Sadness vs. Numbness

Mental health

Today’s post is particularly similar to the horrendous weather we’ve been having recently – it’s miserable.

Despite being a little dampener to add to the rain, it is something that I really need to address.

If you have experienced the very lowest of depression, you will know it’s a feeling that you probably wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Let me tell you it is very different to placing someones head on dartboard and aiming at their head.

My lowest point is a moment in my life that will stay with me forever. Not because I can look back on it and see how far I have come, or use it to do wonderful things for other people like myself, but because it haunts me.

To the outside eye (or ear in this case) it probably seems as though there is nothing overly poignant in my memory. Shouldn’t my worst be self harming or contemplating actually jumping off that bridge? Nope. I was in the comfort of my own home. I remember sitting in my brother’s room, looking at the corner between the ceiling and the wall, hysterically crying and saying to myself : ‘I either run away or kill myself. If I run away, where would I go? I would probably run out of money, police would be searching for me all over. They would probably find me and bring me right back here.’ That was when I decided that my only option to get me out of this hell was death itself.

Fast forward to about 1 year later, and remarkably, I am still going. This is around the time it was finally concluded that I needed serious help, which brings us to the time I was prescribed antidepressants. First 20mg – useless. Then 40mg – took the edge off a little, but there was still something missing. Lastly, 60mg – everything went missing.

I have taken 60mg of Fluoxetine (Prozac) for around 2 years now. This is the highest dose of this particular antidepressant that you can get. Initially, I took medication and went to CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy. After a long time of doing both and a lot of money later, I decided therapy wasn’t for me and I would just let the medication do its thing – an unpopular opinion amongst many – yes I should probably try harder to fix the route of the problem and stop relying on medication that could just harm me in the long run etc etc…

Finally, to my point. Sadness vs. numbness? It’s a situation I never imagined myself being in. At my worst point, I imagined being sad for the rest of my life. Then when I started taking medication, I imagined all my bad feelings would go away. Wrong. In actual fact, all of my feelings have gone away.

I know this is what antidepressants do, they balance the neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain that affect emotions blah blah blah. But what they don’t tell you is that you are really trading in those God awful emotions for feeling like an emotionless zombie. In retrospect this is what I am now – particularly in the midst of waking up – I am not a morning person, no amount of medication will change that. Anyway, tablets make it far easier to sleep and you can walk past a train track without thinking of hopping on it which in my eyes, is a winner. But there are also symptoms that come from antidepressants. Altogether, these are called ‘Emotional Blunting’… there’s a term for everything, really, us depressives will never win…

The symptoms of Emotional Blunting go a little like this:

  • Being less able to cry in a situation where it seems you should – even if you want to. This feels a little bit like needing to sneeze but not being able to.
  • Feeling little to no empathy – those charity adverts with the children are my worst nightmare.
  • Not being able to belly laugh at the best of times – the feeling I miss the most.
  • Generally feeling like half of yourself is missing. You are the tiniest one of all those Russian dolls that go inside each other, you are desperate to get out but you are just too small to remove the layers.

 

So my question really is, is it better to feel totally sad, or to feel nothing at all?

I miss the days where I could laugh out loud, genuinely, and feel the joy of your stomach aching from the giggles. I miss being able to have a good cry with my Mum about missing my Grandma – reminiscing over the good days. But then again, I would rather never smile again than go back to that day in my brother’s bedroom.

For anybody that knows me, I hope this gives you a little more of an insight into my teeny tiny pea brain. For anyone that doesn’t, or has been going through the same thing wondering what the heck is wrong with them, please know you are not alone.

 

Hugs and wishes,

Abbie x

 

 

 

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Real Talk: Relapsing

Mental health
relapse
rɪˈlaps/
verb
gerund or present participle: relapsing
  1. (of a sick or injured person) deteriorate after a period of improvement.

I could very easily pretend like this weekend didn’t happen, and that it was all flowers, fairies and family (which 30% of it was may I add). But I also need to acknowledge the fact that the rest was not.

