5. What’s The T?

Before I go into detail about my experiences with tablets, opening up about the way I’ve been feeling has allowed me to talk to others who have been incredibly kind and shared their experiences with me. Whilst medication didn’t work for me, I know it has for others. What I’m trying to say is, this blog post is to open up a discussion or provoke some thought – not to copy my experience or see it as “one size fits all”. (everyone hates one size fits all – who does it actually fit?!)

Antidepressants. I started taking them over a year ago and it lasted 6 months. Losing my brother was hard 7 years ago, but trying to keep my shit together whilst I was on them was no walk in the park either.

I finally accepted that I was suffering from depression after getting extremely drunk and breaking down during a gig. I’d been bottling up a lot of horrible thoughts and feelings and coping with them by keeping myself extremely busy with a house renovation and crippling work commitments.

I went to see my doctor who prescribed my first set of antidepressants after I poured out how I was feeling, and how I was desperate to try and start feeling better.

A 10-minute appointment and a prescription for something that I didn’t really know what it would do, resulted in a box full of tablets that I thought would give me a boost. Trying to block out thoughts of embarrassment and admitting what felt like defeat, I was torn because I wasn’t keen on taking medication for fear of becoming dependent.

At this point, I had three jobs and was in the middle of renovating what can only be described as a building site and living in it. I was run down, battling with self-loathing and completely drained both mentally and physically. WHAT WAS I DOING! 

Looking back, counselling should’ve been the first option I tried. It’s clear though that the NHS is under so much pressure. I waited a year to see a counsellor through the NHS and ended up going privately to try and help myself after the tablets didn’t work.  I’m not complaining about it. It is what it is. I just wish I’d known or read up a little more about antidepressants before I started taking them. Everything would’ve made so much more sense if I had!  

At that time I was managing two teams in different sites with a group of people who hated me, teaching students straight after work and doing drag where every gig I hauled myself on stage under pressure to be funny and perform in front of an expecting audience. I mean it was drag in The Golden Cross, not the Adele in the O2, but the pressure I put myself under was real! 

This was a problem and I knew it. I felt like I couldn’t change it though because I was too far down the road. I needed to keep working to get the house finished. On top of that, I buried my head in the sand about what was actually making me unhappy – dealing with my brother’s accident.

Looking back and reflecting when I first started taking the tablets, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick. Whilst taking tablets is different for everyone, in my experience, I was physically sick, every morning and evening, in a constant state of disorientation and completely numb for the whole time I was on them. It was horrible and only helped to make me feel worse than I originally was.

When I realised the first set wasn’t working, my doctor prescribed another type of tablet. This time feeling a little bolder, I asked the doctor what would I expect from taking them. What worries me is if I hadn’t asked, I probably wouldn’t have known about the side effects of mood swings, sickness, and the fact that generally, when you start taking antidepressants, you feel worse before you start feeling better. If this is something that you’re considering doing, don’t be afraid to ask. I’m sure though most doctors would tell you this – maybe I spent too much of my appointment trying to justify why I was feeling down. Another handy tip is to actually read the guidance included with the tablet. It’s pretty full on reading, but it may help you prepare for how you feel when you’re taking them.

Using websites like these will also help you understand what to expect if you’re thinking about going to see your doctor, and can hopefully help you deal with the side-effects a little better:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/

https://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.stepiau.org

The pressure of trying to keep the plates spinning got worse and I eventually went on sickness leave and spent 3 months not really leaving my bed. I couldn’t face going into work and seeing a group of people hate me any more. When the second set of tablets didn’t work for me I went onto a third which I was told would need a bedding in period.

I’ve never wanted to take my life before, but after taking these I spent a long time thinking about how I could. After 6 months of being on anti-depressants I weaned myself off, lowering the dosage over a week and went cold turkey. I simply couldn’t keep thinking the way I was.

I was lucky. I have a very supportive partner who would talk sense into me and listen when I needed him. This was important and if it’s one thing I’ve learned throughout having depression is that it’s important to be able to confide in someone and let them know what you’re going through. Everyone needs someone to help, listen but also keep an eye on you. I bet that if someone asked you for help or for asked you to listen, you would. Make sure you offer yourself that same courtesy and ask for help, however hard it may feel.

I never want to feel the way I felt during that time. Making changes to work has helped, but it’s counselling that has helped break through. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a walk in the park either. It took me 8 months to build up the courage to see a counsellor. Counselling doesn’t always work either. I’ve seen four different people to date and have finally found someone who has helped me change the way I look at my thoughts.

