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.

Good blog

Hello, this is just a link to a piece on someone else's blog that I think is really good at describing how brain chemistry can play a huge part in depression:-

Monday, 31 October 2011

Revisit the hysteria (but you can't comment)

Here is another link to the Seroxat Secrets blog, which is a blog designed to alert the world that antidepressants, Seroxat (paroxetine) in particular is destroying the free world.

I posted a link to this before, and I had commented at the bottom of one of the posts that I had been on paroxetine for 13 years and never really had any problems with it, and that they ought to show the other side of the argument.  This comment did not make it onto the site.

This is what it's all about

Here is a good post about how it feels to be in the grip of the very worst type of depression, explained very well by this lady:-

Read her.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Books: Read as alternative to Bridget Jones's Diary

Bodily Harm
By Margaret Atwood
This is my second book my Margaret Atwood, the first being The Handmaid’s Tale.  This one is quite different to that one, as I felt The Handmaid’s Tale was trying to make statements about women, society, all that jazz, whereas I think this one was just like a quite good story, without any definite ‘stance’ or message.  There’s nowt wrong with that though, it was good.
  Basically, it was about this woman called Rennie (naming the main character after an indigestion tablet, cheeky).  She is a single woman, having broken up with her long term partner Jake after she had breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy.  She also fell in love with her surgeon.  She is a freelance ‘lifestyle’ writer, and she manages to get sent to a small Carribbean island, St Agathe, on a travel assignment.  While hanging out there, she meets a few characters, firstly Dr Minnow, who is a sort of politician, then Paul, a man who is assumed to be CIA, but turns out to be ‘the connection’ in a guns and drug smuggling cartel, and my favourite, Lora, who is a random woman who provides many a monologue about her weird life. 
  The political situation on St Agathe escalates to the stage where Dr Minnow gets assassinated, and Rennie and Lora are imprisoned as they are connected to him.  She eventually goes home at the end, the final scene is her on the plane home, although because of the tense it is written in, (it says ‘this is what will happen’ rather than ‘this is what happened’ – I’m sure there is a posh name for this but I don’t know what it is), you don’t know whether she actually goes home, or whether she is just imagining what it will be like to go home from her prison cell.
  I like it because Rennie is a totally independent woman.  She has no man, and she goes to St Agathe alone.  She encounters amazing things there, sees incredible horrors and experiences an entirely different culture, but the way it is written suggests that to her, this is not that unusual.  She seems to fit in easily, and finds it all interesting, although largely commonplace.  This suggests to me that living the life of an independent woman can be hard, but totally worth it for the value of the interesting experiences she has had while not sat at home on the sofa with some bloke.  Therefore, I feel that in a way, it glamorises the life of an independent single woman, which is something that 21st century society fails to do on a spectacular level.  

A pic to go with the previous post!/NicolaLyndhurst

This person posted this photo on Twitter to go with my previous post about Joy Division, it's very apt.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Love will tear us apart

Joy Division are one of my favourite bands in the whole world.  Their best known song is 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.  It is one of the songs that back in the day when I was a teenager I would listen to on my walkman, stopping all the time to write down the words.  When I had transcribed the words I would then decide what I thought they meant, (and also make up words that sort of fit in with the song when I couldn't hear it properly after the 5th rewind).  I have since read Deborah Curtis's memoir of life with Ian, and subsequently found out that 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' was about his failing marriage to her.  Personally, I interpreted it to mean the situation when you are just living your life, and then you fall in love and it all goes tits up.  

