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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Me, Myself and I Part Two: A Day In The Life of MH Tuesday 10th February

Back in November I took part in A Day if the Life MH, to catalogue in four days across a year the different days experienced by the many, many of us who suffer with mental health conditions. 7th February saw part two of this. 

It was interesting re-reading my first contribution from November and then the entry I wrote (below). How much has changed; how much has stayed the same. Physically I am so much stronger than I was only a month after my accident; mentally I've also come a long way, but there is a difference between the physical injuries that I sustained, which are temporary in so many ways, and the depression I've been battling against (or with...sometimes perhaps that is a better way to put it) for most of my life.

Sometimes I hate Mondays. And sometimes Tuesdays. 
And Wednesdays. And...well, you get the picture.

Luckily day two of this four day project didn't fall on pancake day or I may have been tempted to write a piece as if talking wiv my maaf full of so you cnt tarl wurt m sehng. 

Or another where I wrote: "I didn't get out of bed today because I felt too terrible." This is exactly the reason the project is so special, though: it allows all the many voices and experiences of mental health to speak side by side. I follow many sufferers on twitter whose illnesses mean they can't work because their conditions are utterly debilitating; others like me can work and function day to day, in spite of the (at times) horrendous demons we're fighting inside of us. This project sends such a fundamental message about mental health: we are not one or two diagnoses. We are all different and we are all functioning in different ways. 

"When Great British Bake Off ended. When will it start again. When?"

For me the most important aspect of this is for people everywhere to realise that, while mental illnesses can be exceptionally challenging, debilitating, ruthless in their devastating impact on sufferers, sufferers fight on through them. Sometimes people can't cope anymore and end their lives; sometimes people keep living with their illness. Sometimes people work, like me, because it is possible to live with an illness and still work; some cannot. I'm one of the lucky ones. I can work. I can go out - most of the time.

"Now how do I work this thing again?"

Here's my entry. And now you must excuse me, I'm going to get back into bed and eat ALL THE PANCAKES. All at once.

"Back off, Bart, those pancakes are MINE!"

"Tuesday was slightly better than Monday, in that I treated my restless leg syndrome and extreme anxiety (side effects of taking escitalopram) with a full clonazepam tablet and therefore managed to sleep, and have anxiety dreams only for the last two hours of the night, rather than all night long. It's hard to start a day when you feel that you've already been on the stress treadmill for 8 hours before 7am.

Thanks for the memories, scary dreams. You really help start my day with a bump in the night.

It had already been an overwhelming week, work-wise, with not one but three full time things to work on in only seven hours a day, at least in theory. In practice I worked twelve hours on Monday and was so tired out that I didn’t make it to my class in the evening. I am conscious of not wanting to let people down and not being seen as weak or less than because of my illness. I get told a lot that I’m still seen as valuable, but I’m not sure that I believe it myself, so I work very hard. Since the last day in the life in November I’ve worked at being more assertive about my needs, but I do wonder whether this will affect my career long term. I know that my company is supportive, but because I doubt myself and 'mind read' or 'fortune tell', I sometimes wonder whether anyone will ever promote me now that they know that I have a mental illness.

"There's not much room for mindfulness when my mind is full. Mmmmm, Donuts."

Yes, at times like these the worse angel within me likes to practise mind reading, where I concoct in my head a limitless list of scenarios of what people might think of me: “She’s good but always ill.” “She’s not working enough hours to have a chance of being promoted.” “She needs to do more work.” “She didn’t try hard enough.” I have to be careful not to push myself so hard that I break or burn out because that would be bad too: “She’s always pushing herself too hard and doesn’t know when to stop.” “She is always stressed because she isn’t working ‘smart’ enough.” And on it goes.

"You're crap."
"No you're not, you're great, you work really hard and do well!"
"No, you're crap, 'cause you have depression so you're defective. No one's ever going to value you."
On and on it goes

I start the day with a short run of two miles, slowly getting my body used to exercise after the horrific fall last year which nearly paralysed me / nearly ended me. The mind reading comes and distracts me from my run – a good thing. I manage to do the run without stopping and feel some of the nervous energy dissipate, which is a welcome relief.

Today I get some help with parts of my work, and I make more of an effort to list my tasks, prioritise and take action step by step, which makes me feel more in control.

I’m juicing breakfast, lunch and afternoon to try to improve my mood with added nutrients and after a break at the weekend, two days into the week and I’m already feeling calmer and healthier. After my physical accident last year I lost my sense of smell and most taste too, so gingery, veg and fruit-filled juices are something I can taste, and feel the benefit of in spades. I never thought I would go down this route but with all the medication I’m taking it’s hard to be healthy and I’m enjoying the mental benefits this is having.

"A ba-what?"

I make sure I take a short break in the afternoon over lunch because if I don’t take breaks I tend to become more stressed and less productive. It helps – a bit – but it’s hard to stop thinking about all the work items on my list and my head is spinning with a desire to do well and deliver what I said I would.

This is what taking breaks, prioritising and getting exercise helps me avoid. Most of the time.

The end of this day is better. I make it to my art class and really enjoy painting with acrylics – I learn some blending and mixing techniques and paint plausible looking autumn leaves (if more impressionist than a photo fit). Creativity makes me feel good. I come home, write a blog post, and get into bed to listen to Woman’s Hour, another technique for focusing my mind on interesting things and not on my negative thoughts. And I sleep. Today was quite a good day."


  1. I admire you. I don't think you realize how much you do in life. You are really give mental illness a kick in the pants. You fight it everyday and you are hanging in there and not giving up. It means a lot to us to hear this. By the way I'm watching the Great British Bake Off. I 'm sorry Martha had to leave, I wanted her to win.

    1. Thanks so much Donna for your lovely comment. It means a lot to know just that people are reading and that some are getting something out of my writing. Some days it is very hard to hang in there, but I guess I'm trying to learn (trying!) to tell myself "Wait another day, it might be better tomorrow," and keep going. And yes, Martha. I find every person who leaves that show a shame, because they are all so brilliant! I used to bake a lot but never the phenomenal concoctions that talented bunch of bakers come up with! Take care, and I hope you will keep reading and keep in touch x Jessica