Thursday, 6 July 2017

Creating My Odyssey: HAPPY? MOSTLY.

Creating My Odyssey: HAPPY? MOSTLY.: Yes, I'm better than I've ever been but I do have my moments. Mostly they centre on The Novel. Despite assurances from so many cri...


Yes, I'm better than I've ever been but I do have my moments. Mostly they centre on The Novel. Despite assurances from so many critique posts and messages over how good it might be/is, my brain still doesn't believe it! Also my fed upness over ever finishing it because I'm the only one who can do that and those muddle in the middle chapters bother me. But Husband is being ab fab and shoving me onward. 'Just get on with it.' He says. Quite right.

And then there's no apparent goal posts. I've got bucket list goals but no actual deadlines and I think I do need those. 'Go to Australia.' By when? E-publish my anthology (Musings of a Butterfly Brain). But I was never satisfied with the writing. So finish it by when? I did get fed up with reading the same articles time and again to trying to improve them. Start archery again. By when? Well, I have given myself by the end of the year, so I do think that's something.

Last but not least is, for both of us, being at home for too long. Too long being two days. We love exploration. Out and about. Driving with the roof off. Exploring towns and villages. Exploring another country. After having been/done something fun, exciting, stimulating, satisfying - being on our boat, on holiday - of course - being in the house being domesticated for a day is okay. We're redecorating the house after years of neglect, and, to a certain extent, enjoying the process. Me doing loads of gardening - that is, pruning, cutting back. etc. - which I do enjoy. But then I begin to feel flat.

The truth is, and we both know it, we're not homebodies. Get out! Do stuff! So here I am, baring my silly old soul again. It does help, you know!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Creating My Odyssey: CARING

Creating My Odyssey: CARING: Not enough attention caters to the carer in most mental health situations. 'How's the patient?' Is asked. Rarely: 'How's...


Not enough attention caters to the carer in most mental health situations. 'How's the patient?' Is asked. Rarely: 'How's the carer?

     I'm aware of how extraordinarily lucky I am in Husband. Quite apart from being my lover/best mate/soul-mate/rock, he's also a brilliant carer. He's looked after me - in cliched terms - through thick and thin, for thirty years. He's fun (we both have a silly schoolboy sense of humour), he's funny, he has a brain the size of a small planet, he's practical, he's scientifically-minded and logical, which is great when it comes to cognitive behavioural therapy . In short, he's the best possible person I could have had throughout.

     He's had it tough. When I was at my worst, he was told by the medics to keep up the positives with me, which meant telling me everything would be okay. Even if he felt shit. Which he did, often. He wasn't allowed, in his own mind, to tell me that he felt shit, that he was peed off with the whole thing. Had to keep all that to himself. Awful.

     As I say, when it came to cognitive behavioral therapy, he's a natural. After my first session with the psychologist, I came home with a handful of bedtime reading matter. He read through it and pronounced: 'This makes absolute sense. Just got to try it out.' And we did. Every time I had a depressive wobbly - which was frequently at the start of treatment - I had to STOP. Change my environment. Talk to Husband about what I'd been thinking about. Difficult, that part. 'I don't know what I was bloody thinking about! Nothing!' But I was. And he was brilliant. I could never do it. I'm a more pracical soul. 'Cuppa tea?' 'Go for a walk?' I've told him he has to tell me what's on his mind, not keep it to himself.

A great thing about our mental health team is that they also take care of carers. They hold coffee mornings for them, and iTalk is available to them. Very good. We can't all be like Husband. I'm just so lucky, and grateful.


Creating My Odyssey: COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY...: ...or CBT for short, in my experience, has been fantastico, but it does help enormously if you have someone - sympathetic friend or fam...


...or CBT for short, in my experience, has been fantastico, but it does help enormously if you have someone - sympathetic friend or family - who can take you through it. I'm extraordinarily lucky in that Husband/rock/lover/best pal/soulmate etcetera is a natural at this.

     I used to scorn councilling. I'd had a bellyful of it. It did work to a degree - I'd leave feeling a tad lighter, perhaps - but it never actually did the trick. Never quite got in there. Just after I'd had my son, a lady known as Beth councilled me. It was one of those sessions where you let it all hang out. In other words, you talk, she listens. And gawd, did I talk! There were long silences when she'd gaze sweetly at me, waiting for me to gas on...and on...and on...

      I'd always hated silences. Always felt the need to fill that shrieking gap. Had been brought up to be sociable and believe that silence = boredom. So I ploughed on. And on...and on. I jabbered on about wanting to be another Calamity Jane, wanting to part of the wild west scene. I'd just wished she would respond. She responded every now and then, but oh! - I was knackered. I was so relieved by the end of the session I left that room and never returned. I'm sure Beth did a brilliant job with other clients, but I needed councillors who responded. Get a bit of feedback.

