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’
Let’s be honest, getting up for a 1:1 at 0900 on the other side of London was always going to be tough for me given my penchant for sleeping in recently. What I hadn’t appreciated was how hard. I have to make a sacrifice somewhere, either sacrifice the shower and take a bus for £1.50 or sacrifice money by taking a £19 taxi but have a shower. I weigh up the options but there really is only one right answer. Having not showered in many many days, money is going out the window! Taxi for 1 please. The positive is that I am up, not just up but up and making coffee for my thermos. Not just up and making coffee but up, coffee on the go and cats fed. To top it all off, I’ve managed to shower, wash my hair AND brush my teeth. This is what I call winning at life.
The weekend was harder than I thought. I had grand expectations I’d be able to go from no responsibilities to running the house again perfectly. This is not how it’s worked out. My laundry basket is over flowing, a very apologetic message has gone out to my cleaner to warn her of the nuclear mess – no exaggeration, I was in hospital for 4 ½ weeks… that’s 4 ½ weeks longer than I ever thought and as a result have a number of science experiments (a.k.a. what was normal food) growing a life in the bin now.
So, I am going against the great myth of never go outside with wet hair but I’ve made it. I’m in the back of a taxi and I think I may even be on time. First stop this morning is a psychologist appointment. These were on pause whilst in hospital so this is going to be the first one in a while. First things first, how am I? Whilst not a formal check in, it is essentially what she’s asking. I am looking forward to a time when I don’t start a conversation with ‘I’m Patient C and I’m feeling…’. We talk through how I ended up being admitted. The last time she saw me, I’d very adamantly said Dr E was wrong and I most definitely was not taking time off work and going into hospital. We talk through the planning, the helplessness and the hopelessness. It’s still hard to admit how cold I’d been to myself, reducing my life to an excel sheet to make the most of my assets for my family. The thing is, I would deem myself high functioning. As I’ve stated before, I was in work right up until the day of the admission. Granted I was not being very productive (sorry work), granted I was there physically but at times wishing I was stood on the edge of a train platform but for all intent and purpose, I was there. I owe a people an apologies as I was dropping the ball on things in the desperate attempt to keep the ‘Normal’ façade going. As I’ve said time and time again though, since being admitted, even small decisions, such as which jumper to wear today, have floored me. It’s like pressing pause on my ‘real’ life has finally allowed me to completely break down. That’s the only way I can explain that fact that I am not a functioning adult right now. Stopping has given me the room to realise just how badly my head and world was falling to pieces.
To help me confront this, I am going to admit to something that none of my friends know about. Mainly because I put on the perfect façade that life is great. Well, not only do they have the shock of how bad my mental state was but there is another ugly secret I’ve been holding onto. I’m in debt. Not just a few hundred pounds of debt either. It’s a few thousand pounds. This is so hard to admit. I know how I’ve gotten into it but I’m struggling to get myself out of it. It’s manageable(ish) and I’m working on it but without a job, without my current salary, it has the ability to cause me lifelong problems. Yes, me, the person who works at a successful big corporate firm with a flat in London and a car and holidays and nice clothes. I am in debt. It’s a relief typing this out. It’s a heavy secret to carry around made all the worse by the fact my mum and sister (who have no clue about this blog) allow me to pay for a lot. I want to, I want to be that strong daughter who is able to support her mum and sister but the thing is, I can’t be. I’m lucky, please don’t think this is a complete sob story. I have a mortgage on a flat but it’s a London flat that I’ve had for 5 years. It’s accumulated more than I could have wished for. It’s my home though. I can’t touch this asset. So, when I had to make a choice between a £1.50 bus of a £19 taxi, it wasn’t the simple decision people may have thought it to be. However, without the £19 taxi, I wouldn’t have made it in for my appointment. This isn’t a case of just get up earlier, I may add the sarcasm but it’s not that simple. I struggle to face the world and as such, a busy bus during rush hour where people don’t abide by the rules or act in a way I can control is just too much. It’s gone on my credit card and I’ll sort that problem out later.
Moving on though, the appointment was useful. 1:1 appointments are somewhat narcissistic as you basically talk about yourself for 55 minutes. This is indulgent but also only ever one way. The therapist never turns around and says, ‘oh don’t worry, me too!’, I kind of wish they did. I used to see an amazing psychologist, Dr JE who at times would tell me she’s human too and not to worry. Therapist LY does not do this. It’s like talking to a wall. Useful but at times painful too. I know what you are thinking, why not go back to Dr JE. I can’t her life has moved on from the bustle of London or else I would have done. I do wonder if she ran away following 5 years of 1:1’s with me (I warned you I’d had A LOT of therapy).
