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’
Monday’s alarm is set for 0702 (lumie). Then 0705 (Radio). Then 0708, 0710, 0715 (phone). I need to wash my hair today and I want to go to the 0930 session. I also need to be out before the cleaner arrives as there is nothing more first world problem-esque than being at home whilst the cleaner is here. The flat is a tip and not just a Patient C tip, an actual tip. Things have been getting on top of me and the result is a cluttered home. Cluttered home adds to my cluttered mind but because of my cluttered mind, I can’t muster the energy to de-clutter cluttered home and so the vicious cycle continues. Well, it can’t continue much longer as lovely Cleaner K will be here very soon. Whilst half asleep and realising I’ve turned off all 5 alarms without managing to get up, I somehow text Cleaner K mid snooze and ask her to clean my neighbours flat first and then come to mine. This is both sensible and silly in one go. Sensible as the hair really desperately does need a wash but silly as it means I roll over without setting another alarm.
Before I know it, it’s 1000. That’s 60 minutes before CBT. That’s 20 minutes until I need to be getting into a taxi to get there or -15 minutes had I wanted to take the bus. So, up I get, shower, teeth, wet hair but dressed, I bumble out the flat into the waiting taxi. I am crossing my fingers I get there is time to be allowed into CBT. Why do I put myself under this stress? There was no need for it, I could have gotten up with the lumie lamp, washed, dressed, had breakfast and gotten the bus but no, instead I am leaving it to the last minute.
I run in and even though it’s 1103, I am allowed to join the group. Phew! Therapist W asks check in to start and I spot a new patient. Having conducted a quick ‘are you a colleague’ scan, a skill I have mastered well, I am able to relax, or at least as much as one can relax in therapy, and gather my thoughts for check in. I check in stating that I feel nervous, anxious and upset I had a panic attack yesterday at home. I explain it was the fear of the insurance forms. Therapist W stops me there. He points out that I’ve already brought my worry about these forms to group yet here I am with it again. I am repeating the same problem. I am a bit taken aback by this but he’s right. I tell him it’s because the forms have now arrived and yesterday I faced up to them. Still, it’s the same problem. Darn you, I can’t argue back as you are right but I feel defensive and I don’t know how to healthily manage this emotion. I stay mute but nod at him. Therapist W asks if he can try something experimental with me, I nod again as my mouth has locked itself shut. Therapist W gets two empty chairs and puts them in the centre of the circle.
Chair 1 represents my coping mechanism, chair 2 represents me with all my emotions. Chair 1 is analysing, deciphering, cross examining, strategizing all the things that are worrying me. It never stops, it can’t, not until there is a valid solution. By valid I mean something I think is right. Chair 1 continues day and night until I get a solution, even though there is rarely a solution that is ‘valid’. Chair 2 is sat there as a little lost frightened girl. She’s sat staring at Chair 1 that’s going over and over and over again all the things that are wrong. How does that make her feel? Shit. It makes her feel shit. There’s no respite, there’s no down time from it. That lost girl needs a hug and some attention. That’s the thing with what I bring to group. I bring Chair 1, I don’t bring Chair 2. I don’t know how to be Chair 2. Therapist W asks if I could sit in Chair 2. No. My hands come up to my face and my shoulders roll over. He asks what’s going on… I’m embarrassed. I am feeling ashamed and I don’t want to the others to be staring at me. I mean, they are already but making me stand out by sitting in Chair 2, that’s one step too far. It hits me then. I’ve had many an experience standing out but never normally for positive reasons. I stood out in Junior school for being told off and sent to the stationary school, I stood out to the other girls for being the ‘naughty one’, the ‘disruptive one’, the ‘forgetful’ one, the B student not the A student. I made it worse for myself. In desperation to be liked, I lied. I may have told this story before but when I was approximately 7 or 8 years old, I told my class I had an elephant in my garden. Obviously, this was not true. I just so wanted the girls to like me and want to come play at my house. Looking back now, I was never a ‘bad’ student. In the context of a private school, I may have seemed a bit more challenging than the other girls but actually, truly, I wasn’t bad. If I’d not have been at a competitive private school, some of my ‘bad’ behaviour would never had been picked up as ‘bad’. I can’t change the past, I know that. It’s made me who I am, psychiatric patient and all. However, as these cogs keep turning, I start to piece together where I learnt shame, where I started to pick up the ‘I’m bad’ theory. It’s interesting and I’ve had more flashbacks than ever before but it’s useful. I can picture the bright blonde pigtailed 7-year-old and all I want to do is hug her. She doesn’t deserve this pain. She deserves some time and help. Typing this out makes me blub a bit. I really want to give that 7-year-old a hug. I really want to shout at some of the teachers, at some of the other girls, at Mum, at Dad, at Stepmum and others too and say they are missing that I am not ok, I need someone to see that. I need someone to hug me and help. Phew… this is a heavy realisation. Ultimately, what Therapist W is trying to show me is that I need to shun Chair 1 and learn a new coping mechanism. One that doesn’t beat me with a stick every time something isn’t ‘right’. I need to be ok with myself. This is going to take time, and potentially a lot more therapy! Oh crikey. I never make it to Chair 2, I stay rooted where I am. That’s ok though, I get it, the experiment worked.
