Always recovering

This week has been a tough one - I don't know if its that we're a few weeks into being back at work or it is indeed the January Blues. Lots of travelling and being busy at work has added to my tiredness which I know doesn't always help with my moods.

I wrote this post a while ago and was never brave enough to publish it - then for a while I didn't think it applied to me any more - I hadn't had a tough day for a while, I'd talked a lot of things out with a counsellor and I've felt so much better and been so grateful for that. But this weeks knocked me for six and left me feeling a bit naive about my own mental health again... so today I'm sharing it not only because I needed to remember that not every day is perfect and we get through them, but maybe one of you guys did too.

***Also I hope this isn't a triggering post - if you suffer with depression (or other mental illnesses) and its recovery, I'm 100% sure you'll relate but its a very raw post and an honest one about how it is - not how other people might see it. Please don't read it if you think it will make things harder for you or upset you further in any way - this is not my intention***

Probably the thing I hate the most about depression and its recovery - is that you never know how you're going to feel when you wake up in the morning. You can do all the right things but some days you wake up with a heavy head, eyes that are on the brink of crying (big ugly sobbing tears) and a fuzz that so heavily clouds your mind and there is nothing you can do, nothing that really caused it and mostly you're a mixture of confusion and disappointment as well as overwhelmed. On these days I know as soon as I wake up that its one of 'those days' and all I want to do is close my eyes, roll over, go back to sleep and try again tomorrow.

But I can't - I have a job, I have a train pass that I should really use every week day to make affordable, I have fruit in the kitchen that will go bad if I don't eat it, I have Thomas who wants to share his day with me as much as he can, I have friends that will email and notice that I don't reply... I have to get up. So after sulking, snoozing and a lot of pep talks (from myself and sometimes from Thomas) - I manage to get out of bed. I often worry that if I don't get up just once, there's a chance I would never get out of bed in the morning again.

I attempt exercise. It helps. It doesn't help.
I have a shower. I helps. It doesn't help.
I eat a healthy (fruit) breakfast. It helps. It doesn't help.
I go out in the sunshine and feel the breeze on my face. It helps. It doesn't help.
I make jokes with my colleagues somehow. It helps. It doesn't help.
I distract myself with work. It helps. It doesn't help.
I sneak a biscuit with a cup of tea (bourbon biscuit, if you're wondering. I have a weakness) It helps. It doesn't help.
I go for a walk in my lunch break. It helps. It doesn't help.
I do crochet, knit, paint, meditate or yoga in the evening. (I try it all ha) It helps. It doesn't help.

My aim on these days is to just do everything as I should do it. I try to eat the right food (biscuits are never wrong though right?!), I make sure I walk and exercise enough and get enough sleep. And it helps... it definitely does help. But on these days it also doesn't help at all. It doesn't clear the fuzz, or dull the ache of pain that has no real source, it doesn't stop the tears from always being right behind my eyes just waiting for an escape... 

Somehow I get through the day without crying, without hiding in the bathroom for some time, so I reward my exhausted body and mind with an early night (behaving 'normal' is exhausting) and go to sleep (eventually) and hope that tomorrow is better.

I know that with depression and anxiety I got off considerably lightly, I've got myself to a much better place compared to two/three years ago . Some people can't win the battle to get out of bed, some people don't have jobs because of their illness, some people will always be on tablets and some people don't live to survive it. Depression is mean enough that it will make you think unfair comparisons with other people and its even crueller that it will attack you further for it and make you belittle yourself.

BUT depression comes in all shapes and sizes and it is just as dangerous for someone like me - a reasonably functioning anxious depressive - as it is for the next person suffering - and it needs to be talked about and shared because even when you are doing all the right things as much as you can and things look to be okay from the outside - you just never know exactly how you'll feel when you wake up in the morning or where you truly are in your recovery process. And depression is relentless.

I had a solid number of responses in my survey last year saying that they'd like to read about my depression recovery and now that I think about it more and more, I realise that talking about these things publicly is so, so important. I was always so scared of what my readers would think - what my family who read this blog would think and what it would say about me to publish this kind of post but If just one person who is in a similar situation to me - getting through their days and trying their very best - feels a little bit better for knowing that they aren't alone then I think its worth pushing publish and sharing how I feel.

