When faced with my demons I clothe them and feed them…

Archive for May, 2009

Falling back in love with life…

Hi my dearest peeps. About a week ago I felt my mood lift significantly and realised I was no longer depressed. Obviously, an enormous relief.

Am attending various meetings at and on behalf of my local Service User Network. One project is setting up a research group. The first piece of work we are lookng at doing is around the concept of ‘recovery’, that over-used buzzword in the world of mental health services. What does it actually mean to service users themselves, we will be asking. We will be interviewing a cross-section of service users, analysing the data, then eventually compiling a report. We have to put in a funding bid first of course.

I think this could be potentially a very exciting and hard-hitting piece of work. First of all we have to get the funding and recruit some more member for the group. I feel a new sense of purpose and passion about getting a much better deal for users in our borough, which I have to say is reputedly one of the worst. There is a high level of need and a corresponding poverty of services.

We have lettuce, spinach beet, coriander, parsley and thyme growing in our veggie patch in the garden, all doing well  and fingers crossed there won’t be a massive slug/snail attack to come now that the weather has gone a bit crap. I have strict instructions to go out there at all hours of the day and night to murder snails in cold blood if necessary. Strawberries will come soon and then tomatoes.

The two cats are as gorgeous as ever. I had a long meeting with my son’s social worker on Monday and felt much reassured as a result. Am seeing him again on Monday morning for a new update on my son.

Oh, and I went for a ‘full works’ at the hairdresser yesterday afternoon and now feel exceedingly well-groomed as a result. Half-head of highlights and touch up of my (copper) roots, and long layers cut into my hair. Instant lift to the confidence.

Take care all and thank you so much for reading! Lots of love, Zoe.

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The Play of the Blog…

Time for an update I’m sensing, folks. First of all, for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t already know and adore Seaneen’s blog, this afternoon a play went out on BBC Radio 4 called ‘Do’s and Don’ts for the Mentally Interesting. You should be able to find it on the ‘listen again’ facility here: (Listen again: here is a handy link)

Well I listened ‘live’, wild horses wouldn’t have stopped me.  It worked brilliantly on so many levels. I can see it DEFINITELY being used as an educational tool for mental health professionals, and for consciousness raising among the general public, helping carers to better understand what their loved ones with a mental illness are going through. Also it is a cracking drama with sparkling witty dialogue, wonderful, warm and lively characters (Seaneen and Rob mainly), a love story and the tragedy of the early death of a much-loved parent. It’s really got it all. So off you all go and listen!

For mental health service users like me, it is just such an uplifting listen. There are far too few true representations of mental illness in the media and when they do happen they often ring a little false or contrived, because basically, they are not written by, or with the input of, real sufferers.

Seaneen is a remarkable young woman and a fantastic advocate for us, the ‘mentally interesting’ community. OK , I don’t know if she would agree with that appellation, but the reality is that anyone who puts themselves ‘out there’ publicly with the bravery and honesty that she has really is an advocate whether they know it or not.

There are probably a lot of folk out there who are ‘mentally interesting’ but are more or less forced to stay ‘in the closet’ to some extent because they don’t want to end up having to take enforced premature retirement. For others of us, like me, I don’t have so much to lose, and I guess I do see it as a kind of duty to be as open as humanly possible about my condition. And I do feel I can be some kind of advocate.

I am getting more involved with a local mental health service user network. A group of us are looking at doing some research around the area of recovery: what does it mean to service users? I am getting enthused again. Getting a bit of bounce back in my step.  You can tell can’t you?

Had first session with new therapist yesterday. She’s German, I think. Lives in the Tottenham Roundway, where you wouldn’t expect to find a therapist living! Almost surreal.

Enough for now. Lots of love, Zoe xxx

The Rocky Road to Recovery…

The citalopram would definitely have seemed to have done something. But I know I’m not out of the woods. I’m quite nervous, anxious and jittery. I’m smoking a fair bit (and am normally a non-smoker). Yesterday I bit off a bit more than I could chew by taking a bus to Charing Cross Road to get a book that I decided I just had to have.  I know, what was I thinking! I could have ordered it but I couldn’t delay gratification!

But no harm done. I just realised that I have to nurture and protect myself until I am well on the mend. I struggle to find the words to describe the mental states that I went through over the last few weeks. Even here, where I know I would find a sympathetic and possible empathetic audience. So no wonder the ‘normies’ of the world don’t get it.

And when you can’t get it across, that contributes to the isolation. You are locked into your private hell. What saved me was being able to reach out and ask for help, even if it I couldn’t always articulate why I needed it.

Although the dread, terror and panic has largely subsided I am still left with a certain residue of continuing insecurity, loneliness, low self-esteem.

But hooray for citalopram. It seems to have done what it said on the tin, which has never been the case for me with any other antidepressant. I just wish that massive, rusty, arthritic machine the NHS could have moved a little faster for me at the time I needed it and got me on the stuff a lot sooner (when I presented at ERC on Monday 6th April). I was passed from pillar to post a few times when I was in deep shit. That isn’t really good enough and I shudder to think what could have happened if I had been more of a risk to myself.

But hey. I’m still here! And insecurity notwithstanding, I do know that there’s a whole lot I can do to help myself, while a week ago I thought I was more or less condemned to die. For now it’s enough to keep taking the next best step.

And I’m starting to catch up on my bloggie friends’ blogs too. We’ll never be alone folks, when we’ve got each other. Lots of love, Zoe.

I’m back!

Hi everyone. Blimey, it’s been three long weeks since I felt up to posting here. I have been over at moodgarden quite a bit in the last week however. The folks there have been very helpful and supportive.

So honeys, what happened? Well I thought things had bottomed out, then for a coupla weeks they just got worse all of a sudden. It was a scary experience. I had a headful of dread. Of guilt and shame. Panic. I stopped coping. Had to go to bed for a few days. Then had to force myself to get up again. Have been under the Crisis Team for about a week. Seen several different psychs in the last week. May be going back on Lithium alongside Depakote but not sure yet.

Have now been on Citalopram for two weeks. Maybe they’ve done the trick for me. Certainly the last three days have seen the depression lift to a great extent.

I’m not out of the woods and still feel intermittently tired, wrung-out, jittery, isolated, anxious, somewhat dissociated from the world.

But I am more sure than ever that therapy holds out some hope for working with my condition. I am pretty much convinced that some of my symptoms stem from trauma (PTSD), and this interacts with the bipolar. While the bipolar may or may not improve with a change of meds or staying on the same ones, the trauma is definitely something that can be amenable to therapeutic intervention.

And I will also say that despite having been in one of the most awful places I’ve ever visited (sheer suicidal hopelessness) I also realised that I feared such thoughts, and was able to reach out and let others pull me out of the swamp I was in. That I love life and want to stay alive AT ALL COSTS! That other people’s kind interventions made a huge difference to how I felt. That being able to share how I felt honestly and openly and just be heard and not dismissed kept me hanging in there…with gratitude and hope in my heart.

I was ‘lucky’ throughout this horrific time to be at least able to sleep at night. Sometimes it was the only respite I got. But at least I could look forward to laying down my head on the pillow at night and having only fairly sweet or neutral dreams, or just blessed oblivion, for about eight or nine solid hours. Without meds.

So, I think I’m back folks. Beginning to take the baby steps of getting my life going again. Trying to resist the temptation of biting off too much at once. Gotta give up the fags sometime soon. When the time is right.

Hope I haven’t lost all my readers! Lots of love, Zoe xxx