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’
I had some crazy work dreams last night. Not even remotely close to being real but still rather scary. Does anyone else having crazy dreams? I mean, I work in an office at a computer so it’s highly unlike a green dragon monster is going to come up to me and demand I leave the building whilst eating my shoes. It takes me a few minutes to catch on that it was a dream and I am not at immediate risk from a shoe eating dragon monster. Come to think of it, I hope I am never at risk of a shoe eating dragon monster.
I am awake and dressed in time for breakfast, yay. All bran and toast with marmalade. Not hungry enough for an omelette today but I am getting braver. These are all small steps in the right direction. To add to this minor victory, I wash my face and brush my teeth, go me
I’ve got to make the most of the washing machine and tumble dryer, not just because it’s a luxury to have a tumble dryer but because I am rotating a fairly limited wardrobe of comfy clothes. I’ve learnt my lesson and brought some washing capsules from home so that my clothes are all soft. I am not sure what the etiquette of the communal machines are. Someone has their washing in the machine but the machine has finished. Do I remove it? Do I wait until they come and take it? Do I put it in the dryer for them? This is tricky stuff. I’ve never used a communal washing machine. I decide to be bold, I remove the washing! It’s due to take 1 hour 52 minutes, perfect, I can transfer it to the tumble dryer in the break between session 1 & 2.
Session 1 is ‘The ABC of CBT’. Catchy title, I have a feeling this isn’t going to involve the Jackson Five though. I am right, it doesn’t but it does involve a very annoying Therapist J (for those following along, the same Therapist J that took over in IPT last week). I sense he has some insecurities of his own as he has an incessant need to smile and make us laugh whilst throwing a wink in every now and then. I’m childish, I don’t give him what he wants. I purposefully keep a very straight face. (I know, I am meant to be a 30-year-old adult). The ABC of CBT makes quite a lot of sense so it was worth getting up for.
A: Activating Event = People’s triggers or event triggering our feelings
B: Belief = 1) Negative automatic thoughts (NATs); 2) Inferences; 3) Core beliefs
C: Consequences = Emotional, Physiological, Behavioural
The theory goes that A = C so CBT looks at individual’s B as it’s the B that makes us feel something. Everyone is likely to have a different C due to B (are you following? This made more sense in the session than it does right now).
So, if all decisions go through our beliefs and activate our core beliefs (mine are along the lines of I’m a failure etc.) then C becomes distressing. B is our internal filter and creates rules that we believe. We are encouraged to notice our filters but not allow them to control us. Ok, so this is getting confusing so let’s go with a real life Patient C example:
A: I make a mistake at work
B: I am a failure, I am going to lose my job, I am rubbish
C: I over compensate at work OR shut down completely as my filter has told me I am a failure
OUTCOME: I self-sabotage! Over compensating/ shutting down will be worse as I’ll be more likely to make a mistake and therefore more likely to lose my job
[N.B.: For anyone reading this that does not know what I do for a living, it does not involve people’s lives so fear not, a mistake will not hurt someone]
Therapist J, whilst still being highly annoying, does give me a nugget that I think I can hold onto. All human beings and animals feel defective – it’s inbuilt to protect us. YIPPEE, I am, yet again, not alone. Session over.
I believe my etiquette of removing the washing was ok as I come back to find my washing in the basket, not in the machine. Phew, I did not conduct a serious social faux pas. Time to make my clothes fluffy and dry. I’ll come back after session two. Oh, I am so excited for my fluffy clean clothes (look, when you are in hospital, it’s the little things that make a difference).
Morning Group now and I ask to focus on self-worth. I know this has been discussed a bit before but I still can’t hold onto believing I am worthy. Patient P chimes in with a really rather brilliant idea. If I could have compassion with my 7-year-old self, what about compassion to my 20-year-old self? Mmm, interesting. Ok, let’s give this a shot. I was at uni at 20 where I made amazing friendships. In fact, this was my first good experience of real friends. What would I say to her?
“Stop pushing them away, these friends do care for you. You don’t need to starve yourself to be loved, you don’t need to be 7 stone. You don’t need to put yourself through this. Trust you are enough.”
Wow, ok, that was a surprise. I feel compassion for her. She was surrounded by amazing friends yet didn’t realise how much they liked her. Patient P chimes back in and asks me what I would say to the person that was admitted 2 weeks ago, can I care for her? Blimey, this is dodgy territory Patient P but let’s go with it.
“I’d hug her tightly, I’d tell her committing suicide isn’t the only option. I’d beg her to believe things can get better, I’d beg her to realise people love her and that she is intelligent. She’s not the idiot she thinks she is and so what if she isn’t as clever as everyone else, that doesn’t matter.”
This is tough. I do care about her, I do want that person to understand and believe this. For some reason though, the Patient C sat right here right now can’t. More work to be done, obviously.
It’s Patient J3 (the J’s are doing well in my alphabet!) birthday – oh boy, that’s tough. This isn’t exactly party central. We sing, although, if you remember my description of my sister and I, Patient J3 would probably have preferred we hadn’t.
Patient L bumps into me as I walk to the restaurant. She wants to have lunch with me, only if I go first and promise to pick what I want. Yippee! I do, veg and cheddar gratin with steamed broccoli. It’s good to have some company after the last session. It’s also acting as a distraction for what I am about to do. I need to call my mum. She’s going away and she’d be crushed if she doesn’t speak to me before she goes. I drag lunch out for as long as I can. It’s good to talk to Patient L. It was also good to pick what I wanted.
