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’
For the fourth day in a row, I’m outside! I leave the house at 0815 to meet my manager for a coffee. I take the bus this time and as I’m walking to the agreed place – not too close to the office that I risk seeing people but not too far that she’s got a long walk – I start stepping on 2 square drains. As a kid, there was a ‘rumour’ that 1 square drains and 3 square drains are bad luck. 2 square drains though, well, they are magical! You should make a wish when walking on 2 square drains. Given my love of rules, it’s hardly going to be a surprise to you that I still belief this myth. Yup, a 31-year-old believes stepping on drains can determine her future. So, what’s today’s wish? That the conversation with my manager flows naturally, that I don’t overcompensate in an attempt to impress her, that I try to *just* be me as *just* being me should be enough.
The conversation flows well. There are a couple of moments where I fear the awkward silence- I don’t like silence – but overall, I’m feeling like I conveyed *just* me. My manager has assured me that I should take all the time I need. That’s a huge relief. I feel validated in still being absent. She comments that I do seem better than even the last coffee. I know she’s using the word ‘better’ correctly. Correctly you may question? Yes, people say ‘better’ but really mean completely recovered – are you better? I’m better now – the correct use is that I am better than the last time we met but, and it’s a crucial but, I’ve still got some recovery to go. ‘Better’ meaning a step in the right direction rather than the finale.
I start to walk home but change mind, I’m feeling very teary and if I go home, I run the risk that I won’t make it out for my psychiatrist appointment later. So, instead, I sit in the sun and have an almond flat white (I know, I know, still going for the poncey coffee – to make this even more poncey, the barista has made a swan in the foam). I’ve got my sunglasses on which, as well as protecting my eyes from dangerous UV rays, also allows me to feel invisible. People walking past can’t see I am fighting back tears. There isn’t a reason. Nothing bad has happened. It’s one of the many delights about depression. Crying with no cause. Ah the delights indeed. I’m sat outside and as I look up, there is a sign in the window opposite me. It says, ‘We really like you’. I later find out this is in response to another sign opposite that says, ‘I like you’ but in that moment, it made me smile just when I needed it most. Thank you, random stranger in London for putting that in the window. I also ordered an apple with the coffee. I’ve got to stay on track. The more days I can get under my belt, the easier it will be. After a while, the sun disappears and I start to feel cold so I go for a short wonder to find somewhere in the sun again. Being outside is kind of new for me, I’ve spent so long over the last couple of years hiding at home that it’s an effort to force myself out. I stop at a cute bagel shop and get lunch. I sit outside and read whilst eating. This is a mistake as it would appear I need concentration to eat a bagel and concentration to read so when concentration is in limited supply, it gets messy. My mood is holding at the ‘ok’ level and I am pleased I haven’t gone home. Home would not have been good. As I get up to leave, I have to squeeze between two chairs. It’s a tight squeeze. Very tight. The two slim and toned French ladies next to me laugh. Whilst I can’t be certain it was at me, that’s what my head is telling me. The mood is in decline again.
I decide to potter with no significant goal in mind other than to end up at the hospital by 1515. For ages, I’ve been meaning to buy new running trainers. My current ones have a hole where the big toe is and they are ancient in trainers years. There is a Runners Need not too far away I seem to recall so I head there. I head to the trainers wall and am totally confused by the different types of trainers on offer. The sales assistant asks me to roll up my trousers – great, I have hairy legs, this isn’t a good look! – and run on a treadmill whilst he records how my feet land. I swear he’s whacked the speed up and recorded for longer just to laugh at me. My depression and anxiety lie to me a lot so I can’t work out truth from fiction. My mind confirms he’s laughing at me when he says: ‘How much running are you really going to do?’. I feel so ashamed. I know I am fat, I am buying these to try to help me be not fat therefore, please don’t shame me when I am about to buy something from you. Obviously, I don’t say that out loud but I wish I had. Payment made, I head out the shop as quickly as I can.
I carry on walking and decide to head through one of London’s great parks. I’ve still got a couple of hours to waste until my appointment. I meander through looking at the swans and geese. I sit on a bench watching the world around. There are some school leavers on the grass with their shirts signed by all their friends, GCSE’s start next week so they will be going on study leave. Ah, leavers day. I remember it well. I was underweight, abusing laxatives, very anxious when out in public and to top it off, a girl decided to embarrass me in public by slamming a whipped cream plate in my face. Whipped cream pie face is bad enough but when you are anorexic, it’s like the devil himself is taunting you. Not so happy memory lane hey!
Colleague and I message back and forth a bit. I am so relieved to have someone who knows what this is like to lean on, I just hope they know I am here for them too and they can lean on me.
With 10 minutes to spare, and just before the thunderous rain, I head to the hospital waiting room. As usual, Dr E is running late but even by her standards, this is very late. 40 minutes later, I am called up.
We talk about how this week has gone so far, what am I struggling with, my inability to fall asleep when anxious, and my family. Once she’s gone through her ‘agenda’ I ask when I’ll know I am ready to go back to work. She says that both her and I will just know. I want to probe this. How? How will I ‘just’ know? What are the signs and clues I should look out for. She says the fact I am getting so worked up in her office just worrying how I will know is exactly why I am not ready. But… But… ARGH. Seriously this illness is bloody awful. We finish up and schedule the next appointment.
Over the last 30-minutes, it has gone from a warm and sunny day to raining like there is no tomorrow. I’ve done 16,000 steps so decide I can take the bus home. As I start walking, I hear my name called. Patient L3 and Patient P are huddled under a pub awning eating, drinking and smoking. I say hi and go to join them. My head is sighing loudly as I don’t really want to. I want to go home. I don’t want to get caught up in their drama. I don’t say that though, obviously. I stay for 45 minutes and then make my excuses.
Friend ML is coming over tonight for a take away. She’s been on holiday so I’ve not spoken to her in weeks. I’m looking forward to it and I recognise ‘Normal’ people have takeaways so this isn’t a binge, this is me being ‘Normal’. She has also got a couple of gifts for me from her travels:
- A cat to-do pad
- Cat markers
- Elephant paper clips
As we know from Wednesday, stationary + my favourite animals = Best Thing Ever!
We natter away for a while before Friend ML needs to leave. I am so pleased she came over, having been outside all day, I didn’t have the energy to face the outside world. I’m completely empty of energy units so head straight to bed once she’s gone. Tomorrow is Friday, the last week day of my first week without the hospital. If I manage to meet Friend CT tomorrow, I’ll have left the house every day. This is huge! Although completely empty of energy, I am proud of myself.