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!