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’
It’s Wednesday so it’s back to day care. I am shattered. This seems like a saying that I am using a lot. That’s the thing, therapy is hard work. I skip breakfast and I also skip cleaning my teeth and face. I grab a protein ball and my travel mug of coffee. I order a taxi – bugger. I don’t know what more to say than bugger.
As we near the hospital, an email comes through. It’s from the medical leave office at work. They want to speak to me about the sick leave policy and next steps. My heart is pounding. I’m feeling fear. What are they going to say? Are they calling to tell me I’m unemployed? I decide to call them immediately. If I don’t call them before therapy, that’s 90 minutes of worry. I’m running seriously low on energy reserves today so 90 minutes of worry is going to be exhausting and ‘expensive’. They explained how long I’m covered by the firm and that they are posting me some forms in case I’m still ill once the firm policy expires as my salary would be taken over by an insurance company. My heart is pounding so much harder now. All the noises of the traffic feel like they are magnified. I am not sure I’m breathing. I desperately word vomit that I want to come back, I’ll come back next week, I’m sorry I’ve caused all this. Yes, you’ve read correctly, I’ve apologise for being ill.
I am herewith refusing to call it mentally ill. I’m ill, the difference between physical and mental isn’t important. I’m life threateningly ill and stood here on a busy London street, I’m rapidly feeling closer to the death end of the spectrum. The lady is still talking into my ear. I’m not entirely sure what she’s saying to me. I’m also not sure if I’m meant to be responding. I interrupt her and repeat, I want to come back. She says I don’t need to worry, this is merely a formality, a ‘just in case’. Just in case I’m not back by the end of the company policy. How, how has this happened? I was admitted on 7th February and right now, it feels like the 8th February. I’m not sure where the last 11 1/2 weeks have gone. This was only meant to be for a week. How is it the end of April? How is it spring? How have we moved onto BST and light evenings? I feel sick. My head is pounding. The hospital is across the road. I only need to cross the road and walk through the locked doors to re-enter the bubble. Somehow, the call is over. I’m entering the hospital and signing in.
Before CBT kicks off, before all the patients are in the room, I remind Therapist M she said she’s give me a hand out on self-compassion. I also tell her I need some time today as I’m feeling flustered about the call from work. Therapist M goes to get the hand outs and the rest of the patients file in. This includes a new patient, Patient D3. We check in and I explain how anxious I’m feeling, is wanted to talk about my shame more but the work call has thrown me. Therapist M pushes me, is the anxiety about the call because I’m trying to distract from my feelings of shame. I’m obviously very transparent as yes, maybe that’s exactly what’s going on.
Two patients check in with some worries and I want to jump in and help them. Helping others makes me feel less anxious because it’s a distraction to my own worries. As well as distracting, it also helps me feel like I may not be a bad person. I don’t jump in, I try to sit with it. We look at procrastination first. Procrastination is the anxiety and fear of doing things. It’s a feeling I’m well acquainted with. I let my fear grow and overtake me, I don’t speak about them and so they remain locked inside, growing at an alarming rate. I think of my fears like mushrooms. You know the really big ones. Them, that’s what’s going on it my brain, they are growing and as they grow, they are pushing other things out the way to make space. These other things are happiness, confidence, ability to cope, and a lot more besides. To challenge fear one should follow a 3 step approach:
- AWARENESS: be aware or the anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and other emotions
- ACCEPT the feelings & CHALLENGE the thoughts
- RESPOND both cognitive and behaviour
Whilst this white board lesson is going on, my anxiety starts to dramatically increase. That’s the thing with being ill, it’s always drastic. It’s never ‘slightly’. Everything feels acutely magnified. Everything bar happiness in my case. That’s not magnified. As the anxiety rises, I start to feel really scared. I am not so sure I can do this anymore. I am not so sure that this fight is worth it. I feel so alone even though I’m in a room full of people. The rest of the group are laughing. Patient H has used the analogy of sitting in one’s own shit and it’s set the group off. I, however, feel isolated. I can’t laugh at this. I wish I could, I want to feel part of something but no, instead, I want someone to rescue me. I want to be invisible or better yet, as home with the cats. I know, I know, I’m only reinforcing the crazy cat lady title and, that’s not happiness, it’s avoidance. My fear is paralysing, it’s also great at catastrophizing. I can’t see a way out. I am scared, really bloody scared.
To add to this, I am staring at the carpet. Again, this room’s carpet isn’t that questionable but I am rather wishing it was so at least it would be interesting to look at. It’s a very hospital shade of green. Oh, questionable carpet room, what I’d give to have you back.
