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Catching you up (17)

by JustEliza on 31 May 2010

(Selections from October, 2009)

Hello. I only found out late last night that side effects of the drugs they had me take for my blood test this morning include depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This, in combination with the 'other' stressful situation and my normal sensitivity to stress, has made me very depressed and anxious. I would never act on suicidal thoughts, but that doesn't make having them any less difficult.

I wanted to let you all know that I am okay. I, who never share anything of emotional importance to anyone, called my mother-in-law and asked her to come over. I have no idea what I'm going to say when she gets here. This sharing thing is all very new to me. But my instincts just needed someone here, for once.

--- (one day later) ---

Well, that wasn't fun. But I'm pretty sure being alone and letting myself stew in it would've been far worse. I definitely believe that the body needs time to recover and the best you can do for your body is to be in a place with people who can help in that recovery. Whether that's at home, with your family, or in hospital, with professionals, or some combination of medicine and therapy... really depends on you, I guess.

I don't feel tops yet, per se. But I feel supported and in control.

Last night when my mother-in-law (MIL) came over, we just talked. She talked more than me. I didn't really talk about how I felt. It was okay to listen (although very difficult to) and we took a short walk. Then my husband came home, we all had a lovely lamb stew, and she left. I waited patiently for him to finish repairing the fish tank light and then I explained to him fully how I was feeling.

It is incredibly difficult for me to admit that I have mental health problems. As I said to my MIL: "If it was simply that I experienced a horrible and traumatic event, developed PTSD as a result, have lingering depression and anxiety, and cannot cope with social stresses -- I could easily explain and seek treatment." But there was no single event. The resulting mental health problems cannot be defined by a single pro forma. And so, I cannot explain it at all.

Or rather, I can, but who on earth would be prepared to listen and help figure it all out?

I need to stop asking that question. Because really, we won't know the answer to that unless we try. So I decided to recontact my counsellor on Monday and ask for a referral to psychotherapy. Now that I drive, I can more easily access those appointments, and we both agreed on our final meeting to make a decision after taking some time off to think about it.

It's been nearly a year now (can you believe that??) and I understand a bit more how challenging and absorbing maintaining your own mental health is when you are unwell. I admire those who (with or without drugs) work so hard on a daily basis to monitor and care for themselves. Being a carer can be a full-time job for some: caring for yourself isn't any different.

I've spent most of my life self-managing traumatic stress, deep depression, and increasing anxiety. It's amazing, when you think how Able I am. How, even when feeling so empty and alone and wanting death more than anything, I still manage to care for myself. It's no less amazing you achieve it, too.

I feared that people would say I don't really have depression. Because I can smile, walk, talk, participate. I don't complain, least of all about myself. I'm not pessimistic. I'm not angry. But I am angry. I am deeply sad. I just know enough about surviving depression to not let myself think what I feel. This is precisely why talking therapy wasn't very helpful. The problem is believing that I'm fine just because I can say I am fine.

I'm not fine.

I have not properly dealt with all that emotion. I still feel crippled by my sensitivity to it and to others. I do not have adequate adrenal reserves to deal with stressful situations. I am easily triggered by people and interjected memories from my past. And looking forward to death is not a humane way to live.

So it's time for more radical lifestyle changes. We're packing up most of our house and putting it away. I feel regularly overwhelmed with the responsibility for all of my Things. So, I'm taking my Things away until I feel I can manage. Less to tidy, less to clean, less pressure on me. More space to create.

I'm spending more time with family. I'm not avoiding other people per se, but I'm erring on the side of caution when getting involved with new and other people. No more collaborative projects. No more selling my work online. I cannot afford to manage those relationships. I am happy and comfortable with the distance between me and my local friends. I will not pressure myself into developing more out of it.

I will live more locally. Participate and volunteer in community events. Give my work to charity, which always gives me great joy. Work with my hands, in my house. Do more DIY. Walk outside.

I will start taking my vitamins again now that the tests are done. Clearly, I have a vitamin deficiency and taking supplements is warranted (Vitamin D, Calcium). I want to increase my Omega 3 as well. When eating for eatings sake, I will try fruit and vegetables first before going for a biscuit. Did you know you should really be eating 9 a day, not 5, but the government thought 9 too depressingly difficult for most people to achieve?

I will be more honest with myself about my career plans. Do I want to learn X because I want to help myself or because I want to help others? I will be honest about the situations and roles in which I cannot cope. In a hierarchy, for example. In research. Being accountable to many people. Doing the same thing over and over again. It's not so much about the topic or content of the role but in the process and day-to-day. I like my current job especially because it's a fixed contract. I like being able to change and leave when I want to. I like new challenges and new people.

Most importantly, I will make every effort to prioritise these changes. I will acknowledge my mistakes and make every effort to fulfil my responsibilities to other people, but I will also recognise these as responsibilities to myself. And I guess we'll see if managing each day becomes easier.

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