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 wake up at 0730 and I am shattered. After a quick cat feeding stop, I head back to bed but I can’t fall back to sleep. I start to wonder if I should go in for day care today. I am tired from the late night worrying about packing but there are some patients that won’t be there next Wednesday, a.k.a my birthday, that I’d like to say bye too. Also, I am wondering if having a week break is good or if it’ll make it harder next week. I am not in a decisive mood. The worry about the online orders that need collecting from the station are also bothering me. How am I going to make all this work and drive 2+ hours to Friends KH & RH?
I then get an irrational but very real fear my car will be broken into whilst parked near the hospital if I have my suitcase in the boot. You can’t see the boot from outside the car, my little Fiat 500 only has a tiny boot and yet, I get worked up that I won’t find the car park and my things will be stolen. I try telling myself that anything valuable (basically just my laptop) can go in my handbag and come in with me. The worry gets too much and before I realise what’s going on, it’s too late to drive in if I am going to shower. Shower is not an option, I smell, I smell so much I can smell me. You know it’s bad when you can smell yourself. So, stuff the money and inconvenience for one more day, yes you’ll have to do the same journey 3 times but go to day care, then the station for the parcels, then home, then drive to Friends KH & RH. This plan seems straight forward but it took me 2 hours to decide on it. Bugger depression.
After A LOT of indecisiveness and a quick shower and hair wash, I head out the front door in stretchy jeans for day care. I’m a few minutes late but Therapist A lets me in the room as we have a new patient and they’ve gone to get a jumper. Patient J3 wants a hug. It’s an awkward, far too long, hug. I have to push him off. Why oh, why do I feel so anxious. Next, he tells me I look pretty today. Well Patient J3, it’s probably because this is one of the rare occasions you’ve seen me with clean hair. It’s a shocker right! I could pass as a totally ‘Normal’ human being right now. We are a small group of 3. Then walks in new Patient C3. I don’t know him so this is a good start. Sadly, it’s a false good start. I am in an irritable mood. This is partially due to lack of sleep but partially because the group has changed a lot. Where are Patient D3 and K2? Patient L3 is having her twice weekly ECT so I wasn’t expecting her. Patient C3 is, at best, highly frustrating. I am not sure if it’s my mood or if he is genuinely simply an annoying person but he’s far to chipper for a Thursday morning in a psychiatric hospital. We check in and Patient M3, who is still fairly new herself then starts to irritate me. For goodness sake people, why? I’ve only got 5-day care days left, please don’t frustrate me. Yes, this is a highly selfish thought. As I’ve said many a time, one doesn’t come to a psychiatric hospital for fun. This is real life shit in its finest £600/day glory. They need the help too.
The result of us starting late is that Therapist A wants to get cracking and hasn’t started with the usual spiel about group therapy rules. Patient C3 is obviously new to this and doesn’t realise you aren’t meant to interrupt people’s check in, even if it’s to say something nice. No Patient C3, this isn’t how this works. This is CBT, wait until IPT for the full-on group support mode please. Then, to top it off, his phone rings. Phones in group is a big no no. To add to this, he answers it. Therapist A is getting frustrated and telling him to hang up, I am starting to panic. No, I don’t know Patient C3 but still, the fact someone from the outside world can hear us on the inside world is highly worrying. Therapist A keeps telling him to hang up. I am sure the reality was the call lasted no more than a few seconds whilst Patient C3 told his daughter he’d call back but it felt like a lot longer. This is it, now I feel the whole session is a write off. I’m in a shitty mood now.
Patient J3 goes first as he had a difficult day yesterday. What he hasn’t realised is how well he coped with a tough situation. I am about to congratulate him on how well he coped when Patient C3 chimes. This next part takes my frustration up a notch or two. Patient J3 had been explaining he’s worried about disappointing his family. I completely relate, as do a lot of people in the world. Instead of allowing Patient J3 to look at all the alternatives whilst utilising the ABC of CBT’s knowledge we’ve had engrained on our brains whilst here, Patient C3 emphatically jumps in to state all parents, no matter what, always love their children and always will. Parents will never be disappointed with their kids. Said message was repeated a few times by Patient C3 to Patient J3 when my frustration boils over. In hindsight, I think I handled this quite well but I’ll leave it to you to decide.
