Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Depression and Christmas

Probably two of the most disparate concepts you can encounter; Depression and Christmas.
I have been fortunate this year and have managed to actually enjoy a lot of Christmas, but I know and remember how difficult Christmas can be when depression has a strong hold on you and your life. There's something about all the joy, jubilation and celebration in other people that can compound your depression and make you feel even more isolated from those around you. As jollity is expected at Christmas you can also find that other peoples reactions to you and your depression become less understanding; terms like Scrooge and Grinch are really unhelpful.
I really wish I could offer some good, helpful, constructive advice for how to deal with this, but I don't think I can. The best I can say is that, if people make you feel pressured to be happy just because it's Christmas, it's probably just because they care about you and want you to enjoy this time of year as much as they do. Now, that isn't always possible, I know, I'm not saying you should fake enjoyment to get people off your back. Try and find the things about the season that at least bring you peace if not joy; a slice of chocolate log (there should be no food related guilt at Christmas lol), a walk in a park that is deserted while everyone else in indoors, a tacky Christmas film. You should make yourself your priority, but do try to let those around you know how you feel, what you need and why you're doing what you do, so they don't misunderstand and get frustrated. If you need an afternoon to yourself that is ok, but explain that so that people don't think you're just being antisocial, and try not to completely cut yourself off, as depression breeds in solitude.

An important step in beating depression is understanding what you need and what makes you happy.

Unfortunately, I've always found New Year harder to deal with than Christmas, and I've still got that to deal with, but the same principles still apply.
I hope you are coping with the festive season as best you can. If you feel alone and like no-one understands, please use this blog as a reminder that that isn't true; so many people experience the same or similar feelings and there is always hope for getting better, even if you can't always see it. If you need to talk, to vent sadness, frustration, anger, anything, please do feel free to drop me an email  at betty_leopard@hotmail.co.uk or even leave a comment below, my followers are lovely and understanding people :)

I wish you all the best,
Betty
x

Monday, 5 December 2011

When emotions sneak up on you

Ok, so yesterday I was going on about how it was important to recognise things that bring you down so that you can prepare for them in the future. But, what happens when negative emotions sneak up on you, out of the blue, with no warning?
Today I have been struck by such unforeseen feelings. I know I had anticipated feeling low because of work, but that's not what this is. When I was out walking earlier I just felt like breaking down in tears, tight there in the street. All I have learnt about coping with depression focusses on identifying causes and tackling them, but right now I am lost as to the cause and solution to this.
A big part of me wants to sleep. Sleep might help, but it is also one of my key go-to strategies for avoiding feelings and situations I don't want to tackle.
Do you ever feel like, no matter how much you prepare yourself, sometimes depressed feelings just come over you from no where in particular?

Betty
x

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Ups and Downs of my Weekend

A look at the things that have picked me up or knocked me down over the past two days.
I hope this is going to be a healthy retrospective. Remembering good things is very important when you're depressed, but I can also see the benefit of recognising the negatives; to try and avoid those circumstances in future or to recognise approaching bad patches so you can prepare. My therapist always reminds me that balance is important so I don't see why I should completely ignore bad things in favour of good things, that can't be healthy either.

Anyway.....

The Ups

  • Not Working all Weekend - Yep, I did not uni work all weekend. It's usually the easiest way to take my mind off my work related troubles.
  • New Clothes - I bought some new clothes online earlier in the week and they arrived on Saturday. It might be the last time I can indulge myself like that for a while, due to suspending my studies, so it was even more special. One of the things I bought was a big chunky knit cardigan that is so soft and warm and cosy, I can see myself wearing this a lot over the winter! Big comforting knitwear can definitely make me smile.
  • Free Make-Up - I got a free Models Own lipgloss in Boots, for buying two bottles of Diet Coke. Definitely a reason to smile.
  • Baking - On Saturday evening I made Chocolate Truffles which will be Christmas presents. I enjoy baking, especially when trying new recipes that work well. I wrote about it on my other blog - Here.
  • Painting my Nails - This is more generally symbolic of taking time off and pampering myself a bit. I had a bath, used a face mask, washed my hair and painted my nails. It was nice.
  • Blogging - Through not working, I've had some free time for writing some blogs. I really enjoy writing my blogs, and having chance to write a few posts is great.
  • Talking to friends - I haven't exactly kept my recent wobbly period quiet, with a few miserable and sometimes vindictive facebook statuses, that I'm not proud of. At least there has been some positive effect, and a couple of friends have taken time to check how I am and talk to me about what's wrong. I find it hard to remember that people care when there isn't recent specific evidence of it, so having people take their time to talk to me will always make me feel better (unless I feel they're having a go at me).
The Downs
  • Not Working all Weekend - I have a presentation to give on Tuesday that I probably should have been working on. This is likely to catch up with me tomorrow.
  • New Clothes - Buying clothes on the internet doesn't always work out, especially if you buy jeans. I tried on my new size 12 jeans and they were a little on the tight side, not great for my mood. I spent most of the rest of the evening feeling fat and worrying about having to go into the city centre to exchange for a bigger size.
  • Jealousy - I don't want to go into too much detail on this. It's just that I know a lot of people who seem to have everything going right when it seems like so much is going wrong for me. Feeling jealous never helps my mood.

