On climbing out of a hole

When I tell people how happy I am now, how different things are to how they were last year sometimes they ask me how I did it.

I wish I knew. There’s no magic solution, and to be honest I don’t think I am recovered, but still recovering. It takes time, lots of time.

This post deals with how I personally have dealt with depression and got myself out of the “hole.” This is not medical or professional advice, in fact it’s not even advice – these methods may or may not be helpful for other people, it’s just what I personally have done to help myself recover. Maybe it can help people who are stuck have some hope that things can get better, because they really can. It’s important to have your GP/psychologist/psychiatrist/etc to help support you, and even more importantly;  remember you do not have to do it on your own…

CBT was a big help, I know that. It was painful, and in reality, I have not finished dealing with all of the issues, but I’ve dealt with some things. I’ve learned how to deal with my anxiety differently, I’ve learned how to see my behaviour differently, and sometimes (on a good day) I can cut myself some slack, and say it’s ok not to be perfect. That was a big step.

I have tried 5 different anti-depressants, all at various doses. After 5 with no effect, I thought there wasn’t any anti-depressant that could help. Then the psychiatrist increased the dosage of the 5th medication (lofepramine), just to check and after that things got better. I do not know whether the medication is what helped, or if it was the CBT, or pure coincidence, but I think it was more likely a combination of the CBT and the medication. So my tip is don’t give up, sometimes it takes a lot of different attempts to get it right but trust the doctors, they are trying to help, and maybe it’ll pay off in the end.

And I opened up to people, I didn’t keep it all inside. I told people I was struggling. I asked for help, and I got help. You don’t have to do it on your own, and sometimes talking to people helps… it shows you that they care, and it lets out some of the pain that you are dealing with.

Once I started feeling a bit better, life became easier. My concentration improved and I could work again (a massive help when it came to revision and exam time!) And it has a knock-on effect. When you feel a bit better, you are more open to do things that you might enjoy, and then before you know it, you’re actually smiling because you’re happy instead of that old pretence you’re so used to.

Another thing I did was I started climbing. It doesn’t have to be climbing, anything active is good for you (physically or mentally) or even something that’s not sporty – a hobby, something you can do for fun, preferably something you can improve at. Then you start to see your progress, and see that you can achieve something, you can grasp every victory, even if it’s completing a new level wall or just getting one hold higher. If it’s knitting your first scarf, or even your first stitch… it’s all progress, it’s all an achievement!

Then I moved to Germany. It was make or break time. A whole new life, where there are no memories to hurt me and no one I know. I got the chance to start again. A lot of people won’t have this option, but I’m glad I did. I was so unsure about doing this year abroad but I can now safely say, 6 months in, that it was the best thing I could’ve done for me, for my health, for my happiness. And I’ve been taking every opportunity, making the most of this year… Last week I went on a cabbage tour, despite the fact I don’t like cabbage, and it was fun. I got to talk to the teachers outside school and it was nice. And I found myself telling one of the teachers that I don’t want to go home… a massive difference to the way I thought I’d be dealing with this year. I didn’t think I could do it, I thought it would go slowly, I thought I’d want to go home, but I was wrong. (And I’m so glad about that.)

Today I did the depression questionnaire on the NHS website, the same one I used to fill in every week at CBT and everytime I saw my GP about depression, it is scored out of 27. Today I scored 9, indicating mild depression. What a difference from last time I filled that in… I used to get scores of over 20. Turns out I’ve come quite a long way. But it also shows that even though things are much much better, and a lot of the time I am happy, I can’t just ignore it now.

It’s not just about getting out of the hole, it’s about staying out of it… Because depression has a very high relapse rate, and looking after your mental wellbeing is something everyone should do all the time, not just those suffering from mental illnesses, and expecting that once you’ve “recovered” it’s all over is a big mistake, and one that can lead to a bigger fall. My next post will deal with staying out of the hole (once you’ve climbed out of it.)

Why is it so hard to talk about?

Why is it so hard to talk about the “difficult things”?

I can write about them sometimes. I can plan what I’m going to say, I have the words in my mind but they don’t come to my lips. I can’t say them.

I’ve been having a lot of nightmares recently. Screaming in my sleep again while Footballer was staying. A week or two ago, S said I kept asking where I was, saying I want to be at home (in my sleep.)