It took me 7 years to get in this pit so I know it’s not going to be an overnight process to get out. If you’re feeling the same, think about talking about it and processing it with someone you trust. Also, think about finding a professional who may be able to help you process it as well. I wish I’d done it sooner.

There are free options, however, be prepared to wait. Your doctor’s surgery will have access to refer you to a primary mental health unit in your area or even a surgery councillor. Ask! There’s also the charity Mind, who have local branches, small programmes and courses that can help you get started. Locally, if you want a bit more info or 121 support,  you can get in touch with groups such as Cardiff Concern and Stepiau also offer help and can point you in the direction.

Whilst medication didn’t work for me, it’s important to say that I know people who do use medication to help them feel better and it does work for them. They are absolutely wonderful human beings, one, because they were willing to share their experience with me, two, they are brave enough to not let the Big D define them. The most important thing to do is to take the first step and make sure you take stock of how you’re feeling. No matter how hard it is to grab a hold of depression, I’ve found that the first step comes from you and a belief in yourself before it actually gets better.

Thank you to everyone who has pushed me along, picked me up and been there when I needed it. You don’t know how much you’ve actually helped.

4. Love and Mmmmmmmm …

Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

Get your tea and biscuits ready!

So today, I’m sat in a coffee shop, caramel slice and pot of tea at the ready with a massive grin on my face. God, I love caramel! #coffeeshopwa***r

I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

A vast contrast from my last blog post eh?! By the way, I’ve gone over the atrocious, emotionally induced spelling and grammar that must have made reading … Interesting!

Don’t get me wrong, the mental detox that’s been going on has been exhausting, filled with sleepless nights, anxiety lash outs and bouts of tears. It’s all been worth it though. It’s meant that I’ve been able to follow Plan D quite nicely. For those of you just jumping in on this post (and for me to have a handy recap) plan D simply put is:

Stop lying about how you feel
Make changes to your work/life balance
Give something back
Stop being self-critical

Do you know what, on the whole, it’s not perfect but it ain’t bad either!

I’ve got a lot out of my system over the past two/three months. It may sound like a short space of time, but being away from work has really helped, giving me breathing space to actually THINK and more importantly, take action on those thoughts.

I’ve focused a lot of weeding out negative thoughts and putting plans in place to remove the habit – in my next few blog posts I’ll show you what I’ve been doing and see which ones have worked. In the meantime though, I’ve stopped lying about how I feel, which in itself feels like I’ve had the biggest colonic irrigation known to man (seriously try it if you’ve never had it done, it’s just reminded me I’m due!).  I’ve also been less self-critical and focused on things I’m good at – small thing, big change.

The house (aggghhhh!) has taken much more shape and is no longer a constant nag in the back of my head. We’ve removed the need for all contact with an overbearing and busy-bodied neighbour, completed tasks that will make our lives easier and drew a line under the unnecessary need to feel everything should’ve been done yesterday.

Something has clicked where I’ve stopped putting pressure on my self to complete things, I’m also listening to my body a lot more and stopping before I get myself into a mental cyclone. The result? I’m much more calm, less stressed and much happier. Think Bjork, meets Enja.

I’ve written another three posts that have got a lot of things out of my system and allowed me to make a bit more mind-peace with my brother, work and adopting some coping mechanisms when I think or take myself to dark places. Admittedly though I’m a bit too scared to share these just yet. I don’t know if I’m ready to put all of that “out there”. Sorry for being quiet! Although I’m really touched and spurred on by the wonderful people who have chased up another blog post.

Doing all of this has also given me chance to focus on what is really good and think about the Mmmmmmm word.

Mmmmmmmmm … Marriage.

My friends and family most probably can’t count the times where I’ve said I’m not the  “marrying type”.

Much to John’s despair, marriage, for us at least, used to be a far distant idea that other people had until I surprised him and got down on one knee! (Proper traditional babes and yes, if anyone says the two knees jokes again … 🙄)

Focussing on what is good in my life made me realise that John plays a leading role. He’s the star that takes you on the adventure, making you laugh, cry, get angry, cheerlead for, sing-a-long with, poke fun, be mischievous with, see the world and offer a completely different point of view that never fails to surprise.

Mmmmmmmmmushy! But true.

Question: Why wouldn’t you want to marry a person who has all of the above plus has supported you through everything you can possibly imagine – even if sometimes you’re a little bit crazy and hard to understand? Answer: You’ve finally worked out what is important, now get on with it!

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve lost sight, too easily about what is actually important, what makes us healthy both physically and mentally. More importantly appreciating who compliments, and adds to everything that is right with your life.

Thank you, John. I love you.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmarriage!

3. The F Word …

Fuck it! Two words that I’ve said a lot over the last two weeks. Ok, maybe not just the last two weeks but who’s counting?!