Overall, I can't really complain about my weekend. I have recognised the things that have made me feel bad and am working to remedy them, . I have also recognised the things that have helped me feel better, that I should remember for future reference.

I hope your weekend has had more ups than downs, or at least that you can pin point the causes of your downs to avoid them in future.
Best Wishes,
Betty
x

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stop the World, I want to get off

Today I put in my request to suspend my studies. To be honest I have mixed feeling about this.
The idea of suspending was first put on the table earlier this year, back in April or May, when I was really suffering quite badly, and so was my work. At the time I was more interested in the idea, as I was willing to do pretty much anything to make the world go away. Unfortunately, my supervisors weren't so keen and convinced me to stick at it for the time being.
Although my mood and productivity have both improved in the time since then, I am still not 100% and also need to work extra hard to try and make up for the time lost when I was worse. As a result of this, in the past month or so positions have switched with my supervisors feeling suspension to be necessary and me not being so keen.
While the benefits of suspending might seem clear (time to get myself together, time to catch up and much less pressure on my rate of productivity), this hasn't been an easy decision for me. Not only would suspending mean  I will go through a period where I will not receive my stipend (money) but I also feel a lot of guilt and shame about not being good enough to finish this thing in the 'normal' way, like everyone else. In all honesty, it makes me feel like a bit of a failure.
I've gone through a fair amount of soul searching and reasoning in the past few weeks, which hasn't exactly been fun. In the end I've had to accept that suspension is probably the only real option for me if I actually want to finish, no matter how bad it makes me feel about myself. On finally making the arrangements today I felt very despondent, like all the hard work I've put in over the past few months has been for nothing and that my attempts to hold things together have failed, leaving my world in pieces on the ground around me. Needless to say, I'm not in a super frame of mind right now.
Hopefully it will work out for the best.

Best Wishes,
Betty
x

Monday, 28 November 2011

What goes up

Despite having had a pretty awesome weekend, today has been tough.
Being tired and achey as a result of my weekends activities certainly hasn't helped my mood, but I do seem to have a tendency to feel low after having had fun. Like having fun takes up so much emotional energy that afterwards I'm drained and can't even feel ok.
It has been a real struggle to get myself to do anything of any purpose today. In the end all I've really achieved is copying slides out of an old presentation into a new one. Although, that is better than having done nothing!
I really dislike these days. The kind of days that really remind you that you have depression, that there is an aspect of your mood that is almost beyond your control and doesn't work in a logical way.
I'm trying not to dwell on this too much. Hopefully, after a good nights sleep, I will feel better tomorrow. I don't want to expect to feel lousy again as sometimes that only works to guarantee I will feel lousy.

Fingers crossed,
Hope you are ok,
Betty
x

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thank You

This is a bit of a cheat post, as I'm just going to link you to my other blog :/
Yesterday was Thanksgiving so I wrote about things I am thankful for. I am in a decent place at the moment so it's not too hard to think about the good things, but even if you're in a dark place I think writing down even one thing you are thankful for can be helpful. Even if it is really small, it's a starting point. Be thankful for central heating, having food in your cupboards, a song that makes you feel better, anything!
The hardest part is usually remembering the good things when you feel low; try putting the things you are thankful for on a post-it note and sticking it next to your bed or on a mirror, somewhere you will see it in the morning as a reminder.

This is my post from yesterday;

Hope you are keeping well,
Betty
x

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Rediscovery

Rediscovery of this blog, that is.
I'm very, very sorry about my absence. It hasn't been related to my mood particularly, in that, I haven't felt especially good or bad in a way that would stop me from blogging. Mostly, I think I have been in a bit of denial about depression; trying to hope it will go away by ignoring it and trying to get on with my life, rather than accepting it and actively working to make things better.
That's only something that I've realised in the past few weeks, and it has made a difference to my behaviour and mood. Denial might not have a negative effect, but it prevents the action necessary for positive effects. I always thought that accepting depression would increase its unwanted impacts on my life; walking up and reminding myself that I have depression so that I remember to do something to counteract it. With the help of my therapist, I have learnt that that doesn't have to be the case. I can be mindful of my mental health and general well being without depression being an all-pervading entity. I am not waking up and reminding myself I am depressed, I am waking up and reminding myself to do something to make me feel good today. Whether you're depressed or not, that's a pretty good way to start a day! I've not perfected it yet, surprisingly, but I am trying; sometimes that's all you can do.
I hope to be blogging here much more often with things I have been trying and how they have or haven't worked for me.

