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Mental health

Settling in

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I’m nervous writing this post, and to be honest I’m not sure if I will actually even post it once it is written.

Life right now? We are on the smallholding. The house is in relatively good condition. No matter what I say about the bedrooms being small all rooms are actually a good size. We have polytunnels already up and fruit trees producing. The field has good grazing. We have been blessed by seeing more family and friends in the last 4 weeks than we did in months when living in Scotland. The cats seem to have all adjusted well and I have a smiling baby girl.

All seems good. I have so much to be thankful for.

So why am I struggling. Why has my anxiety and OCD cleanliness glared up to the point I’m opening doors with my elbows, avoiding light switches, wearing trainers inside and wanting to throw up when in my bathroom and kitchen. The house is pretty clean by most people’s standards but my skin is crawling. Why do I just want to cry? Why am I struggling to sleep each night even though I’m shattered and my baby is sleeping soundly. Why have I stopped taking care of myself, eating and drinking regularly and have become incapable of taking my medicines regularly if at all? Why are the urges to self harm back with a vengeance?

I finally have things I have wanted for so many years. Starting a family and the ability to get back to the land and become more self sufficient.

So why am I falling apart?

I am hoping beyond hope that it is just the cyclical nature of my mental illness. That, like so many other times in my life, I just need to acknowledge this breakdown and shelter in the care of my husband until this cycle passes.

Or maybe it’s the return of the hormones after having a baby. My breakdowns have often coincided with hormones to the point that once a month I would get suicidal like clockwork. Maybe in a week or so this will have passed. Maybe I should go back on the pill to control the hormones. I want so much to be as drug free as possible and natural but maybe natural me is no good.

What I really really hope is that I’m not feeling this way, despite all the good in my life, because I am in fact the spoilt, ungrateful, whiney child that my head is screaming that I am.

24 hour mind bug.

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You know the thing I hate most about my mental health? The irrationality. When you’re sitting and crying and someone is asking you to help them understand but you just can’t, because you don’t understand it yourself.

It’s my birthday today. It’s the one day of the year that I can pretty much guarantee year on year that I will be depressed. I’ve tried to understand this birthday related depression over the years, I really really have, but I just don’t.

I will sit and cry. I will sob. I will be filled with urges to self harm and/or thoughts of suicidal idealisation. I’ll go off my food. I will happily stay in bed all day. I will get irrationally angry when people wish me happy birthday. Yet I don’t have a good reason why.

I know when I was younger, not sure how much younger but long before my first suicide attempt, possibly before my self harm started, I would try to comfort myself when the depression was bad. My choice of comfort was the knowledge that it would all end in death. I could take control of that in my life, decide when I die and free myself from it all. I could make things better. I know the old argument of ‘death isn’t better, it is nothing’, but to me nothing was a whole lot more attractive than the hell I was living and that I believed I had been living for oh so long. At some point, probably a birthday when I had seen another year pass by, I told myself that I wouldn’t live to my 16th birthday. I would kill myself before then I promised myself. When it got bad I would comfort myself with that promise, that it would all be over soon and the end was in sight.

My 16th came and went and I lived on. I think it was then that I stepped up plans. Four or five months after my 16th, on a day when I didn’t feel depressed, actually felt quite happy, I had my first suicide attempt. People don’t seem to believe that I wasn’t depressed that day but I honestly wasn’t. When you’ve been depressed for so long and you know that even good days are short lived, you can make that kind of decision on a good day and that is what I chose to do. I wanted to leave this world happy rather than depressed. Suffice to say I stayed in this world, although I am told it was very close, my closest to success to date. I was devastated and started planning my next attempt. Things did not get better for me for a long long while. Years of self-harm and two more suicide attempts that required a trip to A&E followed, along with so many antidepressants that I forget now which ones I have tried.