Lunch is a ham and cheese panini and chocolate fudge cake with a large helping of cream. I am sat with Patients L5 and C4. Patient L5 goes back for another slice of cake, this makes me feel better about myself although she’s nowhere near the obese end of the spectrum, at least I am not alone in enjoying the cake! They both leave so I crack on with a Sudoku and my audiobook to pass the rest of the lunch time.
IPT starts and I check in stating that I am feeling lost, self-conscious and nervous but that I am not sure what I want to work on in this afternoon’s session. Patient C4 wants some time which is fine by me. She’s explaining her social anxiety. I chip in a bit to let her know I’ve felt the same way many a time. I tune in and out as the conversation rolls on when something Therapist M2 says catches my attention. It’s directed to Patient C4 but it’s something I need to apply too. Why beat yourself up about the right clothes, shoes, or handbag. Do you like it? Then who cares. This is easier said than done but it’s so true. This morning I felt really self-conscious about my Uniqlo cat t-shirt that I am wearing today. Especially when I then started to talk about my cats. I mean, come on! But, and this is a good but, I like the t-shirt, it’s comfy, it fits my expanded waist line and it makes me smile. Does it matter therefore if Patient C5 has judged me as a crazy cat lady? No, it doesn’t. It’s not going to be that simple but if I can keep reminding myself that it’s what I like that matters, maybe it’ll stick.
As we enter checkout, Therapist M2 picks up that I’ve been quiet. Yes, you are right but I took up so much time this morning, it was someone else’s chance to talk. I know, I know, I’ve told a lot of other patients that they don’t need to worry about this yet somehow I am different to them and do need to worry. He reminds me this is IPT, it’s different to CBT and therefore it’s ok to take time up in both. I know, I also know it’s his responsibility to manage the group and the timings but, argh! I don’t have an answer to the but other than but… and so the group ends. Patient H tells me he can’t wait to see me on Wednesday once I’ve talked through things with Dr. E. I don’t tell him I am not going to be in on Wednesday. I am trying to be an adult about this, but I am freaking out. I need him to stop trying to save me, I need him to not be so smothering.
I can’t head home, I have my 1:1 and I am nervous. It feels like I am waiting for an exam that I’ve not studied for. I climb the stairs when I am called and yet again slump onto the clichéd sofa in the room. How am I? Well, the weekend wasn’t good and out flow the tears. Oh bugger. She asks when I last felt suicidal. Well, that would be yesterday, when I sat starting at my cat wondering who would look after them if I weren’t here. It also came c. 48 hours after I entered the flat. Sitting and festering in my own little world is not a sensible idea, I know this but shit, it’s hard to fight the routines I am used to. Dr E gets tough with me. She explains she’s not in the business of dealing with death, she’s in the business of dealing with living and making it better. I tell her that I am worth more dead, it would allow Sister to set herself up with a house plus I’ve already checked that credit card debts can’t be passed onto the estate in the event of death. The debt dies with me. Dr E tells me most people are worth more dead. She’s certain that she’s worth a lot more dead due to her life insurance but that doesn’t mean so goes around planning how to end it all. She’s using her firm and serious voice to tell me that I’ve entered into a therapy contract. By turning up, by being admitted to hospital, by taking the meds, I’m in a contract to try to keep living. If not, what’s the point? Why did she fight with the insurance to get extended day care? She’s right, I never thought about it like that. I feel like a naughty school girl and let me tell you, there were many a time I was told off at school, and so I sit and nod my head. Before leaving, she makes an appointment to see me on Friday and then, a brilliant then, she asks if I am seeing Dr. L the psychologist. I explain I haven’t whilst being in hospital. She asks if I want to go back to Dr L or… OR see someone from the hospital for 1:1’s. This is my way out. This is how I can see a psychologist that I feel I can work with. I ask her can I think and email her as I didn’t know that was possible. This gives me hope.
I walk out the door and start walking in the general direction of home and the bus! I stop off at a Tesco and even though I want to buy a lot of binge food, I don’t. I buy some flat breads and 2 mini red wines. I carry on walking but magically stop when I get to the bus stop. Looks like I am not walking home tonight but that’s ok, it’s the bus, not a taxi. Once seated with my audiobook in my ears, I start stewing over the day. It doesn’t feel like a bad day but it doesn’t feel like a good day either.
I’m craving cereal but I manage to stay on the bus. I get off at my stop and then, the resolve disappears. I walk into my local shop and pick up a basket. The basket is a bad sign. The basket means I am going to pick up multiple things. I’ve not been in the local shop in ages so I slowly walk around look at all the binge delights. I start picking things up without much thought or control. I need none of this. Technically I can’t afford it either, it will take me over my food budget! I carry on picking things up though. Before I know it, that’s £26 worth of crisps, cereal and chocolate. I head home and pick what I want to eat first. It’s a sadistic ritual to make sure I feel as much shame as possible. The flat is clean and tidy though, this helps me a lot. It means the binge stops at ‘bad’ not ‘very bad’.
Once the binge is done with, I hide the remaining food so it’s not in my direct line of sight tomorrow. Tomorrow can be a new day. A fresh start. I write up some ‘to-do’s’ for tomorrow and I am planning on getting up and dressed. I head to bed and start reading. I am not taking it all in, the concentration hasn’t come back enough yet, but it’s a healthy bedtime routine and right now, anything that’s healthy needs clinging to with dear life. Ah the irony in that statement!