On Friday I had one of my most significant relapses yet. Everything felt like it was going wrong; I was tired, depressed and extremely alone. I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness wash over me. Granted, a simple wrong direction can have my world spinning upside down but this time it was far more prominent.

Whilst I’m at work, I keep myself busy. I don’t have time to over think things; I have like-minded people around me to talk to and keep me company. I really love my work and who I work with! But let’s not lie, unless you’re very lucky, there will always be some sort of boundary between work friends and actual friends.

On Friday it suddenly dawned on me just how alone I am. I have one friend in London who is usually too busy living his normal young adult life to fit me in with my work hours – which I don’t blame him for! I would too if I could. The closest family and friends I have are at least 2 hours away from me. It doesn’t matter how much I can pride myself on saying I’m independent, capable, adult etc. everyone needs someone.

Anyway, I came out of work to a completely normal Friday. I’m used to seeing everyone together having drinks in bars, eating food and laughing whilst making my way home. It doesn’t usually affect me but there was something about it that made me feel sick to my stomach. For some reason, I just cried… And cried and cried.

Then I went on to do things that the old me would have done, I walked down dark alleyways in hope that I would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I crossed every road without bothering to look, unconcerned about the cars and buses just meters away. I went through Shoreditch hoping a sleazy man would pay me some attention. I walked for an entire hour in the freezing cold, found a canal and just sat next to the water in the dark. I went into full on self-sabotage mode.  And you know the worst thing about it all? Not one person looked my way.

I find it more difficult to contend with relapse when I have been doing so well for so long. You feel like you’ve worked so hard for what? I also find it tough knowing therapy hasn’t helped me and I’m on the highest dose of medication I can get. What now? Is this really my life forever? A couple of months of feeling ‘normal’ then a weekend of self-pity and you’re back to square 1.

It’s tough as hell having to accept that you might go through this for the rest of your life. But after really thinking about it, there is nothing I can’t handle. Relapses don’t last into infinity. If they did, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post today. You can think that there’s no hope and you’ll be like this forever. But if you’ve relapsed, that means you have got better.

As much as we would like it to be, life is not linear. Our ups and downs, as painful as they are, teach us a new way of coping every time.

This time taught me – always wear a coat if there’s a possibility mental breakdown.

Hugs and wishes,

Abbie x

 

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Books for Bad Days

Film, TV & Books

Hello! I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite feel good books for when I’m not feeling so fabulous. These books sure aren’t miracle workers but they always manage to make me feel some kind of way even on the darkest of days! There’s so many cool books out there that help with positivity and mindfulness so if you have any please share them with me!

10,000 Things to be Happy About

So I have to admit, I did only buy this book because it was all over tumblr, it’s extremely aesthetically pleasing and I thought it would look cute in my bedroom; I didn’t really intend on reading it. I guess there is kind of a story behind how it did start helping me on bad days. A couple of years ago my family was going through a really hard time, in order to piece ourselves back together we decided we needed to spend more time as a family. One day, we decided to go to the zoo – a ridiculous idea considering it was mid February, the majority of animals were kept indoors and it was absolutely freezing. But anyway, we had a lovely day and it really helped us to realise what’s important. A few days later, I decided to open the book and the first thing I read from a page full of words was ‘going to the zoo in winter’. I don’t really believe in fate but this was way too much of a coincidence so I have loved the book ever since. It’s not really something you can read as such, but it’s really nice when you feel a bit low to open the book to a random page and read the simple things we take for granted. It’s similar to the technique of saying what you’re grateful for but everything is written for you which I find a lot easier.

Tony Robbins: A Note from a Friend

I was given this book by family friends after they took me to my first ever Tony Robbins seminar in London. At first I had no idea who this guy was. I expected the seminar to be formal and boring. But if you know anything about Tony Robbins you’ll know I was completely wrong. That seminar turned out to be a real turning point in my life. This book reinforces everything he said on that day. It’s really about how Tony became the successful man he is but the book is written in such a concise and easy-to-understand guided style that teaches you about life changing tools and principles. A lot of people may not understand how one person and a book can genuinely help you to live a better life; I was once one of those people. I urge you to try it though! Because this book has really inspired me and it puts everything into perspective. After reading his story about the obstacles he’s had to face before being as successful as he is, it always makes me feel better – these dark days won’t last forever.

