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Posts Tagged ‘mental health

Reviewing 2010…

with 5 comments

So everyone seems to be doing the New Years meme. I used to do this years ago back in the days when I wrote on Livejournal and I’ve copied the questions directly from the last time I did it on there (2007), so if it is different to the version everyone else in the madosphere has done, then that will be why. It is a bit weird to see these questions again.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?:

Take Reboxetine, Go InterRailing, Learn to Knit.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?:

I don’t usually make any and I can’t remember if I did last year. It seems unlikely because I was planning to kill myself on 7th January and any more resolutions would have been pointless. I tried and failed at that one.

This year, I haven’t set any firm resolutions, but most of my hopes evolve around recovery. I hope to get back to work full time and stay out of hospital.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?:

Not that I’m aware of!

4. Did anyone close to you die?:

Thankfully not.

5. What countries did you visit?:

Oo. I went InterRailing so I have visited a few this year! I passed through France and visited Belgium, Germany, Poland and Austria.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?:

Proper recovery – I started to recover in 2010, but there’s still a long way to go. I want my life back.

I also want to move house, so a new home is pretty high on my list.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?:

I don’t tend to remember dates very well and the only date that really comes to mind is the 7th Jan for the reason mentioned in answer to question 2.

I think the 29th July was the day that I set off for Europe, so that’s a good one too.

The week beginning the 15th November also sticks in my mind, as it was the week I started my phased return to work.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?:

Travelling around Europe for a couple of weeks on my own and getting back to work, albeit for only a few hours a week.

9. What was your biggest failure?:

I’m not sure it is a good thing that the first thing that comes to mind is my failed suicide attempt. Definitely a failure, but whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to debate depending on my mood.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?:

Mental illness never really goes away. I also battled with side-effects and tummy troubles a lot. My jaw has continued to be a problem too – I have a visit to the Dental Hospital on Monday to see the Temporomandibular Joint specialist. I had a common cold over New Years at both the start of 2010 and 2011 too.

11. What was the best thing you bought?:

Either my InterRail pass or Glastonbury Tickets. My prescription pre-payment certificate should probably be considered too.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?:

Nikki dog’s behaviour merits celebration and reprehension on a daily basis!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?:

Occasionally The Bloke’s, but like Nikki, he can merit celebration too.

Dr M made me pretty appalled at the start of the year, but I don’t mind her so much these days. I may even confess to liking her!

14. Where did most of your money go?:

The usual – rent, food etc. The dog spends a lot of it too!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?:

I don’t tend to get really excited about anything when I’m feeling low. I was quite excited about the InterRail trip, although it was such a spur-of-the-moment thing that I didn’t have much time to get excited about it beforehand. I was quite excited about Glastonbury this year too – I actually felt able to enjoy it!

16. What songs will always remind you of 2010?:

Regina Spektor – Laughing With
Lady Gaga – Just Dance – especially reminds me of watching Dancing on Ice in hospital last January.
Laura Marling – Goodbye England (covered in snow)
The XX – Intro – reminds me of the General Election coverage on the BBC mainly, but also of the start of their set at Glasto.
Marina & The Diamonds – Obsessions – and pretty much the whole album really. She was great live too.
KT Tunstall – Weirdo – and again the whole album and seeing her live.
Miike Snow – Animal – reminds me of InterRailing. They played it a lot in the hostel in Krakow.
Ellie Goulding – Your Song – and again pretty much her whole album.

It has been a good year for music. I’ve certainly listened to a lot more this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i) …happier or sadder?: I’m a million times happier than this time last year. I was on a psych ward having just failed to kill myself, so not exactly at my happiest! Compared to 6 months ago though I’d be sadder.
ii) thinner or fatter?: A lot thinner. I’ve lost over 3 stone since I came out of hospital last February.
iii) richer or poorer?: About the same I think.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?:

Working, writing, knitting, swimming, seeing friends… Lots of things really.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?:

Feeling sick, lying in bed with no motivation, seeing doctors and generally everything related to being ill. Arguing with the bloke comes a close second.

20. How will/did you spend Christmas?:

We spent it in Wolverhampton with the Bloke’s mum and sister. His aunt, uncle and cousin also came over for Christmas dinner. I saw my parents on 27th Dec and a load of friends came around for a big Christmas Dinner on 28th.

21. Has there ever been a question 21?!?

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?:

Nope. Not with anyone or anything new.

23. How many one night stands?:

Again none. A somewhat laughable question for me I think.

24. What were your favourite TV programmes?:

I’ve watched quite a lot of telly in the past year. I love Only Connect – a fiendishly hard quiz, although I have gotten more used to it over the years and it doesn’t seem quite as hard as it used to be.

I enjoyed Sky1’s Must be The Music – it’s a blatant rip off of all TV talent shows, only the people involved had raw talent, write their own stuff and there is no stupid false drama involved. Dizzee Rascal, Sharleen Spiteri and Jamie Cullum judged it and were really good too. The girl that won – Emma’s Imagination was amazing.

