Lets catch up – six months on

It has been 6 months since my last post. I felt really quite bad, as you can see here. At that time I was determined that a course in counselling would be more beneficial this time around than taking anti-depressants again.

It’s time for an update. 

My GP and counsellor, who are both lovely, encouraged me for some time to take anti-depressants, and after a couple of months I myself questioned whether I could pull myself through without them or whether indeed I needed the boost just to give me the energy to use any of the techniques being suggested in counselling.

One such suggestion was exercise, which we all know releases endorphins. I knew this was true and I wanted the “I did it!” post-exercise pride, but my brain is exceptionally clever at finding excuses, reminding me how I can’t afford exercise classes, how self-conscious I feel running in the park and how self-loathing I feel as the pain kicks in after approximately 49 seconds. Night after night I opted to lie on my bed instead, not even attempting 5 minutes of yoga.

I also stopped showering every day and washing my hair (sometimes even brushing my hair was too much faff), and devised the absolute shortest morning routine which would allow me maximum time lying in bed. I would only wash if I blatantly looked greasy, or before my boyfriend came over and saw me looking manky.

At work (by now another menial ‘personal photocopier’ position), I was struggling to be alert, and struggling even harder to show any pretence of enthusiasm or interest. No doubt they noticed my unkempt appearance as well. I continued to show up and continued to complete my work to a satisfactory level, but the flame in my eyes was most definitely dead.

Despite all this though I did make progress with counselling, I would say that every week one new revelation would present itself (the biggest of all I will discuss in my next post). At these moments I knew that I was making progress, albeit very slowly. My counsellor put me onto Mind Gym, a free online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course which is incredibly helpful. I have started to see just how negative and self-bashing many of my thoughts and habits are, and that I produce these thoughts and habits because it’s ‘familiar’.

What really made me feel better was a blessing in disguise – I got fired. (Again).

After I’d finished crying at my dismissal (whole other story), I realised that having a month on gardening leave was a godsend. It was like the other periods of unemployment I’ve had except that the constant fear of “will I make rent?” was kept at bay (although I still attempted to find work throughout the month). 

So while I was trying to find work, I took the time to rest. This time, I did not let myself feel guilty for not working. I did not punish myself for not using the time ‘productively’: staying in instead of going out, watching daytime TV instead of writing my novel. The first two weeks I did nothing but snuggle under blankets, watch movies and read.

And then, in the third week, I realised that the gnawing, ever-present sense of self-loathing, the constant worrying and agitation of longing to be better, had lifted. I felt lighter. I felt … at peace. Emotionally balanced. I was feeling happier than I had in a long time. And my self-esteem was feeling higher than it had in a long time. Things that would’ve upset me before now rolled off me like water off a duck’s back.

I started to feel tiny sparks of motivation. Motivation! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt motivated to do anything except prolong my mornings in bed! I started arranging to see friends for lunch. I went for walks. I finished the crochet elephant I started in June.

I started to remember passions I used to have, subjects of interest, quirks to my personality that had been pounded down. I began to channel it all into new ideas and goals. Goals! I had forgotten or given up on all my goals. As my counsellor had put it, I had been on shutdown.

I went for a walk in Little Venice and, sitting by the canal supping a hazlenut latte, I realised that the Universe had granted me “My Perfect Day”. That is, about a year ago I wrote a description of what my perfect day would be and kept it to meditate upon and pray for. And I had received it! I felt so thankful and so overwhelmingly full of love. I reached for my phone to text my boyfriend “I love you”, but then stopped – and told myself “I love you” instead. It felt wonderful.

Of course, not working is not a long-term solution. Gardening leave came to an end and very fortunately I was able to find a month’s work temping for an ex-employer. So far I have been able to cling onto my rejuvenated self but I do fear, when I find long-term work, whether my spirits will deplete once again or whether I am strong enough to keep my head above water.

But I have learnt some invaluable lessons:

  1. My instincts told me I could recover without anti-depressants this time. I went against medical advice and trusted myself. I was right to do so.
  2. When I am gentle to myself, when I stop thinking “I should do this”, “I must do that”, and give myself what I truly want, I feel really good.
  3. I am right to be fighting for a more fulfilling career.
  4. It is ok to be different.

Thank you for reading, and I will write again soon!

Posted in Depression, Fears, Goals and Passions, Life, Naughty Brain, Self Development, Spirital ponderings, Thinking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

From Diagnosis to Transformation!

Last week my Doctor confirmed the depression diagnosis. To assist, she gave me pills to help with my migraines and chronic insomnia, so on top of the hayfever pills and contraceptive pill that’s 4 pills and 4 squirts of nasal spray a day. My poor body is full of chemicals!

