Who Let The (Black) Dog Out?

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“How was your Christmas/did you get anything nice?” – depressed, I got depressed. I crashed and burned big time! The past few months have been pretty much hell, in a word. Looking back, I realize I was struggling well before I had a meltdown but stupidly, or perhaps more naively, I thought I would just get over it, that I was just a bit down rather than it being my depression. It slowly crept up on me in a way that I didn’t notice until I was well and truly caught up in its web. The sneaky demon!

I had insomnia for weeks so I had far too much time on my hands to overthink things. I actually felt like I was losing my mind. There’s nothing like being stuck awake in the early hours for giving in to the voices of depression into your head. The last thing I needed was more time in my own head. The voices that tell you everyone hates you, that you’re just a burden and people would be better off without you. The thoughts that weave their way into your psyche in a spider-like way, spinning their webs and trapping you in a cycle of self-hatred,doubt and angst. It wasn’t until after I had a meltdown and got help that I realized how vulnerable I was. During the course of the conversation with the doctor when I eventually asked for help at the end of November,  he naturally asked me if I was suicidal which is not as straightforward a question as it may seem.

deep inside

I read something on social media which I’m afraid I don’t know who or where the quote is from but I found it to be spot on. It said something like being suicidal means that you live in a body that fights to survive with a mind that just wants to die. Most people think that if you’re suicidal that you just want to die when actually you just want it to stop, the thoughts, the despair, the pain. It’s not attention seeking, but a cry for help. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted it to stop. Unfortunately with mental illnesses/disorders like depression the two can get confused. Death is final, but sometimes when the mind is so troubled, the soul so beaten down, it can feel like the only way out, the only release. Suicidal thoughts are not always the same as wanting to die but no less dangerous to someone who is at rock-bottom.

Oblivion Sophocles

This next sentence may seem strange, but having a meltdown probably saved me. It took that for me to get help and luckily for me I got a really good doctor. Anyone who lives in the UK knows that the NHS, while far from perfect, is essential to people who need it. Not only did I get in the same morning (a minor miracle) but the doctor really listened, he did everything he could with the time and resources available. I’m now on a new combination of medication which has let me sleep,or more accurately knocked me out, so I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind. He’s also been monitoring my progress and referred me to a counselling service which unfortunately has a 12-14 week waiting list. However, I’ve been bumped up the list which I am pretty certain is down to my doctor as it happened after a follow-up appointment, coincidence? I’m getting my head “shrinked” this week, fingers crossed.

This time has been one of the worst since my teens. My mother admitted to me that it did scare her. It scared me! I went from being over emotional to dead inside. I felt absolutely nothing, just a dull heaviness inside of me. I felt like I’d lost myself. I couldn’t make jokes or sarcastic comments, I wasn’t being an arsehole with certain friends where we have a banter one-upmanship, I couldn’t focus on anything and had lost interest in most things. The most disconcerting thing was the paranoia. I’ve never had it so bad. I was second guessing not only myself but people I and know and love. I could only get around it by trusting the people I know and their character and trying as hard as I could to ignore the voices and anxiety. It was becoming exhausting.

It’s been a few months now and the medication has kicked in. I’m due back at work soon and hopefully getting the counselling treatment soon as well. It’s been hit and miss in the past but I can only give it a try and see what happens. I’m aware that I’m not fully recovered and it will take some weeks if not months yet, but I honestly feel like the worst is over and there are signs of the old me returning. Hopefully this year will only get better and I  can put the end of last year behind me. One thing I do know is that going through a bad time like this has really shown me who I can depend on and that despite what the illness was making me believe I do have people that care for me and want me around. Maybe I’m not so bad after all.

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Mental Illness Is Exhausting.

