36 Lessons about Depression & Anxiety

I will be thirty six next month. So in honour of reaching that age I thought I would note down 36 lessons I have learned in my years about mental health, depression and anxiety: 

  1. It will come – and it will go – however much your mind makes you think otherwise
  2. The sun will always help
  3. Certain careers are just not meant for you and you need to let them go. You could have been a great teacher but the stress of presenting yourself every single day and being graded between outstanding and inadequate will never be something your anxiety will overcome.
  4. Talking and writing about it will help you – and could help others.
  5. There is no shame in taking medication
  6. Children, a man, money, a job, a cash prize will not ‘cure’ it
  7. Moving away will not cure it – you can’t move away from your mind.
  8. Some partners will get it – some won’t. Find one who does.
  9. Some Doctors won’t get it – some will – find one who does.
  10. Exercise always helps.
  11. There will be days when you can go out and days you can’t – don’t beat yourself up
  12. There will be days when you can do everything and days you can do nothing – be easy on yourself
  13. Some employers will get it and understand, probably because they’ve been there
  14. Some employers will avoid eye contact
  15. This too shall pass
  16. follow people on social media who make you feel better – following the woman from Made in Chelsea who spends most of her time in The Maldives isn’t the best thing for your brain
  17. Take a break from social media if you feel it getting to you
  18. Say no to some opportunities if you feel panic rising – this includes work and even nights out
  19. Sometimes forcing yourself to do something you’re terrified of will pay off (or getting someone else to force you) for example a mum’s night out, a day trip or a run in the park
  20. Don’t weigh yourself. Don’t assume numbers on the scale will ever make your depression or anxiety magically disappear
  21. They might tell you sensitivity is a bad trait – but there is power hidden in sensitivity you might miss
  22. Accept yourself in every way. Yes – my mind is complicated and sometimes riddled with mental disease – but I wouldn’t be me without it – and I am unique.
  23. Argue with the guilt troll that dwells in your mind. Extinguish guilt for what you eat, what you say no to, what you are unable to do.
  24. Being next to the sea will always help.
  25. You’re a beautifully wonderful Mother – even on the days you can’t see it – THEY can. THEY see you – and you are all there is to them.
  26. Find your outlet and do more of it – write, run, read, swim.
  27. Be kinder to yourself every day
  28. Believe the people who say lovely things about you – they’re not lying. Your mind is one Hell of a liar though.
  29. Take your earphones out and listen to the birds – have a walk somewhere where it’s green and beautiful.
  30. Breathe more.
  31. Cry more.
  32. Sleep more.
  33. Take your meds.
  34. Have a cup of tea
  35. Have a shower
  36. Let go of being perfect. No one is.

Happy Birthday to me – and good mental health for the next 36!

 

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The perils of ‘Happy’ Occasions

January brings with it hundreds if not thousands of folk exclaiming “Happy New Year” like it’s a command; like it’s a militant instruction. “It’s a new year – Be happy or else!” And they sure look happy don’t they? All the well dressed, well drunk, groups of comrades linking arms, counting down the clock and screeching “Happy New Year!” whilst I’m staring at my M&S meal deal in my dressing gown wondering what exactly I’m doing wrong to not feel happiness at this landmark at all.

These, of course are the perils of so called “Happy” occasions.

Weddings – I’ve had a couple. We hire a photographer to capture this happiest day of our lives – so you better sure as Hell smile till you can’t feel your face anymore. Everyone – and I mean everyone is watching. This is literally the end of every single Jane Austen novel. You’ve reached peak happiness. Then why do I feel so utterly anxious, paranoid and on edge? Why do I imagine everyone whispering “I give this one a year” under their breath. Why have I never been so aware of my weight? What if he is late? What if everyone is late? And worse still – what if I don’t feel the euphoria I am supposed to? I am happy to be married but as for my wedding day – I felt more happiness at a Carvery.

