Four years on…

I had a bit of an epiphany recently, yesterday in fact. This was brought about by the fact that I filed for divorce 4 years previously. The night (and day) before last I was not in a great mood, grumpy, miserable with a dollop of useless thrown in for good measure. I had put this down at first to a bad night’s sleep and an early morning SERV call.

When I realised it wasn’t just that, I told myself off, quite forcefully too. I have achieved much more in the last 4 years than I ever thought possible and even more than I had in the previous 4 years. I wrote a list of how I am now worse off than when I was married, there is only 1 item on it, money. I am financially worse off, but that is it!

The list of things I have achieved and am proud of is huge, way bigger than I could have ever imagined. I’ve had a lot of support on this bit of my journey but there is much I have done on my own and I am insanely proud of that.

So, today is a real new start, I am going to be kinder to myself, push myself were necessary and properly build myself back up to the person I once was. I’m under no illusions, it’ll take time and I may wobble but I will get there.

My mental health is still tricky and I am still on medication but, I asked for that help so that makes me strong, doesn’t it?

Watch out world, Sarah IS free! 🙂

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You know you have great friends when…

On Monday evening I was feeling a little low. No reason for it; I had handed in a particularly tricky and probably crap essay, it was the first day of the spring term at university and I’d had a late lunch with a friend. Great day right? Well, you’d think so but obviously my brain didn’t. As the evening wore on I’d started to feel a little down and lonely which is bizarre as nothing had changed from my normal evening routine and, living alone doesn’t mean I feel lonely but on this evening I did.

I posted a status on Facebook saying that I was feeling a little down and asked people to make me smile. This is when knowing that you have amazing friends is brilliant. Two jokes (clean ones!) were posted onto my status along with a couple of funny pictures and some cheery comments, I instantly felt better and less lonely.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I have been blessed with some great friends, some of which were a subject of a post I made about being thankful for http://wp.me/p1Hi8a-d3 and do see several people most days so finding myself feeling lonely was a shock. Add this into a month off university for the Christmas break and I sat wondering why I didn’t feel lonely then when I was alone a lot and wasn’t bothered at all.

I guess it shows that you really cannot control your brain or feelings but it also proves that any contact with others can help. For anyone who was worried about me, I am sorry, that was not my intention but it was a time when I was low and needed picking up and my friends are fantastic at that! I am feeling better now, still a little low but I can deal with that, although if you have a joke you just need to share, think of me, I love jokes especially ones that make most people groan!

These feelings I had are just one of the reasons why I think that the time to talk campaign is vital for everyone with a mental illness as talking, about anything, really does help. You don’t have to talk about my mood or how I’m feeling, in fact, there are times when I would rather not talk about it but any contact is welcomed. Unless, of course, you are just going to tell me to pull myself together, if I could, don’t you think I would have done it years ago? Ooh, that seems harsh but I am leaving it in, just as a gentle warning. I also don’t mind if you have a problem you want to talk about, it gives me something else to think about and won’t bring me down, especially if I am able to help. Being able to help someone makes me happy and makes me feel useful. I may have depression but that doesn’t mean I sit at home sobbing although the time, in fact, these days I am more likely to cry at happy or cute stuff, what a sap! lol

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Time to change and time to talk

Some of you who know me well will know that I am being treated for depression and anxiety, both mental health issues. I also have a slipped disc in my neck but that’s less of an issue to some point. Before you stop reading, this is not a pity post, far from it. 

My mental health problems started around the time I separated from my (now ex) husband, not that it was all because of that, I was also having a tough time at work. The combination of these two events took their toll on me and when I went to the GP after a few weeks of having a cold/virus I broke down in tears and gabbled my problems at him prompting him to sign me off work and prescribe anti depressants. Fast forward a year, I am divorced, living in a small but cosy flat, fostering a cat via a charity and studying Criminal Justice Studies part time at the University of Kent. Life is pretty good, I am in a new relationship with a previous partner however, I am still being treated for depression and beginning to struggle again. It takes me ages to recognise it this time and I eventually admit defeat and hide at home rather than going into University. Weeks become months and I miss a whole term. I eventually go to my GP who increases my medication and I am now on an even keel. This does take a bit of time but I do manage to sit the only exam I had for the year (and I pass!) and I start looking forward to the new academic year. Around this time, I also receive confirmation of my disabled students allowance which you can read about here. This helped shift my mood a lot and I started enjoying life a lot more. It seems a bit wrong to say that as someone who is depressed I shouldn’t be enjoying life, right? Wrong, just because my brain is a little bonkers at the moment doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun or even laugh at a great (or terrible) joke. 

For the last few months, I have been following Time to Change on twitter and they have a campaign called Time to talk. The campaign is all about encouraging people to talk about mental health. I was born in the 70s when this was a hugely taboo subject and, having seen the looks of pity in some people’s eyes, I struggle to talk about it at times too. It is not easy to tell even your closest friends or family that your head is messed up, you’re starting to struggle again or you are just plain exhausted, fed up and worried you’ll never be yourself again. Luckily, I can talk to my mum and friends but try not to do that too much after all, who wants to hear me whinge all the time? 

