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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: Me, My Mental Health and I

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Me, My Mental Health and I

I was toying with the idea of writing an 'All about Nym' post.  Some sort of flippant, humorous and probably slightly twee list of things I like and dislike or some facts about me or some such.  But having paid attention to my last blog post asking for feedback and just thinking about which of my posts seem to get the best response, I think I know what would go down better even if I've shied away from writing an entire blog post about it so far because it seems self indulgent.  Besides, if my 16 year old sister can open up about how ASD and meltdowns affect her (in this post) then I feel I really should show the same sort of willing (though, I can't promise the results will make for such good reading).

Okay.  I suffer from depression.

Not a particularly shocking or daring admission given - besides the fact I've mentioned it on this blog before - depression affects one in...ten...five...four...I'm not sure, actually, Google couldn't seem to come to a consensus.  Loads.  Loads and loads of people have depression at some point and even more people know someone who is depressed, is what I'm trying to say.

I think I had been suffering on and off with depression for a long time before I realised what it was.  A long time.  As in, I remember taking myself off to my dad's workshop to read and just crying and crying for no reason then lying when Mum asked if something was wrong and I was nine at the time.

I was twice that age when I figured out what might be causing it.  The Wolf and I got a flat in Glasgow the September after I turned 18 because I'd been accepted into the University of Glasgow.  I remember unpacking one of the boxes for the kitchen - the Wolf was at work so I was home alone - and as I was taking the bubble wrap off a champagne flute I dropped it and it broke.  And then I broke...down (this seemed like a good metaphor when I started).  This wasn't some ornate, crystal champagne flute or anything.  At least, I'm pretty sure it wasn't!  No, it was part of a present from a friend; what with me turning 18 and everything (for any US readers, the legal age for buying alcohol in the UK is 18) and I think it was even part of a set of two but it just upset me so much that I'd managed to package this breakable thing up and transport it all the way from home with it intact just to drop it after I'd unwrapped it.  It was like a Of Mice and Men thing except instead of my home being destroyed like in the poem or having to kill my best friend like in the novel my champagne flute broke despite all that bubble wrap.  Okay, so maybe they're not comparable but that's the point.  It wasn't the end of the world (it wasn't even the end of me drinking champagne since we couldn't afford it at the time, anyway) but I sat on the floor of our tiny kitchenette and sobbed and sobbed.

None of these are the glass in question.
Obviously, since that one...you know.

I don't think it was as a direct result of this I sought help but this was certainly one of the incidents that led to my realisation it probably wasn't 'normal' to cry for half an hour over breaking a glass.

I've been asked before what depression feels like and it's hard to answer, not least because when I'm not depressed I don't think I truly remember what it was like when I was in the midst of it.  The thing with the glass was common, though.  You know how sometimes you have a really crappy day?  Maybe you were kept awake half the night by noisy neighbours, then you realise you're out of milk when you go to make tea, then you forget your purse/phone etc. when you go out and each thing on its own is just a small irritation you'd normally sigh about and shrug off but after a whole day of small irritations it just takes one more to make you snap?  That's part of what being depressed is for me.  Small annoyances seem like the very last straw every single time.  The number of times I cried through washing up just because...I didn't want to wash up (we ended up getting a dishwasher eventually) is ridiculous.  If I was alone - I don't do crying in front of people - it didn't take much: something breaking, realising an item of clothing I wanted to wear was in the wash, not being able to decide what to eat.  Any of these things could cause me to cry and cry.

Or finding there was only Goram Eclairs left in the tub.
Actually, we probably couldn't afford Cadbury's Heroes at the time.
Which would also have made me cry.

Whilst I didn't realise this was, in fact, depression I did know my reactions were not completely normal so I hid it all from everyone bar the Wolf.  Though, even with him, I didn't confide exactly but when you live with someone in a small, one bedroom flat the darkness will seep out.