I enjoyed Single Father, Lip Service, Mad Men and various other things this year too.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?:

No, not really. I don’t tend to “hate” anyone. I try to avoid people I don’t like.

26. What was the best book you read?:

I read a lot more in the summer than I had in the past few years, but it has tailed off again since autumn. I read 1984 for the first time (ridiculous I know) which was awesome. I enjoyed the Stieg Larsson books (me and everyone else, then!). A Woman in Berlin was interesting too – I picked it up in the airport at Krakow and it was weird to read it only a few days after being in Berlin.

27. What were your greatest musical discoveries?:

I have listened to a lot more music than in the last few years, but I’m not sure how many of those things were new discoveries as such. I’ve enjoyed a lot of female pop and singer/songwriters this year – Ellie Goulding, Marina & The Diamonds, Laura Marling, KT Tunstall, Little Boots, Regina Spektor – although the latter few are hardly new discoveries.

28. What did you want and get?:

I guess some improvement to my mental health is the obvious thing. Getting my drivers license back is pretty good too.

29. What did you want and not get?:

A magic wand? I try not to want too much so I don’t get disappointed.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?:

I saw quite a lot of good films this year. I probably enjoyed Scott Pilgrim most. The Girl who kicked the Hornets Nest was good although I didn’t think The Girl who Played with Fire lived up to my expectations set by the book or the first film. Kick Ass, Toy Story 3 and Winters Bone are also contenders.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?:

I was 24 this year. I had only just come out of hospital. A few of my friends and two of my aunts who live locally all went out for a meal. It was really tasty.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?:

Mental Stability? – I’m surprised that this was part of my answer in 2007, which was long before I was diagnosed with any mentalism. It seems strange to me that at the end of what was a great year, I was still wishing I’d been a bit more stable and spent less time feeling low. I guess I’d somewhat forgotten that I was hardly stable before things fell apart in 2008.

I do think that being more stable and less depressed would have helped, but at least 2010 was an improvement on 200

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?:

I am not sure I do fashion concepts. I tend to wear jeans and some form of longish top or dresses over leggings/bright coloured tights. Now I’m back at work a bit I’m definitely leaning towards the tailored dress look. My suits don’t fit properly any more – too big!

34. What kept you sane?:

I think what sanity I have can be mainly put it down to one thing – Reboxetine (plus Lamotrigine perhaps – I wonder what effect taking Reboxetine on its own would have).

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?:

This always seems like a bit of a silly question to me. I don’t tend to be attracted to celebrities because I tend to need to get to know someone before they become attractive.

I also have a pretty pathetic sex drive these days.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?:

I’ve tended to try and keep a distance from most political arguments of late, mainly because the amount of mindless Tory-bashing has wound me up quite a lot this year and a lot of my friends are raving lefties. I am neither a tory, nor a lefty, but I am getting fed up of the way that people seem to choose opposition for oppositions sake, rather than looking at what is right or wrong about a policy.

I do care a lot about welfare reform and the NHS, but I’m not opposed to changes in the system in the way that some people are. I think we have to face up to the fact that the current systems don’t work and something has to be done.

37. Who did you miss?:

I miss a lot of old friends. I have lost touch with quite a lot of people over the last few years and I’m not as close to others as I used to be. A lot of my uni friends have moved away since we graduated too, so although we still see them occasionally, it’s not the same any more.

38. Who were the ‘best’ new people you met?:

I’ve met some great new friends locally over the past year or so, but I probably couldn’t think of any one person.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Things can get better and depression may not last forever, yet recovery is not a smooth process either.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I can’t think of one in particular, especially as my year has been up and down. I may come back to this. I’m sure something will come to mind as I’m listening to music sometime this week.

Actually.. I heard You Say Party – There is XXXX (within my heart) the other day and those lyrics fit my mood over the last month or so.

When the morning comes
And the darkness presses on all sides
When the morning comes
I’ll have to fight

I will have a think to see if I can come up with anything more accurate.

_________________

So there we go. Another year, another meme. 2010 hasn’t been all that bad, although it started terribly and went down hill again a little during the last few months. 2011 hasn’t started too badly aside from the terrible cold over New Years, so fingers crossed it will be a good year.

A proper post is on its way. I am trying to get it written. Lots happening at the moment though and I can’t keep up!

On my own…

with 7 comments

My care-coordinator, C came to see me on Thursday. We weren’t meant to be seeing each other until Monday when I had my appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr M, but C called me on Wednesday to tell me she wanted to go through the updates to my CPA and risk assessment beforehand. When she arrived she told me the real reason she had came was to tell me she is leaving. It was nice that she wanted to do this personally and made the effort to make the appointment to see me before she went, but I’m sad that she’s going. She’s been asked to work in a CAMHS role, which is what she trained in. I think this is really positive for her and she seems excited about it, so I’m happy for her. I’d just got used to having her around and she was so much nicer and more helpful than useless SW, J, who I had before, so it is a shame. It was quite nice to know she was there if I needed her as I had faith in her, but I think I’ll be okay anyway.