The Little Book of Mindfulness 

This book was actually a gift from my therapist, she bought it for me because I had never really looked into mindfulness so she thought it could help with my anxiety. This makes the book special in itself because I know a lot of thought has gone into it and it shows that people do care! I find it’s good to put in my bag so if I start to feel a little rough I can just flick through it to calm myself down. I don’t even need to do the mindfulness tasks usually, it just puts my mind at ease knowing there are things to make me feel better! It’s also a nice book to read in the morning to get me prepared for the day. At the moment, my favourite passage is from the Accept and Respond section which states simple mindfulness practices engage the mind and the body, helping you let go and slowly bringing you back to a sense of equanimity and peace. Unlike the majority of the book, it is a poem called ‘The Guest House’ written by Jalal Al-Din Rumi (picture of poem below). I love it because of the metaphorical implication; it’s a really warming comparison which makes your feelings seem simple and easy to cope with.

the guest house

Hugs and wishes,

Abbie

XO

High School Dropout

Lifestyle

When you hear ‘high school dropout’ rebellious and carefree springs to mind. But my story isn’t quite like that. There is so much judgement around not completing school and not getting A Levels or equivalent qualifications. Immediately you become this stupid, incapable person that’s ‘never going to get a real job’ (as I have been told).

School life wasn’t overly traumatic for me; I had friends, I was never bullied and I was fairly bright but still, I hated it. From Year 10 onwards I rarely completed homework, I didn’t concentrate in lessons and I didn’t revise for exams; I simply just didn’t care. At the time I knew it wasn’t just school that was the problem, I used to cry every night and have thoughts that a normal 15 year old shouldn’t have. The first time I spoke to someone about how I felt was on the Childline website. It was a way of talking but not having to face anyone. This helped for a while but eventually my teacher noticed a change in my attitude and asked me what was going on. I told her everything and I was put on the school’s counselling waiting list. However, the teacher I spoke to didn’t keep what I told her confidential. She told my parents and friends about how I was feeling. To make things worse, I never actually got a counselling session at school; they just forgot about me. School is supposed to be a place where you feel safe, my teachers had a duty of care but they made me feel violated and alone.

Eventually, I got an appointment with a psychiatrist at CAMHS. Unfortunately they lived up to their awful reputation and didn’t help me whatsoever. Despite everything, I passed my GCSE’s with the help of a hypnotherapist who encouraged my motivation.

Afterwards I went to Sixth Form. I thought the change in scenery would help and I’d be able to cope with another 2 years at school. I spent my first year hiding in the toilets, in the counsellor’s office or walking home. Still, I passed my exams and went onto my second year. I only had 5 months left until I could leave forever but even that was too long. Everything that had built up over the previous 3 years suddenly caught up with me and it was best for me to leave. A lot of my friends and peers couldn’t understand it, but it was what I had to do and my parents were really supportive of my decision.

After I left, I went to a private psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I now have to see a therapist every week and take antidepressants. It now makes sense why I couldn’t cope with school; I was coping with a much bigger issue. I honestly believe that if I stayed in school and continued keeping everything in I wouldn’t be here today. I may not have qualifications and be able to go to Uni but I am alive.

As much as your teachers, parents and friends may say it is, school isn’t everything, your health is. If in any way you feel like I did when I was in school I urge you to speak out. Even if your parents aren’t as supportive as mine were, just telling them how you feel will help them to understand and appreciate how hard it is for you. If your parents aren’t an option, speak to an understanding teacher (preferably one more professional than mine) it might make school easier if someone there knows what you’re going through. Also, you are not alone! 10% of children and young people suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental problem. Lastly, Simon Cowell, Richard Branson and Jay Z dropped out of school at 16 – I think we’ll be ok.

If you ever meet someone who has dropped out of school, wait until you find out what they’ve been through before you make judgements!

Hugs and wishes,

Abbie

XO