100 happy days

I’ve seen quite a few people taking part in this “100 happy days” thing on Facebook. The idea is that every day for 100 days you have to do something that makes you happy/you like doing.

There is a website – http://100happydays.com/ where you can register to take part if you want to. You are supposed to take a photo of what makes you happy each day, and you can submit it to facebook, twitter, instagram etc. (Sadly there’s no option for WordPress!)

I think this would be quite a hard challenge. But it’s true – people don’t have time to enjoy the moments. It’s the small things in life that make you happy. It’s the way the birds sing, or the smile on your boyfriend’s face when they see you. It’s the mango icecream from the ice cream café, or the smell of freshly baked bread. We need to notice these things, because however bad things are, there is always some good in the world too, some little piece of happiness.

I am thinking about doing it. I haven’t decided yet whether to do it personally (just in my journal), on here, or through the actual 100 happy days thing… I think it would be hard to have a photo for every day, and I think I’d have to get Instagram to do it (I want to do it as Ellie so I can share my progress with you guys!)

I do think acknowledging the good things, stopping and being in the moment, does help happiness levels. And since I’ve been feeling pretty down lately, a way to feel happy is just what I need! Now to get the courage to start it!!

What do you think about the 100 happy days idea?

 

 

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.)

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…)

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!

So tired

Constantly. So tired.

It’s been like this for a long time. I can’t even remember NOT being tired. But some days I’m completely knackered, like today. An early night is needed I think.

I asked at the doctors if there’s anything they can do about constant tiredness. She said 9 times out of 10 it’s something psychological rather than physical so there’s probably not a lot they can do. She said I can have a blood test to check, but it’s unlikely that there’s a chemical/physical cause. I’ve already been checked for anaemia and I didn’t have it last time, so I doubt I’ve developed it now.

But it’s mentally draining, being tired all the time. I never feel like I’m functioning the way I could if I wasn’t tired. But no amount of sleep seems to help. I kind of expected that once I started feeling better (like I have been over the last few months), this constant tiredness would go away. But no, of course not. I want to be able to live to my full potential, instead of being a walking zombie all the time!

Oh – and don’t even get me started on the dark circles under my eyes. They are horrible. And very dark. My dad always calls it “panda eyes”, and yes I definitely do have panda eyes – no amount of concealer can hide them! I’m very self-conscious about this too, but there’s not a lot I can do except put concealer on and hope for the best.

I’ve just had a thought, and I’m fairly sure this is quite a repetitive post, I’m sure I’ve written about this before. But I’m STILL tired, so I’m writing about it again.

It’s not too bad though – at least I can sleep, even if it doesn’t stop me being tired. In the months where I couldn’t sleep properly, it was HORRIBLE. I dread to think how hard it must be for people with insomnia. The feeling of being so tired, and wanting to sleep, and not being able to is so frustrating. I can remember getting really wound up and angry with myself for not being able to sleep, but of course that only makes the problem worse because when you’re stressed, you can’t sleep. Nasty cycle.

It would be great, really really great, if I could get a good night’s sleep. And by that I mean sleeping all the way through the night, no waking up, no nightmares, no screaming, crying or any of that strange stuff. Wouldn’t it be lovely…

Pondering

What if it’s turning toxic like before?

All I hear is “you’re not good enough” and “no one wants you” but I’m the only one saying it, to myself.

All the anger is still there and it gets taken out on others. It’s not fair.

This anger has to be dealt with. But how? Turning the anger on myself just exhausts me and I still can’t let it out the right way. I’m so angry all the time. It’s got to come out somehow. But safely. Somehow…

Imagine if people had to deal with the consequences of their actions, maybe then they wouldn’t be so evil. Maybe then they’d see what they are doing.

If you say something enough times it might become true. What if that’s true. Stop pushing him away.

But he’s not safe. Never safe.

No one is safe.

I don’t want to be alone but I don’t want to be with people either.

Feeling pretty gloomy.

 

I need to be more independent but I can’t do it. How do I do it?

After a long time of relying on people, the idea seems so crazy.

 

I want to help other people but I know I need to fix myself first.

Fix because I’m broken.

I don’t know how to be normal. I don’t know how to stop this whole thing.

There are so many things I want(ed) to do in life… now I just want to be happy.

Shame it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I’m so tired of fighting

Stuck in the past

I know I’m stuck in the past. I know it’s over now. I know I should leave it behind me. I know it’s not helpful. I know all of that.

But I can’t.

I can’t control my dreams or the flashbacks. I can’t choose where my mind wanders off to. I can’t make myself forget all of the past. I can’t just get over it.

Just because I’ve been much better over the last few months doesn’t mean I’m not still ill. It doesn’t mean all of this has gone away. It doesn’t mean I can suddenly trust people and put everything from the past away.

I’m stuck and I don’t know how to move forward.

And down

The down always comes. It’s not a big down, not like before, but none the less it snuck up on me, like it always does.

