Tuesday, 15 September 2015

An update...

About eight weeks ago I wrote a blog after one of my weekly visits to my psychologist. The session had really taken it out of me. I knew I wasn't in the best place and that I needed to write something in that moment.

When it came to the bit I knew I couldn't post the finished blog online. I'd surprised myself by how dark my thoughts were. Writing it had helped, sharing it with the world might not. 

Long story short, this was rock bottom. Again.

You'd think by now I'd know the signs and be able to do something to help myself. In those situations though, helping yourself is the last thing you want to do. 

Shutting down, going into hiding, ignoring life. It's very easy to do when you just don't care about anything at all. 

It's been 11 and a half years since I took an overdose and entered this weird rollercoaster of 'life'. It's not much of a life right now, but I'm breathing so I suppose that's a start.

Pretending to be a functioning adult has become all too easy for me over the last decade. Every so often there's a rough patch, then there are the ones that derail me completely. May 2014 - I abandoned London and returned to Ireland. Defeated again.

I wish I could really explain it clearly. I wish I understood it. It's been almost five weeks since I couldn't pretend to be OK anymore - not even online where it's always been easy to distract myself and talk about EastEnders or X Factor. Instead I closed down Twitter and let myself completely lose touch with everyone and everything going on. After a few days you get used to not leaving the room you make your prison cell. It's the safest place on earth. If I know I don't want to hurt myself, no one and nothing else can. The buzz of a new email arriving in my inbox? Ignore it. The phone battery will die soon enough and I'll be free of that noise. All those free hours to just listen to that voice in your head. 

I left the house only to attend psychology. Missing one session prompted a phonecall and an awkward speakerphone monologue from my psychologist who persevered until I found the ability to say a couple of words. But she cared enough to do that. She didn't give up. That was the first time someone outside of family has pushed me in those darkest moments. Except this time, unlike being able to fight off the love and support from my parents, I couldn't leave someone I've only known a couple of months fearing for my life. Is that what I'd become? Was I now a risk to myself, to others even? That frightened me a lot.

Psychology has been a difficult, draining, terrifying and wonderful experience. I'm not really sure how I slipped through some mental health net and got left to my own devices for the best part of a decade, but finally, things began happening and the process started. Digging into memories and dissecting experiences I'd locked away is something I' fought against doing for far too long. 

I've no doubt that doing so and unleashing so many emotions after so long is what threw me into where I am right now. But I've come to realise that it is a necessary evil. It's now about learning how to recognise the darkness, to prepare for it, to fight it, to throw open the curtains and to not give up even the 10% of 'life' I've been living for the last decade. It's funny how much you can learn to value even the smallest bit of your existence.

This current experience isn't over. I've just promised myself that I'd do something to help myself - and that has always been writing. Tonight was the first time I've found the drive to look at the screen long enough to string a sentence together. 

An overshare? Maybe. But I want to be able to come back to this. Even when I've recharged to that 10%, I want to know I can read this and remember the very worst moments. Maybe this will be the last rock bottom, the final 'things get worse before they get better' moment. 

I'm honestly not really sure how to finish this to be honest. A few attempts haven't read back well. I'm not dying and I'm not planning to die anytime soon (touch wood). I know there are people worse off. There are also plenty living within the darkness and doing a much better job of making the most of their lives. Knowing that is part of the process of getting up in the morning, of appreciating what you've got and striving to achieve more - no matter what obstacles lie in the way.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I don't look depressed. Hurray.

Edit: Originally published May 2015.

I'm starting this with a 'long story short' attitude, so let's see how that goes.

The fact today happened on Mental Health Awareness Week is a complete coincidence, but made me want to share it even more.

So, after 11 years of being diagnosed as 'clinically depressed', I finally made some progress late last year in tackling some of the issues around that area of my life. 

My GP referred me to to another department, naturally, and eventually, I was given an appointment with a psychiatrist. She was lovely. I've seen her numerous times and, while the sessions have been draining emotionally, it's been great to feel like progress has been made on some fronts.

Meanwhile, the process of diagnosis on with the autism side of things is slow - I've been told bluntly several times that even being "diagnosed" won't lead to anything, so that's reassuring. But personally, it's more about me understanding myself, so I'm not focusing on that.

Alongside this, I was sent to the psychology team. I know. It's basically one appointment after the other these days. I had the most amazing session a few weeks ago that basically laid out a plan for 'helping' me. 

Which brings me to today. I was going back to the psychiatrist for a 'check in'. I was in generally good form today, so wasn't hesitant or nervous about going along. I gave a quick update and said I was feeling good today. Then came the clanger.

"As soon as I saw you today I thought, you don't look depressed!". I'm not even sure how my reaction may have come across. I just laughed. 

Is that not the most ABSURD sentence to say to someone who has been taking anti-depressants for 11 years?! WHAT does that even mean?

I was in good form, I was fine being there. But wow. Shall I just cancel my appointments, flush the tablets down the toilet and consider myself cured?

Of course not. I can read between the lines and take it that it wasn't meant in exactly that manner. But what if I wanted to take it the other way? What if another person wanted to? I laughed, but when I told Mother Love, she couldn't quite believe it. Now I'm quite annoyed at not having reacted correctly in the moment. 

If I or another person wanted to pull the wool over someone's eyes about our mental health, just how easy can it be made?! It may be difficult to see through it at all times, but if I was faking my mood today for someone else's benefit, that was an alarming success. 

That was my last appointment with that person, who discharged me back to my GP - especially as the new psychology appointments are about to begin. While I'm relieved to know I'll be working on specific issues with another person, it's worrying that another has ticked a box and sent me off again. Just another figure on a report. 

With #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in full swing, it's more important than ever to remember that a smile does not mask suffering. Don't just presume that my good mood today means 11 years of confusion, fear, pain are over. One day I want to say they will be, but that's not today. 

We don't know what the next few years hold for any of us, but mental health funding cuts coupled with a 'snap out of it' attitude, leaves me frightened for the millions who are and will try and deal with it alone. Never have organisations like Mind, Samaritans and Rethink been so important. Don't ignore them. Fight for them, even if you don't need them now, because you never know when you or a loved one just might. 

That 'long story short' thing went well.