Tag Archives: health

Why mental health desperately needs to be on the national curriculum

15 Jul

IMG_0319[1]In the past week I have read two articles that have lead me to write this short post. One was in The Guardian, which you can read here and the other one can be seen here

Needless to say I agree with the sentiments wholeheartedly and feel mental health education should be a core part of a young persons development, especially considering the sheer number of people that will experience a mental health issue.

Speaking for myself and from experience, I remember the sheer confusion and alienation I felt when my own issues started to arise. With no understanding of what was happening and why I was feeling the way I was, I suddenly felt very isolated and withdrawn. I started down a well worn path of damaging behaviours to try and make myself feel better, or at the very least, try and restore some order to what was now a strange world.

I strongly believe that had there been a framework in place whereby I had been educated on mental health matters as a matter of course then things could have improved far quicker for me then they have.

I’m talking about simple awareness of the issues alongside education on how to tackle them. Now more then ever with the ever increasing knowledge we have of mental illnesses and different ways to treat them we should be giving our young people the tools to deal with and simply understand mental health.

Mental health education would also dovetail well with our increasing focus on improving our youngsters fitness and diet. Mental health education should be part of an overarching program to promote healthy bodies and also healthy minds.

Educating young people will also only help society move further forward on the way people with mental issues are viewed.

Next week I graduate/my fear of the next step

11 Jul

First of all, I’m going to make an effort to start updating this blog more regularly, or at least as regularly as I was when I started it. If nothing else, as I’ve said before keeping a blog is quite a good outlet to just get stuff off your chest.

So yes, this time next Thursday I will officially have graduated. I ended up with a 2:1 in the end and whilst I’ve written before that I hadn’t felt a sense of accomplishment from finishing my degree, I certainly feel more positive about it now.

My last post spoke about dealing with a rough patch but in all honesty I handled it better then I have done in recent times and at the moment I’m in a good place mentally – somewhat surprisingly I guess considering there are a fair few issues going on in my life at the moment. It is these issues that have drawn me back to this blog and what will keep me here as I go through them in the next few days.

At the moment one of my main concerns is crossing the threshold from the world of education into the world of work. Over the last few weeks I have identified a career path I would like to go down. It involves the skills I have as a writer and would be a good job to have whilst I continue working on my creative work alongside that. I have everything in place to start looking for entry level positions in this field but there is one fear that is holding me back.

Unsurprisingly the fear I have is depression. I’m worried about the effect a bout of depression would have on me were I to be in employment. I worry about coping in that situation. I also constantly debate with myself if it is something I should disclose from the outset. I still view it as being weak to admit it openly and besides that, I worry about being stigmatised and my opportunities being limited if I were to disclose it.

It is something I have thought about a lot and yet am no closer to an answer.

 

If you happen to read this and feel you have any advice, please feel free to leave me a comment. fear-of-failure

The unsubtle knife

15 Jun

As always the challenge comes not when times are good, but in times of adversity and it is here that I hope I can take strength from the last year and a so of my life and remember that, when I am making a real, concerted effort life is better and indeed fun. When the next bout comes I believe/hope I’ll be able to deal with it.

 

Those are my words from the end of this post, where I talk about taking back control. In the last week and a half I have had my first, and what I knew would be inevitable, brush with adversity.

It started in the usual way insomuch as that I could feel myself slowly being sucked into the black hole. Alongside this I could also recognise the patterns of behaviour that accompany it – the sudden unreliability as I struggle to fulfil plans I made when I was feeling myself, the sudden disruption in the quality of sleep coupled with the lack of energy and appetite, plus leaning towards a drink or two for a quick mood fix and of course my old personal favourite, spending money for the same mood elevation reasons.

As I already knew these bumps in the road would appear I’ve almost been waiting for it, to see if I could force myself to react differently – to put in motion what I hoped would become a new norm in the way I deal with things.

Now I realise that above this I listed the things I found myself doing and it would appear that all has not gone well but in reality, I have certainly cut short the length of time I normally spend doing these things. I’ve twice forced myseIMG_0277lf to keep plans I made even though I really didn’t want to (I also failed a couple of times in this regard), as well as keeping myself active.