I’m 14 years on from that suicide attempt now, 19 years on from when I first knew that I was depressed. Life has changed a lot in those years. I haven’t self harmed in 7 months, at least not in terms of cutting, I’m currently unmedicated, I have completed a BSc, MSc and written my PhD thesis, I am a wife in a relationship that is 11 years old, I am a homeowner and I am 23 weeks pregnant with my first child. I really am in a good place in life right now. I have learnt so much more about my mental health and how to cope with it. My anger is in check most of the time and I look after myself as well as others.

So why is it, on my birthday, even though things are going well I am suddenly swamped with thoughts that I would be better off dead, lovely images in my head of all the ways I can achieve that death and urges to self harm that are so strong I have to physically stop what I am doing, grit my teeth and move myself away from whatever I am near? Crying all day, too scared to see people and petrified of my husband going to the shops because I do not feel safe being left alone?

When life is going well why does my birthday still trigger these feelings? The only thing I can think is that it is at least partly due to the aspect of a birthday in that ‘another year has gone by’. When I remember that another year has gone I remember that so many have gone already, I have survived through so many, and although not all of those years were dominated by mental illness they have all been tainted by it. Every year I struggle. Every year there are instances where I watch as my mental health wears me down, scares me and makes me think that this is the year I will lose to it. Every year there are times where I watch as my mental health causes me to lash out and hurt those around me. Every year there is another event that I will forever remember because I am so ashamed of my own actions.

Yes every year I get through all of those things. Every year is a year where I have survived my mental health, where I have tried to rebuild the bridges that my mental health caused me to damage, where I have achieved things I am so proud of. And maybe if that was it I would be ok. Maybe I could look at all the bad that has gone, weigh it against the good, hold my head up high saying ‘I’m a survivor’ and celebrate my success at being where I am. But it’s not.

I think I get the depressed feelings and urge to self harm and thoughts of suicide on my birthday now for the same reason I did when I made that stupid promise to myself. I feel like I have been living hell for oh so long. I didn’t know how long it could last then, I had only been ill for a few years and already it seemed like it was too much to cope with. Now, well now I have lived with my mental illness for so much longer. Nearly two decades. I really do think if that was it I could be ok with today though. But that isn’t all there is.

Back then, when I made that promise to myself, there was an out. There was a way to end it all. I haven’t had a suicide attempt in nearly 8 years and I’m not sure I will ever again have a pre-meditated one (I can’t speak for what happens in a impulsive moment – that will forever remain a danger for me). I really seem to have moved to the point where I no longer see planning to end my life as an option. ‘Hurrah!’ I hear you say, that is great progress right? But on days like today it is deeply depressing. I know that an imminent death is not an option, but I also know that medication is not an option (been told so by my psychiatrist), I also know (through having done enough of it) that CBT and other talk therapy is also not something that will make me better. This is it, this is me. I will continue year on year to fight my mental health, I will hurt those around me, I will be ashamed by my own actions, this is the rest of my life. There will be good things too, amazing things, but I will not stop having urges to self harm, I will not shake the self hate and disgust I so often feel, I will not stop having intrusive thoughts of suicide. And that thought, it is exhausting, it is depressing, it is soul crushing.

Fighting for so many years already and knowing I won’t stop for the rest of my life is just too much to think about and yet birthdays remind me of this.

The real kicker is that yesterday I was ok. Tomorrow I will be ok. It is just today. It is only day that I stop and see the long road behind and the even longer (hopefully) road ahead and just cannot walk any further. As quickly as it came these feelings came this morning they will be gone tomorrow. It’s so irrational. How do you explain that what has you sobbing and scared today won’t affect you tomorrow? My husband wanted so much to do fun things on my birthday to make me feel better but all of it is wasted on this day. Celebrations on other days can be appreciated but nothing seems to be able to penetrate my mind today. If I wasn’t pregnant I would have spent today in bed, taking my diazepam and not eating, ignoring the world until tomorrow. It really is like a 24 hour mind bug and that is surprisingly hard to explain to people.

Dans

Welcome 2015

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So 2015, it’s good to meet you. There is so much that I would like from you that I feel it would impossible for it all to happen.

I’ll try and start with the most important.

