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New Job, New Start

A few months ago I realised that I was finding my current job very difficult. The combination of a stressful environment, a doctor husband who works horrible shifts and a toddler got completely on top of me and in the end I realised that I just couldn’t cope.

After months of deliberation I made the decision to apply for jobs at a lower level, less intensive neonatal unit. Initially I was set on remaining at my previous unit; desperately wanting to prove to myself that I was still capable of working at the level I had done before my pregnancy and subsequent mental health crisis. However I was forced to admit that while I may well be able to work at that level again in the future, with my current mental health and pressures of family life I just can’t do it now.

After discussing my options at length I came to the conclusion that I’ve been qualified as a nurse for six years and so have at least 30 years of my career left and so I have plenty of time left to work at a high intensity, high pressure unit. I many not feel ready to step back up until Squidge goes to school or for some years after that but the main thing is that I don’t have to work at that level now. I may never feel able to work at such a high intensity unit ever again but that’s ok because, despite what I might feel, I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.

After making my decision I applied for a post on the neonatal unit at the hospital where the Northern One currently works and is very close to Squidge’s nursery. The Northern One will rotate to a new hospital on August and so unless I began working at this hospital Squidge would have to move to a new nursery. Due to the Northern One’s job Squidge has already moved nurseries once and I really didn’t want him to have to move again. He loves his current nursery and they love him so finding a job that would mean he could stay there would only be a good thing. While I was initially unsure about stepping down to a lower level neonatal unit but the though of Squidge being so happy at nursery was, in the end, the deciding factor.

When a neonatal nurse post opened up at the Northern One’s current hospital I raced to apply and was subsequently called for an interview. Prior to interviewing I arranged to visit the unit (despite having visited previously during my time as a transport nurse) so that I could introduce myself to my prospective employers and to demonstrate my enthusiasm with regards to working for them.

At all stages of the application and interview process I was completely open and honest about my mental health issues and associated sick leave. I explained that I’d become particular ill during my pregnancy and therefore had been signed off sick for the entire pregnancy before taking six months maternity leave. I also explained that I’d had two periods of sick leave since returning to work which had both been related to medication changes and adjustments. I reiterated these issues at the end of my interview, explaining that I understood if they felt as though I wasn’t a suitable candidate at this time. Therefore I was absolutely thrilled when they phoned the next day and offered me the job.

However a few weeks later the offer of a job was withdrawn as my new employers felt I’d had too much sick leave and that employing me would not be in their best interests. I would have found this easier to accept had they not waited a number of weeks, allowed me to complete all my new starter paperwork and habd in my notice at my previous job before changing their minds.

After the initial shock of receiving the phone call stating that they no longer wished to employ me I contacted my union rep for advice. However she informed me that the hospital was entirely within their rights to withdraw any job offers before the final employment contract had been signed and that it was incredibly stupid of me to have handed in my notice. After her suggestion that I contact my old job and beg them to re-eploy me I decided to stop asking her for advice.

After the withdrawal I sunk into a deep depression, completely blaming myself for everything. I felt as though I’d failed Squidge, the Northern One and myself by being so utterly useless that I couldn’t even manage to go to work. I worried about finances, the fact that Squidge would have to change nurseries again and I spent a lot of time wondering whether any neonatal unit would ever want to employ me again. My job is a huge part of who I am and is one of the few things about myself that I’m proud of so not being in work was very difficult and caused a rapid downturn of my mood and destabilisation of my mental health. I found it very difficult to fill my days, feeling unable to do much other than read horror stories and sleep. I avoided blogging, social media and moat other forms of human cobtact. I also struggled to get up every day, shower or get dressed and I only left the house a couple of times a week.

I ended up being unemployed for two months, before finding another suitable job to apply for. I knew the hospital from the Northern One having worked there a few years ago and from having visited the neonatal unit several times.

I was petrified of a repeat of my previous experience and so on the application form and at the end of the interview I explained everything that had happened over the past three years in relation to my mental health, making it perfectly clear that if there was any chance there would be a problem I would prefer it if I wasn’t offered the job in the first place. However, despite sufficient candidates to warrant two full days of interviews for only one post my new employers decided to offer the job to me!

For the first time in many months I’m actually looking forward to going back to work. This new job has dual benefits of enabling me to continue the career that I love whilst also giving me the opportunity to make a new start. My new colleagues won’t know the pre-pregnancy me and so the pressure I felt to be that person will be lifted, allowing me to regain confidence in my abilities as a nurse.

I need this job so much for so many reasons; something outside of being a wife and mother just for myself, to prop up my fragile sense of self-worth and for a chance to find some sort of inner peace.

I need this new start.

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My (Not) Bucket List

Today is my birthday.

I’m 28 years old.

Still two years away from being 30 and many more years away from being 40 but still definitely no longer classed as ‘young’ or even ‘early 20s.’

At the moment bucket lists seem to be popular, particularly lists to be completed before 30 or 40th birthdays and although I don’t have one, I do have a vague list of things that I wanted to achieve at least by the time I was 30, if not before. So here is my (not) bucket list.