A lot of the time I don’t remember the nightmares. Sometimes I wake up scared and don’t know why. Sometimes I just know I had a nightmare, and sometimes they are so vivid. I feel like I’m being haunted by these images. But it’s all too hard to talk about, the words just don’t come out.

The nightmares that week involved the ex. Raping me. And it all felt so vivid.

I was really really scared and anxious for days. I started writing this post not long after the nightmares but I couldn’t find the words time. I eventually managed to tell S that the nightmare involved the ex “making me do stuff.” But that’s as much as I could say, and even that took a long time.

So why can’t I say these difficult things? Like when I’m feeling suicidal, I can’t tell anyone, I just say “I feel low” or “I feel shit.” When in my head I’m screaming “I just want to die!” And when I’m talking about the ex, I can never explain what it was like. I can say he wasn’t nice to me, or that he treated me badly but it’s difficult for me to say more… it’s like I’m ashamed that I let it happen… How messed up is that? He treats me horribly and abuses me, and I’m the one that feels guilty and ashamed?

I try to tell S these difficult things sometimes. Often I just can’t say it, and he doesn’t understand why I’m crying or on edge or scared in the night. Sometimes I end up texting things because I couldn’t say it on the phone. The words stick in my throat and it’s like someone presses mute and I can’t speak anymore.

But I don’t want to be muted.

I have depression and anxiety and it’s hard. Most of the time I don’t look like anything is wrong with me but there is. I am very jumpy and I get scared and upset easily. And it’s not my fault. It is an illness and I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore. These things are just labels and they don’t make me who I am, but they do affect who I am and sometimes I can’t deal with everything that a “normal” person can. I think more needs to be done to raise awareness about mental illness because people don’t understand it – they can’t see it so they think it’s not there.

Since I’ve been writing this blog I have come across a lot of mental health bloggers, all telling their different stories. Sometimes they are difficult to read because people have suffered so greatly, but they are all strong people and we all have things in common so we can support one another. And all of this makes me even more sure that I want to work in mental health. I want to make a difference.

A positive post!

This is going to be a list of positive “mantras”, quotes and phrases:

A great quote from "A Cinderella Story"

A great quote from “A Cinderella Story”

I can do this.

I can and I will.

Doing my best is enough.

Keep calm and carry on.

This too shall pass.

I will accept the things I cannot change.

Be the best version of you.

Everything will be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

When everything feels like an uphill struggle, think of the view from the top!

I am who I am.

Never give up.

winniethepoohquote

If anyone has any more to add, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list, with credit to you of course!

I hope you enjoy this list and can draw some positivity and motivation from it 🙂 (and if you fancy some more happy things, I’ve updated by Instant Happiness page!)

It can happen to anyone

**Trigger warning – suicide**

Mental illness can spring at any time, it can get anyone.

Recently, Stephen Fry, who has bipolar disorder, has spoken about a suicide attempt in 2012. Here is the link to the video where he speak about it.  He explains that there is no “why”, no reason, and just because someone “has it all” doesn’t mean they can’t be suicidal. As the president of Mind charity, I think it was really brave and good of him to speak out about this. Being suicidal is something that happens to a lot of people. There is not generally much awareness about this or mental illness more generally, and that does need to change. Frankie Sandford (a member of the band The Saturdays) is another celebrity affected by mental illness, here in the form of depression. This year she has become an ambassador for Mind, and earlier in the year her story appeared in some of the magazines (eg Cosmo, Glamour) to raise awareness of depression and how it is an illness like any other.

It feels very strange that a few years ago I didn’t know anything about mental illness/depression specifically, and yet in the last 5 years, my mum, myself, my best friend and a lot of other people I know have been affected by it. I used to live in a world where (I thought) everyone was pretty happy, strange how much that has changed in the last 5 years or so. And the more I know about it, the more I think that I probably have had some form of mild depression for quite a few years, probably at least from the age of 14, and based on a couple of memories, maybe even in primary school.

I got a text from my best friend (Artist) saying she’s going to drop out of uni because she’s been really depressed for months. I feel like the worst friend ever, I had no idea. She told me uni was much better this year and it seemed like she was happy. I should’ve seen it, I should’ve been there for her. I’m pretty shocked to be honest. She’s one of the ones who I always thought, do you know what, if I was as happy as her I’d be living the good life. She is always so sociable and seems happy, confident too. But this is a stark reminder that it can happen to anyone, anytime.