I would like to have a healthy baby in June, hopefully following a pregnancy and birth that doesn’t put me off for life. If we can do this 2015 I think you will go down in my life history as being awesome, nothing else required.

I would like to survive my viva, get through my corrections and graduate. I actually feel hopeful about this. I am pretty sure that this will happen ok. If we can then writing a couple of papers would be quite nice.

I turn 30 in February. Feb is always a hard month for me, my SAD is in full swing and I find birthdays depressing. It would be really nice to just celebrate this birthday. As a bit of a babymoon (last holiday without baby), a celebration of PhD finishing, and a celebration of my birthday my husband and I are hoping to go off for a long weekend to a sunny place, not sure where yet but somewhere new. Just to relax and be together. I don’t know if it will happen, it will depend on when the viva is and how the pregnancy is going, but it would be great.

Now that the thesis is out of the way I would like to move in 2015, find our ‘forever home’ and get settled, hopefully before baby is born. Again I have no idea if it’ll happen but it would be nice.

I would also like, with the free time I have to connect again. I have felt a real disconnect from everything recently. I would like to knit and brew and bake. I would like to grow food and cook. I would like to play boardgames again, I miss it. I would like to read more books, so many books to be read. I would love to learn how to sew. I hope that 2015 will see me using my hands and getting crafty again!

I would like to get into shape, sitting and writing a thesis does not make for a healthy body! I would like to maintain the health I have and build on it. That includes my mental health.

As I said at the top. So much that I would like from 2015. For now I sit here with my baby in my belly, my cats around me, a pregnant friend next to me and the sounds of my husband and our friend playing boardgames. You are off to a good start 2015. I raise my glass to you and welcome you!

Dans

Goodbye 2014

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Way back I when I used to use livejournal I would make two posts at new years, one to say goodbye to the old year, another to say hello to the new year. It used to be a fair few days after new years by the time I got around to it. I tended to be quite drunk at New Years.

This year I am stone cold sober, and fighting off the desire to crawl into bed so I figure now is as good as time as ever.

So 2014, what happened?

Honeymoon. Delayed by a good 6 months my husband and I set off to the Caribbean and to so many firsts. First cruise, first actual swim in the sea, first time in water where I can see my feet, first of so many foods, first time in a submarine, first time horse riding on the beach and in the sea, first time bareback, first time kayaking, first time in a rainforest or a natural hot spring, first time scuba diving or snorkelling, swimming with so many different animals. It was a gigantic adventure that I will always look back on with awe, not believing I actually experienced it all, wishing I could experience it again. Even though we found out I get sea sick easily! I would go back in a heart beat if I could.

SONY DSC
How can you not jump for joy being in the Caribbean?

Whilst on honeymoon we were able to go to Trinidad, my mother’s homeland and meet so many relatives that I had not seen since I was 5 years old. I wish I could have spent more time with them and really do hope it will not be another 24 years before I see them again. Unfortunately, the day before we arrived my Aunty passed away, she had been sick for a bit, but I had hoped I would see her one more time. I did not know her well, only meeting her twice and only one time that I actually remember, but she had a place in my heart and as the oldest sibling she was a central pillar for my family. She is missed, but that just shows how well she lived her life. I hope you are resting well Aunty Irma.

I had really really hoped to finish the PhD in 2014. At first I hoped before the honeymoon, then definitely by August, then by Samhain. I missed each deadline, only finishing lab work in September. I started to despair and think I would never finish but I handed in on the 18th Dec, just before Yule. It’s a bit of an end of an era but such a weight lifted from my shoulders. Just a viva and corrections to get through.

2014-12-18 12.31.37
Thesis ready for initial submission!

The PhD took a lot of my 2014 but we still brewed, still managed to get to Oakleaf, we had a good friend living with us for 8 month of it, still did some gardening, some reading, limited knitting and boardgaming. We also managed a short holiday to Finland in the summer which was nice. I really do love that country.

