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’
Warning – this is a LONG post! Good luck reading until the end
Wednesday 5th April. This my dear readers is my birthday. For those long-term readers who remember my shock at Patient J3 spending their birthday at the hospital, well, that was me today. Not only at the hospital but an all-round shit day at that. I totalled 3 panic attacks, one of which was induced by the arrival of another colleague that I know. Before this starts to sound negative, the day ended better than expected – a night at Ronnie Scott’s listening to Blues with a glass of Malbec in hand. I was dreading it but it was great. Music is definitely soul soothing.
So, where to begin? I woke up at 0400 having a choking fit. This has never happened to me before and I am not sure if it was induced by a nightmare. I don’t recommend it though, it was not fun. Despite this, I managed to get up on time. I am meeting Colleague for a coffee before therapy today. I am pleased we are communicating but very pleased we are in different groups. I am due to meet them at 0900 so a quick spray of dry shampoo, a new top and taxi for 1 it is. It’s my birthday, public transport was never an option.
I arrive on time and we sit and chat. Oh, I am so pleased we arranged this. Work is a high-pressure environment and Colleague totally understands when I explain I was so scared of stopping and admitting how wrong things were. Colleague is also very sarcastic. This is great. I tell them that I am worrying about getting back to work. Colleague offers some wise words. Stop. Stop worrying. It’s still going to be there when I am ready to go back whether that’s tomorrow or next month. Colleague recommends a couple of books that they have found useful, I quickly order these from Amazon and again, get them sent to a newsagent so I have to leave the house. I don’t know why I’ve bought them though, I am still struggling to read. I hate this so much. Reading is such an escape and it’s been ripped from me.
Colleague asks when I started to get ill. This is something I am grappling with as truly, honestly, it was a lot earlier than I admit to myself. There were a few life events that, if they had happened in isolation, I reckon I could have coped with. The thing is, life being the bitch it can be, they didn’t happen in isolation. They happened one after the other after the other. The other thing is, as you’ve astutely gathered by now, I’ve grappled with my mental health for decades. The eating disorder was a mental illness. The fact I managed to get control of that, naively made me feel I’d cured my depression. I thought I only had depression because of my eating disorder. So, I couldn’t possible have depression now as I am not eating 6,000 calories and throwing it all up again plus downing 60 laxatives. Well, now I am writing this out, I spot a problem with my assumption. My eating disorder is still very much alive. You don’t eat a pack of yum yums, a pack of hot cross buns, a pack of wine gums, a pack of chocolate honeycomb, plus lunch if you are eating ‘Normally’. Bugger. I’ve not been telling my doctor this side of me. Double bugger. This makes me feel sick. Not self-induced, stick my fingers down my throat sick, sick that I thought all this was perfectly packaged up and disposed of. I want to cry. In fact, talking to Colleague and admitting some of this is making me feel incredibly wobbly. Tough shit though, it’s nearly 1100 and that means therapy. We head off to our respective groups.
It’s Therapist M, I like Therapist M. I feel a really unsettling feeling that there is something about to escape from inside me. I think it may be something I’ve felt unable to talk about all this time. The Incident that I feel catapulted the ‘I’m bad’ mantra into overdrive. I’d planned to spend some time at home, writing it all out, thinking about it and truly ‘exploring’ it – I think I’ve spent too much time here, I am starting to use their jargon – but I’ve not done that yet. I’ve consistently put this off. I check in stating that I am panicking my day care is running out and I’ve not yet spoken about something that I need to get out. A couple of other patients check in with things they want to discuss. The group are brilliant and acknowledge that two of us are running out of time so want to allow us to speak up. I am uncertain how ok I am at blurting this all out so tell the other patient to go first. Patient M2 starts talking and I get increasingly not ok. Her past trauma is along a similar theme to mine. Out of nowhere, I start to get flashbacks. I don’t know if I’ve ever had these before but today, they are so vivid and real that I start to have a panic attack. I don’t realise it but I’m shaking, not just a little bit either. The group stops, not that I realise, to try to help me out of the flashbacks. Therapist M doesn’t want me to start opening up as there is only 15 minutes left of group and, given my reaction, she doesn’t think it would be safe to start discussing it and then get cut off for lunch. I’ve come out of the flashback and feel horrific. Panic attacks are serious energy zappers. Alongside depression, there is little chance of being a ‘Normal’ functioning human. I manage to calm down as the session wraps up safe in the knowledge I don’t have to start talking for at least 90 minutes. Therapist M says she’ll ensure that her handover states I need to go first this afternoon. Great, I can’t wait.
