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Friday, 23 November 2012

I'm in a cycling mood

I can compare my mood to cycling. Along I go, happy as Larry (I want to meet this Larry by the way as he seems to always be happy), switching my gears up as I get into the swing until KABOOM.
I crashed.
Not only this but my bike is now in a really high gear and it's really difficult to get going again.
This is what life is like.
Along I go, getting more and more into life and enjoying it, until I crash. For some reason I just can't seem to keep myself steady. And it's super hard to pick up the pieces.
My mood cycles round and round like this and I'm sick of it.
Every time I'm on an up, I know I'm going to come down and every time I'm down it's really hard to get back up.
Any suggestions? Anyone?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Giving Up.

No it's not what you think! I'm not a defeatist, honest!
But I have given up a lot of stuff.
I'm a serial 'googler' of pretty much everything so of course I've been 'googling' away to find out anything that might help me to get better.
And giving some stuff up was certainly on the menu.
I am teetotal, I don't smoke and I don't have any caffeine. Straight edge, huh?
I haven't found it at all difficult to give up any of these things. They seem so pointless now.
Being quite the party-animal last year, you'd think I would miss going out on the town and get absolutely shitfaced, but to be honest I am having a better time not drinking. I don't miss the dizziness, lack of control, super-calorific-content, general confusion and hangovers. It all seems a bit pointless to me now.
I'm not saying I'll never drink again, because who knows, but taking this somewhat voluntary but mostly involuntary vow of abstinence has given me a whole new perspective on the matter of alcohol.
I didn't realise just how much it is a part of daily life it is until I wasn't partaking in any of the activities.
It's the same with caffeine. I don't miss it, I don't need it and you can get decaff everything anyway - which is great for me 'cause I love love love espresso and a cup of tea in the morning is the ideal way to start your day.
In terms of the difference made to my life by abstaining from these common drugs, I would say I am healthier. In the long run, I'll be doing my body less damage and in the short term my medication won't get messed up. So it's a win-win for me I guess.

I won't drink alcohol or caffeine if you offer it to me. And that is my choice. I will try anything that might help with my situation because I'm sick of it. I gave them up because one website said it could possibly help. Desperation would be a good way of describing my motives for 'giving up'.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Kate's Trip to the Psychiatrist

Today I had my very first appointment with a psychiatrist.
It went well, I think.
I don't really know what to say about it, to be honest, and I don't know what I got out of it.
I have to go back in January because my symptoms could be down to a range of different problems, so one visit isn't enough. I've also been referred to see a psychologist to see what they say.
It's a waiting game. Again.
I'm not sure how I feel about it to be honest. I feel as though everything I've done over the past few months has been leading up to this appointment and it's been a bit of an anticlimax.
I arrived early just in case I might miss my appointment and waited for a little while before being taken into an interview room.
It was a plain room with a desk and squishy chairs. The chair was a lot squishier than what I'd first anticipated, so when I sat down I landed and then sunk downwards quickly, causing my stomach to jolt a bit. Then the interview began. I felt like I had to say the right things and wasn't sure if I was.
We talked about how I had been feeling and I pretty much read off printed-out pages of this blog, because it's so hard to phrase on the spot.
Before I knew it, an hour had passed and the interview was over.
After speaking to one more consultant for a little while, it was decided that the best course of action was to carry on my medication as it is and come back in January for another assessment.

Waiting. I hate it.
Of course I am perfectly happy to queue, as all British people are, because you know that somewhere ahead of you is the end of the line and you will get there.
But waiting for this is horrible. I just can't seem to get a straight answer.
I know it's better to wait and get an accurate diagnosis but at the same time I feel as though I'm just getting worse and worse as time goes on.
Hopefully things will get better.
I've got you guys, my readers, if you're out there! I'm going to need you while I wait in limbo, neither cured nor diagnosed. I'll keep posting if you'll keep reading and I'll get through this - in theory. In practice is a whole different kettle of fish.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Anxiety

Here's a whistle-stop tour of anxiety from my point of view, that view being the driving seat (as opposed to the passenger seat or back seat - i.e. doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists etc.).

