How do you solve a problem like depression?

A picture of me dressed in green and orange dinosaur onesie alongside a picture of a ceramic dinosaur painted to match

I’ve been trying to come up with something to write about as a sort of comeback blog post but my brain isn’t cooperating, nothing I write seems good enough even compared to my normal feelings of nothing I do being good enough. It’s difficult to write about things honestly partly because of the fact that most people who read this know me in real life and ranting about inaccessible transport is easier than being honest about how I feel. So how do I feel? I feel everything and nothing, I’m numb and disconnected and I’m coming home from work and lying on my bed crying, I don’t care about anything except I do I just can’t feel it right now, my heart feels heavy and time feels slowed down, there have been a couple of days when I’ve got in to work recently (and that in itself is a struggle) where I’ve honestly thought I dont know how I’m going to get through the next 8 hours.

Mostly I’m tired, not just physically because I’m also having trouble sleeping but tired of the endless cycles of depression. For me depression comes in cycles, unipolar bipolar without the high. I guess people who’s depression is more constant may think I’m lucky because I do have periods of not being depressed but this is my blog and I’ll cry if I want to (and even if I don’t) and I’m tired of this never really going away of always waiting for it to return.

I had my unusual Birthday existential crisis probably not helped by seeing a family member I hadn’t seen in a couple of years and stirring up fun memories from my upbringing but as ever another year brings more of the feelings of not enough, not doing enough, not achieving enough, not being enough and I’m giving out advice to people who for some reason look up to me and think I have my life together when I’m getting into work in the morning and wondering how I’m going to get through the next 8 hours. I’m a fraud.

This isn’t much of a comeback post but it’s why I haven’t written anything in so long.

Release

A countdown for the number of days I’ve been self harm free

I was trying to explain to someone recently the conflicting feelings that come into my head around self harm. I want to self harm but really I don’t, I keep thinking how much better it was to have an outlet for the way I feel but really I know that it wouldn’t help, it didn’t help, not really, not properly but that doesn’t stop my mind jumping to it when I’m stressed or anxious or overwhelmed.

I haven’t self harmed in 391 days but I self harmed from the age of 17 to 32 and intermittently before that, it’s not that I want to self harm it’s just that I want to breathe and not feel like I’m suffocating, I want to stop feeling like I’m dragging a weight around with me or wading through custards and when it’s been something I’ve done for so long it’s an immediate thought an ingrained reaction that my mind jumps to when I feel bad.

I’m not naive I know that just because or not self harmed in a long time it doesn’t mean I won’t ever do it again because I can’t say for sure that I know I’ll never self harm again and even now it’s not that I never do anything unhealthy/ potentially harmful or things that could be soon as negative ways of managing things they’re just less destructive and don’t involve me ending up in a&e. The longer time goes on the bigger the stakes, once I was past 6 months I’d beat my previous longest time, then it was 7 months, 9 months and finally a year.

Sometimes people say what can I do to help or make things easier but I don’t always want them to do anything other than listen or try and see things from my position, I know some people are more practical than others and their reaction is to look for a solution but sometimes the solution is just please listen to me and hear what I’m saying when I say how overwhelmed and stressed I feel, how I miss people I was close to, how alone I feel, how the light at the end of the tunnel feels very dim and distant right now that’s what can be done to help.

Sometimes I just want someone to take me down to the carpark and let me cry

2018 a (brief) review of the year

Some naughty elves decorated the office
A collage of pictures of Christmas decorations in the office

Before the earth makes that turn moving the UK into 2019 I thought I’d do a 2018 roundup post because it’s been a pretty intense year. At Christmas 2017 I said my goal for 2018 was to become permanent staff even if it was still on reduced hours but to have the security of a proper contract not a zero hours one.

The year didn’t get off the best start with my first trip to a&e of the year on the 2nd of January this was also the only visit to a&e all year, just over two weeks after this I started a new medication Lamotragine a mood stabiliser. I’m sure that lamotragine has been the biggest reason that I haven’t self harmed its almost like it’s turned something off in my brain that’s made me not want to self harm anymore.

My main goal for the year came true in May when I became permanent staff and took over running the youth service, in November I passed my 6 month probation so now I’m officially permanent staff running a service, managing volunteers a year after I said I wanted to be permanent.

A picture of a letter confirming that I passed my 6 month probation

I’ve been under the mental health service again this year slowly adjusting my medication and I’ve now come off the antipsychotics, reduced one of the medications I was taking for anxiety and only taking the bets blockers as needed. I’ve gone from taking 5 different medications for my mental health to 3.

For someone who often struggles with change there have been so many this year, changes with my job, and the people I work with, two of the people I was closest with at work both left within a few weeks of each other which has been hard and still hasn’t fully sunk in. The office is definitely quieter and I’m missing my verbal sparring partner, I’ll also the person who will always find something positive in everything who took me outside to the carpark to cry because she knew I wouldn’t want anyone in the office to overhear me.

