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’
Thursday morning rolls around quicker than I’d like it too. I get up and the only way I’ll get there is… drum roll please… taxi! Yup, it’s going to be one of those days. I get to the hospital with 10 minutes to spare so head straight to the CBT room. Patient J3 comes in shortly after and starts playing the piano. The noise is grating on me. It’s grating on me because I can’t hear what’s going on outside the therapy room door and I don’t like being shocked. Also, the session is due to start in 1 minute. Where is Therapist A? If we aren’t allowed to be late, they most definitely should not be allowed to be late. I know, I know, we’ve been taught that just like us, therapists are humans too and therefore fallible but come on! The timetable doesn’t change, the room doesn’t change and for the last few weeks, the patients haven’t changed. Well, that’s not technically true as there has been a couple of new patients, including Patient C4, who has just walked in the room. I double check she is most definitely in Group 1 before I say hello. I must be a delight to meet when you’ve just been admitted to the psychiatric hospital!
Therapist A comes in 3 minutes late. That’s 3 whole minutes of lost therapy. I know the fact that this is bothering me is due to my mood at the moment and nothing to do with the 180 seconds of lost CBT time. I check in as feeling low – what’s the point anymore, lost – I don’t have a clue where my life is going or who I am meant to be, and unhealthy in all respects – the tightening XL clothes are giving me a reminder that I am indeed wider that only a week ago and the binging and hopelessness is the reminder my brain is also struggling.
Patient C4 states this is her 3rd admittance in 3 years. This scares the crap out of me, as I have already mentioned. I don’t have the finances or insurance, let alone the strength to go through this more than once. This ‘blip’, ‘breakdown’, ‘whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it’ is using up all my strength resources, including resources I didn’t even know I had. This new patient has just gotten a new job on the outside world and she’s panicking that she’s ruined it before she’s begun by being here. Therapist A probes her a bit to understand if she defines herself by her career. Ah, you’ve hit a nerve here Therapist A. Not with Patient C4, with me. I define myself by what I do. The fact I didn’t get promoted last year felt catastrophic. Who the hell am I if I am not moving up a career ladder? How else do I explain what Patient C is? I have 2 definitions, 1: The London City Career Lady desperately looking for success (although not always achieving it) and 2: The Strong one of the 3 Women Family who is there to make sure everything is perfect for Mum and Sister. I’m trying to put boundaries in place to let go on Role 2, and now I am realising Role 1 is slipping out of my hands. What the hell am I doing here in hospital? I should be at work! Therapist A can see the cogs in my head whirring around on overdrive and I spit out that I still don’t know who the hell I am. Week 13 and I am no closer to understanding how to crawl out this pit of hell. I nod at the appropriate places but I’m not really hearing what Therapist A is saying.
We move on, which is a relief. Patient J3 asks for some time and explains he’s really frustrated due to a problem with his room. He feels that, given the weekly bill for this place, the least he should expect is a room that is comfortable. Ah, the dear room struggle. As the long-term readers will know, questionable carpet room was both a love and a hate type of relationship. Patient J3 has just mentioned he’s worried he’s been moved to a worse room because the hospital doesn’t like him. BINGO! I am not alone. I spent all my inpatient admission thinking this! Therapist A, seeing I am engaged in the topic, asks me to state what was going through my mind. Patient J3 has explained he’s complained and demanded a better room, what did I do? Ha, well, I did nothing. I sat in questionable carpet room thinking that the hospital could see I was a bad person. They’d given me the room with the very questionably stained carpet as punishment. Maybe it was because I was an insurance patient not a self-pay patient. The group interject, on a technicality, I pay for my insurance and de facto, I’m paying to be here. Ok clever clogs, I hear you but still, I’m not really self-paying. It’s a relief to know that other patients feel the same way I felt. I know I have heard this before, and therefore you’ve probably read it before, but it’s always reassuring I’ve not totally lost the plot when I am reminded that others struggle too.
Therapist A decides to use and example with dog poo! This is going to be interesting. There are 3 people rushing out the door of their houses.
Person A rushes out and steps in the dog poo, their response is: ‘Of course I did, it always happens to me’
Person B rushes out and steps in the dog poo, their response is: ‘For fuck sake, shit, fuck, shit”
Person C rushes out and steps in the dog poo, their response is: ‘Thank goodness I am wearing shoes!’
