Tag Archives: mental health

Under the cloud

9 Nov

It’s been one of those weeks.

I saw the dark cloud approaching, hovering on the horizon, probably about ten days ago. I spotted it and I ignored it.

For some reason, I thought that denial might work – this time.

And as the cloud approached, I remained naively optimistic. It will be different this time. I can do this. I can win this battle.

I started feeling slightly disconnected – from those around me, from conversations, from life. And I still carried on thinking I would be ok.

Then. Then – the crash. Unable to get out of bed. Unable to answer my phone. Unable to connect – with anyone, anything.

The cloud had enveloped me. I could no longer deny its presence. I could not fight, I had no resources or strength. Nothing.

I felt so sad. Overwhelmed by disappointment. A sense of loss. A sadness at the world we live in, at the suffering of those I love. A sadness and a questioning – of the path I am on, the world I occupy.

I could no longer see, enveloped by blackness. Bleakness.

I have been under the cloud before. And it is horrible. Awful. It is lonely, isolating, enveloping, all-consuming.

No-one should ever have to live under the cloud.

And today? Today, the cloud is still there but there are some rays of light too.

So please don’t worry. I write these words not to alarm anyone, but in the pursuit of honesty and truth. Of vulnerability.

For I spend many years pretending I was strong. And I am not.

I cannot do this on my own.

And I cannot pretend anymore. It’s been one of those weeks.

The savagery of schizophrenia

22 Oct

I recently wrote a blog post on Elyn Saks’ TED talk about living with schizophrenia.

Here are some truly beautiful, sad-making and true words about the same condition. This is a must-read article by Caitlin Moran (and – if you are in a rush, read anyway for it won’t take you long).

I love how words can be a force of life: a rampage against darkness or an acceptance of this darkness, an articulation of truth or its denial.

Words can heal. And hurt. Encourage. Or destroy.

Words can create. And they can shut down.

I love reading the words of true wordsmiths. These ones made me want to cry. And that is good – for they reveal truth, love and life in all its messiness and ambiguity.

Thank you Caitlin.

We all struggle

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.

Yesterday, a very brave friend of mine spoke out about being diagnosed with bipolar earlier this year.

Yesterday I was reminded of Elyn Saks Ted Talk – one of the most open, compelling narratives I have ever heard from someone living with a long-term, isn’t-going-to-go-away mental illness.

Elyn Sacks is a legal scholar. A highly-qualified, highly-respected woman who does not want to be defined by her condition. A woman who doesn’t want to be labelled ‘schizophrenic’, preferring to be understood as ‘a person with schizophrenia’.

I love this distinction. It helps us all. Who, after all, wants to be defined by their struggles or scars? Who wants to look in the mirror and see the label ‘depressive’ or ‘loner’ or ‘addict’ or ‘loser’ stamped on their forehead (and all over their heart – where no-one else sees it)?

Who wants to be ‘the other’ when we are all, actually, in the same boat?

As Elyn says – so beautifully – “there’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life … we are people, not diagnoses”.

How true.

Yet how we forget this: that we are people, each of us brimming with hopes and fears, dreams, struggles and potential. We are people who need to be loved, accepted and included. We are people. Human beings. And all of us struggle – some with physical ailments, some with emotional heartache and others with mental illness.

Let us not forget. We are all human, whatever our struggles.

We might try to cover them up. Yet we all struggle.

We all struggle. Maybe every day should be World Mental Health Day.

Keeping going

11 Jan

It’s January – dark mornings, cold days, dark a lot of the time, and most of us have the post-Christmas bank balance problem. I don’t know about you but I don’t like January. The Christmas break is over. Summer feels a long way away. And New Years resolutions tend to get broken, leaving us feeling weak and ill-disciplined on top of everything else!

Sometimes it’s hard to keep going, to keep on getting up in the mornings, to stay full of the joys of life. I have found January particularly difficult so far in 2012. I’ve longed to hibernate. Either that or relocate to a land of sunshine, beaches and cocktails! The January blues have hit me hard. And I know I am not the only one. But what is it like to struggle with depression and hopelessness in a more sustained and serious way? Mental health issues continue to be mostly taboo in our culture – a culture that doesn’t like to talk about the minefield of unseen health problems.

I think we need to talk about it. I have struggled with depression. I have been through burnout. I tend to feel particularly low at a certain point in the month (sorry boys!) and sometimes this hits me so hard that getting out of bed feels as hard as getting to the top of Everest. I feel listless, lethargic, bleak. I feel as though I am walking around under a cloud – a black cloud that will not leave me alone. I have mostly learnt to get through these times – to listen to my body. And so sometimes I give in and stay in bed; others I get up and fight it. Sometimes I just sit and cry; others I sit and write. Sometimes it defeats me; others I feel like I might be winning.

It is definitely not “in my control”, and probably never will be. But I am learning to navigate the uncertainties more confidently than I used to. I am learning to be able to talk about it too. At first I hid it from all (except my husband). Now I want to be able to talk about it more openly – although I still find that difficult. I am naturally quite a private person – but I feel strongly that keeping this in the dark only makes it feel more overwhelming.

This morning, the cricketer Freddie Flintoff was on Radio 4’s Today programme talking about a programme on BBC1 tonight about depression within sport. You can read about it here

I think this will definitely be worth watching – breaking taboos about depression within the sporting field is long overdue. Maybe it will help others, whether into sport or not, to talk about their struggles too. Depression is not glamorous. It is horrible. And I think it is still widely misunderstood too – sufferers cannot simply “snap out of it”. They have not “brought it on themselves”. As Freddie says – anyone can suffer from depression (and other mental health problems). Depression does not discriminate – you can be rich, famous, successful, happily married and with beautiful children, yet still get sideswiped by this condition. I know, I have been there.

Right now, I am just going to keep going. I am going to be kind to myself. I am going to try to do things that help – like exercise and eating well. I am also going to make sure I talk about it more too. I think depression is like a spectrum and I find myself at different points of the spectrum at different times. Don’t we all?

Maybe one of my resolutions for this year should be to  talk about this more. For the taboos will only be broken if we play our part in breaking them.

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