Saturday, 8 December 2012

My thoughts: What am I really scared of?

It has taken 6 years to get where I am now, I have my own place, I’m in further education and finally I got full time employment, yet I don't think I have felt so scared in quite a long time. What do I have to be scared of? Well quite simply its failing at this job, the 4 weeks of training are over and as of Monday I will actually be doing the job in question (well I started it briefly the previous Friday) me and a few others from my group will have mentors for a further 4 weeks (called consolidation) as we get upto speed.

The job has targets, not unusual and I’ve had targets to keep to in my previous jobs however what is different here is previously my targets were to do with stock in warehouses or a company's stockroom, now the targets in question involve in dealing with customers over the telephone, besides facing my anxiety about dealing with people over the phone (can I understand them, can they understand me etc.) if I make a mistake during a call it has the potential to affect that person's life in an adverse way (the flipside is I can help somebody) unfortunately as I am a mostly 'glass is half empty' kind of guy my natural reaction is to fear the worst.

Basically I am at the moment constantly scared of making a mistake and always doubting I can really do this job and the thought occasionally occurs that I fail here and get fired it will be a catastrophe as this is the first full time job I’ve had since 2005 (7 years!) if I was worried before about being viewed as a 'damaged employee' by a potential employer then will be reinforced in my mind so much (self stigmatization) would I recover from it?

I keep telling myself “so don't fail, depression isn't here now, its upto you and you alone...that’s what you wanted all along isn't it?” Fail and I can't say its because I was depressed, succeed it won't be despite the depression, its on me and me alone now, I guess that's what scares me the most. Thankfully I’m in a supportive workplace especially the training/consolidation group I am in, the next few weeks I expect will be stressful so I should draw on the support available.

Saturday 8th December 2012 the journey continues.

Friday, 23 November 2012

My thoughts: The 3rd goal is achieved...the hard work continues.

Six years ago I moved in with my Grandfather having been evicted from a council flat due to rent arrears it felt like I would never leave the place I found myself in and I’m not referring to my Grandfather's house, rather the black hole of despair and hopelessness where death looked like it would be the best answer to the question 'how is it ever getting better?'

12th November 2012 I finally began full time employment thus completing the 3rd goal of my ongoing recovery the previous two being gaining independent living and getting back into further education. Now in addition to ensuring I keep on progressing for my philosophy and psychological studies degree with the Open University I need to get my head down and do a good job during my time with this new employer for the few months I have a contract with them, there may or may not be a chance of securing a new contract but even if I don't I can at least get a good reference out of it.

So far it has been good for the most part however there is one big concern I have about the fish philosophy adopted by this employer especially this bit:

Choose Your Attitude- The philosophy says that you choose your attitude when you wake up in the morning, whether to be nice and friendly for the rest of the day, or to be mean and surly for the rest of the day. The philosophy advises to 'choose' to be nice and friendly every day, and that good feeling will spread to others.

Popular psychology springs to mind about this fish philosophy and that statement in particular I find offensive, personally I mock and scorn it, its utterly ridiculous, completely dismissive of a individual's circumstances and unbelievably judgemental. Hearing this from the senior manager who enthusiastically talked about this crap gave me a sinking feeling as after all I suffer from a mental health condition, depression, which will at times (especially during a episode) take all my energy, strength and resolve to get up, get into work and do my you know when you really feel like shit or worse you're actually struggling to get through the day its very difficult to be nice and friendly every day as this “philosophy” advises.

Not fucking likely.

I have struggled for a long time and no way am I going to trivialise this by pretending to be all nice and friendly when I feel depressed and reinforcing other people's ignorance of the issue. To be fair the training group I am in have been supportive of my revelation of my condition and my stance against the fish philosophy. Hell even one of the training officers ended up agreeing with me after a few minutes of lively debate about the merit of the statement above, interestingly they claimed they also suffer from depression and they went with the statement as it works for them, fair enough I said to them but what works for you does not mean it works for another, well I think it means you should try making the best of it was the next comment.

So I say well then surely saying 'try to make the best of it' is better then 'you choose your attitude'? They agreed and furthermore agreed to pass it onto the senior manager. Its been over a week since that discussion and whether they have actually done as I asked I will follow up the upcoming Monday by seeking out the senior manager myself despite being told by someone else that this is a fight I can't possibly win, well I have to try at least otherwise it would be hypocritical of me to criticise anybody about their attitude to others with mental health conditions if I meekly sit back and don't challenge this fish philosophy rubbish.

It does feel good though to be back in full time employment, after all I have waited a long time for this to happen and I’m now here, time to make the most of it and ensure all those years of uncertainty, struggle and survival were not in vain, not to mention i owe a big debt to the friend who helped get me this job in the first place and those friends who supported, encouraged and forgave me during it all, i owe them to make this work.

23rd November 2012 the journey continues.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

My Thoughts: My friends are my estate.

A quote by Emily Dickinson one i believe to be very true.

Certainly the last few days have highlighted to me the importance having a good friend especially those who are loyal to you who stand by you no matter what and are there for you.

I recently got back in touch with a friend after over a year without contact (which is my fault but they don't hold it against me)

Having struggled with this I turned to this friend and said I feared a depressive episode if my mood did not pick up soon, I showed them this post and said this was likely the trigger. They told me what I needed to hear and did so in a such way which was honest but not harsh, helpful not dismissive and gave me genuine hope not false hope where if I make the effort it will turn out okay.

It is something of a step for me to reach out and say to someone I was struggling with something thus things were not good for me. Usually I don't I tend to slog on alone despite me saying to others who are struggling they ought to enlist the help of those who care about them (making me a hypocrite).

