Mental Illness – a note

Sometimes the whole topic of mental health overwhelms me (somewhat ironically), but here’s a note on it – or rather, what I’ve learned so far:

It is valid to be struggling with the events happening around you, or to be adjusting to a major change (or constant continuous ones). It’s valid to be struggling with something that isn’t ‘as bad’ as what you have seen or heard others deal with previously. It’s valid to miss someone you lost more than a month, year, years after they passed. It’s valid to feel alone sometimes (or a lot of the time) or to just ‘not feel okay’.

However much (or little) or often you seem to be struggling, it’s valid. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have an illness per se and that you have to validate your experience with a (somewhat stigmatised) label.

Of course, maybe you’ve been struggling for a while and have taken the courage to see a doctor for help. Maybe, like me, that’s how it first started (all those years ago). Maybe the doctor has explained that actually for some reason your brain isn’t responding as it should be right now and it does in fact need adjusting. That’s valid too. And so is everything in between.

Ultimately, it’s a huge (and complicated) spectrum. Though it’s also quite simple. It’s called health, and it’s called surviving – perhaps based on the combination of biology and the circumstances that we are given. We are all unique. Some of us are also brave (even though we believe we’re weak) and so..

This is to all the brave ones who aren’t afraid to admit how much this cruel beautiful world affects us sometimes. Even if you never say it out loud. This is to all the brave ones who don’t necessarily relate completely but who are still willing to understand (and help us more than they’ll ever know). This is to all the brave ones who take on helping others whilst battling demons of their own, and the ones who try their best to not let their own battles interfere with the people they care about the most, as well as the people around them. This is to the brave ones who have once given up or had set backs, but who still pick themselves up and keep going, even when they think they can’t. This is to the brave ones who never made it out of their struggle in this life, but who have unknowingly given us the strength everyday to fight, and a reason to make a change in how ‘mental illness’ is perceived.

Because things are changing. Look around you (or at your news feed), we may all be going about it in different ways, but after World Mental Health Day this much is clear: We all may or may not be ill or okay, say all the time, but one thing IS for sure, and that fellow reader, is that we’re definitely, definitely not alone.

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Hey, I’m back. Here’s a post about neglecting stuff

Hello? Is there anybody out there?? *creeps out from cave*

Ok, I couldn’t resist a dramatic opening like that seeing as I LITERALLY feel like I’m one of those characters in a film who’s been living in a cave on a mountain or on a hidden beach somewhere, away from civilisation, and has no idea what time or even what year it is and has finally made the decision to make contact with the outside world again and get on top of their life (and appearance). Ok, so that may have been a tad extreme, (and I do have a hair cut booked soon fyi), but in all honesty it’s not too far from how I feel. Because both me and this seemingly fictional character I have just made up, which, thinking about it, don’t actually think is from any film (maybe it was a dream?) have one thing in common. We’ve neglected stuff.

Just like this person – let’s call them Clarence – Clarence in this cave and I, have neglected – well, everything pretty much (but let’s go with the parallels of Clarence’s existence and this little blog of mine here). We got to a point where we’d neglected the world – or, in my case, a passion, for so long, that the gardens of time overgrew (much like Clarence’s beard I would imagine), so much so that we thought that it was going to be more and more pointless to go back to, so we just didn’t. Until now.

Turns out, unlike an aloe Vera plant (seriously, no water and two baby shoots have turned into an attack of the triphids in a matter of weeks), a blog IS something that needs maintaining. It’s a bit like making a stand for something, wanting a change and then just putting it to one side and never actually doing it. Apart from anything, as well as the whole thing being completely unproductive, you also look like a bit of a fool. ‘Oh hey, remember me when I said I was going to share my mental health journey? I know I only blog once in a blue moon anyway and this time I haven’t properly in a year but I’m back again’. Seriously. I’ve thought ‘How can I go back to something and expect people to carry on reading when I have given up on it myself?’ I’ve thought sometimes about what IS actually stopping me from opening up my laptop, and just writing something. Something relatable. It’s not like I’m out of ideas (at least, if the notes on my phone are anything to go by). So what is it? Laziness? Procrastination? Lack of motivation? The whole ‘what is even the point anyway’? Now as well as the last couple being classic symptoms of the ol’ depression, I’ve come to realise that this is pretty normal when faced with something you feel passionate about maintaining.