In this example, Person C is a therapist! They can always see an alternative way of thinking about the situation. In this example, I am always Person A. I need to learn to become Person C which, handily, is exactly what I am trying to be by going from Patient C to Person C!
Moving on from this, Patient H starts talking. He is frustrating me today. For multiple reasons. Let’s ‘explore’ them! (I know, you’re as excited as me about this!)
- He uses 1,000 words when really, 5 will suffice
- Frustration Level: 10/10
- Rational: I do this too! I’m frustrated because this is something I need to work on
- He seems DESPERATE to ‘save’ me
- Frustration Level: 9/10
- Rational: Stop it, you can’t save me and all you are doing is frustrating me. There is only one person who can save me and let’s be honest, it’s me! I am trying, really I am but your desperation to help me, above anyone else, well, it’s making me feel uncomfortable. I’m reverting to childish behaviours and not looking you in the eye, you’re over-friendliness is bothering me
- The fact he’s frustrating
- Frustration Level: 100/10 – I know this isn’t possible but hey, it’s my blog, it’s my rating levels
- Rational: Just because
Therapist A comes back around to me now. I am coming to the end of day care, how am I feeling about this – yes, therapists do use the cliché line ‘…and how does that make you feel?’. Well, I am not feeling that great. What the hell am I meant to do with myself? I am apparently not allowed to go straight back to work so that means filling 24 hours a day with something to occupy myself that is not feeding my depression, anxiety and OCD. Apparently, the key to success here is routine. I need a ‘I’m not currently at work’ routine. I also need a problem and goal list. This, this is can do! In fact, I’ve already done it so good on me! I have a LONG list of chores that need doing around the flat, doesn’t everyone? My list is 87 items long. It’s stored in excel and each task has a priority rating and estimated financial impact if applicable. Did you expect anything less from me?
So, as we move on again to another patient, this morning’s CBT feels like a painfully long 90 minutes. As we finish up with Patient S2, Therapist A reminds us that the key to all this is:
Process, accept and move on
I have trouble with the ‘process’ step, the ‘accept’ step and the ‘move on’ step… great!
I have lunch, caramelised onion and Brie tart with salad, sat with Patient J3. He’s in a strange mood, or maybe that’s me. It doesn’t feel as easy as it once was. Maybe we are just in different places at the moment. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this and creating a worry out of nothing. Patient J3 leaves and I’m alone at the table. I decide to get myself a slice of the Black Forest gateau on offer for pudding. No I don’t need it but yes, I do want it. I’m considering ditching this afternoons group and heading home. But I can’t, I’m going to a friend’s for supper and if I go home, I’ll never get to theirs. So, instead of dreaming of my pjs and dressing gown whilst cuddling the cats, I’ve got to face up to another 90-minutes of emotion busting.
I re-read my Monday blog post and I want to cry. The person who wrote that is in a painful place. That person deserves a hug, some TLC and love. I want to help that person. You may have guessed where this is going… that person is me. If reading my own blog post that I authored makes me want to care for me then brilliant. I’ve got to stop saying ‘tomorrow’ and start doing it now. Day care ends next week. The extension has been a god send but it’s now really coming to an end. I’ll be waving bye bye to a place that has evoked pain, anger, frustration, irritation, fear, fun, desperation, hope and possibility to name just a few. Life away from this place is going to be strange. I’m scared that I’ll fall back into old habits and therefore creep back to my old self. That’s the thing. I don’t want to be my old self. Patients keep saying ‘I just want to be my old self again’ but I don’t. My old self was depressed, anxious, binge eating, self-beating monster. I don’t want that back. I want a new me. I want a positive, hopeful me that will have ups and downs but can tolerate it. I want to be the very best Person C I can be. This time, best isn’t defined by a promotion, money (or lack of), the nice smell at my flat, the ‘always perfect’ me. Best is defined by happy, healthy, trying, rediscovering what I like, not what I think my friends will like, and recognising my own self-worth.
I’m looking round the hospital restaurant and I’m not panicking about leaving here. I mean, I’ll be back every Wednesday evening for aftercare and I’ll be next door for 1:1’s with my doctor but still, I feel ok about walking away. Maybe all this therapy is working. Maybe I can get through this and come out the other side.