Why don't I take my own advice? From past experiences more often than not it seemed easier to cope alone for varying reasons the main ones being either the people you know are not supportive or you feel like a burden to those who are supportive (“they got problems of their own they don't need me bringing mine to them” a particular train of thought for me) and of course its easier to give out advice/suggestions as well offering others support as a way of forgetting about yourself for the time being.

At first I pondered about even talking to this friend as we only just got back in touch I partly felt it would be inappropriate to do so however they did tell me in no uncertain terms they are here for me if I need them...and I did need someone so I took the opportunity.

Thanks to this friend my mood has lifted and the potential episode is gone knowing I have this person back in my life gives me some reassurance for whatever episodes may occur in the future (winter in particular I’m not dreading for the first time depression usually regards my mind as something of a winter retreat).

So now its just the minor matter of not sabotaging this friendship, something I did before.

Saturday 25th August the journey continues.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tuesday 24th July – present...heart vs mind.

Written over a week ago (slight alteration; emptiness added here).

18 months have passed since our latest separation your not here yet I talk to you all the time as you are a part of me and always will be, you are my soulmate I know you, I desire you, I accept you. My failures towards you diminish me as a person the pain, emptiness and torment arising from them will never go away.

A summary of how I feel from the heart about Kelly since I saw her on the 24th July (we didn't talk and she didn't see me, any inclination of going after her got stamped out owing to a anxiety attack and she wasn't alone she was walking with a man) since then I’ve been reeling from the explosion of feelings and thoughts about her.

Incidentally this occurred only minutes before I was due to go into a job interview...where I did well enough to be placed on a waiting list for a vacancy to open up.

Having only 2 hours sleep the night previously its no surprise i succumbed to an attack in fact with the benefit of hindsight it was inevitable however difficult the 24th July was it were only the beginning where the conflict I’m going through is tearing me apart.

Times are I pine for her so badly as the emptiness I’ve felt since she left me that day keeps gnawing away at me, I end up idealising about her being back in my life. On the flip side I keep remembering all of the crap she put me through (including dreams which make the very unsubtle point that despite us being involved in a sexual relationship Kelly never intended to be in a committed relationship with me, in fact as to the rest of the world was concerned to her we were only friends).

So the questions that keep going round and round in my head:

Why keep idealising about someone who does not feel the same way as you do?
How the hell do I move on from her? Its been 18 months for crying out loud and she's still in my head.
But as I regard as my I should at least try to make it work with her? (like you didn't try before?)
If I don't try at least once does it mean I am a coward?
Has she truly given up on me?
Or is she too scared to get back in touch?

I don't know what to do right now also I'm not sure which scares me more; the prospect that conflict will never end for me or I have no idea how deal with it.

11th August 2012 the journey continues.

Friday, 20 July 2012

My thoughts: This clinical depressive is not disabled.

The first thing said to me at Ingeus by the advisor I was seeing after the usual greetings was this and I quote;

The file sent to us states your disabled and unable to work”

That’s news to me.

In all my dealings with the Jobcentre Plus and Department for Work & Pensions at no time did they tell me they had classified me as disabled, it was always stated as 'sick and unable to work'.

What’s the difference? Well to me the words sick and disability have different implications, sick is temporarily and disability is permanent.

It looks as though now depression can be classified as a disability in certain circumstances (

Many people with a mental health condition do not think of themselves as 'disabled' - but they may have rights supported by the Disability Discrimination Act.”

Certainly there is a need for those of us who have a mental health issue to have rights which protect us from discrimination (or attempt to address the discrimination anyway).

When I have encountered the question on application forms “do you consider yourself to have a disability” I always answer no and will continue to do so regardless of what the DWP or anyone else say.


If your mental illness affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities then you are likely to be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

The trouble with the above statement is (in my case only) my mental illness does not always affect my day-to-day activities, usually the only time it does is when it is a severe episode.

These are not common anymore and the recurrence of them during a 12 month period is not guaranteed to happen, the trigger for them to occur takes considerable and enduring levels of stress. If they (the DWP, JCP etc.) try 'well this is the reason we class you as disabled because stress could lead to another episode' then in my opinion they will be classifying everyone as disabled, stress is a part of life who doesn't deal with stress in this world?

So for me classifying me as disabled is an insult to those who are truly disabled and to be clear I am only speaking for myself here, in no way am I saying that others who have depression/mental health issues are not disabled either, that determination in my opinion is down to the individual.

Not some faceless bureaucrat.

20th July the journey continues.

Monday, 18 June 2012

My thoughts: This be Year 28 of my existence...

I am 28 years old today yet on this day what should be something to celebrate is instead a matter of contention. 18th June is another day I just happen to be born on is all, 18/06/1984 I’ve filled in/in-putted/stated out countless times, all it is is a statistic, all I am as of now is a statistic.

In fact you know what I used my 28th birthday for? Getting money out of a few family members so I can pay for my next Open University course, a form of unspoken emotional blackmail to the very people I want nothing to do with, the ugly truth being that without this I cannot pay for the course by myself because I’m unemployed.

Maybe I would feel something akin to enthusiasm if I felt like when I tried to organise a social gathering at least one could have happened but for varying reasons it never did and this time I simply decided after a few weeks that I might as well not bother with it and save the money instead for a rainy day (under the Tories its going to pour).

So cynical I have become I rarely take anything said to me or I hear at face value I’m always searching for something between the lines, searching for hidden motives or just assuming the worst of everything, not to mention constantly second guessing and doubting my own motives.

Therefore getting two replies from my facebook friends about me calling off a planned gathering for my 28th as I couldn't be bothered with it anymore, one saying they would come down to see me and go for a pint, the other saying they might have a present to post to me.

These invoked in me feelings of surprise, embarrassment, shame and guilt, it shows up how wrong I can be, okay sometimes my cynicism is valid however it brings to mind the times I have got it so wrong which has caused others hurt and confusion especially when i end up acting out of spite and i fear i may have done so in this case.

