Depression, Mental Health, Twitter

Good luck #BlackDogRunner

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Anyone who follows me on twitter or reads my blog knows that I have been supporting my good friend #BlackDogRunner who is running the Great North Run.

Well the day has come!! And he will be running 13.1 miles looking like this….

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It’s my little one’s 4th birthday so instead of cheering him on in front of the TV, I will be spending the day with an over excited child who is pumped up on sugar and who has probably been very spoilt with presents, and hosting a soft play party for 20 kids ….Arghhhhh!
However despite this I will be thinking of my favourite dog running for Mind, and my way of cheering him on is writing this blog post.

I am very proud of him as not only has he trained for a half marathon while suffering from Depression and fatigue, but he has also been working, doing his PhD, stigma fighting on his twitter feed and blog, and still supporting his friends (like me) .

So given that his #NumberOneFan Is not there to cheer him on I’d love for anyone reading this to support him for me, so whether you are there or just watching on TV please look out for the Dog and give him a wave if you see him, as I know he’ll appreciate the support. And if you can afford it and you haven’t already done so it would be great for you to sponsor him too. It’s a great cause!

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Depression, Mental Health, Uncategorized

My Black Dog

Today #BlackDogRunner has asked me to guest tweet for him. This is because part of the aim of inventing #BlackDogRunner as a masked vigilante black dog was to make him the voice of every (wo)man on Mental Health issues. So while the “real” Dog is on holiday this week he has asked 5 of his anonymous friends to tweet on his behalf. You can read my interview with him here. Regular readers of my blog will remember that #BlackDogRunner is an online friend who has supported me lots during my most recent period of Depression (read about it here) so I am of course only too glad to help, and it seems like an appropriate time to blog a little about my Black Dog.

I remember the first time I saw the short film, ‘I had a Black Dog, his name was Depression’ by Matthew Johnstone and feeling like someone had finally described a lot of what I was feeling that I hadn’t been able to describe in words.

The film is here and if you haven’t seen it please take a look…

http://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc

I feel the film may not exactly replicate my experience but it certainly helped me to explain it better to people who have never suffered with depression themselves. I certainly think it shows depression is much more than “feeling a bit down”

Officially I was only diagnosed with depression around 8 years ago, but I feel my Black Dog has been around since my teenage years. Up until then I feel the Black Dog had, on the whole, been fairly manageable but all of a sudden, and out of the blue, he had taken over and it resulted in me taking a fairly large amount of time off work, medication and some therapy. After over 2 years of fighting he became more manageable again and I was able to stop the medication.

I had about 6 years of “remission” but then last year the Black Dog returned. I had felt the symptoms creeping up on me for a while, and I had even mentioned to my (now ex) husband that I wondered if I needed to consider medication, but then last summer my marriage falling apart along with my mum being diagnosed with cancer pushed me from mild depression to major depression within a matter of days. Luckily, my knowledge of the illness meant I didn’t delay asking for help as I had in the past. I went straight to the doctor for medication and to request a referral to counselling.

A year on I am still struggling every day, but I think a combination of therapy, medication, selfcare and the support of my friends (both in real-life and online) is starting to make a difference. I know the road to recovery is a long one, with hurdles along the way, but I am determined to try to keep fighting.

I feel my Black Dog will be around my whole life, but I’m hoping that overall I will be able to keep him under control.

If you have, or know someone who suffers from depression I’d love for you to show your support for #BlackDogRunner who is running the Great North Run on 7th September 2014 for Mind. Give a #PoundForTheHound by texting PFTH70 £1 to 70070 (UK only) and if you are on twitter use the hashtag #PoundForTheHound to dedicate it to the Black Dog in your life.

If you want to know more about the #PoundForTheHound please read #BlackDogRunner’s blog post here.

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Depression, Mental Health, Twitter

How I’ve Found Support Through My Depression

I was first diagnosed with depression 8 years ago, although in hindsight I have probably been struggling with it intermittently since my teens. When I initially went to the doctors 8 years ago I didn’t go because of my mood, I initially went with stomach cramps and to cut a long story short was diagnosed with stress. This was the beginning of some self-recognition of my low moods, and when a series of mildly stressful events started to significantly affect my mood, and I couldn’t shake it off, I eventually went to the doctor to request some time off work. Even then, I did not want to be labelled with any kind of mental health issue. When the initial week off work didn’t make me feel better the doctor recommended trying anti-depressants I point-blank refused. Because I did not want the stigma of taking medication. Only a few more weeks later when nothing worked did I finally concede that I needed to try medication. However the first thing I did before taking them was do some research. That was the first time I discovered Mind, the mental health charity. I guess I was vaguely aware of their existence so I knew their website could be trusted in terms of information, but over the coming years the website became my “go to” place for information on depression, both for me and for my family. I used it for all kinds of information not just about medication, but for all kinds of information from what depression is, to how I could help myself, and how my friends and family could help me! It was a really useful resource.
Unfortunately my depression got significantly worse before getting better but I am fortunate enough to say that after approximately 2.5 years of treatment, which included therapy for some long-standing issues from my childhood, I was lucky enough to have a long period of “recovery” from depression. Although I still struggled with low moods at times, I recognised the symptoms creeping up on me and found I was able to self-manage things before I ended up in a crisis.