I mentioned previously how important exercise can be in keeping your mind healthy and so, alongside starting to run again I signed up with a friend to do my first 5k at the end of this month, as I believe goal setting is also an important part of keeping your mind ticking over.

The way I see it at the moment, I think this current episode will always be a benchmark I measure against in the future because in all honestly, this has been one of the worst, sudden onsets I can remember.

The picture I have used to accompany this blog is taken from ‘Life of Pi’. The character Pi is talking about fear and how it can take you over and conquer you but suffice to say, for me he could easily have been talking about depression.

I was on a train on Thursday to Charing Cross to meet a friend when it hit me – a feeling of complete despair – hopelessness like I haven’t felt in years. It cut right through me, it felt like I had too much weight on my shoulders to handle whilst my insides felt like they were sinking, being pulled down into nothingness. It felt like all my thoughts and words were coagulating – they became thick in my brain and impossible to vocalise or shift away from a feeling of dread.

Nonetheless I have persevered and forced myself to go for a run yesterday and even though I still feel devoid of energy (even after spending 14 hours in bed last night/today, which is exceptionally bad for me) I am still going to watch the football with my friend tonight.

Lets face it, I know what the alternative is, especially during an episode such as this. I must force myself not to react in the same way because that would be admitting defeat and being out with my best friend is the better choice.

Silly Little Grey Hairs

12 Apr

Grey hairs are one of the most trivial yet visible signs of stress I can think of. I say trivial, I guess for some people it could be a big deal but I’ve never really worried about things like hair loss or grey hairs. Anyway I went for a haircut yesterday and this morning after a shower I realised that ‘hey, there’s a few more then there used to be.’

I know the first ones came along a couple of years ago and it didn’t really surprise me; I certainly feel stressed a lot of the time due to dealing with depression. I also know a few others appeared during my last relationship due to issues beyond my control. How beyond my control? Well there’s nstress-gray-hair-1ot a lot you can do when her parents don’t like you because of your skin colour and would prefer you not to go out with their daughter because of it. Oh and social class, they were pretty well off to put it lightly. That kind of thing wears a relationship down after awhile. There were plenty of other issues to. In the future I will probably blog about it.

Certainly in the past I would be able to take any and everything in my stride and deal with things really well, but added to the depression, I guess I just don’t handle things as well as I used to. There’s only so many battles you can fight before you’re spreading your self to thin so in the end, even the little things that used to be handled easily, like dealing with impending work deadlines can seem altogether more draining and stressful.

And when you’re operating beyond the stressful threshold often, I guess it’s no surprise that there will be more of those silly little grey hairs.

Depression Update via Questionnaires

6 Apr

In this blog, I talked about how I would track my progress by doing depression questionnaires every couple of weeks.

Each time I do these I’ll be picking out a couple of questions from each one and expanding on the reasons behind my answer.

Last time for the ‘Goldberg depression questionnaire’ I scored a hefty 69. Anything above 54 is severely depressed. As you can imagine I wasn’t in a very good place. This time I got –

Total score of: 29
(22-35, Mild-Moderate Depression)

You appear to be suffering from mild to moderate depressive symptoms commonly associated with depressive disorders.

As you can see a marked improvement, tallying with what I have been describing in recent blogs. The improvement in my mood has been brilliant and has felt brilliant as it always does.  One of the statements you have to rank according to how it applies to you is –

2)  My future seems hopeless.

My answer this time was ‘just a little’ as I am scoring for the whole week but really today I could make that ‘not at all.’ The difference in outlook when you have come out of an episode is incredible and I plan to blog about these differences soon.

Moving on, my tri-axial Bipolar spectrum screening results last time were 32, which means –

Your answers indicate levels of experiences which are consistent with bipolar disorder, including those associated with both manic and depressive symptom 

This questionnaire takes into account how you have felt and behaved over your life so I won’t update this one for a while as I’ve blogged about the bipolar side recently in regards to money.