But I plan to recover without anti-depressants this time. I can do this. This time I have all my research behind me and the determination not to let myself go down like that again.

In the spirit of seeing depression as a transformation, yesterday lightning struck that I need a massive overhaul.

I was chatting with my hair stylist – she has been promoted, she has entered a few styling competitions and reached final stages, she is a vegetarian (like me) who invents healthy veggie-filled recipes even though she finishes work at 10pm, she avoids the TV and dedicates herself to drawing and painting.

I found myself asking her for tips – how does she have the energy, how does she find the creativity, how does she have the confidence? She is similar to what I think myself to be – creative, individual, ambitious, a healthy cook. Except, she actually is. I ceased to be some time ago. How long? I began to calculate…

I can link it back to my first round of depression in 2009. I stopped the anti-depressants and the NHS counselling stopped after a 6 week block. But I don’t think I have ever recovered.

Since then my acting dreams have died. I’ve been fired from jobs for lack of enthusiasm. I avoid seeing my friends. I don’t interact with people at work. My clothes are scruffy and ill-fitting because I’ve become so unhappy with my body I can’t find anything that makes me look nice and I can’t afford clothes anyway. Physically and spiritually I completely embody downtrodden and defeated.

I look at peers with money, clothes, entrepreneurial plans and I think “I wish that was me”. Yet they seem another breed – they’re the grown-ups, they’re the ones that can. Somewhere along the line I’ve discerned that I’m not in that group, I’m not clever or confident enough.

I’ve given up. I’ve got no energy anymore. Why? Because I’ve stopped hoping.

Why? Because hoping hurts.  Because, obviously, things never go well for me. I always lose.

You know when you flip a coin, make a bet, guess a winner? I, who consider myself rather psychically attuned, always always always pick the loser. It’s a given, whoever I say will win, will lose.  And I’ve just realised, maybe this is because I wire myself to think “I always lose” and thus I am attuned to losing rather than winning. So BIG important first step: teach myself “I ALWAYS WIN”.

Unfortunately my attempts to find a reasonably priced therapist have been unsuccessful. £125 per session is the lowest quote I’ve had and that was for a provisional (i.e. student or graduate) therapist. I know NHS resources are stretched so I accept they have to let you go once you’re not a threat to yourself. But the help a person needs is so far from over!!!

Who can help us??

Anyway. So I am determined to begin the overhaul. Baby steps with self-forgiveness at every step. I shall keep you posted.

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Depression: My first relapse

I am currently experiencing my symptoms of depression, in what is my first big relapse:

  • I am sleeping really badly
  • I lie in bed at night feeling upset
  • I am increasingly struggling to get out of bed
  • I am getting closer to bunking off work for feeling that I cannot cope
  • I feel upset, then guilty, then that I’m a horrible person, then I cry. THEN…
  • I feel overwhelmed by all the self-defeating thought processes I have. THEN…
  • I feel I have SO much about myself to change. THEN…
  • I cannot see that I have done anything good. THEN…
  • I remember upsetting memories from my past, and feel angry at those who have made it so hard for me to function normally. THEN…
  • I am ashamed and want to keep it all a secret

The overwhelmed part is because through conversations with close friends and my own observations, I have had my eyes opened (which is ALWAYS a positive thing) to all the different ways in which my debilitating fear of things going wrong stops me from living:

  • I am censoring myself creatively – I’m scared of failing
  • I am unhealthily closed off from my friendships – I’m scared of losing my self-reflection time
  • I am terrified I will ruin my relationship – by being terrified he will meet someone better
  • I am despondent about my career – every job option seems flawed, every dream seems impossible. So I don’t do anything, except bitch that I am not doing anything.

But here’s the difference, here’s why I have more hope of recovery this time around.

I know the symptoms now, and I am taking the steps to heal them.

It is different for everybody but here is what is working for me:

  1. I am re-reading a brilliant book on how to survive depression and see it as a positive, life-changing journey. It is called ‘Unstuck’ by James S Gordon
  2. I am taking deep breaths whenever I feel panic rising or tears welling up
  3. I am finding the courage to be open with my boyfriend
  4. I am asking for support from my best friend Ladyface E
  5. I am enquiring into affordable Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). If I can’t, I will contact the counsellor at my GP
  6. I am stepping up the self-compassion and working harder to censor my Unkind Brain
  7. I am changing my perception of depression and trying to approach the challenges I describe above as Big Steps Forward
  8. I am congratulating myself when I keep calm
  9. I am congratulating myself for my strength
  10. I am writing this blog. 

I hope this shows that if you have depression, whether for the first, the second, or tenth time, you are not alone and you always have the strength deep within you to come out the other side. And you WILL emerge with more rewards, more self-compassion, more determination and more wisdom, than you ever thought possible. 