I feel really bad, I wish I’d been there for her more. I feel like such a bad friend. We are at opposite ends of the country when we are at uni, me in the North and her in Cornwall. It is difficult to stay in touch properly, but this really made me think… Don’t forget your friends, they might need you.

 

Blog for Mental Health 2013

Image

I was pledged by Ruby for “Blog for Mental Health 2013”. You can see her post about it here. I think this is an amazing idea, and so I make my pledge:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

My Mental Health

First of all, everyone has mental health, whether it’s good or bad!

I am currently fighting depression and anxiety (and possibly post traumatic stress disorder). A number of events seem to have led me to where I am today, including a horrible relationship with the ex. I have tried 5 different antidepressants and none of them have helped at all, so I have just come off the 5th one, and am no longer on any antidepressant medication (for now at least). I have started CBT therapy, and am writing about it on my blog.

Although depression, anxiety etc are horrible things to deal with, they have also helped me discover an amazing blogging community. One day I saw The Depressed Moose’s blog on Mind, and read his blog, and that was the day I decided that I would start a blog. Now, several months later, I am very happy to say that I have “met” a lot of lovely, strong and amazing people here. We all have our difficulties, we all struggle sometimes, but we pull together and look after one another. If it wasn’t for my own mental illnesses, I wouldn’t be here on WordPress.

Although things have been far from great over the last year and a half, I am glad to say that I am no longer in touch with the ex, and am struggling on through. I am not going to let him, or depression stop me from living the life I should be living. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all your hopes and dreams when you are feeling so low, but I know we all have to keep on fighting, and one day it will get better.

So what I’m saying really is that yes I suffer from mental illnesses, but I am still me.

I’m not the same me that I used to be, but that’s ok. Different things shape our lives, and eventually I will be stronger for going through this pain.

My pledges

I would like to pledge 5 others to blog about mental health and help other people in doing so (which these people already do!) I have chosen some of the blogs that I have been following for the longest, who are always helping other people here.

Garry, of The Depressed Moose

WeeGee, of How do you eat an Elephant

Bourbon, of Crazy in the coconut

Zoe, of Behind the Mask of Abuse

B, of Broken Little Bird

If you happen upon this without being pledged, I still pledge you.  Feel free to take the pledge!  Promote awareness!

~~

So you know what to do, I’ve copy and pasted the instructions below:

Please note: This is NOT an award, but an attempt to unite all mental health bloggers!

1.) Take the pledge by copying and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2013″.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

4.) Pledge five others, and be sure to let them know!

5.) And, as something novel for 2013, Lulu and I ask one more thing of you.

As you may have noticed, Canvas does not keep an official blogroll, outside of links to our authors’ personal blogs.  For something new and special to introduce Blog For Mental Health 2013, and really build a sense of community — and show everyone how many of us there are, and how strong we are, coming together — we are launching a Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll!  So, in addition to linking back to the person who pledged you, please include the link to the original post in your piece.  As this gets passed along, link back or click here and leave a comment containing the link to your pledge, and we will put you on our Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll page!  Show the world our strength, show them our solidarity, show them what we are made of.  Take the Blog for Mental Health pledge and proudly display the badge on your blog!

 

When is it a crisis?

The NHS have “crisis teams” which you can call/go and see if you are having a crisis.

But what is a crisis?

My doctor once said if things get any worse I should call them.

How are you meant to know whether you should call or not?

I don’t want to waste their time. Even at my lowest points, all I could think was: This is not a crisis. There are people who need the help more than me. I’d just be wasting their time. They would be angry with me for wasting their time. I’m not worth their help anyway. And what could they possibly do to help??

So I didn’t call them.

This all got me thinking, what is a crisis? What are the NHS Crisis teams for?

So I consulted Mind’s website – http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8038_the_mind_guide_to_crisis_services

And this is what it says about crises:

Mental health crises include:

  • suicidal behaviour or intention
  • panic attacks/extreme anxiety
  • psychotic episodes (loss of sense of reality, hallucinations, hearing voices)
  • other behaviour that seems out of control or irrational and that is likely to endanger yourself or others.

And who can help in a crisis?

Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) teams

  • usually includes a psychiatrist, mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.

Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) are teams of mental health professionals who support people with ongoing mental health problems living in the community.