Anxiety can be defined as an overwhelming feeling of worry, fear, paranoia and stress. Everyone will experience some anxiety at some point in their lives, but the anxiety I refer to is much more serious than just getting stressed every now and then. I will describe the actual feeling of an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms


Mental:

  • constant worry and fear for no obvious reason
  • trouble concentrating - making it through a normal length television show is even a challenge
  •  feeling on edge, tense and alert, like you need to be ready because something bad is about to happen
  • irritable - everything can get on your nerves: people, things not going the way you want to, etc.
  • restless - you can't sit still and often will have a nervous tremor. I find I have the shakes a lot or I tap my foot incessantly without realising
  • nightmares
  • a feeling of being trapped
  • mind blanks - my mind goes blank mid-sentence and I completely forget what I was saying. I also experience some memory loss, for example I can struggle to remember what happened yesterday or last week.
  • need for constant reassurance and being dependant on others - it's easy to become to reliant on friends because you can't deal with things on your own. I find that I latch onto someone very easily and change my dependence to other people very easily, like a child would when looking for parental figures.
  • obsession with trivial things, such as feelings and emotions
  • hypochondria - feeling that your symptoms mean you have a serious health problem
  • feeling that people do not like you or want you around
  • guilt for feeling the way you do, leading to crazy arguments with yourself for a) having a problem b) feeling guilty about said problem and c) telling yourself off for blaming yourself for the problem
  • easily startled or surprised because you are always on edge so the smallest thing can send you into shock and a panic attack

Physical:

  • increased heart rate - my chest feels tight and I am constantly aware of my pulse rate. I worry that it's too fast, which makes me more nervous and exacerbates the problem
  • faster breathing because you feel like you can't breathe
  • slow immune system - because your body is in 'fight or flight' mode, your immune system does not have priority meaning you get ill much more easily
  • slow digestive system - the same as above. I have irritable bowel syndrome, which is most likely because my body has it's focus elsewhere
  • tensed muscles - blood flow to major muscle groups is increased making them tense because your body thinks it needs to be prepared
  • frequent headaches because of increased blood pressure and excess adrenaline
  • recurrent nausea, again because of the body's response to your anxiety
  • pallor - skin goes pale which makes me look ill and generally unhealthy all the time. This is at it's worst when I have a panic attack.
  • trembling or shaking because of high blood pressure and adrenaline. This makes simple tasks like writing very challenging.
  • sweating because the body is preparing to deal with a threat
  • fatigue from not sleeping/sleeping too much/never sleeping deeply - the feeling of exhaustion is horrific, because you  desperately want to rest but you can't.
  • mydriasis - pupil dilation, which makes you feel dizzy and like you can't see properly


I have described the feeling of true anxiety as best I can here and I cannot stress enough how awful it really feels. I will usually be experiencing a lot of these symptoms at one time and when things are really bad, it is likely that I will experience all of them.
I find it interesting that anxiety can be so physical, as it is a mental illness. There is a lot of preconception and misjudgement of mental illnesses and I hope by describing mine in detail here that you will begin to truly understand what it is like from the point of view of us, the people who suffer from such things, and not from the medical or psychological side.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Just Say No.

Today I took a day off. And I feel no remorse, even though I missed some stuff and let some people down.
Sometimes you have to prioritise yourself (I've mentioned this before) and it's no use pushing yourself too far because in the long term it's damaging.
I spent today wrapped in my duvet watching films. And it was glorious.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to say 'no', but you've just gotta do it!
No, I will not buy your overpriced sofa.
No, I will not claim back my PPI.
No, I will not accompany you to the bathroom because you need me to use the hand-dryer while you pee.
You get the point.
I am officially starting the 'Just Say No' campaign.
Try it once in a while.
Obviously you can't be completely selfish and say 'no' to everything but saying 'yes' most of the time definitely earns you a few bonus 'no's'.
Just do it.
Say 'no'.
Yes?

Ah, nearly got you there!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Sad Life of a Window Display.