After the 1:1 it’s a short walk to the hospital. Now I am a day patient, this is a walk I am allowed to do all by myself. Check me out, totally being ‘Normal’. On my route is a quirky little Swedish supermarket. I once lived in Stockholm for 6 months due to work so in I pop for a trip down memory lane and to get some Dumle, the best toffee chocolate sweet EVER. I also stop by a newsagent for a new Sudoku book and some coke zero before a final pit stop in M&S. This pit stop doesn’t go too great though. I’ve somehow picked up a lot of things. All junk food and all in multiples of two. No, I don’t know why multiples of two either but that feels safer for some reason. So, great, I’m in debt and there goes £20 on food I am going to hoard. Excellent Patient C, this is really going to help.
Being back in the hospital is strange. Questionable carpet room is obviously still there but as a day patient, I am not meant to be on the wards so I can’t swing by. I head straight to the therapy room and strategically arrange the bulging bags of food to hoard underneath my coat. That way, hopefully, no one will notice. Therapist W normally takes today’s session but he’s not here. What? Why was I not consulted about this? I am not sure if I like Therapist M2.
I check in, with a lovely new notebook acting as a security blanket for my inability to communicate. I’m exhausted thanks to keeping myself awake last night, frustrated at ‘failing’ this weekend, and worried that I am struggling on puzzle 1 of my new Sudoku book. If I don’t have Sudoku, what do I have?
Another patient has had a rough weekend and I can totally relate. They’ve been binging, something that I am all too familiar with. I didn’t eat a proper meal at home this weekend. The only proper meal I consumed was at my sisters and I don’t think a blue cheese smothered steak is high up there on the healthy meal plan. I offer up my support to the other patient and start looking at what leads both of us to the ‘bugger it, I’ve messed up already, now the day is a right off’ mentality rather than being able to stop and draw a line in the sand to move forward. If I break it down, the binging this weekend helped me feel less guilty about not having the ‘perfect first weekend at home’. Yes yes, I’m that crazy. And I hate it.
Whilst the group continue exploring other people’s struggles, I tune out and start scribbling away in the notebook. It’s me bullying me. Why didn’t I go get a coffee, idiot? Why didn’t I stop myself binging fatty? Why didn’t I shower, freak? I note I feel scared, alone and frustrated. I am acutely aware I need to be getting better but what if I am going backwards? I know this is going to take time but I wish I could stop the bully in my head. Note to self, keep questioning the intention behind my actions. A pj day isn’t a problem if it’s because you’re tired and need a rest. It is a problem if you are hiding from the world and wishing you were invisible. The bully moves its focus onto the fact I interjected whilst the other patient explained their binge. I wanted to help but what if I took time away from them? The therapist started to ask me questions about how exactly I’d failed the weekend. Apparently, it’s not possible to fail a weekend. Oh, Therapist M2, how naïve you are, meet my bully, Patient C’s brain! Therapist M2 starts to focus in on those who have been quieter in the group and I zone back in. Patient P has already said it’s going to be her last CBT session but the therapist doesn’t appear to have picked up on this. Nor is she picking up on the radiating worry and frustration coming from Patient P’s end of the line up. WAKE UP THERAPIST M2! When she finally asks Patient P if she’s ok, Patient P lets rip. There are 3 minutes left so no, she’s not ok and she needed time which she’s now not had. She storms out. Oh shit, somehow this must be my fault. I mean, if I had spoken a little less, if I’d managed to succeed this weekend… NO. NO NO NO NO NO. We are NOT doing this brain. We are going to try to challenge this. I am NOT responsible for Patient P, I am not responsible for the time keeping in group. I AM responsible for me, I AM responsible for asking when I need help. Patient P’s reaction is NOT MY FAULT. Looking back at my notebook, I’ve written ‘try not to worry about Patient P’ a grand total of 11 times… in between this repetition I’ve jotted down random worries that have momentarily occupied my bullying mind. Bugger. I hope, after weeks of hearing the same thing, something will finally stick. I fundamentally don’t understand how I am ever going to stop feeling that EVERYTHING is my fault. I need a magic wand please, I need a core values transplant, I need a brain transplant. I can’t keep doing this.
Someone reading the blog has asked me if these thoughts constantly go round in my head. Yes, the really do. They vary slightly, and they vary in volume. At times, they are a mere whisper and I can easily lock them away. At other times, they are a screaming torrent of abuse that’s so loud, I can’t hear what is actually going on. It’s exhausting. On a rational level, I can talk myself out of these beliefs, but rational doesn’t always happy. We’ve all be too tired before, we’ve all been ill, we’ve all had a bad day. On these days, everything feels really bloody hard. I mentioned once before, you can tell how much I am struggling by my hair. Scraped back into a tight ponytail with a nearly a whole can of dry shampoo = BAD DAY! Scraped back into a tight ponytail and with roots that look like they are grey = STAY CLEAR! The grey is the dry shampoo that I’ve not managed to evenly distribute.
After session, still clinging to the fear Patient P’s anger is my fault, it’s lunch time. I don’t fancy the cooked options so opt for ham and cheese panini. I sit with Patient K2 and Patient J3. We are all tired. Yet another common theme here. This is exhausting stuff, it’s hard, at times it feels like 2 steps forward, 1 step backwards. As a friend has pointed out though, this is arguably the most important thing I’ll ever work hard on. Fair point Friend GG. I skip the cake in the vain hope I can get the comfort eating (a.k.a. binge eating) under control.
