Breaking the cycle

I feel like I’m slipping. The lovely safety of feeling stress-free is disappearing and I am clinging onto my new, happier life as best as I can.

But I’m terrified of going back there. And the more scared I am, the more anxious I feel. And the more anxious I feel, the more I want to isolate myself and do nothing, and this all brings my mood down, and then BAM depressed again.

But this time I know how it works. This is the cycle of my mood, and that is how it COULD end up if I follow the cycle. But what if I don’t. What if I stop at stress. Ok, so I’m feeling a bit stressed. So I can have a day to myself – to watch films, unwind, maybe Skype people from home. But I will not isolate myself, I will not let myself hide (for long anyway.) I will make a to do list and try and break it into small things. Small things are easily done, it’s the big tasks that seem daunting. But every big task can be broken into little tasks, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad or scary.

But there’s some things I can’t do anything about. For example, I know my mood heavily relies on my relationship with S. But he’s not coming to visit this term, and I’m not going home again until Easter. So when I next see him, I won’t have seen him for 12 weeks. 3 months is a long time, to me anyway. And it’s hard. But I can’t do anything about it. And now he’s going back to work I will speak to him less, and I’ve got a busy month of travelling weekends coming up so there won’t be as much time to Skype… And somehow I find myself breaking into tears as I’m writing this. And there we go, I’ve found out why I’m feeling down. But what do you do when there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it? Who knows. I’ll get back to you on that one if I figure it out.

I don’t think it’s healthy that my mood relies on him so much. But I also don’t know how to change it. They say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else but I don’t think that’s true. Despite all the improvements in my mood, and changing my ways of thinking I still can’t see myself positively – I guess that’s something still to be worked on.

How can I feel numb and hurt at the same time? That empty feeling that has been gone for a while has come back. And I want it to go away again. I was doing so well. I just want to prove I can do it.

I know everyone has down days. But it’s when the down days start getting more frequent that you have to watch out. And all I can do is a deal with it as best as I can.

 

Excuse?

So I know I said the next post would be on “staying out of the hole”, but seeing as today I’m not feeling very positive, I’ll save that for another day and instead write about something else today.

I have been feeling much better for the last few months. A lot of the time I would say I have been happy, been able to concentrate, enjoy things, etc etc – in other words I have been able to function properly and normally. And that’s great but sometimes there are days like today.

Today was supposed to be a productive day. I was going to go for a run and write some of my essay. It’s 2:45 now and I’ve done nothing. I’ve watched “Outnumbered” on iplayer, played some games on my ipad and eaten breakfast. That’s it. And I know I have to write those essays. I know I need to get fit. But I don’t have the motivation today.

And it raises the question, today: is it a down day? Or am I just being lazy? Am I just using the depression as an excuse to do nothing. I was fine yesterday, I have done some work for these essays already, but not a lot. Because let’s be honest, no one wants to write an essay at all, let alone on a Sunday when there are lots of other, less productive things to do!

Today I don’t want to do anything. I feel blah. Today is a down day. And that’s ok, everyone has down days. But having learnt to take care of myself a bit better, and trying not to be so hard on myself, I’m questioning whether I need to just make myself do these things, or whether actually I’m feeling low because the depression is still there, even if a lot milder than it used to be.

I don’t want to use it as an excuse. Because I’ve been at the place where I genuinely cannot do anything because I’m that depressed. So am I just making excuses to myself? Am I being lazy? Is the lack of motivation the same as a “normal” person gets, or is it as a result of depression? I don’t know where the boundaries between “normal” and “depressed” lie. I don’t know which feelings are “normal” and which aren’t anymore.

Although truth be told, as much as things are better and I am a lot more “well”, when I think about things my ways of thinking are still often negative. I think that people don’t like me, or I don’t deserve the good things in life. Does it even matter if I’m properly “well” as long as I’m functioning? I don’t know.

And is it all going to crack under the pressure once I get back to uni? Is that why I’m better this year – no coursework, no exams, no deadlines. I work 12 hours a week, it’s not exactly strenuous, and every weekend (3 day weekends) I go somewhere, I do something. This is not “normal life”. And I am enjoying it but the what ifs are still there. What if I’m not ok afterwards? What if I can’t get back into uni life? What if, what if,  what if…. I’m starting to panic about all the things I’ve got to do, even though a lot of them are small, and I have still got a lot of time for many of them (like these essays, not due until July – but there’s 4 of them, and they’re in German…) I don’t want to stress myself out again. I know it makes me ill. I feel like there’s too much and not enough time and I just need to break it all down but instead I’m burying in my head in the sand and doing nothing. As if that’s going to help!

I’m really just typing what I’m thinking so sorry if it doesn’t make that much sense. I hope my motivation comes back soon!!

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.)

Memory gaps

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, you will know that things weren’t always like they are now, and this time last year things were pretty bad depression-wise.