I often find myself in this situation, I am happily living my life, whether I am single or with someone, and then I fall in love and everything goes to shit.  Spectacular situations where this has happened include the time when I was happily single, then fell in love with a girl who was married, and subsequently became miserable, as it was impossible for us to be together.  In unforeseen circumstances, she actually divorced her husband and got with me, but the extreme happiness was short lived, as she was horrible, and destroyed my self esteem.  Another spectacular love fuck up was when I was with a very good man, who was perfect.  It was the best relationship I have ever had, and the three years I was with him were the most stable of my life.  I never felt depressed at all.  Then, I fell in love with a girl from work, and felt like I couldn't stay with him anymore, as I loved someone else.  
  When I was about 14, I wrote in my diary that I wished love did not exist, and that we could just go around shagging each other purely for pleasure, a bit like the 60s when the pill was invented and everyone was shagging each other like animals.  I don't know if this would work though, it might be like that scene in Demolition Man where Sandra Bullock says she's had a lovely night with Sylvester Stallone, and then she politely asks him if he would like to have sex.  She then proceeds to do something weird with a head set, which probably wouldn't happen, but the point I'm trying to make is it might be boring.  Unlike a 60s utopia of mad drug induced fucking, more like trainspotting or birdwatching, where it is just a sort of hobby.
  Thinking back though, I would have to say when I look back on my lovelife it has been 10% happy times, and 90% gut wrenching miserable times.  This might be because of my attitude, it might be because I have been unlucky, it might be because I am doing it wrong, but the figures speak for themselves.  If I never fell in love, or if love didn't exist, would I have depression?  Yes, I would, because I think that in my case there is a definite brain chemistry factor (as my depression is hereditary and it has been proven that when it runs in families it is more likely to be down to dodgy synapses than deep seated emotional issues), but I think it would be significantly less complicated, and subsequently easier to treat and manage.
  So the main point of this blog entry is just me thinking about love and how it makes you a bit miserable sometimes.  However, there probably isn't much point in thinking about that too much, because would I want to live in a world without love?  No.  Would I go back and change anything about the way I have loved and lost over the years?  No.  And am I going to stop falling in love and doing stupid things in the name of love, Hell no.  Therefore, there is no point to my post, but the beauty of a blog is that you can write whatever you want, so there it is.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Here is some hysteria

This is an example of what some people think of anti depressants.  Note my comment at the end.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Antidepressants - the debate (shit's about to get real)

As I have mentioned before, I have previously had problems when telling people I am on antidepressants.  This hasn't always been the case, but there are a lot of people out there who believe that taking medication for depression is somehow perverse.  They fall into three main categories, I find.

Category 1: Those who have no experience of depression at all, even just knowing someone who has had a brush with it.
Do these people even exist any more?  It seems strange to me that they do, but then it seems strange to me when people have never been to a gay bar, or get uncomfortable when I talk about race (even in the simplest of contexts - seriously, I brought up a discussion about how I had watched Good Hair the other day and experienced a tumbleweed (weave) moment in a very white busy pub - tiresome).  Things that I take for granted as being part of 21st century life in Britain, for some people is still alien. So there could be some people out there who just haven't really thought about it, but don't like the idea.  This is what I assume they are thinking when I tell them about being on antidepressants and they just go quiet before making excuses and leaving.

Category 2: Those who have had depression themselves, and have successfully battled it without medication.
These people think that as this is what they have done, it is possible for others to do the same, and it is, but not all the time.  They cannot accept this, and subsequently will go around preaching about how you can heal depression 'naturally' and without the 'evil chemicals' in the medications.  LOVE IT.

Category 3: Those who have been on antidepressants, and didn't like it.
Fair play, if you've been on them and found that they made you feel worse than you felt when you weren't, but  consider that they might have made you feel better, and that that was probably the aim of the person that prescribed them for you.  Not that its a conspiracy to silence the masses and numb the brains of the infidels.  Thanks.

So, I realise I might be a bit anti people who slag off anti - depressants, and who can blame me when I've been given a lot of shit about it?  But having valid reasons for saying or doing something doesn't make it right, which I have considered after reading this blog:-

This person puts a point across that I have never even considered, that people who have depression and don't take meds for it actually get shit too!  I thought they would probably be viewed by the general public as saintly figures, brave and tenacious as opposed to my weak willed 'drug addict' self.  But no, it seems people have a go at them for not taking meds, telling them they're in denial, or just a mad scientologist hippy.  He says the thing that upsets him most is when people tell him if he hasn't needed medication to get better then he doesn't have real depression.  Hand on heart, before I read this blog, although I would never say so, I thought that. My recovery would have been impossible without medication, impossible, but why does that mean the situation is the same for everyone?  I know that depression is different for each person, I have always known this, so why do I think the same treatment will work for everyone?  Obviously if it had been up to me, the standard prescription for depression would be SSRI antidepressants and The Smiths, but like me, my depression is unique, so I'm gonna put my hands up and admit that I have been guilty of the same ignorance as  I have complained about in others.  Antidepressants don't work for everyone, and why should they?  (The Smiths, however, I would totally recommend).