Lunch is with Patient P and Patient J3. It’s pork. I don’t normally like pork but somehow, down the hole it goes. I’ve not binged, I am too zoned out to binge. If anything, this is a ‘Normal’ lunch. I’ve got a 1:1 with Dr. E during the lunch break but instead of heading straight to the waiting room and waiting, I stay and talk to Patient P. Her cat has had to be put down. I can’t bear to think of my 2 fur babies having to be put down. It was the kind thing to do for the cat but oh wow, I don’t think I’d cope with that. Patient P wants a lie down so it’s off to the waiting room I head. I can’t remember the exact time of my appointment but given Dr. E is normally running late, it’s not going to be a problem! Turns out, staying talking to Patient P was a very VERY good thing.
I rock up and tell the waiting room receptionist my name. She wants to confirm I am still a day patient – this matters as 1:1’s are included in the £450/day charge for day care rather than a separate charge for the psychiatrist appointment. I have to repeat my name a couple of times until she can find my appointment in the schedule. I feel really shaken up from this morning’s group and the bitch that is life decides to make today that bit shitter.
‘Hi Patient C…’
As I’d gone to sit down, a voice I know has called out my name. Oh. My. God. It’s another colleague. Not just another colleague, another colleague that I work very closely with. Cue panic attack 2. Colleague 2 has been out of the office for a while. They are preparing to go back in the next few weeks. I can’t breathe. I can’t cope. I don’t know what it is I actually say to Colleague 2 but I must have said I’d been in the hospital as the response was:
Colleague 2: “Wow, you must be really bad to need to be hospitalised”
This is me, the over worrier, the people pleaser, the slowly crumbling human being. All I hear is “bad”. This, on top of this morning’s session is too much for me to cope with.
The receptionist calls for me, it’s time for my appointment. I climb the stairs all the while thinking I am in a different universe. I word vomit what’s just happened. Dr. E is worrying about me. She feels there is still some work to be done. Dude, I agree, I’ve just had 2 panic attacks in the space of 2 hours. She wants to arrange to speak to my insurance and company to see if there is any way of funding additional care. I tell her about my mum insisting I need to go back to work. I then tell her my sister says it’s ok to be off work. Dr. E cleverly picks up on something. I need validation that I am ill and I need help. She’s right. I do. I need someone other than me to say:
“Patient C, you deserve help. You don’t deserve the hell that’s swarming in your head. Take the time you need to get yourself better, in the long run, this will make you a better employee and a stronger person”
Obviously, I can’t tell myself this! That would be too easy.
Dr. E says she’ll call me to let me know what’s happening about more care. She also reminds me of the hospital direct line and I must call if things are too much. I then burst into tears. I should be moving forward, not backwards. Dr. E reminds me the fact I can talk about this is progress. Apparently, I didn’t really say anything at the beginning. I’ve word vomited out that I am binging. I mean, she’ll have known, I reckon I’ve put on 2 stone (28lbs) in the last 2 months. I don’t tell her the extent but she says this is a problem. Bugger.
Dr. E wants to see me on Monday and she wants to speak to me this weekend.
I head down the stairs and purposely avoid the reception. I can’t face seeing Colleague 2 again. Checking my phone, Colleague 2 has text me. They want to help me get through this. Please no, please please no. I can’t do this right now.
I head back through to the hospital and wait for IPT. Patient L4 arrives. Patient L4 is new and was worried she’d be late so is 15 minutes early. I start forming an opinion of her. Stuff what you all may say, we all do this. We all judge and we all allow first impressions to cloud how we perceive people. You may well be judging me right now for admitting that this is what I do… see, we really do all do this.
Patient L4 is…full on. I can’t think of another way to explain this. We are still outside the room but blimey, the last 5 minutes have felt like a therapy session in itself. Turns out, she has a revolving door relationship with this place. Patients like this scare me. How do I make sure that I don’t go down the route they are? I can’t do this 3 or 4 times over, I don’t have the inner strength. However, ‘strong’ people tell me I’ve been for getting help, this is depleting a finite stock of ‘strong’ units. I wasn’t built to do this multiple times.