I’ve also become closer to other people at work including two who started at the same time as me, I’ve been out for various drinks and social events (enough to maybe get a reputation) and I’ve had some lovely feedback and support from my volunteers.

As an incredibly indecisive person who struggles to make a choice when there are too many desserts on the menu I bought myself an early Christmas present and got my first tattoo covering some of my self harm scars something very permanent but positive and I love it so much.

A collage of pictures of my new tattoo a caduceus with the words omnes te moriturum amant above it

So 2019 will be off to a busy start with work but also starting with a huge milestone of a year since the last time I self harmed. Of course my love for a certain tv show about a certain grumpy dr has been in full force in 2018 (is a tattoo taking the fandom too far?) and I’ve spent my time off over Christmas working my way through Sherlock, 2019 is looking like a busy year for my fandoms.

Happy new year or happy January or happy Tuesday whichever suits you

Georgiesaurus ☺️🦖

To alcohol the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems

A young drunk dino.

drunk (2)
A picture of me drunk with my mouth open wearing a black and white striped top

I’m a mouthy drunk, not the messy head down the toilet drunk of my early 20’s or the numbing my body with vodka so I could take action to numb my mind drunk of my late 20’s, I’ve never had a problem with alcohol as such more a problem with the things I do when I’ve had alcohol.

I don’t drink much now, chronic illness and medication have seen to that and I’m really only a social drinker but I’m also anxious socially and alcohol is a great way to reduce the anxiety and my tongue. When I say I’m a mouthy drunk I don’t mean rude or aggressive (passive aggressive maybe) more that my tendency to over share increases as my inhibitions decrease adding this to a habit of using humour as a way of making light of difficult subjects it can be awkward at best and messy at worst.

But this isn’t really about alcohol, to quote thirteen being drunk doesn’t change who you are it just reveals it” I recently did a support plan at work about supporting my mental health including triggers, what I can do to support myself, how work can support me and what signs there might be that I’m struggling. One of the things I included here was changes to my relationships with colleagues, I feel I have some good relationships with some of the people I work with and we tend to have a laugh and joke about things including each other it’s banter but if I’m struggling or not in a great place mentally I can take that too far past it being funny or harmless.

The problem with banter is when mixed with anxiety and alcohol and a loosened tongue the less fun parts come out, I’m not incapable of being unpleasant or bitchy I’m certainly no saint but it’s not always just to be a dick it can and recently was in reaction to hurt, those annoying attachment issues rearing up again at unplanned social interactions with someone who was once a source of support who then let me down and lied to me more than once. I’ve struggled with change and boundaries but I’m not oblivious to them and I’m not naive I don’t need people to lie to me and give me false hope only to completely go against what they said, the worst part is although I’m angry part of me still misses them but I don’t want to not that I particularly want to be angry either but it would be easier to just be angry.

It would be better if I didn’t have to see people who let me down or at least have some control over the interactions but that’s not always possible and while the banter may have gone a bit far and the anger crept in aided by alcohol it didn’t messy and there were no close encounters with the toilet or trips to a&e.

It’s personal

I’m clearly no stranger to sharing my life both online and offline, if I was this blog wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t be reading this now but offline I’m starting to get tired of sharing my story and talking to people about my history and mental health. I’ve spoken to so many people in different settings from pop up cafes to fundraisers, funding bids for work and over 1000 young people through volunteering on the youth service I now run and although logically I know it’s not true it does feel as though there must be a shortage of people who haven’t heard my story by now.

Today I’m running training with my new volunteers on writing their personal story and although no one is forcing me to I don’t feel like I can avoid telling it again it doesn’t seem fair to ask them to share theirs and me not share mine, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and Im still not entirely sure why I’m so against telling it now I think it’s partly that I’m tired of hearing it and then the fear of being judged and the shame of not really having achieved much in my life. I really do enjoy my job and it’s not that I think it doesn’t count but I’m in my 30’s and just getting started in career where most of the people around me are younger than me and more qualified. I don’t feel like an inspiration or someone to look up to, hearing other people’s educational backgrounds and qualifications reminds me of what I don’t have and what I’m not clever enough to ever achieve, maybe this is internalised to an extent but I also know the reality of my experiences in education.

When you’re known for one thing or people see you a certain way it can be hard to break that view no matter how much you change or try to move on you’ll still be seen the same way, I’ve talked about my past so many times as a volunteer and although not in great detail there’s a high chance that I’ll be meeting people in my new role that have heard my story, I don’t hide having mental health problems and it’s not like I even could if I wanted to I’ve made sure of that it’s something I’ll never be able to fully hide but even though it’s my own fault I wish I had a choice.

