Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why is Christmas such a bastard?

I often refer to Christmas as 'Bastard Christmas', because I have found it to be a very depressing time of year.  I'm sure others agree with me, Scrooge for one, and the Grinch, but also because in my A&E dept we see a lot of suicides and domestic violence around this time of year.  Gruff Rhys, singer from the Super Furry Animals and solo artist, also agrees with me, he has released an EP called 'The Atheist Christmas EP' which includes such joyless hits as 'Slashed wrists this xmas'.  I would like to point out, however, that I am NOT what you could term a 'scrooge', I do make the most of the Xmas, I worked as a Santa's Helper in an actual Santa's grotto for 3 YEARS RUNNING!  I am a big fan of booze, chocolate and presents, and indulge in all 3, but usually I'm drinking booze and stuffing chocolate down my neck to try to get rid of the Yuletide despair I tend to suffer from every year.

   I had a little look at why when some fools go around squeaking about how much they love xmas, some of us would rather just fuck it all off and this is what I found.  Mind conducted an on- line poll in 2008 which showed that the main reason people feel depressed at Christmas seemed to be down to financial problems.  Christmas does cost a lot of money, and spending loads of cash on a load of old shit seems to fill people with disgust, especially during the current financial fuck up where people don't have much to begin with.  The Independent reports this week that the suicide rate in Greece has risen by 40% since their economy went to shit, prior to this it was the lowest in Europe, thus proving that if the economy is fucked, people start to get depressed.  I do agree that money problems cause a lot of stress and the daily grind to try and get enough cash together to get by does ruin your soul somewhat if you're unlucky enough to be that skint, but I don't think this is the reason why I hate Christmas so much. 
  The Depression Alliance has printed a leaflet specifically targeting people who feel depressed at Christmas, to provide information about services and support available if you're feeling low.  In this leaflet, the reasons for feeling low given are money problems and loneliness and isolation if you live alone.  This didn't really explain why I always feel shit at xmas, because I am lucky and have a family and friends, which I see at xmas and do the usual celebratory things with. 

 Ray B. Williams, writing for Psychology Today says:-
 "Xmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self reflection and rumination about inadequacies of life"  This statement explains partly why I feel low at Christmas.  I look at my own life against the sickeningly sweet romantic and family based fantasies going on all over the place.  A lot of my horrendous romantic failures have occurred around the Xmas period.  I've been out with a few shit men, and they have often been known to dump me just before xmas (to avoid buying a gift no doubt), also the heart wrenching love affair I had with a married woman which all kicked off at xmas, leaving me distraught the following year when she'd left me and every Christmas event sparked off memories of the previous year with her.  I was to be found at midnight on New Years Eve, crying in the toilet.  It was shit.
  This goes some way to explaining why Xmas is a bastard, but I can't really put my finger on why I find it so particularly awful.  All I know is that it's 2 weeks of the year where I am vulnerable, confused and depressed. The benefit of it is that during this time I crave my normal life so much that when January comes around and I can go back to normality I am very grateful.

Merry Xmas

LL x

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


This is a picture of GDR if you are in any way interested:-

See what I mean???

LL x

I read a book and I liked it

By Gregory David Roberts
Shantaram was recommended to me, and described as ‘an epic’.  It suppose it is that, as it is very long and a lot of things happen.  It details the story of a man called ‘Lin’ who escapes from an Australian prison, flees to Bombay on a fake passport and gets up to various things there, such as living in a slum and becoming a ‘slum doctor’, working for the mafia, fighting in Afghanistan, and going to an Indian prison. 
  The first part of the book is mainly about his time in the slum.  This is quite a happy period, because Lin has a lot of friends in the slum, including Prabaker (the star of the show) and he has lots of funny experiences there, like when he is sent a dancing bear with instructions to give it a cuddle.  He also becomes a sort of slum doctor, treating minor medical problems in the slum.  It’s all very nice, there is a cholera epidemic which is a bit shit but this gives him the opportunity to have a little smooch with this woman he is in love with.  GDR uses pretty flowery language, right, and Lin is such an optimistic soul, and never slags anyone off.  He makes living in a Bombay slum sound like the best thing ever, and I started thinking am I supposed to believe that this hippy is a hardened criminal?  You should see how he goes off on one when he gets to have a shag with the woman he loves, he says shit like ‘Every moment was a satin skin cascade’ and I was like ‘Are you talking about the old in – out?’. 
  Anyway, my cynicism was quickly stopped when just after making luurve he pops out, only to be arrested and put in an Indian jail.  He has some hardcore times in there, and is on the verge of death on his release. 
  The story goes on, but the point is, you ought to read the book so I’m not gonna re - tell it here.  There were 2 key moments for me after that, where this book inspired strong emotions.  One was the death of a major character which left me bawling (I don’t often cry at books, mind!) and the other was the end, where I was disgusted to find that I couldn’t find out what happened to Lin next!  I went on Wikipedia and they said GDR was going to write more books in a series about Lin – hurry up you bastard!!  Although this book is allegedly based on his life, so maybe GDR doesn't know what is going to happen next yet.
  By the way, I saw a picture of GDR and he looks like a mixture between a hippy and a hardened criminal.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Random Ranting and Round up