Just like a job, a social life, your skin’s PH balance, your cat’s worming treatment, your interest free periods on credit cards, a healthy diet, a positive bank balance – it all takes work, and it all takes time. And because time unfortunately is not infinite (well, in that hours go by to a point where the day ends), it’s actually really hard to maintain everything, all at the same time. Especially when things don’t go as they expect. You have new things to sort out and yes- maintain, and it all kinda gets a bit hectic and before you know it, things are slipping and you feel like all you’re getting on top of is a giant rock you fancied standing on when taking a nature walk the other day.

Thing is, whatever the reasons, we do slip up. We’re human. We do forget to pay that credit card bill that we forgot to set up a direct debit for, and we do miss that deadline for that job application we forgot to bookmark, and we do accidentally forget our nephew’s birthday, or our cat’s follow up check up at the vets. More than that, we’re so preoccupied doing the vital maintenance tasks, that we forget the background ones. You know, that ‘been meaning to do that’ stuff that you just never get around to doing but actually really kinda care about? I don’t know, like sorting out the linen cupboard or backing up your photos on your phone to some overpriced cloud product or colour-coding your wardrobe, or cleaning out the goldfish bowl (Do people still have gold fish?) – you get the idea. Whatever it is, you’ve neglected it and it’s making you feel like poo. You’ve neglected the idea of it, the responsibility of it, the thought of doing it, needless to say – you’re not doing it. More specifically, you’re not maintaining it. It’s not something you do that once it’s done that’s it, it requires constant maintenance, like your eyebrows (or the above examples). You have to do it again and again.

I know I’m rambling (I’m out of practice, okay?!) but I think what I’m trying to say is this: Sometimes life gets hard, and it becomes harder to keep afloat with all this maintenance lark. Sometimes life throws lots of things at you all at once, and you find yourself in situations you could only ever imagine in your wildest nightmares. Sometimes you let your emotions get the better of you and don’t react in the way that is going to benefit you (or anyone) in the long run. You’ll lose people. You’ll gain some, only to find that you lose them after a while as well. Sometimes life does make you question your priorities and your purpose (who doesn’t like a good existential crisis?), and after turning on the news sometimes, who wouldn’t want to give up and go live in a cave like Clarence? But this is what I’m learning: The only thing that’s stopping you from doing all this upkeep, isn’t the world, or a certain situation, it’s your perspective on it -them. And yes, it could also be that you’re teetering under the waves of depression, and your anxiety is making you put things off, but all the more reason to fight, right?

So before you start questioning your sanity (or after, in my case), and start thinking about giving up completely on something you feel passionate about, change your perspective. Go try a meditation shower, or go for a walk or a drive. Stop letting go (unless it’s the past), and take back control, because it’s likely the very thing that is going to give you a purpose again, or at least make you feel on top of things, is the thing you’re putting off the most – making it all the more important to do.

Also, if it does feel like some monumentous daunting task, it’s ok to be scared. Scared you’ll feel a fool, or scared that it’ll be hard or take too much time or won’t make any difference anyway. Remember that cheese ball quote from Cinderella Story – ‘don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game’? Yeah, that. Acknowledge the fear and all these other negative feelings and let them leave. Go back to your place in the game (it doesn’t have to be baseball), because everyone’s waiting at the table and contrary to what you might think, you’re not on ‘miss a turn’.

It’s the start of week 2 of 2018, and if you’re going to have ANY resolutions this year – realistic ones – maybe get started on those background maintenance tasks. Because if anything’s going to make you feel on top of your life right now (or bring you out of a cave), it’s a fricking maintenance task. Do it, trust me. Let’s get this ball rolling again (or dice), because let’s face it, we all know we can.

Don’t be a Clarence.

Lori.
P.S. Hi I’m back

SCREW YOU MENTAL ILLNESS, SCREW YOU UNIVERSE

I’ve had to reconsider about ten times how to go about this post. I ideally want to be informative, share my feelings in a calm yet entertaining fashion whilst not getting upset or hinting for sympathy or attention.  To be honest I don’t know if I’m even gonna hit one of those things this time. This time is different.