Does a conversation with someone who has depression have to be about depression? Nope, call me and tell me what you had for breakfast or what you watched on telly last night. Send me a text or post a joke on my facebook wall, I will probably laugh and repost it or, if you follow me on twitter, tweet a cute kitten picture, I love those! 

As important as it is to start a conversation about your mental health issues, it is just as important to start a conversation with someone who has a mental health issue. In addition to this, look at the time to talk campaign and mention it to 1 other person and ask them to do the same. The further we get the word out there, the better. 

Struggling a little tonight

SInce February, I have been working pretty hard at losing weight and have lost around a stone and a half and have gone down 2 dress sizes which is brilliant. So, why is that I am doing so much to sabotage it at the moment? I am eating chocolate like it is going out of fashion, filling up on so much dinner that I feel sick and know that I am heading towards putting the weight back on but can’t seem to stop. 

I’m sat here after some late toast and I am almost in tears. I know what to do to stop this happening but I am struggling to make myself do it. I am waiting to hear from the exercise referral team, I can’t wait to start that and I want to start running (or jogging) as I have a lot of weight to lose and don’t want to get saggy skin. I know that exercise will help a bit with my depression too and beating myself up over the amount of food I’m eating doesn’t help with my depression at all but can’t stop it. 

Well, tomorrow is another day right? I’ll get my butt back into gear tomorrow and start again. Although I have not posted this looking for sympathy or anything if you have any tips on staying motivated, please post them, I’ll be ever so thankful. 

I feel an appeal coming on…

I had a telephone call from a man yesterday who didn’t seem to know very much. He was calling from the DWP to tell me that I am no longer eligible for ESA following my recent medical assessment. Apparently, you have to score 15 points to be eligible and I scored zero! I find this a little bizarre as I had medical evidence showing that my mental health had declined from last year and he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer any of the questions I had, didn’t offer any advice, just kept on telling me that my benefit claim has been closed. I sort of appreciate this “personal” touch of them ringing people up rather than sending a bog standard letter but I would rather have the letter turn up as it at least tells me what I can do next whereas the man on the phone didn’t offer any options up. He did eventually tell me that tomorrow’s payment will turn up as normal and that I can appeal against the decision but I had to drag that out of him. I  used to have to give this information to people face to face when I worked in a job centre and I am sure that I used to advise them a lot better than I was advised!

So, I am now waiting for a letter to turn up, stressed about how everything will go and how long the appeal will take, will it affect my other benefits etc…not a great thing to lump on someone with depression really! Thankfully, I have my first assessment appointment with my mental health team this afternoon, I think I know how that will go already!

A little can mean a lot

As an update to my recent posts about my sofa and the assistance from the Disabled Student’s Allowance, I thought I’d post something less light-hearted than my usual posts. I am not doing this in a woe is me style or in a bouncy, excited look how lucky I am way. I am doing this in the hope that someone else going through some of the things I am going through can be reassured that there are people that can and, hopefully will, help you.

The charity that I approached enabled me to sit comfortably in my living room and, for the first time, to have a brand new sofa. I love it now that I have worn it in and am looking forward to my first overnight guest so I can get use out of the sofa bed. As I now have a smaller sofa than I used to, I have now got space to put my dining table in the living room rather than down in my bedroom. I have really missed being able to eat at a table and it’s ideal for my revision as I am closer to the kitchen cupboards and the kettle. I have still got a little bit of rearranging to do but am leaving that until after my exam.

So, some stuff at home is getting sorted and so is university. I haven’t had the best attendance in the last term so I’ve missed a lot and have had to apply for concessions from the exam board as a result. Mostly, it was my own fault, I was struggling and took too long asking for help. I realise this now of course, which I’d noticed at the time! Anyway, I have had my meeting with a disability advisor at university who has taken into account everything written in my DSA report and what i was telling her and together, we have written my individual learning plan. This plan applies to all lectures, seminars and other learning activities. Unfortunately, this year’s exam instructions have been written too late for this year. However, from next year, I am going to be allowed extra time and will be taking my exams in a smaller room. I’ve said to anyone that will listen that knowing I am about to receive all the help that it makes everything seem less scary. It is a relief to know that I am being taken seriously and that both the DSA funding body and the University are going to do everything in the power to keep me attending and get me through my degree. Being believed is a huge thing when you are suffering with a mental health problem and particularly depression. You can see people thinking that you are faking it and a lot of people don’t understand how you can be depressed but laugh at jokes or have fun. 

The university have arranged for me to have a mentor, I am meeting her for the first time next week and she has an awesome name, Sarah, of course! I am being funded for an hour a week, term time. I don’t know yet exactly what happens with this, I’ve never had a mentor before. 