Looking at the news this week, I have to say I am quite pleased.  Regular readers will know that I am concerned about men and their mental health, and recently there has been a spate of well known blokes talking about how they have suffered from depression.  The Sun's website is full of them, including Stan Collymore, Jonny Wilkinson, Will Young and Russell Grant!  In the Independent it also says that since Gary Speed's death, many footballers have sought help from The Sporting Chance Clinic, a specialist mental health clinic.  It makes me happy because I worry about men keeping things to themselves too much, and not seeking help. 

In other news, David Cameron has done some survey on how happy people are apparently, where he asked a few people if there was meaning in their lives and they said they were quite happy.  The Metro reports that Relate counselor Christine Northam says the economic gloom is bringing out a 'blitz spirit' in people.  I'm sorry, but having to pay an extra £100 for a pension every month and not being able to afford to go to Disneyworld is hardly the same as sleeping in Hackney tube station every night for fear of being blown to shit by Hitler.  It is my opinion that the survey is bollocks, the idea behind it is bollocks, and David Cameron is a cunt.

Speaking of cunts, The Independent has also reported that people should swear in moderation, lest they will not feel the benefit when they do swear.  No shit, this is a study by Keele University that says swearing is a form of pain relief, but if you swear all the time and then shout a lot of profanities when you are in pain, the relief of the swears is lessened.  It's like swearing is an actual drug, and you can develop a tolerance to it.  Fucking brilliant?

Finally I am going to consider an article in the Telegraph about alternatives to antidepressants.  I'm generally not a fan of these articles as they tend to be quite negative about antidepressants, and I am not, because they have worked so well for me.  There are 3 'experts' giving their opinions about the alernatives, firstly the Consultant Psychologist (probably a bona fide expert).  He says that CBT is a good option, I have to agree there, although on its own it may not work.  I have found CBT to work best when you are feeling a bit better, as when you are feeling down it all seems a bit overwhelming, there's quite a lot of work involved, and also the thing about CBT is that I don't think it really exists.  I have been referred by about 3 different GPs to have CBT and nothing has materialised, I haven't even had one session.  You can do the CBT on line yourself for free at this site called Moodgym ( , which is pretty cool, but if you're trying to motivate yourself to do it, it's likely that when you are down you won't want to and when you're happy you'll feel you don't need to.

The second expert is a doctor of Chinese medicine, who says it is commonly known that depression is a physical illness that manifests as an emotional problem.  I like this, as it is true, and people are often forgetting the physical aspect of depression.  He suggests two herbs that might help, Rhodiola rosea and Ashwaghanda, which can obviously be found in your local Asdle (not, trawling Asian supermarkets will definitely help with the depression).  Then he suggests sticking needles in your ears to release some pain relieving opioids and endorphins.  Presumably, you can do this at home because all you need to do is cause yourself some pain and you will get the opioids and endorphins.  However, self harm is never a good idea, so I have included a link to the Harmless website, a page of alternative things to do instead of self harm:-

The last prick  expert is an Ayurvedic Herbalist.  These people are alright when you want a bit of incense, but when they start to try and get in on the doctoring lark they usually end up looking like twats.  However, this man suggests looking at your diet and lifestyle, which I would say is the VERY FIRST thing you should do if you're feeling down, so well done to him.  However, then he goes on to say that counselling will help you to uncover the underlying reasons for your depression.  This smells a bit like Freud, I'm not really of the belief that everyone has some sort of unconscious desire to shag their mum, or some sort of issue hidden deep in their subconscious that is fucking up their normal life.  Sometimes the underlying problem might be that your brain chemicals are screwed, and talking about stuff for hours on end is not going to uncover shit.  However, I do acknowledge that counselling can be helpful in some situations, when you have a lot to talk about and mentally sort through.  Consider the advice of cyberpunk William Gibson,
"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you're not surrounding yourself with assholes"
Having a bit of counselling might make it easier to establish whether your friends are actually assholes, like if you talk about your relationships and the counselor recoils in horror at the antics of people around you, it might signify that getting some new friends/partner might help.