Window displays are the life and soul of a shop. Without them we simply could not judge what the true contents of the shop might be. You would never dare to enter a shop before checking out what they offer, lest some unknown product be forced on you with no warning, tempting you with it's unknown qualities. No, it is far more safe to stop before shopping and try before you buy, particularly with all these economic crises.
A window display can inform you of the shops contents, tempt you into the shop or even put you off if it's not to your taste. A lot of time and effort will be put in to ensure maximum efficiency in the window displays job.
However, we never stop to think what it might be like to be that window display. There is sits for a while, being appreciated by a few passers by, ignored by others and sneered at by some disapproving shoppers. Then it goes out of fashion and is shoved aside to make room for the new and exciting stuff which will take it's place. And then what? The life of that display is spent, and it disappears from sight and memory.
I feel like my mind is a window display: observed by some, purposefully ignored by others and sometimes just not noticed at all.
There I sit in my allocated window pane, being examined by the masses who pass by. Some will stop and stare for a while, and might even be of some company, but mostly it's a quick glance and walk on by.
Around me sits variety of things, all of which can only be described as piles of crap. Yes, crap. All my crap is strewn about for all the world to see, but that's fine because most people don't notice anyway.
Sometimes a passer by might take pity on me, stuck behind a window in a big pile of rubbish and offer me a hand out. Unfortunately, my display is due to stay for a while, so unless they went through the complicated process of speaking to a shop assistant, then a supervisor and a store manager and so on, it's pretty pointless to try. Though the gesture is appreciated.
No, I am doomed to sit in this crap until someone decides it's about time there was a new display.
I can't just get up and walk away from it, because the doors are locked and the glass is thick and sort of like that glass where you can see in but I can't see out. I'm trapped.
The metaphor here, in case you didn't guess, is me feeling isolated from the world with nothing seeming to be able to reach me and help me out. Except the shop assistants with their magical key and knowledge of the best way to dress a display for maximum public interest. When they finally decide it's about time to change my window display, I will be free.
But then what?
What about all my piles of crap?
As much as they are a burden, they are still mine and I cannot simply abandon them. I have to take them with me, until I am ready to let go.

Translated, this analogy refers to the extreme loneliness one feels when depressed. You cannot see a way out and feel completely trapped. You also feel like nobody really cares, even though you've laid it all out for everyone to see. But there is a glimmer of hope. There are some days that aren't so bad, and you can see that there are people there: friends, doctors, anyone. And this is what you must hold on to while you sit, buried in your problems.

Then there's the other side of the window. The side where you can only look in. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing myself in the window, but I'm not really there. I can view the problems and the crap but I can't get to it because it's locked in the tiny display room.
Again I feel isolated and empty, because I have been separated from my problems. You would think this would be a good thing, and that it would give me a break to not always have to carry them around, but it isn't. In a way they have become a security blanket and something for me to hide behind.
If I can't access my problems, then I can't resolve them, so I must either be trapped with them, or live knowing they are constantly there behind the glass of the window.

The shop window is just another mechanism I have created in order to keep up appearances and look either fine or not. Whether you as a shopper wants to take an interest in this is up to you. My problems are not your problem but you may view them if you wish and you can offer a hand when I'm trapped in the window. But eventually you will have to walk on by, for there are many windows on a street and many people that are trapped, and you cannot choose to prioritise one over another, no matter how well laid out a particular display is.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

It's not a dream.

Dreaming is activity that everyone will partake in at some point in their lives, even if they don't know it. While we rest our bodies, our mind processes all those day to day things into important stuff and junk, much like sorting through your e-mails. You sift through, selecting some that are definitely rubbish, reading and checking others just in case there's some important piece of information in there before you send it into the unknown realm of the 'deleted' section of cyberspace. Our minds jump around, forming patterns and stories from the past days events, so that we can process them more easily. In other words, we relive our day through some kind of virtual movie. Or something.
I don't think you can fully explain dreams, like why we have them or what they mean, but it seems sensible to assume that they have a purpose, otherwise they wouldn't exist.
But when is a dream not a dream?
Have you ever had a dream so realistic that you wake up and feel confused about what happened in it and have feelings and emotions which don't correlate with your current life pattern? Most people can say that this has happened to them, and I am certainly one of them.
So, when this occurs should we take note and wander what on earth it means? Is it a sign of some kind? Or did our brains simply not have enough time during sleep to sort out all those memories into important stuff and junk?
We will never know - and that's a bit scary.
Sometimes I wake up and my dreams are still there in the forefront of my mind and I can't seem to just let go. It's these times when I have to be extra careful or I'll lose my grip on reality.
When I'm asleep I can do anything: run, jump and even fly. I can say whatever I want and think whatever I want and nobody can stop me because it's my own private universe with all my own rules.
Being suddenly yanked from that state of bliss when waking is unsettling. That's a understatement.
Sleep is the only time that I can just be me, without any mask or stalker or colour to label my mood. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want without fear, because nothing is real, so nothing matters.
When a dream is so vivid it's possible to think that it's not a dream when you wake up.
When that happens, it's like my body is in the real world but my mind is not. It's still dreaming, and in dreamland I am Queen. I can do anything.
This is dangerous.
Because I can't do anything and everything I want. Life restricts me.
Sometimes I'll say the wrong thing and put my foot in it, so to say, without even realising it. The things around me appear different to normal, and I can't seem to place them properly, like when you miscount the stairs and there's that moment where your foot hasn't landed on a step when you expected and your stomach jolts. I see things that aren't there and hear things which didn't sound.
Does this make me crazy or just really bad in the mornings?
I don't know.
According to experts this is called 'Dissociation', which is a coping mechanism used subconsciously by people with anxiety problems, causing them to detach themselves from reality in order to avoid a negative situation.
Sounds legitimate to me.
But I still wander: what if everyone is wrong, and my dream world is the real one, not this one where I am ruled by laws and expectations instead of my own judgement. How do I know that I'm not in a nightmare when I'm awake, and I'm living when I'm asleep?
Again, I don't know.
I just find it interesting that your mind can be awake when your body is asleep, but it can't be the other way around: the body is the dream and the mind is reality.
There are some things in the world that we cannot explain, and I don't believe it's always wise to pursue ultimate knowledge. Some things are better left unsaid and undiscovered. Dreams are one such example. To pursue something which is not real is surely just encouraging an existence in the unknown and the unreal, which promotes that unhealthy state of dissociation.
I do enjoy that state, because I feel so free, but too much freedom leads to misjudgement and over-confidence, a luxury which is not worth the consequences.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Getting Help.


