Avoiding the Speed Bumps

It has been almost a month since my last blog post, and generally when an extended period of time like this passes it either means that I’m in a very dark place, or in a relatively good space; the theory being that I either feel too low or disinterested to write anything, or conversely, I have no negative experiences or feelings to verbalise. Thankfully on this occasion I’m leaning towards the more positive end of the spectrum.

It’s also fair to say that I’ve had little time for writing over the past few weeks due to being extremely busy at work, and also a on holiday in Florida for almost two weeks. I believe the holiday was much needed, and felt like a true escape, not just from London, but also from my recent period of low and negative thinking. It also had the effect of transporting me back to simpler, more innocent times, a consequence of visiting the Disney theme parks as a family, just as I did when I was a child. While there is a danger that this bubble of safety I found myself in could lull me into a false sense of security, and merely act as a form of avoidance, thankfully some of the positive effects of the holiday have still lingered within me. Although the pessimist inside me insists this won’t last forever, and is merely a respite rather than a recovery.

Despite this relatively settled state of mind, it’s true to say that I enter the next few months with a great deal of trepidation, and a sense of impending doom which always seems a mere hairsbreadth away. This upcoming period has been a particularly difficult time for me in the past, acting as a catalyst for downward spirals of depression, and even though I can recognise this chain of events, it does not always mean I can can prevent it from happening. Whilst I am undoubtedly a huge fan of Christmas, it has always orchestrated extremely low feelings within, and it’s not always apparent why. Perhaps as this article suggests, “Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more”. Christmas is a period of celebrations, festivities and catching up with friends and family, and therefore perhaps its the presence of other people basking in apparent happiness, friendship and general joviality, which in turn precipitates feelings of loneliness, envy and deep critical self-reflection. Essentially the microcosm of Christmas fixates upon and exaggerates all of the emotions and anxieties within a 6 week period, and ensures that the shackles of depression cannot easily be broken free from.

It’s also true to state that the presence of my birthday a mere 2 weeks prior to Christmas adds measurably to the melting pot of emotions. It too acts as a time to reflect upon life gone by, mistakes made, relationships not yet achieved, and as each year passes this becomes more and more pronounced. With this year being my 30th birthday, I have a constant fear that this milestone will be the hardest yet. In many ways a birthday is worse than Christmas, as its the day in which you are the sole focus, as opposed to the global celebration of Christmas. So if no one turns up to your birthday, or you feel isolated and alone, its impossible to push away thoughts such as “nobody likes me”, “why can’t I be more liked?”, “why can’t I have the life of another person?” or “why have I not achieved x, y or z by this age?”. It also pressurises you to compare yourself with other people. Why does John Smith have a wife, a child, his own house and a purpose in his life at age 30, and yet I live on my own and have nothing compared the things he has achieved? Of course the mindset of a depressed person will conveniently forget all of the things that it has that John Smith doesn’t, as well as preemptively assuming that John Smith is happy inside, when in fact there is no way of telling if this is true.

It feels a shame to start this blog with positive thoughts, and end up writing about a purely negative mindset. Unfortunately its this way of thinking that a depressed persons mind forces upon its victim, and I am also being realistic based upon my own experiences, as well as being brutally honest, something which I vowed to do when I started this blog. As always I want nothing more than to be proven wrong, and if I come out of this next few months intact then I will feel it has been a huge achievement. Inevitably it helps that I’m on a steady road at this moment in time, as that can only help me in the long run. However, it’s the speed bumps later down the road that I’m worried about, as I don’t know if I have the strength to swerve past them, and am instead destined to collide head on with them, unable to prevent the devastation that will follow.

 

 

Advertisements

Back To Routine

The first week back to work after 6 weeks absence was always going to be challenging (physically and mentally), despite the fact that it has become an all too familiar hurdle to overcome. The nerves the night before were inevitable, but once I had walked through the door the following morning it felt as though I hadn’t been away, and by lunchtime the initial nerves had all but been extinguished. I predict that the reason for this straightforward transition back into work is a combination of the great support from colleagues/friends at work, and also as an inevitable consequence of the mental stimulation required at work acting as a form of distraction from the thoughts and feelings I had been enduring over the previous weeks and months.