In addition to this and my ILP, I am getting a fair amount of equipment and software which I was tentatively told on the phone this week. I am getting software that will read any documents scanned into it out loud to me, software that will type up my spoken words, a new laptop, laptop stand, keyboard and mouse, recording device and a few other bits and bobs that I can’t recall right now. I had never, in a million years expected that I would be eligible for help like that. I am still blown away by it and am not sure I really believe it even though I have been reassured by others that I am. I can’t wait for the confirmation letter to arrive! Once it does, I know for sure then that the equipment and other support will be well and truly in place by the start of the next academic year and it has fuelled my enthusiasm for getting back into it more than I would have believed. 

The moral of this long ramble is don’t be afraid to ask help. You may need to do a little bit of work to find out who can help you but believe me, it is worth it. I was considering giving up my studies as I felt unable to cope with everything but now I know that although it won’t be easy instantly, I have enough support in place to make the journey easier than it felt. If you are feeling like you are paddling round in a bucket of porridge, get help as soon as you can. Don’t ignore it like I did, those feelings can overwhelm you to the extent you don’t realise what is wrong until it’s affected your life in a major way. You’re not alone, according to Mind 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem. 

Oh, if you’re wondering where my Atos update is, they cancelled my appointment as they were running late. Luckily, I was only just putting my shoes on to leave when they called, 5 minutes later and I would have been on my way!

Update to Disabled Students Allowance

My final report from the assessor has been sent to me and one of the disabled student advisers at University. I won’t bore you with all the details included in the report but suffice it to say that the equipment and software suggested is a lot and will be well used by me and is making me feel a lot more positive about my future at University. 

As a first step, I have already got an appointment arranged with one of the support officers and my mentor. These will both happen by the end of the month, I can’t believe just how quickly this is all being put in place! In addition to all this support and the equipment, I will have a specific learning plan and potentially special instructions for my exams, too late for this year but well in place for next year. I can also put this all into the request I have made for concessions for my exam and the work I have missed due to a decline in my mental health in the last term, the support that is being put into place now should mean I can reduce non-attendance over the rest of my time there. 

If you are reading this and struggling with your studies and maybe even thinking of giving it all up, please don’t. Speak to your disability advisor or student support office and tell them what’s happening, I promise they will help you. You don’t have to suffer (struggle) in silence but you do need to start the process of getting help yourself, I did and it’s looking like being the best thing I’ve done for myself recently. 

Why you should (sometimes) listen to your mum

I’m sure my mum will see this but I’m not likely to say anything here that I wouldn’t say directly to her. Plus, she lives in the North East of Scotland so she can’t thump me from there! Anyway, my mum is pretty cool or nuts if you prefer. She has, like me, brilliant ideas. Sadly though, also like me, sometimes not everyone is as receptive to her ideas and those ideas tend to get ignored.
We were discussing my recent mental decline were I moaned about achieving loads in the last year and having nothing to look forward to. She obviously took this on board and it rolled around in her brain because the next time we spoke, she’d had an idea. It’s a simple one but really works, well for me anyway. Teased you enough? 🙂
The idea that she came up with is to note down everything I have achieved so far, with dates, in a book specifically for this purpose. Alongside this, she suggested noting down other things that I want to do, places I want to visit, colour schemes for my flat etc.
I can hear the collective groan there but I’ve given it a try and it has really perked me up. I’m more enthused about life going forward and can keep the fuzzy feelings from the things I have already done. It’s a great thing for ideas and reliving memories.
Mum has created a monster though, I was listing out all the housework jobs for each room and decided to do each room in alphabetical order so be aware, it’s a great idea but might take you over. If you still think it’s daft, try it for a week and see how it makes you feel.
Anyway, got to go, need to cross more things off my list!!

I’m still here!

I guess I have neglected my blog lately, I didn’t mean to but sometimes life gets to you and you forget to be sociable either face to face or online! 

I am still here though, going through the normal stresses and strains of life, university and everything. See what I did there? 

I guest posted on another blog today, some of you may not be aware that I have a struggle with depression, have had for some time now and it’s getting tough at the moment. Life can put stress and difficulties on anyone but more so in some respects on those of us with depression. If you have a friend who you think is having a tough time then drop them an email or text them but don’t ask the usual how are you question as you’ll probably get the age old I’m fine in return. Tell them a joke or relate a funny thing you’ve seen, trust me, just laughing can make things seem better. 

Once you’ve done that, check out http://thedepressedmoose.com/ he is hugely honest and might be able to make you see the world through someone else’s eyes if you don’t understand depression yourself.

Reflecting

A year ago my life was all over the place. I was newly divorced, the marital home (which I was still living in) had been sold and I’d been signed off work with depression. I didn’t know where I was going to live, how I was going to afford it or what my future at work held for me. It was all too scary I tried to ignore it which, of course, didn’t work!

Now, I have a little rented place of my own which I am far more comfortable in than I ever was in the marital home. I am at university, something I never thought I’d achieve.
But, more importantly and somewhat sad is that I can count my true friends on one hand. I’m not that sad about it though as the friends I have are the ones I’m keeping a very tight hold of 🙂