Finally we have another depression one but with different depression questions that I can talk about. This one is called the ‘Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)’ and last time I scored 41. Anything over 21 means a possibility of major depression. Like the Goldberg questionnaire it asks you to take account of the last week in your life.  This time I got –

Total score of: 17
(15-21, Mild to Moderate Depression)

You appear to be experiencing some mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

Again a huge improvement. As for one of the questions –

14. I felt lonely.

The crazy thing I find with my depression is that whilst you tend to isolate yourself when you’re going through it because you don’t want to be around people, you can also sometimes simultaneously feel this intense loneliness that really cuts right to your core. That feeling can even arise when you’re with people. It’s just a very unpleasant sensation.  At the moment though that sensation is a lovely distant memory.

As I said before I decided on doing these as a way of tracking my progress and to have some concrete signposts as I go forward.

Doing them this time was a much more enjoyable experience as I chart just how much better I have felt recently.

That’ll be it today I think. Signpost

Mood Swing Central

27 Mar

That’s pretty much me over the last couple of days. I had planned one or two blogs about how I was feeling, after all that was why I had initially set out to start blogging in the first place, only for my mood to completely switch and leave what I had planned to write redundant. So let’s talk about the mood swings then.

Yesterday afternoon I had an overwhelming sense of happiness, the kind of happiness I usually feel when I ‘wake up’ after having been numb. In this instance I’d been feeling pretty numb since February, (I mentioned before how January was the last time I felt really good and ‘normal’) reaching a peak in early March and since then I’d slowly felt myself coming back to reality. Great I thought. Well unfortunately I was wrong because later on in the afternoon my mind just switched back to nonsense emotions of guilt, paranoia, worthlessness.

And it’s pretty much just cycled between feeling great and feeling rubbish.

I thought I’d include thismood swing t-shirt website as a sort of reference for a few things and pick out some of the things that have characterised just the last couple of days.

Loss of confidence

This one is so disconcerting. I can feel super confident in my abilities as a writer, hell as a person haha and then suddenly BANG it goes and suddenly my thoughts are feeding into

Feeling useless, inadequate or hopeless

pretty self explanatory.  Then I might jump to

Full of energy or ideas; moving quickly from one idea to another

which is, well, OK if I just stayed there. Finally, amongst others I had the dreaded

(thinking about) Spending money recklessly

it was quite a large urge, bigger then I’ve experienced in a long time. I would love to say I stayed strong with no help but the truth is I have no money for a couple of weeks anyway.

So yeah, a bit of a weird couple of days, I certainly don’t usually experience so many swings in such a short space of time.

Second extract from my life writing piece.

21 Mar

So this follows on from my previous post, which is the first draft from a piece of work for my life writing class which is being workshopped in class tomorrow. Life-Writing-Color

 

Still, I decided it would have to be a memoir written from the experiences to come, over the course of say a year, unfolding I guess more like a journal but with the memoir elements of touching upon the important stages in my life that have lead me to where I am today contained within it.  At least the hope of something positive to arise from the choices I now plan to make going forward is there. In the ensuing days I have of course asked myself the question ‘why write about it?’ I think the answer has various elements to it. Catharsis from writing being one. Adding my own story to the ones already out there being another. Depression has a nasty habit of not only isolating you but making you feel as if you neither have a voice or that your opinion means anything at all. In the grand scheme of things I suppose this is true, but the emotion of me reasserting myself, telling my story, having a voice, is both a strong one and a powerful driving force. It is certainly true that depression is something that is much more widely discussed than ever before and I wish to be part of that conversation, to give my version.  

Building a framework

OK, so let’s assume that you agree that you would like to read what I write, you’re probably looking to gain insight from what you read. How else can I aid this I thought? Well if you’re on a journey you’d probably like a few signposts right, to see where you are going and where you have come from etc. So I tried to figure out what these signposts could be. Signposts that would make it easier for you to engage. The answer came in the form of questionnaires. I came across the website http://counsellingresource.com/ and found a wealth of information and also questionnaires on depression, bi-polar disorder etc. Fantastic I thought, these will not only give me a base line from which to properly start from, but my progress could easily be tracked by taking the test every, let’s say two weeks. You’ll get an added sense of the variable nature of the illness and hopefully over time the scores would be getting better as I try to take control and manage it properly.

I took two tests, the ‘Goldberg Depression Questionnaire’, which came back with

Total score of: 69 (54 and up, Severely Depressed)

“You appear to be suffering from severe depressive symptoms commonly associated with serious depressive disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or dysthymia.”