Its another issue to contend with, one I wonder if I will ever to somehow resolve this deep seated part of my personality before it leaves me hopelessly socially maladjusted, after all how can I become a mental health professional with that part of me?

With each passing year since the age of 24 I feel as though somehow time is running out for me to get everything settled within myself and get to where I want to go career wise.

18th June the journey continues.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

My thoughts: Men should (and do) cry.

I certainly do, in fact I cried a bit recently as it seems I’m still grieving for the loss of my relationships with Kelly and her daughter Mari, I cried for around 5 minutes letting out the feelings out into the open although only the two cats in my flat were there to see it, the female one rushing upto me to try and comfort me, bless her.

The culture of the UK is a bizarre one when it comes to teaching the expressing of emotions, females are allowed to (in fact its expected I find, I’ve heard a few times throughout my life about some being judged as “uncaring” or “summat wrong with her” if they don't) males on the other hand showing their feelings is supposed to be a sign of weakness and being unmanly.

Now as human beings we are emotional creatures, its not intellect that drives us, intellect is merely a tool for defining and refining our feelings and experiences whether your male or female.

A real man is strong A real man doesn't cry, doesn't moan, doesn't complain, A real man is macho; a real man is tough; a real man doesn't show emotions. A real man is the backbone of his family and doesn't have time to be weak, big boys don't cry“

Just some of the things that supposedly define what a “real man” is according to some people. I've come to the conclusion that the real reason some subscribe to this is because its easier than actually having to deal with the why of a situation as well as listening to the upsetting sound of someone crying because they are in pain.

Its the same when people respond with “pull yourself together, stop feeling sorry for yourself, there are others worse off than you” etc. etc. Dealing with our and others expressions of emotions can be fraught with difficulty and so its easier to simply dismiss or trivialise these expressions instead of making the effort to understand.

I have come across the claim the female brain is wired differently and this is why they express their emotions more than males, assuming this is true (I’m not convinced myself but I will at some point check it out for clarification) then there is a fatal flaw with the claim...males have the capacity to express how they are feeling and they can cry as well, now maybe females in general due to how their brains are wired and cultural expectations do express how they are feeling and cry more often (at least publicly, I imagine many males out there cry behind closed doors). Besides our biology only forms the fundamental basis of our existence, it certainly cannot account for our behaviour alone.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is Winston Churchill.

The truth is males can and do cry, crying is not a sign of weakness, it is not a insincere plea for attention, all it is is someone who is in pain and distress and this a response to those emotional states, crying is a truthful act of how we feel at that moment (and how we may have felt for some time).

Others saying that a male shouldn't cry because he is male, well that’s their mistake/ignorance which is their problem no one else's and is not a reason for those in emotional turmoil to have to hide how they feel.

19th May the journey continues.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Going through the motions, nothing to see here.

Well I submitted my final assignment for my latest course on the morning of the 8th and will get the result in around three months or so (three months...the Open University really should look to work on that, imagine waiting three months and being told you haven't passed....) I am registered for the next course which will begin this October but until then I don't have a lot to do in the meantime.

Only the basic things, eating, sleeping, washing and cleaning, doing the odd bit of shopping, signing on every fortnight and providing my written record of job searches and the odd application to an employer (who will just ignore me or give a insincere acknowledgement and thanks for my application) is required for now.

In a month or so I will be referred to a 'back to work programme' as I have been on job-seekers allowance for 12 months. It seems there are two welfare to work providers in my region, A4e and Ingeus, I certainly won't be going to A4e given how untrustworthy this company is and as I see my personal advisor soon I will be making that clear to her and if necessary the DWP in general.

Other than that i'm waiting for something to happen.

11th May the journey continues.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Thoughts:50 and out

After 50 days the episode is over. Done, finished. The depression is out of here (at least for the temporary).

A few nights of sleeping properly and an increased appetite contribute to me feeling energized and determined to make something happen, free from the machinations of my depression and anxiety I am able to concentrate, I’ve been typing away furiously for my Open Uni course, my job searching, applying and even a story I started some time back.

I'm even confident enough I might re-apply to the volunteering organisation that turned me down recently as they didn't think I was ready now but I would be in 12 or 18 months, well I feel like saying to them sod that I’m ready now and I ain't taking no for a answer, although before i do anything i will talk to the two who kindly supplied me references and see what their take on it is.

I’ve waited long enough to be given a chance to do something, now is the time.

24th April the journey continues.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Day 48 of depressive episode: My thoughts: The worst has passed...for now.

The suicidal thoughts and feelings have lessened considerably since the last post, for now I only get them when I first wake up and its fleeting as by the time I’ve made myself a cup of tea they pass by.

So for now it appears the worst of this episode is over although the depression still has a firm grip and makes facing a new day unpleasant, I got so used to it though I barely notice it, that is until I need to make an effort then its anything from somewhat difficult to an ordeal depending on what I end up doing.

Why is the worst over? Not a lot has changed, in fact my circumstances have not changed and so it would seem odd I should feel a little better. There is two things I can point to, two small things at that but combined they replenish some of the emotional strength that gets sucked out during the episode.

Firstly, writing the post previous to this offered an outlet I did not have before, usually I don't really really talk about how I’m feeling or why beyond saying I ain't okay or making the odd facebook status saying I’m fed of this, that or the other, I certainly don't go into such detail.

Secondly, my beloved club Derby County won 2-0 away at Leeds United, an unexpected win as far as I was concerned I would have been happy with a draw, I didn't listen to the match nor the previous one (we drew 0-0 at home against Ipswich Town, I thought we would lose that one) this only happens when I’m feeling so low that I can't be bothered to listen.