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I guess I hide it well, despite a few slips (they don’t call it concealed depression for nothing) but I’ve not been doing so well in the mental health department lately. One thing I hate about talking about it is people asking ‘why’. Why do I feel like this? Why now? Why can’t I just cheer up? I have no idea. It’s not that easy to explain even to someone who knows about mental issues. It could be one thing or it could be a shed load of reasons. The main reason I hate talking about it is that I’m just about holding it together, keeping it pushed down, and I feel like the flood gates will open. It makes you feel vulnerable and although talking about it would probably be good for me, it’s all about timing. It has to be the right time and the right person/people. I don’t trust easily and even those I do trust it’s hard to burden them or allow myself to feel that vulnerable.

For the past three weeks I’ve felt dead inside. Literally nothing. No emotion, just a hollow, listless husk of a human being. I’ve mostly managed to cover it up by acting the clown, being sarcastic (as expected) and posting my usual rubbish on social media, although I did stay off of Facebook for a few days when I was really doing my own head in. I’ve had insomnia again which only helps to drive me even more crazy. Lack of sleep and being stuck in my own head is not a good combination for me and makes it harder to put on a front. Hiding behind a persona or a mask is not an intention to be deceitful or hide anything other than the illness itself. It’s more of a shield or a suit of armour to protect your emotional self. My Mum realised I was entering a bad phase again as she always knows when I’m ill in any way, usually before I even know, and knowing me so well she gave me my space to deal with it in my own way but it helped knowing she was there. I could go to her if I couldn’t cope or just needed a hug. She’s an amazing person and I’m lucky to have her, sadly not everyone can say that about their parents.

worst kind of sad

I’ve now gone the other way. I’m feeling too much. It all hit me so much this afternoon I cried at a zombie movie! I got upset that the zombie lost it’s head!! Who does that?!! I probably would have exploded if I found a pen without a lid on it. That’s the thing with this illness. You can hold it all in for a long time and then the slightest, even silliest of things can set you off which can make you appear a little unstable! Sometimes focusing on the unimportant or ridiculous is a way of coping itself, maybe the only way for some people. I find these mini-meltdowns help to stop me from having a full blown crisis. I can’t afford to completely lose it right now and I’m worried that if I do this time I might lose myself completely. My anxiety levels are ridiculous and I’ve been feeling increasingly paranoid about the littlest of things. Normally I draw to relax and focus my mind, but I haven’t been able to in months. The pencil won’t even touch the paper. I’m restless, antisocial, stressed and depressed. Christmas is going to be so much fun in this house!

I realise I should see a doctor but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. It’s ironic that I don’t feel well enough to make an appointment, to set the ball rolling to get the help I need. I just worry that I might leave it too long that I don’t recognise that I need or feel able to ask for help. My brain doesn’t make sense. I’ve always been a bit weird, I’m just not sure I’m a functioning weird any more. My mind is malfunctioning and I’m exhausted from trying to steer it in the right direction. If only mental illness could be treated as easily as many physical ailments. It would be so much…Why does that guy look like he’s wearing a dalmatian? And the bow-tie? Oh for f.. Ok, mind wandering again, thank you for reading and take care of each other xxx

I’d Apologize For Being An Arsehole, But I’m Dead Inside!

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Back To Reality

I’ve had back problems since school after falling down some stairs and then another accident at a fairground several years back, again on some wet stairs (note to self; really should avoid stairs) but the past few years have been the worst. I’ve had physio, endless amounts of painkillers and earlier this year I underwent minor surgery. I’ve pretty much spent the past few years in pain every day. I’m getting used to that life and my pain threshold seems to have increased. Although the surgery was a success and my surgeon is an amazing man, I have had a relapse after I sneezed and threw my back out again (I know, you couldn’t make this up).  So now, after a brief hiatus from the daily pain, I not only have pain, but my left foot and part of my leg is stone cold and I’m hobbling about on crutches. Thankfully I haven’t prolapsed the disc again, it’s due to scarring on/around the nerve. Yay me!!