I hope you are all doing well,
Betty
x

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Making the effort

I really shouldn't go to therapy when I'm in a hormonal/tired/lonely grumpy. It makes me unreasonable and like I just don't care about getting better.
I think this week I probably seemed like a lazy and ungrateful cow who expects everything to go her way and isn't willing to do anything to help herself.
The issue of making an effort, with my work, with my friends, with myself, is a pretty big one. Sometimes I feel like I already put in so much effort just to get through the days. Sometimes it feels like nothing is worth the effort because it never pays off.
My big issue is friendships. I feel like I put a lot of effort into my friendships, effort that is sometimes not reciprocated. On therapy this evening I guess I realised that maybe I don't put in as much effort as I thought, at least not in a sustained way. My efforts can often be sporadic and my cries for help are sometimes slightly covert. I need to help my friends help me before I judge them so harshly in future.
If I have been a deficient friend, I apologise. I assumed that at 26 years of age I'd know how to generate and maintain relationships, but it turns out I have a lot to learn and improve upon.
Hope this finds you well,
Betty
x

Saturday, 20 August 2011

There's just no helping some people

Unfortunately, I think I may be one of those people.
I don't mean that to sound like I don't think I'll ever get better and that there's no point in trying as nothing will work. It's more like a realisation that some part of me does sabotage my own happiness, and that needs to be addressed before anything really positive can stick.
I'm thinking as I type here, and some of this might get a little heavy.
I have been told I'm my own worst enemy before, but I think I'm finally starting to realise how many problems I do create for myself, both consciously and unconsciously.
I have been depressed, on and off, and to greater or lesser extents, for over 10 years. As such, it has become part of who I know myself to be. Although it's difficult to say, I don't know who I am without being depressed. I don't know what not being depressed involves.
I don't properly know what makes me happy, in a sustained, long term way.
It's something that I have discussed with my therapist but, as perverse as it sounds, I am afraid of not being depressed. Because it's unfamiliar. Because I feel secure in the life pattern I have established. Because depression brings something to my life that I worry I will lose if I am not depressed. I think I worry that if I'm 'fine', people won't care anymore.
I don't know what to do about this yet. It going to involve some serious restructuring of my thought processes, and some serious motivation. In one of those awful depression Catch-22 situations, thinking about these things leaves me in absolutely no frame of mind to do anything about it.

Hope you are ok,
Betty
x

Friday, 12 August 2011

Here I Go Again. On My Own

Not totally unsurprsingly, I've taken a bit of a turn for the worse. Two weeks of almost non-stop work in largely self imposed solitary confinement probably wouldn't do much for the most chipper of people.
Being on my own has always been something I've struggled with. After six weeks of managing to deal with the fact that my boyfriend is 7 time zones away, and I having not made any notable advances in my relationships with other people, this week has just been too much. I want him to come home so much. For six weeks, the exciting plans of how good things would be when he got home, going away and me being generally happier, were enough to keep me going. Now, realising I'm still only half way through, I've lost that focus and all I can feel is the pain of the separation.
I'm in that place where I can't even see anything that will make me feel better.
Welcome Back,
Black Betty
x

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Self-Help

So, yet another long delay between posts due to being busy and actually getting along pretty well, mostly. While things haven't been perfect, I would say I've had a greater proportion of good times than I would consider usual for me.
I've always doubted the benefits of exercise for depression, but I really do put a lot of my improved mood down to the significant increase in the amount I have been exercising. I didn't start doing it to improve my mood, I wanted to lose weight, which I have started to do. I suppose part of the lifted mood is likely to be due to the fact that I have lost a few pounds, but I'm pretty sure it's more than just that. It has taken a while to get used to doing more exercise, it wasn't nice at first, it was hard, I got sweaty, I ached, I felt sick and I often felt exhausted afterwards. But, even after just a week it was getting better, and now, slightly more than 3 weeks on, I feel better when I have done some exercise than when I haven't. I still wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoy the actual workout/exercise experience, but the after effects and benefits are definitely worth it as far as I'm concerned.
I know it can take a lot of effort, an incredible indescribable amount of effort to pick yourself up and do something, anything, even the smallest thing, like getting out of bed. At times like that, exercise is the furthest thing from your mind. Sometimes you just have to take those days, I still have days when I can't get out of bed, but I try to keep it to just one day. Small steps are always going to be easier than big leaps, so take your bed day, but try harder to get up the next day, then try going for a walk the day after that, then slowly work some exercise into your day. Routine can also be really helpful in managing depression. Having a 'routine' for dealing with bad periods can help prevent you getting sucked into the black pit and feeling like there's no way out. Don't let yourself get lost in the depression.
Now, I know I'm going through an ok period, so it's easy to say these things and not always as easy to do them. All you need to do is try. Try a little bit every day and eventually it will pay off. Always give yourself credit for trying, even if you don't get any major results. I've gone from someone who can't get out of bed to someone who's exercising 5 times a week and has lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks. If I can, you can at least give it a shot ;)

I hope you're keeping well,
Betty
x

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ebb and Flow

I apologise for yet another prolonged absence. I am pleased to report that this time is not the result of depression related incapacity, but rather due to being caught up in sustaining some positive advances.
Re-establishing a bit of balance, in terms of finding other things to do with my time, other than work or think about work, has (in a paradoxical sort of way) boosted my overall productivity. Using less time but in a more focused and organised way has allowed me to make much better progress. I'm still not doing as much as I like or think I should be doing, but that's another issue. I took a step back to consider how I was approaching my work and have, as a result, come up with a much better way of tackling small chunks rather than big, daunting tasks. I do still lose my focus from time to time, but getting back into small jobs is much easier than trying to find your place in a sea of possible tasks.