That was until last summer. I had felt the symptoms of depression creeping up on me. Work was stressful. Home was stressful. I was constantly tired. I considered going to the doctor as my usual strategies weren’t working, but for a number of reasons decided I wanted to try and manage on my own. That was until my marriage started to fall apart. At the same time my mum was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Within a matter of days I went from feeling mildly depressed into full blown major depression. I immediately went to the doctor to ask for medication….an acceptance over time that depression may be something I would have to manage over my life meant I felt less stigma about doing this. I was prescribed a different anti-depressant than I had taken before, so I returned to the a Mind charity website to do some research. I also started following them on twitter, alongside other mental health charities and organisations.

Over the coming months reading about other people who were struggling with their mental health became important to me. I was not brave enough to talk on my own twitter account about how I was feeling, but knowing I was not alone in my thoughts and feelings was helpful. Then in February of this year I stumbled upon a blog post from #BlackDogRunner called “How Are You?” It seemed so appropriate to how I was feeling. I’d taken a long period of sickness from work, followed by an equally long phased return, and I was starting to be asked the dreaded “How are you?” question a lot. I was so pleased to find someone who seemed to articulate exactly how I was feeling that I immediately followed the blog and read and digested his previous blog posts-which I found equally easy to read, funny and insightful. Over the next few weeks it also gave me an idea. #BlackDogRunner had an anonymous twitter feed and an anonymous blog, which meant he could be totally honest about how he was feeling without any stigma, and without any of his real life friends, colleagues or acquaintances knowing what he was saying (unless he chose to reveal his identity). I was feeling very stifled at the time. Many of my followers and friends from social media included people I knew in real-life, and many people knew my ex-husband too. I felt I couldn’t be honest about how low I was feeling about my depression, about my marriage break-up, about my mum’s illness, and at the time all I was doing was existing. Just getting up for work and looking after my daughter took all my energy, I didn’t have much energy left for much else, and whilst I do have real-life friends it wasn’t practical for them to be around for me 24-7. So without realising it #BlackDogRunner gave me the idea for an anonymous twitter account. My previous blog post “How Twitter Helps My Mental Health” explains how important it has been for me to be able to talk freely about how I am feeling, and over time I have become less anonymous (in that I now share my first name).

#BlackDogRunner was one of the first people I followed on my new twitter account, and over time he has become a real friend. He is very kind and considerate, always there with a piece of positive advice-usually about self care and self-compassion. On a personal note, he has become a “virtual shoulder to cry on” but also someone to have a giggle with. He was someone I confided in about “The Thing I Can’t Talk About” before I felt ready to blog about it, and he talked to me and helped calm me down when I was having a major anxiety attack a few weeks ago. I am very proud to call him my friend, and I hope one day I will get to meet him in real-life so I can give him a proper hug to thank him for all the support he has given to me over the last few difficult months. It’s become a running joke that I have turned into #BlackDogRunner’s #NumberOneFan.

Since I found out that #BlackDogRunner intended to run the Great North Run I have felt that I wanted to support him to show him how much he means to me and to show I do appreciate the time he has given to support me. When I found out he was running in support Mind, it felt even more appropriate as he has really helped fulfill one of the charity objectives to “make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone”. He has always managed to make me feel I wasn’t alone, whether it was by writing his blog, or being there for me when I needed someone. So I’ve sponsored him at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/blackdogrunner and I hope you will too.
I also hope you will be cheering him on on 7th September. I only wish I could be there but not only is Newcastle a little far for me to travel, but it’s also my daughter’s 4th birthday so no doubt I’ll be surrounded by 20 screaming children all demanding birthday cake.
So as his #NumberOneFan what will I be doing? I guess I will be wearing this, so he knows I am there in spirit….

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I really hope you will show #BlackDogRunner some support to help make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone, so if you can afford it please sponsor him at
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/blackdogrunner

You can also follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/bdogrunner
Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackdogrunner
Follow his blog: http://www.blackdogrunner.wordpress.com/

For more information on Mind, the mental health charity you can
Follow them on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/mindcharity
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mindforbettermentalhealth
See their Website: www.mind.org.uk

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Depression, Mental Health, Uncategorized

The thing I can’t talk about….TW: sexual abuse

I’m not sure why I’m writing this post.