Married? Check

Mum? Check.

Own my own house? Check.

Pass my driving test? Check, but there was a time when it looked as though I would never be able to convert my much detested green provisional license into a lovely pink one. It took six years, thousands of pounds worth of driving lessons in three different counties, nine driving tests and innumerable tears, panic attacks and declarations that I just couldn’t do it but this year I will have been driving for three years.

Publish a book? I’m currently in contact with a literary agent who is showing definite interest in the proposal I sent them. Yesterday I emailed them the further material they requested so you never know, this may be a goal that I’m not far off achieving!

Run a marathon? I ran I half marathon about four years ago so I’m halfway there but my weight and fitness at the moment mean I’d probably struggle to run half a mile without completely exhausting myself.

Be a charge nurse on a busy, cutting-edge neonatal unit? I’ve interviewed for sister posts three since returning from maternity leave and five times in total, coming quite close to achieving this goal before I fell pregnant and twice since being back at work. But I’ve been unemployed for a fortnight and I’m having to face the possibility that with my current sickness record due to my mental health, I might not be able to find a neonatal unit of any level that wants to employ me.

Off antidepressants? Although I may be able to start reducing the doses of the two antidepressants I take in combination it’s unlikely that I will ever be able to manage without taking a low dose antidepressant.

Managing my mental health? See above

Reach and maintain the healthy body weight that I was pre-pregnancy? This is a goal that I seem to be moving further and further away from due to my almost addict-like cravings for sugar that spur me to sabotage any healthy eating initiatives I try to put in place. I’ve even tried putting a lock on the kitchen cupboard doors, only carrying a minimal amount of cash and giving all my bank cards to the Northern One. Yet even with these extreme measures in place I’m still finding ways to get my sugar fix. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was satisfied with one biscuit or a few pieces of chocolate but I can consume entire packets of biscuits and whole family sized bars of chocolate without really thinking about it.

Be happy with my appearance and in my own skin? We have mirrors throughout the house and each time I walk past one the little voice that is depression reminds me how ugly and disgusting I am. It points out my increasingly round face, the stretch marks that have appeared in the last few weeks, the way my bra digs into my back and reminds me about the suitcases full of clothes up in the loft that no longer fit. I have never been so lacking in confidence about my appearance and so uncomfortable in my own skin.

Today, however, instead of focusing on goals and berating myself for things I haven’t achieved I am trying to be kind to myself. Squidge is at nursery and I have a day of sleeping in and doing some gentle gardening planned before attending my weekly therapy session. I always forget that February is a shorter month and so tend to overestimate how far away my birthday is which is why it didn’t even occur to me until a few days ago that I had a therapy session booked on my birthday.

While therapy doesn’t sound like the ideal birthday activity and knowing that I will most likely emerge from the session tear-stained and exhausted I also know that I will feel better for having been. It’s also the first step in the right direction to achieving some of the most difficult goals on my (not) bucket list. Attending therapy means that I can spend part of my birthday acquiring the skills to live the next year and the rest of my life the way that I want to, not just the way that I feel is inevitable.

So here’s to another year and hopefully a new chapter in my life where goals are achieved and celebrated, new goals are set and worked towards, and where I still absolutely don’t have a bucket list.

Not a proper one anyway.

 

 

 

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A Name for Depression

“What would you call depression?” my therapist asked me last week.

My initial response was one of confusion as I struggled to wrap my brain around the rather unexpected question. My first thought was then to simply say that depression is called depression, that being the name that everyone, regardless as to whether they were medical, in the media, working for a mental health charity or lived with the condition called it. But I did understand what the therapist meant; she was asking me to think beyond the a list of symptoms and medication, asking me to think about what depression specifically means to me.

I told her that depression was called Louise and she calmly but firmly told me that simply wasn’t true.

There was something in her tone of voice that made me stop and think about my answer and seeing my hesitation she advised me to go away and think about my answer without feeling as though I’d been put on the spot.

I have been thinking about her question all week, trying to put a name to the formless yet overpowering entity that is as much a part of me as the fact that I have hazel eyes and that I detest celery.

I think of it a bit like the stereotypical introduction that people are supposed to give in support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Like so:

“Hello everyone, my name is Louise. I’m 28 years old, married, mother to a gorgeous little boy and I’m an alcoholic.”

I’m a depressive.

I am depression.

For me, it feels as though depression is everything that I am, having eaten away at the different aspects of my personality until I can no longer really recall what they were. I don’t remember if I was kind or friendly, generous or funny, quirky or outgoing or anything much at all.

It is so implicitly part of me,affecting my friendships, relationships with my family, my job, my social life (or lack thereof) and my ability to be a mother. It is intertwined in everything that I do, constantly invading my thoughts and whispering in its spiteful yet strangely compelling voice so that after ten years of listening to it every single day I now believe each word it says without questioning its motives or wondering whether it might possibly be wrong.