Friday, 7 October 2011

Women & Depression Part 3

Theory 3: Women get depression more because doctors secretly think they are all mad anyway

The statistic is, more women than men get DIAGNOSED with depression, and to get a diagnosis, you need a doctor.  Now being a nurse, I think I know a bit about doctors because I have worked with shitloads of them.  There are many different types of people that become doctors, but 99% of them are posh, and 100% of them love cake.  I have been told that posh people differ in personality as much as normal people, I don't know if I believe this to be honest, as I have seen Made in Chelsea.  However, it is likely that when a patient comes into the GP surgery saying they are feeling depressed, the GP will respond in a way that is individual to them, as they are an independent thinking type of organism.  They will also be influenced by a few things, like cake, and NICE guidelines for treatment, which are basically advisory documents designed to help doctors treat people according to the latest and best evidence of what is said to work.  However, there are hundreds of other influences at work when doctors, or any person, makes decisions.  Past experience of similar situations, personal values, and also more unconscious processes going on in the mind that people are largely unaware of.  One of these is personal perceptions of gender.  

Stereotypical views of women include: gentle, weak, soft hearted, delicate, emotional, irrational, sensitive... the list goes on.  When faced with one of these creatures in the GP surgery, saying she feels depressed, the GP might reason that this picture fits.  The woman is emotional, she is quite likely to become depressed as she is of a weaker nature than men, and subsequently is less able to deal with the trials of normal life.  Therefore, a diagnosis of depression is appropriate.  When you consider the same situation with a male patient, however, it can be viewed differently, because of the influence of gender stereotypes.  Men are traditionally supposed to be strong, tough, unemotional, logical, capable, stable individuals.  Seeing a man in a weak position, complaining of feeling depressed, gets a lot of people's backs up.  Think of how it feels to see men cry.  No one likes to see men cry, people find that quite disturbing.  I lose count of the times I ask a doctor about a patient's condition at work and the reply is 'He needs to man up'.  A lot of these doctors will go on to be GPs, and they will take that attitude with them, along with a lot of cake.

Now, I'm not saying that the GPs don't have a clue, and that they are all sexist, God knows I've been to some amazing ones over the years who have helped me.  Men do get diagnosed with depression more nowadays, its not like they are given a stiff brandy and told to pull themselves together while the women are given as much valium as they can eat (that was the 60s).  All I'm saying is that there are subtle attitudes about sex that exist in all our brains, and as GPs are human beings, this is bound to influence them in their practice.  

Monday, 3 October 2011

You Don't Understand!!!!

I always say that my depression is very extreme.  When I am well, I find it hard to remember what it is like when I am ill, and vice versa.  I find that there is no middle ground, no real grey area for me.  Its a bit like being a budgie, having a blanket chucked over your cage and suddenly its night time, rather than the traditional gradual nightfall.  

When I am well, I read my diaries and marvel at how shit I felt, and luckily for me it seems a million miles away.  But, sometimes I get reminders of what it is like.  I remember once when my ex had a friend staying with him who had got depressed.  He was drinking a lot too, which was making him worse, and he had called a friend and said he was going to kill himself.  Me and my ex found him in the living room in a state.  He told me how he felt, and I burst into tears completely without warning, because it reminded me of the way I had felt when I was at my worst.  

I am interested in mental health, I find it quite fascinating.  This is probably because of my own experiences with depression, but the subject is quite engaging in itself.  I considered this when I thought about what to do for a career.  It is quite common, apparently, for people who have had their own problems with mental health to want to do something to help others with the same problems, and some go on to become counselors or study psychology.  When I was considering doing nursing, I thought of becoming a mental health nurse.  The experience I had with my ex's friend taught me that it might not be such a good idea.  Too close to home and too near the bone, to quote The Smiths.  So I went for the traditional style 'adult nursing'.

Unfortunately, people do not come in distinct categories.  Adults who have medical problems often have mental health problems as well, so it was inevitable that in my job I would come across people with mental health issues, and I didn't find it a problem.  I work in A&E, so I often see people at their lowest, when they have just attempted suicide or self harmed.  I never get upset though, I use the same professional head as when I witness sad events at work.  My natural reaction is to cry at some things, but you can't, so you just carry on and keep up your professional front for the patient and their relatives.  

But yesterday, I was looking after a lady who had taken a paracetamol overdose.  Paracetamol is very dangerous in overdose, as it can cause the liver to fail and result in a slow and painful death.  Luckily, nowadays we can treat it with a drug given intravenously that protects the liver and effectively saves people's lives.  The only problem with this drug is that it has to be given over about 21 hours.  Its a long time to sit on a hospital trolley, just waiting for the drip to finish.  At my worst, I absolutely could not be left with my own thoughts.  I had to be distracted all the time, as my thoughts were so upsetting and awful that it would literally drive me mad.  So I feel for these patients.  This lady was very emotional, sobbing all the time and talking about how she felt.  She said,
 "I want to disappear, I want to just become nothing"
I was sure I had written the same line in my diary about 50 times over the years, but then she said,
 "You could never understand, someone like you, you don't know how I feel"
I was at a loss to know how to reply.  I wanted to say that I did, that I'd been to the same place many times, and the reason I knew it would be ok is because I have come back from it.