The session ends and Therapist M says to the group that it’s a real shame we didn’t get to talk through the self-compassion handouts but Patient C wasn’t able to ask for time. HOLD UP LADY! Look missy, I know I’ve shrunk back to being a pathetic child but maybe, just maybe I needed you to be the therapist and ask if I was ok. No, I know, I’m an adult and should be responsible for asking for it but, you’ve known me a while now and you know I am shit at asking for help. If this was some kind of experiment to get me to ask, it’s backfired in epic proportions.
Oh, Patient C, you pathetic child! No, I know, this is the kind of thought I’m meant to fight. I head to lunch trying to avoid others. I put my earphones in and listen to my audiobook. A couple of patients come near but I make exaggerated movements to ensure everyone could see my earphones and therefore leave me the hell alone. I finish lunch, lentil and bean stew, I have my 2 clementines and carry on listening. Patient L5 asks is she can talk to me. I don’t know what to say so, you’ve guessed it, I say yes. We talk, she says I really helped her in group last week. She’d like my number too. I give it to her. It’s harder to think of an excuse that to give in. Now would be the perfect time for anyone in the world to ask for whatever they want from me, I’ll roll right over like a puppy and do it. I don’t have the energy units to fight it.
15 minutes before the 1400 IPT group and she heads off to her ward. She’s not coming to this afternoons group as she wants to get some work done. I head to the room but it’s locked so I slump against the wall and sink to the floor. I’d seen this in movies, it looks very dramatic. This thing is, it’s not. It’s like my legs just crumbled underneath me. Anyone who thinks mental illness is all in the head is sadly mistaken. I’ve got adult acne, headaches galore, apparently legs that can’t hold me up anymore and a very furry tongue all the time. These are very much physical symptoms of my sick brain.
Patient J3 strolls up the corridor. I don’t think I can face him. He’s a genuinely lovely guy but I still think Patient P’s idea he likes me could be right. Like I do a lot with people of the opposite sex, instead of handling the situation like a grown up, I revert to being a child and shut down. I don’t make eye contact, I mumble that I’m ok and don’t come too near – not literally, but it’s rather clear I’m shutting myself off. Finally, Therapist L arrives to open the room. I take a seat and focus very intently on my notebook. We start check in and I’m feeling overwhelmed, like I’m drowning in debt both monetary and emotionally, yes, I’m now running up a debt of emotional shit too! I’m lady to check in. Patient D3 is before me. He mentions he needs to leave at 1500 for a 1:1 appointment. That’s it. That tips me over. I’m feeling pissed off now too. It’s a rule that you come for all of group or don’t come at all. Patient D3 is breaking a rule and Therapist L is letting him. This isn’t fair. Breaking the rules means I’m going to feel even more shitty. I check in feeling overwhelmed, like I am shutting down and cross I felt that Therapist M was blaming me this morning. Finally, I’m really annoyed that Patient D3 is being allowed to break a rule. Sorry Patient D3, no offence, it’s me not you but still. ARGH.
Therapist L opens the group and Patient P asks if I want to go first as I didn’t speak this morning. I start mumbling. I don’t know what I want to talk about. I say I don’t think I can concentrate on the shame at the moment, I’m upset Therapist M made me feel it was my fault I didn’t speak this morning. If you’re a little confused by this statement, you should be, it was most definitely my brain keeping my mouth shut. Anyway, then out of nowhere I bring up my shame about my debt. 10 points for those who can guess what comes next. Yes, it’s the tears. It’s a lot of them too. I’m so ashamed of my debt. Last night, whilst Friend BS was over, I looked at the new mortgage rates the bank is offering me as my 2-year fixed is about to end. It hit me then, just like it’s hitting me now. I feel in over my head. I can’t see a way out of this debt. I mean, I can in the sense I can be debt free in 9 months according to my calculations but shit me, Patient C, how have you gotten into this mess? The answer is complicated, but that’s hardly a surprise. The group are chipping in, how amazing it was I was able to buy a place 6 years ago. They also try to tell me how so many people have debt. I am not alone. There is a way through this. I know, I know all of this. I am in debt trying to maintain a perfect façade, trying to be the strong one in my family. Debt though, debt traps you. I don’t have any options in life at the moment as I need to earn a certain amount to be able to pay my mortgage and bills whilst also trying to pay a significant amount to the credit cards.
All in all, I finish the session feeling so confused. I should have known better than to get in this debt, I should be sat on a good pot of savings. But, It’s going to be ok, I’m going to sort this out. I’m relieved it’s been talked about. I only admitted my debt situation when things started to go very wrong just before my admittance to hospital. I’m tired, unsurprisingly and I still have a lot of work to do on my feelings of shame.