I have also been making much more effort towards losing weight. While I'm not fat, I do have a few extra pounds round my middle and generally I don't look the way I want to look, and have been intending to do something about it for some time. The past week and a half I have been very carefully (but sensibly) watching what I eat and doing an increasing amount of exercise. When I got on the scales yesterday I weighed 10 stone and 10 pounds, down from a fairly consistent 11 stone. So that was a loss of 4 pounds, and I felt really good about it. For some reason today I was back up at 10 stone 12 pounds, which didn't make me feel so good, but I'm hoping it's just a blip.

I also got my hair cut last week, and now it's much more 'me'. I was trying to grow it before, but it had become awfully lacklustre and I couldn't really get it to do anything. I really didn't think a haircut could make so much difference to the way I feel, but it really has :)

I'm really going to try to avoid only posting here when I feel lousy. For a start, you don't just want to hear me moaning on all the time. Secondly, just speaking about the bad times isn't useful or inspiring to anyone, the good times, what brings them and what sustains them are very important things to remember and share.
In all honesty, I haven't been feeling as good today as I have for the past 5 or 6 days. The weight thing wasn't helpful, especially as the first thing I did in the day. Getting into work after the weekend was a bit of a struggle. On top of that, the weather here is really lousy today, patchy rain and actually quite cool (I'm actually wearing a jumper, in July). I have therapy tonight, and I may have to discuss some of the things going through my head today. While I have been feeling good, I am very aware that it isn't a long term, sustainable feeling, that something could quite easily knock me and make me feel worse again. Now, I know I shouldn't dwell on that kind of thinking, but I really want to get myself into a secure good place, while feeling good can't be bad, it would be better if I was confident it could last and that I can be resilient against potential knocks.

Here's to stability, happy stability.
Betty
x

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Expectations

Is it wrong to have expectations?
Surely we all have expectations of places, events and even other people.
So why do I feel guilty to admit that there are certain things I expect from other people? I feel it makes me sound selfish and unreasonable. Maybe it would sit more easily is I said there are things I hope for from other people.
When I say this, I really don't think I'm being unreasonable, I'm not asking too much, mostly just to be treated as I like to treat them.
I've had a long discussion with my therapist about this this evening; reoccuring patterns in relationships and how they can be explained, things that I do that set up repetitive dynamics in my interactions with other people.
I am not a perfect person and I am not a perfect friend, but I do often feel let down by some of my experiences with other people. I just want to be treated with the same care and respect as I try to treat them. I want to feel like I matter. Part of the problem is probably that I don't fully know what I want or expect, and these things change. I should be more open.
Now, usually I would put feeling like this down to my 'screwed up depression perspective', the thing that is so often blamed for the things I think, say and feel. My therapist had an interesting and reasonably philosophical take on this; there is no such thing as reality, only the way we perceive things, while different people perceive things differently, everyone's individual perspective is their own reality. So basically, if I percieve my relationships as being deficient in some way, not giving me what I need, then that is the reality.
I don't want anyone reading this to feel I'm having a go at them. Firstly, if you're bothering to read this, you're probably one of my better friends :) Also, this is an ongoing process and I have a role to play in fixing things. I'm not sure how I'm going to do this, I don't know if I need to make changes in my own behaviour or if I need to express my needs and expectations more clearly to other people, most likely it's both.
This isn't about judging, it's about learning and understanding.
I'm really enjoying my current course of therapy, if that's the right word, I'm enjoying the conversations, it's interesting and enlightening, I'm able to see things about myself that now seem so obvious, but I wasn't aware of before, and I'm able to look at things in ways I never have before. Progress isn't exactly rapid, knowing and doing are quite different things, particularly when you have depression, but I am hoping to make changes and the therapy is helping to highlight things I might try doing differently.

Hope you are well,
Betty
x

Monday, 27 June 2011

Pieces

I was going to call this post Picking up the Pieces, but have recently come to the realisation that my task goes even further than that, I have to figure out what the pieces of my life are before I can put them back together.
My therapist has suggested I try to break everything down to small, simple and achievable steps, to prevent me becoming overwhelmed by trying to tackle big tasks with long time frames. It makes a lot of sense, and it sounds like it could be helpful, but I don't know what to begin with. I suppose I'm still struggling with the concept a bit, well, I know what it means, but my brain doesn't seem to be very good at processing it. In trying to identify a first step I get too caught up in the number of things I have to do, which ones should go first and what each one leads on to, basically, not managing to break down things at all. What sounded like a very straight-forward task is actually proving to be quite a challenge for me. The only thing I can really think to do is start righting copious lists of things I need to do, both work and personal, and things I want to do, then try to strike some reasonable balance that makes me feel like I actually have a life.
I'm actually in a reasonable frame of mind today. I wouldn't go so far as to say positive, but maybe neutral. This is particularly surprising given that my boyfriend has left this afternoon to spend three months doing volunteer work in Idaho in the US. It was hard to say goodbye, but after just one day I'm still managing to keep myself together (although I did cry quite a lot yesterday). This could be potentially devastating for the process of me sorting myself out, I should certainly be fine for a while, but last time he was away or just a month I starting losing control. I have bad visions of spending the next three months sat at home on my own, which will not do me or my mood any favours. This should just be another reason for identifying and structuring the components of my life, so I can make it through and be a happy(er) girlfriend for him to come home to. We shall see.

