• Tag Archives depression
  • It’s all about the BPD baby…

    EDIT – I have since had this diagnosis retracted, and have a combined Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosis. I’m leaving this post up as I felt like this at the time. It is also very common for women with ASD/ADHD to get misdiagnosed with BPD. If your emotional lability and “manipulative” tendencies only appear during depressive episodes (as is the case with myself), it CANNOT be BPD.

     

    Before Christmas, I got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (“BPD”). ‘What’s that?’ I hear you ask. It’s a mental health condition which causes a range of symptoms, including:

     

     

    • overwhelming feelings of distress, anxiety, worthlessness or anger
    • difficulty managing such feelings without self-harming for example, by abusing drugs and alcohol or taking overdoses
    • difficulty maintaining stable and close relationships
    • sometimes having periods of loss of contact with reality
    • in some cases, threats of harm to others

     

    (NHS, www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Borderline-personality-disorder/)

    This diagnosis, once I had completed my own research, doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I have always had (technically) unreasonable emotional reactions to things which happen in my life, from crying for over an hour solid because someone cancelled plans to have a coffee with me, to trying to kill myself because the guy I wish I was dating slept with someone else.

    What most people don’t seem to realise, however, is that I have absolutely no control over this. I can appear to be manipulative, I am extremely impulsive, emotionally labile (not just with negative emotions, I have been known to laugh until I can’t breathe at something that’s only slightly funny to most), often believe I wasn’t supposed to ever exist, and have severe rejection issues. While I know that many of these thoughts and feelings are irrational, they are all consuming and when I’m at the extremes of my emotions, it’s like another person has taken over and I’m watching from the sidelines.

    When I was working, I was the team member who, although good at their job, struggled to maintain good relationships with co-workers. I could be snappy, cried extremely easily, and often behaved in an unprofessional manner, shouting at people when I was angry, and having to run off to the toilets when I was upset. What my former colleagues won’t realise is I found all this behaviour just as frustrating as they did. I wished more than anything that I could remain in control of how I was feeling, and not be “that person”.

    I had similar experiences in school. I’d flit between social groups, never becoming a fully integral member of any of them, and with some members of those groups, loving them one minute and hating them the next. I would panic if I didn’t have plans with people for lunch, in sixth form I skipped lessons if I didn’t have a friend in them (and therefore screwed up my A-levels) because I was so scared of having to sit on my own, and was generally an emotional mess. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, but was terrified of being alone. I would become extremely clingy with some people, and wasn’t able to understand why they’d want to do something without me. These are issues I still face in my daily life.

    As many as 80 percent of people with BPD have suicidal behaviours, and about 4 to 9 percent commit suicide. (NIMH, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/)

    I have attempted to take my own life at least six times, after each of these attempts I was taken to hospital, usually in an ambulance, always with the same outcome. My feelings were minimised, most attempts were recorded as “accidental overdoses”, and I would say anything I could to the on call psychiatrist to get them to discharge me. I also have a long history of self harm, yet after each attempt, I was just discharged without any psychological follow up.

    I have had several appointments with mental health crisis teams over the years, each of them dismissing me with depression, changing and/or increasing my medication, and basically being told to “think positively” or “think of my children”. It didn’t occur to any of the health professionals who have seen me in the past to consider that there could be more to my mental health issues than “just depression”. (Please don’t think I’m minimising depression, I have it and anxiety as co-morbid diagnoses with my BPD. Depression is crippling, there is no “just” about it, except in this case, when the recommended treatments are different, and my emotional lability can produce very different symptoms.)

    I had been doing some research regarding alternative psychotherapies, when I came across Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (“DBT”). It sounded really interesting, and looked as if it would be extremely beneficial to me as it teaches you how to regulate your emotions.

    “Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) reduced suicide attempts in women by half compared with other types of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. DBT also reduced use of emergency room and inpatient services and retained more participants in therapy, compared to other approaches to treatment.” (NIMH, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/)

    In fact, the NICE guidelines for BPD include:

    “1.3.4.5 For women with borderline personality disorder for whom reducing recurrent self-harm is a priority, consider a comprehensive dialectical behaviour therapy programme.” (NICE, www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg78/chapter/1-recommendations)

    I thought that my diagnosis would open this door up to me, which it might, if I complete a managing anxiety and anger management course (not through mental health services) first. I then have to complete a “managing your emotions” course before I’ll be considered for the treatment that NICE clearly suggest.

    While I understand that there is a lack of funding, and they’re hoping that the other therapies will provide me with enough coping strategies that I don’t require the DBT, there are very few other conditions that this same logic would be applied to. It’s like telling a type one diabetic that trying to control their blood sugar levels through diet alone is sufficient, unless they nearly die. In no case would that be suggested. They’d be put straight onto insulin (the recommended treatment) and be reviewed on a regular basis by their medical team. There wouldn’t be any arguing “well, there are other people with unmanaged diabetes who have your symptoms, but when they follow a good diet, they go away.” It would be accepted that type one is very different to type two, and although they can initially present similarly, type one is significantly more deadly if it is not dealt with correctly. BPD is significantly more deadly than anxiety, perhaps being told to go on a course for people with anxiety isn’t going to be the long-term fix that is so needed.

    “Community mental health services (community mental health teams, related community-based services, and tier 2/3 services in child and adolescent mental health services – CAMHS) should be responsible for the routine assessment, treatment and management of people with borderline personality disorder.” (NICE, www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG78/chapter/Key-priorities-for-implementation)

    I got discharged from mental health services in the same sentence that contained my diagnosis. I have been told that if I am in a crisis, I will have to contact my GP, get an appointment, see them to get referred to the mental health team, and wait for an appointment to be sent through the post. During my last major crisis, I took 16 paracetamol in the time it took to have two swigs of cola. I wish I could say I was surprised to be discharged, I’m not. Mental health services in this country are in a dire state and I am by no means the only person in this situation. What isn’t considered by those in charge of the distribution of money is that someone with a diagnosed mental health condition who is not able to contact the crisis team directly when they are in crisis are going to be seeing (potentially) GPs, A&E staff, In-patient psychiatric staff, Police, Social Services, or maybe even a Mortician. I’m sure these services are far more costly (and overworked/understaffed) than what it would take to be kept on a database which allows you to directly ring someone who may actually be able to help.