I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do.

I’m not sure if I’ll regret it and delete it.

You see, there are things that I will write in this post that very few people in the world know about. Because I can’t talk about it. I can’t deal with it.

But weirdly I have told 2 people in the last 2 weeks, and alluded to it while talking to my counsellor, and so maybe it’s something I do need to talk about? Because maybe it’s so intricately tied up with how I feel about myself that if I don’t talk about it it will just affect me forever.

Interestingly I told none of these people any details.

So, let’s just get it out there…..I was abused!

Ok. So I said it!

Let’s try a bit more…..I was sexually abused.

That was harder to say!

So I’m going to say the two hardest bits together.

I was sexually abused by my brother, and my brother is younger than me!

Ok. There you go!

So, now all those feelings of me being judged are there. And that’s why I don’t talk about it!

Because I feel ashamed of it!

I not only feel ashamed that for 8 years of my life my brother abused me, but also that he was younger than me, so I should have been able to stop it right? Because he was younger!

I told my parents!

Not at the time. I told them 7-8 years ago when it all came out during the counselling I had because of my last bout of depression.

They didn’t do anything! They got upset….briefly. They went to see a counsellor who apparently suggested perhaps I made it up due to some kind of sibling jealousy. WTAF!! At that point I was on anti-depressants and had been off work for 3 months. And my counsellor felt that it was probably one of the reasons I had got depressed. Why the hell would I make it up?! They also suggested that if perhaps it were true maybe it’s because he’d been abused by someone?

So, I have to assume that is why my parents didn’t do anything. Because y’know he *could* be a victim too. Well yes, he could I guess, in theory. But even if it were true (and I believe he denied it) it doesn’t excuse it! It doesn’t mean I will ever forgive him. It doesn’t mean it screwed me up any less. It doesn’t mean I don’t continue to have nightmares and flashbacks. It doesn’t mean that sleep and my sleep patterns will be any less screwed up as it is so intertwined with the abuse I suffered (he would often abuse me when I slept). It doesn’t mean I have a million and one trust issues, which I put down to hiding the abuse so long. It doesn’t mean I don’t get upset when they talk about him in front of me even when I’ve asked them not to. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to scream every time I see the mahoosive wedding photo they have of him and his wife right above the TV so I can see it every time I go to their house.

So, I’m going to talk about it! No, that’s not true. I’m just not going to hide it anymore!

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Depression, Ex, Husband, Me, Mental Health, Uncategorized

Just Keep Swimming…

This week I planned to do a whole series on blog posts about my relationship and (fairly) recent separation from my husband (The Ex). I thought it would be therapeutic, especially as this week would have been our 9 year wedding anniversary. You see, despite what I think many real-life people believe I am “over him”. I don’t want him back! However, what I am not over is alot of the feelings I’ve been left with about myself, a loss of trust in people and a general feeling of loneliness. Also, I am far from over this latest bout of depression….in fact I feel very little different from what I did a year ago, except now I am getting ever more weary of fighting.

I’ve had a few conversations lately with people (including my counsellor) about how well I am doing to “keep the plates spinning”, to keep working, to keep parenting my young daughter, to keep cooking and cleaning and paying the bills. But I don’t feel like I’m doing well. The opposite. I feel those plates are hardly spinning at all, in fact they are precariously balanced and if one of them drops the whole lot of them will come tumbling down. And I’m scared. Because I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens. I have been feeling very low, having very dark thoughts, crying at the drop of a hat, losing my patience and temper more than usual. I’ve turned into an insomniac and I feel both mentally and physically exhausted.

So, I’ve made the decision that this week I have to start being kinder to myself, because I can’t risk any of those plates dropping. That means I’ll be trying to eat better, trying to stick to my “self-care” bedtime, and generally doing the minimum possible in every way just to keep going. I’m also going to try not to beat myself up over the things I don’t manage to achieve. That means you may or may not see those blog posts this week or even this month. But all I can do at the moment is take advice from “Dory” from Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo….

Swimming

(Picture courtesy of http://frenchieproject.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/just-keep-swimming.html)

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Depression, Me, Mental Health, Uncategorized

I want to run away

I want to run away ….no really I do!

My life right now isn’t what I want, and I want to escape from it.

I see coverage of “missing people” in the media and I feel a bizarre kind of jealousy. I know that’s not “normal”. I am also not naive enough to think that those people are out there living happy and fulfilled lives. In fact, I’m sure many of those “missing people” are likely to be living the opposite to that, if in fact they are still living at all.

I guess I want to live the fairy tale version, where I leave the life that I’m in and get to create a new one from scratch without any of the complications and baggage I feel I have now. Where I get to be a new person. Where I get to re-invent myself. I dream of living by the sea. Of doing a less stressful job, yet being able to pay the bills. I even dream about the fairy-tale ending-the happily ever after.