Physical pain I can handle (to a certain degree, I’m only human after all) but lately my mental health problems have reared their ugly heads again like the Hydra of Lerna mated with Eeyore. Sometimes your mind is your own worst enemy. I overthink things especially when I have insomnia or I’m on my own for a long period of time, I can be oversensitive and lately I can feel myself getting more paranoid. The only good thing is that I can recognize these behaviours/feelings at the moment but I worry that they may become normal to me and I won’t see that I have a problem or be able to control them if things get worse. I had 3 days off this week and didn’t leave the house at all. I had no desire to. I’ve barely spoken to anyone outside of work besides my mother and although I’ve posted the usual crap on social media of memes, bad jokes and silly comments, there’s been no real interaction or anything of substance.

Yesterday I almost called in sick for work but as it turned out I was needed earlier and I just thought ‘f**k it!’ and put on my ‘Little ray of Sarcastic Sunshine’ persona and went on automatic as usual. I have about as much feeling as my left foot. The only time I have felt anything real this week is when the birthday of my dog who died earlier this year came around. Then the flood gates opened. After that it was back to business as usual of lethargy, indifference and general self-loathing. Although the hallucination made for a nice/slightly scary change (I’m hoping that was down to the insomnia messing with my head) it’s been the same everyday. My Mum eventually convinced me to go out somewhere today but I’m not sure what difference it has made but it has got me writing this instead of keeping it all inside so maybe there is a little ray of hope.

mario dead inside

 Am I Getting Cranky Or Are People Getting Stupid?

Physical pain has something in common with mental/emotional pain, you often don’t want to or are scared of doing what is good for you or might help you. I’ll admit staying off work wouldn’t have done me any favours, especially since I work with a group of characters who enjoy work banter and winding eachother up (yes, we do get work done). The stress of leaving them short staffed and also the financial implications wouldn’t have done me any good either. My anxiety and paranoia would have driven me a bit more bonkers as well! Thankfully I didn’t have to endure too many cranks as working in retail can often relieve you of the will to live or the ability to see there are plenty of good people still around.

Whoever said the customer is always right was a moron, or maybe that was of a different age. These days the customer is too often rude, ignorant or on something (when it’s alcohol you can guarantee they’ll breathe it on you) and despite what they may think, staff are not paid to take their crap! I’ve been wondering lately if I’m becoming less tolerant to the bullshit because of my mental health issues or I’m just getting grumpy with the pain (I’m in my 30s so it’s not old age).Either way, I hope my inner monologue doesn’t turn on the speakers and make me answer back one day, although if it’s one day soon I probably won’t care. While out with my Mum today my head nearly exploded with this woman rattling on trying to sell us something from her stall. If I’d been on my own I doubt I would’ve contained myself. Her sales pitch was terrible as she pretty much trashed her own goods. Maybe I’m not the only one losing it…

I use humour a lot to hide my depression and anxiety. Sometimes I can’t handle talking about it or letting it show. Not everyone handles mental health problems well, it’s easier for them to understand or talk about physical problems. Tell them you’re struggling mentally and they don’t want to know or have no idea how to help or what to say. I know myself I’ve let someone down when I failed to see the signs or have been too messed up to be of any help. It’s not always easy to be strong for someone else especially if you’re not feeling strong yourself. Normally when going through a time like this I feel all sorts of negative emotions, but right now it’s mostly nothing with phases of anger and self loathing. I have no idea why or where it suddenly came from. I just hope it doesn’t last much longer. Sometimes I’ve misjudged my jokes or taken it too far and it’s making me come across as a bit of an arse! I wouldn’t say I’m normally all sweetness and light but I’m not a bad person. I just seem to be losing myself lately and it’s pushing people away. I only hope I can repair the damage before it’s too late.

out of my mind

That’s it, I’ve ran out of steam. Or lost the will to write, whatever, done. It’s a terrible ending but seriously, who cares?!!