Me: “Patient C3, please don’t talk globally about parents love and lack of disappointment about their children. Please only refer to you and your situation, you don’t know all of our situations. Secondly, disappointing our parents is a realistic expectation at one point or another in our lives, therefore, we should let Patient J3 work through the ABC’s so he can see it’s something he can tolerate”
Patient C3: “Oh, I didn’t mean to talk for everyone but it’s true that all parents love their children and no parent is ever disappointed with their kids”
Me: “Again, please don’t use a global point of reference. I can tell you for a fact I have disappointed my parents on a number of occasions in my life. My mum still loves me but I am certain the time I was 9 years old and found condoms in her bedroom, stole them and then distributed them on the school coach was most definitely a disappointing day.” (yes, this is true, in all fairness, I didn’t know what they were!).
So, as I hope you agree, Patient C3 with his very chipper attitude, whilst well intentioned, wasn’t helpful.
Once Patient J3 has realised yesterday was a hugely successful day for him, we move on to my anxiety about this weekend. Yes, I am anxious. I love my friends and I know they love me too. They want me to come, I know that. But, there is always a but. It’s the first time I’ve stayed at someone’s house since all this came out. They know what’s been going on but what if I don’t cope? What if I can’t leave the bed whilst there? What if I have a meltdown? Now I am at day care, I’ll be later than I said I’d be, what if I wake the baby and toddler? What if, what if, what if. So, Therapist A helps me work through the ABC’s. It useful but does she have any magic tricks that are a bit quicker? ABC’s are really useful, I am not knocking that however, I’ve jumped straight to catastrophizing and I’d like to stop that. Sometimes working through the scenario takes too long and isn’t practical. So, Therapist A has some gems for this.
- What’s the catastrophic possibility and what’s an alternative solution?
- This too will pass – as with everything in life, anxiety will peak and then taper off, it will not continue forever
- Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did – Oh the brilliant Mark Twain
We also look briefly at my rituals. I need to start testing out my beliefs. Will my friends hate me if my flat doesn’t smell nice? Will my cleaner think I am bad if she actually needs to clean? Will I stop coping if the TV volume is on a number other than a multiple of 5?
Throughout all of this, Patient C3 was chipping in with his chipper attitude. Please stop Patient C3, please stop. I don’t need you, a stranger to me, to tell me I should go this weekend or else my friend’s toddler will be disappointed. I need to work this out myself, thank you very much. Piling guilt on top of an already confused mind isn’t helping.
To really finish the session off with a flurry of annoyance, Patient M3 wants to tell me her story to show how I can overcome my anxiety. No, sorry, hearing you overcame getting on a plane to get here hasn’t made me feel ok. In fact, I don’t really understand what the point of you telling me in incredible 20-minute detail, was. It made her feel good though so at least someone benefitted.
On the way to lunch, I go via the day care coordinators office to correct the dates that I’ll be doing day care. She’s not there but her colleague takes the details. This is when I learn I can do half days. What? Half days as in, I could go home now and come and do IPT another day? Interesting development. This poses a problem though, I can’t make a decision. So, I head to lunch for a goats cheese and red onion tart with salad followed by chocolate fudge cake swimming in cream. Patient C3 asks if he can join me. No, sorry dude, I want to be alone as I am not sure I can bite my tongue. Patient J3 then asks to join me, no, not you either, sorry. I say I’m about to head to the shops to get my friend’s toddler a little gift. It’s not a lie, I am.
Day patients must sign in and out at reception. I sign out and the receptionist asks if I’ll be back. I don’t know the answer to that. She unlocks the front door for me and you know what, I may not come back today.
Stood at the shops, I am also near a tube station. Should I just go to the other station and get my parcels? The tube will only take 20 minutes and there is still an hour before IPT. I go to the tube barriers not once, not twice but 3 times. Nope, I can’t do it. I can’t get on a tube. So, if I am going to go to the other station to get my parcels, it’s taxi or bus. I pick taxi. It takes less time than I thought, maybe I could collect all my parcels and get back to the hospital in time? I set myself a time limit, if I can get everything by 1340, I’ll go back for IPT. If not, I’ll go home and head to my friends earlier.