I was asked what I wanted to happen now. I had the option of being assigned someone new or having no one assigned and letting Dr M and my GP, Dr N manage things for a while. I decided to go for the latter. I’ve never found the CMHT overly helpful and I am not sure I really need a social worker at the moment, although it was nice to have C there, just in case. To be honest, I think not asking for another person is more about trying to avoid another useless SW like J was. She did more harm than good I think. I’m not quite sure about the prospect of being a little on my own, but I think it will be okay. I’ve been told I can ask for one at any point and someone will be assigned, so this seems to make sense. I think whilst I’m just waiting to see if things stabilise there isn’t that much to do or say. It just seems to be a case of waiting to see if the improvements hold out. I do wonder if it will be helpful to have someone involved when I am trying to return to work, but we shall see what happens.

Saturday was a bad day. I guess one had to come along again at some point, but it was worse than I’d expected. I woke up feeling a little dodgy in a physical sense, but after a silly argument with the bloke things went downhill. I was crying almost non-stop for hours and when I wasn’t crying I only felt capable of staring into space. I couldn’t think and felt completely exhausted. It got to the stage where I couldn’t really speak properly and when we went to Morrisons I was struggling to do much more than walk around like a zombie, whilst my bloke did the shopping. Something just wasn’t right. I felt depressed, but I didn’t even have the energy to be suicidal. I was just devoid of anything. In the end I couldn’t wait to get to bed so I could start a new day and hope it would be better.

I felt a little better by Sunday morning and by the evening I felt okay again, so hopefully that has passed and won’t happen again. I don’t know if something just snapped or if crying wore me out, but it wasn’t good. I just felt so awful and it was horrible to be back in that place. I’ve not experienced that sort of catatonic depression much as I have a tendency to irritability and agitation, but it is scary when it happens. I don’t know how anyone gets through days or weeks or months of that. I guess the fact is, you’re so down it is impossible to do anything but wait. You don’t have the energy to end it.

On Monday I saw Dr M again. It was a bit of a nothing appointment really. We discussed how the last 6 weeks have gone, but there wasn’t much to be said. Things are still much the same as when I last saw her. I am a lot, lot better, but not 100%. Still getting the odd bad day that catches me off guard, but most of the times things are in the realms of normal. We talked about possibly increasing the Reboxetine again, but she was inclined to leave things as they are for now. She wants the option to manoeuvre the dose up again in future if things dip over time or if  I struggle whenever my therapy referral ever comes around. If she puts it up now, she wouldn’t really be able to increase it much more without pushing the side effects up into unmanageable territory. She asked if I’d heard anything about therapy, which I still haven’t. It’s getting a bit ridiculous because it gets pushed back further and further, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

We talked about the fact I was seeing occupational health today and what I felt about it. She asked me when I next wanted to see her, which I felt was positive. I was given the option of two weeks, two months, whenever or never again. This would never happen with the CMHT, although I’m not sure how serious she was about never again! I suspect she may have had something to say about it if I chose that option. We decided I’d call her when I have decided though, based upon what was said at occy health and whatnot. She was good to point out I can call her whenever if I need to see her between appointments. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how things have changed between me and Dr M. I didn’t like her at first and I really got the feeling she didn’t like me, but now she’s seen improvements and got to know me a little better and not the me she met when I was in hospital, things have improved. We shall see how things go. I don’t know what happens when I am passed back to the CMHT or discharged by her, but at the moment I’m appreciating the stability and glad I’m not being passed from SHO to SHO.

So today was occupational health. I have been worried about this one because the nice consultant I’ve seen in the past has left the firm. I have to confess to googling the new guy (another Dr G, so not sure I’ll be using that moniker for him) and I found out he has worked for the Health & Safety Executive in the past and has a more safety-focussed history than the last doctor – I got the impression ladders and chemicals were more his thing than mental health, but I could see he was an experienced occy health consultant, so he was going to have come across psychiatric patients at some point in his career. He seemed nice enough. Quite softly spoken and very keen to point out that he is not on anyone’s side and that he has my best interests and health in mind, so I guess that’s good to know. I’ve found that to be true for all of the occupational doctors I’ve seen. Every time, they’ve been supportive and they are not just trying to get me back in work. A pleasant contrast to the DWP/Atos Origin lot I guess, who only seem to care about declaring you fit for work (although to be fair in my case they didn’t).

We discussed how things were compared to last time I saw Dr R. In general, things have improved a little and the improvements have been maintained so that is good. He asked me how I felt about work and occupational health. I confessed to being in two minds – half the time itching to get back and on bad days, worrying that I’d never be well enough. He said that was to be expected, which I guess is true. I was pretty surprised that early on in the appointment he made it pretty clear he didn’t think I’d be returning any time soon. He feels it will be a long time before I go back properly and that I need to show stability for a while before we consider it. I was hoping to go back in some capacity soonish, so I’m disappointed really. I guess I have to slow down and wait and see how things go. I am aware that I shouldn’t rush things, but at the same time it’s about balance, because if I wait too long I will begin to feel useless and get frustrated.