And at the time it felt horrific, but I’m still realising some of the effects it had on me. I tried to function; I made myself function even when I really couldn’t. But I wasn’t really functioning, I just appeared to be functioning.

Every so often I realise how little I was functioning. I was talking about German grammar with a friend (because I’m cool like that) and I was saying that I hadn’t ever learnt a certain thing, and he said we learnt it at uni last year. I have no recollection of this whatsoever. I missed some uni, but not a lot really. It’s impossible that I missed all of the stuff that I don’t remember learning. There were many lectures and even seminars where I was present but not really present. This became clear when it came to revision, and a lot of it wasn’t revision, but actually reading it for the first time, because I hadn’t taken any of it in in the lectures. I’d be sleeping or just not concentrating. Thinking back I really don’t know how I did it. My grades should have gone through the floor with the lack of concentration and interest, but I started getting better and managed to pull it back when it came to revision I guess.

But it’s not just uni stuff I don’t remember. I realised my memory is terrible now. There is so much missing from my memory; I think back and I just can’t recall anything. It’s mostly the last 5 years that have bits missing, I guess it is my response to everything that happened – block it out. And dissociate because it’s easier than dealing with it. And when things were bad, when I was really low, it’s like my brain couldn’t be bothered to record everything, and just left some bits out. It’s really frustrating that so much of my first two years of uni evades my memory… it’s really strange.

Even writing about this topic I can’t quite find the words I want to say. I am trying to learn the stuff I should’ve learnt before. My German would be so much better by now if I’d taken it in at the time. But better late than never I guess.

Now, back to adjective endings for me 😉

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

Memories and places

I know I am rubbish at keeping up with blogging now. I have too much going on so maybe I should just stop altogether. But today I have something to say, so I’ll say it.

It’s strange how memories can have such a strong hold.

Sometimes when I walk down a certain road, or I’m in a certain place I get flashbacks, just because of the place.

But in Germany I don’t. In Germany I rarely have flashbacks at all, because there are no places to associate with bad memories here. Here I feel safe, I don’t have to be completely on guard all the time. It’s strange but moving away has been the most liberating thing. And now I don’t want to go back to my old life (but I will have to.)

At Christmas when I was feeling worse again I realised it has to be to do with the place. Even as I was on the train from the airport in Germany, I felt more relaxed than I had at home. It’s such a contradiction: the place where my whole life is, where my family, boyfriend and many of my friends are, is also the place where I feel the worst. Best and worst. It’s like an oxymoron.

I am making the most of feeling free here, feeling happy. But at the same time I’m scared, scared of what happens when I go back. Will it open everything up again? I’m too tired to fight it all again, I just want to live my life and leave those memories behind.

I need to make home safe again in my mind. Or maybe I need to move away as soon as I can. (But does running away really help? Sometimes it does…)

New year’s resolution

Ok so it’s a bit late for this post, nearly 20 days too late, but oh well.

I’ve been away for a while, much longer than I expected. I got back to Germany to find a distinct lack of internet in my flat, so no elephanting around for me. It’s coming back tomorrow properly **excited dance.** (I’m currently stealing* the neighbour’s, but it’s very slow and sporadic because the router is obviously not in my flat.)

But back to the issue – new year’s resolutions. I don’t often bother really, I mean let’s be honest, most people have broken them by the end of the first week – if they even get that far!! (Well done to you if not!) But this year I made one, not on purpose though actually, and not on new year… It was in the first few days of January though so I think it still counts.

This year I resolved to do what makes ME happy. I want to live for myself, not anyone else. I want to do things because I want to, not because I’m expected to or because other people want these things. So it’s going quite well. It’s definitely an excuse to eat loads of rubbishy food, but there’s something else I want to do for me – I want to feel better about myself. And therefore I want to start doing regular exercise and eating better. This bit is still yet to start, so really not a new year’s resolution, but it all ties in. I’m trying to make myself happy.

It’s a really refreshing way to look at life, and I think it’s definitely a good thing. I’m not saying it’s good to be completely selfish because it definitely isn’t, but when you constantly do things to please other people, sometimes it’s good to do things for yourself for a change. I’m not going to be someone else though, I know I will still do things for other people, but that’s fine. It’s when you realise that everything you do is a massive façade that you have to change something. So I am, and I’m doing it. Life is good.

I haven’t read any blogs in a while so will be catching up when I have time. I’m quite busy at the moment as I’ve started doing some tutoring for students who struggle with English so will be catching up slowly.

Take care everyone, I hope 2014 is treating you all well.

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

*well he said we could use it so not really stealing

Happy new year!

I hope everyone has had a happy and peaceful Christmas season, and new year last night.

new years eve is always a difficult time for me, because of the memories it stirs up. This year I spent NYE with S and some friends, and got pretty drunk. I’m trying to replace the bad memories with good ones but I’m  not sure that I’ll ever be a big fan of New Year’s Eve. 

