Thursday, 5 May 2016

This is what my life is like

This was always supposed to be as much a blog with mental health aspects as well as a swimming (or sports) focus, with "Just Keep Swimming" referring the need to keep on going in life as well as in the pool, or the lake, or the river.  I do have a post to write about swimming but I have a post to write about my mental health first.  I was talking yesterday in the staff disability forum about "definitions" and at what point someone might no longer be considered disabled by mental health.  The conclusion was that for legal/employment purposes one remains "disabled" (assuming an episode that has lasted at least a year) because of the potential stigma/discrimination when seeking employment.  However, listing some of the ways in which my depression disabled me 2013-2015 as part of the discussion, I realised how different my life was now to how it was then.  This might be oversharing but I think it is important to be honest.

What is my life like now?
* I work 4 days a week
* I trained for and and ran my first marathon and am looking forward to doing more.
* I swim, but not obsessively, and am a member of a swimming club and am learning to swim backstroke with backstroke turns.
* I fundraise for Mind and am looking forward to my annual series of cake stalls, another Christmas crafternoon, and some interesting plans for 2017.
* I am a tutor with the Recovery College and developed and teach a course on Understanding Depression
* I mentor CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Chartership candidates
* I take my turn on the rota for holding the Free Cakes for Kids phone, speaking to families who are requesting cakes and arranging for bakers to bake them.
* I am undertaking a research project into the experiences of qualified librarians no longer working in the sector.
* My husband and I go on weekends away; these involve meals out.  We have been to Plymouth and Brighton this year and will be going to the Lake District twice, Torquay and Cornwall before the year is out as well as on our first proper summer holiday for several years.
* My husband is a member of a running club and goes running with them one evening a week and to a social once a month.  On these evenings, I prepare myself dinner, eat it, and watch tv.  He also helps out a brass band which involves rehearsals several times a month.  He continues to do his audax rides and I rarely even ask what time he will back.
* I do on average one social-meet up activity a week and sometimes two.
* I am going on my first holiday with a friend to a country that I have never been to before in July.
* Tears are few and far between.
* I eat breakfast, lunch and one or two snacks every day as well as dinner.
* I nearly do my fair share of household jobs, but I do rely on my husband to serve up dinner quite a lot
* Sometimes I cycle to work, sometimes I drive and pay to park my car at work, sometimes I run in and take the bus home, sometimes I get a lift.
* I sometimes chat to my husband at lunchtime and sometimes I don't.
* I am looking forward to returning to studying in the Autumn and have a place for a distance learning PG Cert in Systematic Reviews.  I have secret ambitions to do another masters.

I cannot believe what my life is like now.

But, I suppose there are limitations on me still
* I work 4 days a week because 5 days is too much/exhausting even in a fairly flexible job
* I take 2 regular medications and a third "as needed".
* I have to prioritise sleep.  Sleep itself is not something that comes easily to me.
* I cannot be out after 8.15 on a work night because I have to take my sedating medication, and this can start to have effects between 30 mins and 2 hours after taking.
* In fact, going out later than 9 is quite difficult on a normal night as I would probably have to skip this medication and compensate with some of the "as needed" medication
* Doing something sociable after work one day (e.g. going for an early pizza) wipes me out for the rest of the week; I find that I can't always see my friends as much as they want me to as I have to pace myself and it takes a while to get around the loop of friends before I can start again.
* Although I am in a running club, I cannot go to any of the running sessions as exercising until 7.30pm at night would impact on my sleep.
* Because of the medication/sleep issue I can't join my husband in brass banding. 
* there are wibbly wobbly bits 
* I'm on a 3 month follow up with the GP.

BUT, compared with much of 2015 (and 2014, and some of 2013....), where life was like the below., honestly, it is just unimaginable.  Three cheers for my amazing former GP and the rest of my surgery, plus G the care-coordinator, who got me through some very dark times.

*Trigger warning for content below: mentions of suicidal thoughts, self harm, eating disorders*
* I maintained a "face" which the majority of people would have seen if they met me..but...
* I trailed between appointments (averaging one-two a week, but sometimes there were more and very occasionally I would get a week off) with GP, G the care-coordinator, a string of psychiatrists, a psychologist, a series of mindfulness classes, occupational health, and trailed back and forth to the pharmacy collecting a procession of prescriptions.  And waiting rooms! I spent so much time sitting in waiting rooms.
* I would constantly insist that I was a terrible person. Almost anything that happened tracked back to this belief. No amount of psychology was able to defeat this.
* I was too unwell to work my full-time job, so had a temporary arrangement to reduce my hours, but spent the whole time worrying about a) not being there full-time b) not being well enough to go back full time at the end of the arrangement
* My husband was frequently called on to give up an hour of his day to come and collect me from work because I didn't have any mental energy to get myself home
* My husband would cook himself and myself dinner on a daily basis.  This meant that it was impossible for him to go out as on the days when he was out, I would just eat a box of mince pies or something that didn't involve cooking.  Sometimes on the rare occasions he was due to go out, it would have to be cancelled at the last minute as I was too unwell to be left home alone.  This would make him miserable and me feel guilty and miserable.
* My husband did manage to keep doing his long bike rides, but he would have to deal with a stream of miserable text messages and then come home to me having struggled through a day on my own.
* My husband would get me on the phone in tears almost every day that I was out of the house at work
* My husband would do most of the washing, cleaning and sort out any domestic crises.
* My husband was basically my carer at times and received support from a local charity that help carers of people with MH problems. Thank goodness for them, this made a big difference.
* I would go for periods of up to 3 months without any face to face social outings
* There were days when I couldn't even face making myself a cup of coffee
* I would feel too stresssed to eat during the day, never ate breakfast, rarely ate lunch, ate dinner, binge ate junk food, and then would get up in the middle of the night to eat again.  I was too embarassed to talk about this and get any help.
* I repeatedly burnt my left arm with my hair straighteners at the point when things began to deteriorate into intense awfulness in August 2015.
* I hit a suicidal crisis point on 3 separate occasions between January 2014 and August 2015.

I appreciate that there is a high statistical probability of another episode.

But I give endless thanks to the compassion and direction of my former GP that I was diverted from these plans.