This post, in short: mental illness sucks. Literally. It sucks the life out of you. Out of the person it affects directly, and it sucks the life out of everything around that person. Indirectly. Even when you lose someone you care about to it, and think you’ve finally won the battle with it yourself, BAM it’s back – like an unwelcome guest at the door with leaflets. Except it doesn’t just want to talk to you on your porch and give you some crap to read later, it barges right on through, throws all the leaflets on the floor and starts setting fire to them, whilst doing a contemporary war dance in the middle of your carpet and smashing all the windows in the process – all before you can even work out who on earth would do such a thing. I’ll tell you who – Mr Mental Illness.

Even the name annoys me. The fact that the word ‘mental’, implies to people, that you may actually be that – mental (and not in a good way). So you’re not just ill. You’re MENTAL-ly ill. Like being disabled. Why does it matter where? Stick the word ‘mental’ in front of it and hooray – humans have created yet another box to fit our ever-evolving society into. (Sorry you are going to have to bear with my cynicism with this one).

Right, so the point of this post. I’m not too sure if I’m honest. Indeed, all the life has been sucked out of me. Indirectly, this time (unless you count tonsillitis, but we’re not talking physical illnesses here) because the person who has been taken from me this time is my parent (you now, the remaining living one). Like, it wasn’t enough for the universe to give my dad his fair share of mental illness and finish him off, it just had to go and give my mother a taster too. Every now and again. i.e. When I was an embryo. When I was 11. When I was 15. When I was 19.  I’ve lost count now I’m in my 20’s but it’s happening annually now. Literally every year. Sometimes she doesn’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late and I get back to see her frantically searching for any fragments of her soul. I get it, I do. I get how people are more susceptible than others to depression and anxiety, bio polar and schizophrenia and I’ve heard horror stories. I also get how people suffer in different ways. They get physical things like cancer and heart disease or a severe but ridiculously rare disease at birth that inhibits their quality of life. And it’s sh*t. I know it is. We know it is. For some reason, these things exist in this world and we all just have to struggle through it and just love and support each other the best we can. Respect what we don’t understand. Help when we do. Create beautiful moments whilst we can, make the most out of a life, our lives. Play ignorant if we have to.

I’ve just realised why this post doesn’t have a point and the reason is because I’M TOO ANGRY TO SEE ONE. I’m angry that my mum, like so many others, has done nothing in her life to deserve this amount of suffering. Not only that, I’m tired of it. I’m tired fighting the healthcare system to get the ‘help’ that she needs. That we need. I haven’t had a mother for over 2 months now as she’s quite literally lost in her own mind (think Willow’s girlfriend after she’s hexed by Gloria) and she can’t find a way out on her own. And unless a powerful witch with a vendetta on us has made such as curse, I’m utterly helpless to get her out of it. I need reinforcements. Professional, specialised, psychiatric reinforcements. You know, I get the whole thing with the GP ‘here’s some different pills, see how you go’. Yeah it works. If you’re a teenager, or whatever your age really and you just believe that these pills will help you – and great sometimes they do. But this is NOT the appropriate treatment when THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR OVER FIFTEEN YEARS, periodically without a known cause WITH THE SAME GP. Like do they not read the notes? Do they honestly think, in their professional opinion that changing to a (low) dose of another antidepressant will actually give an improvement, given the history? I mean maybe they do. They know what they’re doing right?

All I know is this: since beginning of July, I’ve lost my mum completely. Like her body’s walking around (when she makes it out of bed), with perhaps a remnant of her soul, but she is all for intents and purposes, gone. Like that little boy describes in that book/ film ‘Room’. He was five. Again. So you’d think, that maybe just maybe, the GP would recognise this as a crisis (they like to use that word a lot actually) and you know, email a quick referral over to the secondary care team, for a lady with a strong severe history of depression who needs urgent care – and perhaps give her diff meds to try in the meantime. I mean, maybe if Labour were in power this would happen, but we’re a long long way from that sadly. I’ll share with you how this went, to at least give some purpose to this post..