Straight after the session, I head to the waiting room for my weekly 1:1 with my psychiatrist. I tell her I am struggling today. She looks up from her notepad with a quizzical look. But Patient C, you were doing so well. What’s happened? That’s the thing, when you are not completely honest with your doctor, they only have limited data to go by. Even though I’ve tried to tell her a lot more, and have told her the truth about the binging, she doesn’t know that at times, at home, I am so scared I don’t know if I can keep myself safe. She can’t think I’m better, I’m still feeling hopeless and helpless. She can’t see I’m still struggling. Help, I can’t find the words to ask for help right now. I tell her about the book. The book that I remembered on Monday. The book that I wrote to teach myself to hate myself. Yes, that book. That book needs burning.
The appointment ends with another 2-week prescription, seriously, I am sure 2 weeks’ worth can do damage, if you aren’t going to trust me, at least make it worthwhile! I think I need to write down what’s going on in my head and email Dr. E. Writing seems to be the way I can be most honest with what’s going on, both to myself and to others. I am in a strange mood so I walk to the bus stop and don’t make any effort to walk home. The fat can wait another day. I know I know, the weight will never come off if I don’t get moving
I want to cry. I don’t want to do anything tomorrow, I don’t want to be an adult and face up to sorting through this pile of shit that is my life. Tomorrow is Thursday, it’s when I’ve agreed to meet my manager for a coffee but I want to hide away at home.
The bus takes ages but when I finally get in the flat, I find an ornament on the floor. It’s ok, just a little chipped but it has a lot of sentimental value to me. I can’t move for about 5 mins. I feel like I can’t cope. I can’t even cry.
When I finally get moving, I lock myself in the bathroom, not even the cats can make me feel better right now. I start pouring a bath. I exfoliate my face and apply a face mask, I add some aromatherapy oil and I get my body scrub out. The bath is hot and lovely. I can hear the cats talking and scratching at the door – yes people, cats talk, to us mere humans it sounds like a meow – but I can’t face even their cute little faces. I lie literally in my own muck for 30 minutes before standing up and turning the shower on. Whilst I am making an attempt to get clean, the hair needs some serious attention. Plus, given I am meeting my manager tomorrow, I need to try to look ‘Normal’.
Once nicely wrapped up in my pjs and dressing gown, I embark on a mini binge. Oh crap. I stop it progressing but still, come on Patient C, you are only sabotaging yourself. Whilst one the sofa with a cat on my lap, I start to panic again. Shit. I’ve been spending a lot recently. The taxi’s to the hospital, whilst on the decline, are a lot more expensive than the taxis to the office were. Plus, I’ve been hoarding books. Yes, books. Why? Because surely, when one can’t hold their attention enough to read a page, having piles of unread books stacked next to the bedside table is the perfect cure. Yes, just heap more guilt onto yourself about something that you can’t currently do. Perfect.
I’m going to try really hard to use the hospital technique:
Patient C, it’s upsetting and a bit scary being in debt, it’s frustrating that you don’t have any savings so feel trapped by life. You can sort this out though. Slowly but surely, you can and will be debt free. You can survive this. The debt doesn’t have to kill you, literally or emotionally. You’ve made some bad mistakes, you’ve paid for a lot of things for people but you don’t need to do it anymore. Colleague pointed out yesterday, whilst helping me pour over my finances, I spend more on feeding the cats than me. They eat better food than I do. Another area of financial trouble is I pay some of mum’s bills. This has gotten to the point that I agreed to give mum my car when she retires so she can give her vey battered old car to sister and brother-in-law. Who, seriously, who tries this hard to be so strong for the family when actually, it’s killing me. I spent this afternoon in tears because I’m so ashamed. I’m ashamed of so much and talking to my doctor today gave me some flashbacks of when I’ve been shamed in the past. By teachers at school, parents’ views on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of living, my weight, unkind words that I used to write down so I’d never allow myself to forget them. I wrote a scrap book with things people had said to me so I’d never let myself forget how awful I am. I told a prior therapist I’d bin it. I didn’t. I don’t look at it but I can tell you page for page what’s in it. I taught myself to hate myself. I taught myself how bad I am. I’m not. I’m not a bad person. I’m human. I’ve made mistakes but, and this is going to take a lot of repeating to make it stick, I am not a bad person. I don’t deserve to hate myself like I do, I don’t need to prove my intelligence to my school, my last jobs, my parents, and even me. I don’t need to ‘buy’ my friends and family. Oh gosh, please please PLEASE can some of this stick. I’m not sure I can keep fighting all this. Please can life get better. Please can I see a way out of this hell.
And so, Wednesday ends badly. I feel shit. Worse than shit. I am hoping a new dawn and a new day will show me that this can get better.