Stig(ma) that in your pipe

Times they are a changing, that’s what Bob Dylan said, and when it comes to mental health awareness he’s right.

So long the taboo subject of society, mental health has reported in the media would have you believing that every diagnosed person is ready to kill you or themselves. This is quite clearly not the case, but fear-mongering sells papers.

The tides are shifting towards real movement and acceptance, groups such as the ‘Semi colon project’ have provided a creative output for those of us who have felt that they are out of options. Indeed this year BAFTA have recognised a mental health documentary – ‘life after suicide’ – incredible viewing by the way – for shortlisting.

If you are struggling or know someone who is, talk. Talk to someone. Tell them whats going on. Since opening up about my mental health, I’ve found nothing but supportive voices expressing my bravery. Im not brave. Im scared of moths. Im not even close to brave. I just want to write, talk and listen. I want to help others have these difficult conversations which will enable small changes inhow they are feeling.

The power is in your hands. You can carry on to shun those who are different or those we do not understand. But we cannot continue to shy away from mental health issues.

This is everybodys business and we should all be involved. Get involved. I challenge you to have a cuppa and a chat about mental health.

What happens might just surprise you.

If I could just find the time

Alright?

It’s been a while but I’m feeling rather reflective this evening. Probably a side effect of forgetting to order repeat prescriptions and being just a bit too busy to sort it out.

I can feel a difference and it’s not a good one. Keeping up a facade. Keeping the happy mask on. It’s tough. It’s exhausting. It’s no wonder I’m always tired.

I can feel my irritability levels increasing. I need to sort myself out. Follow my own advice. I can see myself snapping. The plus side to not having adequate levels of medication on board have given me a lot of vivid dreams, as my brain comes to terms with itself and the chemistry going on in there.

Trying to remain chirpy over the last few weeks when under immense pressure in a few aspects of life has been the hardest. I know I can control this black dog that is increasingly haunting my being. I can beat this. I can recover.

If history has taught me anything, it’s that I can be dealt a terrible deck, and still manoeuvre my way through life with the right support around me. I have it within me. I just need to believe.

Sleepless in St.Martin

I’ve been here before, that old familiar feeling. Nothing keeping me awake apart from myself.

Since I started back on Anti-Depressants, the side effects have begun to kick in. My appetite is still somewhat diminished, which is disconcerting because I’ve always enjoyed food. But when it’s presented in front of me, I feel I need to eat it, not because of hunger more out of necessity. But the main side effect that has always kicked me when I’m down, is sleep. Or lack there of.

I work hard, I try to do a lot of sport, other commitments permitting of course. Thus I should be tired. I can usually just decide, ‘right, that’s enough, sleep now’, and within 10 minutes or so, I’m out for the count, for the night. But not now, it’s as if my sleep cycle has been turned upside down. I feel physically tired, but my mind seems to have other plans. I’m not sat thinking about things either, I’m just not able to fall asleep.

At the moment, I’m tending to just, lie there. This leaves me exhausted the next day, and exhaustion can only last so long surely before I give in? Not in my case. I have been surviving on a few hours sleep, and the sleep that I have had has been interrupted, and again taking a long time to drop back off to sleep. So from having so very little sleep over the course of a few days, with only minimal food inside me, I become grouchy and irritable.

Irritability is one of the most difficult aspects for me to control. One of the main signs of a relapse into depression for me, is irritability. So knowing this, has made me seek the help I need. But then when the help causes further irritability, where does one turn? I feel irritable, I’m down. I don’t sleep, I feel irritable. So I can become a lot shorter with people, snap something at someone, which in turn then makes me feel worse because I’m not a fan of upsetting others. It’s a vicious circle.

I know that this will pass once the medication builds up in my system, but until then I find myself having to bite my tongue or taking a brief moment to gather my thoughts and not react as I would usually. This is a story that has plagued me over the years, and as I have alluded to earlier, has ruined parts of my life.

I know that this is a long road that I need amble down again, but the support that I’m receiving from all around me makes everything seem a lot rosier. I’m still taking one day at a time, and sometimes I’m still guilty of throwing a happy face on a sad day, but it’s just one of my ways of coping. If there are other people reading this, that are worried about having “that” conversation, and opening up about how much they are struggling, I would encourage anyone to speak out. Because suffering in silence does not make you a better person. It will hurt you twice as much in the long run.