It is in every minute of every day, colouring each word and thought in different shades of grey; unattractive and uninspiring, yet oddly comforting in its normality and predictability. This may sound bizarre but one of the most damaging things about depression for me is having a day where I feel happy or even just stable and knowing that sooner or later the positive feelings will go away. It is miserable to feel miserable but at least if I’m already there I don’t have to experience the crushing sense of loss that occurs when I feel my mood slipping and knowing that this period of low mood could last for days, weeks or even months.

Yet even when I’m not in the midst of a period of low mood (as I am now), depression is still predictable in the things it whispers in my ear and I am predictable in my belief of everything it says. The only thing my mood dictates is how loud those whispers are; whether they are background noise that can be ignored with a bit of effort or whether they have the power to stop my in my tracks and pin me to the spot with their intensity.

I look in the mirror and agree with depression when it tells me that I am disgusting and ugly.

I look at Squidge and know depression is right when it tells me that I am a useless mother.

I look at the Northern One and know that it speaks the truth when depression tells me that I am a disappointing wife.

Depression is everything.

Depression is almost the only thing.

How can you name something so powerful and so destructive, that has no gender or form and that no one else can see or hear or even really understand without experiencing it for themselves?

Yet despite the seeming impossibility of the task I also understand why my therapist wants me to try; that by finding a name for depression I am truly considering it as something separate from myself, allowing me the chance to wrestle some control away from it and returning it to me.

I haven’t felt in control for a very long time.

In scary films, the fear is always the most intense when you don’t know what you’re actually afraid of. You jump at sudden noises, shout at the characters about to go into the spooky basement and hide behind the sofa cushions when you even suspect that something terrifying might be about to happen. Your heart races, you breathe faster and the knowledge that something is very wrong settles uncomfortably in the pit of your stomach. Then, at the crescendo of ‘what-the-hell-was-that’, when the monster or phantom is revealed, simply by knowing what it is and being able to put a name to the thing that you feared, you are instantly less afraid.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I still don’t know what name I would give depression but I’ve decided that it needs a human name. The strength and intensity of its words is like having another person standing beside me; an invisible, malevolent person completely bent on my destruction but a person nonetheless.

Even the most evil and terrifying of people have names.

Yet to assign a name to depression in this way I have to decide upon its gender. Is depression male and therefore has the ability to overpower me with its superior strength and break me with expertly placed kicks and punches. Or is it female and thus more spiteful, wearing me away bit by bit with its barely disguised insults and whispered comments behind my back?

Maybe trying to look at depression as though it was a person is the wrong approach. After all, people can be every bit as unpredictable and fear-inducing as any ghost or monster. But the way it talks like me, sounds like me and knows exactly how and when to hurt me the most, surely these are human traits?

I don’t imagine my therapist thought this would be an easy task but she also made it perfectly clear that she wouldn’t ask me to do anything that I wasn’t capable of or able to cope with. Therefore she thinks that I’m able to think of a name for depression; one which enables me to know it and by which will enable me to start loosening the strangle hold that it has me in.

“What would I call depression?”

Where to start?

 

 

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When the Blogging World and the Real World Collide

If I’m honest, I have been avoiding this blog over the past couple of weeks.

A certain amount of it has been down to the exhaustion and apathy that comes with a downward trend in my mood, making even the simplest or previously most enjoyable tasks seem impossible and pointless.

But it’s not just that.

In the last few months there have been several occasions where I have been forced to acknowledge that the blogging world and the ‘real’ world aren’t as separate as I though they were and the two colliding can have consequences.

Serious consequences.

On the first occasion I attended a meeting at my workplace about returning after a period of sick leave. I knew that the meeting was quite serious and would include not just my line manager but a representative from Human Resources and I’d been reminded that I could have a union representative with me if I wished. What I didn’t expect was to be presented with a printout of my entire blog, sections of which were then read to me. The conclusion of the meeting was that I wasn’t in trouble or facing any kind of disciplinary action but that my blogging about work, no matter how well I protected my identity and those I wrote about, was misguided and somewhat foolish in light of the potential consequences. As I left the meeting, biting my tongue hard enough to draw blood in an attempt to stop tears of embarrassment falling I was ready to go home and delete my entire blog.

It took a few days but eventually the Northern One managed to convince me that because I got so much out of blogging it would be a shame to abandon it. So I continued blogging and attempting to get to grips with the various social media accounts associated with this blog, until the second time the two worlds collided.

This second occasion involved discovering that not only had someone close to me had read my blog but that they was absolutely furious about, and completely disgusted by some of the things I had written. The things they said about me and this blog had me in floods of tears and for weeks afterwards even thinking about it made me feel faint and physically sick.

Thinking about it now still makes my stomach clench and my head start to spin.

On this blog I share some of the most painful and shameful experiences of my life, partly as a form of therapy for myself but also to try and show anyone experiencing similar difficulties in their lives that they are not alone. I share the intimate details of life with depression and anxiety, experiencing a degree of release and relief in sharing. I grew up in a house where talking about mental health issues was not encouraged and instead things were firmly swept under the carpet and expected to remain there.