On the table in front of me is a new patient and their spouse. The spouse has started crying. This place is hard. I sometimes think it’s harder on the family and friends on the outside than on the patients here on the inside. We know we are in hell but family and friends are left close enough so see the pain it far enough away that they can’t reach us to help. I’m pleased, well, as pleased as one can be in the situation, that I’m the patient not the relative. I don’t think I’d be strong enough to be the relative. To all my friends and family, thank you for being so strong for me.
I need to set a daily routine. I won’t be going straight back to work, which is a relief. I’ll have some time at home to try to stand on my own two feet. This is needed. If I went straight back to work, I’d mistake surviving for coping. So I’m going to lay down a few basic rules for each day…
1) get up before 0830
2) wash – face, teeth and brief shower at minimum
3) get dressed – it can be a tracksuit but it must be different to what I slept in
4) get outside – it only needs to be for 10 minutes but the car doesn’t count
5) do things you want to do – colouring, films, reading, swimming etc
6) write – everyday. It doesn’t need to be a blog post but writing helps, don’t let go of it now you’ve discovered it
7) be honest to yourself – if you’re not ok, that’s ok. If you are ok, that’s ok.
I’m not going to say I’ll do lots of exercise or only eat healthily, I’m not going to set impossible goals. I need to take this one step at a time. I am hopeful I can do this.
Time for IPT and I check in stating that I am feeling unsure about how I feel and worried about the future. We have Therapist L this afternoon. I have no strong feelings about her although I sometimes suspect she puts on the ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ tone just for us patients. Therapist L kindly reminds me I’ve been struggling with feelings of shame, do they still need work? Haha, yes! Thanks, I now feel shame about feeling shame.
I tune out a little and instead start listing people I need to reply to, things I need to get done, things I should have been doing already and other boring life admin. My incessant need to list means something is clearly bothering me. I can’t put my finger on what though.
This 90-minutes flies by and suddenly we are at check out. Therapist L reminds us that the topics that feel most difficult are topics we need to talk about in group.
This evening, I have plans and given I’ve stayed for the afternoon, I am on track to go! I am going to see Friend NM, her partner and Baby L for supper. I’m due at 1900 and it’s only 1530. What to do, what to do? I get the bus home. This is a minor victory that it’s a bus but I am so tired, I am not sure about tonight anymore.
Once home, I check the mail. There is a large envelope from work. It’s the insurance papers they’ve asked me to fill out, ‘just in case’. The date that I would roll onto insurance is stated in black ink right in front of me. It is still some way off but feels both terrifyingly too soon and worryingly too far away all in one fell swoop. I can’t I just can’t face this. I put them in the study, under a large book in the vain hope that the old riddle ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is true. To prove how healthily I am not dealing with this, I demolish another pack of jaffa cakes. Yes, I am going to theirs for supper so no, I did not need these jaffa cakes. I check the best way to get there. The quickest, by a significant margin, is taxi. I look at the purse and then I look at the other options. The other options mean leaving in 5 minutes. I’ve only been home 20 minutes. No, come on, save each penny you can which means, I am going via a 90-minute, 2 bus commute. Ah, 90-minutes, just like a therapy session! I start a new audio book and distract myself from all the rowdy bus rule breakers that are teasing my OCD.
I arrive and Friend NM gives me a huge hug before handing my Baby L. Ah, babies. They really are the best therapy. She’s grown so much in only a month. She’s changed so much too! Baby L is fascinated by my glasses and putting her hands in my mouth. I don’t care though. If you are this cute, you could do the same too! Friend NM is fluttering around the kitchen preparing supper. This same Friend NM has just returned to work from her maternity leave and ran the 50 minutes (fast!) run into her office this morning. Now, at 1900, she’s literally fluttering around ‘just whipping up’ a home cooked, two course supper. Ha! I am not at work, I don’t have a baby and I’ve not run for 1 minute today, let alone 50 minutes and if I weren’t here, supper would be a microwave meal for one. I know, we’ve been told, if we compare ourselves, we always lose. Well, I definitely lose this one!
I stay until 2215 before taking their tired new parent yawns as my cue to leave. I uber it home and head straight to bed. The uber was allowed, so this doesn’t count as a taxi journey. All in all, it’s been an ok day.