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Just B Silly!

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” — Marilyn Monroe

I stumbled upon this fantastic quote and wanted to share it. Love that Marilyn!

I absolutely stand by this, because I am imperfect, I am quite mad and I do many many ridiculous things such as:

  • Attribute human emotions to my body parts (“my eyes are tired”, “my foot feels happy”)
  • Realise at 4.30pm after 8 hours at work that I forgot to do my hair
  • Wear my shoes on the wrong feet
  • Dream about having a dog one day and dressing him in shades and a bowler hat
  • Forget to zip up my skirt and then it falls down on the tube (yes that happened)

Depending on my mood, I can spot countless women within seconds of leaving my office in Soho who “are better” than me. Prettier faces. Slimmer bodies. Obviously more financially successful than me to have those fancier clothes, and more “together” than me to have gotten up early enough to fix their hair and make-up (I brush my eyebrows. And then put my shoes on the wrong feet). Depending on the extremity of my mood, I can end up teary eyed and feeling unworthy to even look anybody in the eye, for surely I must the ugliest person on the street!

Then once I calm down, I realise it’s all bunkum and the hysteria dissipates. Then I get frustrated with myself for having such a naughty brain, and then FINALLY I get onto the lessons learned, a self-assessment of why this thinking very clearly does NOT serve me:

  1. I think logically: “Self worth shouldn’t remotely be attached to looks, clothes or any external circumstance. Nor to how you measure up against others. It’s to Just B!”
  2. I look at the bigger picture: “After all – beauty, and success for that matter, are subjective, there are millions of different interpretations across every culture, every country and every individual”.
  3. I look at the smaller picture: “Think about my gifts. The unique combination of imperfect, mad and ridiculous that I am, how cool does that makes me!”.
  4. I take a look around me: “Think about everything I have to be grateful for”.
  5. I think practically: “I have a brilliant family, boyfriend and friends who know me and love me just the way I am, so clearly I cannot be as bad as my naughty brain makes out”.
  6. I think spiritually: “What matters most of all is my loving and kind spirit, and I know I have this in abundance. This is the real treasure. This is the real foundation of self worth”.

So, my goal is to alter my concept of my self worth in those moments when I feel it slipping. If I can release the urge to compare, if I can release my attachment to external factors, if I can focus on the strength and beauty within me, it will be an amazing release.

It’s never easy to change a habit of a lifetime but for me, it’s actually rather sensible.

For further inspiration, indeed one of the best articles I have read on self acceptance, let me direct you towards this dude at ‘Shake Off the Grind‘.

 

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Shining a light on the darkness

I read about a depression memoir named ‘Darkness Visible’ by William Styron. I felt inspired and eager to read it, but as I imagined what it would like to write an explicit, warts-and-all memoir of my own experience I felt terrified at the idea.

I realised my fear is this: if I think about it, it might come back.

Why fear this?

  • Because it’s uncontrollable and unpredictable, and it feels impossible to come out of once you’re in.  
  • You just want to lie in the dark and you can’t make yourself stand or undress or eat. The only impulse you have to obey is going to the toilet.  
  • You don’t want the night to come because it’s lonely and you lie hour after hour awake and restless, but you don’t want the morning to come either.  
  • You feel pain all the time. Nothing makes you happy.
  • You don’t want to see anyone. You feel you would have nothing to offer them if they saw you. You feel like a burden and an embarrassment and a failure of a daughter.  
  • You walk in front of a car and hope it will run you down. You hope you don’t wake up. 
  • You have no hope. 
  • You can’t escape.

I want to avoid thinking about it and talking about it, in case I somehow invite it back in.

Because I feel my recovery was a trick I pulled. I don’t understand how I beat it, I just got lucky and escaped, I slipped out the back door when its back was turned. And one day it might realise I duped it and come looking for me. 

Perhaps this is why I have bad dreams, nearly every night, that I am being chased and killed.

Bad things will happen in life, thus I can’t promise myself depression will never come back.

BUT… 

It’s good to confront the things that frighten you.

  • I remember that I got through it before.
  • This time I know the signs to look for.
  • I remember the first step I took to feel better, the second step, the third.
  • I remember who I turned to.
  • I remember the mass of positive experiences as a result of sticking around.
  • I was at the bottom, and I climbed up.

Whether you are suffering, or have suffered from depression – there is a reason for you to keep going. If you keep going, you will discover it.

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Can we talk about money? An open letter to life coaches

With the end of 2010 approaching and a spangly new 2011 on the way, I along with many others am reflecting on the year I’ve had and am gearing up for a new year of renewed energy and fresh ideas to achieve my dreams.