Working 9 (30) – 5 (30)

A photo of me at work wearing pink glasses and a black top with my chin resting on my hand looking stressed

I took part in a photo project on Facebook for people with chronic illness a few months ago and balance was one of the prompts that stood out for me, people talk about a work life balance and having a life outside of work but another type of work life balance for me is the balance between how I’m seen as a member of staff and a person with mental health problems.

My mental health isn’t a secret it couldn’t be if I wanted it to be not just because of this blog or the very obvious signs all over my body including my hands (big regret) but also because I came into the organisation as a service user which is something I make no secret of but at times it’s hard to know how others see me. This may be my own internalised anxieties or not feeling good enough but I find it hard to know whether at times of stress I’m see as a stressed or frustrated member of staff like any other or if I’m seen as a person with a mental health problem overeating as a result of their mental health.

Again this may be internalised anxiety and probably a generous dose of feeling like I don’t deserve help or that I shouldn’t ask for help and should be capable and prove myself (probably mostly the last part) but because I feel like I should be able to cope and I’m afraid of being seen as incapable I find it really hard to say I’m struggling at work. I know I keep going on about how scary it is that people having expectations for me to live up to but Friday afternoons seem to be the time my brain likes to have a breakdown and I even got left off work early for being mental today, being overtired and alone all day meant I spent more time crying at my desk than actually working.

My mental health and volunteer experiences help me support my volunteers but I worry that I’m seen as less professional especially because of my self harm and the fact that I don’t cover my scars or that people will think I’m not capable; as it is I’ve been judged by professionals when I’ve attended consultations or panels as a person with lived experience or service user rep, metaphorically patted on the head or had things I’ve been dealing with for years explained to me with a patronising smile and yes some of these people may do it to everyone but when you’re trying to prove yourself or been seen as more than just a token or a tick box to satisfy a requirement it’s that bit more frustrating. I keep being told that everyone experiences anxiety at the start of a new job and it’s normal to have doubts but again this is where the difference lies because I always feel I’m waiting for people to see through me and tell me this was all a mistake.

This blog is a bit all over the place but what (I think) I’m trying to say is that the balance between work and life is more complex for me than just work and outside work.

This existential crisis was brought to you by caffeine and chocolate.

Part of the problem?

Dinos back
A green backgroud with pink dinosaur cartoon carrying a black brefcase and pink walking stick. The words dinos back are at the top in black

Guess who’s back? Back again, dinos back, please like and share.

So it’s been a while, I’ve had to do lots of writing for work recently which hasn’t left me with much brain capacity to write for enjoyment, but I’m back and return with a rant.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is stress which is ironic as stress and work are the reasons I haven’t blogged recently. It often feels like a week can’t go by without there being some kind of awareness day/ week/ month so far this year we’ve had time to talk day, self injury awareness day, university mental health day, eating disorders awareness week and no doubt many others. This month is borderline personality disorder awareness month normally I’d write something about these or use them as a springboard to write about a related subject but this time I’m writing about other peoples way of promoting these awareness days.

I know that I often use these awareness days and campaigns to promote my blog and that’s not what I have an issue with but people using it to promote their illness or compete over who is the illest especially on social media. Mental health problems and chronic illness already have so much stigma attached and there are so many misconceptions around them, the biggest areas of stigma I’ve found are within the medical system from Drs and medical staff I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been poorly treated and discriminated against due to my mental health and especially self harm. So why when there is already stigma attached do people within the mental health and chronic illness “communities” claim to be “raising awareness” by glorifying their illness or posting things that just add to the misconceptions?

Posting pictures of your self harm as part of an awareness day isn’t going to reduce stigma, posting pictures of your face scratched up or countless pictures of your starved body is shocking and attention grabbing but ultimately adds to the idea that self harm is purely graphic and bloody, that personality disorders are all about self harm or that eating disorders are about being thin and fragile, mental illness is complex but it’s not pretty and we don’t need more images of fragile, delicate white girls or bloody and bruised bodies in the name of raising awareness. If I had £1 for every time a health professional made a throw away comment about people with personality disorders or treated someone’s self harm in an unprofessional or even cruel way I would be a wealthy Dino.

We need to change how we raise awareness and avoid glorifying mental health problems as a way to show the reality of living with a mental health issue because the reality isn’t just what’s visible and just showing that side of things not only gives a very narrow view but also undermines people who don’t experience mental illness this way, it’s a broad spectrum and everyone is different and we all experience things, everyone has different symptoms and lifestyles, mental illness is invisible not everyone has scars (at least not physical ones) and that should be the message we send that mental health problems aren’t uncommon and they’re increasing and you can’t always tell just by looking at someone.