Parcel 1 acquired, all is going well. Parcel 2 is a little more challenging and they test my irritability a bit more but nothing too major. On my way to collect parcel 3 I remember I need to get my prescription. My doctor doesn’t trust me with more than a 2-week supply. This seems to be flawed logic to me as I reckon overdosing on 2 week’s worth would do some damage. I’m not considering testing this out but still. If I don’t get it today, I won’t have enough for the weekend. The weekend is going to be a test for me so I should make sure I am, at minimum, medicated on my daily doses. I head to the same Boots I had my last prescription filled at. This time though, there is a problem. I feel the pharmacist is judging my high dosage even before the problem comes about. I ask for a photocopy of the prescription, reason being that my insurance refunds all medication. She immediately judges me. She is eyeing me up as if I’ve made the prescription up. She keeps coming back to question me. Look lady, can I get my medicine or not? Today is not the day to push my anxiety buttons any further. So, no, she can’t give me my medicine. She’s worried this is a fake prescription as it doesn’t state my doctors GMC number on it. What? It’s identical to the one I gave this same store 2 weeks ago. She’s sorry but the law is the law. I get that but come on, please. I don’t have time to try to get another one. I ask her to call the hospital. 10 minutes later and there is no chance I am going back for IPT now. She’s done some checks and is now happy this is a real prescription. Yippee for me.
Final parcel collection of the day and then I head to the station taxi queue. I only have to wait a few minutes whilst the passengers in front of me load into the first 2 cabs. Next up, my turn! I’m feeling ok about leaving the hospital for the day and I’m looking forward to seeing my friends now I have my parcels sorted too. I tell the taxi driver my address and tell him I’ll be paying by card. No. That’s the short curt response I get back. FYI for all those who didn’t know, TFL have changed the law for black cab drivers. They all HAVE to have a working card machine now and they HAVE to accept it as payment. I tell him I know this piece of information. Firstly, I’m shocked, I’m sticking up for myself! Secondly, I am shocked as he starts shouting profanities at me. Right, mister, I’ll get in the cab behind you. The next cabbie does the exact same thing minus the profanities. Come on, give this girl a break. I’ve told both the prior taxi’s my address so they know it’s a circa. £15 fare, i.e. not only around the corner. Taxi number 3 agrees to take me. He tells me to take a picture of their licence plates and report them. He confirms I am right, taxis can’t refuse card payments. Taxi driver number 3 talks to me on the way back and my faith in humanity is slowly being restored. He doesn’t know it but he’s helped me avoid a panic attack on the kerb in London.
Finally, home and I need to put a couple of final things into my bulging bag. I can’t find my walking boots though. As I said, I am packing for all eventualities and given Friends KH & RH location, plus their two dogs, walking is a possibility. Problem is, 30 minutes later, I can’t find my trainers either. Why god why are you making today so difficult?
The walking boots magically appear (i.e. I checked the other shoe cupboard) so off I go. I’m in a strange mood though. A bit mixed about how this is going to go. I love hanging out with my friends so this mix of emotions is upsetting. I then convince myself the Sat Nav has made a mistake and is sending me the wrong way. It’s not, obviously, being a computer means it has no feelings towards me, let alone think I am bad and therefore purposely get me lost. I have a few wobbles whilst on my way. Not literal, I’d like to consider myself a safe driver, but emotional wobbles. 2 hours later and Child MH comes running to say hi. Child MH hugs are AWESOME! Her Bonkers Aunt (me!) has arrived and she greets me with a huge hug and kiss. Ok, this was worth it. I then get to meet Baby HH, the latest addition to the family. Oh 8-week-old babies are too cute.
Friends KH & RH don’t skirt around the issue. They are upfront, frank and have a pinch of sarcasm too… you see, this is why we are friends. It’s one of the most refreshing conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks. They laugh AT me (it’s fine, it’s good, it’s how I want it to be) but also let me say some of the more serious shit that needs saying. I needed this. I also needed toddler and baby cuddles.
A belly full of food and wine later, we head to bed. I really shouldn’t have worried. I’m pleased I came.