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’
Before we get cracking with the day, I wanted to say a couple of things. Yesterday’s write up was tough. I was scared to admit to myself, as much as anyone reading this, just how detached I was whilst planning what I was going to do. I worried a lot about how people would react, I worried a lot about coming clean to myself. I feel lighter though, as if typing it out has helped me unload some of it. We are taught the power of speaking about our problems in here and, I ask, if anything has struck a chord in you in any of the posts, please talk about it. Please share it. I’ve had nothing but a fantastic response when I finally asked for help. Please trust me that people will be there to help you and people love you.
Returning to normal service with a bucket load of sarcasm, let’s get back to Sunday. My nightly meds make me very thirsty. They also seem to have the undesirable effect of making my breath smell. In combination with days that I am unable to brush my teeth, that’s a potent mix. I’ve taken to drinking fizzy drinks to help combat the taste so all visitors are currently being asked to bring in something with bubbles. If only that could be some champagne.
It’s Sunday and that means one thing, I am having a lie in. Stuff the 0930 yoga, sleeping in is way more important. I feel heavy, depression heavy. Oh, please don’t be a bad day. Please can I be ok? I’ll be gentle with myself, I’ll prop myself up a little and turn on Freeview… Bloody Freeview, get me back to Sky+! Why don’t I open the curtains a little, let the natural light in. Good Patient C, this means you’ve had to stand up. Ok, I’ve slipped back under the duvet but there is natural light and some annoying program on. Then the cleaner opens the door and takes a wary look at me. Does she dare enter? I nod and she tentatively opens the door wider. A few side glances later as she’s cleaning the room and that’s it, I’m up. Cleaner, you’ve done the trick. As a way of saying thank you, I’ll even help you make the bed for me. Now, I am not just up, I am being useful. This is good.
Once the cleaner has gone, I wash my face and brush my teeth. Whoop, success. Why not sit by the window and do some Sudoku before my friend gets here? I’ve bigged up the roast dinners quite a lot so my friend has come to join me. Plus, this is the same friend who has been looking after the cats, the least she deserves is a £4.95 Sunday roast in a psychiatric hospital restaurant. Cheap LED lights and all. You are one lucky lucky lady Friend ML.
Friend ML is running late and this is worrying me. Are we going to run out of time? Is there still going to be food downstairs? Are we going to have to rush? I don’t like things being out of order, this is frustrating. When she arrives, I basically rush her in the door trying to capitalise on every second. Stuff the goodies you may have brought, let’s get down to the restaurant. Once sat and eating, I relax a little. And breathe. We talk about the office; Friend ML works at the same company. It’s strange hearing about everything carrying on, like nothing has happened. Something very big has happened, I’ve started to talk and I’ve been in here. Why hasn’t everything come to a complete standstill? It’s not that I think I am amazing, far from it. It’s that it’s hard to know everyone is out there, being ‘Normal’ and successful and having fun whilst I am busting a gut to try to get myself at least on the path to ‘Normal’.
We head back to my room after lunch. I had the nut roast, Friend ML had the chicken thigh. I think she’s a little underwhelmed by it! Obviously, it’s the highlight of my week here so I forget people have been able to go to restaurants on the outside. Back in questionable carpet room and it’s time to unwrap her goodies for me.
Parcel 1 = Oreo based chocolate (peanut butter, mint and original)
Parcel 2 = Hot Cross Bun fudge – yes, truly, M&S sell hot cross bun fudge and it’s seriously good
Parcel 3 = By far the best parcel of them all, a handmade calligraphy quote in a frame to brighten up questionable carpet room. The quote, I hear you ask, is:
‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think’ – A.A. Milne
Maybe waking up each morning and seeing this will help me remember it.
We stay chatting and I decide I can miss the 1400 session on ‘Assertions & Boundaries’ as she’s come all this way to see me so I need to make sure she’s had a good time. The irony of this is only hitting me now! Good job I will still be in hospital this Sunday as it looks like I need this session. (Later that night, Friend ML messages me to remind me I never have to put on a front for her, thank you Friend ML).
Friend ML goes and I’ve not got long until my next friend comes. More Sudoku and shit Freeview to pass the time, that is, until Nurse K comes in. Nurse K is now going to be re-named Crazy Cat Nurse (CCN). She has heard the rumour I have a camera at home so I can live stream and remotely play with my cats. Yes CCN, it’s true. We spend 30 minutes comparing cat stories. I teach her about the wonders of cat fountains – yes, my fur babies have their own water fountain – and she tells me about some new treats. It’s glorious. Nurse A interrupts this very catty conversation to let me know my next visitor has arrived.
This friend isn’t going to be initialled. Not because that person is anything other than amazing but because I am going to share some of the conversation. For ease of typing, the friend will be known as Friend X – also because I think it’s unlikely I’ll met a real Patient X for the alphabet. Before we get started about the visit, I want to share Friend X’s ingenious way of checking if I was still up for a visitor. Being in hospital, regardless if it’s psychiatric or otherwise, is exhausting. At times, I am grateful to be able to tune out whilst watching something nonsensical on TV. Friend X gets this, so sends me a text:
‘If you’ve since decided you don’t feel up to a visitor, that’s totally fine. If words a struggle, just send me an alpine cable-car of frustrating and ambivalent feelings 🚠’
This is brilliant. Sometimes finding the words to explain I don’t want a visitor without being rude is too much. I worry I’ll be rude, that the visitor won’t understand or simply don’t have the energy to explain. Knowing I’d only need to send an emoji is genius. I recommend giving this option to everyone! I want the visit so no cable-car full of emotions and ambivalent feelings required.