So checking for the result as soon as I was able to get up and log on to my pc and seeing that result gave me a buzz for a short while, a good feeling as I’m sure any football supporter will tell you you get when your team pulls off something you don't expect, again not a major event but combined with the outlet it gave me something to feel better about.

Now that I have bounced away from rock bottom, maybe, just maybe, this episode will soon be over soon.

17th April the journey continues.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Day 37 of depressive episode: Suicidal thoughts turn up to offer a seemingly simple solution.

When I start asking myself “what's the point?” its the precursor to the suicidal thoughts and feelings becoming a gruesome fixture in what I already consider is a miserable existence.

As of now, long as I live in the vain hope of things getting better (which I have done for near on 17 years now) all that will continue is the constant rejections, disappointments, failures and pain, all of this ugly mixture is what can be called 'my life'.

With all things considered (however objective those considerations are given my state of mind currently) suicide is a perfectly rational action to take, after all my life was, is and will continue to be shit, why should I struggle on for goodness knows how long before I ultimately die anyway, save myself the time and suffering, end it now.

However I won't for two reasons.

Firstly, my Mother. My Mum is already carrying a lot of guilt about how she raised me, a couple of times she has stated to me “I know I’ve been a bad Mother” which is not true, I’ve tried to tell her she wasn't, she did the best she could under some difficult circumstances with little support from anyone else, including our 'family'. Me committing suicide would destroy her, I’m her only child.

Secondly, suicide is a form of control, as I say I can end it all if I want to but I choose not to, that's another form of control to me. Depression can distort my thoughts, it can reduce me to such a state I don't even take care of myself, want to cry all the time and wish I would just die.

In the midst of all this pain and hopelessness I eventually realised I do have some control, its a little victory not much, I have the power to go to death or let death come to me, despite everything I can still figure things out for myself, I have the resilience to survive this and I will.

6th April the journey continues.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

My thoughts: Day 32 of depressive episode; The week that was.

It began so well as I got a good score for my latest assignment and the selection day for the volunteer organisation could not have gone better...or so I thought. After five hours of various discussions, activities and finally a interview I was confident I would be invited for the initial training, in fact I expected to be invited.

The phone call came a couple of hours after and I was informed they would not be inviting me for the initial training as the they unanimously agreed I was not ready just yet and I probably would be in 12 or 18 months time, they want me to re-apply then.

At the moment this is a lifetime away as I face a confidence crisis, in addition that week I failed a telephone interview for a job and got a rejection email for another, the email one stinging a bit more as it me informs my application is unsuccessful at the current time as they have other applicants who fit their criteria better than me, for a fucking warehouse job!

Resigned to staying unemployed for the foreseeable future although I will keep trying the enthusiasm for job hunting is gone, in fact my enthusiasm for anything is gone I don't want to even try anything anymore, because (and this question must be one of, if not the most, asked among those of us struggling for whatever reason) what is the point?

In all this negativity often whatever good things might be happening can get swept aside or just don't have much influence on me, as I said at start I got a good score for my assignment with the Open Uni, that’s something at least.

1st April the journey continues.

Friday, 16 March 2012

My Thoughts: Day 19 of depressive episode; All quiet...for now.

Signing off the last post by saying my journey was about to get rough was premature, since the 13th the downward spiral has halted. A couple of things have helped since the last posting, firstly my beloved football club beat their fiercest rivals thus completing a double over them for the first time in 40 years, secondly I was given a excellent character reference from a friend for a volunteering position and having seen it it is clear they hold me in high esteem.

So those events have for the time being at least stopped the spiral by giving me a good (if only temporarily) morale boost. At the moment I am in limbo in how I’m feeling, I don't feel good, bad or just okay, its a strange void its almost as if me and the depression are in some sort of stand-off.

The next two days will be interesting, tomorrow i'm expecting the result of my second assignment for my course and the day after I will attending a selection day for a volunteer organisation where I will be informed whether I have been accepted to undergo training with them or not. 

Two good results from them could very well cut short this depressive episode or at the very least give me some more strength to withstand it...two bad pieces of news could simply plunge me back downwards.

16th March the journey continues.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

My thoughts: Day 13 of depressive episode; where I’m at.

Well as the title says this is day 13 and the all too familiar symptoms have shown up and announced their intentions to stay for a while. My appetite is down, I don't feel like eating a lot of the time and when I do eat I don't enjoy it my stomach feels as though it is twisted most of the time, this is part of the nauseated feeling that I cannot shake.

The appetite and nauseated feeling is merely a part of the anxiety that accompanies the depression the two of them feeding off each other. Often the anxiety is suppressed by anger, any hint of it I get angry and seek to focus this on something or someone just to forget I’m anxious, I’m scared as something bad is going to happen to me or to someone I care about.

Without the anger to suppress the anxiety I am nothing more than a frightened child, confrontation of any kind is to be avoided at all costs as I feel weak and vulnerable, at the worst I am paralysed by it all.

Thankfully as long as I get to relax in a reasonably quiet environment I can keep everything under control, so at the moment I am hiding from the real world as I cannot stand being around people I can't relax and I get very agitated.

For the time being the worst part is knowing the worst of this episode is yet to come, when it becomes severe getting off the sofa or getting out of bed will take a lot of willpower, especially when during those waking moments I feel as though this is the day I will not survive and I have no desire to do so.

Ironically, despite my suicidal ideation being very high during the severe bout it will be the severe bit that prevents any suicide attempt as I simply won't have the energy to try, I won't even have the energy to write a suicide letter, instead I’ll be curled up in a ball for hours on end wishing to go back to sleep in the hope I won't wake up again or wishing for a heart attack to kill me.

Based on previous experience it will be a month or so before I descend into it unless something happens before then that is particularly stressful which could very well accelerate this episode.

10th March the journey is about to get very rough.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

My thoughts: Latest depressive episode.