So this is my round up of some of the recent news related to mental health, (obviously excluding the Daily Express as I do not believe it is actually a newspaper).  See you next time!

LL x

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

If Depression could talk...

RIP Gary Speed

I'm still currently thinking about the Vagina Monologues, which I went to see a bit ago.  There was a section in it where women were asked two questions, one was 'If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?' and the other was, 'If your vagina could speak, what would it say?'.  Then I came across this tweet, by @GarethAveyard.
"Depression thrives on darkness. Shove the dirty bastard into the light, in its dressing gown, balls clanging in the wind. Talk about it"
As he had created the image there that depression was a person, in a dressing gown, with balls, this got me thinking about depression as a being, like a person, or the 'black dog' as it is often called.  Then I got around to thinking if it got dressed, what would it wear? If it could speak, what would it say?

If my depression got dressed, it would wear black, obviously, very predictable.  If it was a person, I think it would be a man actually.  This, in the Freudian sense of things, probably speaks VOLUMES about me, as it is though, I'm not really gonna think too much about why my depression is a man.  I think it would wear black because when I am depressed, I see the world in black and white.  There are no colours then and it is dark.  In fact, I think my depression reminds me of the character 'Lasher' in the Anne Rice novels about the Mayfair witches.  Lasher is a good looking male spirit, who haunts this family of witches. Although they fear and hate him, they also love him.  He basically seduces them in the end.  Sometimes he is quiet, and they don't see him, sometimes he whispers to them.  He is dressed in neat, smart clothes, and is quite dapper. I think my depression is like him.

Something about the tweet made me recoil though, as @GarethAveyard obviously has a lot of venom towards depression, and I don't think I have that.  That's why mine is like Lasher, it obviously harms me and makes me miserable but I don't know if I hate it.  It's such a part of me, having been around ever since I was 14, maybe it has seduced me.  Is this a good or a bad thing?

One thing that is for sure though, considering if my depression could talk what it would say, is that it wouldn't say anything.  Depression loves silence.  This is something that I have been reminded of this week with the death of Gary Speed.  Gary Speed hung himself on Sunday morning, having never showed any signs of being unhappy to anyone, not his wife, his friends or his family.  While we all struggle to understand this, I remembered how I felt at my worst, when I was 17 and had been depressed for 3 years and no one knew.  If I had not had the support I had then, with people around me who actually had experience with depression and understood it, my story could have been the same.  I could have committed suicide and no one would have known that I had been depressed.  Unfortunately, I have heard stories like this before about men, and this is why I worry about them.  They don't talk, they keep silent, which depression loves.

This is why I want to echo the sentiment in @GarethAveyard's tweet, we need to talk about depression, and this is why I write this blog.

LL x

p.s. My vagina would have a walk in wardrobe, with an array of clothes in every possible colour, style and fabric.  It would say 'Hello'.  You may think this is boring, but you haven't heard the way it says it.

p.p.s. If my vagina could talk to my depression, it would tell it to fuck off.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tackling Some Heavy Shit - Violence against women with mental health problems

This blog post is gonna be some serious shit, I will tackle some hardcore stuff and also there is REAL OFFICIAL MEDICAL RESEARCH in it (fucking hell).

So now you have been warned, and you are still reading (hopefully), I will explain.  I was at work the other day and I came across a box of charity pins that were shaped like white ribbons.  A lot of charities use ribbons, and ones with different colours mean different things.  A red ribbon means AIDS, a pink one means breast cancer, it's a bit like the  'Hanky Code', a code that existed among gay men in the olden days whereby they would wear different coloured hankerchiefs in their pockets to signify what they liked sexually.  As I'm sure a lot of people felt in those days though, I didn't want to assume I knew what the ribbon meant before I put one on, so I did what every right thinking person of the 21st century would do and googled it.  This is what came up:-

So, it is in fact 'Men working to end violence against women'.  The site invites you to make a pledge, and add your name to a list of people who have stated they will never be violent against women, or condone violence against women, or be silent about violence against women.  So I added my name, and now I have a white ribbon.