Peaks and troughs – one day I’ll learn to listen to my own advice.

So, I’ve left it a couple of weeks to write my third blog post. They say three is the magic number, however, I’m not feeling so magical. It’s more like Magic Mike meets Albus Dumbledore.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to act on my previous self-pledges: stop lying about how you feel, make changes to work/life balance, give something back and stop being self-critical.

Pffffttt! Where do I fucking start?! Cue, peaks, and troughs.

One of the things I like doing is a reflection on a Friday about what I’ve been getting up to throughout the week. It’s primarily work related but I’ve started extending it to the week in general. A reflection over the past two weeks has been pretty enlightening. “Why?!” And “Good Greif!!!” are phrases de jour.

Stop being overly self-critical – I’m still doing this but, I know it’s not going to happen overnight. The last two weeks have seen work pressures replaced with social pressures. I’ve put myself in situations that I thought I should be in when I didn’t need to. I need to learn to say no. I also need to learn that alcohol is not the key. I’ve had a pretty bad relationship with it over the past year. I’ve either not been drinking or getting so drunk that I’m fluent in Ozzy Osbourne!

More recently I had a brilliant pride weekend however, it was riddled with so many anxious thoughts, it wasn’t until over half way through the weekend that I really began to let myself enjoy it. I was too worried about what others thought. It made me act completely differently and I hated myself for it.

I’ve been riddled with anxiety, guilt, self-esteem issues and paranoia in environments that I feel I shouldn’t. When I’m out with friends I feel like I’m a completely different person on the outside to what’s happening inside. Its curtains up, the show’s started and my brain is telling my body to act in a way that I think I should to appease others.

This. Is. Wrong. Fuck it!

One of this week’s troughs (not a men’s convenience – Whuuuup!) happened today where I started a battle that I never intended and now fear that those who I respect and love now have very little respect for me. What’s worse, paranoia punches ensue after what was originally meant to be a gauge of people’s thoughts turned into heated opinions about society that at one point completely went over my head because I was overwhelmed by a reaction that I didn’t expect nor wanted from my original question. The problem with this is that I’m finding that being paranoid makes your thoughts incredibly debilitating. Whereas before I could hold my own today I wanted to curl up and run and even when I did that, it doesn’t stop. Instead, it taunts you for failing to carry on and inflicts hypothetical scenarios. This is bloody awful.

The group that I wanted so desperately to be back in contact with and feel apart of now feels completely different again. I want to run as fast and far away from it as possible because one view I hold and albeit can’t articulate very well, opposes others. It scared me how low I felt after it and I don’t know if this was the tablets or ego or anxiety but I just broke down into tears.

My first, second and third solutions for this is to leave it be, leave the environment and go back to containing my thoughts and feelings in my bubble. My bubble is safe, it’s only me. Had I done this, to begin with, I wouldn’t waste so much time fighting this shitstorm of self- abuse and thinking about things that I can’t change. Even if people did respect me less, the only way I can rectify that is by trying the be the best person I can. God, writing this helps so much .. You’re literally reading my trial of thoughts. Do you know what, fuck what others think of my views. I then stop myself from getting angry and low and behold I’m back to square one. Mental right?!

It’s not just scenarios like this that really hit home. It’s scary how quick you can get into a spiral of self-loathing. Part of the last two months has been trying to get to grips with The Big D. Depression. I find myself questioning the point of thoughts, feelings and being. It’s a place that I’ve skirted around and stamped out as quickly as possible and one that I’m determined to take control of. It’s why I keep putting myself in environments which I know can help but I just need to learn to refine and deal with as they come along. I’ll sort it, I just don’t quite know how yet.

Changes to work/life balance – ummmmmm, yea. So this is my third set of tablets and I’ve never experienced anything like it. Sorry, it’s not pretty. I’ve had more sleep in the last week than in the last month (yay!) however the headaches, toilet habits (don’t want to put you off your tea) and mood swings are really hard to keep track of. I’ve felt every type of emotion I can think of and whilst some people take drugs to get more feeling out of life, I’d be quite happy to settle to where I was before, complete with knitting needles and Gardeners World! Thank you very much.

Read the last bit with pursed lips, just for effect.

One thing I have enjoyed though is finding space … to … think. I don’t want to make this “dear diary” entry sound completely downtrodden and “woe is me”. Being off work has given me the opportunity to talk through things with my family. How events affect them and how they cope. I’ve also made a couple of new friends who are going through similar things which has REALLY helped make sense of what’s going on in my own bubble. If you’ve read this far it maybe because you’re going through something similar yourself … If so speak, write, compose, paint, draw and give yourself time to express what’s going on. It’s also at this point where we start the chocolate digestive ritual. Go on, grab five!