I did have one other major achievement in 2014 other than finishing the PhD. I’m pregnant, due June 9th. I’m excited and nervous and terrified. There will no doubt be a post soon about me and pregnancy and my mental health, my fears and worries etc. For now I will just say: 😀

12.50
I’m having a bubba!

2014 was ruled by the PhD but I  am thankful for the memories that were made. I likely wouldn’t be human if I didn’t hope for 2015 to be better. I will always hope for less heartache and tears. I will always hope for better health for me and my loved ones. And whilst 2014 didn’t do too well on those aspects, an amazing honeymoon, making a baby and submitting a thesis will hopefully be the memories I take forward!

I raise a glass of spiced mead and wish you farewell 2014!

Funks, update and esteem challenge day 2

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Half 5 in the morning. Been sitting here most of the night trying to write and not being able to.

I’ve been in a funk all day. I woke up not knowing what day of the week it is and just haven’t gotten back on track since. I’ve done productive things. Went to the shops with the hubby, fixed a light to wall outside (2 stories up and remembered whilst up the ladder that I very much dislike heights!), cleaned a fish tank, made dinner, did laundry finished knitting a project, just ends to weave in. In between each of these I sat down to write and nada. Nothing. Zilch.

Do you ever get that? Brain just refusing point blank to work? Really wanted this chapter submitted on Sunday, but it’s technically Monday now so that is gone. *shrugs*. I’ll get it done, it’s nearly there. I think this chapter is brought to the world by Tupac. I got some good writing done whilst listening to a youtube playlist of his music. For some reason it’s the only thing that is getting this brain into gear for this chapter. Gotta say I’m getting a little sick of the songs now, listening on repeat for so long. So hoping this is chapter will be pretty good once I get this version in.

Other than slight writers block things have actually been going well for me. I’m cooking a bit again and that feels so good. To go into the kitchen and coming out with something that was cheap to make, will do more than one meal and tastes damn good. Have to admit many of my meals have been containing courgettes recently, as we have had a glut from the garden. But I’m making it work.

I’m a lot happier. A lot less depressed. I did have one breakdown the other day, missed my CPN appointment because of it. But considering how I had been, I’m doing really, really well. I’m starting to look at my physical health again, I’m getting back on top of the house (so much laundry to do!), thinking about the garden, making good progress on the PhD, chapters really coming together now, the knitting is still going well. I just feel better in myself. I am so glad. It was such a long, dark, summer.

Really hoping I can get some posts up soon about things I have created, other than this thesis, but it must be done, and there will be time for posts after. Bear with me!

I majorly sucked at doing that 30 day challenge, so will do day 2 today.

Day 2:  List 5 things that make you smile or happy.

This one is very apt for how I have been feeling.

1) My husband. His childishness, his love, his geekyness, his humour. Have really felt like a newly wed recently, just looking at him can make a sh*t-eating grin appear on my face. He’d say that he should be worried by that, and just hearing him say that in my head has me smiling again.

 

2) My cats. Their stupidity, their cuteness and their personalities.

 

3) Good food. Certain food items. Just noms. What can I say I like my food!

 

4) Crafting. Whether it be cooking, knitting, growing, crocheting or brewing, it makes me happy to create something good.

 

5) My future. Looking at my future, with my husband and my cats, all the good food that I can eat, all the time I will have once the PhD is over for me to be crafting. That makes me happy and makes me smile.

 

Until next time.

 

Dans

Day 3:  What is one fear or goal that you would like to conquer?

Day 4:  What do you do to feel better when your having a bad day?

Day 5:  What is your proudest accomplishment?

Day 6:  What are some obstacles that are preventing you from accomplishing your goals? What will you do to overcome them?

Day 7:  Do you think you care too much about what others think? If so, how can you change that?

Day 8:  What is a food that you enjoy, that makes you feel good?

Day 9:  Do you have genuine respect for yourself and who you are as an individual? If not, how can you change that?

Day 10:  Are you happy with your “inner person”? If so, why or why not?

Day 11: Is your self talk negative or positive? If it is negative what are some more positive ways to talk to yourself?

Day 12:  What is the last thing that made you feel proud of yourself? Why did it make you feel this way?