I hope you are all well,
Thanks for the support.
Betty
x

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bringing things up to date

I don't even have the brain power to come up with a snappy title. Sorry for the lack of posting, I just haven't been able to bring myself to write.
Last week I was away with my family. It was nice, it was good to be somewhere else, away from things that bring me down and where the sun was shining. I even let myself relax a little bit, but not completely. I couldn't completely forget about all the things that usually fill my head, especially work and my relationships with my friends. I had a few emotional moments, that also made me feel guilty for bringing other people down on their holiday. On the last day I was very, very tense and nervous and scared at the prospect of returning home and having to deal with everything again, with the added pressure of having done nothing for a week.
The days since I got back have, unsurprisingly, been pretty bad. I feel absolutely wretchid. I'm finding it hard to function and spend a large portion of my time doing very little, just laying or sitting, in a state of near paralysis from fear and confusion and pain. I'm barely able to get enough brain cells firing to acheive anything in my work, which increases my anxiety and fear about my progress and makes me even less productive.
I hate this so much. I have next to no interest in anything, practically no motivation and am struggling to see the point in most things. I get so frustrated with myself, with anger building up but I don't know what to do with it. If I had the choice, I wouldn't be spending time with me right now, so I'm isolating myself.
I don't know what to do, I don't know what I can do.

Betty
x

Needle in a Haystack

Using the internet I am in the company of more than 2 billion people, yet I could not feel more alone and isolated.
Depression is an oxymoron, the most painful and yet most comfortable place I know.

Betty
x

Monday, 20 June 2011

Absence

I apologise for my recent absence from posting. A combination of too much work, feeling too low and going away for a week have meant I haven't had time or brain space for writing. I hope to be able to put my thought back into words soon.
I hope you are all doing ok, and welcome to my new followers.
Betty
x

Friday, 10 June 2011

Keeping Friends

Whenever I suffer a particularly severe period of depression I always seem to lose friends. For me, it's one of the worst consequences, I've never been great at making friends and the friends I do have are always very important to me.
It's only recently that I have begun to recognise this pattern of depression and friend loss, through work with my therapist making me think long and hard about the friends I have had and lost over the years. While identifying this reoccurring pattern may be helpful to me in helping to maintain friendships, or at least reduce the feelings of guilt and abandonment associated with losing friends, at the moment it's just making me worry about my current friendships, which I can see disintegrating before my eyes.
Losing friends can send my emotions in one of two directions, either I blame myself and descend into self loathing and blame, or I blame them and get angry and defiant. Neither of these reactions is helpful in trying to resurrect the friendship, if I blame myself I usually shut myself off and don't want to see people, if I blame them I don't want to see them and become insistent that they should contact me if they want to keep me as a friend. So both these courses of action basically result in me not contacting or seeing anyone, and everyone else gets on with their lives completely unaware.
I know depression isn't an easy thing to understand or deal with, but I do make efforts to try and help people understand the problems I experience and the very simple things they can do to help me. I won't pretend that I didn't write my blog on how to help a friend with depression without hoping that my own friends would read it and take the advice. I don't mean to imply that all my friends are useless and unhelpful, some of them are wonderful and I would be lost without, and I am truly grateful for them.
For anyone, either my friend or a friend of someone else with depression, if you want to be able to do something, you don't have to play counsellor or be with them all day making sure they perform daily functions like washing or eating, just show that you are interested and you care, give them a call or send them a message to ask how they are, do that regularly, try not to ignore them if they attempt to contact you and, if you haven't seen or heard from them for a few days, check how they are. I know that would make a massive difference for me.

Hope you are doing well,
Betty
x

Monday, 30 May 2011

Moodscope

Last week, a friend told me about Moodscope after she'd heard about it on the radio. She thought it might be something I'd find useful to help understand my own moods.

Moodscope.com is an online resource that helps measure, rate and record your mood on a daily basis. The front page has an entertaining and informative little video about the website and how it works. To actually use it, you have to sign up, which is pretty simple and only requires a few personal details. It is free, at the moment, the video elludes to the fact that this is only while the service is undergoing beta testing, so at some point it might start to cost, but that's not something to put you off trying it out now.
I've been using it for about 5 days now, and I quite like it. There are two aspects in particular that I think are good about it.
Firstly, I like that it provides a simple but (apparently) psychological proven test for assessing mood, which involves using cards to determine how you feel in relation to a range of emotions (how upset, distressed, active, enthusiastic etc you are feeling). I know that I am quite bad at consistently assessing my own mood, saying I feel 3 (on a 1 - 10 scale) doesn't mean I feel the same as last time I felt 3, and there is no reliable comparison between days I feel 3 and days I feel 6, that is, 6 days aren't necessarily twice as good as 3 days. I also get caught up in technicalities and, as my therapist will testify, I can get very specific, breaking my moods down in half points sometimes. As such, the fact that the website tests and calcualtes a mood score for you is helpful. Also, the fact that these scores are calculated on a consistent scale and then saved and plotted on a graph for you is very beneficial, particularly for people with depression, as it can be easy to forget good days and dwell on bad days. Having a graph showing your mood fluctuations can remove no doubt that there have been better days. You can also add notes to your graph, detailing particular events or other information relevant to your mood, so you can start to see things that are particularly influential in lifting or lowering your mood.
The second feature that really stands out to me, is the ability to add buddies. Moodscope encourages you to add friends as buddies, who will receive an email with your score every time you take the test (hopefully, daily). Sometimes it is hard to expalin your mood to people, if you even reach out and try to communicate how you feel in the first place. This encourages other people to take an interest in how you're doing and to help support you through your ups and downs. Obviosuly you will want to select your buddies carefully, no one like to feel they're imposing on anyone, but often those close to you will be more than happy to be supportive and be included in your life (we often shut out our loved ones when we are depressed, even if we don't realise it). I have my mum, my boyfriend and my best friend (who also has problems with depression) as my buddies, I haven't yet worked up courage to ask anyone else yet, to fill my remaining two buddy positions (you are limited to 5 buddies, but you can also send a link to your graph to other people yourself).
The website does provide advice, of sorts, and motivational comments alongside your scores. I haven't really been using the site long enough to properly comment on the value of this 'advice', but my initial impression is that it's a bit lack lustre and very generic (which is quite obvious, as it mass produced and not personal). I suppose it's still nice to be told you're doing well, even if it is by computer generated message.