Therapist G arrives. Oh, I am pleased to see you. If, and I mean if, I am going to speak about something I find deeply traumatic and the core reason I am truly truly bad, you are one of the few therapists I would want to be managing the session.
Quick side note: Some may question why I want to ‘explore’ this in group therapy rather than 1:1. Well, the reason is, a therapist has to tell you it’s ok. They can tell you you’ve done something wrong or that wasn’t the way to deal with it etc. etc. but they are highly trained individuals who are there to help you. I want to bring this up in group to see ‘Normal’ people’s reactions and to validate that I am indeed a very bad person.
So, check in commences. I explain how today is going terribly wrong. It’s my birthday, I’ve already had 2 panic attacks, I am worried Colleague 2 may not be discrete, I am running out of time and I have something that’s holding me back. There. I’ve told the truth, I’ll see how the session pans out to see if I have the ability to talk.
Patient L4 doesn’t understand the concept of check in and keeps interjecting. For a person who’s been here 4 times already, you’d think she’d have the hang of this by now! Therapist G has to keep reminding her that the group isn’t open yet, please wait.
Finally, check in done, Therapist G opens the group, who would like to go first. I say nothing. My mouth won’t open. I’ve somehow locked it shut. My head is whirring and I feel like I might explode. Patient L3 then takes charge. She tells Therapist G that I am meant to start and that the group all want to support me. Bugger.
When I find something difficult to talk about, I not only avoid eye contact, you know it’s getting bad when I take my glasses off. I can’t see much without them on so if you see me take them off to talk, it’s because it’s a tough conversation and I can’t face looking at you. If it’s really tough, I’ll use anything I can get my hands on to then cover my face. I know this is going to be awful as the glasses are off and my hands are clawing at my forehead. Why oh, why do I not have a scarf on to hide behind? I start talking. I keep talking. Slowly but surely, what feels like 4 hours later, it’s out. My dirty secret that makes me bad is out. It’s there in the room and I’m hysterical. Panic attack 3 starts and I’m shaking so much I don’t realise Patient P has put her arm around me to help me calm down. People are chipping in. I am not sure what they are saying. I’m so consumed by panic that I can’t hear anything. Therapist G tries to ground me. She wants me to hear what the others are saying. I blurt out I can’t, everyone must be saying I’m awful. I can hear Therapist G through all of this so she asks me to keep listening. She says that people, including herself, do not think I am bad, in fact, people are saying I’m brave, it’s not my fault and many other lovely things. I start crying even harder. Therapist G wants to know why. Why? Because I can’t have explained it properly, people must have misunderstood if they don’t think I am bad. Therapist G repeats back what I’ve said and asks the others to confirm if they heard correctly. Apparently, they all have.
So, having just slammed the keyboard rather heavily, it’s out. Not only in the room during therapy but here on the big wide web. I know I’ve not revealed any of the details but that’s not the point. I’ve shared that it’s out. I’ve felt sick typing this. Scared to re-live these emotions from Wednesday all over again. I’ve had to take a brief pause to remind myself that I am at home, safe, with a cat at my feet and my favourite teddy next to me (yes, I am 31 as of Wednesday and I have a teddy).
Back in the room on Wednesday afternoon. After lots of lovely support, Therapist G asks me if it’s ok for the group to move on. Absolutely, I am going to sit here hiding away for a bit longer but I do want the group to move on. Group carries on for another 5 minutes but there is a problem. Patient L3 wants to leave. I’d been worried about discussing my ‘thing’ due to two patients, one of which was Patient L3. She explains that the group feels strange and she needs to leave. I know, deep down, exactly why she’s leaving. Patient L4 is chipping in with such unhelpful comments and Therapist G isn’t stopping her. Next, Patient M2 wants to leave too. This was the second patient I was worrying about. Again, I know it’s all due to Patient L4 not me but the hysterics wake back up again. In my ear, Patient M2 is telling me how proud she is that I opened up and this has nothing to do with what I said. That means so much. I’m still hysterical though. I can’t tell you how the rest of the session went, minus Patient L3 and M3. I can’t tell you who talked, who didn’t or even if anything was said at all. I’m in my own head and reliving my own hell. I don’t realise the session comes to an end. I’m still stuck in panic attack mode. Patient P comes back over to give me a hug, Therapist G doesn’t think I should be left alone. She asks Patient P to wait whilst she goes for help.