Here goes another fabulous analogy.
Getting help is like the process of finding your favourite band.
First of all, you look at all the people around you and see what they like. Most of the time people like to fit in somehow, and music taste can be one such way. We compare our tastes to everyone else's and then determine the best path to musical popularity. Perhaps rock music is in, so you listen to rock. But sometimes it's cool to not listen to what everyone is listening to, so you find a group of people that do that and follow them instead. Either way, you will most likely find a particular band or artist that you come to really like.
You might then decide to go and purchase some of their music, watch their music videos and maybe follow their personal lives too via television and the Internet. You get the know them a bit and learn more about what they are like.
After that, you may have come to like them so much that it's time to take another step forward: face to face meeting. Well, that's difficult with famous types, so a concert will have to do. You find out the date of the concert and anxiously wait by your computer for the ticket sales to go live - gotta get in there before they sell out!
Finally the tickets are out and the mad rush begins. You battle through the slow-loading pages on the ticket site, waiting in queues of other people who are also trying to get their hands on those much coveted tickets. One ridiculously large booking fee later and you're in; you have the tickets.
The wild excitement and thrill: you are finally going to see 'insert band name here' live!
Next you begin the long wait for the actual date, fantasising about what the concert will be like. Which songs will they play? What will their outfits be like? Will there be any surprises?
You might even keep up with the speculations about the event in music magazines and online.
It's the day of the concert.
You get dressed in the appropriate genre for your chosen band.
You set off early because you simply cannot wait any longer.
You arrive at the venue; you can barely contain your excitement.
There's a massive queue to get in but that doesn't phase you. You will get to this concert and all your dreams will be fulfilled. At the door you are examined for any disallowed objects (i.e. booze you haven't bought there so they make maximum profit) and finally you are in! You're here! You can see the stage, the actual stage, that 'band name here' will perform on.
Determined to get the best possible view, you begin making your way through the crowd. Everyone is restless waiting for the concert to begin, so you find you have to push and force your way through. For some reason you seem to be the shortest and most delicate person there, and your choice of ballet pumps now seems foolish and your toes get repeatedly stood on. But never mind that you're halfway there! Just a bit further and you will be right next to the stage.
The concert begins and you are still stuck behind some six-foot-and-quite-a-bit guy, who must do rugby or something because he's the width of a bus. You shove your way through. You must see this band.
More pushing, a bit of bruising, a broken bag from it getting caught on someone and a lost earring later and you're there at the front. The band is right in front of you. Living the dream, eh?
Well, yes - even though you're being crushed to death by the excited crowd behind you and some girl is screaming so loud you can't hear those vocal harmonies you love so much. No,wait, it's not good. You've been fooled by excitement and agitation and you realise that this you feel awful being crushed and screamed to death.
It's not what you expected. You are distressed and you don't feel safe. You try to clutch your possessions close and keep all limbs tucked in to avoid more serious injury.
Just as you think you will have to leave because it's all too much, you look up, and your favourite band member is kneeling in right front of you on the stage. They hold out their hand. You can't believe it. You are pulled up on stage and meet every band member and dance with them and you are overwhelmed and happy and all those good emotions. The adrenaline rush is incredible; they picked you! But you can't really stay there for the full gig so you take the only possible route back into the crowd: jump and surf.
Hands reach up and catch you and you float along feeling free and weightless with your favourite song playing. You have had the best night of your life.
The next day or week or even month you are still buzzing from that night, and for the rest of your life you always remember that night when you saw that band playing. Or if you're feeling down you remember how good you felt jumping from the stage and being caught instead of falling.
That concert changed your life.