I don't like telling the patients too much about myself, it feels weird.  You can't maintain your professional boundaries.  I don't mind telling people where I live, how long I've been a nurse, trivial banalities, but anything more personal feels wrong, and it felt wrong to tell her.  

However, I am not sure that was right, should I have told her?  It might have helped her, it could have made her realise that she was not the only one, and actually 'someone like me' can be as low as her sometimes.  It might have shown her that you can get as low as that and pick yourself up and get a decent job, and hold a position of responsibility.  

We'll never know, we can't know what goes on inside her head.  At least we know her liver is alright though.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Black Dog Campaign

I just found out today that the mental health charity SANE are doing a year long project called 'The Black Dog Campaign' to try and raise awareness about depression and challenge stigma.  Here's some info:-

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Women & Depression Part 2

Theory 2:  Women get depression more because their hormones are all over the effing place

The second theory of why women get depression more, is that their hormones predispose them to having mood swings and symptoms similar to depression.  From the early teens, women have to put up with the menstrual cycle.  I remember really wanting mine to start, as everyone else had periods, and were busy carrying around bodyform like the latest must - have accessory.  Then it did start, and I realised the truth, which is that PERIODS ARE SHIT for all involved.  Partly because during the cycle, women's moods fluctuate with two main hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.  Oestrogen is the nicer of the two, the levels of this hormone are higher just after the period and they continue to be high until ovulation, in the middle of the cycle, when progesterone takes over.  Progesterone is the baddie, mood wise, and this is when women are more likely to be feeling a bit shit.  It all culminates in the last few days before the period, and during the period when women can have Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) which can vary from being a bit annoying, to being catastrophically bad.  Some women have found that taking antidepressants has helped with their PMS, and it is a recognised treatment for this condition.  I prefer the old fashioned approach to treating PMS, handed down from my nan, which is simply gin.  (This HAS ACTUALLY been proven to work on period pain, if I ever learn how to link to things on this blog, my God that is what I will link to).
  Pregnancy is another time when women's hormones are all over the place, and the post natal or postpartum period after the baby is born is a very precarious time for a woman's mental health.  Post natal depression is not very well understood, but very common.  The causes are not well known, (apart from having a fucking baby obviously) but there are things that can predispose a woman towards it, such as unplanned pregnancy or history of depression.  The post natal period lasts from the birth until a year afterwards.  I imagine that looking after a new baby is horrendous, are dad always talks of the time when I was a new born as if it was like serving in Vietnam.  I said to him, 'You always talk about the time when I was a baby as if it was the worst and most difficult time of your life' He said, 'It was', and he's a man, who does not have any of the hormone issues. 
  Finally we get to the final stage of women's hormonal onslaught, menopause.  This time is largely dreaded by women, although this is the time when the hormones give up their monthly circus.  You'd think it would be nice to have a bit of regularity after the non stop cycle of being happy and then sad, and then angry, and then happy..etc, but depression, anxiety and mood changes are all well known symptoms of 'the change'.  I also think it is probably a bit like having a big fat flag waved in your face, that says 'YOU'RE FUCKING OLD!!!!!'.  That would be quite depressing.
  So, as illustrated there, being a woman thus having female hormones is possibly likely to make you depressed.  The only time when women are not influenced by them is when they are very young, or a bit old.  There is no escaping them.  Compare this onslaught of chemical chaos with the male eqivalent, which seems to just make men need to have sex, quickly, and then go to sleep, and it is easy to see why women might feel a bit pissed off.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Women & Depression Part 1

Today, I have been hearing a lot of people discussing depression, more specifically the fact that women seem to suffer from it more than men, according to statistics.  Now, I can't remember where I was hearing this being discussed (which I know is poor, a more organised blogger would probably be able to tell you where it was discussed and link to it.  However, if I could do that then people would find out that I watch This Morning, The Wright Stuff and Loose Women).
  So, it got me considering whether this is true, why, and what it means.