When we were little my brother decided it would be fun to try to make 'slime'  He went about this by combining the inside of a glowstick with some WD40, a rubber (eraser for you non-Brits - he didn't put any condoms in to my knowledge, though he probably would have if he'd had one) and who knows what else.  This was all stored in a small plastic pot with a magnifying glass lid designed - I assume from the plastic spider that came with it - to hold spiders and insects.  He blithely added all these ingredients and left the little tub on a shelf.  The terrifying concoction eroded the plastic, ate its way through the wooden shelf underneath...and the shelf below that.  It was...sort of fascinating but pretty scary and weird.  And not entirely unlike my depression eroding away my hope, patience, self confidence and very gradually dripping its acid on the Wolf and our relationship and my relationships with everyone else, too.

See, whilst I did hide my depression from everyone I knew (very well apparently since more than one of my friends said I was literally the last person they would have thought was depressed after I finally told people), it still took its toll on all my interactions with other humans.  When you construct this happy, jokey, easy going facade for all conversations you're left behind it peeking out.  It's not really you having chatting and smiling, it's this construction.  Once you're alone again you feel all the more lonely for having faked your way through all your chances to properly connect with someone else.  That is the single most overriding feeling when I'm depressed, actually,  Sure, I feel defeated and distressed and miserable and guilty and paranoid but more than anything else I feel lonely.

Within a few months of the champagne flute breaking I took an online test where if you tick yes to more than X number of questions it indicates you may have depression.  I scored more than the minimum number and decided to go and see my GP.

But I was scared.  I wasn't scared he'd say I had depression; I was scared he'd say I didn't.  If I had depression there was a reason for why I felt the way I felt and there was a chance I could get better.  If I didn't...then I was just a miserable git of a person and that wasn't ever likely to change.

One of the reasons it had taken so long for me to realise I might have depression was because depression was a real condition and surely me crying quite a lot and feeling completely and utterly hopeless and alone was just being a teenager.  The impression I got from the little I knew about depression was that it rendered you incapable of any sort of normal life without you grabbing at the nearest sharp object to hack away at your wrists.  I was having a hard time but I had some good days here and there and I managed to function and even talk and laugh when around other people.  If I had a particularly rough night of obsessing over every single bad thing that had happened in the last year or so and finally crying myself to sleep at 3am (very quietly so as not to wake the Wolf) then the next day when I was out at Uni and the sun was shining and people were going about their lives all around me I'd tell myself I'd been silly and everything always seems worse in the middle of the night and I just needed to pull myself together.  I'm British, after all!  Stiff upper lip and all that.  Surely I could just walk it off.

But as stiff as my lip was (that sounds really terribly bad now I've written it down) and as much walking as I did to and from campus every day, I still had these awful episodes and an overriding sense of things being hopeless.

I went along to the GP appointment with a list.  I was worried I'd be laughed out of the room for being a melodramatic teenage girl so I clutched my little notebook of evidence (this was to stand me in good stead when I needed to document all Tyger's autistic traits and behaviours for evidence almost a decade later) and hoped I'd be taken seriously.

Which one is best for taking notes on Great Expectations and which
is best for noting down all the signs of a potential mental illness?

I earnestly went through my list of symptoms: both psychological (feelings of despair, guilt, irritability etc.) and physical (insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue...).  The doctor was lovely and thankfully did take me very seriously.  I had to fill out a sort of assessment questionnaire, which went over the same ground I'd already covered with my little notebook but this was official and asked how many times I'd suffered from each thought or symptom in the last week.  It came back showing I had moderate depression.

I was so relieved.

The doctor said he was reluctant to put someone so young straight onto antidepressants so he referred me for 'talking therapy' instead.  I was secretly a little thrilled.  As much as the thought of having to actually tell someone all about the ridiculous things going on in my head was, I felt a little like a character out of an American TV show.  They all seemed to have 'shrinks', after all and at 18 it seemed almost glamorous.  As it happens, my experience with the talking therapist was not particularly positive but I suspect this is reaching it's attention-holding limit so that may be the subject of a future post.

If you're disappointed I didn't write a blog post about my likes and dislikes I can tell you I like tea and stepping on crunchy pine cones and dislike motivational minion memes and the volume for the TV being on an odd number.  It probably wasn't worth an entire post.

Linked with:
Mami 2 Five

The Twinkle Diaries

A Bit Of Everything

A Cornish Mum

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At 7 November 2015 at 04:28 , Blogger Looby Luscious said...