When I look back on 2013, it definitely had it’s ups and downs. By the end things were pretty good, and I hope they continue in this way into 2014. I have the rest of my year abroad in Germany, and then in the summer I’m off to Africa for 3 weeks. Lots of exciting things to come. And then I return to Lancaster for my final year of uni – but that’s not until October. 

So, happy new year to everyone – I hope 2014 brings you all health and happiness! 

Flat

That’s how I’d describe how I feel right now: flat.

I hate this. Everytime I think it’s all going well, it always comes and gets me. But this time I’ve been feeling pretty good most of the time for a few months instead of a few days or weeks. I was starting to think that when I get back from Germany in May, I might be able to come off my antidepressants, I was thinking it’s all in the past.

But now I just feel this massive flat emptiness again and it’s horrible. It’s a mixture of feeling lonely, sad and like there’s no point in anything. It’s a time when I don’t want to be alone but I don’t want to be with people. Massive contradiction I know.

I just feel exhausted. Completely and utterly unable to get out of this one. It’s only been a few days, I know it will pass. I’ve been lower before, and I got through it. But it’s always hard at the time.

And I don’t have a reason for this. I just feel blah. And I feel so hopelessly bored, even though I have many things that I should or could be doing. I just don’t have the drive to do any of it – lesson plans, starting my essays for uni, even writing my year abroad blog, I just can’t get the motivation to do any of it.

I’m hoping it’ll pass fairly soon, especially with Christmas coming up. I think it’s a bit to do with stress as well – I’ve only got a week until I go home, and after that it’ll be less than a week til Christmas, and I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping, and everyone is trying to make all these plans and there’s just never enough time. I want time to just be.

Well I had that today, I’ve spent the whole day here doing nothing useful… hours of watching TV (well online catch ups) But I was meant to have plans… I was meant to meet a friend earlier, and that fell through. And I was meant to be going out tonight with some of the girls, and that fell through too… That probably added to the feeling of blahness too. Although it’s probably a good thing I’m not going out, I’m knackered as it is and haven’t even done anything!

Time for an early-ish night and hope for a better tomorrow. I’m meeting up with a friend so that should be nice, I hope I’m feeling a bit better so I can actually enjoy it!

The populars

In every social situation there always seems to be the “popular group”. In Mean Girls, it’s the plastics, and although that’s a very exaggerated example of cliques, it represents real life quite well.

I don’t know how these groups get formed, they always do. At school, at work, and even in my group of English assistants here in Germany, and there’s only about 15 of us.

There is always a popular group. And I am never in it, and never will be either. And I don’t mind most of the time, but sometimes I feel very left out.

And alcohol always makes things worse. I went out the other night with the others, drank some wine, I was having a nice night. And then at one point I ended up on my own, and convinced myself no one cares about me or likes me. And then the drunk crying began (oh dear.)

I know I have friends that care about me, but I feel like I’m always on the edge of a group. I have a big thing about wanting everyone to like me, and that just can’t happen. I feel like other people would always rather spend time with others than me.

And the thing is, this only came out because I was drunk. But I still think it when I’m sober, I just don’t say it.

It’s this massive lack of confidence that keeps tripping me up. I’m doing well most of the time, and then these things start niggling at me, and I work myself back into this cycle of never being good enough, again.

What I would like more than anything else is to feel ok about myself. To not be disgusted by everything about me, to feel like I am good enough. So I guess that’s my aim.

Generally speaking I’m fine though, enjoying walking round excessive numbers of German Christmas markets, because why not? And in a week I’ll be going home for Christmas, to spend time with friends and family, and understand everything I hear instead of having to constantly concentrate on what’s being said, and even then only understanding some of it!!

I know December is a hard time for a lot of people here, so in the run up to Christmas and New year, I wish you all a peaceful and happy time, and hope everyone is doing ok! ♥

Lots of love,
Ellie xxx

Happy

I think this is what happy feels like.

It sneaks up on you, much like depression, and then BAM, you realise that you’ve actually got to the point that you genuinely feel happy. Not “not bad”, not “ok” but happy, actually happy.

Today not even the fact that Deutsche Bahn (German train company) are completely USELESS can bring me down today.

I was so worried about doing this year abroad, and it’s turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done for me. I feel free here and I love it. I have a job but I like it and it’s not many hours. I am free to travel around Germany (and off to Copenhagen at the weekend) and I don’t feel stressed for the first time in I don’t know how long.

I know that I won’t always feel happy (that would be too good to be true), but that is ok. Because normal people have good days and bad days, so one bad day doesn’t mean it’s all going wrong again, just like one good day doesn’t mean everything is fixed. I am well aware of the many issues that are still under the surface, and the concoction of drugs I’m on that are helping me feel better. I know that it’s not over, I don’t know if “completely recovered” even exists, but I am doing so much better and I feel like me again.

This overly happy and cheerful post will undoubtedly be followed by a “oh wait things aren’t that great” post, but for now – I’m going to enjoy being happy, and being me (or continuing to find out who I am)

Much love,

Ellie xxx