Theory 1:
Women suffer from depression more because their lives are shitter.
This argument suggests that women suffer more with depression because despite great progress in sexual equality, things are still generally crapper for women.  We still do not get paid as much as our male counterparts, and are still subject to society's prejudice in a number of ways.  Though this prejudice is more subtle now, speaking as a 30 year old single woman who speaks (and often shouts) her mind, I have often felt  like a failure for not having a man.  I dread to think what my meeker sisters feel like.  I can never know what it is like for a single man in his 30s, but I'm thinking the biological clock isn't ticking (and subsequently people are not reminding you about this), and people aren't feeling sorry for you, imagining you sat alone every night with just 'Enders for company (it doesn't matter how many times you talk about all the friends you have, some cunts will still assume they are cats).
  I have also felt lucky on many occasions that I personally do not have a lot of anxiety about the way I look, although I know other women do.  Despite the work of Gok, a lot of women have low self esteem in this area, and it is hugely widespread (even when their arses are not).  Men often scoff at the behaviour women go through to look good, say they do not understand why we do it, but question the same man on whether he would ever consider dating a woman with armpit hair, and the answer is quite clear.  This is obviously on the rough end of the scale, but it seems to me that women make a lot of effort, spend a lot of money, and crucially worry a lot about their appearance, while a lot of men have only been to Boots this year on Christmas Eve when they need a gift for their mum.
  My final comparison between men and women culturally, is not as trivial, as it concerns sexual abuse.  I do not intend to make sweeping statements on this site, only to discuss my life as I see it.  The bare facts are these:- Every woman I know has been sexually abused in some way.  If you look at the whole spectrum, from grooming through to out and out rape, then this unfortunately is the case.  Having to deal with these experiences is bound to cause some emotions akin to depression.

To Be Continued....

Monday, 5 September 2011

God and Shug Avery

At times, I have felt lost.  Lost in that bizarre place that we go to with our dogs.  It is hard for me to remember what it is like there when I am well, but whenever I go back it's like I never left.  When I see the world now, I can see everything.  I can see that there are good things and bad things.  I can take joy in the good things I see, and I can accept the bad things for what they are.  When the dog is leading you and all you can see is that, the good things are not there.  It is not enough to say that you cannot see them, because you know in all certainty that they are not there, they never were, and they never will be.  You are in a world where good things do not exist.  I have been to that place many times, but I am not there now.

I say I am not there now, and that is enough for me.  I cannot say I will never go there again, in all likelihood I will.  The dog may be sleeping now, but he is always with me.  He can wake up at any time.  What is important is that I appreciate the times when I am living in the normal world, where there are good things.

In The Color Purple by Alice Walker, there is a wonderful page or so where the characters discuss God, and Shug Avery says,
 "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it"
Now I don't know that there is a God, but I agree with Shug.  There are good things all around us in this world where the dog sleeps, and for us not to notice them is a crime.  We suffer, and when we do we feel it in every cell of our bodies.  All we can do is try to feel the good things in the same way.  I try to appreciate the good things when I see them, because if I can see them then things can't be that bad.

Fuck off August

"All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey..."
What Mama Cass and friends are singing about here, is something we all experience from time to time, the winter blues.  Once, when I was working in a bar, I arrived at work at half 5, it was pitch black and cold.  The bar was dead, it was early January and everyone was partied out after Bastard Christmas.  Although I am always relieved during this stage of the year (because Bastard Christmas is over), when the head chef greeted me with the usual, 'How are you?', I responded with;
"I feel like I am trapped in a perpetual winter, and the sun is never gonna come out again"
He wasn't expecting that.  He walked off looking scared, but did give me a chocolate brownie later, result!  (Actually, now I remember that I nicked it.  Bastard).
  The point is, that winter is sometimes shit, and especially last winter, which for me was The Winter of Discontent.  Now, it is September and we have to face facts, winter is going to come again.  I've seen Halloween stuff in the shops today, and The X Factor is on.  For some, this is a bit of a trauma because they feel like shit at this time of year.  These people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This isn't taken directly from a medical textbook or anything, but it's a bit like having The Magic Roundabout all summer, only to discover that when winter comes, your channel has changed to perpetual Taggart.
  I don't think I have proper SAD myself, but I am more prone to feeling down in the winter.  However, I have recently decided that August is pretty shit as well.  I don't like August because everyone assumes the UK is going to turn into some sort of tropical paradise, and we're gonna spend every waking moment drunk at a BBQ.  This would obviously be mint, but the reality is that we're gonna wake up to grey skies, but also be sweating because it's so muggy.  We might attempt a picnic, but soon have to knock it on the head as we keep getting knocked on the head by Frisbees in the park, thrown by children that should be at school.  We can't even take solace in having a lovely read because the papers are full of stories like 'Tights cause cancer' (this is a real Daily Mail headline I've seen with my own eyes), and a full page story on Kate Moss because she is smiling (I've seen this in The Mirror), as there is no politics going on.  Also, I've been observing society throughout the month via my job in A&E, and I can conclude that people have been drinking more and trying to kill themselves more.  Therefore, I am not alone in my theory that August is shit.  June and July are usually lovely, but people only use that as evidence that August will be even better, and then the sense of disappointment is even worse.
  I breathed a sigh of relief once September arrived, I think autumn is lovely.  November is the best part, with the dark nights, the snuggling up when it hasn't got that cold yet, the fireworks, the pretty leaves on the trees, there's a lot to love about that time of year.  I do feel apprehensive about the coming of winter, as I'm sure a lot of people do, but it's good to remember that some parts of it aren't that bad, and also that August is quite shite as well.