Meh, it was only a matter of time before I go through another depressive episode, I expect it I accept it for the most part. The worst of it for me is not exactly knowing the trigger of them, yesterday morning and this morning, low energy, no motivation to get off the sofa, the empty feeling (that has nothing to do with food), the dread of facing a new day and the overwhelming sadness have all returned to earmark the new episode.

Why am I depressed? I've asked this twice as I woke up and lay on the sofa for a bit and i haven't got a definite trigger i can identify and say "ah this is why".  Best i can say for the moment is i don't believe it is due to a single factor, i reckon it is a small number of things that have combined into a trigger and took me unaware.

My beloved football club is going through a bad run of form and lately I've not looked forward to listening and watching the matches. I've gotten no where in my quest for full employment my last interview for a vacancy being last September and just now I'm struggling with my latest Open University course assignment.

Also with those three i don't see anything changing for the moment, the negative train of thought "my club won't be successful anytime soon, i won't get a job anytime soon and I'm not as intelligent as i thought i was" is turning into a vicious cycle, which i have to stop.

Well can't do anything about the club, can only apply for jobs and hope for the best so for the immediate future I'll be grimly determined to complete and submit my latest assignment (6th March is the deadline for submission) and get a good (or at the very least, passable) score for it.

As all of the above is entirely subjective it is probable I've missed something, times like this i do actually miss the guidance of a mental health professional, someone who would see things I am blinded to.

Still I'll carry on regardless, the journey continues.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Would you like a label? Or should we just stick to the symptoms at hand?

Currently there are 297 disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) this book is the bible of guidance for the diagnosis of mental illnesses for those who work in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, the next DSM (due to be published May 2013) is likely to have a higher number of classifiable disorders.

On the surface categorising and labelling of mental illnesses seems like a logical thing to do, after all there are different sub types of the very general term 'mental illness' and just as like other illnesses are labelled e.g. common cold, flu, ear infection, tonsillitis etc. we know what causes such illnesses,how to treat them and sometimes avoid them.

However mental illness is much more complicated when you start exploring the underlying issues of why an individual suffers from such a illness.

We all experience the world in our own way and there are limitless incidents and experiences, which are unique to each individual, that can contribute to the development of mental illness.

So is there a benefit in having a label for a mental illness? Possibly. For starters the label can help you to understand that you are not weak, stupid, immature or just a miserable git, as a matter of fact you are suffering from an illness and you did not realise it until a medical professional says to you that you have been behaving/thinking/feeling this way because of this particular thing.

Okay, we have a diagnosis of an illness, now that we know what it is, how do we treat it and for how long? When can I get back to work/college? When can I get back to 'normal'?
Having the illness diagnosed may offer some answers to the above and some have said it is a relief to finally know what is wrong, no longer do they have to keep asking themselves 'what the hell is wrong with me', you have a answer.

Some of the disorders (like depression) are very common throughout the world and so it might offer some reassurance that you are not in fact alone with what you have to deal with. Also it helps the medical professionals to categorise your illness to simplify the recommended course of treatment.

There is a flip side. Probably one of the biggest issues of being labelled is being defined by the illness;

Person A: Hey how is C doing these days?
Person B: Oh you didn't hear? C is a schizophrenic.

Whether it is schizophrenia, clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, a personality disorder or whatever disorder someone may have, often the individuality of a person gets stripped away and is replaced by the disorder.

This can lead to the person in question being discriminated by employers (in fact recently a friend of mine lost his job after having time off due to depression), friends, family, partners etc. and once a diagnosis is made it will stick with you for the rest of your life regardless of whether you become ill again or not.

Usually having treatment takes a fair amount of time in which you may not be able to do anything and so if you look to get back into employment you may well have to disclose your illness and subsequent treatment to a potential employer to explain why you have had an unemployment gap of x time.

Being given a label of a disorder could induce a sense of hopelessness especially if the illness is severe, there are times I feel my life will never get better because I have depression and sleep terror disorder both of which cannot be cured and will continue to undermine me. Others may feel as I do, that it will never better and its all about containing the illness as best you can but it won't go away.

The label is for life, the illness is for life...your life.

Not to mention that some disorders share a crossover of symptoms, like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder which share psychosis, depression (an illness with its own category but is a major feature of bi-polar disorder and often affects those who suffer from schizophrenia) cognitive impairments and so on.

The diagnostic criteria gives a general outline of a disorder, however it does not help with subtle differences and variations between people who might be classed as having a certain disorder.

Therefore confusion and misdiagnosis can happen, even worse it is possible in some instances for some to move from one disorder to another (schizophrenia alone has a number of sub types, paranoid, disorganised, catatonic, undifferentiated, residual), thus incorrect treatment can be given, causing more harm than good.

So what is the alternative?

There is a debate going on about the ethics of labelling within the psychology and psychiatry fields and some call for it to be abandoned altogether, after all the one size fits all approach is fraught with difficulty if you consider that you are dealing with people who all have unique experiences and reasons for their illness.

For me when I sought help for my issues I was never diagnosed with a particular disorder, instead my symptoms were the focus for treatment. It is clear I get depressed, anxious and angry a lot of the time, so I was referred to a group psychotherapy sessions and here they explored my past and how that past affects the way I think and behave now.

So here the reasons for my depression, anxiety and anger were looked at, basically they noticed that whenever people tried getting close to me emotionally in the group I become hostile and pushed them away by getting angry, making them afraid to approach and challenge me.

The reason for that is I had been badly treated in the past, enough so that I became depressed as my self-esteem, self-worth was low and often attempts at increasing it was rejected by others and so I pushed people away before they had the chance to reject me.