It’s not all been rosy though. The darkness still creeps back in when I’m alone, or when a conscious or unconscious trigger reignites the feelings of depression and anxiety, in turn causing the reemergence of the habitual sensation of standing upon the precipice. It’s perhaps not helped that my return back to full time work has lead to an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, and the mental and physical fatigue as always is both a cause and effect of low mood. The combination of the return to work/commuting and the effects of the medication are doubtlessly responsible for this lassitude, not to mention the fact that the anxiety and depression cause their own form of tiredness as a result of the strain put upon body and mind. This weekend I have therefore just crashed out and been unable to do very much at all, even having to cut short a gym session on Saturday as I had no strength in my body whatsoever.

But despite these issues, its unquestionably positive that I’m back at work, both in terms of as a way of focusing my mind, but also as a facilitation for being around friends and people that I care about and reaping the rewards that this provides. And the adverse feelings mentioned above notwithstanding, I’m in a relatively stable place, and my spirits are higher than they have been for a while. But I do continue to worry about how I will manage the fatigue, and more importantly at how easy it is to be attacked by the ‘black dog’ when my mind lets its guard down for even a second. At the moment his attacks are less severe, and less frequent, but I can constantly feel his presence inside me, and it’s incredibly disheartening to face the reality that another bad attack will inevitably come, whether that be in a week, a month or a year.

Updates

Firstly, I wanted to say a big thankyou. To date I’ve had over 1600 views of my blog posts, and over 1000 visitors to the site. This is incredibly humbling, and also very encouraging, as when I started this project back in January it was initially as an outlet for myself, and I never anticipated the support I’ve received. It certainly confirms to me that I made the right decision opening up in this way, and inspires me to do bigger and better things in the future.

One of the most satisfying aspects of doing the blog has been the messages and comments I have received from people, in particular those personally affected by depression and anxiety. I received this comment recently on one of my blogs by hopingandmunching

“Hello, just wanted to let you know that I relate to your thoughts. I have also struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. I get hopeful that it will finally get better, only to have those hopes crushed by another relapse. But don’t give up hope, even if you feel like you are slipping again. I think it’s important that we are kind to ourselves and forgive ourselves, and this will help our progress. I hope that you succeed and find richness and meaning in life that we miss our on because of this”

Its incredibly rewarding that people feel they are able to open up, and share their stories, and is again justifies to myself that the blog is a positive thing to be doing. The only way of tackling this illness is by getting people talking, and feeling comfortable in opening up about their experiences, and its great to see the evidence of this.

On another note, next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. This yearly event originated in 2000, and each year there is a different focus, for example anxiety, sleep deprivation and exercise. In the spotlight this year is relationships, and the importance of embracing and maintaining them to promote better mental health, and this description from The Mental Health Foundation explains why its such an important topic:

“We believe we urgently need a greater focus on the quality of our relationships. We need to understand just how fundamental relationships are to our health and wellbeing. We cannot flourish as individuals and communities without them. In fact, they are as vital as better-established lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking.

We are lobbying national governments, public bodies and employers to promote good relationships and to tackle the barriers to forming them, including mounting pressures on work–life balance and the impact of bullying and unhealthy relationships.

But we have a challenge for the public too. We are asking everyone to go the extra mile in prioritising their relationships. We are calling on people to make a relationship resolution: to assess how much time we actively commit to building and maintaining good relationships, and to ask whether we can invest more in being present with and listening to friends, family and colleagues.”

Check out their website for information on events happening around the country, and how you can help contribute to this truly worthwhile cause.

Finally for updates, the other day I took part in the filming that I mentioned a few weeks ago in a previous blog. ITV are hosting a Disability Confident conference in July which aims to:

  • challenge attitudes towards disability
  • increase understanding of disability
  • remove barriers to disabled people and those with long term health conditions in employment
  • ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations

I was asked to film a VT which will be shown at the conference, in which I talk about my experiences with depression, as well as what challenges it poses within the workplace, and how ITV has been instrumental in supporting me through the last few years of difficult times. It was filmed on the Good Morning Britain set and I was terrified: the lights, microphone and cameras were extremely intimidating, and I was sweating buckets, despite the fact the studio was air conditioned! It was all a bit of a blur, and I can’t even remember the specifics of what I said, but if it helps people in anyway, then all the nerves will be totally worth it. It all goes back to the importance of raising awareness, getting people talking, and instilling a network of support which will prove so crucial. Building and supporting relationships are the only way that this illness can be beaten. And it can be beaten. It will be beaten.