    It’s taken me over a month to write this post, and I wouldn’t consider it to be my best piece of writing either. It’s a bit of a jumble of emotions, thoughts, and frustrations which I needed to get out. I congratulate you if you have read this far, and have only one request: please try to understand I don’t mean to be so emotional, and I am trying to get it fixed, it’s just going to take some time.


  • Home

    When I think about the mind, it reminds me of an old house, dark and decrepit. The paintwork on the façade is cracked, peeling, scorched by the sun, and battered by the winds of the past. It is uninviting, but somehow draws you in, like a moth to a flame.  You can’t help but walk up the splintered steps to explore the inside.

    The heavy wooden door is slightly ajar. You feel your heart quickening in your chest, the blood pounding in your ears like a beating drum. You struggle to catch your breath; you want to turn away and flee like so many others before you, but you know you must go on.

    The corridor is long, dark, and dusty; a path which hasn’t been walked for a long time. Your footsteps echo as you go forward, dust billows behind you, and cobwebs snatch at your face like ghostly fingers. You see movement ahead, you slow your pace in trepidation, yet you know you must continue.

    Two figures appear in the dark, shadowy and sinister. As you approach, you notice that one figure is cowering low to the floor, hands raised as a shield, to protect itself from the words spouting from the other. The figure doing the talking is tall, and menacing. It has no face, yet words keep coming from the place where its mouth should be. You hear it calling the quivering figure weak; telling it that it is worthless, stupid, and unloved. It spews out nothing but hatred, every vile insult sparks something inside you, and you break into a run determined to protect the whimpering figure on the floor.

    As you get closer, you hear more of the bile; you see clearly the figure on the floor. Realisation washes over you as you see that the frightened figure is yourself. You are naked, vulnerable, and uncomfortable. You hear what is being shouted by the taller figure, and realise it’s every worry, every self-doubting moment you have ever had. You stop, and realise the figure is the part of your brain which feeds all of your self-doubt, your fears, and your anxiety. You stare at the figure, and notice that as you do, it begins to become smaller. The realisation that it is a manifestation of your fears rather than an entity which can cause harm makes it seem less frightening.

    You stand and watch, listening to the figure and realising that although it may say things which are hurtful, you can choose how you react to them. You approach your trembling self, and hold out a hand. It places its hand into yours, and you stand united against the negative thoughts and feelings. Together you watch the figure twisted in its hatred, and choose to let the words wash over you and away. In the same way that no two drops of water are the same in a waterfall, no two thoughts are the same, and they will pass quickly. The figure continued to shrink, and as it did, the house began to fill with light. The corridor widened, and the cobwebs vanished. Warmth spreads throughout the house and you walk back towards the open front door. As you look back, you see yourself sat peacefully in the warm light, and you know you are free; you finally feel at home in your own mind.


  • The Black Dog Cometh

    The black dog cometh, stalking me in the night

    Ears pricked, nose keen, following the trail,

    His paws pad the floor softly, keeping me in sight

    He follows close, never leaving, he will never fail

    To keep near me, he closes in, waiting to pounce,

    Crouched in shadows, bearing teeth, eyes flash,

    He strikes silently, he doesn’t announce

    His arrival, until he envelopes me, jaws gnash

    He has me in his grip, darkness washes over me

    I am engulfed, can’t fight it; no longer see light.

    Despair begins to drown me, like a riptide at sea…

    The black dog cometh, stalking me in the night.


  • I should be dead…

     

     

     

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    TRIGGER WARNING – Contains details of suicidal thought and intent, and self-harm.

     

    On Monday 10th August 2015, I made the decision to end my life. I had been falling into the downward spiral of depression for a few days, my mood gradually deteriorating, coming to a dangerous head on that day. The most difficult thing is when people ask why. “What has brought this on?” “You seemed so much better than last year.” “I thought you were better…” I can’t pinpoint a specific thought or event which has contributed to how I feel, and frankly, I don’t need to. Depression is a clever illness: it remains hidden, masked by good times and medication. You start to think that maybe, just maybe, you can live a “normal” life. People ask you how you feel, and you’re surprised when you can answer with “actually, I’m good!” It comes for you when you least expect it, when your guard is completely down, for me, it was when I was in Rome celebrating my 30th birthday.

    I was in a beautiful country, with my best friend, having a wonderful time. We saw the Colosseum; the Pantheon; the Vatican, including the famous Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel; the Trevi Fountain (although that was a major disappointment for me, as it was being renovated); and the Roman Forum. We ate spectacular food, had amazing gelato, and our hotel had a pool on its roof which overlooked the Colosseum. I was having the best holiday of my life, and yet I felt numb. I was loving it, but my anxiety was starting to take over.

    I’m a terrible flier; I am extremely scared of flying in a plane, and I’m even more scared of not being in control. This makes me an anxious bundle of nerves, which in turn makes me a horrible person. I’d warned Dan about this before the holiday was booked, and he was suitably prepared for it. I was snappy, controlling, and had to stick to timings and “rules” exactly. When Dan needed to go to the bathroom, it stressed me out. When our boarding time coincided with Dan being mid pee, I inwardly freaked out. In my head the plane was definitely going to go without us, we were going to be stranded in Gatwick airport, or worse, our names were going to be called over the Tannoy. Of course, these thoughts were all completely irrational, and there was part of my mind which acknowledged this amongst the panic. We made it to the plane in plenty of time, and arrived in Rome a few hours later, albeit with Dan only having feeling left in one of his arms.