     I had various other councillors, but I'd often say: 'I don't need councilling. It's biological, not psychological.'  That might have been true in the early years, but when you've suffered forever - well, umpteen of them - your mind begins to distort your thoughts. And this is what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy deals with.

     I believed 'psychiatrist' was a dirty word. 'You don't need a psychiatrist.' That was highly likely a parental (mother) observation. She was an expert, you see. And you listen to your parents. Well, most of us good, sensible people do. When I did finally see a psychiatrist, I didn't tell the old folks. Not on your nelly. The psychiatrist was good. He introduced a new medication which worked well, although the anxiety that had been growing didn't completely disappear, preventing us from fully indulging our interests. He councilled me regularly for some months, and certainly that did help.

     Fast forward seven years. This medication began to wear off as the anxiety and depression had grown worse. My psychiatrist prescribed another new medication. This was to become the catalyst towards my full recovery. Not that I knew it then.

     I plunged, Christmas Day three years ago. I ended up in bed, suicidal on and off. Husband was beside himself. (I'll gloss over the details, because I'm talking CBT here, but I'll write more fully on the crisis later). Husband called in the help of our lovely neighbours. The daughter of one of them remembered the brilliant mental health team her mother had worked for. Husband rang them. They ordered me off the new medication, and gradually, over three years, I was stabalised, then their psychiatrist put me on a combination of medications - my original one plus one other - together called 'California Rocket Fuel'! Love love love! Gimme! I grew brighter, brighter, brighter. But they weren't finished. 'You must do CBT. It's brilliant.' My nurse practicioner had said at the start. He was right.

     A psychologist taught myself and another patient the rules. After thirty years the thoughts had become distorted, and the task was to straighten them out. Every time depression attacked, the first task was to STOP. Whatever you're doing, if it's safe to do so - STOP. Sit down. Go somewhere calm, quiet - if you can. Preferably with your other half/best friend...whoever's your nominated person. 

     Husband, for me, was perfect. A planner, logical, scientifically minded, empathic, sympathetic. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have him. Not everyone has a Husband. But if you can get yourself a CBT partner, so much the better. After STOP, you must think about what you were thinking. Depression is set off by a thought, and you have to work out what that was. That's the difficult part. Often, at the beginning, I would eventually reach that point and tell him the thought, however fleeting, that had passed through my head, then I'd burst into tears. Success! We'd touched on the problem.

     Depending on the circumstance, you have to ask the question: Is that a fact? I felt stressed walking down a frenetic town high street. I burst into tears. All too much. We sat in the car and talked. Yes - my stressed feeling was real. The town was frenetic. Fact. Another circumstance was the feeling of deep anxiety over camping at a wild west living history event. I had a history, when anxious and clinically depressed, to arrive at one of these events and encountering not-so-friendly individuals who would denounce whatever you were doing. My brain had trained itself to remember this. My anxiety was trained on this. 'Is it a fact that I meet unfriendly people every time I attend an event? No. Not a fact.

     The sub-conscious is gradually, over a long period of time - in my case, two years - retrained to think differently. You're not even aware of the fact. A problem to be fixed was that any length of time being in the house, I would grow depressed and cry. I needed to go out, which we did, and my mood would lift. I reflected back to when I was a young mum, and a return home was filled with dread. I would be depressed and having to care for small children. My sub-conscious had remembered this and translated that thought into the current moment. Husband reinforced the fact that I was no longer looking after small children and I was my own woman again (yes - he was brilliant!). 

     I must stress that cognitive behavioural therapy doesn't work for everyone. It has to be approached with the right frame of mind. Husband's niece had used CBT and she told me how successful she had found it. 'And it'll work for you too.' It does help if you have an inner belief system, which I obviously did, because I felt better at the mere suggestion that CBT would work for me. I was/am a stubborn moo, too, determined that I would return to a life full of exciting possibilities. I'm not made for being comfortable at home, for putting up with this life of domestic contentment. So be it.

     Gradually, over time, my thoughts have other, fun and interesting things to reflect on. Things to look forward to. My sculpture course, a surface pattern design course, travel, a successful living history event, open mic nights, our daughter and our granddaughters, our son, this blog, our writing group, Facebook groups... We're slowly fixing up a house that's been sorely neglected over the years.

     Finally, I can honestly say I feel better today than I've ever felt! So there you have it. I was worried, at the beginning, that I'd slip, that the medication would stop working, but scientifically-minded Husband pulled me up time and time again. 'You're cured. There's no reason to feel low.'

     My brain now believes that. Finally.