Yesterday, I went to see The Vagina Monologues, which was written by Eve Ensler.  It is quite self explanatory, as it is a load of monologues about vaginas.  It covers a lot of bases though, it is funny (hilarious in places!) and also sad, shocking (some people walked out at one point) and I thought this Welsh woman behind me was gonna have some sort of cardiac event, as she went into total hysteria.

After she wrote The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler went on to found the V Day movement, which is 'a global movement to end violence against woman and girls'.  Women all over the world organise events every year on V Day to raise awareness and money for the movement.  V Day is on valentines day, and I'd say it is worthwhile to try to do something useful for the world on this day, rather than to jiz out loads of cash on red roses, champagne, chocolate and a 'posh meal' in order to get a crap shag.  Valentines day is a pet hate of mine (it's not because I've spent most of my life single and therefore should rename valentines day 'Day of the Crank', no).  Anyway, so we've got men trying to stop violence against women, and women trying to stop it as well.  This is all good stuff.  BUT it still happens.

Once, when I was doing my nursing training I met a man who had been raped.  He was randomly attacked when walking home one night.  His life was ruined that day, he couldn't work due to post traumatic stress disorder, he had become agoraphobic and never went out, subsequently his health suffered.  It was very sad. I went home that night, and when my (male) housemate asked me if I was ok, I said I had met this man who had been raped and it had made me think a bit.  He said,
 "See, I don't think I would mind that. Except if she was minging of course"
It was not a joke.  Aghast, I said,
 "By a man, you idiot!"
He said,
He had no concept at all that it was even possible for him to be raped.  What carefree lives men lead.  Ever since I was about ten, I have known that it is possible for me to be raped.  I obviously don't think about it all the time, but it comes into your mind when you walk home alone and someone comes behind you.  It comes into your mind when you lie in bed wondering if you locked the doors to your house.  It comes into your mind when you are alone in a lift with a male stranger.  I'm sure it comes into many women's minds when they are told that their country is now at war, or there is some sort of crisis.  It is always there, and every woman knows.  In this way we are always weaker.

Physically, we are smaller and we are vulnerable.  Mentally we are just as strong as men, but what happens when we are also vulnerable in this area?  This is what I wanted to find out when I read this article:-

Rees, S., et al (2011) Lifetime Prevalence of Gender Based Violence in Women and the Relationship With Mental Disorders and Psychosocial Function. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 306. No 5.

(Check out those long words!!!!)

To summarise, not much research has been done in this area, but this study is PROPER.  (By this I mean I have appraised it as a form of evidence and it is satisfactory, obvs).
The findings were that while women who have suffered 'Gender based violence' (which is a term they use to describe domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and other stuff like stalking) often have suffered mental health problems as a result of it, often having a mental health problem can predispose women to suffering gender based violence in two ways.  One way is the predatory way that some perpetrators will target those that are vulnerable, the other way is harder to explain.

When I was depressed, I felt alone and that all the 'normal' people around me didn't understand me.  They couldn't understand what I was going through, they had never had thoughts like I had, and felt feelings like I did.  Because of this, I sought people who I felt did understand.  I wanted to be friends with people who I felt were as fucked up as I was.  I wanted kindred spirits, and I found them.  The problem was, that they were fucked up, and intentionally or unintentionally, they abused me, which then made me worse.

The article suggests that when people are treated for mental health problems they are also given practical advice on how to protect themselves in social situations.  However, the main focus of the article is that ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN NEED TO CHANGE.  Which is the focus of the White ribbon campaign, and also the V Day movement.  When I was a teenager, I was given responsibilities that I didn't want and I felt I did not deserve.  They were the responsibility to not let boys have sex with you, to not let boys get you pregnant, and to not let boys give you sexually transmitted diseases.  It was just taken for granted that the role of the boys was to make us have sex, and subsequently it was.  No one told them not to do it in the first place, no one told them to respect us, and no one told them that we knew we could be raped, and that's why we were scared.  We weren't just cock teasing.

To summarise, there are a lot of positive things happening in the world, men and women working to try and stop violence against women.  However, there are a lot of negative things still happening, and violence against women and mental health problems can go hand in hand.  We probably ought to change the focus from telling girls to stop boys from doing things, to telling boys to fucking stop doing it in the first place.

LL x

P.S. A red hanky signifies you like fisting, a pink one means you like strap ons, and a white one means you like virgins.  I did NOT make this up, I got it from a lesbian sex book.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Political Correctness Gone Mad/Crazy/Insane/Mental/Very Strange?