I have written several different posts about my mum and the impact some of her actions have had upon me. Although we never really talked about it I know that my mum has attended counselling, taken antidepressants on more than one occasion and also stopped taking those antidepressants without first consulting her GP. I remember the days when I was little and she turned into a zombie, spending days at a time speaking in a monotone and refusing physical contact of any kind.

When I first started blogging I was aware that anything I wrote would be published on the internet where anyone could read it, which might include people I knew personally. However, I didn’t anticipate how sick and guilty a negative take on my blog would make me feel, particularly when I realised how hurt and angry they were despite my intention never being to upset them.

Their verdict upon the things that I write about was fairly damning; in particular the sentiment that writing this blog is akin to wallowing in self-pity and that I would have a far better chance of recovery if I stopped dwelling on the aspects of my life that I find the most difficult. My recent struggles with self-harm were deemed to be incredibly selfish, particularly as I am now a mother.

They were also appalled that I thought mum had mental health issues and the fact that I had shared it with the world (despite there being no way to identify mum) was completely unforgivable. Equally, my public speculation that my paternal grandmother also struggled with her mental health (despite my dad voicing similar thoughts) was shameful and that I had no right to write such things because they simply weren’t true.

Despite these events being several months ago, my blog continues to suffer as a result. I’ve looked back over old posts and second-guessed myself, wondering whether the things I’d written were actually true or whether I had somehow imagined that things had happened and that I was more of a despicable person than I first thought. My new posts have been sporadic and in some cases, half finished when a schedule post has published itself and I’ve just not been able to bring myself to fix it. Even the thought of blogging has the ability to make me feel sick with panic and I’ve considered abandoning the blog altogether so that nothing like that can ever happen again.

But as things currently stand, this blog is one the few things in my life that I can still be proud of. It’s something that I’ve created and maintained completely on my own and everything contained within it is entirely my own work. Due to my mental health I currently don’t have a job and this has left me feeling even more lost than I already did. Blogging gives me purpose, enabling me to feel as though I’ve achieved something beyond just trying to make it through each day. It’s also a lifeline helping to keep me in the here and now, helping me to form relationships with people who genuinely want to be there for me during my darkest hours.

So here I am, still writing and hoping that people are still reading.

Hoping that I haven’t let everyone down as badly as I think I have.

As difficult as it’s been, I’m not ready to give up blogging yet.

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It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Except that it isn’t.

It is darkest in the middle of the night, when you wake suddenly from a half remembered dream and for a few seconds you can’t see or even think coherently because you are so afraid. Then you realise that it was just a dream and you remember how to turn on the light and the fear vanishes with the click of the light switch until all that remains is a vague sense of unease.

Only I can’t wake up.

The shadows lurking behind the door and the monsters under the bed are only too real and try as I might I can’t find the light switch nor even remember where it was in the first place. I fumble around in the darkness, terrified of things that I can’t see and imagining horrors in every corner until I am paralysed with fear and all I can do is hide under the duvet and pray that morning will come soon.

It is so very dark in this nightmare world that I can’t remember the last time I truly stood in the daylight or even really recall what the sun looks like. There are times when I think I’ve glimpsed it; that maybe this time I can finally see the first fingers of light chasing the shadows away. Then I realise that it’s still the middle of the night and there are still endless hours filled with dark shapes that shift and change until my imagination runs wild and I can’t tell what is real and what fear has conjured.

Over the last few months I have come to realise that the dawn might not be coming.

 

I have spent so many hours and days and years in the darkness that I can no longer escape from the idea that I might never walk in the sun again.

I don’t want to live the rest of my life in darkness yet the twin shadows of guilt and shame have grown so tall that I don’t seem to be able to escape from them no matter how far or fast I run.

Guilt at being a awful mother, a useless wife, a disappointing daughter, an unreliable friend.

Shame at who I am, who I’ve become and the damage I am doing to those I love.

So much guilt.

So much shame.

Last night I broke down into huge, hyperventilating sobs, unable to work out how I was going to make it through the next few minutes with the huge weight of depression bearing down and threatening to crush me completely. I clung to the door frame in Squidge’s room, feeling my head spin with panic and my knees buckle and in that moment I just wanted it all to end.

To just stop.

For someone to just let me leave this life with all its pain and darkness.

To stop hurting.

Yet I am still here.

I am still mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend and as much as it hurts to keep living, how exhausting it is to keep fighting and how much damage I think I do to others it is nothing compared to the pain I would cause if I gave up.

By living I can at least try and reverse some of that damage.

Small steps towards redemption.

Towards the sun.

I may well have to accept that dawn isn’t coming; that maybe the best I can hope is that the darkness will fade a little and that the shadows will become a little less tall. It might not sound like much but even a little bit of light helps us to see things more clearly and maybe, just maybe, I will start to find my way towards the light.