The Black Dog Of Concealed Depression

“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are!” – Robin Williams.

Depression has pretty much followed me like a shadow for most of my life now. I’ve been in denial about it, I’ve struggled with it, been ashamed of it, I’ve even almost died because of it. I’ve seen countless health professionals and had amazing support from my family and friends and even, on occasion, complete strangers. Despite how much progress has been made or seen to be made, there is still so much stigma around mental health issues. Many people who suffer from depression also have anxiety problems. If you’re fortunate enough to have never experienced either of these I’ll explain what it’s like to have both; anxiety is caring too much about everything, fretting over little, seemingly insignificant things. Depression is when you don’t really care about anything, you have no motivation, life is meaningless. Now imagine having both at the same time. In a word it’s hell! You are being mentally tortured by your own brain and you can’t find the off switch.

Nothing everything

As much as we can seem very similar, we can also be very different. People have different personalities and can be gloriously complicated or refreshingly simple and I don’t mean that it a derogatory way. We have layers, dreams, desires, aspirations, it’s what makes us human. That’s why depression is not simply someone feeling a bit down. People can experience it in different ways, some people can appear to cope, barely keeping their head above the water while others can sink like a stone. Just because someone appears ‘normal’ doesn’t mean they’re not suffering on the inside.

Until recently I thought I went through phases of my illness not being as bad, or even going away for a while, but in reality it was always there even if it was in the background, or hidden in my subconscious, I had just developed coping mechanisms as I got older and learned to live with my mental health. There are many types of depression/anxiety; bipolar disorder, post-natal depression, panic disorders etc. Concealed Depression is something I only recently discovered but realized I had been dealing with it since my early teens. It’s part of who I am now. It is a condition that is all too often unseen, unrecognized and undiagnosed. This is mainly due to the sufferer being conditioned to deal with their inner turmoil in a way that isn’t clearly visible.

my subconscious

A person with concealed depression may intentionally attempt to appear OK and may even seem quite happy and upbeat. Think of the times you hear of a suicide and the loved ones are blindsided as they had no idea the person was depressed or having suicidal thoughts. Depression is more than merely mood and those who live with depression learn to change their apparent moods and can even be the most seemingly cheerful people you know. No one wants to bring others down, even if this means concealing how they are truly feeling. I’ve heard depression being described as a selfish disease, but often people develop mechanisms or habits to cope, to protect loved ones or because they don’t want to worry or burden them. You learn tricks and develop habits to cope with everyday emotions and state-of-mind – music, exercise, art, whatever works individually. Concealed Depression is basically a lot to do with ways people try to personally conquer their own demons.

Sometimes coping is only possible through concealment. Some people are on automatic, barely functioning in day-to-day life. Answering a question of ‘how are you?’ with a simple ‘fine’ is easier than dealing with the real maelstrom of emotion. There is a fear of abandonment if the truth is revealed or sometimes the sufferer can only cope if they keep their own demons at bay. Being the constant joker or antisocial is a common way of keeping people emotionally at bay. However sometimes it can’t be concealed anymore and you break down over the silliest and smallest of things when really it’s a bigger issue that you have been carrying for too long. Depression/anxiety can be very exhausting and despite the millions of sufferers and the increased awareness it can feel very lonely.

Next time someone you know with depression, or even just someone who seems down or out of sorts, when they reply ‘fine’ or ‘OK’, try reading between the lines. Look a little harder and try to see if they are fine, or does that fine stand for Freaked out Insecure Neurotic and Emotional. You wouldn’t tell a blind person to look harder so don’t tell a person with depression to cheer up or just pull themselves together. It can’t be done. Maybe if we all try to be a little nicer to one another, or try a little harder we might just make a difference to someone who needs a bit of help. Not everyone is strong enough to ask for help especially if their thought process is being skewed by dark thoughts.

People with mental health issues are often very imaginative and creative. If we keep hiding away the bad, the good will also fade away.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Find Out Where It Went Please!