I went on a walk with a friend who really gave me a different point of view on things. Thinking about it, I might not always agree with everyone but, it has never stopped me from listening. It’s also never stopped me from thinking any less of people because they have their own views. The least I can do is think that others would do the same for me.

Lastly, giving something back. I’m running the 10k on Sunday for my little bro. I miss him every single day. I plan on flying over to Barcelona and visit the hospital and staff that looked after him and my parents. My hope is that it’ll allow me to grieve a little and show my appreciation for their help and being able to add something positive to what is currently a negative.

It’s true that others around you have a huge influence and Glyn certainly did. Although I haven’t finished fundraising just yet I want to be able to do something else. I found out that one of our neighbours goes around litter picking to keep our streets tidy. Something simple but really did make a difference to my mood when I found out. Do you do anything that gives back? I’m looking for ideas.

Now, do you want a slice of cheddar with that last paragraph?

Not the most uplifting thing I’ve written but something that’s true. A bit of a struggle but, habits, views, and life doesn’t change quickly all the time eh?! So, fuck it! Fuck the people who don’t really agree with every single thing you say or have an opinion on, no matter how eloquent, informed and educated they are. Fuck the feelings that cause you to feel debilitated and most of all FUCK THE BIG D!

God that bit felt good.

 

 

2. The E’s

The dreaded second blog post! I imagine it’s like the second album jitters that famous artists get for their second album! Do you think Adele was worried about whether “21” would be as good as “19”? After all, even the cheeky girls released two albums! *audible gasp*. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Mind you, Adele had it hard growing up. I’ve left a link below so you can take a look.

I gotta admire her though. She found an outlet and made a whole lotta dollar! Read that again in a Cilla Black fashion (made me giggle).

So after that melodramatic opening, back to The Big D.

Completely overwhelmed doesn’t even come close. Two weeks ago my head was swimming with trying to accept that I have depression. This has been completely replaced with others sharing that “you’re not the only one” and there are other, wonderful people, who are going through similar scenarios and others who want to support and just be there if I’m having “one of those days”.

Thank you.

Thank you because it’s really made a huge difference. Writing this allows me to articulate what’s going on a thousand times better than trying to articulate it verbally. It reminds me when I was a kid, sucking a gobstopper and trying to speak, failing miserably. I’m pretty sure my mum still thinks that was the most peaceful afternoon of her life! Seriously though, your messages, texts, whatsapp’s, calls, comments, coffee’s, walks and the odd game of Welsh scrabble has really helped!

Over the past week, I must admit, I haven’t really focused on one thing and carried on thinking about 20 things at the same time. I know this isn’t going to change overnight, but bloody hell its frustrating.

Instead I’ve tried to plough myself into E’s … Jeez Louise! It’s bad enough taking anti depressants, let alone the hard stuff! I obviously mean Excuses and Exercise. :p

Cue, cuppa and digestives.

Plan D is something I’m going to be working on for a while and maybe there are certain aspects that I’ll always need to work on. Excuses though, are the Darf Vader, Donald Trump and Professor Moriati all combined to tackling plan D. I’m bloody good at excuses.

I tend to blame everything on lack of sleep, it’s my favourite excuse, which in some part is true. I’m tired! But, I’m tired because I’m not doing anything to try and get a better nights sleep. This week IKEA came to the rescue in the form of a black out blind, the 4,7,8 method helps me to relax (link below) and the ear plugs I got to muffle out John’s snoring have been a God send! (Sorry John).

Although I’m not sleeping as soon as I hit the sack … (Naughty and ouch!) I’ve been trying different ways to help me switch off. Using the bed for only sleeping has also helped, instead of staying on my phone the first thing in the morning and last thing at night. YouTube also has way too many videos on the subject, but have a look if this is something that you struggle with too … Hey! You lovely people who sleep well can also let the rest of us know how you’re so bright eyed and bushy tailed as well!

Next, Exercise. I’ve put this second because excuses normally come after the thought of exercise. I’m too tired, I don’t have time and I don’t have the energy sound familiar?

Over the past week I’ve tried to do some exercise every day and that has also really helped me sleep. It’s helped me sleep because I’m tired from exercising but more importantly it’s given me the sense that I’ve actually achieved something today and that I deserve to relax and fall asleep … Zzzzzzz … Boring you?! Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference.