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Dear Doctor, Pain is Not a Competition

When I was at university the medical intervention I received for my mental health was limited and sporadic. The doctor at the student health clinic was understanding and did what he could with his limited resources but I was only one of thousands of students and he had to meet the health needs of everyone. As a result, during my three years at university I was prescribed four different types of antidepressants but received only 8 hours of counselling which was all student health was able to offer me.

My tutor was worried that my mental health was in such a bad place I wouldn’t be able to complete my degree and so she referred me to a psychiatrist, hoping that he would be able to arrange some more in-depth psychotherapy for me, or at least an extended course of counselling .

This is my letter to him.

Dear Doctor

After three years of antidepressants and intermittent counselling I saw our meeting as a possible chance to finally begin my journey of healing. I knew that such a journey would be long and difficult but I hoped that you might be able to help me make the first step in the right direction and discover the tools that I would need along the way.

The appointment began in the same way as every appointment with every healthcare professional I’d had before (or since) with you asking me to start at the beginning, to tell you about the events I thought might have triggered my depression. So I told you about the day I got my A level results; the day when my dreams of being a doctor died and I had no idea what to do next or how to carry on with my life.

This may sound rather dramatic but those results were everything to me and without them I was no longer sure who I was. The failure to achieve the grades that I needed was more than just disappointment; everything I had done for the last two years had been in preparation for this moment and now it all seemed to have been for nothing. In the morning I knew I was going to be a doctor and by the afternoon I was no one, just a sad little nobody surrounded by people celebrating the beginning of the next chapter in their lives while I tried to find my way out of the darkness that seemed to have taken over my mind.

I have always been honest about my mental health and the possible triggers for it, learning almost immediately that I couldn’t expect anyone to help me if I didn’t tell them the whole truth. Speaking so candidly is difficult; each time I have to explain my history to someone new it rips open wounds that sometimes have barely had a chance to heal and I have to relive the darkest and most difficult times of my life. It is painful, exhausting and stirs up a whole host of negative emotions that sometimes takes me days to recover from.

But I carry on, each and every time, leaving nothing out, no matter how much pain it brings with it and how much shame I feel about the person I have become because I still carry the faintest hope that one day I might heal.

Hope that you nearly destroyed.

I told you about the worst thing that had ever happened to me and do you remember what you said?

You said it didn’t sound that bad.

Clearly not a life changing event.

Definitely not something to still be upset about.

I stopped mid-sentence when you said that, unable to believe that someone in a position of trust could possibly have said something so cruel. I felt dizzy and sick, trying to grasp the meaning of what you had just said as my mind reeled at the implication of your words. I had told about the most painful experience of my life and you utterly dismissed what I was trying to tell you as unimportant; so unworthy of your time that I didn’t even need to finish my sentence.

You took that pain and threw it back at me because it didn’t meet your criteria of what a ‘life event’ was.

I don’t remember anything else from that appointment other than your recommendation to my tutor that I wasn’t in need of any further therapy and should stop dwelling on the past.

Six years later and I am still unwell.

Eleven years of illness for which I am only now getting the help that I need.

Since our one (and only) meeting I have qualified as a nurse, married, become a mother and found out a little bit about who I am, not who I think I’m supposed to be.

I have battled with an unexpected pregnancy, severe antenatal depression, suicidal thoughts and self harm.

I have made peace with my failure, set myself on a different career path and discovered my true vocation as a nurse.

I have come so far.

Yet I can still see you dismissing my words with a contemptuous glance and a flick of your hand.

Still hear the impatience and irritation in your voice.

I may not have fitted into a neat little box with a definitive label that clearly described the reason for my depression and would somehow make it worthy of treatment in your eyes. I was not divorced or bereaved or bankrupt, I hadn’t been made redundant or homeless or diagnosed with a life-changing physical illness but I was still suffering. Yet you dismissed my reasons in less than a minute and made me feel as though my pain was nothing.

No, worse than nothing.

You made me feel as though it was shameful, as though I had somehow fabricated an illness from pain that I had no right to feel.

You had no right to make me feel that way.

But you did it anyway.

With a few dismissive words you almost had me convinced that this illness that had taken control of my mind and my body was something that I had created through self pity and weakness. As though I could have somehow avoided it if I’d just tried harder or been better, thoughts that still whisper to me now and that I’ve lived with for so long I now believe inherently.

Looking back now, older and wiser as I am, I realise that you should have known better than to treat me as you did but the younger version of me left that appointment convinced that I was a truly despicable person.

How dare I claim to be suffering and then waste time and resources that I clearly didn’t need when so many other people had lived through far worse things than me?

But pain is not a competition, with winners who crowned for suffering the most and runners up who are politely applauded for participating but who ultimately receive nothing. There is no set statute of laws and values that dictate how much pain someone is entitled to, no grading scale that allows someone else to decree which person’s pain is more worthy. Indeed there are some people who develop depression with no discernible trigger at all but who suffer just as much as someone who has an definite cause for their illness, which apparently their pain and grief acceptable to others who refuse to understand.

Over the years I have learned to let your words go but sometimes I wonder whether you have damaged other people in the way that you did me. Whether they have also learned to let go or whether after meeting with you they stopped seeking help because you made them feel as though the reasons behind their pain were unworthy too.