While I like, and will continue to use, Moodscope, it isn't perfect and there are things I would change if it were up to me. The most notable thing I would like to see, is the ability to record more than one score per day. I think you can take the test more than once a day, but the new score will replace the old one. I often find that my mood is far from consistent througout the day, so being able to take the test and record notes at multiple occassions would provide a much more complete and accurate picture of my moods. I'm also not totally sold on the way it measures mood, it is clearly more acurate than my own assessments of myself, but I feel it may be better to measure mood on a range of different factors, rather than one overall score. I feel that being very high or very low on a few aspects of the test, or having an unusual combination of ups and downs (which can happen with depression) may lead to an inaccurate overall score.

Those points aside, I would still recommend you check Moodscope out and try it for at least a few days or a week, whether you think it can benefit you or someone you know. If you are added as a buddy, it might also be beneficial to try it out yourself, to give a sense of scale for your friends mood score, 20% might not seem very low, but if you take the test and find you are 80%, you'll probably have a better idea of how low your buddy is feeling. Also, don't forget to check on them, receiving the emails isn't enough, ask what's wrong if they're feeling low and congratualte them when they're doing well. Always be supportive.

Hope you're well,
Betty
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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Guilt

My posts are often less frequent than I would like due to the amount of work I have to do. It's not that I work solidly 24 hours a day, but I just feel guilty for doing other things, particularly things I enjoy, when I have so much 'proper' work to be doing.
This guilt affects so many areas of my life, and prevents me doing a lot of things that might make me feel better, or at least make me feel like I actually had some semblance of a life.
I'm so sick of feeling guilty and being afraid. On it's own that's not enough to change things, but it must be a start. I guess it goes on of two ways, gives you the kick you need to pick yourself up or knocks you even further down. Here's hoping it works out for the best.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mixed Messages

As you can probably tell, the purpose of this blog isn't entirely clear in my mind, with my mixture of positive advice alongside very negative personal feelings and experiences. I suppose my overall ethos is to provide a full account of what it is like to live with depression, and capitalise on my more positive days by trying to help any of you who are suffering with practical and realistic advice. In trying to show what depression is like, it would be irresponsible to hide my darker days and make out like a positive attitude is all you need and pretend that the path to recovery is straight forward and without set backs.
I do hope to be able to offer more positive messages than rants and negative experiences, but that isn't something I can guarantee. I'm currently working on two more advice based posts, one on managing a relationship either as or with a depressed partner and one on the effectiveness of anti-depressants. Unfortunately, I do have a day job alongside this which really has to take precedence, particularly at the moment. I hope to get some hope to you soon.

Thanks for bearing with me,
Betty
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Hectic Emotions


I am not in a great place right now.
The past few days have been turbulent, emotionally speaking. My moods have ranged from being hideously grumpy, through crying all the way to laughing hysterics. To be honest, it hasn’t been much fun and has left me really quite exhausted.
Somehow, no matter the range of my emotions, they never seem to pass through any point of feeling normal, calm or able to properly undertake necessary tasks (like cleaning, working or washing).
I’m getting really fed up with these moods, I’m getting frustrated and angry with myself. I just want to feel happy, not in a crazy, hyper way that doesn’t last and leaves me feeling drained, in a sustained, calm and content way, a way in which I’m actually happy with and in myself. Right now that seems like such a distant and unachievable thing, which is depressing in itself.
This is a horrible, desolate, hopeless place to be. It destroys any enthusiasm I could possibly muster.
Betty
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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Lazy

Today hasn't been a good day.
Today hasn't been a bad day.
Today has been a complete waste of a day.
I haven't achieved anything significant; I did a small amount if washing up that's been sat on the kitchen side for several days, I had a bath and I painted my nails. I didn't do any work and I didn't tidy the flat, the two things I really should have done.
I am disappointed in my self, to the point of being slightly angry. I'm in the sort of mood where I blame myself for my problems. This evening I find myself wondering if I am actually just lazy, yes I do have problems with depression, but is that really the reason why I do so little. I feel lazy today, not in a good, relaxed, lazy Sunday sort of way, in a fat, disgustingm useless sort of way. I end up dwelling on questions about how I expect to survive in the 'real world' or if I'm actually cut out for 'real life'. These lead to downward spirals of negative thoughts about how pointless things are and how much of a mess I've made of my life.
Is depression really an excuse?