Depression is a terrible illness, it can strike you down at any time. But taking these early steps I think will help me in the long term. I am so determined not to let this drag me back to where I have been before, it’s not pleasant. I won’t let it happen.

If you aren’t sure what it feels like to be depressed, then I would suggest giving this video a watch. It puts words to very difficult emotions, and sums up a lot of what I’m going through.

Appetite for Destruction

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with food since day 1 really. As a fussy vegetarian child, my diet consisted mostly of baked beans, lentil soup and potato in its many guises.

But, in time I grew to love food for the most part. Though the last week has shown me that in crisis, my body just doesn’t want fuel. Food can bring out great emotional responses in people, triggering memories, both positive and negative. But when you feel empty, where’s the joy?

I hadn’t eaten for almost 36 hours by the time I arrived at the doctor’s surgery. Not through any sort of blind dieting, but my appetite had upped and gone. Just like my get up and go.

Resolve and determination to change myself dragged me into that appointment. And I began on my road to recovery for the umpteenth time. My gp was really supportive and confirmed my severe depression, putting me back on a previously successful medication regime.

Some people will argue that pills don’t build skills. But for me, before I start thinking about any further self help, I need to redress my chemical imbalance. This is a long road which many think will be a quick fix, but I’ve never found it to be that way.

Having made the decision to speak out about my depression, I knew that I had to maintain some of the things that keep me going in life. Work is definitely one of those things, I have a great job surrounded by great people. This gives me a reason to drag myself up in the morning however hard it may feel.

Though starting difficult conversations has never been easy, compiling a blog a week behind allows me time to reflect on the weeks events, thoughts and feelings.

I feel these conversations are starting now, and that can only be a good thing. Suffering in silence isn’t the way to go. I’ve thrown a happy face on far too many times to know its really unhealthy. Time will tell if the stigma around mental health will change.

But this is me, this my stuggle, my difficulties, my relapse and it will become my recovery.

Not seeing the wood for the trees

I woke up like I would on any other day, but I noticed something wasn’t right. I’ve felt this way before, then it dawned on me, I was back to where I had tried so hard to get away from. I was in a pit of depression again, and I didn’t know what to do.

I have suffered from Depression for about 12 years, since the unexpected death of my father, which would knock any teenager for 6. But I took heart from the support of friends, family, teachers and counselling staff. I thought I was strong and could move on, and tackle the world in my own unique way.

Depression has hit me hard over the years, it has ruined relationships, friendships, employment opportunities. It has taken away my confidence, it has kicked me when I’m down and made me question a lot of my life.

I had been almost symptom free from Severe Depression for around 9 months. I hadn’t taken any prescribed medication and had been discharged from therapy, and on the surface everything was going my way. In the last year, I have married the love of my life, settled down into a great job, and now we have a baby on the way. But waking up on Bank Holiday Monday changed all that.

I felt like all my progress had been taken away from me in the blink of an eye. Everything I had worked so hard for had slipped through my fingers without me even noticing. The house of cards I had built, had come crashing down around me, and it felt like every time I tried to put two cards together, the winds of depression took it away.

I spent a large portion of that day trying to busy my mind, hoping that my depression would lift. Tidying the house was the first step, but my thoughts were racing and scaring me, so I eventually took to the sanctuary of bed. I wanted to feel safe, I wanted to shut the world out, sleep it off and then wake up from this awful dream. I had no motivation whatsoever, all pleasure from watching TV and playing video games had evaporated. I led in my bed, eyes open, almost catatonic, staring aimlessly out of the window, watching the sun move across the sky. I couldn’t bear feeling this way again.

Speaking out about my Mental Health has never come easy for me. I’ve always felt vulnerable when I do, fearing judgement from those around me. But I know that things have to change. There’s only so long that throwing a smile on my happy-go-lucky personality will last before the make-up starts to run.

Coming to terms with this, I knew I needed more help, more support.┬áThe first step was admitting that things weren’t all that┬árosy anymore, but without an identifiable cause, I knew that medication was a must to get me back on-track and back to thinking straight.

This is my story. This is my relapse. This will be my recovery. I intend to speak out, I don’t want others to suffer in silence. If my stories can help just one person have a conversation about their own issues, then I’ll feel like I’m making a difference.