Day 13:  Share about the last time you felt confident in yourself? Why did you feel that confident?

Day 14:  Is there someone in your life who makes you feel good about yourself? If so, how and why?

Day 15:  Do you like your personal appearance? If so, why? If not, what are some ways you could view yourself?

Day 16:  Do you have make-up, clothing, or any accessory that makes you feel positive about yourself? If so, what and why?

Day 17:  What do you do to feel calmer when your stressed?

Day 18:  Do you like the way you talk if so why?

Day 19:  Do you have an activity that makes you feel alive and good within yourself?

Day 20:  Has your self-esteem improved doing this challenge? If so, how?

Day 21:  Name 5 things that your good at?

Day 22:  Which of your skills or abilities do you pride yourself on?

Day 23:  What is your ideal outcome of this challenge?

Day 24:  Do you compare yourself to others? How can you be more focused on yourself?

Day 25:  If you meet a person just like you, would you like them? If so, why? If not, how could you view that person more positively?

Day 26:  When’s the last time that you were to hard on yourself? What do you think you could of done to treat and comfort yourself instead?

Day 27:  What is the main barrier to you having positive self-esteem? How can you break free from it?

Day 28:  What do you consider to be a healthy self-esteem? Does this match the dictionary definition of healthy self-esteem.

Day 29:  What do you think of your teeth and your smile? Do you like them? Why or why not?

Day 30:  Rate your self-esteem on a scale 1-10 for right now? Has it improved?

 

Getting back into the swing

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I’m back but I’m not back.

I’ve been knitting and loving it. I can’t post the pictures here yet as it is a surprise for a friend’s baby, but I’ve also taken an old hibernating project out of the drawer and started on it again. It’s a jumper I started back in 2012, but hibernated as I was having trouble with the pattern repeat. I was still having trouble, and was daunted by the idea of knitting the front and the back and then stitching up so I frogged it. I then had a look at the pattern and decided to convert it to be knitted in the round. Fingers crossed I can get the pattern right this time. It may just work out to be a jumper that I have to focus on 100%, not a knit whilst watching TV project.

 

The evil pattern repeat
The evil pattern repeat

 

I’ve tackled the brewing a bit and done a mass sterilisation of bottles and demijohns. The Midsummer Elderflower Mead has come off and been bottled, all 5 gallons. Feeling very proud of that and I am itching to put the next wine on. I think I might do step by step posts when I do it. This mead is a bit sweet for my hubby, but the MIL really likes it and I think a fair few others will too. Think I might reduce down how much honey I use to the gallon on the next one though.

Getting somewhere in the garden too. We hadn’t been on the ball with our courgettes and they have all gotten huge so it has been marrow based dinners! They have really grown well though. Also had a good run with the strawberries too. Problems with the tommies, in that they keep splitting. And I have no idea what I am doing with the sweetcorn, but I’m sure it’ll be ok.

I’ve also been writing again. No don’t get excited, it is boring writing, the PhD kind. But it is important that I do it. So yes, something down for all results chapters, working on discussions for 2 results chapters, 1 results chapter is an utter mess and needs rehauling but all the results are in, and the fourth results chapter is with a supervisor, complete. Little bits to add to materials and methods chapter. And I need to add a hell of a lot more to introduction and I’ve not put anything in my overall discussion. I am feeling good about all that though.

Managing all that has pretty much meant very little sleep. I don’t seem to be writing during the day, so that’s when the practical things happen, then at night I stay up and write. Energy drinks and caffeine pills have been my staple. Not ideal but I just want this PhD done with, so if it works, it works.

But I’m tired. I’m emotionally frayed. I’m physically shakey. I’m seeing things out of the corner of my eye. And right now the whole world is hazy. Some of that is due to me coming down with cold/flu. I always have 1 or 2 bad days of dizzy head, fuzziness, aching bones, burning eyes, freezing cold then boiling hot etc. Then I am ok again.