He also said that a return will be very slow when it comes and it could be a very long time before I’m back at work properly. At first it will be just dropping into the office a couple of times to say hello and then maybe working an hour or two a week, building that up to a few mornings or afternoons and then we’ll see. I suspect I will get impatient with that approach, but I know it is what we have to do. I know though that I have a tendancy to do more than I’m meant to, so it will be difficult I think.

Now that I’ve been told I definitely can’t work yet, I feel a bit stuck. I’m having to wait and be patient and I am getting itchy. I had thought that I’d be going back sometime this summer. I expected to be setting a date to start a phased return, but I’m apparently not even ready to do that yet. I have to wait a couple of months before I see him again. If things have improved/stabilised then we can “possibly” start to plan a return. He did suggest three or four months before I next saw him, but I felt that seemed too far away. I’m worried I’d miss my window of opportunity to have some “normal” life. He agreed on two months or so unless I go downhill again in that time. He said I deserve to have a bit of happiness first, which I guess is a nice thought, although it also makes me worry he feels I won’t stay well if I do ever go back to work. I also wonder if I can be really happy if I’m not working. I want things to be normal. I want a career. I want to stay well.

In a way it is good. I know that I don’t have the worry of going back to destabilise things whilst I’m still not 100%. Maybe the therapy assessment will come through in time. It might be good to follow Dr R’s recommendation that I wait to see how I get on with therapy before I return to work. I don’t hold out much hope on that one though.

I guess this time of year is the best to be off too. Summertime. I won’t have to worry about taking time off for holidays. I can make the most of the sunshine, when it happens. I felt awful for most of last summer and I didn’t appreciate it. I am appreciating the sunnier days now.

I guess I can also stop feeling guilty and worrying about being on ESA and in the support group. When I have a good day and I feel normal, I wonder why I’m not at work. I am in the support group, which means I am meant to be too ill or disabled to ever consider seeking or returning to work. Until recently I thought that was the right decision, but as things have improved and I have got keen to return, I wasn’t sure I fitted that criteria any more. I always hated the thought that I was too ill to consider working, even though I knew it was true, but I find it even harder now I am not so sure. Before, I did fear I’d never go back. I couldn’t see any sign of improvement, but I hated the fact that others didn’t have much hope of improvement either. Now I can see that improvement I want to work. I loved my job and I miss it more than ever now. To be told I’m still not well enough to consider working is sad and hard to admit. The upside is though I should stop worrying they will accuse me of benefit fraud. I am not allowed to work even if I want to, so I have to accept that. Without the blessing of Occupational Health I can’t go back.

I just can’t shake off the feeling I am being held back, but at the same time I need to stop myself trying to run before I can walk. I’ve been off work for two years and during that time I’ve been very ill. I know that. 6 months ago I was in hospital. A few months ago I was still threatening to kill myself. Things have improved a lot in a short period of time, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean they can’t change back in a short period of time either. I hope they won’t. I don’t think they will, but it seems I have to prove that these improvements are going to hold out and I can reach some form of stability, before I can consider myself well.

Hmm. We shall see. We shall see.

p.s. I did a quick edit on this post on 9th June. I ran out of time yesterday so the last couple of paragraphs had been somewhat rushed and I didn’t say everything I wanted to. I also didn’t tag things properly. There is still more I can say on this, especially as I spoke to HR today, but I will leave that for another post.

Limbo…

with 8 comments

It has been a very long time since I last posted. I can’t believe the whole of May has just disappeared. There was another post here about a week ago, but I trashed it soon after publishing it. It said nothing of note and was a waste of time. I didn’t even complete it, but I published it anyway for the sake of publishing something. I quickly realised there was little point in doing that and I may as well wait until I could sit down and write something properly.

Life continues to be busy and I am still “recovering”.

My mood is now on the whole okay. I am managing on a day-to-day basis and I feel relatively “normal”. My head feels quieter. I no longer think constantly about depression, death and suicide. I don’t spend the day wishing I’d never woken up. Life feels a lot lighter. It doesn’t feel like I’m wading through 3 foot of deep, muddy water any more.

I think perhaps it is more like I’m splashing about a bit in the puddles. There is still a bit of rain around and at times, plenty of cloud but there is sunshine breaking through too. I am starting to enjoy things a lot more and I’m even getting excited about things. Before, the only thing in the future I would think about was what day I intended on killing myself. Now, I am looking forward to my summer and thinking about what I will be doing.

I am excited about Glastonbury this year. I was really dreading it last year and I didn’t have any idea how I would get through it. I spent most of the time leading up to it intending to kill myself straight afterwards. That didn’t happen because the opportunity was never there, but it was on my mind a lot. When I was there, I spent most of the festival falling asleep, because of the Haloperidol I was taking at the time. I can barely remember any of it. I was anxious and couldn’t handle the crowds and I just wanted to sit down and sleep the whole time, because I was so weary. I am hoping that this year I can make the most of it. I want to be back to my normal self. I am looking forward to seeing new bands and have been listening to stuff on Spotify to try and catch up on all the music I’ve missed out on. I just hope the weather holds out.

