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Goodbye @DepressedNotSad, Hello @ProjectCath

When I set up my Twitter account nearly 18 months ago being depressed was all consuming and I felt I had no way of expressing how I was feeling. It felt like I was trying to spin lots of plates and they were all teetering on the edge of falling and smashing. I was trying to hold down a reasonably stressful job, dealing with a recent marriage break-up, trying to pay the bills (including the mortgage) alone and often with a reduced income (as I was needing to take sick leave fairly often), as well as looking after my daughter, all whilst being  severely depressed, suffering with anxiety and having what I now recognise as PTSD symptoms which was causing nightmares, disrupted sleep and intrusive thoughts. I was overwhemed with life. I knew I couldn’t keep living that way, but the only way I could see a way out was suicide, and the thoughts occupied my brain every day. I felt I couldn’t fully open up to my friends, as whilst some had been fairly supportive through my marriage break-up, I felt they were losing patience, and I felt like I was losing my mind. I felt like I was constantly having to justify that I was ill (depressed) not just sad.

Twitter, and later my blog, felt like an outlet. I was anonymous so felt I could be entirely honest  and I stumbled upon a whole community of people who understood that I couldn’t just “pull myself together”, and weren’t frightened by my low moods. They didn’t know me, or my ex-husband, friends, family or co-workers, so when I needed to moan and cry they supported me and it felt there was no judgement.

But 18 months later, things are different. Eventually all those plates did come crashing down…I lost my job, I had to move house, and sadly I also made an attempt to end my life, but I’m still here, and unlike 6 or 7 months ago when I couldn’t see past the end of the day, or the week, never mind see any further into the future, now I’m slowly picking up the pieces of my life.

My mental health has improved. I still have depression, anxiety and PTSD, but I am no longer suicidal. I have a CPN (care coordinator), a support worker who is helping me with money and housing issues, another support worker who is helping me into volunteering as a stepping stone back into work. I am on the waiting list (and due to have a preliminary assessment next week) at a Rape and Sexual Abuse support service to try and deal with some of the issues from my past. I also seem to have found a meds combo that has ‘taken the edge off’ and allows me to function in the day, whilst also allowing me to get a decent nights sleep at night. I’ve found out which friends were supportive through my mental health crisis and are now with me for the long haul (as well as which walked away or weren’t supportive), but I also gained some amazing friends from the online community, some of whom are now “real life” friends too.

I feel in a totally different place to a year ago, and my depression, is no longer my whole life. I don’t want to be defined my illness any more when I am working towards recovery.

So it’s time to say goodbye to @DepressedNotSad

However,

I don’t want to say goodbye to the Twitter community, or to the people who have supported me. I still want to talk about my Mental Health, but I also want to talk about my journey of recovery. My depression and the life events of the last 2 years robbed me of everything that I used to define myself by. I can no longer define myself as a [insert previous job title]. I can no longer define myself as a wife. I no longer have the family life I thought I would. So my recovery journey will be about rediscovering what I enjoy and what makes me happy. It will be about re-discovering where my prioritoes in life lie. It will be about living more mindfully and looking after myself better. It will be about finding out who I am.

So say hello to @ProjectCath

I will continue to blog here, as it helps record my journey, but it will no longer be just about depression, it will be about recovery and finding myself. I hope you will join me for the ride.

 

 

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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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#3goodthings

For those of you who follow me on twitter (@depressednotsad) you may have seen for the last few days I’ve been doing a post every day with the hashtag #3goodthings. I am doing this because through my job I have been lucky enough to receive some coaching from the lovely Jon Bartlett (@projectlibero ) and it was a suggestion he made to me.

I know that I (like many others) have the tendency to focus on the negative, or “bad things” that happen to me everyday, but the #3goodthings exercise, otherwise known as The Three Blessings exercise is meant try to focus your attention on the good things that happen everyday rather than on the negative.

The exercise is explained here on You Tube by Martin Seligman Ph.D. A professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania

As you will see he suggests doing it just before bed. However, I personally feel this is not necessary, although I have more naturally been doing it in the evening when I have had chance to “review” my day. I have also found that by tweeting it using the hashtag #3goodthings I am more likely to do it.

The idea comes from Positive Psychology and there is scientific evidence that the exercise simultaneously improves happiness and decreases depression. (Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., and Peterson, C., Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions, 2005) http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/articleseligman.pdf

I think it is definitely worth a go, and have already found that after 4 days it is making me think about my day differently. In those 4 days I have also found it is not always easy, but it’s making me recognise the small things and the things that perhaps I take for granted!

Some of my lovely twitter friends have already joined me in doing this, and I’d love for you to do the same, so for the next week try to thing of #3goodthings and tweet using the hashtag. I’m already looking forward to reading your good things. 🙂

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