The reality is that many of the “complications” and “baggage” are in my head. So I guess running away wouldn’t work anyway.

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Depression, Me, Mental Health, Twitter, Uncategorized

How Twitter Helps my Mental Health

One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog was because I wanted to talk about my mental health. I feel very passionately that reading about and sharing experiences of mental health issues helps people….it certainly helps me!

One in four people in the UK will experience a Mental Health Issue each year, but how many of us actually talk about it?

Unfortunately I think there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues which makes it a difficult thing for me to talk about “in real life”. Only my closest friends and family know I have depression, but most of my friends don’t, neither do most of my colleagues and I definitely don’t share with my passing acquaintances. Yet I don’t feel I have to hide my physical health problems, so why do I hide my mental health problems? I can’t answer that question, but I do know it’s not helpful or healthy for me. It adds to the feeling that somehow it is a “defect”, and something to be embarrassed about. I feel I should be able to “pull myself together”. And this is only compounded when people I am close to have suggested things like exercise, volunteering or eating more healthily will “make you feel better” as though those things alone will “cure me”.

However, I have found that talking about my mental health with people who truly understand does help immensely. It reminds me that depression is an illness and it reminds me I’m not alone.

So of course it’s easy to find someone to talk to given that 1 in 4 people have experienced something similar in the last year, right? Wrong! In my experience it is hard….very hard. Or should I say *was* hard? Because I stumbled across a whole community of people who are going through the same thing, but do talk about it! And anyone can join in! In fact the more the merrier! You don’t have to be an excellent writer or blogger. You don’t even have to be brave enough to give your real name. You just have to join Twitter!

Twitter has been a revelation! The people I have found on there offer the most amazing support I could wish for. It’s like having a room full of friends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….except unlike with real friends you can also turn them off when you want them to shut up 😉

I get to share my “good days” and “bad days”. I get to talk about my depression…..but if I choose to I also get to talk about my work, or my child, or my family, or my friends. It can be as much or as little about your mental health as you want it to be! Some people use their real names, others (like me) have anonymous identities. I don’t even have to get out of bed to speak to someone.

I have had some very dark days in the last few months and in the past when I felt like that I have withdrawn from everyone and everything, but I don’t feel I have to do that anymore. I feel I can share my deepest, darkest thoughts and know there are people out there who understand, and who have been there….or may even feel like that too! When I can’t share how I feel with my family, or friends, or even my doctor I have had people there helping me, and holding me up! And I think….at least I hope…that I do that for others too! We can’t take away each other’s problems, but we can share them. And sometimes that is enough!

I’m not going to embarrass anyone by singling out the people who have helped me the most, but I hope you guys know who you are!

And to anyone reading this blog who feels alone…please don’t. Join twitter- I can’t recommend it enough 🙂

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Depression, Ex, Husband, Me, Mental Health, Mum, Twitter, Uncategorized

A little about me

When I read a blog one of the first things I do is go to the About Me section. I like to know something about the person who is writing. I’m not really sure why I do it, whether it’s because I want to know how much that person is like me or whether it’s nosiness about people’s lives. Maybe it’s so I understand the context that people are writing in. Or maybe I’m a lazy blog reader and don’t want to have to trawl through people’s blogs to find out who they are and what they write about.

Whatever the reason I thought I’d save you the bother and write a blog post to tell you a little about me.

I know what you are thinking…”You are writing under a pseudonym, so why tell us about you?” That’s probably a fair point, so I’ll start with explaining my anonymity. I recently split from my husband-my partner of 15 years. My whole life, including my social media, was intricately linked with his. We have lots of mutual friends and I started to feel uncomfortable about sharing my thoughts and feelings on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I also struggle with mental health issues and found it difficult to share my experiences-even with people I care about. Yet at the same time I felt I needed to talk more than ever, to share more than ever. I had not only lost my husband but I’d lost my best friend, my confidante. I have friends but they were often busy leading their own lives, and to be brutally honest I felt lonely. What was I going to do? Then I had a brainwave. I was following an excellent mental health blogger who had decided to keep his identity a secret and it dawned on me that I could do the same on twitter. So I opened an anonymous twitter account. I knew that way I could say exactly what I wanted. I could share as much or as little information as I chose. It was a revelation ….but I’ll talk about that in another blog post. And now I’m here doing the same thing on my blog.

Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to reveal myself. But right now I’m happy to have some anonymity.

So what shall I tell you? I’ll start with a basics. I’m a 35 year old woman. I’m a mum to a 3 year old girl who I “co-parent” with my ex. I work full time. And I have depression.

I guess the rest will probably be told on future blog posts, but hopefully this little piece of insight will help you decide if you want to read more. I hope you do 🙂

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