I guess I hope my mood will hold out too. I am still acutely aware of the fact I have been ill and I’m not going to be fixed overnight. A lot of the time I think I’m fine and wonder why I’m not just back at work, but then something knocks me and I remember what things were like only a couple of months ago. It feels a little like I am walking along a tightrope of sanity. I haven’t fallen off, but I wobble quite a lot. Although my mood generally feels fine, I don’t feel secure. Some of the time I wonder if it is all a dream and I will soon wake up, back in that terrible state I was in before. There are times when I realise some of the negative thoughts are still there and I have to remind myself that things are getting better.

I’ve been thinking about suicide a little again, but I don’t think about it in the same way now. I have no intention of doing it at the moment, but I still wonder if it might be nice not to wake up again, despite all the improvements. I still wonder if I can get through life and if it is worth all the hassle. I am not sure I’d mind if I was ran over by a bus. I guess I am just no longer scared of death. I thought about it a lot before I tried to kill myself and even now I am not sure I really value life very much. Things have changed though and I realise that although I don’t really care if I don’t survive, I think I can survive. Before I didn’t know how I could continue to live any longer. Life was just too awful and unbearable. Now I think I can cope with things how they are and I can carry on. I have no intention of going out of my way to stop it. I’m just pretty apathetic I guess.

I think the illness still bubbles away under the surface. I don’t think it has really gone away, but the medication has turned down the heat and calmed things down. I still feel a little unstable and not quite right at times. Maybe it will never go away completely. Maybe I have just been through too much or things have just gone too far for me ever to go back to “normal”. I guess maybe it has been there most of my life anyway, but I am just more aware of its presence at the moment. I am terrified that things will start boiling over again. I spent a lot of my life denying there was anything wrong. I kept telling myself I was fine and should just snap out of it and get on with life. Now that things most certainly have not been fine, maybe I am no longer able to convince myself that I am fine, even if actually I am?

I guess this is all “Recovery”. Trying to work out what is “normal”. Trying to get on with life. Trying to not push myself to soon. Trying to find a balance.

I still think there’s a way to go. I feel a little like I’m in limbo at the moment. Not actually ill, but not actually well. There’s this middling ground where you kind of get lost in between states. I don’t really know what I’m meant to do whilst I’m here. I am not entirely sure I know the right way out either, but I just hope I get there eventually.

I have to stop writing now. I have news and things I want to write about, but they will have to wait. You’ve waited this long for a post. You can wait longer for the rest of it!

Written by intothesystem

Thursday, 3rd June 2010 at 10:44 pm

Stream of Conciousness…

with 10 comments

I started this post on Monday, but didn’t get time to finish it. It’s now Sunday! I don’t know where my weeks are going. I keep snatching five, ten minutes or so to write, but it takes me half that time to work out where I was before. I keep wishing I could write more, but other things get in the way. I guess more accurately I could say another person gets in the way. My bloke is still not too keen on me spending time on here and that means I usually have to fit it in when he’s not around.

At Creative Remedies on Monday we were asked to write. To write and to keep writing whatever came into our heads for three minutes. I wrote something private, something which I had thought about writing on here for a while. My thoughts were about how I come across at Creative Remedies. I behave like I used to at work and at uni. Friendly, helpful, bright, but hiding how I actually feel. There is a front there that hides the illness. An act. I feel like I have two halves. One outgoing and intelligent, the other ill and flawed. One bright, one dark.

I soon wished I hadn’t have written this. The next step of the exercise was to place our work in a pile on the table. Each one would be passed onto someone else who would then highlight the bits they most liked. The idea was to give us suggestions of how we could turn our stream of conciousness into something a little more creative. I didn’t want to share these inner thoughts. I didn’t want to let anyone in and break down the front. It was made even worse because my notebook is distinctive so whoever got it would know it was mine.

I felt almost sick as I handed over my book. I was given someone else’s piece. Theirs was fairly personal too, but completely anonymous and it gave me no real idea of the context. It didn’t let me in like mine would let someone else in. I was jealous of the guarded nature of their writing.

I could see who had mine. They were writing fervently on my piece. I worried about what they thought. They hesitated to pass it back still writing away. She glanced over at me and mouthed the words “is this yours?”. I had to reluctantly nod as she brought it over to me. Everyone else was scrabbling away at the pile trying to find their own.

I looked at her words. They were kind and expressive, but I still felt a little violated. She had liked my writing, yet I still felt uneasy. She was worried for me. She could feel the sadness and emotion in my words and wanted to comfort me. She later asked me if I was okay. It felt strange and I wasn’t comfortable with her concern. I don’t know that I deserve it.

I know she will never see me in the same light. She is the one person that knows the façade isn’t real. She will look at me with suspicion wondering what is behind the act. Wondering how I really am. I feel like I’ve been found out.