Many self-development writers and bloggers are embracing the ‘New Year’s resolution’ mindset by publishing tips on how to discover your passion and reach for your goals: including taking classes, re-training, trying new things, doing workshops, tests, consulting a life coach, to name just a few.

However I have to ask: What do you do if you don’t have the money?

Money is the brick wall many of us find ourselves staring up at, totally unable to overcome it. I am driven to ask following the recent arrival of the last quarterly energy bill, which caused some serious self-assessment of my finances. It was OUCH.

Being me, it wasn’t enough to sensibly ponder “Ok how do I cover this?”. I threw in a whole slew of self-criticisms to jolly the process along. “You are a grown woman and you have nothing to cover this. You have no savings. You earn a crap wage in a job you hate. You have nothing to show for yourself!”. I make myself feel ashamed in a very unkind (slightly dramatic) fashion.

But although giving up feels like an easier option, I don’t want to give up. My desire for change grows even stronger. So I read every article I see on chasing your dreams, hoping someone will offer some viable options for a goal-seeker on zero budget, but I am left frustrated.

One blogger did at least acknowledge the more financially challenged, but it was a rather limp one-liner: plan what you want to do and save up for it. Right. Well I have a plan. But I have no income left at the end of the month. If I did I wouldn’t have so much debt!

I’m not writing this to bemoan my situation, I know I am a lot more fortunate than many, I am grateful to have a job even though I do not enjoy it.

But, I would love to see some tips for those who dream of pursuing their passions – but are financially restricted.

If I receive any advice, I will gladly share them in a Part 2 to this post.

Alternatively feel free to comment and share any advice or similar experiences.

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Exposing my unkind brain



My best friend, Ladyface E, tells me she wishes there was a button in my head I could simply push to make unnecessary worries go away, or that there was a negative chip which could just be removed.

I have been inspired by a post over at Sofa and the City to be honest today. My brain, at its best, is quick, alert, imaginative and innovative. At worst, it kicks the shit out of me.

I put myself through such utter turmoil. Often I simply cannot enjoy the present moment because I am worrying it might be taken away or ruined somehow, or I’ve just done or said something wrong or bad to ruin it myself! And I am so super scared of getting hurt. Being lied to, or cheated on, or abandoned. Scared that I’ll lose the things that make me happy.

I’ve had my fair share of bad stuff, and having had depression last year I am uber-protective of myself now, but sometimes it is completely unnecessary. My brain scans any meaningful experience or relationship for any possible negative outcome or hurtful scenario so that I cannot be taken by surprise if something bad happens. I will at least be able to say “I saw you coming, you didn’t take me for a fool”.

So I put a dampener on things from the start. And when life is being really sucky, I can feel myself slip into hopelessness, all my good efforts become undone, my grip on my equilibrium becomes shaky and quick as a flash out come the insecurities stronger than ever to taunt me and suddenly there’s clues all around me that indeed I am being lied to, or that I am going to get hurt.

And then, as though that’s not enough, I bully myself. I call myself stupid for doing it, I clobber myself with guilt that anyone else may have suffered from my actions, because I am not a stronger person, and I torture myself with paranoia that said others may just about have had enough of me this time.

Recognition is the first leap in the road to recovery and once you know what your silly brain is up to, you can work on taking ownership for your thoughts. You can catch the unhelpful thought in the act, and then refuse to give it credence. Often when you sit down with a bad thought and ask it where it comes from and whether it would care to justify itself, it looks a bit embarrassed and woefully admits that actually it has no basis in logic or fact but is either totally imagined, or a defence mechanism from a long-ago event which it has been clinging onto for lack of reevaluation.

But if you’re going to eradicate these bad thoughts, you need to do it genuinely. Not, as I sometimes do, just bottle it up and hope it wanders off on its own accord. My emotions read all over my face so pretending I’m fine when I have a bad thought or anxiety in my head never, ever works. It is hard to change the way you think, and it frustrates me how quick my brain is and how slow I am to catch it.

But it takes as long as it takes. The key is understanding where it comes from, then questioning whether it is actually true or relevant, and then giving yourself added support in the area that feels lacking so the ill-guided defense mechanism is no longer needed.

In writing all this, while I am still wishing I didn’t have such a powerful force to grapple with, I can also see the good it has accomplished and the knowledge I have acquired in a year. I have become a friend to myself. My self esteem has improved. I have made myself a priority. I have made big steps towards trusting others.

And my goals going forward? To trust more. To stop expecting the world to shit on me. But to realise that I am strong enough if it does.

Posted in Depression, Fears, Life, Naughty Brain, Self Development, Thinking | 9 Comments