I'm sorry about this, I'd like to be inspiring, but I just can't do it all the time. I guess this shows that depression doesn't run a straight course, and that, if you have similar feelings, you're not alone. It's hard to remind myself that I've been in this position before and things do get better, you should always remember that things will get better, eventually.

Betty
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Friday, 20 May 2011

Therapy

I had my first appointment in a new course of therapy on Wednesday.
I’ve had various types of therapy and counselling over the years, some have been more successful than others, and some have been a downright waste of time. This time I have actually returned to a therapist I have worked with previously; my course of treatment with him was cut off as a result of the removal of NHS funding from the service. That was around a year and a half ago now. At the time it wasn’t such a big deal, as the treatment I had received had left me in a pretty good place and I felt able to cope on my own. That didn’t last too long, and in the intervening 18 months I have seen two other therapists, one who I just didn’t gel with and the other of whom was an absolute disgrace of a therapist (after explaining how I was feeling she said to me “So how does that make you different to anyone else?”, after which I never went back).
My session on Wednesday went well. As an initial session it was mostly about finding out why I had decided to seek help. In a situation seeing a new therapist there probably would have also been a fair amount of discussing how the sessions would run and how the individual therapist worked, but as a returning patient (if that’s the right word) we didn’t have to go through all that.
Turns out I had a lot more to say than I thought. As we didn’t have to do the actual introductory stuff, I was offered the option to have a standard 50 minute session, rather than the 1 hour 20 minutes of an initial session. I easily filled the hour and 20 minutes. Issues that have built up in my mind over months started pouring out of my mouth, things I hadn’t even given much thought to before the session. When it was all out there I could see it, just why things have become so hard and why I couldn’t hold it together anymore. It was relieving, and something I don’t think I could have achieved with anyone inside my life, it needed the safety of an outsider to be able to talk about everything absolutely unhindered.
And that is one of the great values of therapy. Obviously, the therapist is trained in techniques to put you at ease, help you identify problems and their roots, as well as ways of managing your feelings and helping you work your way out of your pit as well. But having someone to talk to, with no associated baggage of a personal relationship, or expectations or prior assumptions is so liberating. If you let it be. If I could give one piece of advice to someone going into therapy, it would be; don’t hold back, there’s no need, it won’t help and it may very well hinder your recovery.
However, I would add a caveat, don’t feel obliged to stick with a therapist who you don’t feel comfortable with or who you don’t feel can help. I am lucky that I have been able to go back to a therapist who I built a good working relationship with and who I feel comfortable with, but I have been through my fair share of others who I either didn’t bond with or whose methods of working weren’t to my liking, and one or two who I thought were ridiculous excuses for therapists (The last one I saw, after I had explained how I was feeling, simply said “So how does that make you any different to anyone else?”, which was as good as saying “Get over it and get on with life like everyone else manages to”, I never went back).
I am a great believer in the power of therapy, over and above medication, although the two in conjunction are often the best bet, but if you’re only going to do one, do therapy. It’s not always easy on the NHS (I’m seeing my therapist privately £££), but it’s worth the effort, keep on at your GP if they aren’t forthcoming in offering to refer you.  Now you obviously can go down the private route if the NHS doesn’t work out for you, but it’s always worth trying the NHS first if you can, private can be expensive, worth every penny usually, but only if you have those pennies to spare.

I hope you are well,

Betty
x

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tears for Fears

Sometimes tears are good. I knew this anyway, but it is something my mother said to me this evening.
Some people are afraid to cry, maybe because they think it makes them look weak or because it's not exactly an attractive sight. It's true, you will rarely be able to look good when crying - maybe some of this Hollywood movie crying where perfect clear tears run over flawless, porcelain cheeks without leaving a trace - but not real crying, when your face is contorted, your eyes are puffy, your nose is running and any make-up you were wearing congeals and smudges leaving you looking like something out of an emo horror movie. This being said, crying is a truly cathartic experience, it's often something that you can't avoid, as something opens the flood gates and everything comes pouring out. It happens like this because it has to, if you burst into tears it's because you need to let something out.
I've had a good cry this evening, as a result of the fears that have been building about my meeting tomorrow combined with realising I ate far too much pizza and weight more than I am happy with. In all honesty, I feel better for it. It's like the pressure inside me has been released. I'm not saying the problem has gone away, it definitely hasn't, but I'm far too emotionally exhausted from crying to care right now.
Crying is a positive thing, it's not nice when it's happening, and sometimes it feels like it'll never stop, but it will stop and you'll most likely feel better for it.
Don't stop yourself from crying. Fair enough there may be situations in which you don't want to cry (at work or on a bus maybe), but don't hold it back for too long, when you feel comfortable with the situation, just let it out.

I'm not sure how this will come across. I'm not promoting unhappiness, I just think that stopping yourself from crying is counter-productive and that crying has a bad public perception that makes some people feel guilty for doing it, and I think that is wrong.

