Posts Tagged ‘sleeplessness’

Blog – Anxiety, Depression and Me

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for three years now, and it is really getting me down.

I am writing a short personal account about my depression and anxiety because I strongly believe that being open and honest about mental illness helps reduce the stigma and discrimination that people face – and helps people struggling themselves with their own mental health problems.

My experiences with depression

This is not the first time I have suffered from depression, having had a prolonged and serious episode at university, but since then I had kept it largely under control, working full-time for the next 9 years, with many and varied responsibilities and consistent promotions, as well as a total of less days absence than years worked.

I continued during the first 9 months of depression to work full-time, but mistreatment at work combined with the loss of managers, structure & friends due to their redundancy were taking their toll on my private life, where I was withdrawing more and more from the slightest activity or contact.

This withdrawal I suppose was a subconscious fear of getting too close to people and then losing them – I have not been in communication with my parents for many years, my remaining grandparents died shortly before the depression set in and close friends had moved and/or drifted away in the same period. The redundancies of friends and my management team subsequently added to these losses, and consequently deepened my anxiety, depression and ongoing problems with sleeping.

It all came to a head when I was shot down on attempting to stand up to the bullying and neglect at work, and I quickly imploded, not sleeping for a number of days and doubting myself to the point of being ready to attempt suicide.

An intervention from my GP and the mental health crisis team meant that I ended up in hospital rather than dead, but by this time anxiety had set in like I had never previously known. I was having panic attacks going outside, and was anxious all the time.

Over the next few months I began a recovery supported by the unrelenting positivity, compassion and communication from my sister, together with support from a couple of friends. After a major breakthrough in counselling allowed me to stop heaping blame on myself so much, I returned to work part-time.

A few months at work, and, despite some effort, a continued lack of support and understanding, together with a failure to resolve the problems with mistreatment, led to my depression and anxiety deepening again. After many months of psychology, I returned to work a second time and despite one manager making a concerted effort, I was disenfranchised and had a similarly rough experience. People continued to make assumptions on what I was thinking, and what I could and could not do, and there was a continued failure to resolve the original problems. With my self-worth once again reduced to near zero, I ended up leaving about a year ago.

Through all this time, the anxiety about going outside has remained – meaning I have often gone a day or two without food until hunger has trumped anxiety – and then I’ve gone to the corner shop and ended up stuffing myself with pies and/or chocolate.

I’ve developed food intolerances whilst suffering from anxiety, which has made going out for food even more difficult. I’ve struggled to get out of bed for days at a time, been fatigued almost constantly, and fairly often fallen into a trance trying to make decisions.

I’ve struggled to look after myself at all – to clean myself, my flat, clothes or dishes, to cook, to spend time enjoying myself or relaxing. My concentration has been awful with any passive tasks like reading or watching TV, and I’ve struggled with a lack of any motivation much of the time – with headaches, exaggerated anxious reactions and a clouded mind making this even worse.

My mental health has put considerable strain on my relationship with my sister, and around the time I quit work it had really started taking its toll. My sister has had to greatly reduce her contact with me to protect her own mental health, and together with the much reduced social contact due to not working, and more friends departing from regular contact, the brief upturn in my mood following leaving work was not sustained.

Over the last year I have gained purpose and friendship through volunteering with Mind in Salford, and have also resumed going to counselling – and combined these have managed to keep me together enough to keep going most of the time. I can not emphasize enough how important a purpose, social contact and discussing my problems are for me to maintain any semblance of mental health.

Over the last couple of months I have made a few steps towards a recovery – the first being asking for help (and receiving it!). Thanks to the support of Diane (one of Mind’s advocates), I am finally getting support to address my anxiety, and am finally getting seen by a psychiatrist to reassess my treatment.

The hope gained from this medical and support intervention is keeping me improving and I’m still positive that I can recover with the right help, despite ups and downs in my ongoing recovery.

I urge anyone who feels they are not getting appropriate help or support, who feels they are not being heard, it is important that you reach out for help. Asking for help from an advocate can help this plea be heard – and provide hope.

Reaching out

If you identify with anything in this blog, please ask for help. Mind in Salford’s advocates can be contacted on 0161 839 3030, and there are further contacts in our more help section.

Blog – Hugging the Black Dog

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I got into working in mental health because at the tender age of 20 I had a breakdown and suffered to varying degrees with anxiety and depression for the next 20 or so years. I found the practice of Mindfulness about 10 years ago, attending a class at the local Buddhist Centre, treating it more as a bit of fun and a giggle with a friend than anything that could seriously help my mental wellbeing.

Then 3 years ago I started looking at it in more depth. My work was crazy busy with lots of changes and I was feeling the pressure. I started to get the old familiar feelings of anxiety rearing its ugly head, waking up in the middle of the night worrying, having the shakes during the day, and imagining in painful detail how my life would be when I couldn’t cope and I lost my job, my house, my relationship, my sanity.

I bought some books on Mindfulness and started listening to the accompanying CDs. I went at it with great fervour, determined to rid myself of the evil beasts of worry and low mood. Every day I meditated, every day I checked if my anxiety had gone… it hadn’t. Surely the next day or the day after I would reach a blissful state and be able to live my life without fear. I would be bullet proof, bomb proof, able to carry on through extreme adversity, rescue small dogs from burning buildings.

Of course not, Mindfulness has worked for me but not in the way that I expected it to. I was trying so hard to rid myself of my ailments, fighting with myself, pushing thoughts and feelings away. My expectation was ridiculously high and my results were depressing.

Then shortly afterwards the concepts of mindfulness started to click with me. I realised I’d spent most of my life fighting with my condition, trying to be strong and power through depression, push away anxiety. Busying myself, distracting myself and beating myself up when that failed and my problems seeped through papered over cracks. Winston Churchill used to describe his depression as ‘the black dog’ and I realised what mindfulness was telling me, you have to hug the black dog.

It’s about changing your relationship to stress, depression and anxiety, just letting them be there, giving up the fight. It’s learning to approach them with curiosity and even warmth. That doesn’t mean becoming resigned to always feeling like that, it just means those feelings are there in this moment so just let them be there, just for now, just as much as you can. It’s like a reed bending in the wind, rather than resisting and bracing against it and eventually breaking. Once you give up the struggle with your problems then they can be transformed. It might take a while, it might take a long while, but it can change.

Three years down the line my anxiety and depression are very different. They still appear sometimes but I can cope much better with them, I’m much more resilient. I hardly ever wake up in the middle of the night worrying anymore and my low moods tend to drift in and drift out occasionally, not sticking around like they used to. I’m learning to hug my own black dog.