I’ve got a 1:1 with my psychiatrist before the next group and given I no longer have questionable carpet room to hide in, I may as well turn up 35 minutes early and wait at her office. I try and tackle the Sudoku again but it’s not happening. Now what am I going to distract myself with? This is worrying stuff.
Dr E tells me I need to stop thinking of my actions as right or wrong. It was neither. I need to divorce the feelings and the actions. What’s important is the intention behind my actions, not the actions themselves. She doesn’t trust me with too many meds. She’ll only give me a few days worth. On the one hand, I don’t blame her, on the other, please treat me like an adult. I want to scream. Before I leave, she tells me my office have requested an update. Oh shit. She’s not been ccing them in the correspondence but they’ve been in contact. Shit. I thought they had been kept up to date. Knowing they don’t know but shortly will know is bothering me. My mind jumps to catastrophizing and I imagine the email goes something like this:
“To whom it may concern,
Employee C is indeed truly crazy. Employee C is now referred to as Patient C and it turns out she’s more of a mess than we thought. Trust me when I say, you don’t want her back yet!
I know, I know. This isn’t what will actually be sent but the subtext may well be the same as above.
No time to ruminate on this, it’s time for IPT. There is no sign of Patient P and I still feel guilty. I am also freaking out that I am not getting better ‘correctly’. Having to get up and get here this morning was a relief. Sat at home with no structure was evidently not good for me. I stay quiet for most of IPT, another patient is exploring some truly awful emotions and other than offer hugs, I am not sure anything I say will help. Patient L (discharged but now back as a day patient), offers up some advice which feels like it’s directly aimed at me. It truly captures where I think my life is right now:
‘Having the belief, I am bad made me think that if I could only fix it, my life would stop falling apart around me. I never stopped to think that BECAUSE I believe I am bad, life is falling apart.’
Whoa! This is a light bulb moment. I mean what has clinging onto the feeling I’m bad done for me? Well, here I am, sat in a psychiatric hospital taking a large quantity of prescription meds. Maybe changing my core belief, believing in myself, stop bullying myself could lead to happier times. Patient L, thank oyu for this nugget.
I can only offer one thing to the group – I’ve realised that all of this, all of the last 4 weeks, 15 months, whenever I wish to say it started, is opening Pandora’s box. There are many layers to get through but, I am here, I am starting to chip away at them and I am facing up to things I’ve never faced up to before. This is progress. Yes, it’s going to take time, no there is no magic solution but, I’ve started. Sometimes starting is the hardest part. I say this to try to help another patient but I also say it to remind myself.
Therapy over and there is no hope of me making Chi Kung. Instead I head to meet a friend for a quick drink. I’m not sure I can face this, I want to go home and get into my pjs. I can’t though, my friend is answering and I can’t simply not turn up. Instead, I hit up a stationary shop and the pharmacy for my meds. The pharmacy is simple enough, the stationary store is not. I can’t decide on which shiny new notepad I want. Instead of making a decision, I buy 4. Yes, 4. No I don’t need 4. Bugger.
Friend GG arrives and we decide to have an early supper. Well, she decides and I follow her. Thank you, I couldn’t have made this decision. Plus, supper out means nothing to think about at home. This is when the benefit of being a day patient comes to the fore. I can have a drink with supper! Amazing. I feel like a naughty teenager but oh my, it tastes so good. Supper was a cheese burger and sweet potato fries. Oh, so much better than the hospital version.
Before leaving, we head to a newsagent. Worrying that I may have lost my ability to do Sudoku, I am going to by another book, just in case. The indecision comes back in its droves and I can’t decide which won. Sod it, I’ll get both.
Back home and Friend GG messages saying I am doing so well. I needed to hear this, I need the reminder I am moving forward even when it feels I am not. I put the bulging bag of junk food in the spare room. I am not going to binge tonight. I am going to close the door on it. Feeling strong, I decide to be brave, I sit down and call mum. She’s had a good day but feels the need to tell me:
- I need to remember that life is tough so get on with it…
- When I am better next week…
- Just work hard at day care and it’ll be fixed…
Mum, I love you, I really really do but no, it’s not that simple. I tell her I’ll call her on Thursday. She tries to negotiate but, putting theory into action, I firmly – but still nicely – tell her I will next call her on Thursday. She seems to get the message.
As for the father voice message. No way am I going near that one, all my energy is well and truly spent. I take my night meds and promise myself an early night.
This post should end here. I’ve rambled on quite enough for one day (and to think I was worried I’d have nothing to say once I started day care). It doesn’t though. I resort to myself bullying ways and don’t let myself go to sleep. I am tired, I want to be comfy in bed but instead I am sat on the floor worrying. It’s 0230 before I feel I can finally get into bed. Shit.