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Friday, 7 November 2014

A Day in The Life: Depression - Me, Myself and I, Warts, Clutter and All

Today I participated in a project called 'A day in the Life, a project which intends to offer a snapshot of the lives, and wellbeing of people who experience mental health difficulties in England. I and - hopefully - 800 others - will post their 700 word account of their day living and coping with mental health, as it presented itself, today 7th November. (#adayinthelifemh)

“What day is it?"
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favourite day," said Pooh.” 

As I'm working from home at the moment on a phased basis, no one really gets to see what a day in the life, or rather, a day in my life, is like. I might exchange the odd pleasantry with a passing neighbour, with the woman who served me at the post office or (quite frequently these days) at the pharmacy, but then I go home to my flat while Mat is at work and lead what is a sort of hidden life.

Of course, none of us really knows what the other is up to. I have a friend who is a high powered communications professional (as she is so high powered I really feel it should be communications with a big 'C' but grammar forbids it!). When I imagine her at work I see a corner office, both sides floor to ceiling glass, looking out over the beautiful city of London. I see the latest Mac computer on her desk and expensive impenetrable modern art hanging on the other walls of her office as she takes phone calls from Dubai and Hong Kong whilst eating a Larabar for energy, with a coterie of secretaries taking minutes from her meetings and telling the CEO that she will be with him / her in "just a few moments". Carly Simon's "Let the River Run" is playing loudly as the camera pans out to the whole of London, which my friend will shortly be in charge of. That and the rest of the world.

Executive Barbie. Surely an oxymoron?
Anyway, my friend is super high-powered and would be unlikely to wear her hair like this.

Another friend is the CEO of a charity which helps African children. When she goes off to African I imagine her days as Diana-like footage of her in a series of villages where hundreds of children crowd around her, clinging to her legs and arms and screaming her name with joy on their faces (she's wearing a tasteful white shirt and pale khaki trouser outfit) as the music from LiveAid or the Soweto gospel choir (either, depends on the day) plays in the background.

From Working Girl. Still SUCH a good film.

In my case, I'm working from bed because there is no chair in the house that I can sit in for more than an hour without being in such discomfort that work becomes impossible - which doesn't sound like rehabilitation to me. Today I was just getting ready for a snooze mid afternoon after finishing my half day of work when suddenly my phone rang. I had totally forgotten that I was expecting an appointment from Posturite (a company which supplies ergonomic equipment for people like me who've chucked themselves down the stairs accidentally or have RSI etc.).

I think I need one of these home recliners. And the chair, too, obv.

I struggled out of bed to buzz them in and went down to greet them. It was really only when we were climbing the stairs (carefully, always so carefully) that I realised that the flat was (is) in a complete state. There are medication packets and pots and pans all over our kitchen table. There is clean washing in small piles over every visible surface in the rest of the front room and hall. And then there's the bedroom. This is a domestic bombsite. Clothes, unfolded, cover the desk, chairs, and end of bed. On my bed itself are about 6 pillows, several cushions, one double and one single duvet, my laptop, my iPad, two books, medication, water bottle, two phones and chargers, and possibly a plate which once held some biscuits. And the rest of the room was already in a state - bags all over the floor (the edges of the floor, so I can't trip over them, but still) a stepladder in the corner by the wardrobe. Oh dear me. I don't need a Posturite assessment I need the Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.

I'll spare you the picture of my bedroom. Shame prevents it I'm afraid. Tangerine face: yes. Lying under the duvet: yes. Complete carnage which would make my poor mother die of shame. (And my husband, friends, and even me): afraid not.

Here is what I posted for the #dayinthelifemh collective writing exercise today. This is my day, warts and all. I wish you all good days, and a wonderful weekend ahead, whatever you do and wherever you go.

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 
― A.A. Milne

Today: 7th July. Jessica Carmody for A Day in the Life - Mental Health
Subtitle (credit to Pooh): What I like doing best is Nothing.

At 7.04 I slowly rolled and cajoled my frail frame from its imprinted resting place in the bed and put on layer after layer: jumper, cardigan, scarf, woolly hat, woolly socks, Ugg boots. Then I shuffled slowly into the kitchen. Morning breakfast and pills are a routine I go through without much thought or emotion. Rice Krispies weighed, milk poured on, spoon from drawer, vitamin C & pain killers taken. I felt unemotional about the whole routine. Back to bed.

Today was a work day so I looked through my emails. I opened documents sent to me for review and started to make comments on each one. Once I get going I find it easier to do. Today wasn't one of my worst days so I only felt a medium level of fatigue perusing the documents line by line. This woke me up - or woke my mind up at least, and I started thinking about the document from more angles. I'm glad that this works. Work works on my by making me feel more capable of participating in it, of having a view and of contributing to my job. Today - or at that moment anyway - normal me won the depression versus normal me contest that is fought every day.

I worked for 2 hours then went out. Despite the ache in my back today I wanted fresh air. I'd been so exhausted the past two days that I had avoided going out and this had taken its toll on my back which was stiff and uncooperative. So wrapped up in a further thick coat I made my way to the outside world.

Because I have physical injuries you can't see from the outside, I avoid people. That could also be an excuse. I don't much like running into people when I feel low, certain that they can tell I'm struggling and wondering what I will do if they ask me a question, fearing I might burst into tears because that conversation is a step too far. I don't feel too ill today, so when I meet a server from the nearby pub I say "Hello" without avoiding eye contact. It's a slight struggle but I do it, and this is good.

The foot bridge is the hardest part physically, but inside the park I am afraid of other people’s dogs and – complementing this – dog owners who don’t understand how terrified I feel if their dog rushes at me barking. Again, today is a good day and although I have three close shaves with rushing, barking dogs, they keep their distance from me and I kept going. Another fright came when a runner whipped past me too close for comfort. I felt like crying because I was afraid of being hit and upset by the thought of falling.

“Just breathe” I told myself. And I did. “The park is beautiful. Look at the leaves. Look at the deer.” And I saw them. And they were.

I made it to the shop to buy more Rice Krispies but felt extremely tired and weak. I had been out 1.5 hours and now craved secure, locked distance between me and the world outside.

I had lunch –more Rice Krispies, a slice of cold pizza, two biscuits. I can’t be bothered to prepare anything more complex. Food then rest. And I knew I had more work ahead.
I didn’t want to do more work, at this point. I was exhausted from the walk and “depression” was winning over “normal me”. I fought back. I took phone calls, made decisions, followed through with the actions required. “Keep going,” I told myself. Just a while longer and you can rest.

I checked Twitter and my blog to see if anyone knew had followed me or showed interest in my writing about depression / life. Then I relinquished all external communications and picked up my book, ate two chocolate biscuits, and buried myself down into the duvet for a rest. I had gone out, worked, eaten and spoken to people. Enough. I wanted time to rest and gave myself up to reading and then to sleep.

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