Another troubled young star dies before his time and before his body’s barely even cold the haters come crawling out of the rotted woodwork. Among the outpouring of grief, love and sympathy came the (sadly expected) usual vitriol of human nastiness through social media. Every time a picture or dedication pops up, you can guarantee at least one ‘troll’ will be there to sully the good intentions. Whether you knew of or even liked Cory Monteith is neither here nor there. He was apparently a talented, well loved young man who was open about his personal demons and troubled past. He recognised his flaws and was grateful for his gifts in life and tried to deal with his problems the best he could. I’m not a fan of Glee in which he starred but I do respect him at least for that. Image

On Facebook this morning someone had posted a picture in memory of Cory Monteith where people had posted various messages of ‘RIP’ and ‘We’ll miss you’ etc. I was going to scroll down when statements such as “Who is he and why should I care?” appeared, or worse “I’m glad the worthless junkie is dead”. Whatever happened to if you have nothing nice to say about someone, then don’t say anything at all? I was always taught not to speak ill of the dead ( unless they were a complete b*****d!) I mean, the guy had only just died!! He was only 31 (my age now) and whatever problems he may have had he did not deserve to die nor be vilified by complete a*******s who have not even heard of or known him. No one should have to put up with that and why should his fans or perhaps even his friends and family have to read such things? Has respect really gone out of fashion?

Oh and it’s not just the famous who suffer such unwanted attention either. Countless times I’ve seen or read in the news that some poor family or friend of someone has had to shut down a tribute page to a deceased love one or a charity page set up in the name of someone affected by cancer or something.Why? Because of the abuse from some anonymous, cowardly, vile little cretin who gets their kicks from seeking out and abusing people in their time of grief and/or when they are very vulnerable. A woman raising money to send her terminally ill daughter on holiday before she died was accused of pocketing the money and neglecting the daughter to get attention. Even when the girl died the abuse didn’t stop. You may not agree with people sharing their grief on-line or talking publicly but that’s their choice. People deal with death and illness in their own way, but ‘trolling’ is not the way to raise any objection.

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Is respect an endangered concept these days? Has the age of the internet, of people anonymously hiding behind their phones,tablets and computers erased any sense of common decency? Surely the great thing about social networking is that we can reach out and connect with more people than ever before? The only question is, do you really want to? After all, not everyone is there to be your friend. Some people are only out to cause as much misery as they can for nothing other than their own sick entertainment. I find that very disturbing.

We should respect each other’s differences, live and let live as they say and if you can’t say anything nice then get the hell off Facebook and Twitter etc so no one has to take your poison! Image

Yeah yeah what about Freedom of Speech I hear you cry?! Well for once I just wish people would think about who they might be hurting or offending when they invoke that right. Can’t we just spread a little more love and happiness so we don’t have to keep wiping crap off of our virtual shoes on the internet doormat? Cos sometime it’s gonna start to smell bad.

And a final word from Aretha…

Lest We Forget the Fever of the Hay!

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Dear Hay Fever,

You are the bane of my existence (for the summer months at least) but still, a large pain in the arse, or more accurately head,eyes,nose and throat! You owe my sinuses years of rent. Sneakily you showed up late, your tardiness allowing me to think I’d maybe finally escaped your clutches. Oh as if! You have plagued me since the dawn of time – or at least from the early to mid-eighties. There’s just no escape is there? You’re here for eternity, every time there’s a hint of nice weather, there you are to ruin it for me. You’re like an annoying, jealous sibling or friend who just doesn’t want to share me. Well I’m flattered but your attention is suffocatingly OTT!

I’m lucky if I ever get a tan because you have me hiding in the house medicated to the point of drowsiness and my eyes stinging and blurred from the drops. Some days my eyes look like a villain from an old Scooby Doo cartoon, all bloodshot and bulgy. It’s not a good look! And I’m not Bashful to say you’re turning me into 4 of the 7 dwarves – I’m Sneezey,Dopey, Sleepy and Grumpy and I may be in need of a Doc! Is this making you Happy?