Yours Sincerely

Louise

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Light in My Darkness, Counterpoint of My Soul

Dearest Northern One

Light in my darkness.

Counterpoint of my soul.

You have been here with me since the beginning.

Since that very first day when my world fell apart.

You have seen me at my very best and at my absolute worst.

By my side on the darkest of days.

You’ve gently cleaned the wounds that I’ve inflicted upon myself.

Held me while I’ve cried as though my heart might break.

Let me scream at you,

Waited patiently until I’ve exhausted myself.

Always accepted my apologies instantly.

Never holding anything against me, even though I would have understood if you did.

Making me feel as though my fears are important.

Never making me feel silly or small.

A waste of space.

Not once have you been angry with me.

Or suggested that I just need to pull myself together.

Instead you give me the time and space I need to return to myself.

To try and work out how to set myself upon the road to recovery.

Even though I have no idea where to begin.

You tell me that we’ll figure it out together.

That I will never have to do this on my own.

That I will never be alone.

Even when I feel as though I may drown in the darkness.

All I have to do is reach out my hand and you will be there.

Refusing to let me sink.

To lose me.

I try to see myself as you do.

Looking for the things you say that you can see.

But I can’t find them.

I’m not sure they’re really there.

Yet you keep telling me they are.

Even on the days when I feel ugly and repulsive.

Inside and out.

I know that the force of my self-hatred upsets you.

That you worry that one day I will hurt myself for the final time.

That I will die at my own hand.

More than once you’ve made me promise that I would never leave you.

That I would never do anything that would take me away from you.

That I would never go where you couldn’t follow.

I promised.

But I wasn’t sure if I meant it.

Not because of you but because of me.

Because I honestly thought that you would be happier with someone else.

Someone better.

Someone who wasn’t me.

I was so sure that you stayed with me out of some misguided sense of duty.

Of responsibility.

Because I was the mother of your child.

Not wanting to leave because I was so unwell.

So reliant on you for everything.

Not because you wanted to stay.

More than once I have planned how to take my own life.

Wanting to make the minimum amount of fuss and mess.

Not wanting you or anyone else to have to find me.

You don’t deserve that.

No one deserves that.

I planned how I would leave in the middle of the night.

How I would get into my car and drive until no one could find me.

I was so close.

Yet something keeps me here.

You.

I am too selfish to leave you.

Too afraid to venture into the unknown without you by my side.

To hold my hand.

Telling me how brave I am for simply living each day when life is so difficult.

To love me.

I don’t know if there is a life beyond this one.

If there is anything more after we close our eyes for the final time.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe everything.

I don’t want to find out without you.

I love you.

I need you.

 

You have given me so much,

You deserve so much more,

So much better.

But I can give you this one thing.

My promise.

That I will never end my own life.

Never go where you can’t follow.

I promise.

All my Love

Always

Louise

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Why Housework is Bad for Your (Physical and Mental) Health

As some of you may know, two weeks ago I managed to injure myself in a freak dusting accident.

Yes, I actually managed to seriously damage myself doing housework.

As I type this I’m still nursing a broken arm (which is making typing slow and difficult), a cracked rib and the most spectacular bruising that you’ve ever seen. I’m also feeling a bit sorry for myself and counting the days until I getting out of bed isn’t a multi-step process that involves quite a lot of swearing.

I should probably start from the beginning.

Although I doubt anyone particularly enjoys housework, I am not a person who finds housework particularly easy. It’s not that I find it physically difficult; I actually enjoy tidying and rearranging things to make the most of the space in our little house that feels a bit smaller after each Christmas and birthday. The reason I find housework so difficult is because it’s just one more stick that I can use to beat myself with.

While most people would look at my house and understand that, due to working part-time and having a very active, messy toddler, it’s never going to be immaculate nor should it be. Anyone who works, has small children and has an immaculate house either spends hardly any time with their children, never sleeps or has a live-in cleaner and I know this but somehow I can’t apply this knowledge to myself. Instead I repeatedly berate myself about the state of the house, which causes my mood to plummet and makes everything feel like a struggle.

This might seem ridiculous but I don’t do it deliberately; it’s almost as if someone other than me is saying these things to me and only I can hear them.

On Thursday however, I was feeling good.

The Northern One was working a long day which means that he leaves the house at 0700 in the morning and isn’t home until 2300 at night. It’s a long old day for both him and me as I have to look after Squidge by myself, knowing that although the cavalry will be coming at some point, I’m liable to be completely frazzled by the time it does.

Despite often finding it difficult to leave the house on my own I’d managed to go out shopping with Squidge and had bought some stackers for the ever increasing amounts of craft materials that the Northern One and I seem to be accumulating. After popping on some Mr. Tumble (guaranteed to hypnotize Squidge for hours) I managed to rid the kitchen of the precarious piles of paper and wood and was feeling rather satisfied with my organisational skills.