I’m also finding that depression is nothing like any other illness I’ve had before. It’s not something that you should stay in bed looking at the same 4 walls and ceiling … Which for me is actually a white room! I get that getting out of bed can be extremely difficult but, getting out and walking, running, skipping, hiking, climbing, judo or even colour twirling really does make a difference. The stigma of being depressed doesn’t mean it’s a pass for me to spend the day in bed because that’s what other people think I should do. I’m finding every time I get out and do something, it gives me a bit more motivation and head space that I didn’t have before. Determined see.

You don’t have to climb Pen-y-Fan, Craig Cwm Cynwn and Jacobs ladder (my RAF friends don’t do anything in halves) or do a 7k run, yoga class and a tap dance lesson. That’s what works for me but, everyone’s different.

On that note check out my friends blog “These girls do”. Even though it says girls in the title I still learned a lot about keeping active https://thesegirlsdo.com

If you’ve read this far well done, I hope you came armed with the digestives! I’m off out for a run now … Shameless plug alert! Sponsor me if you have some spare cash. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/will-summers-2

Ooooh it’s like watching a Rupual plug! I’ll just leave this here 😜 https://goo.gl/images/JtERVJ

Thank you so much for reading and by all means, share to your hearts content! W x

Adele – https://youtu.be/6LS4KjWjBrg

4,7,8 method – https://youtu.be/N02BnHwS5FE

1. The Big D

The big “D”. Depression. Maybe not what you thought… naughty!

There, I’ve written it. I’ve also just said it.

I’ve become more and more thoughtful about how my mind is actually processing day to day life. I’m also ashamed to admit that I built up such a stigma about mental health and being depressed, that it has taken me over 4 years to admit it. Quite simply put, I was a stubborn sod, who refused the admit that a person like me would actually have depression. What do I, have to be depressed about!?

Thinking about it though, my brain was actually quite clever. It’s stamped out, spun around negativity and refused to accept that I’m not myself – what ever that is! It’s clever because I know I want to be happy and my first way of dealing with unhappy feelings is to refuse to acknowledge they’re there.

I have a wonderful group of family, friends, a steady job, a house and car, so why am I in such a rut? Why, have I chosen to limit conversation, socialise and alienate myself from a wonderful group of people. Why, am I not enjoying my job? Why, do I hate the house I’ve spent 4 years renovating with my partner? Why, am I not like other, happy people? The list goes on but, stick with me. I’m determined.

Writing this down I can actually see that the reason I’m not myself, is because I’m not giving myself a chance too.

Today, I’ve taken my first sick day due to depression. This would’nt have happened before. Will doesn’t do sick days. Will thinks taking sick leave is weak, lazy and a complete waste of time. Although, look who’s sitting in bed, admitting that taking a day is needed and acknowledging that this is important. Important, I know! If I was reading this 2, 3 or 4 years ago, my thoughts would literally scold that statement.

I’ve now been on anti depressant medication for 2 months, something which I vowed never to take. Remember, I wasn’t the “type of person who was depressed” – my doctor, a stern, middle class and well brought up lady with a rather marvellous up-do, scorned at this comment. “To be honest, these are going to make you feel worse in the short term but will hopefully make you feel better after 2 weeks”. 2 months in, 2 different types of pills and I feel fucking shite! But, I’m determined.

So, after 4 years of hiding my depression to myself and others, what am I going to do about it?

No, this isn’t a rhetorical question.

Plan A, well to be honest, Plan D (A, B and C didn’t go well).

Stop lying. I don’t want you to all to think I’ve just fed you a pack of lies but, if I’m honest, I haven’t admitted that something is wrong and would never dream about asking for help or even talking about depression. That needs to stop.

If you’ve read this far … Fair play. At this point I grabbed a cuppa and 2 (by 2 I mean 5) chocolate digestives.

Plan D has been going on for 2 months and involves making changes to my job to make sure I actually enjoy and grow in what I do. I’ve applied for over 20 different jobs over the past year and I’m not waving my rejection flag any more. If other people can see I’m not myself then I need to do something about it. I’m determined.

Giving something back. I challenged myself at the start year to raise money for the hospital who cared for my brother after his accident. I miss him every single day, but you can guarantee that Glyn would be rolling around in hysterics at me running a race. Doing this has really helped me deal with not being with him when he passed away.

The last one is the hardest. Stop being self critical. I LOVE being self critical, I push myself to do everything to perfection. What I say, how I look, what I do and how I see myself literally goes from one end of the spectrum to another. Does this sound familiar? How do you deal with it? This one, is where I need you wonderful people, my friends, not to be afraid to pull me up.

So, I’ve accepted it, I’m working on plan D and I feel so much better getting this down. I’m bloody terrified mind. The black dog is out of the bag. But, I’m determined.