The birth of a baby. Well – not just any baby: your baby! Sure there can’t be any happier moment could there? After the birth of my first born I distinctly remember putting a status on Facebook “I have literally never been this happy in my entire life!” Wrong – what I was, was higher than I had ever been in my entire life on diamorphine, two epidurals and four days of starvation. The come down was brutal. I have never been so terrified in my life. I was convinced if I took my eyes off my baby for one second he would stop breathing. I pissed in a vase in the bedroom because I didn’t want to walk across the hall to the actual toilet. I was convinced the Health Visitor was going to take him away because I couldn’t get him to latch. And don’t get me started on pregnancy.

Christmas day. There was a moment on Christmas morning when my son was ripping through his gifts and I felt nowt. I shook myself – why don’t you feel happy? This is what Christmas is all about – and this is what you’ve been waiting for for months. So I got a black bin bag for the wrapping paper because that’s what mums do. I felt real joy on Christmas eve – don’t get me wrong – I’m not Scrooge. Maybe the build up is better than the main event.

Birthdays – never quite as happy as they should be. What’s happy about being Thirty Five on a specific date – you’re half way to seventy! Smile!

So we don’t feel happy, even though society tells us we have to be. So we feel like we’re in the wrong or not normal. And of course we feel like we’ve failed.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel happy on the occasions you’re supposed to. Maybe you’re just not like everyone else; and maybe that’s just fine.

I don’t want you to leave me thinking I’m downright miserable so I shall leave you with three moments of pure happiness* and wish you a so-so New Year. Be averagely satisfied one and all.

*  my youngest son dipping his feet in the sea in Scarborough and squealing with delight and happiness. I wept happy tears.

*  Sitting alone in a restaurant in Rome eating Gnocchi with a carafe of wine.

* Walking around Whitby with my first born in a sling getting coos from elderly ladies and feeling utter pride.

 

 

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The Secret Saboteur inside of me

mummy's writing, darling

The Saboteur

Sometimes I watch my boys playing with their toy blocks. The eldest will carefully place one on top of the other, strategically, methodically. In a couple of minutes he has created a perfect tower, strong and steady. Then, like clockwork, the youngest will bound over and smash it to bits. The saboteur!

The bricks fall and they both giggle at the hilarity of this process. I understand the youngest’s urges, I really do.

The problem is it’s not so hilarious when it’s your life you’re destroying.

Part of my depression over the years has included impulsive behaviour and a sort of self sabotage – especially when my tower is strong and steady. Everything going ok now? Great – what can I do to royally feck it up?

It is usually when I am at my most successful or happy when I can choose to topple my life over.
Diets – I sabotage them all. Relationships – I can walk away and not look back. Jobs – I can be Head of English one minute and the next minute not. Even writing!

Great writing opportunity? Ooh let’s set fire to the pages!

It usually follows a pattern of being strong for a long time and feeling the fight or flight creeping up on you. And for me I guess my impulse is to always fly. (One day I’ll fly away, leave all this to yesterday).
However, there is one thing I have never sabotaged or felt the need to – and that’s my family.
We are a team, a unit. My boys keep me striving, they keep me looking up, breathing and trudging through the quick sand. I would never stamp on their sandcastles. My irrational impulses stop right there.

And yes I might sometimes shout at my husband “Well if you don’t want to be with a nutcase then maybe you should marry someone else!” But he knows I don’t mean it – and he tells me everyday he loves me for my oddities.

I learned something astounding this week too. You might have been impulsive, you might have thought the damage had been done – but if you admit your mistakes and do a bit of damage limitation – colleagues, friends and even employers can surprise you.

And slowly, you can start building your tower back up, only higher this time.

The pathetic tragicness of November

Mummy's writing darling

What came first? November or depression? I can’t quite tell at this point.

Picture me, if you will – I’m sat in bed, a total of five (yes fucking five) cold sores across my bottom lip and two ulcers on my tongue (a sure sign that my internal organs are waving the white flag).

My nose is fully blocked, I am hardly breathing.

Have you tried singing wheels on the bus with only one blow hole?

There is condensation dripping down the windows, my heating is on full whack and my tired brain is stressing about the bills. And mould.

I’m sipping herbal tea and shoving a banana down my throat (please now, this is not the time) because I am trying to get my body to not give up by showing it some nutrients after ten months of gorging on nachos.

The topic of the day on breakfast television is ‘The Menopause’. I’m left thinking is this all there is?