    My anxiety only grew in Italy. We went on guided tours, and I was more concerned with keeping up with the guide, and making sure his umbrella was always in sight (the favoured method of identification amongst Italian tour guides), that I almost forgot to enjoy what we were looking at. The time spent in the Vatican in particular was too short, too rushed, and too stressed. It was beautiful, and I don’t regret going for a minute, but all these little things which would irritate other people at most, were taking their toll on my mental state.

    The journey back to Britain was no better than our outward one, if anything my anxiety and general “Kat is being a complete nightmare” controlling, snappy self were worse on the way back.  Due to the language barrier and the inability for people to have any job knowledge outside their immediate role, we went to three different boarding gates before we arrived at the correct one. At this point, Dan could see how stressed I was getting, and kindly offered to be the person to worry about finding the gate, and said that I could just “worry about following him”. My response to this was to all but shout at him, telling him I was on a knife edge, about to fall into meltdown and that I needed to be in control of one thing, and the only thing I could control was finding the fucking gate.

    An anxious plane ride, navigation of Heathrow airport, and coach ride later, we were back in Cardiff. Things were going to go back to normal, and I had the rest of the summer holidays to look forward to with the boys. While looking through photos from holiday, I was overcome with self-loathing and disgust at how fat I have become. I have absolutely no control when it comes to eating, it seems that I can either starve myself, or be fat; I don’t have a happy medium. On 5th August, I self-harmed for the first time in at least six months. I cut my arm twice using a pair of hairdressing scissors which were slightly blunt, and more than slightly rusty. I didn’t clean it, because I didn’t care if I got an infection, part of me would have welcomed it as a way to hide away from the world for a while. My friend Paul came over and kept me company, although I didn’t admit to him that I’d self-harmed that day.

    The following five days went by in a blur of barely coping, and self-loathing. I would take the boys to Dan’s house so I could sleep, as it was impossible for me to stay awake for the whole day. I was ensuring the boys were clean, dressed, fed, watered, and entertained; but that was all I could manage. I wasn’t doing anything for myself, I couldn’t even concentrate on reading books, so would spend the early hours when I couldn’t sleep reading graphic novels, and chatting on Facebook to Bethan, Paul and Dan; collectively Team Dinosawful. I wanted to disappear, feelings of despair and sadness turned into worthlessness and numbness.

    On Monday 10th August, I had come to the conclusion it was better for me, my family, my friends, the world, if I were to die. I had the boys at my house until the Saturday, so I planned to wait until then, when I knew they were safe with their dad, take the contents of my medicine cabinet, fall asleep, and never wake up. I had been at Dan’s house, I had no concentration span, no patience, and no connection with the world and people around me. Aaron accidentally hurt me by clambering all over me; I snapped and hit him on his arm. It wasn’t enough to even make the area slightly pink, but I felt immediately guilty, and wish I didn’t exist. I ran into Dan’s kitchen crying, grabbed a knife out of a drawer, went into his bathroom and cut myself. I stayed in the bathroom for a little while, sobbing uncontrollably.

    When I finished crying, I calmly left the bathroom, washed up the knife, and went back into the bedroom. I found out what everyone wanted for lunch and made it. I had a coffee, chatted with Dan, distracted the children, and continued the afternoon in the usual manner. I had already decided what I was going to do. Before I left for home, I stripped Dan’s bedsheets and changed his bedding. I wanted to do one last useful thing for him before I died.

    On my way home, I messaged Team Dinosawful. I knew I needed to cook dinner for the boys, but didn’t know what to do. I knew anything I cooked with I was going to use to burn myself, and said so in one of my posts. Paul and Bethan came over, made dinner for the boys and helped me bath and put them to bed. While the boys were asleep, I admitted my plan and told them my timeline. That night the contents of my medicine cabinet were stripped and taken to Dan’s house and Bethan moved in.

    Bethan looked after the boys while Dan and I went to the doctor. I told my GP the plan and timeline, he put me on Mirtazapine. I was told I wasn’t allowed to be alone until at least the Sunday, and that I was to go back on Friday to discuss how I was feeling regarding ending my life. The Mirtazapine has made me ridiculously sleepy. One evening, I started to run a bath for the boys, and then went into my bedroom to talk to Bethan and Paul. I completely spaced out, and it wasn’t until Bethan asked if it was about time we bathed the boys that I remembered I had already started running it. I opened the bathroom door and was greeted by a flood. The bath had overflowed, the bathroom floor was completely covered in water and it flowed onto my hallway carpet. It took the entire contents of my towel box to clean up, the boys had to wait until the morning to have a bath.

    When I went back to the doctor on Friday, I felt that I wasn’t quite as actively suicidal, but was very glad to have company. I told him that I knew I wouldn’t have coped over the past few days without Bethan and the rest of the team. I spent most of my time asleep, in a medically induced slumber; and the times I was awake, I was about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    It’s now Monday, and Bethan is still living with me. Saturday was spent with the team, we went to the cinema, had dinner, and generally kept each other company. I was sick at one point, and a walk for Bethan wasn’t the respite she craved, but we are all still here. I’m still here.

    I still don’t want to be here, but I am more passively thinking that I wouldn’t care if something did happen to me, rather than actively looking to kill myself. My medicine cabinet is still empty, and it needs to remain that way for a good while yet. When I’ve been in shops (accompanied, as apart from when I pee, I’ve not been alone since last Monday) and I see the medication aisle, I am very tempted, and the thoughts come back louder than ever.

