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
x

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
x

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
x

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
x

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
x

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
x

Fudging Hell

No particular relevance of fudge here, just a phrase that seemed to sum up how I feel right now.
Woke up feeling less terrible than yesterday, which is something. I spent the vast majority of yesterday in bed feeling truly awful, I didn't acheive anything and never really felt any better. So I thought that feeling better this morning would have a positive impact on my productivity, which it has, but not on a huge scale. My brain seems intent on not focusing on anything, certainly not anything important like my work. My arms are weak, my neck doesn't want to hold my head up straight, my eyes want to sleep and my brain seems to like that idea, but I've only been up about 2 hours and can't let myself totally give up on the day yet.
I don't know what to do to make me feel better, I really don't, and that's one of the most frustrating things. I feel hideous and don't know how to change it. I've got so much tension in my chest and my shoulders it's causing actual physical pain. I just want to beat myself round the head or repeatedly run into a wall. I just want everything to go away :(

Betty
x

Sunday, 15 May 2011

It doesn't need a reason

This is the worst of it, the days when I wake up and feel so wretchedly unhappy from the moment go for no clear or discernible reason.
I am lying in my bed with barely enough energy or will to lift my hand to type this. I feel like at any moment I will burst into tears and not be able to stop. I want to call someone but don't know what I'd say and hate to just call  up just to let someone know I feel lousy when there's probably nothing they can do about it.
Looks like today will be another unproductive day in which I eat too much, nap to escape the pain and end up feeling even worse about everything and probably emotionally exhausted from crying.

This is me.
Betty
x

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Fat Day

So, I had intended to write here again before now, but with blogger being down for a significant part of yesterday I never actually got around to it.
I did get hold of my medication and slowly began feeling less fuzzy, although it did take a lot longer than I had hoped. It was after dinner before I actually felt 'normal', so to speak.
Today has been a horrible waste of a day, I didn't get any work done and I feel ridiculously guilty because of it. However, my main gripe of the day is my weight. Low mood, unsurprisingly translates into not enough exercise and too much eating, largely of fatty, sugary, carby junk. So I'm feeling flabby and hideous, but with very little energy for doing anything about it. It's a nasty, and very unproductive cycle of eating and feeling lousy and eating. Two weeks ago, before the boyf got back from Europe, I had lost 2 pounds off my standard 11 stone. Today I am 5 pounds up on that, and only one more week before the boyf returns from his second trip away, I don't think he'll be pleased with what he finds. I've also had my mind on my weight as I go on holiday in 4 weeks and I'd like to feel at least half way decent in a swimsuit. Doesn't feel very likely right now.
I really shouldn't have made a caramel slice today, and really, really shouldn't have eaten 2 pieces of it.
I am a fool,
Betty
x

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dizzy, My head in spinning.....

Ok, so I may have screwed up. I ordered my new prescription a little late and ran out of my meds on Monday.
Turns out the light-headed, dizzy, discontected feelings I was having yesterday (which were much, much worse this morning) are actually withdrawal symptoms :/ I only just managed to get myself to Boots to actually get my prescription filled, driving probably wasn't the best idea, but I didn't have much choice.
I took the pills about a half hour ago and already feel a bit more together. Thankfully, I was getting a bit desperate.
Shame that missing two days of meds doesn't actually explain anything about my moods, given that Tuesday was a terrible day and the stuff would still have been in my system then. These things don't often make much sense.

Betty
x

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Small Victories

Sometimes with depression you have to take the small victories, large victories are often few and far between, and just the process of identifying the good things can be helpful.
The best thing about today; it was better than yesterday. Simple as that really.
Mostly, today was better because I cried a heck of a lot less, I took positive steps in helping myself by a) emailing my supervisor about my recent difficulties b) making an appointment to see my GP (even if it isn't until a week next Monday) c) I did the washing up and d) setting up this blog. I also ate a proper dinner and had a bath. These seem like everyday things, but I've failed on all fronts for the past few days.
In comparison, the highlight of yesterday was getting nearly £7 worth of duck for £3 thanks to Tesco's replacement product policy.
On the down side, my lunch consisted of almost half a carrot cake (yesterday my lunch was 2 chocolate eclairs), lunch has never been something I've been very good at. Also, I've spent most of the day feeling slightly like the top half of my head has been anaesthetised. It's actually something that's quite hard to explain. Basically, I've felt like I've been sat somewhere inside my own head, quite detached and removed from what's actually happening. It's quite disconcerting and can make it difficult to do things. Sometimes this kind of numbness can go as far as to affect my coordination, and my hands become very cumbersome, things like typing and handling anything become much more difficult. My typing hasn't been on top form, but mostly my hands haven't been functioning too badly today.

My primary objective for tomorrow is to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy. Getting as much work done as I can kinda goes without saying. Hopefully I'll receive a reply from my supervisor and then I can try to deal with whatever that brings up.

Thanks,
Betty
x

Message in a Bottle

"I'll send an SOS to the world/ I'll send an SOS to the world/ I hope that someone gets my/ I hope that some one gets my/ Message in a Bottle"
- Message in a Bottle - The Police

I wanted to start by setting out why I have started this blog and what you can expect from me.
I have suffered from depression, to varying degrees, for more than 10 years. During this time I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed significant periods of feeling good, or at least ok, but unfortunately I have also suffered from notable periods of feeling very, very bad indeed. Over recent months, a number of factors have conspired against me and I am currently in the midst of a rather bad depressive episode.
While writing down my feelings and experiences can be helpful, I am, and always have been, rather bad at keeping a diary on a regular basis. I have been blogging about my good times for a while and always found it a nice way to express myself, that I have been better at keeping up with than any diary I have ever attempted. Unfortunatley, as my depression has made a resurgence, mixing posts about my better times along with those from my less happy times has proved problematic. As such, it seemed sensible to start a separate blog to contain my less-happy thoughts and experiences.
In addition to needing to express myself, I also want to encourage greater understanding of what depression is actually like. I often struggle to explain my difficulties face-to-face, and when I am at my worst I generally choose not to see people, so mostly you will only see me on my better days. I feel a need to let people know that sometimes I do spend days in bed crying or rolling on the floor in physical pain as a result of anxiety or fear. I am very bad at actually reaching out when I feel truly terrible, even though what I really need is to feel that people know and care about what I am going through. So I suppose this is an exercise in self explaination, reaching out and trying to help myself.
I feel I should provide a warning at this stage; a lot of what I am likely to write about may make uncomfortable reading. I want to be able to express myself without worrying about softening the edges to make it easier for people to read. If you don't want to hear about these things, then I suggest you avoid this blog at all costs. I also understand that some of what I write may cause concern amongst some of you. I would like to ask one thing from those of you who do choose to read what I have to say; if anything I write concerns you, please get in touch with me, either by leaving a comment or emailing me (betty_leopard@hotmail.co.uk), rather than talking about me in private. Knowing people care often makes a world of difference to anyone with depression, and we often need reminding that people care. Even if you think you have made it clear, depression is awfully good at erasing good memories and positive comments.

This blog is exclusively for my depressed periods. If you ever want to know what I'm like when I'm feeling ok, check out my original blog at http://bettyleopard.blogspot.com/.

Here we go,
Betty
x