Friday, 2 September 2011

If I was rich, it would be shit

I have had this week off, and like most people I was looking forward to it immensely.  I am extremely lucky because I do not hate my job, although I recognise it is frustrating, emotionally and physically draining, and stressful.  (I am an A&E nurse).  So although I enjoy it, it is nice to have a week off.
During this week, I have done many fun things, but now on the last evening of the week I am feeling a little out of sorts.  I recall the Father Ted Christmas Special, shown in 1996 (AMAZING!!!!!), where Father Ted gets in a mood and decides to call the Priest's Chatback, a chat line for priests.  When he calls, he is given the option to talk about the Pope's recent visit to Mexico, or to talk about 'being vaguely unhappy without being able to figure out exactly why'.  This is how I am feeling now, except I have worked out why.

Everyone dreams about winning the lottery, or becoming so rich they would never have to work again.  I, however, recognise that a life of leisure can be dangerous for those with precarious mental health.  I spent the day with my dad today, he retired 2 months ago.  We wandered around town in the sunshine, and he kept saying, 'This definitely beats work'.  I can see where he's coming from, but then I consider the perspective of my mum, who has her very own black dog.  She works in a school, and dreads the holidays as work is the only thing that keeps her going.  She is of the age where she could consider retiring, but is unable to consider it as she is scared of what will happen to her mental state if she does.  She first developed her depression when me and my brother were small, and she was a stay at home mum.  She couldn't cope with the long, boring days when we started school.

Everybody likes time off, we all need it or our mental and physical health would surely suffer.  However, I find it can be dangerous, and is best enjoyed in small doses.  A bit like Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Once in a while it is fine, but a little too many and you could be well on your way to Fat hell.  One of the worst episodes of depression I have had is during the winter of 2008-9 when I was still training to be a nurse.  I was in my final year by that point, and nursing training isn't easy.  I had to work 37 and a half hours in work placements in the hospital, and then in my spare time I had to study and do my assignments.  I was poor in time and money, and very busy.  Then suddenly, at the start of my final year I only had to attend uni once a week.  The rest of the time I was studying at home.  Within a month or so I was bawling at the GP.  The change in workload was killing me, I had so much spare time suddenly and no means to enjoy it.  I couldn't go out and do stuff as it was winter and I was skint, I was just stuck at home all the time.

During The Winter of Discontent (which was last winter 2010-2011) I had a very good GP, who was supporting me through the tough time.  We discussed changing my medication from Paroxetine to Escitalopram.  I was quite up for that, as these new fangled citaloprams are all the rage nowadays.  They are supposed to be very effective and are widely used for depression now (no one takes Prozac anymore, you know).  The downside of this would be that coming off Paroxetine would make me physically and mentally ill which is why it is rarely used now.  My GP said it might be an idea for me to be signed off work while I made the transition between the two medications.  When he said that I knew it wasn't a goer.  Work was the only thing that was keeping me going.  It was a distraction, and because I work with a great team of people, I could go to work and have a bit of a laugh and a chat.  These were both vital in keeping my state of mind vaguely ok.  I said I would think about it, and luckily I started to feel a bit better.

I recognise that there are times for us where the dog is too demanding, and work is just too much.  I have previously quit jobs because I was too ill to work.  You can't take your dog to work with you in most occupations, after all, and to their credit the bosses at the jobs I quit were very understanding about it.  It may be different for some people, but when I'm left to my own devices, I seem to flounder a bit.  I recognise that feeling vaguely unhappy today is probably because I haven't worked all week, and that after tomorrow night when I will work a shift, I will probably feel a lot better.  It is a strange thing about people that we dread something and can hate it at times, but in fact it is probably what keeps us going.  I am obviously generalising a bit, as there are probably people who would enjoy the life of a multi - millionaire playboy who never had to work, but strangely I don't think it is me.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Shampoo Philosophy

Today I experienced a proper foul mood, which was because I had been waiting for about 2 weeks to have my hair coloured today, and an hour before the appointment the salon called to cancel.  I was surprised at how upset I was, for about 10 seconds I considered having a little cry.  Nothing upsets people more than the unexpected.  I had been looking forward to my hairdo, and when it was cancelled I was left with mousey roots and a sense of disappointment.  Yesterday, I had felt a little bit low, and I thought about my hairdo as a way to make me feel better.  What was I to do now I had nothing to cheer me up?  I will tell you what I did later, but first a word about hair.