And the Tri-Axial Bipolar Spectrum Screening Quiz (TABS), which came back with

Total score of: 32

(13-64, With Both Depressive and Manic Axes Elevated)

Your answers indicate levels of experiences which are consistent with bipolar disorder, including those associated with both manic and depressive symptoms.

I will add that these were taken on the 11th March and that the preceding week had been one of those ‘rougher’ ones.

To be fair the results could do with more elaboration so here are a couple of questions from the questionnaires with my answers (the actual questionnaires are just tick boxes by the way)

4. The pleasure and joy has gone out of my life. (depression test)

This. This is one of the principle reasons for embarking on this project. They talk about ‘episodes’ of depression, or ‘bouts’. To be perfectly honest I’m worn out from it all, the constant cycle of boom and bust. The good times now are just horribly diluted by the knowledge that the demon is around the corner. I’ll give you an analogy. If my happiness was say a river, then depression would be what the river would be like after an oil spill. Now there’s thick, black, sludgy nastiness on the surface. Sure, the waters still there, you can reach for it but you can’t avoid the oil, your hand is still going to be tainted by it. Or how about, you know how once your mind realises that the fridge is making that whirring sound you can’t unhear it because you’re tuned into it? Well there we go.

 

3. I have been enjoying activities that I know carry a significant risk of causing me problems later (e.g., buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or unusual business investments). (Bi-polar test)

19. Some of the experiences listed above have caused me problems at work or in my social activities; led to arguments or fights; or left me with family, financial or legal difficulties. (Bi-polar test)

I grouped these two together for the simple reason that after thinking about them they, along with the question from the depression test, provided the stimulus for change. After thinking on the Several thousand pounds of debt, with a credit rating so far gone I can’t even get a ‘vanquis’ credit card, when I think about the failed relationships, the shrinking of my friendship circle, the jobs I’ve quit when the depression got bad but I couldn’t bring myself to admit I was struggling, the breakdown in communication with my family, that rather embarrassing trip to the STD clinic, not remembering the last time I was truly at peace and happy (alcohol excluded), I just feel this is a good time and place in my life to begin to try and turn things around or at the very least, learn how to cope and live with what I have.

So I guess the journey will now begin.

 

 

 

 

 

Laying the Ground Work

13 Mar

It seems the time may be at hand – it might just be the right moment for me to come out and tell my friends ‘Hey guys, I just wanted to finally be open and honest and tell you all that I suffer from depression.’

Then again, maybe not. But if not now, when? Because now would seem an opportune moment considering how I behaved on the weekend – namely bailing on a planned night out that we’d all been looking forward to with a rather desperate and hurried text message detailing that I couldn’t come because I was ‘unhappy’ amongst other things before proceeding to turn my mobile off – which incidentally hasn’t been switched back on since (although I have talked to my best friend via email in the following days since this all unfolded on Saturday).

To be honest Saturday seems, felt, like a kind of nadir. I simply couldn’t, or rather refused to put myself in a situation that would’ve sent me deeper into a downward spiral. I thought about the alcohol I would drink and other factors and just thought that on top of what had already been a rough week mentally I couldn’t do it and for the first time I backed out – I didn’t handle it very well, in fact very poorly, but at the time I had to protect myself.

I finally have to admit/accept some of the limitations that depression has/will impose on me. I have to dial it back a bit, maybe more then I would like, for now – maybe for ever who knows? – but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

I’m sure my behaviour will have set alarm bells ringing, well I know it did and maybe it was more of a cry for help then anything else – something to lay the ground work for me to open up. All I know is that I don’t think I can, or rather I don’t think I want, to live a life where I have to hide and pretend. Depression is isolating enoughImage

It occurred to me that, whether or not I find the strength to tell my friends at this particular point or at some time in the future, maybe one of the things I could do would be to simply write about my experiences, actually really get down to the nitty gritty, open up about what it is like on a day to day basis. Maybe even read a few blogs from other bloggers and through that find some kind of release, or solace. So I guess that is what I’ll be doing from here on in.

It can’t hurt now can it?