So early stages – my mum arranged a telephone appointment with her GP. He changed her to an alternative antidepressant (a low, maintenance dose though). We had about 10 days of this pointless and basic antidepressant (compared to what she’s used to anyway) that personally made me feel like sh*t when I had it, so I personally wasn’t holding out any hope. But hey, these people know what they’re doing, right? She then deteriorated. Couldn’t do her birthday present with me. I then got another appointment, with someone with a ‘special interest’ in Mental Health, who decides to do blood tests and gave her more tablets if she wanted to up the dosage herself. Further deterioration 2 weeks later. Blood tests get done, and after pushing for an actual face to face GP appointment as opposed to a phone call, the GP FINALLY does an ‘urgent’ referral and tells my mum to do things to get her up and out of this ‘rut’. At least we had the referral. Great. 2 days later and my mum has missed a call. I use my CSI skills and ring back to ask if they can call me instead – they need my mum’s permission, fine ‘yeah sure we’ll call you Lorraine if we can’t get through’. My mum gets another missed call. An hour later, I call back again, only to get stopped at security again, or more specifically, confidentiality. So after an upsetting scene where my mum was actually traumatised when I said someone on the phone wanted to speak to her again, she manages to give her consent and we’re back on track. She even does an over the phone assessment (I’ll have to say to her how brave this was of her when she’s better) and the outcome? An appointment with a psychiatrist in 28 days.

28 days. So another month. Of this. Literal suffering. Why? Because she’s not actively trying to take her own life. Passively maybe, but they don’t care about that. So obviously this makes me angry as well. I’m angry that that is the only scale they have to go by. I’m angry that people will probably lie and say they ARE suicidal just to get an earlier appointment. I’m angry that the reason the waiting list is so long for someone who isn’t able to survive on their own, is because of political reasons leading to financial cut backs in the NHS. I’m angry that EVERY time this happens to her, I, and now her husband to be, have to witness her grasping for air at the bottom of a bell jar Sylvia Plath style. I’m angry that in the weeks leading up to this final stage, I have to witness her questioning her own abilities into whether she can handle what’s happening. The woman who’s meant to be the strongest I know. And she is. But she falls anyway. It’s fine coz someone’s here to catch her. But 3-4 months of her precious life is stolen, some professional gets the right antidepressant to work temporarily, only for the SAME thing to happen again. For the GP to skip the notes AGAIN, up the dosage of the current tablets, then change them, then failing that refer her, if we’re lucky. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET IN AND STAY IN THE SECONDARY CARE SYSTEM?! I’m exhausted. My mum’s exhausted. My step dad’s exhausted. We’re all f*cking exhausted. (Except me who’s exhausted AND angry – not a good combo, fyi). Meanwhile, life goes on and we continue to deal with the every day sh*t and pettiness IN ADDITION to the nightmare going on in broad daylight at home. So yes, I’m angry, (and small angry people are the worst).

You know what angers me most though, and this is really selfish of me I know, but I’m past caring. I’m angry at the universe. Like, seriously, you with all your planets and beauty and nature and sh*t thinking you’re all that – one parent wasn’t enough eh? You just HAVE to go and keep taking my mother and my best friend as well? Well you know what, screw you. My mum may have given up fighting but I sure haven’t. It may not even be depression but I sure as hell won’t let it beat us. It might nearly destroy me in the process – hell I can’t look after myself properly half the time (literally off work on antibiotics writing this) but one think I know for sure is that we will come out the other side. AND STAY THERE. Honestly, I’ll be damned if I’m losing another parent, to not just mental illness, but our healthcare system. IT AINT HAPPENING BRO.

So yeah, slight angry post I wrote there. (Alright Yoda I hear you say). And all is not lost – of course I found a loop hole with her work health care and have a consultant secretary calling me back tomorrow. But you know what, I’ll be damned if I lose my ability to make light of this situation. Because, once you lose your mojo, your sense of humour – even your sass (heaven forbid), is there really any point, to anything?

Thank you for listening. This is the therapy I need right now.

Lori.