    I feel detached from the world, and think that everyone would be better off if I didn’t exist. I can reason with myself logically, but it doesn’t stop my brain thinking what it thinks. Mental health issues are not self-inflicted, you can’t control them, and they are just as serious, if not more so, than many physical illnesses. I know my boys need a mother, I know that it doesn’t just mean a person who will feed, care for them, and make sure they get to school on time. I know it means they need me. It doesn’t stop me from being tired of it all though. I’m tired of having to say I’m okay to most people I know. I’m tired of having depression, something I’ve battled with for over half my life. I get to the point where I’m (irrationally) jealous of people with Bipolar Disorder; at least they get highs.

    My life is currently completely on hold. I can’t drive due to my medication, I’m too tired to be active, and I struggle to leave the house. I’m extremely lucky to have such understanding friends who have helped me enormously this past week. I wouldn’t be here without them, and they care for my boys like they are their own. I try and make sure I do positive things which affect my future, as a way of ensuring I still have one. I have completed my university registration, and have bought this year’s set texts. My head is still a cacophony of negative thoughts and emotions, something which I am fed up of having to justify or explain. I can only hope that I will get better, that my GP remains as sympathetic as he is, and my friends remain as supportive.

    I should be dead, but I’m not, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done.


  • Journey

    There was once a man who was walking with a heavy heart. He didn’t know where his final destination lay, all he knew was he just had to keep walking. The way was long and treacherous, yet the man kept walking until he came to a forest.

     

    The trees were tall and plentiful. The canopy was dense, the top of each tree entwined with its neighbour, trapping the sunlight, not allowing it to penetrate through to the floor. The bushes and other flora on the forest floor were brown, dry, dead. The lack of sunlight had prevented photosynthesis, and the thick roots of the trees starved them of water. The dead tendrils had knitted together with dead branches, creating a web of thorns which bit at his legs. The man knew that he had to keep on walking. He winced as each thorn pierced his skin, his back jarred as he tripped on the tangled carpet of twigs and vines, but he continued on his path.

     

    The man finally came to the edge of the forest and entered a swamp. The stagnant water was waist height and green with algae. The canopy was sparse in the swamp, and a flood of brilliant sunshine beat down upon the man. It was warm, but that horrible sticky warm you only get in highly humid air. The man kept on walking, his feet sinking into the mud at the bottom of the swamp, his movements creating a vacuum pressure which increased the amount of effort it took for him to move. The man shared the swamp with alligators and snakes, each one he saw was seemingly bigger than the last. When he was nearing the bank of the swamp, a particularly large alligator started swimming towards him, opening its cavernous jaws. The man sped up, fighting with the mud for his ability to run. He shouldn’t have made it to the bank, the alligator outmatched him in both speed and strength, yet the man’s steadfast determination to reach his unknown destination helped him outrun the alligator against all odds.

     

    The bank of the swamp led to a lush, green plain which was covered in the most beautiful wild-flowers. It was like a carpet of greens and purples and gold, both visually and by the way it felt underfoot. The sun was still shining, and there was little cloud cover so as the man walked across the plain, his saturated clothes began to dry. The plain, by its very nature, was flat and easy to navigate. The warmth from the sun was pleasant, there were no obstacles in the man’s way; the journey was finally straightforward. Yet the man’s heart was still heavy. He recognised that he was walking a path that many would love to travel upon, however he had no one to share the beauty of this place with, you can’t revel in anything with a heavy heart, and so the man kept on walking, knowing he hadn’t yet reached his destination.

     

    He reached the end of the plain and was faced with a mountain. It was so high, the summit was hidden behind a thick blanket of cloud. The man started to climb; hand, over foot, over hand, over foot. His legs ached and his arms were tired, still he kept on climbing. There were very few footholds, and the man was negotiating a route which skirted a precipitous drop. The man had climbed so high he entered the cloud. The air was cold, damp and thick. The water droplets soaked through his clothes and chilled him to his core, he was physically and mentally exhausted but continued on his journey. As he neared the peak, the man reached for a large boulder as a means of hauling himself to the top of the mountain. The man grabbed onto the boulder, shifted his weight in order to find higher footholds, and the boulder fell. The man was certain he was going to fall to his death, when a hand appeared through the dense cloud cover and grabbed onto him. The hand was small and didn’t look particularly strong, yet it pulled and pulled at the man with all its might. Inch by inch the man was pulled up the precipice until, finally, he was pulled to the safety of the summit.

     

    When the man realised he was safe, he looked up to see his saviour, the mysterious owner of the hand. He smiled when he saw her face, and knew he had reached his destination.


  • 2014 – The Summary

    How much can happen in a year?

    As it turns out, lots. Lots of things can happen in a year. 2014 has been… eventful and that’s putting it kindly. If I’m truly honest, it has been one of the hardest years of my life. It has also been a year of self-discovery, and I know I am exiting the year a stronger person than when I entered it, the journey however, has been a bitch of a ride.

    2014 marked the beginning of my life as a full time carer/stay at home mum. Since my eldest son was born, all I ever wanted was to be able to stay at home with him, to do all the school runs, to bake cakes, go to the park, play board games, have his friends over for dinner, become a member of the PTA, the list goes on. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t tend to match ideals. The sole reason I became a stay at home mum, was due to my eldest son requiring enough extra support, compared to other children his age, he qualified for DLA. My dreams of PTA meetings had turned into hospital appointments and SENCO meetings, trips to the park were few and far between, and during those trips I spent most of my time calling out to him to “stop licking the railings” or to “please come back, you’re too far ahead” and “put your bottom away, nobody wants to see that”. All pretty normal for a toddler, right? Except he isn’t a toddler, he was 6 in April of this year. He also has an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. This year I also got diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and my youngest son has issues with hypermobility, however he proved his physiotherapists wrong and started walking this year just before he turned two. Unfortunately his Geneticist found he has a heart murmur and has referred him to a cardiologist, we should know more about that in the New Year. Medically, this year has been an eye opener, at least we are better prepared for what the future may hold.