Body and mind

Shark bag
A picture of a shark rucksack looking anxious wih the caption “my face when people ask what happened to my arms”

*For the purpose of this post i’ll be using the word disabled to mean people with a physical impairment, I do consider mental health problems to be a disability but for clarity i’ll refer to mental health seperatly.

So my brain whirred into action last night thanks to an Instagram post by the amazing feeding of the fox. There’s a type of self harm that’s rarely mentioned; self neglect comes up in the context of depression but even I’ve never seen a discussion around the connection between disability or chronic illness and self harm or disabled people deliberately not taking care physical needs as a way of self harming. There are times when I say yes when I should say no, times when I will push myself because I don’t deserve to rest, times when I don’t take painkillers because it’s an indirect way of inflicting pain on myself, going to places that aren’t accessible or doing things when I’m not well enough.

Any disabled person will also tell you there is a big divide in the treatment of physical and mental health problems the two rarely mix and the mental health services are not always good at recognising the impact that physical disability or chronic illness can have on mental health or that the things that could benefit you mentally aren’t always possible physically (like going for a walk or having a bath), being told I should do more exercise after I’ve explained that I have chronic pain and chronic fatigue can result in me feeling lazy and making myself do things that result in pain or injury and an increase in fatigue and related symptoms. This is where the lack of understanding or knowledge of the connections between mental health and physical impairments is such a problem because for me it can be an increase in symptoms but for others it can be much worse.

Then there’s the other side the health services who treat your body as if your mind isn’t a part of it, although I’ve always been disabled to some extent in the last couple of years my mobility has got worse and I’ve been using mobility aids and dealing with more pain and fatigue.

At the beginning of 2017 I tried to access psychological therapy for long term health problems. I wanted help accepting my chronic illness and dealing with no longer being able to do the things I used to and things people my age can do, I wanted some support in balancing my physical health and mental health. It took several months for them to tell me that they don’t offer support for chronic pain, between that they rejected me because I was under mental health services (I was in the process of being discharged and they were completely different services), they then said my self harm made me too much of a risk and they said they didn’t think I’d be able to manage classroom based psychoeducation (thanks for that).

Last time I checked neither my body or my brain can function without the other yet services treating each are still very separate and mental health services are often not accommodating for people with physical impairments and often aren’t accessible there’s also an assumption that if you’re disabled and have mental health problems then of course you’re depressed because you’re disabled because who wouldn’t be?

Ableism unfortunately is still well rooted within the medical profession and the even within the disability communities there is still too much separation of physical impairment and mental health issues.

Rocket Science

If you can’t here expecting a review of a lush  bathbomb then sorry to disappoint you this is a rant about mental health services, maybe try Lulu or Jen

IMG_5726
A blue rocket shaped bath bomb made by Lush cosmetics

I am not a frequent flyer, I don’t have air miles I haven’t been on a plane in years and the last time I went abroad was to Edinburgh by train. Despite this I and other in a similar are labelled frequent flyers or regular attenders (this is meant to be the better term) because we find ourselves in situations where our mental health has got to a point when we need support and intervention often requiring medical attention as a result of harming ourselves.

Self harm isn’t something people do for fun or because they enjoy being in a&e it’s because emotions become overwhelming (and this is a very simplified explanation of a complex issue) and as I’ve written before the treatment once you’re at a&e is often not pleasant or equal to the treatment of people going in for accidental injuries with long waits in loud and busy waiting areas and psych liaison who at most may give you a leaflet and discharge you at 4am with no way of getting home.

It’ll be no surprise that this latest rant is inspired by a crisis concordat meeting this morning, two hours of frustration at having to bite my tongue in frustration at the language used and throwaway comments about people with personality disorders and the triggering content in the suicide prevention information listing the age groups and sex of people who ended their life and details of methods chosen again separated by sex.

Sometimes I look at the people sitting around the same table as me and wonder how they can be so oblivious to the blatantly obvious, do they really not see the link between the high numbers of people in Richmond who come into contact with the street triage team and the above average number of people detained under section 136 of the mental health act and the complete lack of crisis services in the borough? Are they actually surprised that people who are distressed or in crisis don’t want to travel an hour or more to an area they may not know to get support? And may not have the means to do so? It really isn’t rocket science or a difficult connection to make, I don’t exactly consider myself the sharpest tool in the box yet I can see it so why can’t they?

Aside from Mind since I’ve been a part of the crisis concordat (around 2 years now) and the outcome based commissioning program (coming up for 8 months) only one person has actually asked me about my experiences of a&e and the treatment I receive it still seems like a radical idea to most of the people involved to actually listen to someone who’s been in the very situation they’re talking about. Despite feeling like i’m banging my head against a wall (thanks Steph) and frequently coming away wondering if being there serves any purpose I still keep going if only to play my own version of crisis bingo.

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