Because nothing has changed, not really. I still have an underlying hatred of myself. I still have no confidence, I’m still waiting for things to go wrong, I’m still not good enough.

I hate myself in so many ways and I don’t know any way out of this.

I want to feel better about myself, I want to feel confident, I want to be happy. But there’s this nagging part of my brain that’s always there telling me I’m not good enough, nothing I ever do will be good enough. Give up. No one cares. I don’t matter.

And this cycle of being ok, even good for a while, and then feeling down again continues, always. And it’s never going to stop unless I do something about it. I know that. And yet I don’t know how to do something about it.

I know what needs to be done, just not how. I need to change the way I see myself. Because frankly, a lot of the negative stuff is just in my head, and it’s the way I see myself, not the way anyone else sees me.

I still don’t feel entitled to feel depressed. I have everything so good, and right now things are good – really good, and I want to enjoy it. I want to make the most  of my year abroad, I want to enjoy all the things I can do here but every time I stop, this self-critical voice crawls out, and taints everything else.

There are things I can change. For example I hate my body. I feel fat and I can change that. I can exercise more and I can eat more healthily. I want to change that, maybe if I feel better on the outside I’ll feel better on the inside?

And the more I think about it, the worse I feel. SO just don’t think about it then?

I wish it was that easy.

I feel like I don’t deserve any of the good stuff. I deserve the bad stuff. I’m pathetic, useless and I’m never going to get to where I want to be because I’m not good enough. Because I’ll never be perfect. Why am I even aiming for something that doesn’t exist? Why can’t I be happy with me? With my best?

It’s almost like I get to a certain point, and something tells me things are too good, I’m too happy, and then this stupid criticising voice pipes up and knocks me down. And I’m tired of fighting with myself. I just want to be me and be ok with that. I’m sick of comparing myself to other people, I’m sick of feeling inferior, I’m sick of waiting for S to leave me, I’m sick of never matching my expectations, I’m sick of never being good enough for myself.

And now I’m going to sleep. I know I’ll feel better in the morning, I need to get out of this negative mindset. It’s what happens when I spend a day doing nothing.

Don’t want to jinx it but…

Things are going well. Really well at the moment.

I’ve moved to the town where my school is where there is a bit more civilisation and I’m starting to settle in. I really like my new flat, and I’m enjoying my job in the school too. Everyone has been so friendly towards me and it really does make a difference, without that I would be very lonely here.

I would say at the moment I am not depressed. I still have my down days (doesn’t everyone?) and I know there are still lots of issues, but I’m working on it. I am starting to catch my thoughts and challenge them. For example, Sheep cancelled our Skype meeting because she was going out (last minute decision), my initial thought was “she doesn’t want to talk to me because I don’t matter to her. She doesn’t like me.”, but I recognised that and challenged it: Why wouldn’t she want to talk when she is one of my closest friends? I know she cares about me because she is always there for me, and she made me a lovely cake and leaving card when I left England.

That’s a shallow example, but just shows how one tiny thing sets my mind off on it’s negative thought train, and how my self-doubt puts a lense over how I see things.

The only negative I have to report at the moment is the screaming/nightmares. I was on a school trip last week and shared a room with another teacher. Apparently one night I screamed once, cried multiple times, and talked to her (although I have no recollection of this – I was asleep!) It’s really strange, and in that case it was quite embarrassing – I’ve only been here a few weeks, and they don’t know about any of my “issues”. Luckily the teacher was ok about it and didn’t really question me. But this makes me wonder how often it does happen, as nearly every time I’ve shared a room with someone over the last few months I have screamed or something similar. Except with S… I’ve only screamed once in the night with him, and sometimes mumbled the odd scared whimper, but in general I don’t tend to have these nightmares when I’m with him. Maybe it’s because I feel safe? Who knows.

I want to go to the doctors about this when I go home (to England) but I don’t know if there’s anything they can actually do about it, and if there isn’t then I don’t want to waste their time. Does anyone know of anything that helps stop these night terrors (or whatever they are!?) or even what can cause them? Then maybe there are things I could change to prevent them!

But despite that, things are really falling into place at the moment – and hopefully they will stay this way. I am starting to feel like there is a way through my “issues”, and it will take more time, but I can do it. Recently I have caught myself having positive thoughts, and tonight on Skype I even told S “I’m happy here.” I mean I miss him – a lot, and my friends and family too, but I am still in touch with them all so it’s not too bad, and I know I’m going home for a visit in a couple of weeks, but everything is going well. When I first found out I was coming here, to this small remote town, I was really upset, really worried, but now I’m glad I’m here. And the small place has given me the opportunity to get to know people more easily, and also the opportunity to speak lots of German, as in a small place like this people don’t speak much English (compared to in a big city where a lot of English would be spoken!)

I hope I’m not jinxing things by writing this post. I have held off writing this positive post for a while – just in case it turned things bad! But here it is – a positive post from Ellie!

Now I’m off to bed, and tomorrow I get a lie in as it’s a national holiday tomorrow so there’s no school!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

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.