    The biggest shock to me was how much I missed working. I knew I liked my job and I also knew I was good at it, however I never thought that being employed was such an important part of my identity. I have recently started doing some freelance work as I needed to do something to protect my mental health as I had felt like a drain on society since I stopped working full time and felt like I had lost a big part of who I was. I don’t, however, make money from it.

    I also realised early in the year that throughout my adult life, I had changed myself to be the person I thought everyone else wanted me to be and I knew I had to make big changes in order to start bringing myself out of the depressive cycle I had been in since I was a teenager.

    The first step was being completely honest with my husband about how I felt, including informing him I didn’t think our relationship was going to work. I’m not going to dedicate much time in this post to the separation, however I am grateful that we have come out of the other side amicably, I would consider him a friend. There were very low points during the transitional period, particularly when I felt like an awful person for not wanting to be with him when he still wanted to be with me, however he has met someone new and I wish them all the happiness in the world. He deserves to be happy, as do I.

    At around the same time, I spoke to my mum about my childhood. I feel we now have a much more open relationship than we ever had in the past, although I still very much revert back to a child-like state around her. I also went back to my GP to talk about how low I was feeling, they increased my dose of antidepressants and referred me to Primary Mental Health, who did precisely nothing.

    During the separation and the period of talking about the past for the first time in many years, I started self-harming for the first time since in many years. I would cut or burn myself on my arms as a way to release some of the pent up emotions, and to also make sure I could still feel something other than sad and despondent. At this point, I lost many of my friends and family members who couldn’t handle me at that time. While I appreciate everyone has their breaking point, these were friends of over a decade, “best friends”, the godparents of my children, the bridesmaids from my wedding (okay, I know that the marriage didn’t work out, but you understand how close we were). There are a list of people who this time last year I would see nearly every day, who have completely disappeared from my life. I have been blocked on social media, texts are not answered. Tonight, at midnight (or there about) will potentially be the last time I attempt to contact them. I will wish them and their families a happy and healthy new year, and if I still don’t get a response, I will give up and stop allowing myself to ruminate about what went wrong and get on with my life. (Although I also know that’s easier said than done.)

    Having said that, I have also met many wonderful people this year all thanks to me meeting up with the most amazing person in the world. I knew him from school, life happened and we didn’t see each other again until 2013 at a mutual friend’s wedding. We reconnected on social media, although this year, in around March, we re-met for coffee and quickly became best friends. He has saved my life on more than one occasion and has been, and will continue to be, my most favourite person on the planet. Thanks to him I have seen live bands performing for the first time since I was in high school, I discovered Aeropress coffee and started to have private counselling for my depression.

    As he is so awesome, he also knows a lot of awesome people. Throughout the year, these people have transitioned from being acquaintances through my best friend, to being my friends. They have welcomed me into their lives with open arms, are funny, kind, honest and more supportive than people I have known for years. This year would have been unbearable if I didn’t know them. Unfortunately, two of the friends I met through my best friend I have also lost within the year, I obviously haven’t quite cracked this “people liking me for who I am” malarkey just yet, however I’m sure with practice I’ll get better at it. I’m not saying I expect people to never call me out on my wrongdoings, in fact, please do call me out on them so I can learn from my mistakes and grow as a person, however the two people in question did the same disappearing act my long-time friends did so nothing can be learned, nothing can be changed, I am in the dark with only my rumination to keep me company.

    Due to the separation, my ex and I sold our marital home and I moved to another area of Cardiff to live on my own (with the children) for the first time ever. While I still love having company, I have realised this year that I am more than capable of being on my own, I don’t need people I want people. They are two completely different things and I’m glad I can now make that distinction. I will admit, however, this is a very recent realisation. I struggled greatly with the transition to single life, missing the knowledge that there was someone else in the house. It was due to missing a presence that I got my cat. He is both lovely and evil, he has a Jekyll and Hyde personality and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    I started to fill my evenings with hobbies, mostly reclaimed from my youth. I started playing computer games again. I soon realised that gone were the days of DOS and Duke Nukem 3D, no longer was Doom (the original) an option and Tomb Raider had received a major facelift! With a lot of help from my best friend (and parts from my ex), I built my gaming rig and installed Steam, which is both one of the best and worst things I’ve done this year. I love that I’m playing games again, that I can get lost in another world (sometimes for too long, thank you Skyrim), however the Steam sales are dangerous! I now have more games than I know what to do with and need to stop buying until I have played them all.

    I have read more books this year than in the past 10 years combined (this is possibly an exaggeration, however I know I have read a lot). I do, however, find it strange that I did as for many periods of the year I simply didn’t have the concentration span to read more than four pages at a time. I didn’t give up though and have read some absolutely fantastic books as a result. It was thanks to two of these books that two big events happened; I started practicing Mindfulness meditation (although I will admit I’m not very good at keeping up the momentum) and, after going on a dedicated weekend retreat, I had my first fully lucid dream. For anyone who hasn’t tried to dream lucidly, I would recommend Charlie Morley’s book “Dreams of Awakening” and implore you to give it a go. It’s absolutely fantastic and a wonderful way of confronting the deepest darkest areas of your subconscious.

    This year, I also hit one of my lowest points and took an overdose of sleeping tablets. I’m still not entirely sure what my thought process was at the time, all I knew was I was really sad, and desperately wanted to go to sleep. I had intended on taking the correct dose and going to bed, I ended up taking two diazepam and eight over the counter sleeping tablets. I knew that it wasn’t a lethal dose, and that wasn’t my intention in the first place, but still I confessed what I had done to a friend. She called for an ambulance and I was taken for an overnight stay on the poisons unit. Ironically, I didn’t really sleep that night. I did feel drowsy, particularly in the ambulance, but the inability to fall asleep when I’m really sad still won. I knew I couldn’t do anything like this again and ensured I told my counsellor and my GP what had happened. Ironically, even though the psychiatrist I saw in the hospital said it was likely due to me being overtired, overwhelmed and in need of support, that support (from external agencies and/or people who could really help out with having the children more) never materialised. I am very lucky to have friends who help support me emotionally and, when they can, practically.