It’s weird how I can write here, knowing anyone could read this, yet I am so uncomfortable. It’s weird how I’m actually considering dropping my anonymity on this blog, yet I didn’t want to drop the act with one person. How would I feel if the same person came along and read all of this? I don’t know.

I don’t know how I really feel about these two sides. I guess in some ways the act shows I am making progress. I can hold myself together in front of people now. I can portray a sense of capability and confidence.  I can actually do things and at times I even enjoy them. There have been times in the past year or so when there was no way I could hide anything and enjoyment was a foreign concept. I was a mess, unwell and visibly so. That’s not true any more.

Yet, I am not sure it’s a good thing. I wasn’t well a year ago when I was first admitted to The Priory and I behaved the same in therapy. I was the sensible, level headed, friendly one. I spent more time giving others advice than I did talking about myself. I was the helpful, confident person. People even wondered why I was there. I seemed fine. I wasn’t.

I don’t really like the act. I don’t like its return. I have worked so hard in therapy to break it down. To be more open and honest about how I feel. To be more true to myself. For the therapists at The Priory, I was making progress when I started to talk about myself. I was chastised when I went into helpful, clever mode. I wonder if I should chastise myself when I act like this now.

At times I wonder if the act was what broke me in the first place. The act was a problem before, back when I was at work. I kept going, working harder and harder to hide how I felt. At times fuelled by unidentified hypomania, at other times fuelled by denied depression. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t cope. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to be confident and capable and not at mercy of emotions or illness. I drove myself into the ground until I snapped and my world fell apart.

I am worried I will do that again. I have been doing new things and taking on new projects over the past few weeks. I have ideas, I want to do things, I want to be successful. It’s a familiar feeling. My life has been full of periods where I take on new things and projects, but more often than not I take on too much and cannot cope. With hindsight some of these periods can be clearly attributed to hypomania, but others I am less sure. I wonder if it is just my personality. I don’t want to immediately see everything as something to be pathologised, yet I also want to learn from the past. I need to recognise the patterns and change them. I don’t want to keep crashing head first.

I don’t know what my mood is doing at the moment. People ask me how I am and I don’t know how to answer. I’m depressed, yet am I? Yes, the signs of depression are there. I feel numb, empty, suicidal. Negative thoughts, anxiety, paranoia too. The physical signs are out as well. Headaches, insomnia, tiredness. It all points to depression, but it’s not the whole picture. I am excited about new projects, interested in things (albeit not everything), doing stuff. Where is the anhedonia? I don’t think it’s a mixed state either though. Not in a classic way. I am not really sleeping, but I am tired with it. My thoughts race, but no more than is really usual for me. I am a little on the snappy, agitated, quick-to-anger side, but not physically agitated or excessively so. I don’t feel like things are going too fast. yet. I wish my mind would make it’s mind up. I feel almost lost within my mood.

Going back to the topic of anonymity and this blog. I don’t really want to be anonymous any more. I am not ashamed of my illness and I think it’s so important people are open and honest about these things. We can’t break down stigma if we’re too afraid to talk openly about mental health.

I am not even worried about employers googling me. I have no intention to leave my company any time soon. Even if I was looking for a new job, if a company didn’t want to employ me after reading this then I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. This may limit my career in future, but it’s something I’m willing to take the risk on.

There is a problem though and it’s my family. I am not sure I am willing for them to know how I really feel. I don’t want them to worry. I know my partner reads this already, but with my parents I am even more economical with the truth. I have never been open with them and I’m not sure I’m ready to start. I guess it is doubtful they will ever google me and find this anyway, but it is still a risk.

I realised though recently it’s not even that which is the main problem. It’s actually the stuff about my sexuality I’m most scared about. I thought I was comfortable with it. I thought I’d worked through everything a few years ago when I really went through a crisis of identity. I haven’t. I am fine with coming out knowing the people I am talking to are open minded, but I am not so sure about the rest of the world. More specific I’m not so sure about those closer to me. It doesn’t hurt if some stranger says something horrible, but if it’s someone I know it’s different. I know my mother can be quite homophobic and I suspect her opinions on bisexuality are even worse. I don’t want her to find out. I have always said that she doesn’t need to know and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. I suspect other members of my family would be even worse. I just don’t think I can face it.

I realised the other day that I’m not as comfortable as I’d like with my sexuality in general. The other night I was at the pub with a friend and somehow we ended up talking about gay couples. I mentioned a girl I know who used to be in a gay couple and she now goes out with a bloke. She made some comment about him “turning her” and I pointed out that she could be bisexual. She seemed a little taken aback by that and I didn’t know what to say really. It could have been the time to be honest myself, yet I was uneasy with her reaction. I wish I was comfortable enough to be completely “out”, but I guess I’m still not there.

I guess I could always go back and censor myself. I could make any mention of my sexuality private and I’d be safe, yet I don’t want to. I guess I could throw caution to the wind, face my fears and all of that, but I’m not sure I can do. I don’t know what to do.