We finish and there is only so much sitting around I can do to put off to the call. I bite the bullet and call her from the ‘courtyard’ (a.k.a smoker’s paradise with a couple of garden chairs thrown in for good measure). I won’t replay the whole conversation as it went along the lines of the last call with her. She was insistent work don’t find out. Too late, way too late – when you break down in tears to your manager, not once but 4 times, there is little left in terms of secrets. I lie, I tell her it’s holiday. I hate this but it’s for the best. I’m doing this to protect her. She goes on about something else but I can’t hear it. I mean literally, I’ve moved the phone away from my ear. I bring the conversation to an end by repeating three words over and over at her… I love you. It’s true, I do. I also want this conversation to be over.
I’m frustrated by the call, I’m upset, cross, sad and a whole pick-n-mix of emotions. I hide back in questionable carpet room. Right now, talking this through at afternoon IPT would be the healthy thing to do. Do I do the healthy thing? NO WAY JOSE! I hide under the duvet. Good work, Patient C, good work. I also fall back into a bad habit… I over eat. Food + my emotions = big mess. I don’t realise at the time this is what I am doing. It’s not until tomorrow that it hits me.
My nurse comes into to see how I am doing, he can tell something is up. Jackpot, you are right. We talk things through and it goes to show that communicating my emotions is a good thing. He tells me it’s ok to get frustrated, it’s ok to feel sad. We stay talking for about 30 minutes and before he leaves he asks me, do I feel I can approach the nurses for a chat. Let’s answer this honestly, let’s tell him that I don’t feel I should distract them from time with other patients. He then asks if it’s better if they come find me and see if I am ok. Yes, in a childish way, yes, this would be better for me. Now I’ve missed ‘Finding Your Voice’ which is probably just what I need. Damn it. We all remember my exit from the last one. I’ll be here next Wednesday and promise myself I’ll find out what this involves then. My sister is visiting tonight and I’m getting anxious about it, I use that as an excuse too.
Missing the session and talking to my nurse has led conveniently up to my massage. I reiterate that she has wondrous hands. Best 1 hour of the day, by a country mile.
After the massage, I get a message. Oh, my sister can’t make it. Is it wrong that this is good news to me? Time to head down for a late (1830) supper! Two mouthfuls into date night with the phone and a lentil & sweet potato cottage pie, my nurse comes running over. Dr E is, for once, doing her ward round early. Can I go back to the ward? So, off I run.
By the time Dr. E comes through the door, I could have easily finished my dinner. Instead it’s sat in my room under a cloche with the steam dripping on it. Doh. We talk through the conversation with my mum, how I am feeling, the fact I am worrying about small things. I’ve come to the conclusion I am worrying about small things as a way of distracting the fact I am still feeling sad. It’s becoming easier to tell her the truth.
Once she’s gone, it’s time to tuck into the lukewarm lentils and call my sister. Questionable carpet room has awful signal but I think I’ve found the sweet spot. It takes placing by phone virtually out the window and then talking to people through my MacBook. High tech stuff. The plus side is that we manage to talk for longer that 1 minute 30 secs each time (no kidding, that’s when FaceTime audio would cut us off). My sister keeps asking how I am feeling. I don’t want to go over it. She wants to hear that I am better but I can’t tell her that just yet. I know this isn’t easy for her, but it’s not easy for me either. I keep guiding the conversation back onto other topics which seems to work.
Each night, at 2030, the night staff arrive and come around the ward to let you know who is on duty. They receive a handover from the day staff with any key patient information. I’ve obviously been put on some form of handover list as they take it in turns to come and talk to me. The conversation goes something like this:
Nurse: How are you? Are you ok?
ME: Yes, I am ok, thanks.
Nurse: Good day though?
ME: Yes, it was ok, bit tough speaking to mum but it’s ok
Nurse: [takes a seat and gets comfy with zero intention of moving in the next 5 minutes] Ok, and do you feel ok about the conversation? We know you didn’t go to group this afternoon
ME: Yes, I’m ok, just processing things… thanks [by thanks, I actually mean goodbye]
Nurse: What else bothered you today?
ME: I’m ok, really, just worrying about a couple of things, it’ll pass [i.e. please piss off, I want some time out]
Nurse: [stays still and continues to question me]
This exact script plays out 3 times, in one night… I’M OK! Now, I know what you are thinking, I was saying ok a lot before my admittance and I wasn’t ok. I get why there may not be trust in my ok statement. The thing is though, I take a little while to process information and I struggle to talk about things until I’ve finished processing. Ok is a catch all statement we all use, right? A statement that isn’t meant to lead to lots more questions. Well, in the case of this evening, it led to a lot more questions. I now need to find another statement to get them to leave me alone.
The truth is, I am ok. I feel like I am coping better. I need to process things and I am tired but ok is pretty much exactly what I feel at the moment. I don’t feel like tears are about to start falling, I don’t feel so trapped, I feel…ok. Dare I say it? I think I might be turning a corner… there, it’s out in the big wide blog. I’m hesitant to say it as, what if tomorrow is a bad day? That’s the thing with mental health recovery, there is no defined path and sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step backwards. I know I couldn’t face the sessions this afternoon but I have talked it through with my nurse and Dr. E. I’ve not cried today either.
I get back to attacking my Sudoku – isn’t it a brilliant thing, only one possible answer so it’s either right or wrong. Tonight, my meds are being increased and for some reason, I don’t feel like writing about the day before, I just want to get into bed. I’m going to listen to my body and wash my face, brush my teeth and get to sleep. Writing can wait for a day.