This is a blog about depression. If you are easily offended or take offence to my very sarcastic humour, please do not read any further. Mental illness is not a joke; it is not something to point fun at and I fully understand that. BUT…when the going gets tough, sarcasm and humour is my defence and so I will be parading it around all over this blog.
If you need help, please get it. Whilst I hope this has a happy ending, I don’t know yet and given I’ve not been able to fix myself, I really don’t want others using this as a ‘How To Be Happy for Beginners v2.0’
Sleep is still not fantastic. I thought with my meds, I’d be out cold, but I am still struggling to get to sleep. A part of this may be down to obs, which carry on 24 hours a day. I have a bad habit of sleeping watching my iPad but being under obs makes me feel like a naughty school child doing something I shouldn’t. I’m 30!
I am late again for breakfast so it was a repeat of sugar free alpen and dishwater – oh how I miss real coffee. I am determined to get an omelette in at least once whilst here. I do have brilliant news though, I have washed my face and brushed my teeth, AGAIN! That’s a record for my current state. I wonder how long I can keep this streak going for.
Apparently, yesterday’s ‘Finding the Voice’ session isn’t normally like that. The therapy manager has come to see me to make sure I am ok. My exit stage left was obviously not as discrete as I’d hoped. She assures me that session 1 this morning will be different so why don’t I come along. This surprises me, I hadn’t realised attendance to the 4 daily sessions was optional. I’ve treated this a bit like school or work and I’ve been 5 minutes early to all of them. Apparently, I could skip some! This flutters through my mind for a bit but I want to get better and I don’t want to carry on feeling like this so attend them all I shall.
Opening my blue folder (am I the only one who gets excited about new stationary?), I look for the first session of the day. That’s when I see it. My first session is PsychoEducation. Urm, pardon? I am already ‘psycho’ so fairly confident I don’t need educating on how to be more psycho. Also, I’m pretty sure they aren’t allowed to call us that.
Session 1 is calm and a useful way to start the day. I have not been educated in how to be more psycho but instead it’s about making sure we are in the present. When I force myself to stop and think, I realise I live life in the past or the future but never in the present. The idea of slowing things down to work out what’s going on right now, right here, is challenging. My brain seems to run at 100mph or at 0mph. There doesn’t appear to be a happy medium. There doesn’t even appear to be a medium! ‘Grounding’ myself in the now will take time but I hope it will help make me present.
Session 2 is CBT based and, I spoke! Not just at check-in/ check-out but during the discussion. I am frustrated at myself though as there is more I wanted to say but couldn’t. Not couldn’t because it wasn’t allowed or I wasn’t accepted by the group but because my stupid brain won’t let me. I think that any friends reading this will be literally laughing out loud or spitting their tea out. I am one for words but when words matter and it’s about me, suddenly I don’t have any. It is slowly dawning on me that I don’t know who I am. I am many facades but who actually am I? It would be easy to sit here and think I don’t need to be here and then ‘coast’ through the treatment however, I do need to be here and I need to put the elbow grease in to get better.
Mental health is still a taboo and rationally, that is crazy (excuse the pun). If I needed an operation, being in hospital wouldn’t be a stigma. Taking my meds would be obvious and working hard at physiotherapy would be expected to get me walking again. Why then, does being in a psychiatric hospital get such a different reaction? I am taking meds because a qualified doctor has prescribed them for my illness. Yes, depression is an illness. It hit me hard, in the same way a broken bone can hit people too. I take paracetamol and ibuprofen when I have a broken bone so I take fluoxetine and amitriptyline for depression. I’d do physio for a broken bone, I am doing therapy for a broken mind. It’s quite simple really.
Lunch was a solo affair again. What did lone diners used to do before smart phones were invented to help keep us looking busy? Veg tagine on the menu. A silver lining of being inpatient is I am consuming a lot more steamed veg then on the outside. Being inpatient and having someone to make the bed, lay out clean towels and cook for me might seem like a small thing but by freeing up my mind from having to think about those things on top of the heavy duty thinking that goes on during the day, is huge. Also, I’m a lazy bugger at heart, I wonder if I can get a permanent lodging here?
Can you guess what’s up next? You got it… Group therapy session 2 of the day. Thinking about it, 3 hours of therapy a day is rather a lot. I suppose you don’t end up in a place like this if you don’t need a lot though. This session does not go well. No Randle P McMurphy behaviour, more Buster Keaton. I couldn’t open my mouth. I turned into that person who rocks back and forth and if I were in public, you’d all be speedily retreating. There is so much racing through my head that I can’t get it to slow down enough to process what I want to say. I think I can feel the tears welling up, oh shit oh shit, come on dude, get it together.