You can tell a lot about human nature from hair.  I have no statistics on this, but fucking millions of people colour, curl, straighten, braid and generally fuck about with their hair.  Blokes get pissed off when they lose their hair, but I am concentrating on women and their hair for this blog.  I am currently trying to think of all the women I know, and I don't think I can think of a single one who doesn't dye their hair.  This tells me that we always want what we cannot have, a common human trait.  For about ten years, I had not dyed my hair.  Then, a few months ago I started dyeing it again.  Why?  Because I wanted something different.  This is another key thing to note about hair.  Hair gives you a way to transform yourself, to rejuvenate and reinvent yourself.  This should not be underestimated.

When I was a teenager, and I first met the black dog, (these times will subsequently be called The Underdog Years, as in those days the dog was the master and I was the slave, and also because sometimes it felt as if he was sitting on my head), I was in a state of continual change with my hair.  I despised the natural colour and dyed it repeatedly.  I had every hair colour you could imagine.  I'd dye it, then within a week or so get bored and dye it again.  I liked the feeling of reinvention.  I hoped that every time I put my head in the sink to wash out the dye, I would emerge a different person and could somehow outwit the dog.  It didn't work, but I did have some interesting looks.   (I also recieved a few interesting looks down the High Street).

Doing something to your hair can make a lot of difference.  I remember one time, when I was feeling especially low over Bastard Xmas, largely because I had a Bastard Ex, as soon as January came I got my arse into the salon, and had bright blonde and pink streaks put into my hair.  Then I felt I could hold my head high when facing bastard ex.  Now I look back at that time not as a time when I was fucking miserable, but a time when I had amazing hair.  A few months later, I also got the best haircut of my life, in Australia, and swanned back to the UK looking hot, with my tan and new hair.  Bastard Ex was all over me, wanting me back, but I told him to fuck right off.

The moral of this story is, when you feel like shit, get a hairdo.  It can't hurt.  Or as it says on the Aussie Shampoo bottles, 'There's more to life than hair, but it's a good place to start'.  Even if your new do looks shit, you'll have shaken things up a bit and there's always someone who prefers it.  Even if that person is your mum.

In addition, when my hairdo was cancelled, I went out, bought my own dye and did it myself at home.  It came out perfectly, and I saved fuckloads of money, which is a good way to deal with a disappointment!  

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Feeling the Burn with Trisha

Trisha Goddard, who could kick the sorry arse of Jeremy Kyle any day, mind, is known to have suffered from depression.  She says that exercise has been of great benefit to her in her recovery.  This is something that is well known, people with depression hear about it all the time.  Exercise makes the body release endorphins, which are the body's very own version of smack.  This helps to regulate the mood, and subsequently the neurotransmitters in the brain that cause the depression.

This is all well and good, but what if you can't actually get out of bed in the first place?  Exercise definitely has it's place in the treatment of depression, but do not overestimate it.  I'm sure most people with depression have been to the GP at some point and have been seen by someone that looks about 15, fresh out of medical school.  Mention antidepressants and they recoil in horror.  Once they regain their composure they usually say something like 'Have you tried yoga?'.  I am usually a hysterical teary mess when visiting the GP in the bad times, but how I wish I wasn't and I could gather my faculties together to scream something like "I'VE SPENT A WEEK TRYING NOT TO PUT MY HEAD IN THE OVEN AND YOU SUGGEST YOGA!!......" (The dots at the end represent a string of expletives and downright insults).

I must say though, throughout The Winter of Discontent, I joined a gym.  I mainly joined because it was at the end of my road.  Normal people need motivation to get their arses to the gym, depressed people need even more.  Personally, I am pretty much unable to go to any gym that is more than five minutes away.  But, I had always been aware of the benefits of exercise for depressed people (I'd read an article by Trisha), and I was willing to try ANYTHING to get me out of my own head for a bit.  So, I boldly went where I'd never been before, to the gym.  I have to tell you, it works.  It's not a miracle cure, but it definitely helps.  You can release a bit of aggression doing exercise, one friend of mine always exercises in a crisis, she says it is the only thing that keeps her sane.  It is her medicine.  There were times during the winter that if I hadn't been running on the treadmill, I would have been screaming.