    2014 was also the year in which my faithful car finally died a death. Thankfully, as all the debt accumulated while I was with my ex had been paid using the house sale proceeds, I was in a position to buy a new one! I’ve wanted a new car for years but was always too scared to buy one. I thought I needed to justify why I wanted one, I felt I had to seek permission from other people, particularly my parents to do it. I have since learned that I don’t need other people’s permission to buy things, as long as I have the money, I can spend it how I choose.

    So, that was my year. It’s been very hard, stressful and eye-opening. The people I have in my life at the end of 2014 saved me this year, one way or another, I owe a lot to them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support, kindness and time this year, I love each and every one of you.


  • Depression: Child Friendly?

    There are many things in life which are tested for their “child friendliness”. From pubs to hotels, theme parks to holidays, all parents want to know in advance whether their children will be well catered for and will have a good, safe time. There’s one area which hasn’t been investigated though, how “child friendly” certain illnesses you can have whilst being a parent are.

     

    The simple answer would simply be: none of them. Who wants to be ill when they have children? However, some chronic illnesses could quite happily fit in with 21st Century parenting values (yes I may be generalising). Diabetes for example: you have to follow a healthy diet, make sure you eat regular homemade meals and ensure your weight stays stable. This is basically forcing you to do what everyone should already be doing. As long as you follow those rules, take any medication you are prescribed, you should be fine.

     

    I have depression and have done so since I was a teenager. I have had good times, many people with depression do, but it is always there, lurking around the corner, ready to pounce at any time. Quite possibly, the worst “job” in the world to have when you are depressed is being a single parent. I would even go as far to say parent in general, however if you are in partnership with someone, at least you can share the work.

     

    Depression has a significant number of side effects which are far from child friendly:

    1. You feel tired all the time. Children are full of energy all the time. There is no snooze button on a child and when they are young, you can’t really leave them to their own devices; it’s a constant stream of hyperactivity and demands for attention. Of course, when they are in bed and you get the chance to sleep, this is when your brain wakes up and demands attention for itself in the form of rumination and worry about futures which may never happen, and so the cycle continues.
    2. You have very little patience. Children are annoying: fact. You may absolutely adore children, even other people’s but they are, by nature, self-absorbed and irritating. When you add any additional needs your child may have, such as Asperger’s Syndrome in to the mix, this multiplies tenfold. From talking incessantly about obsessions to still wetting themselves at the age of six; meltdowns to sensory seeking behaviour, ASD symptoms can be frustrating anyway. When combined with depression it can constantly feel like your head is going to explode. You find yourself telling your child to “stop talking” or removing yourself from situations as you can feel your temper reaching breaking point. You shout more often than you would like, and had hoped to do while imagining being a parent (personally, I always dreamed of being one of those serene parents who never shout) and you feel yourself turning into the “bad guy” as, when you are a single parent, you do the majority of the discipline. This all adds to the depressive cycle as you feel like a shit parent and start to believe your children deserve better.
    3. General feeling of apathy. This, unfortunately, can strike at any time and affect any part of your life. You can feel apathetic when your toddler falls over in the street, automatically saying “you’re okay” and telling them to “get up and carry on” rather than actually checking to see if they are okay.
    4. Disinterest in food. People with depression can regularly forget to eat, this in turn means they can fail to buy food on more occasions than they would like to admit. This means the children are not eating as healthy or varied a diet as they should be. This is made worse when you know you’re a good cook and know it doesn’t take much effort (technically) to make a healthy dinner.
    5. Having a tendency to over-think things. This itself causes two types of parenting issue:
      1. Over-thinking what it takes to do something, example: “I should take the children to the park. Child with ASD will be hard work as he doesn’t like the idea of going out, toddler may need to nap and get crabby. What if it rains? I have to get the pushchair out of the boot of the car. One child may run in one direction, one in another, who would I go after? What if the toddler poos? What if the older child needs a poo and there isn’t a toilet? What if one is on the swings and the other on the slide? What if… What if… Maybe we should just stay in.
      2. Over-thinking another person’s words or actions, example: Child says “I hate you!” Parent with depression thinks “He’s right to hate me, I’m a shit parent, the children deserve better, I can’t cope with them, they’d be better off with their non-depressed parent.”
    6. Self-harm. This is something I struggle with; I and other people with depression, including parents, will have urges to do this frequently. I managed to stop for a while because my older child noticed the marks and they’d be harder to hide in the summer, unfortunately I have recently relapsed and have started cutting myself again. No child should be a witness to that, however it’s not something people do on a whim, for attention. It is a true side effect of depression, which brings me to the last point…
    7. Suicide. This is the least child friendly side effect of them all. As much as people with depression, myself included, often feel their loved ones, which includes their children, would be better off without them, the overwhelming number of people with these thoughts and feelings still have a small voice telling them that a parent, even them as a depressed parent, is something a child needs. A child’s life would ultimately be made so much worse if their parent killed themselves. I just hope that my little voice, and everyone else’s sticks around and starts to drown out the other one which says that you’re worthless, that the world would be better off without you.

  • Explaining Depression to Children

    As I am sure you are aware, one in three people have a (diagnosable) mental health condition. I add the word diagnosable as everyone has some sort of mental idiosyncrasy which doesn’t fit in with the “norm”, be it a phobia of spiders, having to wash the dishes in a particular order or always wanting to drive the same route to work.