Hope you are holding up ok,
Betty
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Falling Apart at the Seams

That's how I feel sometimes, like I'm falling apart at the seams, everything is going wrong and I just can't hold thing together.
Today has been a little like that.
So my day began with an email from my supervisor, asking to meet up tomorrow afternoon. That instantly sent my head into a spin of anxiety and fear and confusion. Explaining things in an email I can just about cope with, but the thought of having to explain myself and think on the spot in a face to face meeting strikes me with a paralysing fear. It took a good while before I was able to process anything other than that panic, which resulted in a lot of wasted time and the associated guilt of not getting on with my work.
I have slightly calmed myself with the acceptance that I have to have this meeting at some point and what happens happens, hopefully I won't have to make any decisions on the spot. I had hoped that I wouldn't have to see my supervisor until after I'd seen my therapist, which is tomorrow evening. I need to talk through the possibility of taking time out, which currently fills me with feelings of inadequacy.

Trying to take some positives;
Writing the post on how to help a friend with depression yesterday was a pretty big deal, both in tackling things that I think people could do to be more helpful and in actually having the brain power to write it, so I feel reasonably good about that.
I did get some work done today and completed one step, granted it's a step that should only have taken a day and has taken more like 3, but it's done. The next stage is almost exactly the same, so I've not got over the monotony, but I've progressed.

Tonight I am going to order pizza, well two pizzas as it's two for Tuesdays, but I intend to keep some to have tomorrow. If I eat two pizzas then I really am going to feel guilty.

Betty
x

Monday, 16 May 2011

How to help a friend with depression

I've read a fair few websites offering advice on how to help people you care about when they have depression. I had intended to provide some links in case anyone was interested, but in the end I couldn't find one source with which I completely agreed.
So I decided to have a go at putting together my own list of pointers. I'm not sure it's fully comprehensive, but the most important things should be there.


How to help someone with depression; What you should do and what you shouldn’t do

1.      Learn something about depression
So many people don’t properly understand what depression, what the symptoms are and how they could actually make a positive difference to someone suffering from it.
There are loads of good resources out there that are easy to find, even just the NHS website or Wikipedia list common symptoms.
Knowing a bit about depression can help a lot in trying to understand your friend with depression, and showing you’ve put some effort in to it can help show your friend you care and that you take their illness seriously. At the very least, learn that when you are depressed you see the world in a very negative and inaccurate way and that everything is difficult.
2.      Ask them how they are
Genuinely. Again, a lot of people with depression feel like no-one really cares or takes their problem seriously. Checking up on them, reminds them that you are there and care about them.
You should also be aware that they’re not likely to give a positive answer, and you shouldn’t expect one. Try not to get frustrated with their negative view and don’t try to correct them, just tell them that you care and want to help.
3.      Offer help
They might not be willing to accept it, but still offer, or just let them know that you are there if they need anything.
The kind of help they might need will vary depending on the person and the situation; someone might want to talk, some might want a cup of tea and a distraction, sometimes someone might need something collecting from a shop.  Don’t be overly insistent on meeting face-to-face if they don’t want to or on making them go out/do anything else they aren’t happy with.
4.      Don’t say;
Pull yourself together. Things aren’t that bad. There are other people in worse situations. Your life isn’t that bad. It’s not such a big deal. Get some sleep and it’ll be better in the morning.
Or anything similar. It really doesn’t help.
5.      Don’t judge them by their depressed behaviour
People with depression will do and say things that are out of character for their non-depressed selves. Don’t judge them for it and don’t take it personally. Depressed people can get defensive and irritable, they will often push people away, intentionally or not, but it’s not an accurate reflection of their feelings. They need you now and they will need you in the future to help them recover, you standing by them will mean the world when they are able to properly appreciate it.
6.      Don’t make out like it’s their fault
Placing blame is never helpful. Someone with depression is more than capable of beating themselves up about the problem being their fault without someone else telling them. You will either make them feel worse or trigger their defences and lead to them getting angry and pushing you away.
It isn’t their fault, it isn’t a choice. If you’ve taken my initial advice and learnt something about depression then you will know this.
7.      Listen
A lot of the time, people with depression aren’t looking for advice, and even if you offer it, they’ll likely shoot it down. If you don’t know what to say, then don’t feel you have to say anything. So just listen to what they have to say and accept that it is true, at least it is in their mind, even if it’s not how you see things. Depression isn’t always about the way things are but the way things seem to the sufferer.
8.      Hug
Hugs and physical contact are comforting to everyone when they feel upset or vulnerable. Hugs can be especially helpful for depressed people, if they are comfortable with it (sometimes you don’t want to be touched or even be around people), showing you care and providing comfort.
Don’t be surprised if your depressed friend cries on you.
9.      Send a Text, email or card
Sometimes depression can really mess with your mind and formulating your thoughts and feelings can actually be quite challenging. Being able to communicate in writing is often helpful as you have more chance to say what you actually mean. It also means that if you respond in writing your friend can keep a physical copy of what you say, so they can look back at the positive things you say and the support you offer at a later time as simply remembering good things is really difficult for people with depression.


Absolutely DO – show you care
Absolutely DON’T – blame them

Thanks,
Betty
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