This is where my birthday goes from hell to ultra hell. In walks the day care co-ordinator. As I am no longer an inpatient, there are no ward nurses to sit with me and calm me down. Therapist G and Patient P are asked to leave the room and I am left there with a stranger who I’ve met twice and that was only to confirm which days I’d be here. DCS (Day care coordinator S) says the hospital can’t let me leave whilst I am like this. I don’t know if anyone has ever told her this but telling a person already freaking out, they may not be able to leave isn’t going to help. In fact, if a person is like me, that person is going to panic more. A lot more. DCS then really ramps up the anxiety meter, if I am not safe to leave and I won’t take her advice, the hospital will have no choice but to section me.
There is so many things wrong with this. Me, Patient C, is facing being sectioned. On my birthday. Well, this is certainly a birthday I won’t forget in a hurry but oh I wish I could.
Well, DCS, that statement is wrong on so many levels but the first one is that this hospital is a private hospital. That means one thing. Money. Money that I do not have. If you section me on a 72-hour hold, I’ll have to pay the bill. I can’t afford to pay the bill. 3 days = ~£2.5k.
I don’t recall what or how but DCS is going to assess me after the final session of the day. A session I seem to now be sat in whilst numb and worrying. I’ve not been doing the last sessions of the day for a few weeks now but hey, it can’t hurt given how bad today has been. The final session is Coping with Change. Well, can you help me cope with the change of potentially being sectioned?! I can’t fully recall this session but I do recall Patient L4 being in the room. I also recall a patient walking out due to Patient L4. Impressive, 2 sessions in a row you’ve been the cause of a patient leaving.
DCS comes back and agrees I can go home but I have to be contactable and she needs to know my plans. Well, tonight, I am going to Ronnie Scott’s with my mum and after the day I’ve had, I can’t believe it’s going to get any worse. DCS also has a surprise, Patient L3 and M2 have left me some gifts and a letter. A beautiful orchid and 2 different chocolate presents. The note confirms that they didn’t leave because of me. You two have no idea how much I needed this.
I wasn’t going to go home before meeting mum but I can’t carry this orchid to Ronnie Scott’s with me! I get a taxi and I am numb. I can’t explain how else to explain how I am feeling. I’ve not got long before I need to meet mum so I top up the dry shampoo, squirt some more perfume and quickly open my birthday cards and presents I’ve been sent.
Before long, I am meeting mum and heading to Ronnie Scott’s. I love live music. I love jazz and blues. I love my mum. Basically, hopefully, this can’t go too wrong. We order a burger – FYI the burgers at Ronnie Scott’s are worth every penny of the £17 they charge – and a carafe of red wine. It’s for me, mum doesn’t want to drink which is great news as it means she’s less likely to have a rant at me. Ah Malbec, I’ve missed you. In between the warm up act and the main event, mum manages to be mum.
‘You need a makeover, you can’t carry on looking like this’
‘You’ll go back to work next week won’t you’
‘Life’s tough for everyone, you just need to get on with it’
Oh, and then the real clanger of the night
‘You have no idea how hard the day of your sister’s wedding is going to be, I’ll need you’
I don’t say any of this back to her but guess what, sister’s wedding day isn’t going to be easy for me either. It’s because you and father can’t get on, 23 years after you separated, that I am missing it.
It’s fine though, I have a carafe of Malbec and we can’t talk during the music so I will let these comments wash over me.
I get mum back to the station and thankfully, there has been no more lectures. Finally, home, by bus, not taxi can I point out, and I consider writing up my posts for the blog. No can’t face it, instead, let’s do an online shop for healthy ‘Normal’ food. They can even deliver tomorrow. Right, I am going to take some control back, I am going to try to make eating as ‘Normal’ and healthy as I can manage.
An old habit comes back, a sure sign I am supressing an emotion. I scratch my legs raw. Yes, this is possible. I don’t have long nails and I don’t realise I am doing it but there is a lot of dry skin and blood under my nails now and the tell tell scratches up and down my legs. Bugger. I roll into bed and today has been hard. Really bloody hard. All in all, it’s not the best birthday.