When I was about 18, and I had been diagnosed with depression and recovered somewhat, I started to think a bit about depression in general, and my experiences.  I thought that I had definitely been depressed for some time, probably about four years prior to my diagnosis, from the age of 14 to 18.  Four years doesn't seem that long to me now, I mean it is a long time, but four teenage years are a lifetime.  I thought that prior to the age of 14 I was a child, so at the age of 18 I had spent my entire (sort of) adult life in a state of depression.

  I can't say I was particularly outraged.  Some people have questioned whether I feel angry that I 'lost' such crucial years of my development, but as people usually do when retrospectively considering shit things that have happened to them, I thought I probably wouldn't change those years, as they made me who I am.  I did wonder how it could have been avoided though, and concluded that there were certain things that stopped me from seeking help sooner.  They were ignorance, and subsequently fear.  I didn't know much about depression really, despite my mum having it for most of my childhood.  I think I was ultimately scared that I would end up like her, despite not really knowing what was going on with her, and so the fear stopped me from telling anyone how I felt.  I decided at age 18 that what had stopped me from seeking help was that I didn't know or understand depression at all.  I thought the way to change this was to raise awareness of the condition.  This is when I started my ONE WOMAN CRUSADE TO DE-STIGMATIZE MENTAL ILLNESS. 
  On this crusade, I haven't protested, written to politicians (well, maybe once), set myself on fire, fought a holy war or done anything that you would usually associate with crusades.  I've got a life, frankly, I have a job, people to see, places to go, gin to drink.  This is a different sort of crusade.  It is a very respectable, mediocre, English crusade, in that it is fought at the tea table.  It is fought in the pub, it is fought in the chippy, and it is fought in the corner shop.  The weapons used are words, and the battle is called a conversation.  I just go about my life, generally, but I talk about depression to people, if it comes up.  I never keep it a secret, I used to talk about it more, when I was 18 and I started the crusade I felt it was my responsibility to talk about it a lot, so other people would know about it, and then they wouldn't think it was weird anymore.  I was raising awareness with the power of the chat.  Now I don't talk about it so much, because I started to notice that everyone I told already knew about it, and had experience of it themselves, whether it was first hand or someone they knew, it seemed they had all met the black dog in one of its forms. 

                                                        GLENN CLOSE

  So, is now the time to sit back and smugly say 'My work here is done?' NO IT ISN'T!!  I have now considered finding a different trifling approach to raising awareness about mental health issues, and it is this. 


  Doing the nursing training, they sometimes asked us to consider what the best term was to refer to a patient.  They said the term 'patient' implied that the person recieving care/treatment was passive, and that as we are trying to implement a more 'patient centred' model of care, we ought to use a different term that implied the patients were in fact 'partners in care'.  This is the sort of pointless shit they discuss at uni, when you actually become a nurse you couldn't give two shits about this sort of thing, because you're too busy clearing up someone else's two shits, and trying to decide whether you should be giving someone drugs in order to enable them to do one shit, and whether you should be worried about how someone else has done three shits, meaning they might need to be isolated as they could in fact have the shits. 
But, words DO matter sometimes, like when they offend people.  I used to get a bit offended by the term 'gay' when said to mean 'shit'.  I suppose I still am a bit, although I am not offended when it is used to imply that something is a bit soppy, like in Sean of the Dead:-

Sean: I love her!
Ed: Alright! Gay!

So in this climate where people are now starting to be more aware of mental health issues (unfortunately because they all have them), is it offensive to use terms like 'Mad, mental, crazy, insane, lunatic, looney tunes, nutter, nuts...etc' ???  I don't find it is, but then my depression is quite invisible, you wouldn't know I had it unless I told you.  What about those poor bastards who get called these names all the time, because their mental illness is more apparent?  Do they get offended to hear these words banded about so frequently and without thought?  I remember when I was living in Edinburgh, and there was an anti - racism campaign which suggested that people should not call their local shop 'the Paki's', and my housemate (a scot) turned to me, incredulous, and said 'But that's what it's called!'.  Maybe we cannot understand why words that we use so automatically are hurtful to some people. 

  I don't know.  But I have thought about it, and it is very hard to eliminate these words from your vocabulary, and I haven't.  However, I do tend to use the term 'very strange' more when referring to people who I would previously have said were 'fucking mental'.  This is less offensive in more than one way, and is probably a nicer term to use.  Especially in a nursing handover.