Comparing this to getting help, you ask? Well, it's quite simple really. It takes fecking ages but when you do get it's bloody fantastic.
You need determination, drive, strength, will and all those sorts of things to get through all  the complex systems and see the right people. All those things people with depression don't have. How convenient.
Right now I've got my ticket but I haven't been to the concert yet. I'm in for the long haul and the queues and crowds in front of me are bigger and more daunting than you can ever imagine.
But (there's always a but isn't there?) it's not that scary for me. And for a good reason.
This is a shout out to everyone who has helped me so far. I can't name you because I haven't asked, but to my family: your endless love and support, even though you are so far away, is felt deep in my heart and I love you all to the moon and back a thousand million times; to my close friends, who are there for me physically and emotionally everyday; and to everyone who has said something supportive, asked me how I am and meant it or even smiled at me: thank you. You are my crowd. Instead of pushing through, you are allowing me to surf to that stage and meet the band. And I know that when I need to leave the stage, you will all be there waiting to catch me.


One final mention. This person has done more for me than I deserve. She is the best friend I have ever known, and she can't even imagine how much she means to me. Without her, I would be lost in the depths of depression. One smile and I know everything is going to be fine. One word and all my troubles are lifted off my shoulders.
To Katy, thank you is not enough.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Am I a Superhero?

Everybody wears a mask. It's the face we put on for whatever the situation might require; there's the 'I'm-talking-to-someone-more-important-than-me-therefore-must-be-polite' mask, which we use for our boss or teacher or parents when we're in trouble, for example. Everybody needs a mask to get by in society, or we would be outcasts. Having your moody mask on whilst out on a dinner date or your fun and excitable mask on at a funeral are two such examples that are not acceptable, even if those are our feelings at the time. We need to be accepted, be liked, hide our emotions and we sometimes need to lie and deceive people. Without our masks we would be bare and naked, with our emotions laid out for the world to see, and most people are not prepared for this vulnerability.I am an extreme example of this. If you met me, you would never guess that I suffer from depression. I am upbeat and chatty and generally very likeable (so I'm told).
I have created a mask so flawless that even I sometimes can't tell I'm wearing it. It has been a way for me to hide from all the emotions I have boxed up for so long and a way to hide the fact that I've got those kinds of emotions from other people.
I'm a well known gossip-er and know-er of everyone elses business. I even gossip about my own business. However, the true me, the one with all the feelings and mushy rubbish, is hidden away and not many people have seen this i.e. me when I'm not wearing a mask.
So far it's been a very effective way for me to hide from the fact that I'm not fine and that there are problems that I need to resolve. But even though I've accepted this now, I still can't seem to get rid of my mask.
It's not necessarily a negative thing, because it allows me to function normally and socialise and such; but at the same time I feel as though it's causing me to bottle up everything that bothers me, increasing the pressure on my already exhausted emotinal side. 
I like to think that this makes me like a superhero. Superheroes never complain and are always prepared to drop all their plans to come to the rescue. They deal with every situation presented to them and always come out on top. Nobody knows their true indentity, except a select few. Their personal lives are completely disrupted by all the saving they have to do of course, but at any time could they choose to stop and lead a normal life? No. You can't run from destiny.
So why do they hide who they are? Why not just say 'Hey everyone, I am Superman. Deal with it'? Well the baddies would find out of course! And then everyone associated with them would be in danger.
Superheroes have no choice but to put on that mask, save the day, and pick up the pieces of their real lives later.
That's what it feels like to me.
I have to hide who I am to protect the people around me. I don't want them to see me when I'm not alright so they don't have to deal with it. I don't want to be a burden on other peoples lives.
But it takes a lot of strength to keep the mask up when emotions are furiously bubbling up under it, the same way that it takes a lot of strength for Superman to lift up a bus to save the child trapped under it. It's getting to that point where I can't keep it up anymore, and sometimes the emotions leak through, and the mask has become cracked and worn. People can tell that there's something not quite right about the way I am.
It's like that bit in a Superhero movie where they've fallen in love and all the mysterious disappearances at the same time as Superman showing up somewhere start to give the game away.
In the end, the girl always finds out the true identity of who they thought was a normal guy, and she always wants to be with him anyway, despite all the danger.
Is it the same for me? If I remove my mask completely will people still like me and still want me around?
If not, well quite frankly you can feck off. You either take me as the full package or don't take me at all.
I am Superwoman. Deal with it.