Once it had been established how I think, feel and behave and why I do so, the therapists seek to address what they believe is unhelpful way of thinking and behaving on my part that can actually be part of a vicious cycle with my depression, for instance when I pushed people away to stop them having the chance to reject me in some way I was also pushing away the chance of something good, like making a friend.
In my case it was easier to focus on what symptoms I displayed and the underlying reasons for their existence and what I could do to help alleviate what issues I faced.

By addressing the symptoms themselves it will help in avoiding to a certain extent at least the stigma that may follow from being labelled with a disorder, some people won't get help due to the fear of stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Also dealing with the symptoms alone means the individual's circumstances are more likely to be taken into consideration as it will not be as necessary to look up the DSM as often for the guidance of a diagnostic criteria.

I hope one day the labelling will be scaled back enough that it is nothing more than a very broad term which does not stick with a person for life.

Thursday 16th February, the journey continues. 

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

A vivid description of depression and the spiraling vortex of misery it can wreck upon you.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

My thoughts: Kelly

Even typing the name fills me with dread. It is no exaggeration to say she has had an immeasurable impact on my life.

Throughout the ten odd years I knew her she was at times and probably will be in the future, a nasty piece of work. I wasn't perfect though, as she would tell you I can be a difficult bastard to know and try to get along with, moody, negative, cynical and self loathing at times (not mention being depressed), she put up with those ugly sides to me longer than anyone else with the exception of one.

There were (and will be) times when she is actually sweet, funny, intelligent and charming, things that contributed to me falling in love with her and keeping her in my life in the hope we would be together in a committed relationship raising her daughter for far too long, causing such emotional and psychological harm to all three of us.

One factor in her having such an impact on me is she is the only woman I have had a sexual relationship with and I won't disturb you with the details but this aspect between us was a complete disaster and after she lost patience with it she had little qualms in belittling me, including giving me all the responsibility for getting things on track.

It isn't me at all its you, I’ve never had such a problem with anyone else”

One of the comments she made to me about it, which wasn't helpful nor reassuring seeing as I had anxieties about taking a chance at a relationship with her and that while she is experienced sexually, I am not.

The first time I wanted your virginity, the second time was a favour as your first time wasn't very good”

Part of that was a text message she sent me and that part I am not likely to forget for as long as I live. That part by itself is bad enough; add in the fact I was already in the process of a psychological breakdown due to dropping out of university and being evicted from my flat where I ended up moving into my grandfather's house (I've had a difficult relationship with him since the age of 11). All of this happened within a year.

That wasn't enough though, she later on tells me that during those two encounters she was making her mind up on whether she wanted a relationship with me or go back to her ex (she didn't tell me at the time but she ended getting back with him). I was completely devastated, I didn't feel it could get any worse.

I was wrong.

Kelly expected us to go back to being friends and act as though nothing had happened, I was bewildered by how heartless she was being and by her adamant statements of she had done nothing wrong, I should simply get over it and it was just sex.

I refused to go back to how things were, how could I? It may have been nothing to her what happened, me, I was heartbroken and I told her that she broke my heart. She was enraged by this, shouting at me for being immature, to grow up, oh you love me do you? That's bullshit and what seemed like an almost endless wave of verbal abuse over the months as although we kept in touch over the phone (why? I honestly don't know, I’ve asked myself a million times) I refused to go and see her, frankly I felt ashamed, humiliated, degraded, cheap, useless, name every negative word or emotion its probable I felt it all then and the thought of actually being near her made me sick.

Thankfully I had been referred to a psychotherapy group for treatment and I started a few months into the whole thing which gave me some much needed support and strength, I remember I sent her a text when she started having a go at me again, now she accused me of using her for sex and then walking away from her (of course she maintained she had done nothing wrong), I said to her that I was in therapy and I had more important things to worry about than what she thought of me, this deflated her as all she managed in reply was why are you being like this what's your problem.

I simply ignored her. She still took a few shots at me but they lessened considerably, she tried changing tactics at one point (she had broken up with her ex again) now she was all nice, how sorry she was for putting pressure on me and she promised she wouldn't say or do anything that interfered with my therapy, she actually did, she tried telling me what I wanted to hear but by now I didn't trust her at all and this was the final straw, I told I had enough of her and I was finished with it all.

Before all of that there were times she treated me like shit, such as turning against me after I supported her during a relationship breakup and setting me up to be attacked by a guy who disliked me for being her friend (she never explained why she did it however she ended up sleeping with this guy, I concede this is the jealously talking but I say she wanted to sleep with this guy so much she co-operated with him over trying to put me in my place).

No doubt people will think well if all of this is true and you continued to pursue having a committed relationship with her then your an idiot and they are right, well just wait for the next bit;

After a year or so out of therapy, I got in touch with her. That's right, I let her back into my life, what the hell was I thinking?

It will be different this time.

Its priceless it really is when I think about it, now it'll be of no surprise when I tell you that at first went well then it reverted to how it was before, this time;

  • She accused me of taking advantage of her the first time we had sex.
  • She said I took advantage of the vulnerable
  • (She apologised for those two, “I’m such a evil cow, your lovely, you don't deserve this” etc.).
  • She humiliated me on national radio.
  • Finally, the most unforgivable of the lot, she used her own daughter to hurt me.
Basically after a row between us which ended up with her coming around to my place to throw the spare keys I gave her and a shirt I left at hers at me and stormed off. It was her daughter's birthday a few days previously and I was ill with the flu, I talked to her daughter on the phone to wish her a happy birthday and I promised her I would get her a present when I felt better.

After Kelly stormed off from my flat (I didn't go after her, I went back to bed as I wasn't going after her) she text and called me, I tried to reason with her, that we both said and did things we shouldn't have and it is not one sided, she simply ranted at me, I know its not all you and the final thing I got from her; LEAVE ME ALONE.