I don’t have time though. I haven’t pulled an all nighter since Weds night, I’m pretty sure I even slept 8 hours last night. But my head is lolling and I am getting increasingly pissed off at it. My right eye won’t stop blurring, but the optician said it is fine. My legs are restless. And I just want to shout and scream at my body to pull itself together so I can write what is in my head.

I will finish this chapter discussion tonight. It is a small chapter, the discussion is already in bullet points. I just need to snap out of whatever cold induced funk I am in right now. Caffeine tablets again I think. And maybe a shower whilst I wait for them to kick in. I am so looking forward to giving you a lovely post about courgettes and the things I am making with them, or my lovely jumper and the positive progress I am making on it, or the next batch of wine that goes on. But I need to get further on my thesis before I can take the time to do any of those! Right, pills, shower, write like a boss!

 

Dans

30 days self esteem challenge: Day 1

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I’ve seen a couple of people doing this and thought I would give it a go.

For the next 30 days I’ll try to do a short post daily following the challenge. The prompts for each day are below.

Day 1:  List 10 things that you love about yourself.

Ok this one may be a real challenge. Stumped at that, changing it to like and seeing if I have any more luck.

1) I like that I have compassion. I care deeply for others, humans and animals.

2) I like my hair the day after it has been washed.

3) I like that I can create things, wine, knitted things, rugs etc

4) I like that I try to share my skills.

5) I like that I try my hand at new things.

6) I like that sometimes I don’t give a fuck what others think.

7) I like the connection I have with the land sometimes.

8) I like the enthusiasm I have sometimes (that may be a repeat of #5).

9) I like that I have an eclectic taste in music.

10) I like that I can cook for people.

Fuck that was really really hard. Guess I really do need to work on my self-esteem. I think the only ones of those that I could stretch to loving about me would be #7. Well on that depressing note I’m going to go back to writing a discussion for a chapter.

Dans

Day 2:  List 5 things that make you smile or happy.

Day 3:  What is one fear or goal that you would like to conquer?

Day 4:  What do you do to feel better when your having a bad day?

Day 5:  What is your proudest accomplishment?

Day 6:  What are some obstacles that are preventing you from accomplishing your goals? What will you do to overcome them?

Day 7:  Do you think you care too much about what others think? If so, how can you change that?

Day 8:  What is a food that you enjoy, that makes you feel good?

Day 9:  Do you have genuine respect for yourself and who you are as an individual? If not, how can you change that?

Day 10:  Are you happy with your “inner person”? If so, why or why not?

Day 11: Is your self talk negative or positive? If it is negative what are some more positive ways to talk to yourself?

Day 12:  What is the last thing that made you feel proud of yourself? Why did it make you feel this way?

Day 13:  Share about the last time you felt confident in yourself? Why did you feel that confident?

Day 14:  Is there someone in your life who makes you feel good about yourself? If so, how and why?

Day 15:  Do you like your personal appearance? If so, why? If not, what are some ways you could view yourself?

Day 16:  Do you have make-up, clothing, or any accessory that makes you feel positive about yourself? If so, what and why?

Day 17:  What do you do to feel calmer when your stressed?

Day 18:  Do you like the way you talk if so why?

Day 19:  Do you have an activity that makes you feel alive and good within yourself?

Day 20:  Has your self-esteem improved doing this challenge? If so, how?

Day 21:  Name 5 things that your good at?

Day 22:  Which of your skills or abilities do you pride yourself on?

Day 23:  What is your ideal outcome of this challenge?

Day 24:  Do you compare yourself to others? How can you be more focused on yourself?

Day 25:  If you meet a person just like you, would you like them? If so, why? If not, how could you view that person more positively?

Day 26:  When’s the last time that you were to hard on yourself? What do you think you could of done to treat and comfort yourself instead?

Day 27:  What is the main barrier to you having positive self-esteem? How can you break free from it?

Day 28:  What do you consider to be a healthy self-esteem? Does this match the dictionary definition of healthy self-esteem.

Day 29:  What do you think of your teeth and your smile? Do you like them? Why or why not?

Day 30:  Rate your self-esteem on a scale 1-10 for right now? Has it improved?