No more driving…

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So today I finally got the letter. You may remember I had to notify the DVLA about my condition. My license has been revoked. I have to return my license in the next week and will not be able to reapply until I have been “stable” for at least three months. I may not have driven for a year now but it is different to know I don’t have a license. There is one benefit in that I can now get my free bus pass. I had to wait until I had proof of refusal before I could claim.

Today I was running a Rethink Tea Party. I barely slept all night worrying if we were going to raise anything. The first hour or so was terrible. We barely sold anything, but things picked up when we went for a wander around the village to sell some of our cakes. In the end we managed to raise over £180, which was great. I’m so relieved!

Written by intothesystem

Saturday, 3rd October 2009 at 4:59 pm

Pathways to Work…

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A couple of days ago I got a letter from the local jobcentre asking me to come in for a “Pathways to Work” interview in two weeks time. The Pathways to Work scheme is designed to get people of incapacity benefits (IB or ESA) and back into work. It is geared at people who do not have jobs and the support offered is all about work experience, improving skills and finding a job. For someone who already has a job but is just too unwell to work, this is obviously a complete waste of time.

The literature that came with the letter was even more frustrating. There were a number of “success stories” of disabled people who had successfully got into work through the Pathways to Work scheme. The disappointing thing was all of these people had got minimum wage jobs in local supermarkets, washing dishes in kitchens or working in DIY stores. There were no teachers, lawyers or accountants. No doctors, nurses or IT consultants. No one was in a managerial position. Everyone was in a basic entry-level role, with few prospects for career progression and no doubt earning very little. I know for some people, a job in a supermarket is a massive achievement, but for many it is a massive step down. Not everyone on incapacity benefit has had a poor education or learning difficulties. Some of these people are highly intelligent, highly employable and have been previously very successful until they became ill or disabled. Surely these leaflets are not providing a positive image of disability? The leaflets should be saying, “look, you’re disabled but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful and get a great job”. Instead they seem to say, “Oh, you’re disabled so you are obviously only capable of stacking shelves in a supermarket”. It is as if disabled people aren’t worthy of aspirations and successful careers.

This poor image of disability is reinforced by the services offered. Improve your CV. Training opportunities to improve your skills and employability. Work placements and buddy schemes. Money for attending job interviews. All of these things suggest that disabled people aren’t employable and need all the help they can get to find a job. Disabled people clearly aren’t capable of thinking for themselves and writing their own CVs. It may be true that in the current climate everyone looking for a job needs help, but this all seems very patronising and demeaning.

The other impression you get from the leaflets was the familiar story that people on incapacity benefit should just pull themselves together and get to work. There was a real sense of the Government’s displeasure about people being on disability benefits. On the first page it states that Pathways to Work is a key part of the Government’s plans to get one million people off incapacity benefits by 2015. Is it really feasible that one million people will recover from their disabilities? In theory it would be great if one million people became well enough to get back into work, but to me, the answer is not Pathways to Work. The answer is improved health care; quicker access to therapy for mental health patients, shorter waiting times for knee or hip joint replacements, more research into treatment for conditions like fibromyalgia, MS and chronic fatigue syndrome. People need successful treatment and support that will help them to recover and manage their condition. Help finding a job or gaining work experience isn’t going to make them well. Yes, working can improve well being and confidence, but for many it is just not an option.

A long week…

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A lot has happened in the past week. I kept meaning to write, but time got away from me.

I saw Dr G last Tuesday and was disappointed. It was a fairly pointless appointment. I did mention my dip in mood in the weeks prior to seeing her, but she didn’t have much to say. She increased the Lamotrigine again by the minute amount of 25mg, so I’m now up to 125mg b.d. She asked me about the hand over to the NHS. She seems ready to hand me over and doesn’t seem to want me to continue seeing her once I’m in the hands of the NHS. She thinks it will complicate things, which it would, but I trust her a lot more than I trust the NHS and I appreciate the constant input. I’m worried about the frequency I will be seeing the NHS psychiatrist. Talking about this with my social worker today, she said that if people are “stable” they will only see the psychiatrist every 6 months, even if that stability isn’t a particularly nice state to be stable in. She said I may see them a little more often at first, but even then it may only be every 3 months or so. This terrifies me. At the moment I always have that “if I can get through the next fortnight until I see Dr G, things may be okay”. This can keep me going. Knowing I’m on my own for months may be enough to make me give up again. I know I can ask for a rapid access appointment if things get scary, bad, but I’m not sure that’s enough and I can’t be asking for one every month or so!

On Tuesday night I learnt the bad side of knowing lots of people with mental health issues. One of my friends who I met in The Priory texted me to thank me for being her friend and to apologise for the fact she was going to kill herself that evening. I didn’t know what to do as I felt powerless to intervene and hypocritical for wanting to do so. She had been a long-stay patient in hospital and I believe was on overnight leave at the time. In the end I contacted the hospital she had been at and told them what she’d said. They wouldn’t discuss it with me due to patient confidentiality or even acknowledge what I had said, but I hope it alerted them and was of some help. They told me to call the police instead as they would have the power to intervene, but I didn’t want to do that. She tried to call me a couple of times in the evening but I missed the calls and when I called her back she didn’t pick up. I was worried but I did what I could. I was relieved when she later texted to say she had been picked up by the police, although worried for her. The hospital she had been in have chucked her out, presumably for breaking the rules of her overnight leave. I’m shocked and appalled by this decision as she’s at her most vulnerable at the moment. The people who are meant to be caring for her have dumped her when she needs them most and she is now alone and extremely ill. Last I heard she was staying with some friends and I just hope they can keep her safe.