    I have depression with (currently well managed) health anxieties. Due to my health anxieties I have developed emetophobia to go alongside my arachnophobia and aviophobia. While I try very hard to keep my phobias hidden from my children, I am unable to completely hide, nor would I want to completely hide, my depression from them. I am a Time to Change Wales Champion and as such, I have pledged to do what I can to end the stigma of mental health conditions. This, in my opinion, means educating my children in an age appropriate manner as to why mummy and some of her friends are sadder than other people.

    Using the word sad I know doesn’t cut it with depression, however as I said, I need to make my explanations age appropriate. My eldest son (Matty) is 6 years old, my youngest (Aaron) is 2. I am also very aware that as Matty has Asperger’s Syndrome, he is at higher risk of developing a comorbid mental health condition such as depression. It is therefore even more important that I don’t hide this from him, that he understands that it’s okay and pretty “normal” to have a mental health condition.

    I know there will be people who disagree with me being open with them regarding this, who think that children should be protected and sheltered from the “bad things” in life. The problem with that is it further stigmatises mental health conditions. If I had to take tablets every morning for diabetes rather than depression, would the naysayers hold the same opinion? I also have coeliac disease, nobody bats an eyelid if I explain to my children that mummy can’t eat gluten because it makes her tummy poorly.

    The fact that I provide my children with explanations for things rather than adopting the frankly unhelpful but more usual “because I say so” is fairly alien to many people anyway. It’s also imperative that I do as Matty needs to know why things are, how things are and when things will be. If he doesn’t know these things or if I’m too vague, he either panics (as shown in behaviours such as repetitive questioning and chewing inedible objects); has a meltdown or completely shuts off from what you are saying. This method of approaching daily life, together with not hiding depression came together beautifully this afternoon.

    I was due to go to a friend’s house for a coffee and a catch up. She, like many others, suffers from depression. When I messaged her to see if it was still okay to come over her response was that while she technically wanted company, she just couldn’t face seeing anyone. This is both completely fair and reasonable and also very relatable.

    When I told Matty that our plans had changed, initially I just said that my friend doesn’t feel very well. This was too vague and he needed to know why she wasn’t well and also why that meant our plans had changed. My explanation was simple, Matty’s understanding complete:

    Me: You know how mummy gets really sad sometimes and has something called depression?

    Matty: Yes

    Me: Well, mummy’s friend also has depression and today she is feeling very sad and would rather be by herself.

    Matty: Like daddy gets sad?

    Me: Not quite. Daddy does get sad but he doesn’t have depression, just like you get sad but don’t have depression. Mummy and some of her friends get sadder than that and sometimes find things that are normally easy really hard. This is why mummy’s friend wants to be on her own today and is why mummy gets very tired and sometimes doesn’t wash the dishes as much as she should.

    Matty: Oh, okay. <He gets on with his day>

    In my opinion there is nothing inappropriate in that conversation, nor is there anything which could scare or worry Matty. He has accepted the change in plans, has learned a little about depression and knows that it happens to quite a few people he knows. However I am just one person. If more parents adopted this approach, if depression was talked about in schools in the same way bullying, sexual transmitted infections and eating disorders are, perhaps the next generation will have completely stamped out mental health stigma. While I realise that’s an idealist’s dream, I can’t see how it would do anything other than help.


  • Conveyance of emotion through song

    I have a broad taste in music. I am mainly into “alternative” or “rock” music, however I also love classical music, songs from musicals and some pop/dance music. It all depends on how the music makes me feel.

     

    Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is an example of a classical track which electrifies my senses. I get shivers down my spine and I feel like I’m transported to another dimension, where raw emotions are highlighted and time stands still. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dPDO3Tfab0

    I also can’t help loving the William Orbit remix of the same track. Timed right, it would make the perfect New Year’s countdown song, so the track is at 1:34 at the stroke of midnight. As this is a trance mix it doesn’t stir up my emotions in the same way as the original but it still makes me want to stop what I’m doing and just appreciate the sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIbIHxKh9bk

     

    In my opinion, more important than the music are the lyrics to songs. This is, I think, the reason my taste in music is so broad. It seems there is a track out there to fit every emotion, thought and feeling you may have. I’ve recently been having a pretty horrible time of depression, relationships breaking down, people talking shit about me and some dark thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Throughout this, music, songs really, have been a constant companion, truly understanding how I’m feeling at that present moment.

     

    Some people may say it’s not healthy to listen to “depressing” music when you’re depressed. Before I list the tracks which have stood out for me and the reasons they have, I just wanted to point out that whether I listened to the music or not, my thoughts and feelings would be the same. There would just be more silence.

     

    When I have been feeling at my most low and helpless, there are three songs which are my “go to” tracks as they sum up exactly how I’m feeling:

     

    A Drowning by How to Destroy Angels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_GqVFa5GBA

    The chorus, “Please, anyone, I don’t think I can save myself, I’m drowning here…” really speaks to me. It is the cry for help that I so desperately want to shout out. I can be driving, tears streaming down my face and I will put this track on, hoping, wishing someone would realise I am actually asking, “Please, anyone, I need help”. Obviously no-one does, nor do I really expect them to.

     

    How Long by How to Destroy Angels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sUTVT7HzSg

    Again, it’s the chorus which speaks to me, “How long can we keep holding on?” It’s a question I ask myself on an all too regular occasion. There are days I only “hold on” because I am a mother to two small boys who are my world. I’m currently not the best mother in the world and it’s something which both upsets and frustrates me on a daily basis. I get asked each time I see my GP if the boys are still enough to prevent myself from self-harming or having a timeline, the only thing missing from my suicide plan. The last time I went I had to be honest and say that I didn’t know. What I do know is that with my continued counselling sessions, the support from some amazing friends and the love from my sons, I want desperately to get well and to never have these thoughts again.