I make it to the final session of the day, full house for me (I am counting the second group therapy even though I didn’t speak, small victories and all that). Today it’s mindfulness and I am genuinely really interested to understand this more. But hold on a minute, is that Patient N I spot in the corner? The same Patient N that did pull out the Randle P McMurphy behaviour? Ohhh wait, this gets better (for you reading this, it is actually getting worse for me), Patient R is here too! Patient R who is waiting for the apocalypse and has also announced he’s saving his virginity for the virgin Mary! Thank the lord the therapist knows how to handle Patient R. Patient N on the other hand manages to disrupt my check in AGAIN! I mean HELLO, I am trying to speak, something which I seem to have lost the ability to do so could you please save your dress drama for later? No? Oh, ok, thanks, just walk out making a fuss then, no no, really, that’s ok, this wasn’t a big deal for me… And… breathe… I am suddenly aware that I am not breathing. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Breathing, like speaking, seems to be a life skill that after 30 years in this world, I am now failing to do properly. I thought I was meant to be progressing, not regressing.
A few deep breaths later and I am back in the room. We shut our eyes and start a body scan. This is a surprisingly simple yet effect technique to learn. Place both feet flat on the floor and start mentally scanning from the feet up. Feel supported by the ground, feel the chair holding you up, notice what you can hear and smell. Obviously, minds wander and I start to fret if someone at work has remembered to tell someone else something very important. Apparently, that’s Normal… the ‘N’ word is being associated with something I am doing, yay me.
Next is partner work, oh help! Please can I get the woman next me, please please please. She looks ‘Normal’. You see, I could have deleted this sentence but then I realised, a bit like everything else I think, I can’t be the only one who thinks like this? In fact, funny story, it’s how I met one of my best friends. She was sat in our very first lecture at uni and I spotted her and thought ‘she doesn’t look like she knows anyone either and she looks like she isn’t in a cult, I should talk to her!’. This plan didn’t initially turn out so well for me as when I approached her after the lecture to say hi and does she fancy a coffee, the answer I got back was a short sharp ‘No’… Thankfully though we started talking later that day and now we are friends forever (haha, more fool you lovely, you are stuck with me now!). My wish is granted primarily because Patient N hasn’t returned after her dress saga – I now forgive you for ruining my check in – and I’m with the ‘Normal’ woman. The task, name 10 things we are grateful for. Question, what is it about having 10 things? Yesterday was 10 as well and as you saw, I wasn’t good at sticking to that. This is, yet again, a very simple but effective technique as it boosts my mood. It’s also harder than I thought and I am struggling. I know you are all desperate to know my list so I won’t deprive you:
- I am grateful for my cats – yup, I am a crazy cat lady and in case there is any uncertainty about that, I have been watching my cats on my petcube whilst in a psychiatric hospital… that is surely the very definition of crazy cat lady
- I am grateful for my sister – she is my best friend and secret keeper. Including the rather significant secret of me being here
- I am grateful for my mother – she may not know I am here but I do know she loves me unconditionally
- I am grateful for my friend who came to visit yesterday – Not only did you brighten me up and bring gifts but you made me feel it was ok to be here, thank you
- I am grateful for my friends’ messages – I might not be able to take them all to heart at the moment and I might be shit at replying but your messages are amazing
- I am grateful for this opportunity – I need it and I plan to use it wisely
- I am grateful for my corporate medical insurance – I’m able to be here solely because of it
- I am grateful for my work mentor – she’s listened and helped more than I can express and I am inpatient getting the help I need because she made it ok
- I am grateful for my flat – I may use it to hide from the world at times but I do love my home
- I am grateful for still being alive – It’s hard but right now it’s true
The session is hard but I hope I can use these techniques. Little did I know I’d be using them later than night. And yes, that was only 10 this time.
Dinner was yet again a lonely affair a la smart phone in hand. Veg pie and more steamed veg. At least I am getting my vitamins here.
All was calm, all was bright – I am not allowed a bed side lamp due to health & safety – as I sat in my room unwinding with Freeview (we are making peace with each other now) until a blood curdling scream. The nurses think it’s me at first and come piling into the room. It’s not. I’m still struggling to talk, screaming is far too advanced for me. It is a woman on my ward and I am quickly snapped back to the reality that I am absolutely definitely in a psychiatric hospital. Whilst I’d love it to not be true, it is.
Thankfully, that’s as dramatic as the night got. I then washed my face and brushed my teeth (that’s 2 whole days in a row guys!) and waited for my next obs. Getting ready for bed whilst under obs is not straight forward. You have to get the timings just right. As soon as your door is shut, it’s a race against the clock to get your clothes and underwear off and your pj’s on. Haste is not recommended but speed is. It also turns out they need to check you are still alive if you are in the bathroom too, naked or not! Then it’s into bed to start hiding under the duvet whilst on my phone and iPad. I really do feel like a naughty child and tonight’s nurse seems to fit the school matron profile very well. My mind is racing and worrying about everything that, right now, I don’t need to worry about. In steps body scanning and I fall asleep at some point between my hips and shoulders on attempt number 47.