It is good for me to collect an arsenal of weapons to use against the black dog when he is misbehaving, and exercise is definitely a powerful one.  Unlike most dogs, this one does not want you to take him for a walk, he would rather you stayed in bed.  By doing exercise sometimes, you can bring him to heel a little bit.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Incredibly Optimistic and Depressed

During last winter, which was dark and cold in the mind of Liquorice Lady, and may henceforth be called The Winter of Discontent, I was trying to work out what was wrong with me.  I was doing a little voyage of self discovery, trying to reprogramme my brain with a bit of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), trying to work out where my negative thoughts came from and how I could beat them off with a fanciful shitty stick, or such like.  Being that it was winter at the time, along came Christmas, or as it will be known from now on, Bastard Christmas.  My friend bought me a gift, which was a Mensa Personality Testing Kit.  I happily worked my way through the tests, it was a good way to distract the dog.  What I discovered was that I was EXTREMELY optimistic and motivated.
  Being very optimistic and motivated is not something that is usually associated with people who have depression.  I think this is why people are so shocked when I tell them about it, it seems at odds with my personality.  This is an important point to note about depression.  It can strike ANYONE.  You don't have to have a certain type of personality, there isn't a type of person that is more susceptible to it.  Being optimistic and motivated is definitely a help when I am trying to claw my way out of a dark episode, but not everyone has those personality traits.  It's only by chance that I have, just like it is only incidental that I got my own black dog.

How Things Are Now

This is just a little bit of what's going on now, a bit of background information about me and my dog.

What CAUSED My Depression?

Who knows?  Can you pinpoint a moment where it all began?  Some people can, I might be able to but what would be the point?  This is discussed in the book How To Heal Depression by Dr Harold H. Bloomfield and Peter McWilliams (which is a good book by the way).  In summary, there is no point trying to work out where the black dog came from, who gave him to you, and what made him come.  He's here now, so you'd better work out how to get him to behave.

Am I better now?

Better, yes, but not cured.  I accept that I will never be cured.  Happily, at the moment I am feeling pretty good, but I have just come through one of the darkest winters of my life.

Is she on drugs, though?

Here we go, lets make this clear once and for all.


I write this in capitals, because I am fed up of the stigma and controversy that surrounds antidepressants, especially the one I am on, paroxetine, which has been hung drawn and quartered by the British media.  Did you know that it causes KIDS TO COMMIT SUICIDE!!!  According to a very biased and unrepresentative episode of the BBC's Panorama, and obviously the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.  I am not here to preach about Paroxetine, but it works for me.
  The stigma of being on antidepressants appears to have lessened, but this could be because I tell less people about being on them nowadays.  When I was first on them, I was very brave and young and thought, rightly, that I had nothing to be ashamed of, so I'd happily tell all and sundry and then tolerate them telling me:-
 "You're no better than a junky, just cos your smack is legal doesn't mean you're not an addict"
 "Oh, you don't need them, just use alcohol, that's what I do" - good advice there.
 "What!  You're well fucked up!  I feel guilty about sleeping with you now" - my personal favourite.
Now I am a little older I don't feel the need to tell so many people my personal business.  Also, the people I am telling are not usually complete dicks, as I seem to surround myself with less knobs nowadays, which is a good thing, obviously.

What this is, and what this is not

What This Is

I call this site 'My Black Dog', because Winston Churchill, known to suffer from depression, referred to his illness as his 'black dog'.  Subsequently, this has become a well known metaphor for depression, and this blog is going to be about my own black dog, or my own experiences with depression.  

What This Is Not

This blog will not be:-

1.  A catalogue of shit things that have happened to me
     I will sometimes discuss shit things that have happened to me, being that they obviously have a bearing on    how I am feeling and have an influence on my experience with the black dog, but I'm not intending this blog to be like one of those 'Tragic life stories' you see in disturbing quantities in any book shop nowadays.

2.  A place where I can moan and feel sorry for myself
     I already have many unfortunate friends who have to listen to that shit, I don't need to go on about it on here as well.

3.  A step by step guide on how to cure depression
     To quote one of my favourite geniuses, Leonard Cohen, 'There ain't no cure for love'.  There ain't no cure for depression either.  That's not to say that you can't feel better, get better or recover, but there isn't an out and out cure that works for everyone.  We all know that.  In no way am I gonna condemn or preach about any type of therapy or treatment that is available either, whether it is natural or 'unnatural', legal or illegal, whatever it is.  Who am I to judge or say something works or not?

So this is my idea of what it's gonna be about so far...