Ok, lame Disney joke over, it’s not like you’re even loyal. you’re stalking more and more people and between 1994 and 2009 you appeared in twice the number of adults’ lives. Oh yes, I’ve read the statistics! If you have all these others can’t you leave me alone even just for a while? It’s not like you need me and we hardly get along well, I’d have to say I wouldn’t miss you a jot! You’re selfish, it’s all me,me,me with you, you never think about anyone but yourself. You’re one of the worst individuals I have ever known!

You’re embarrassing to be seen in public with, always showing me up. Let’s face it, when you make me sneeze (often loudly) on a beautiful day I get looks like I have a disease or something. I tell them it’s you and they look at me as if to say “Well don’t you think you should control him better” like I’m a parent with a naughty child or a dog owner with an out of control pet.

So that’s it! I no longer (nor will I ever) want you around. It’s tiresome and I’m not impressed with the bloody nose you gave me last night. Not cool dude! I know we’ve been a partnership for a long time but enough is enough. We’ve reached the end of the road. Time to leave Allergy Avenue, Adios Amigo.

             Yours sneezingly, a fed up fever follower.

“Helenisms” – The Saga Continues!

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My sister Helen (Hello From Me To You) was home for the weekend. Her take on the English language can be quite unique. Sometimes I wonder if her teeth are fixed in properly and as for what’s going on in her little mind…well, anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

A while back I bought a little sort of travel game called Tell Me Quiz. You have a bunch of cards and a wheel with the alphabet on. Choosing either the easy or more difficult level one person spins the wheel and whatever letter it lands on another person reads out the phrase or question using that letter such as “Tell me the name of a famous building beginning with…T”. For some insane reason I decided to play this with Helen.Image Oh dear Lordy, I haven’t laughed so much in ages. The things that come out of her before she’s kicked her brain in action are mind-boggling bizarre, yet somehow she won more games. Maybe that was the key?!  I was thinking to much or in the giggles so I couldn’t think at all. The sneak had disarmed me, not that she gloated much when she won!!

The following are a selection of her crazy often gibberish answers, please enjoy and hold onto your marbles;

  • “Tell me something you wear in cold weather beginning with K..” Helen:”KITTENS!”
  • “Something that flies beginning with R” Helen:”Raccoon!” Obvious answer of course.
  • A Fruit beginning with J. Helen: “Jaffa Cakes?!” At this point our mum rolls her eyes and sighs.
  • “Tell me something you have to wash beginning with G” Helen:”Goat!” Don’t ask!
  • “..a part of the body beginning with F” Helen:”Frog!” At this point it’s getting very animal themed.
  • “Something found in the kitchen beginning with L” Helen:”Lemur!” – see what I mean!
  • “A composer beginning with U” Helen:”URANUS!”

After that she was wetting herself laughing, the giggles had taken over. Her next daft answer involved naming an American president as Elmo. I’ve also left out the several rude answers she shouted out.

More games followed with more madness. Although when she came up with the card “a word that describes you beginning with M” Mum and I answered for her – Mental!

  • “A 20th Century invention beginning with D” Helen answered “Dickens!”
  • “Famous building beginning with T” Helen (panicked);” Tee..far..fo..f*#!” She needed some Fixodent I think at this point
  • “A sports personality beginning with L” Helen;”Louis Armstrong”. Yes, what a wonderful world she lives in!
  • “Title of a magazine or paper beginning with T.” Helen;”TITLER!!”
  • “A word that describes you beginning with P” Helen:”Pineapple”.
  • Another flying animal this time with O, Helen’s answer was Orangutan.

If you have survived that, thank you for reading. She seems so sensible in her blog, think I may have ruined the illusion now. Ooops.