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:-