My husband texts saying we forgot that it’s a fancy dress day at the Primary school our son goes to. So now I can add “a shit school mum who forgets simple fucking school requests”to my shitty mum CV.

Not only that but every single flipping advert is a Christmas advert with cute siblings on or reformed burglars … God help me when John Lewis bursts onto my screen.

Every time Phil Schofield says “after these messages” I’m a blubbering, hormonal, cold, shit mum mess.

It’s absolutely freezing and wet – going out for a walk is not a pleasurable experience. What’s the point? The only reason I leaped out of bed this morning was to check the bastard bin men were taking our bin – so I can get rid of the three stinking ones waiting in the kitchen.

November is also just a looming reminder that it’s nearly the end of the year, another year over …. (sings) and what have you done? Suddenly the promises that you made in January are back – laughing at you!

“Remember when you were going to go vegan?” you fat cow!

The nights are drawing in – whatever that means – it’s sodding dark. The kids don’t seem changed by the darkness – in the morning or evening. Days should be shorter … not in this house. I can barely keep my eyes open writing this. The year is taking its toll.

Therefore, after much consideration, I have decided that November is horrid. The most depressing month of the year. Bring on Christmas … ho, ho, no.

Mummy’s Depressed Darling

depression

Depression is a change in perspective.

Nothing can be different in reality from this week to the next but the perception of that reality is completely altered. To bring this point home – I can actually take a photograph of myself and keep that photo on my phone. Nothing in that photo has changed, nothing has been edited. But I can look at that photo on a Monday and completely loathe what I see. I can look at the same photo, the exact same photo on a Tuesday and be so astounded at how attractive and slim I look I will post it to Facebook.

Nothing has changed – except on Monday I was depressed and on Tuesday the cloud had lifted. My perspective of my reality had changed.

Part of getting older is slowly learning to accept yourself.

I have depression and anxiety.

I have always had these things. While I used to be afraid of these aspects of myself – I am no longer scared. I am also honestly no longer ashamed of it. I have always ‘suffered’ from this and I say suffered because it really isn’t nice.

I used to blame teaching – I used to spend days asking ‘why?’ Why do I feel this way? My upbringing? My choice of career? Hormones? Something not quite right in my brain? The weather? Then at some point I stopped asking why and just accepted it. I accept these two things as a part of my personality.

A personality by the way that includes being extremely funny, creative, generous, impulsive, and a desperate need to be accepted and/or perfect.

When I have been depressed in the past I have looked around me to see what was causing it.

It must be the man I’m with – I’ll get rid.

It must be my hair colour – I’ll change it. I’ll change it and I’ll be cured.

It must be the job I’m in, my weight, my friends, my lack of success.

And I’ve learned it really isn’t anything external and there’s really not much I can do to change other than wait it out.

It was a surprise that pregnancy didn’t cure my depression and anxiety – it only heightened it. And it was a surprise that having children wasn’t a magical cure either. I don’t know why it should be a surprise – after all, I can’t escape myself can I?

Whether I’m single and free in Rome elbow deep in gnocchi and red wine, or I’m in my house for the seventh consecutive day cleaning and looking after two children not having time to shower or eat a decent meal – I’m still me.

And I have depression and anxiety.

On a bad day things can seem hopeless but after living with these aspects of my personality for thirty three years I am lucky enough to understand that this feeling, though entirely real to me, isn’t permanent and will eventually lift.

On a good day I am overjoyed with the beauty and luck of my life.

So children, mummy might be depressed but there’s nothing to worry about, she knows all about it, she’s been living with it for a very long time and

it’s got absolutely nothing to do with you.

It also means she’s adequately adept at understanding and helping you with any feelings you may have in the future.

If you’re the mummy who just like me last week is sat today crying in your pyjamas, unable to get dressed, the house going to pot around you, just getting through the day feeling utterly hopeless and like you’re failing – it’s really ok. I know how that feels. I know how it feels to feel completely exhausted, done, to feel like you can’t be mummy – that you don’t want to be mummy anymore.

Try not to trust your perspective of the situation right now and know that you won’t always feel like this. Tell someone, you’re not alone.