When I was finally diagnosed (in my late 30's, so I took a lot longer than you to visit the Dr) I realised that I had spent most of my life depressed. I was ashamed and told my husband that he couldn't say anything. It took medication to make me realise what a fool I'd been for trying to cope - sometimes not well. Suicidal thoughts were always hovering, and crying jags for no apparent reason suddenly made sense.
I always described it as the difference between a world of gray and a world of colour. The second time I felt my colours fading, I wet to my GP immediately to demand my little pills! Now I feel better at talking about it, because I understand that it isn't about weakness or being pathetic, but about chemicals and brain function.
Thanks for sharing this. The more that people talk about mental health issues, the better it is for those who struggle.

At 7 November 2015 at 11:05 , Blogger Bella Harrin said...

Reading this makes me realise that I have been struggling too. Thanks for your blog...

At 8 November 2015 at 05:03 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Yes, I have become better at recognising the warning signs. Your comment about a world of colour vs a world of grey resonates. What I have also finally realised is I need to stay on the antidepressants long term until a doctor advises me to come off them. Three times I started taking them but stopped after a few months because I felt fine. That was unwise and just resulted in the depression coming back after a while. This time I'm in it for the long haul in the hope, when I do finally come off them, I won't need to go back on in the future.

At 8 November 2015 at 05:04 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Please get some help and support. You don't have to struggle along by yourself. Nobody would expect you to if you had a physical illness and this is no different.

At 8 November 2015 at 09:24 , Blogger Unknown said...

This was a great post. I have a physical illness (Pernicious Anemia) which presented in such a way that for many, many years my doctors thought it was depression. I still suffer from a lot of anxiety (particularly social) because of the ordeal of getting a diagnosis.

It's so hard to talk about invisible illnesses, I've found people really struggle to understand if they can't *see* something wrong with you. That can be frustrating and exhausting on top of dealing with the illness itself!

I lost touch with a lot of people during university and the years after because of my untreated symptoms and the stress of knowing I was ill but not being able to get anyone to believe me - so I COMPLETELY understand when you talk about the relief of a diagnosis. Even if it means you have an illness that will last the rest of your life.

I'm glad you're finding ways to manage your depression. Thanks for writing about something so personal. xx

At 8 November 2015 at 14:40 , Blogger Unknown said...

I recognise a lot of myself in the post. Thanks for sharing. Really interesting to hear I'm not as weird as I thought. Glad you're finding ways to manage your depression. #sundaystars

At 9 November 2015 at 00:37 , Blogger Bella Harrin said...

That's the hard part I suppose... Telling someone. Have read that herbal medicine is good so might give that a try

At 9 November 2015 at 05:19 , Blogger Unknown said...

I think at one point in my past I had a form of depression that I didn't seek out help for and if it happened again I would. I vividly remember going to my doctor and hoping for sleeping tablets and being offered antidepressents and CBT instead. I didn't take either but it gave me the wake up call to reevaluate my life and the people in it.

I'm glad your finding ways to help and manage your depression. And more importantly sharing your story so others can get the courage to seek help.

I also hate the odd number. Not sure why though.

At 9 November 2015 at 05:54 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Just be careful. St John's wort is often used to treat depression but it can interact with other things (for instance, it can stop the contraceptive pill working). The other thing to remember is that a lot of 'herbal medicine' sold isn't regulated in the same way medicine prescribed by a doctor is so you often can't be sure of quantities etc.

At 9 November 2015 at 06:17 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

These days I know people with ASD, depression, anxiety, dyslexia, dyspraxia, colour blindness, IBS, Crohn's, borderline personality disorder, brachial neuritis and probably other things I've forgotten so I'm always aware of the possibility of someone having a hidden disability/illness/condition. However, I wouldn't have ever considered it going back a few years and I'm sure that's also the case for loads of other people.

Social anxiety can be pretty crippling; I hope you can find a way to manage it. Remember, you're Captain Sorch! xx

At 9 November 2015 at 08:21 , Blogger Crummy Mummy said...

I'd be interested in hearing about the talking therapy - well done for sharing such a personal post, I'm sure it will help othersx #cssupportbloggers

At 9 November 2015 at 08:36 , Blogger Unknown said...

This is a great post, you should definitely write more and follow this up. True experiences are the best reads and you never know you might help someone x

At 9 November 2015 at 10:42 , Blogger Unknown said...

