing it already. It was decided that I was unwell and in need of treatment, and since then, I’ve been receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Schema Therapy, and have a psychiatric consultant that I can talk at length with about my needs, should I choose to return to medication.

    It’s been two years since then and I can safely say that I have never had an episode quite like that again. CBT helped me to challenge my irrational thoughts; “I’m a worthless person” becomes “right now I feel worthless, but I haven’t always, so I know that this will pass”. “I deserve to die” becomes “I know I feel bad now, but I have evidence to show that I do not deserve to die”. Sometimes I do have a relapse, but they pass much quicker than before. I can - now and again - get caught in cycles of thought, which gather speed and turn into depressive states, but now that I’m no longer cutting my family and friends out of my life in retreat when this happens, I am keeping them close at hand and accepting their support. I know that an episode could always be just around the corner, because there are events in my life I can’t control, but I’m just starting to deal with these things better now.

    It would be unrealistic of me to say that I will never be depressed again, and if anything, unrealistic goals like that would only hinder my recovery. I think the way to word it is simply as this: I have some good days, and I have bad days. But I do not let the bad days become bad months any more.

    This is only my first blog, and apologies that it is so long - but I just thought I should introduce myself properly. :)

    Until next time. 

     

  • Dreamy

    by Daniel S on 06 September 2009

    Depression never goes away, not the endogenous variety. That, at least, is what I believe. I'm certain there's no cure for a condition that can only be anaesthetised by drugs or compartmentalised by therapy.

    The dark and terrible mood is always there, posing the unremitting threat of suddenly opening a pus-filled eye or slipping a grotesque finger between the box and the lid.

    This might happen when one neglects ones mental health by, say, going on a boozy bender, or by being misguidedly cock-sure in a situation fraught with emotion. Sometimes, a simple lack of sleep can stir the beast.

    But not even a good session of shuteye provides a perfect defence, I find. I suffer from bad dreams - I hesitate to call them nightmares - on an almost nightly basis, and they are usually filled with frustration and impotent rage.

    Occasionally, my reveries feature full-blown bouts of very real-seeming depression in which I cry and howl and consider suicide. Waking up, then, offers both enormous relief and deep concern that I'm slowly losing control.

    Not that such experiences put me off my kip. Sleeping is the best thing ever; it's better than food, sex, beer and music because it offers the easiest, cheapest and most satisfying (despite the dreams) distraction from having to be me.

    Nighty night!

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