Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight

I have said this before: I thought I’d got through the hospital phase of my recovery, and then I discovered that wasn’t true.

It happened again.

A fortnight ago I allowed myself to get tired from working too many hours, under too much pressure, with too much travel, and then I followed that up with a weekend of activities which pressed a number of my PTSD buttons.

The following Monday I felt largely unaffected, and I was exultant. I knew I’d taken a risk. I thought I’d made it through. (My therapist thought so too. We celebrated.)

Too soon. Continue reading “Checking In – A Marathon Fortnight”

Changing My Mind

Yesterday I ran 18 miles without at any point believing I couldn’t do it, wanting to die, screaming at myself in my head for being so utterly fat, unfit, useless and stupid, hitting my legs in a bid to go faster, denying myself food and water as some sort of punishment for not running well enough.

This, my friends, is noteworthy, because all of that was normal to me every time I ran. Absolutely every time.

I kept running for all those years. Of course I did; I’m bloody-minded like that. But it always involved that constant self-inflected brutality, which is to say it wasn’t very nice.

I thought that was the only way running could be, and I couldn’t understand how other people could run so well with that going on; it didn’t occur to me that their minds were different. Continue reading “Changing My Mind”

Chance of Sunshine: 70%

Just less than a year ago I wrote that there were bright spells in my life and that I was slowly beginning to function more reliably again. That progress has continued. Here’s where we are today.

Most of all I am glad now that I am alive.

Stop there. Let’s say that again. I am glad that I am alive.

(Early on my therapist said his job was ‘to keep you alive until you can make the decision to do that yourself’. By that criterion his job is well done.)

But there is more: I also want to be happy. That’s a feeling that is entirely new to me; since my teens all I’ve wanted is to be numb or full of adrenalin. Now I want a calm, contented happiness.

It’s even been a while since my head told me that I wanted to die. Yes, I learned to stop listening to that voice a long time ago; that’s a necessity if you’re to survive the worst of depression. So I wasn’t listening, but until recently it carried on insisting, and that’s not a great voice to live with every day. Now it’s gone.

And there are other things.

Continue reading “Chance of Sunshine: 70%”

Depression recovery bulletin…

copied across from FB:

In the spirit that has become so important to me of revealing what it’s like, here are ten things I did without effort before 9 am today that depression didn’t allow me to do at all:

  1. Have a shower.
  2. Clean my teeth.
  3. Choose clothes that go together as an outfit.
  4. Wear a formal dress and tights to work not warm comfortable yoga pants.
  5. Text a friend to ask how she’s getting on. Care about the answer.
  6. Take the right quantity of my pills – neither forgotten, nor self-medicating by doubling the dose.
  7. Stick with the morning’s work meetings rather than cancelling at the last minute with a flimsy excuse I then feel guilty about all today.
  8. Be fairly confident I’ll get through the day without desperation and tears.
  9. Check my emails without fear.
  10. Get to work on time.

Point of clarity: I’m not here harking back to the period of my deepest depression – then I was in hospital, unable to move. I’m talking about the point four years into my treatment when I was back at work and the outward appearance was pretty good.

This was what I fought with when people around me thought I was doing well.

It took all my energy to try and fail to do those simple things.

That’s worth remembering when you hear that someone you know is struggling with depression. That’s the sort of thing they’re likely to be fighting against.

But it changes; we get well. The world has not changed to allow me to do before 9am simple things I couldn’t do at all a couple of years ago. Instead, with a lot of effort and help, pills and therapy, tears and screams, time, my brain has changed. Life is basically good. ‘Tis a miracle. A miracle.

 

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Slim Hope of Perfection

In the year before I broke down I was thinner than I am now. Noticeably so, as far as I am concerned. I have clothes from that period that I don’t throw away. They hold in my mind all that I remember as good. I was thin (people commented on it). I was carefree, professionally successful, and impressing people with my achievements.

I was also suicidal, but denied that even to myself. I would joke that I’d wanted to walk under a bus to avoid having to go to work. I never noticed that that being true was a problem. I flipped between personality states: the depressed, crying myself to sleep every night, and the party animal, drinking champagne out of the bottle on the dance floor long after midnight and being first into work the next day. Continue reading “Slim Hope of Perfection”

The Life-Changing Miracle of Publication

November 2014: Holland House Books offered me a contract for The Storyteller. June 2015: I accepted that contract. Seven months of indecision over an offer that should have been a dream come true. One simple reason: I didn’t believe in the novel or myself.

There were other, smaller, reasons as well that I could use as an excuse for procrastination. Aspects of the book were too personal to share openly. I worried I would hurt someone else. I couldn’t explain it at work. Perhaps I should be completely rewriting the text as the Penguin editor so charmingly suggested. Continue reading “The Life-Changing Miracle of Publication”

What is worth learning anyway?

Look at my CV, and you’d think I’m well-educated. Despite a poor-performing school, I came away with a string of A*s at GCSE. I ticked off 5 As at A-level, a First in my undergraduate degree, a Distinction in my Masters, and then a doctorate. These are all things it was worth working for, and which it is worth having. Each progressively took me the step along the road to the next, and when I became seriously ill and my life fell apart, it was the benefits associated with the job I’d gained through all those qualifications that paid for the medical care that began my cure. (Now I can no longer get health insurance, it is the salary from that ‘high-flying’ job that allows me to pay my medical bills directly. The NHS does not cover long-term individual therapy; welcome to the prioritisation of the physically ill.)

Continue reading “What is worth learning anyway?”