(And I was finally brave enough about 6 months later with posting it - mostly because its still just as relevant now as it was then and it probably will be for my whole life.)

Searching for something... something different

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For the last year I've been trying to write a photography course based on my experience with film photography. In the last year I have taken less photos than ever. This has caused a slight problem in my writing experience as I'm sure you can imagine... in fact you've probably even noticed that I've been writing less here too.

My photography (and in turn my blog) has always been led by how I feel, how I feel about what I'm looking at, momentary flashes of inspiration and excitement that occur when I see something that I want to take a photo of. I never thought there was any rhyme or reason to the photos I was taking, I was driven by the search and they appeared.

I was wrong. I was, as I always knew deep down, searching for something, something much more specific than I originally imagined.

However, I still couldn't tell you the rhyme or reason, or what drives me to look, or even why I take the photos I do, and I definitely couldn't tell you what it is I was searching for... what I'm searching for now. But for the last year, an older part of myself - the part that wanted everything to go back to 'normal', to how it was - has been trying to dominate my photos - the part that didn't want to accept the seemingly unacceptable, the part that didn't want to let go of the past, the part that couldn't accept the pain, the changes and ultimately the ripples of consequences.

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For the past year I've been fighting myself, and I won't lie - it has been brutal - and it's been showing the most in my photography, or my lack of photography.

But yesterday, as I walked out of the Doctors building, I realised that I was a very different person to the one who walked in that first day last December and I felt OK with that.

Which is huge.

I am different and the way I'm searching has been trying so hard to change with it but my older self was resisting it, as hard as I could - in fact I fought it to the last moment. Until yesterday I didn't even realise that I was fighting, not until the fight was over. I stopped fighting a number of things yesterday in accepting that I had changed, that things have changed, that life is different and will always be different... and even though there is still the (sometimes gut wrenching) pangs of sadness, regret and mourning, mostly I just felt relieved.

For the longest time, you feel you are defined by the fight - but it was always a losing battle - the changes in me were instant, I can even tell you the exact moment - it was the acceptance, the acceptance of it all, that was/still is the hard part. I might never truly accept it fully, I don't know. But I have started to accept it in a deeper part of myself and that's a huge step.

Once the fight was over though, the urge to take photos came back almost instantly, yesterday it was inspired by a word. Today it is inspired by sunshine. I can already feel the tug in my chest looking out the window and walking down the hill to work I spotted at least 5 things I would have taken photos of if I'd have the time (I'm always in a rush in the morning... urgh). It was the best walk to work I've had all year even though I didn't take any photos.

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Looking through my recent photos, these three above in particular, I can see the changes were already seeping through. As I fought more often than not my inner drive won and my eyes were drawn to details they never were before, to textures specifically, to the broken, to the damaged - to the beautiful. My drive had accepted them all as a part of my creative identity, it was 'me' who didn't want to.

It seems odd to refer to different parts of myself here, and even words like 'inner self',  'drive', 'newer', 'older' and 'me' don't really explain it well but ultimately that's what depression feels like for me - an internal fight with no real definition. A fight of perspective, of thoughts, of what's real and what's not. A fight of emotions, of urges, of wanting to stay in bed but so desperately wanting to get up at the same time. A fight of clinging on, of letting go, of denying, of accepting.

Depression to me is a constant fight where you don't really know the rules, you don't know the outcomes, you don't know the opponents, or even what you are fighting for. In fact, most of the time I don't even realise that I'm fighting until a specific fight is over. But you are, you're fighting to get through, to get out of bed, to understand, to get to work (and stay there) and I know there will be another fight, I'm probably in one right now with myself.

But for now, I'm happy that I want to take photos again. That I have fought enough to get to this point. That I feel, just a little bit, like I'm winning the battle and ultimately, that all the fighting is worth it.