Friend X walks in and takes a seat having admired questionable carpet room. Don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten I’ve promised a picture, good things come to those who wait. We’ve spoken before about my mental health and I’ve always known Friend X has understood. They too have struggled and so talking to Friend X is somewhat easier as Friend X gets it completely. I am going to steal some material from Friend X for the blog – sorry lovely friend, I hope you’ve not copyrighted this.
Everyone, regardless of mental health has a finite number of energy units each day. Some tasks use more energy units than others. When you add a mental illness into the mix, it’s like adding a price surge, just like when Uber is busy. Getting up whilst depressed uses more energy units than getting up whilst not depressed. As a result, people with a mental illness have to play a numbers game. They must work out what tasks are vital because there are not enough energy units for all tasks. Hence, when I say I can’t shower and brush my teeth, it’s because getting out the front door into a taxi uses up a lot of my energy units. I must make cuts somewhere and teeth, showering and getting to work are the first to go. I hope this helps explain why I sometimes smell.
The next topic is family. Wow, they take a battering when supporting someone with a mental illness. I know I am worrying my sister silly which in itself makes me feel worse. Friend X says the same thing. The people who are worrying about us, need their own people to go and vent at. Friend MI messaged me to say she’d seen I’ve told my aunt and she’s relieved. I agree, I am relieved my sister has someone she can talk to about this because, looking at the prior example again, I don’t have enough energy units to spend on worrying about my sister worrying about me.
Finally, we talk about getting help. Friend X and I have both paid privately for help. I am now lucky enough to have corporate medical insurance. Had either of us waited for the NHS, I am wondering if I’d be here writing this blog post. I re-iterate yesterday’s sentiment. The NHS is brilliant, more than brilliant, it’s exceptional. It’s helped me and my family a number of times. It’s under resourced though, especially when it comes to mental health. Friend X and I are lucky enough that, by whatever means possible, we have been able to pay for help. I promise, when I am better, to do all I can to help raise funds for mental health charities. It shouldn’t be due to luck or wealth to determine if you can survive a mental health crisis.
Let’s move on to the most important part of the visit though. Friend X has goodies. Being in hospital may not be so bad after all!
Parcel 1: Diet coke zero (see beginning of this post)
Parcel 2: Tulips – these go in the vase with the yellow roses to make questionable carpet room look even better
Parcel 3: Jo Malone reed diffuser – Wow Friend X, thank you so much! Questionable carpet room is at risk of being the best room on the ward now
Finally, and I’m not going to lie, this may be the parcel I am most excited about…
Parcel 4: A LARGE JOHN LEWIS 5P BAG! Yay! Friend X has been reading the blog and agrees it wasn’t fair this was stolen from me.
I’m exhausted and it’s supper time so Patient X heads out. We will catch up again on the outside world!
Supper and I need some time out from people. 2 different visits in one day was potentially over ambitious. Patient A2 is sat eating and calls me over. No Patient A2, I can’t do this. I say hi, get my food and walk to another table, alone. I’m sorry. I need my space. Dinner is a spinach and mushroom frittata with salad.
I head back to the ward just as a new patient is being admitted – I don’t know their letter yet but watch this space. Their appearance shocks me, I can only describe it as grey. They look grey. Did I look like that when I was admitted? Apparently, the answer is yes. Mental illness takes a lot from you, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
There is a light tap at my door as I am arranging the tulips in amongst the roses. Assuming this is a nurse, I reply with a ‘yes’. Oh shit, it’s only blooming Patient A2. No, come on, this isn’t fair. I’m trapped in my room. If I was in the ward lounge then yes, please do approach me but don’t get me in my weak spot. She wants to know if I have 5 minutes. I can’t do this. No, I really don’t. I’m exhausted and I can’t even fake it. Using the energy example above, I am running a deficit today as it is, I can’t get any further into energy debt. She says she’ll catch me tomorrow, oh I can’t wait!
I slump onto the bed and the room which, thanks to all the goodies, is looking considerable better than this morning. I really am loved by my friends. I hope they all know I love them back. Looking at my treat draw, I see a large Toblerone winking at me. Friend GG brought it all the way from Switzerland for me. Oh, go on then, I didn’t have any restaurant pudding tonight so let’s have a triangle of yumminess. Munching happily on the Toblerone, it hits me, I’ve only got 10 days left before my insurance cover runs out. On the one hand, shit, that feels like a long time. On the other hand, shit, that’s really soon. I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t cope outside this bubble. I am scared to be alone at my flat with my insomnia and inability to think rationally. I am scared I’ve not ‘fixed’ myself enough to be ‘Normal’. To avoid thinking of this, I go head first into my Sudoku. I’ve not got enough units left to shower and wash my hair, I’m admitting defeat.
The nurses have been talking about me – they know I couldn’t get to sleep last night. In comes Nurse Grandma who I just want to hug and tell her how kind her face is. She’s giving me my nightly meds early in the hope it helps. She also ticks me off for not going out and telling them I was struggling to fall asleep. Next time, Nurse Grandma, I’ll tell you, promise.
I get a message from Friend EM who is spamming me with pictures of kittens. Oh, little kittens make everything better. She will be the proud owner of 2 of them very soon. Friend EM, I can’t tell you how brilliant it will be. I decide to share what’s going on with me. Instantly, without out skipping a beat, Friend EM is asking when she can come say hi. Yet another person who has taken this well. We arrange for a visit tomorrow and oh wow, I’m bowled over yet again. Plus, the tiny kitten pictures are a cuteness overload.
Right, that’s it for today. Time to try to head to the land of nod and hopefully fill up the bank with a lot of energy units for tomorrow.