I bought her daughter a book and sent it through the post with a card, Kelly called me but didn't say anything, as soon I said hello she handed the phone to her daughter so she could thank for the present. I'm certain Kelly forced her daughter to talk to me on the phone, as she would have likely to have wanted to thank me the next she saw me (unless she was told she wouldn't be seeing or speaking to me again after the call which I don't believe happened as she would have asked me why this was the case).

She sounded so nervous which was uncharacteristic, Kelly's daughter is a happy confident girl which is a result of how good a mother Kelly is and she didn't have much to say besides thanking me for the book I got her, usually she is very chatty, she likes telling you everything she has been upto in school, what books she is reading, what music she is listening to and so on, during the call there were awkward silences in between the questions I asked her, I should have ended the call much sooner, at one point she asked me if I wanted her to pass the phone to her mother, Kelly snapped at her “NO! Just put the phone down!”

I said to her “No no its okay sweetheart I've got to go, I love you, I’ll see you soon” she said I love you too bye bye. The last time I talked to her.

This was a little over a year ago, I’m still moving on from it and I don't know just how long it will take before I can say I have moved on. I still miss them both, I sometimes think it was all my fault, I wasn't the man she wanted, I let down her daughter with how it all turned out and I’ll never forgive myself (you see there's the self loathing I mentioned at the beginning).

I did lose something good, when we were okay we were very close, we talked about a lot of things, serious deep meaning conversations to having a laugh to giving each other support when we were depressed. The good times with them both made me truly happy.

While with Kelly being out of my life means I no longer feel like a emotional punching bag every so often I miss the good things we shared and I often torment myself by thinking about it and thinking things could be different if we tried again.

It will not be different this time

Even if Kelly got in touch to say how sorry she is for how she treated me and how much she misses me I know I’ll have to ignore her. Despite everything I will always love her and I wouldn't change a thing about her, as I once told her, I accepted who she is, the good and the bad. I still feel the sorrow and emptiness from it all.

Tuesday 7th February the journey continues without them.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

My thoughts: The positive side of depression?

Something that is very debatable, the question of if there is the positive side of depression.

Personally I am conflicted about any positive effect of me having depression, quite simply I hate it, I hate the fact it has blighted the majority of my life, I hate seeing the truly awful effects of it in other people, I hate the fact it exists.

That said the last two years I have thought about who I am, the experiences I’ve had and the type of person I will be in the future and have reluctantly questioned whether depression has been a solely negative presence in my life thus far.

Resilience, anyone who survives depression (especially those who survive alone, for whatever reason) needs plenty of this trait, I believe I have a lot of this and is in small part due to suffering from this illness for over a decade, it is difficult to do the 'normal' routines of life and takes a huge effort to do so especially when the depression is severe you struggle to simply get out of bed let alone do anything else like going to work or doing the shopping or the chores around the place.

Over time I slowly developed the resilience to do things I needed/wanted to do without realising it, although resilience alone isn't enough as (if nothing changes in your life for the better) you will reach the point when it all becomes too much to endure.

Empathy, although this is not apply to everyone, depression is unfortunately common I would say I have at times in my life been surrounded by people who also had depression, where I lived, where I worked and what few friends I had. So I learned I could often gauge through my own experience who was struggling, who was subdued, who had things on their minds, etc. a lot of these people did end up talking to me about how they felt, what was bothering them as I said to them I knew it was like to feel or think in a certain way (not for the same reasons usually) and they were relieved and/or shocked that someone else could relate to them and actually cared enough to do so.

My desire to be a mental health professional stems from my experiences of mental health, so the constant theme in my head is without depression I would not be who I am now and who I will be in the future, so maybe having depression can be a positive in some aspects although i would say the cost is very steep.

I haven't fully accepted it though, one of my fears is being defined by my mental health issues and what I have put above adds more weight to the definition, then again if it is the case what have I to fear exactly? Stigmatization? That has happened to me anyway and will probably happen again, perhaps I should simply dismiss the notion of definition whether it is from myself or others.

Saturday 28th January the journey continues. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

My thoughts: Suicide

A difficult and often a taboo subject, it is estimated around one million people a year commit suicide, or 19,000 a week, 2,700 a day, 112 a hour...2 every minute...

It is also estimated the number of people surviving suicide attempts is much higher, possibly as much as 20 to one in most countries.

I myself have attempted suicide once, when I was 18, I have had countless thoughts about it since the age of 12.

There was a couple of factors that led me to make the attempt. For one it was during the winter season (the month of February) and this when my depression is usually at its most severe, secondly, back then I was living in supported accommodation and my depression was well known to the support staff and with their encouragement I sought help for it. The GP prescribed me the anti-depressant medication fluoxetine (popularly known as prozac).

To say the medication failed to help would be a kind understatement as in actual fact it contributed to me going over the edge. The side effects was either I was so out of it I was incapable of performing simple tasks or I was so anxious I could not relax for one second as every little sound scared me shitless as I became convinced that someone or something was going to hurt me badly.

So one day at work (I chose to carry on working in a misguided attempt at trying to carry on as though I was perfectly fine) I was in the zombie state and I struggled to get anything done correctly, in fact I had to re-do a task five times to get it right and this task was simply scanning a barcode into a computer and entering the amount of products in question.

I was very calm when a thought came to me that I cannot go on like this, its not worth it and it never will be. I decided as soon as I finished my working day, I would go home and swallow all the anti-depressants I had. On the way back I walked past a friend of mine and we didn't say anything to each other (we had a falling out a couple of weeks back and we were both too stubborn to apologise for it).

So I got back and started swallowing the pills one by one, after taking so many, I don't know the exact number, it may have been around 30 or so, I suddenly thought I better do one last thing and apologise to this friend of mine and to tell him he's not to blame for whatever happens in the future. Evidently this tipped him off and he got me to the hospital.