After a bath and cuddles during Cbeebies bedtime hour Squidge went to sleep without any fuss and I found myself full of energy and wanting to continue with my organisation winning streak. I tidied and rearranged (while catching up on Silent Witness) and was feeling really quite pleased with myself until I spotted the cobwebs on top of the lampshade and all the negative, intrusive thoughts came flooding back as though they’d never been away.

“You’re so useless, all you do is sit around and do nothing.”

“You should be ashamed of the state of this house.”

“What on earth must people think when they come to visit?”

Galvanised into action I grabbed a duster and Squidge’s little wooden stool, determined that my mind would not ruin my day of action.

I stepped up onto the stool, stood right up upon my toes, lifted my duster and…

BAM!

I lay on the floor, unable to make a sound other than strangled gasping noise as I attempted to force air back into my lungs. My head span, my ears rang and my left side felt as though my ribs were stabbing onto my lung and kidney.

After a few minutes I finally managed to get my breath back and attempted to survey the damage to both myself and the living room, which was now covered in shattered pieces of plastic that had once been Squidge’s stepping stool. When I’d fallen off the stool I was standing on, I must have landed on the stepping stool on the way down.

I also realised that not only was my back incredibly painful but that I couldn’t put any weight on my left arm and the combination of the two meant that I was unable to get off the floor.

The Northern One was due home in an hour but I was pretty certain that even with his help I wasn’t going to be able get up without some sort of pain relief and so I arrived at the rather embarrassing conclusion that I was going to have to call an ambulance. However, my mobile phone was somewhere down the side of the sofa and the landline was also out of reach after I’d moved it due to Squidge repeatedly attempting to phone Grandma. In the end it took me 10 minutes to crawl the two meters to the phone while sobbing in pain and biting my tongue so that I didn’t scream and wake Squidge, who had managed to sleep through the entire thing.

The paramedics took about 45 minutes to arrive, which I was expecting as although I was stuck on the floor I was a healthy young adult and therefore not a life and death emergency. After quickly assessing the damage (where I had to admit that I was only wearing a nightie with no underwear) they concluded that my back was just severely bruised and that it was safe for me to try and get up. After a couple of minutes using the Entonox (which wasn’t any less trippy and unpleasant for not being in labour) and with the help of both the paramedics and the Northern One, I attempted to get up.

Apart from being in labour, I have never known pain like it.

I tried to keep using the Entonox but ended up screaming in pain before eventually managing to get up on my feet and waddling over to the nearest chair whilst leaning heavily on the Northern One. Although they offered to take me if I thought it was necessary, the paramedics were satisfied that I didn’t need to go to hospital and that the

Due to both the Northern One and I being medical the paramedics were happy to give me a dose of oral morphine so that I could get comfortable in bed and have a decent sleep without repeatedly waking from the pain. However, even with the morphine and the Entonox I still couldn’t lie down by myself and so ended up being lifted into bed by the paramedics and tucked in by the Northern One.

It was not my finest hour.

In the early hours of the morning I also discovered the hard way that morphine makes me sick, cue heaving into a bucket whilst trying not to throw up too forcefully as it was hurting my back.

With my back being so painful I had mostly forgotten that my arm also hurt so, it was quite a surprise when I woke up the next day with a hugely swollen elbow and being unable to move my arm. A couple of x-rays at our local hospital (where Squidge attempted to escape with the waiting room toys) confirmed broken bones and meant I had to call my parents to ask if they’d look  after me and Squidge for the next week while the Northern One was on nights.

Two weeks later and my back still hurts, I’m still limping and my arm only has a limited range of movement. I can only pick Squidge up with my right arm, putting my socks on is difficult and housework is completely out of the question.

My advice?

Housework isn’t worth broken bones, vomit and having to sheepishly tell a stranger that you aren’t wearing any knickers.

 

 

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The Twelve Days of NICU-mas

I’ve not found it particularly easy to get into the Christmas spirit this year. With everything that’s happened over the past six months I’ve struggled to find the joy or motivation that the festive season usually brings.

This year I will work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (complete with a flashing reindeer antlers headband; I promise there will be photos) before being collected from work by my lovely mum and driven up to my parents house to start our family celebrations.

Therefore, in honour of the fact that I’m having a NICU Christmas before family Christmas I’ve written my very own NICU version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

I hope that you and yours are having a wonderful Christmas filled with love and happiness. However, I know that this isn’t possible for everyone and so for those of you that aren’t able to enjoy Christmas I hope that you are being kind to yourselves and know that I am thinking of you today, as I do every day.

I wish peace and love for you all.

Louise

The Twelve Days of NICU-mas

On the first day of Christmas the babies gave to me…one tiny nappy.