     

    The third song, keeping it Trent Reznor, is Hurt by Nine Inch Nails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htmKZKR7oyc

     

    First the obvious, “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel…” basically sums up why many people self-harm. One of the most surprising and horrible elements of depression is how often you just feel numb and you just want to feel something. When you know you need to cry but the tears just don’t come and you sit, staring blankly at the wall, brain full of fog and thoughts of dying. For me, the more poignant line is “Everyone I know goes away in the end…” This has certainly been true for a lot of people who used to be in my life. Not just acquaintances but family, friends with whom I had been very close for over a decade have left and removed every trace of my existence from their lives. It hurts because I can’t understand what I have done wrong other than separate from my husband and have depression, however, in their eyes, I must have done something. It must be me, I am very good at losing friends; I don’t do so well at making them.

     

    When I am not wallowing in my sadness and I think of the people who have, for want of a better phrase, deserted me at my most vulnerable, I occasionally feel another unwelcome emotion: anger. The songs I listen to then are at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, although they are still “alternative” tracks. The track which immediately springs to mind is Go to Hell for Heaven’s Sake by Bring Me the Horizon:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5BbCiWiNZY

    I would like to say there is a particular line which stands out to me, however, when I listen to this song I imagine the whole thing being broadcast directly from my brain to those who have deserted me. Whilst I realise it’s not healthy to get angry at them, it is a preferable state to the “why did they leave me, I feel so alone” thoughts and the sadness which accompanies them. I would love to have the courage to send a message containing the bridge lyrics as it sums up why so many people have done what they have: “You’re not a shepherd, you’re just a sheep, a combined effort of everyone you meet. You’re all flesh, with no bone, feed them to the sharks and throw them to the wolves…”

     

    There are, of course, the good days where I feel more positive, where I feel proud of the progress I’ve made and how independent I have become in a short space of time. My favourite song to sum this up is Make Yourself by Incubus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BShyYZQEmBk

    The chorus lyrics sum up why this is “You should make amends with you, if only for better health, but if you really want to live, why not try and make yourself…” Basically, although it’s easier said than done, I know I need to make myself do things that make me happy. Stop trying to please everyone else and stop constantly worrying about what people think. When I listen to this track, I feel like I can do it, I CAN be that person who makes themselves live the life THEY want not what everyone else wants or expects them to do. Unfortunately, the feeling lasts for precisely 3:04.

     

    Whilst you may not agree or even like my choices, I am sure every person who reads this can agree that there are song lyrics which perfectly fit a situation or emotion they have found themselves in. It’s what speaks to you, what makes a song stand out from the rest, becomes embedded in your memory and moves your heart and mind in a way no other song can. I look forward to the day when I can write a follow up post, one which contains the tracks which highlight happiness and contentment in my life.


  • HUMANS

    “Modern humans (Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of the hominin clade, a branch of great apes characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and increased tool use; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies.” Quote from Wikipedia

    The above is a scientifically accurate answer to the question: what is a human? It isn’t, however, the answer to what we really want to know. The real question is, why do humans spend so much of their time trying to destroy other humans?

    Throughout history, there hasn’t been a period of time during which humans have not been at war with other humans. There are currently around 11 wars in progress in which there are over 1000 deaths per year together with a further 33 conflicts in which there has been a death toll of at least 25 with one of those deaths being within the past year (source)

    There seems to be four main causes of war: Religion; Territory; Oppression and Self Defence. Take any one of these reasons, add in some cleverly crafted propaganda and biased news reports and you have it, war.

    Even if you move away from the extremes of war, you find conflict almost everywhere you look. Someone is always annoyed about something; person X did something to person Y and now they’re not talking; people cannot learn to “agree to disagree”. There are even people who seem to thrive so wholly on conflict, if there isn’t any drama in their lives they will create it. It is this conflict we each have an ability to change.

    Children learn about many things in school, algebra, statistics, how to read a book in such minute detail it’s no longer enjoyable and other such skills which, unless you want to be in a particular job such as an astrophysicist, don’t really have any application in the “real world”. I think a better society would be created if children were taught the importance of communication; humility; tolerance; compassion. Instead of being taught how to debate, teach conflict resolution. Although children do work things out for themselves eventually, a vast proportion of adults still deal with conflict like children. They take the easy option, more often than not delivering bad news or unkind words via text message or via social media rather than talking with the person face to face. People bitch seemingly ALL THE TIME about someone or something but have no intention of actually doing anything about it. If the foundations of how to properly deal with this were taught at a young age, most conflicts could get resolved in a relatively peaceful manner.

    I am sure everyone can think of at least one example of a conflict in their lives which, instead of being resolved, has spiralled out of control and has reached the point of no return. Although lives are not lost in the same sense as they are during war, lives can be, albeit temporarily, destroyed. Unresolved conflict leads to thinking, which leads to rumination: an open door to depression. Rumination is something I am currently guilty of. I have lost a lot of friends and some family members recently due to people being unwilling to discuss or attempt to resolve conflict. It seems they would rather ignore what has happened, pretend I never existed and completely sever contact. Whist I appreciate that a face to face discussion may not “fix” the issues, at least I would know that we had tried. That everyone knew exactly why things are the way they are and everyone had an opportunity to explain their “side” of the story. Instead, I am ruminating, having these imaginary conversations in my head, trying to make sense of what has happened and never getting the answers. It becomes easy to wholly blame myself even though I know rationally that isn’t the case and the downward spiral resumes.

    I may just be dreaming up an ideal world, but I feel that if we as a species learned how to deal with our personal conflicts rationally rather than resorting to childish ways, this would branch out into other areas. If tolerance was taught from a young age, the differences in humanity would be accepted more readily and in turn there would, hopefully, be fewer wars.