Camera: Olympus OM-10
Film: Kodak BW400CN
Location: Knaresborough, England

 

p.s. This post is huge, I didn't plan that, but thank you if you made it to the end, much love x

No actually... how are you really?

It's been about a year since I took myself to the Doctors and waited for what seemed like forever to see someone who might be able to help me. I've been trying to write a post about that for a while. I tried various approaches - I tried positive and I tried helpful to others who are suffering from depression (which I'm still happy to do if people want to hear what I've been doing). But the words didn't come naturally.

I've been struggling with blogging this year - being constant, wanting to do it, wanting to read other blogs. And don't get me wrong, I read some great blogs - happy blogs, encouraging blogs, supportive blogs, yoga blogs, healthy eating blogs, creative blogs - all the blogs of people who I want to be like I guess.

But, even after 5 years of blogging - I fell into the allure of the 'happy blog' trap. The believe that I had to do more to feel better, be more like someone else, eat better, do more exercise and blog happy, to be happy.

I've always known that blogging was a choice of presentation rather than an accurate reflection but sometimes we forget and the unreal seems real for a little while.

Then this morning I came upon a blog called Edenland - and I read what I actually really needed to read rather than what I thought I needed, an honest blog. A brutally honest blog, with swearing, depression and general struggling with life with no distractions, no selective omissions, no pretty pictures - just words sharing how life was for that person, as it comes, swearing, depression, truly crappy situations and all.

And I felt relieved that there was someone else out there struggling with their own patch of the world yet sharing it so honestly and unapologetically - it could be done. And that was when the words started to come. The honest words of my own... and the fear of not seeming happy, creative, perfect, sunny (all the blog buzz words you know) ... fell away and was replaced by a desire to be real, to be honest, to stop hiding behind the photos, to stop not coming here because I didn't want to show the real me.

So how am I, really?

Well, after all that - I'm mostly pretty good right now compared to where I was a year ago. Which doesn't sound that bad does it? But its still pretty rough going over here. I'm mostly operating on 'one day at a time' (as my bestie always reminds me). I'm choosing to get out of bed every morning (something that hasn't really gotten easier, even with the pills and CBT, urgh), I'm following a pretty steady routine and I'm working hard on keeping my thoughts in check. But these to me are still all the hard options - the really hard options - you have to be vigilant, constantly aware and determined. And most mornings I don't wake up feeling any of those things - mostly I just feel tired.

I've been going to cognitive therapy for the last 3 months and that has helped me so much, more than anything else in fact. To look at my own thought cycles and realise how they were actually working and the impact they were having on my behaviour, emotions and physicality was a huge eye opener for me.

My CBT counsellor also shared a great resource with me - which I'll share here - a website called Get Self Help - all the sheets I used are here. They are available and free - all you need to do is open the website and start looking - and that isn't too hard or scary. If you've been struggling and you don't know where to turn or you're too scared to approach a real person (I was too scared. I got given a lot of phone numbers that I never rang...) then please have a look here and if you have no idea where to start still - I would recommend the problems page or the introduction page.

Even sharing that resource - It feels so hard to sit here and write about how I've been coping whilst trying to help others -  because I know that everyone's experience with depression or any other mental health problem is totally different, what works for me might work for you too - or it might not. The one thing I have learnt in the past year that I'll share though is that I don't need to do more to be happy, I need to do less

need to stop the negative reinforcing behaviour, need to stop eating foods that make me feel worse, I  need to stop giving the negative thoughts that niggle away validity, I  need to stop hiding away and distancing myself from people and definitely need to stop believing in the unreal - because that will always be unreal, even if I (and enough people) believe the opposite.

 

So, now is the time for me to ask... how are you really?  Leave a comment (or send me an email) and let's be honest for a bit  - I promise its not as scary as you might think...

(Though it is still pretty scary haha, all I actually need to do now is hit that publish button and I've reread this about a hundred times and stared at that button for at least ten minutes... if you're reading this then I actually did it. Eep)

p.s. If anyone has any other honest, gutsy, heart wrenching blogs that they'd love to share with me - I'd really appreciate it.