Great post, and I think it highlights many of the difficulties people have in understanding and identifying depression - that is is very varied in presentation, difficult to describe, difficult to recall at other times, and sometimes easy to conceal. #cssupport

At 10 November 2015 at 03:54 , Blogger AislingOz said...

I'm completely with you although have dabbled in anti-depressants, they help. And the crying....... Also I hate odd numbers too x #abitofeverything

At 10 November 2015 at 12:09 , Blogger helloarchie.blue said...

Wow, such a brave post to write and as someone who has experienced depression before I have been nodding along to every way you've described it. Until you've experienced it, it's not something you can easily understand, I know I didn't when I was naive to it being an actual problem. Well done for writing this and for helping others! Thankyou for linking up to Marvellous Mondays, hope to see you again next week! Kaye xo #MarvMondays

At 10 November 2015 at 13:30 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

It's really not uncommon but still quite taboo to talk about. Thanks for reading.

At 10 November 2015 at 13:33 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

I don't know what the thing with odd numbers is, either, but I seem to have passed it on to my husband as well! Yes, insomnia is a common symptom of depression so I can understand wanting sleeping tablets but that wouldn't get to the route cause. I'm glad you managed to get through it, though.

At 10 November 2015 at 13:35 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. With the responses I've had, I think I will definitely write more about my journey through depression (the next step of which was the talking therapy). Probably not for a couple of weeks, though, as it feels self indulgent to write two in a row.

At 10 November 2015 at 15:20 , Blogger Unknown said...

You have such a truly remarkable gift for helping people to get a glimpse into how someone else experiences the world. I'm going to share this but I hope that it is also picked up by some larger mental health organisation(s). From this comments section it looks as though you have already helped people. In acknowledging the darkness, you are a truly beautiful light x #abitofeverything

At 11 November 2015 at 00:28 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

I think I will in a week or two. It felt a bit self indulgent writing this but the response has been good so I think I'll write a follow up about the treatments I've had.

At 11 November 2015 at 00:32 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Yes, I've known people who have diagnosed depression complaining that the way someone else has described it isn't what it's like for them. I think it does vary and that can throw people when they don't recognise their experience in what they've heard about depression from others.

At 11 November 2015 at 00:34 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

I don't know why the hatred of odd numbers is so widespread! I think that needs looking into. Haha. Yes, I'm on long term antidepressants right now and I think my next post on depression in a couple of weeks will cover treatment methods.

At 11 November 2015 at 00:38 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. I think I understood it as perhaps just sadness for a long time before I had depression and as I got older I thought of it as being something far more volatile than the drudgery I experienced.

At 11 November 2015 at 00:41 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you so much. It means a lot coming from another blogger I specifically look out for. My greatest hope when I write posts like this is they might help someone else.

At 11 November 2015 at 11:26 , Blogger Unknown said...

Aah bless you pet; at least you've faced it and accepted it (if 'accepted' is the right word? — probably 'acknowledged; would be better. I love your writing — always fascinating to read your posts. Thanks so much for linking up to #TwinklyTuesday xx

PS — your blog's looking good!! Glad you kept the stripes :)

At 11 November 2015 at 22:13 , Blogger Unknown said...

What an insightful post! Thank you sharing your journey with us. I love reading your posts because I always come away, feeling more informed and a little more aware, yet I feel like we're talking it over a friendly cup of tea. Wonderful post. It really touched me. Hope to see you again at #abitofeverything

At 12 November 2015 at 22:33 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. I like the look of the blog better now so I'm glad I asked for opinions.

At 12 November 2015 at 22:33 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

That's really nice and exactly what I'm aiming for. Thank you.

At 14 November 2015 at 10:06 , Blogger thisiswhereitisat said...

Great post and thank you for being open. It helps break down the stamina the more we talk about but can identify with the feels of being scared X #picknmix

At 18 November 2015 at 06:29 , Blogger Stevie - A Cornish Mum said...

I have a confession....I like the motivational minions ha ;) A lovely brave post very well explained and expressed x Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

Stevie x

At 22 November 2015 at 07:27 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. I think it's important to address the stigma surrounding mental health problems.

At 22 November 2015 at 07:28 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

I'm sure I can forgive you!


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