~ ~ ~

But this still doesn’t really answer my question: When is a crisis a crisis?!

Domestic Abuse

I have finally finished this post. It has not turned out the way I wanted, but it still carries the same message. Please read carefully, and please note that THIS POST MAY TRIGGER...

 

This is a pretty difficult topic to talk about, but I was talking to Footballer earlier about this, and we were saying how there isn’t enough awareness, and people think it’s only when someone hits you that it’s domestic abuse. So here goes, Ellie’s attempt at making the world aware of domestic abuse and its consequences!!*

So first off…What is domestic abuse??

“pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse” – Wikipedia**

“Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you.” – http://www.helpguide.org/

Abuse

It is important to remember that abuse does not have to be physical. Of course, physical abuse does exist, but there are many other types of abuse too, and they are sometimes harder to spot – but that doesn’t make them any less painful or wrong.

Types of Abuse***:

– Physical

-Psychological

– Verbal

– Emotional

-Sexual

-Neglect

-Financial/economic (controlling your finances)

I have found a useful website about the signs of domestic abuse, if you think this might be happening to you or someone you know, it might be worth having a look!

It is NOT okay for anyone to treat you in this way…not a partner, relative, friend, there is no excuse and it should not be tolerated.

I was with my exboyfriend for nearly 3 years, and at the time I didn’t realise how bad things were. I thought it was normal to be treated the way I was, and it wasn’t until afterwards that it hit me how badly he treated me, and that the way he treated me was not right, and not normal.

I am glad to say I got out, but for the people who say “Why don’t you just leave your abusive boyfriend?” I want to explain, that it’s not that easy. For me, I didn’t even make the decision to end the relationship; he did. I am ashamed to say that if he hadn’t ended it, I probably would still be with him. I probably wouldn’t be at university, and I probably wouldn’t have got my friends back, and made lots more. It is one of those things, where you can’t see what it’s like when you are so close to the situation (ie. in the relationship) and it is only afterwards, when you can take a step back, that you see the relationship (and the boyfriend) for what they really are.

When you are with an abusive partner, it may not be explicit abuse. You may not be raped, you may not be covered in bruises, but there are other, more subtle forms of abuse that can be just as damaging. My ex boyfriend was controlling, manipulative, and clever. Every time he did something horrible, and I got upset, he would turn it round so it was MY fault… suddenly I’d be apologising for making him react that way, or apologising for wanting a life outside of our relationship.

This type of abuser is very clever and calculating. They will make you feel guilty, they will control you but make you feel as if the choices you make are your own. You will start lying to other people (friends/family) if anyone questions anything in your relationship, and you will strive to do better, to  make him/her happy – since it “must be your fault.”

I was 15 when we first got together, and we split up just 2 weeks before my 18th birthday. For me, that period of my life has been ruined; I can’t think of it, it hurts.

I want to raise awareness of domestic abuse… Of course physical and sexual abuse are both horrific, but it’s the less noticeable things that people don’t know about. At the age of 15, I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t normal to be controlled, to be constantly asked where I was and who I was with, to have huge explosive arguments weekly…

I believe that schools should educate teenagers on this (both female and male) because had I have had the knowledge I have now, I would’ve seen the red flag; I would’ve realised that THIS IS NOT RIGHT, and maybe I could’ve got out quicker.

I can’t change the world, as much as I wish I could. But here’s me trying to do my little bit to raise awareness of domestic abuse and abusive relationships, in all of their forms.

Writing this is difficult for me. Even a year and a half after the relationship ended, I still have flashbacks, I still get scared, I still expect my current boyfriend**** to treat me the way that the ex did. Every time I do something “wrong”, or don’t do what he says, I expect him to shout at me, maybe even hurt me, but he won’t. It’s difficult to adjust to a “normal” relationship, and it must be a lot of hard work for him.

I’m one of the lucky ones; I am here to tell the tale, and I’m free from the ex’s grips. But not everyone is that lucky; so if you know anyone and you think they may be in an abusive relationship, or if you yourself recognise the things I am saying, please help them get out!

*I am not an expert on this, everything I say in this post is either information I’ve found on websites or my own opinions

**Not a very reliable source, but who doesn’t love Wikipedia?

***I have made a list of lots of different types of abuse, however this is not an exhaustive list.

****Who is lovely, and not abusive in any way