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?”

How not to write about mental health

Mental health is currently big in the news. With Mental Health Awareness Week just behind us that’s hardly a surprise. I’m in favour of reducing stigma and increasing awareness (you may have noticed); so it was odd to find myself bothered by an article I woke up to this morning.

It was in the BBC magazine, and was a feature on teenagers deliberately poisoning themselves. ‘Self poisoning’ is the term the article uses, which I imagine is what the psychiatrists write in their notes. It is decent news reporting. It is not actively sensationalist. It interviews sufferers, who themselves have been trained to talk about their behaviour in medical language. And it really upset me. Continue reading “How not to write about mental health”

Self-care: that’s for wimps, right?

Five years ago I was a stereotypical Alpha type. I worked 80-90 hour weeks in a very high stress job. On principle I worked with the people reputed to be the most demanding. I was the one who stayed up the latest, partied the hardest, drank the most, made sure everyone had a good time, was first into work the next morning.

On holidays I got up earlier than I did for work – 3 or 4 am – to climb (and sometimes ski) serious Alpine peaks. I was the sole woman on a 15-strong expedition to a technically difficult Himalayan summit. I frequently ran marathon distances off road at the weekend.

Continue reading “Self-care: that’s for wimps, right?”