On the second day of Christmas the babies gave to me…two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the third day of Christmas the babies gave to me…three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

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On the fourth day of Christmas the babies gave to me…four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the fifth day of Christmas the babies gave to me FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the sixth day of Christmas the babies gave to me six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

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On the seventh day of Christmas the babies gave to me seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the eighth day of Christmas the babies gave to me eight vaccinations, seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the ninth day of Christmas the babies gave to me nine blood sugars, eight vaccinations, seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

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One the tenth day of Christmas the babies gave to me ten ward round entries , nine blood sugars, eight vaccinations, seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS

On the eleventh day of Christmas the babies gave to me eleven fluids running, ten ward round entries, nine blood sugars, eight vaccinations, seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks and one tiny nappy.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the babies gave to me twelve bleeps a bleeping, eleven fluids running, ten ward round entries , nine blood sugars, eight vaccinations, seven incubators, six ventilators, FIVE FIRST FEEDS, four chest drains, three blood tests, two knitted socks…

And one tiny nappy.

reindeer lovey

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Depression is…

Depression is … a little voice inside your head that sounds exactly like your own, telling you that you are fat and ugly, stupid and useless and you believing every word.

Depression is … truly believing that you are undeserving of love and not ever questioning why that might be.

Depression is … inherently knowing that you are one of the worst people to have ever been born and not understanding why no one else seems to see what you know to be true.

Depression is … seeing everything through a grey fog until you can’t remember what it was like to see real colours.

Depression is … wishing you never had to spend another day on your own whilst knowing that the company of others is one of the most stressful things in the world.

Depression … knowing that if you start crying you might not be able to stop.

Depression is … being too numb and empty for tears.

Depression is … hours spent sitting in the same position on the sofa because you don’t have the energy or the motivation to move.

Depression is … eating junk food until you feel sick because you’re trying to fill an emotional hole with food, despite knowing that it will never work.

Depression is … staring at your reflection in the mirror with genuine disgust.

Depression is … saying things to yourself that you would never even think about saying to anyone else.

Depression is … understanding what hatred really is.

Depression is … being too frightened to answer the phone because you’re convinced that the person calling is going to tell going to be angry with you for something.

Depression is … being helpless with rage and yet not even having the energy to scream.

Depression is … battling with an enemy that never eats or sleeps, that you can’t see or build defences against, and whose sole purpose is your complete and utter destruction.

Depression is … exhaustion from fighting an endless, invisible fight with yourself.

Depression is … trying to manage each day with a head full of concrete and limbs that feel as though you’re trying to walk through treacle.

Depression is … convincing others that depression is an illness just as real as cancer or diabetes, whilst not actually believing it to be true for yourself.

Depression is … torturing yourself because you are so sure that if you could just try harder and be better, you could somehow break free.

Depression is … being randomly stabbed with little shards of embarrassment and shame that leave you feeling sick and shaky inside.

Depression is … being terrified of things that you cannot name and that you know aren’t real but being more afraid of them than anything else in the world.

Depression is … seeing taking a shower as a victory whilst at the same time despising yourself for not being able to manage ‘normal’ things that everyone else does.

Depression is … knowing that every day they spend away from you is one more day that you can’t damage them with your mere presence.

Depression is … making yourself bleed because you are afraid that you’ve forgotten how to feel.

Depression is … trying to cover the scars from injuries that you inflicted upon yourself because you believe that you deserve to be punished.

Depression is … refusing to tell your partner where you hid the razor blades because you know that they’ll take it away to stop you from hurting yourself.

Depression is … trying to make someone understand that everything is your fault and being unable to understand why they don’t agree with you.

Depression is … listening to people telling you that you are worth something as a person but being completely unable to believe them.

Depression is … looking at something logically and then dismissing it if it doesn’t fit in with your own negative self image.

Depression is … knowing that the most terrifying thing is not pain or misery or loneliness or feeling everything too much, but not feeling anything at all.

Depression is … making plans to run away so that no one else has to live you even though the thought of leaving breaks your heart.

Depression is … making promises to your loved ones that you know you might not be able to keep.

Depression is … filling your body with chemicals and being willing to have electrical currents passed through your brain in an effort to find some relief.

Depression is … reaching out to others and endlessly searching for help whilst not actually believing that you deserve it.

Depression is … being terrified that everyone will leave you while at the same time wishing that they would.

Depression is … nights staring at the ceiling because the sleep that you so crave has deserted you.

Depression is … mornings where you are unable to get out of bed because you just cannot face the day, because today will be the same as yesterday and tomorrow will be the same as today.

Depression is … learning to hate the days where you feel even remotely normal because you know that they will go away.

Depression is … blaming your mental health entirely on yourself, despite friends, family, colleagues and healthcare professionals constantly providing evidence to the contrary.

Depression is … evenings spent counting out little white tablets into your weekly medication organiser whilst wondering how many of them it would take for everything to just stop.

Depression is … trying to sleep whilst your mind whispers how much better everyone else’s lives would be without you.

Depression is … being afraid of monsters under the bed, except the monster is yourself and it’s inside your head.

Depression is … knowing that despite taking your medication, attending therapy and doing everything else that is asked of you, you probably won’t ever get better.

Depression is … trying to make yourself well, not for yourself but because you know that by being ill you suck the joy out of the lives of those around you.

Depression is … knowing that you will look back on your life with regret.