This whole thing was triggering for me. I wanted to help her and intervene with her decision, yet I myself wanted to do exactly what she was doing. I was jealous of her at the same time as worried for her. I was angry at myself for being so hypocritical. I knew that if I was in her position I’d have been frustrated if she had intervened, but then I still wanted to do something. I couldn’t just stand by and let a friend die. I was comforted by the fact that she had contacted me. It suggested to me that she wanted someone to do something. She’d have gone alone and quietly if she was completely determined to succeed.

Wednesday started with a trip to Dr N so he could steal my blood for the mood disorder research. He struggled to get anything out of me. Spent ages trying to find veins in my arms and used my wrists in the end. The first attempt failed and has left me with terrible bruising and some wrist pain. The second attempt was eventually successful, but painful as he pushed the needle around in my wrist. We got there though in the end.

After this it was a trip to my office. My work laptop was due to be upgraded so I had to go drop it in to the IT department. It was weird to be in my old work environment. It made me realise that I really missed it. I wish I could just go back and do my job.

I had Creative Remedies in the afternoon. It was visual arts this time, which boils down to painting. I was disappointed by the class as it is restrictive. We had to start with a “colour wheel”, which made me feel I was in primary school. I know very well which colours mix together and what primary and secondary colours are. For our first project we have to choose images from a selection of Japanese, Egyptian and Art-Deco pictures and use these as inspiration. It feels very much like art at school, which is frustrating as I’d rather paint whatever I liked. I was impressed with the materials on offer though. We get a portfolio folder and sketchbook, access to good quality acrylics, watercolours and gouache paints and canvasses to work on. It’s all free so I can’t really complain. The teacher does seem to be experienced and the outreach workers are the same as on Monday’s session, so we should be able to develop a good relationship with them. I’ve been getting on well with one of them in particular already. It is basically just an art class though and not art therapy at all and although it gets me out of the house and doing something it doesn’t seem therapeutic. I miss the emotional freedom of art therapy at The Priory and the therapists there.

Wednesday evening saw us heading over to Snowdonia for a few days camping. My parents and grandparents had rented a cottage over there for a week, so we joined them for a couple of days. It was nice to get away for a few days, but I was feeling a bit flat a lot of the time. A good campsite near Beddgelert, we enjoyed nice food at The Goat Hotel on Wednesday evening.

The highlight of Thursday was a trip to Harlech castle, but a further reminder of my illness. Disabled admission was one such reminder. A bonus in that it was free, but even still I feel weird asking for it. I find it hard to think of myself as disabled. The second reminder came from climbing the towers. I felt uncomfortable at those heights. I am not scared of heights in any way, but I wanted to jump. If my parents and partner weren’t with me it would have been a huge temptation. I don’t think I could do that in front of them though. The image of my fall would haunt them for too long. Aside from this though it was good. I’ve never been such a big fan of ruined castles, but the views were fantastic.

Friday brought beautiful weather and a trip to the beach. We struggled to find one where our dog was welcome, but eventually stumbled across a beautiful little cove, with golden sands and shallow water. The beach was almost deserted with just one other couple there most of the time. We went for a swim, which was of course cold, but good. It was lovely to see our puppy swimming properly for the first time. I felt like a proud parent. There were also lots of little silver fish swimming around, which was unusual but made me a little squeamish.

We came home on Saturday, amidst drizzle and murkiness. A real downer after the lovely day on Friday. Our tent was soggy and I hate packing at the best of times, so I felt pretty awful. I’ve just felt pretty low all weekend and have had little motivation to do anything. I just want to hibernate really.

The highlight of today was another trip to Creative Remedies. I have enjoyed it and I think I will continue to, but I am still unsure of the therapeutic benefit. I wonder whether the vast amount of money that is being spent on this should be put to better use elsewhere, especially in reducing the waiting lists for other therapy.

My social worker came over today to check up on me before we both go and see the NHS psychiatrist tomorrow. She had some paper work to read and sign – mainly my risk assessment and enhanced CPA. It was weird to read a catalogued list of risks and declarations of my suicidal thoughts. She asked me what I wanted from the appointment tomorrow and tried to set some expectations. It seems that we will go over history and recent mood. It is apparently unlikely that the psychiatrist will change my medication on the first meeting and it is likely that I won’t see them again for a while. I don’t see the point in just going over my history and not actually doing anything. He can find the history in my notes and I’d rather use this appointment to make some changes that may help me to recover. We will see though. Wish me luck. I really fear I am going to need it.