This caused a fair amount of upset, although it was obvious I wasn't well, nobody had the slightest inkling of what I intended on that day. Quite a few people (especially my work colleagues) demanded to know why I did not say anything, quite simply I said I didn't want to try and get better anymore, it wasn't worth it.

I mentioned about hope being important in my first post, as I would say I had lost all hope that day and for a lot of people who commit suicide or attempt to have lost hope, the hope that things will get better somehow someday. Often though it can feel as though no matter how hard you try, how much you struggle to get through the day, it will never get better and what’s worse is the feeling that you have to face all of it on your own, because you don't feel as though anyone else understands, knows or cares about what you are going through, every single day, every single waking hour.

I have known a fair number of people who have made attempts over the years (I consider the fact I have known nobody actually succeed a minor miracle) including some I was very close to and finding out they tried to end their own life had the overwhelming feelings which followed;


What if they try again, the next time I leave them I may never see them alive again, what if I let them down, can I do anything to help them?

Helplessness and powerlessness

If somebody is determined to end their own life, short of being around someone for 24 hours a day consistently (I tried that with one young woman, trust me it isn't possible as at some point you'll be a emotional wreck no matter how strong or resilient you are or how much you love that person), they will try or succeed in doing so and of course you can't wave a magic wand to make everything better.


Knowing that someone is in such pain, suffering, torment etc. is very sad and this may well increase in intensity if you have been there or are actually there yourself, you know the feelings of despair, the hopelessness, the worthlessness, the fact someone you care about is going through this and beyond being there for them, there is little you can do.


I should have known something was wrong, I should have said something or I didn't say the right things or I should have been with them when they tried/did it, I let them down, I wasn't a good enough friend, I didn't do enough for them.


How could they do this? Way didn't they talk to me? Why didn't they get help? How could I not have seen this? How could I have been so stupid? Because of how they were treated by certain people they felt so bad they wanted to die, its all their fault.

Those are the feelings and thoughts I've had, of course given that I attempted suicide and some people would have felt what I put above about what I did probably makes me a hypocrite especially where the angry bit is concerned.

Now when I hear or read some people stating that “suicide is the easy/cowards way out” or “suicide is wrong as God granted life only he can take it away” my blood pressure sky rockets as I find such things to be ridiculously simplistic, ignorant and dismissive of the very people who need help and support not condemnation.

On the surface it well appear it is a simple matter but in fact it is anything but. What some people don't realise is it is a matter of perception, to those of the 'suicide is wrong' crowd while it may seem like that the person who is suicidal should simply take steps to seek help and make their lives better (as some do manage to do this, there is no reason why everyone can't do it according to some), this ignores three important things, the circumstances and the experiences of the individual in question and the fact that every single one of them unique in their own right.

It needs to be understood that our experiences shape who are we, how we think, how we perceive the world, our hopes and fears. The experience of being afflicted with a mental health issue (such as depression) for example can and usually does have a negative impact on one's own perception of life.

Thus having a mental health problem like depression may well make the future seem bleak in the respect that from past experiences nothing will change for the better and if you truly feel that way you may ask yourself what is the point of going on like this for another 20,30,40 years? Life is too short some say but it is not when a lot of the life you have lived has feelings of worthlessness, that your insignificant or your a burden to your family and/or friends or that you are a complete failure at whatever it is you tried to do and you'd be doing the world a favour by killing yourself.

So what people need to help overcome their daily struggles is a good experience, like accomplishing something or something going right for once, maybe figuring out what you would like to do in the future (if you can't do it immediately) or realizing that someone does care about you.

For myself as I continue on this road to recovery I know at some point I come across suicidal thoughts and feelings again from time to time and have doubts that my life will get any better.

21st January, the journey continues.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My first thoughts.

Welcome to my blog, hopefully you may like or identify with i write here about my struggle with mental health and the issues with surviving/existing/coping with such a thing as well contemplating on having known so many who also suffer from mental health.

Where to start? I'll start with why i decided to blog about myself, while i do not regard myself as interesting in anyway, i have doubts as to why anyone would even want to bother reading anything i put but alas here i am in the vain hope somebody will actually relate to what i put here.

Currently i am trying to get back into full time employment after somewhat successfully completing 16 months of group psychotherapy and i have been trying for over a year now, as time passes by it is getting more and more difficult to maintain the motivation to carry on, especially when a jobcentre plus adviser talks to you as though you are a skiver who is happy to collect benefit and not seek work (last time i checked such people were supposed to help you in your quest to be a productive member of society but i guess in their own perverse way they think they actually are).

I find it is very easy to fall into the trap of self-stigmatization after job application is rejected or ignored, consistently a recurring thought in my mind pops up "the only time you managed to get employment was by concealing the fact you have depression but now having been out of work for a few years you have no choice but state to every potential employer this was the reason you have been unemployed for so long (and not because you don't want to work) and hope they don't hold it against you, although they most likely will" 

Such thoughts are of course negative and unhelpful even though it is not unreasonable, what i do find distasteful is the feeling of having to put a positive slant on having mental health issues "well i believe i'll handle the stress of working for your company perfectly fine, having mental health issues makes you very resilient"  That is the gist of i have said in a couple of interviews (as well attempting to reassure the interviewer you are over the worst and it isn't likely to happen again anytime soon).

While the short term on that front appears bleak i will take comfort in the fact i am working towards a long term aim, namely becoming a counseling psychologist and for this i am enrolled with the Open University taking a degree in philosophy and psychological studies to help achieve this ambition.

What i have come to learn throughout my battle with my own existence is while survival is enough under some circumstances if like me its all you end up doing ultimately it will undermine what potential you have, whether it is career, education, spirituality etc. Hope is important, my hope is one day i will be a mental health professional and i will be able help people who feel like all they can hope for is to survive their existence.

Well that is all i have for my first post, thanks for reading. 14th January 2012, the journey goes on.