Monday, 3 July 2017


Creating My Odyssey: NOT PURGED, LEECHED OR CHUCKED OFF A CLIFF: I'm grateful I wasn't born centuries ago. I would have been purged, leeched, made to vomit, thrown off a cliff, or institu...


I'm grateful I wasn't born centuries ago. I would have been purged, leeched, made to vomit, thrown off a cliff, or institutionalised and never seen again. I arrived during the early fifties, when an anti-depressant was discovered purely by chance. I'm rather pleased about that.

    My youth consisted of creativity, quirks, moods, and my dominant mother, the steel-minded daughter of a post war Olympics organiser. Says it all, really. She found my sensitivities difficult, and the family teased me about them, then I was told off for 'overreacting'. Talk about a double whammy. They were a down-to-earth, practical lot of the 'pull yourself together' (like a pair of curtains – my words) sort. They were funny, I'll give them that, but I felt judged by family and their friends, particularly my older siblings and their wives, and was discouraged from excitability. I mean, if you're excitable, you're excitable.

    I matured. So did my interests – hundreds of them. Not for me a golden future of domestic bliss, ta muchly. I wanted different. I took flying lessons aged seventeen, when everyone else was learning to drive (a newspaper photo of me at small plane cockpit controls, trying to look intelligent, appeared on a school noticeboard. Some bright spark had drawn a moustache on me. Hah!). I rowed on the Thames as soon as l learned the term 'rollocks' (the metal thingies that hold the oars). I travelled abroad. I Greyhounded the States up, down, and sideways, two years running, then I met Husband. My soul mate/rock/best pal. As interested in Life, the World and Everything in it as I was/am. The same schoolboy humour. This was IT. We got engaged. I got scared. We married. I felt low. All this happiness and bliss biz applied to engagement and marrying had taken a trip to Outer Mongolia as far as I was concerned. 'You should be happy.' Mother said. She was 'right'. She knew lots. I enrolled on a three year art course and felt better. Then I became pregnant. Wham! Anti-natal depression. I recovered. Gorgeous daughter was born. Wham! Post natal depression. 'You should be happy,' they (mostly family) said. 'Lovely baby, lovely husband, nice home..'

    I coped. Just about. Lots of tears. Fact was, looking back, even had I been well, I would have been bored silly. I'm not domesticated. Mother used to comment on my undusted house. Whatever. Boooring. A year later I was prescribed anti-depressants, which helped enormously. 'So that's what it is!' Said mother. She still didn't fully understand. I attended coffee mornings like they were going out of fashion, did voluntary work with baby strapped to my front, produced art for exhibitions, and wrote light-hearted anecdotes. I even started my humongous novel, typing with one hand while I fed baby with the other.

    Three years later, I had my son. Husband and I had always wanted family and felt that we were now aware of depression and would manage it better. Hey ho. The depression was worse this time, and God – did I hate young motherhood! 'Eat your greens.' 'Sit up straight.' 'Don't get your clothes dirty.' Guggh. Discipline had to be taught, and manners, respect, dadehdah. But I did it, and they're brilliant kids/young adults, now. Our best mates. 

They reached eighteen and I booted them out of the house and told them to get on with it. Just kidding. But I did quit nannying. And oh, what a relief! I liked their teens. I like teenagers and their sometimes extreme points of view. Just point them in the right directions sometimes. When they drive you insane, you can nip out for coffee and leave them to stew.

    When my daughter produced twin daughters ten years ago, we rejoiced. They're brilliant. And fun. Oh, we love grannie/grandadhood! But I was still up and down with anxiety and depressions, and my medications had changed over the years. I'd had a medication crisis - too many types and mixes - but when you're relying on the medical establishment and official sources on the internet, what's a person to do?

     Three years ago nearing Christmas, I was prescribed another anti-depressant. On Christmas Day I became suicidal for two days. The most revolting thing that's ever happened to us, and my poor husband – my amazing carer - was at his wit's end. The neighbours came in to help. One of them had worked with a local mental health team, and her daughter said: 'Mum – have you got their phone number?' I was invited in to see the team (I was a shambled wreck – 'reasonably kempt', according to the nursing report) on New Year's Day. Gee whizz! I was taken off the new medication, stabilized, given a new one on top of my old medication – called 'California Rocket Fuel', then, finally, CBT''d (cognitive behavioral therapy).

    I can't say that creativity helped throughout all this, just that I needed to do it. Particularly writing, as I could write out my feelings, which did help. But art went for a dive. I did produce some art, but my enthusiasm was as low as low.

     Both my parents died the following Christmas, and various other family crisis occurred, but, compared to THE crisis, they were nothing. I got better and better. Never felt this good. Ever. 

Since my literal cure, the creativity has returned. I'm painting, writing, sculpturing...etcetera-ing. I'm blogging. I have a new life to build, and build it I will. Just see if I don't.