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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Roma = Amor. Something for Everyone: Shoes, Sights, Sounds, Spectators.

A couple of weeks after Rome and I'm still wondering where my waistline has gone, despite putting in a few more runs, walks and #fullerforlonger meals (thanks Marks and Spencer, but as I'm sure you know, fuller for longer does not equal fettucine a la Roma). I'm determined to get it back before I fly out to my next destinations New York and Poland, where I know for sure there'll be some more good food and drink on my menu...(I cannot resist.)

Colosseum and Forum...A View within a View

Luckily the magic of everything that makes up Rome lasts as long as the nail polish I applied on day one, and after a swift re-coat the other day I'm still imagining the eternal city in all of its glory. Graffiti, street signs, what seems like normal houses and streets to the people of Rome and will never, ever seem normal or commonplace to me. Everything I saw was worth photographing, affirmed by the two hundred or so pictures I managed to snap in just three and a half days.

Graffiti and street signs. It's art to me. So it's art.

We all grow older day by day, and those days seem to flash by past faster and faster so that the years seem to catch up with me, piling on top of one another and cramming what used to be full memories into snatches here and there. I for one am approaching a significant birthday milestone (or a mid-milestone, if you will) so more and more aware of my increasing grey hairs and diminishing grey cells. In the meantime I am delighted with the immortal beauty of Rome, particularly when the British weather really delivers on a rainy day (like yesterday) and I ask myself whether I really paid my decorator enough to plug my beautiful original wooden windows with filler and weather-resistant paint. (No. I'm sure I didn't.) What's more, writing this blog (I hope) will mean that unless the all powerful force of Google somehow ceases to exist, then I'll still be able to access these posts in my age to remind myself on (a laptop? That's like, so 2011!) of the places I visited in the times I did.

Totally gratuitous shot of Santa Maria Maggiore...
just because I was crossing the street and there it was

Never can one be more aware of time than when visiting the Colosseum. I first saw it face to face with only air separating us, rather than internet, in 1995, when it was closed for renovations, as was the forum. Now it's open for visitors and we were fortunate enough to get tickets to visit. They only let 3000 people within its confines at a time - I don't know whether because of health and safety or because someone somewhere has done the sums and figured out that it would take so many years for all those feet to damage the brick remains of brutality and beauty - but 3000 it is, nowhere near the original numbers of blood-thirsty masses for panem et circenses.

Look carefully to see the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns

I shall now say the following only once: "Fortunately, I had the trappings of a broken back so couldn't stand in line"; I say this because I told a very nice security guard this in Google Translate Italian and he let the three of us in immediately, without having to give up or try to stick it out in a 45 minute+ queue. (I would never have made it - grazie mille! Plus it turns out I actually said completely the wrong thing. But I got us in anyhow. We who are about to be tourists, salute you.)

Rome with a Queue. A BIG queue.

Apparently it was possible to get all those thousands of people in and out of those 80 original entrances in minutes. It was difficult to imagine the original experience, even with the reconstructed 'floor' in sandy-coloured wood at one side of the stadium. In its current state, far easier to peer and crane necks to all those many cells beneath the stadium 'floor' to where the sacrificial lambs of Rome were held before slaughter at the emperors' pleasure.

The left showing the platform recreated; the right the pit of the contenders

I've seen Gladiator, with all its many floors (I mean, "Roma, victor", really?!) and could not assimilate the remains of the Colosseum's amazingly complex, sturdy structure (even in ruins) with all those thousands of people. Plus, I can't believe the footage didn't include somebody, just somebody, complaining about the depth of the stairs to even get in. This wasn't Quidditch at Hogwarts; this was real life, and those steps were and still are steep.

Harry Potter confirms: "You're right, you can bet those 
spectators didn't try to climb any stairs to watch Quidditch."
We thought so, Hazzer.

So, when in Rome, you can't escape the tourists milling around the villas, columns, marble, piazzas and everything else. It's unlikely that you'd ever find any of these places deserted, because Rome is a true European city (unlike London) and things really do seem to keep happening twenty-four-seven. I couldn't escape them, as you can see from my photographs, but in the end, you either put up or move out, and I wasn't going anywhere else. (Plus, of course, I was one of them. Until I'm the tourist equivalent of David Attenborough this blog's never going to feature places that seem to be completely uninhabited, save the 15-20 production and transport crew accompanying me behind the lens....)

Colosseum and "Cheese!": your unavoidable collection of tourists.

Although I consider myself in part to be someone who has lived in New York and therefore possesses a little piece of that city for myself and in my life, I still hang on to my right to love the touristy joints (or what pass for them in my book). I hope I don't lose my outsider lens of any city I visit, although I fear I've lost it of London. In Rome, everything was special and unique, every terracotta shade of building, every style of iron grid over windows, every square. I loved seeing the stunningly preserved Ara Pacis and Caravaggio between gelati, but I also loved the ready-to-rent streetside scooters, the graffiti and yes, the washing hanging out of the windows, the nuns and the light-up popes. Everything is extraordinary.

Scooters-to-go: Knocking Boris Bikes right out of the water.
On the way to Trastevere

Old mosaics for new at the tube station by the Piazza del Poppolo

So no advice on what to see, if that's what you're looking for. I guess I think everything's worth it - which is a little unhelpful! The only thing I'd advise to the more discerning tourist (apart from telling the selfie sellers where to stick it) is not to dine in the main squares of the key attractions. The prices are sky high and the quality rock bottom. Use Trip Advisor advisedly, but really, just try and explore a little left field. My personal recommendation for guide books that are good for food is to select the Time Out guides, but second to that, perhaps choose reviews in the original language (if you can read them) or at least those which use better grammar - or bother to try! Although, for gelati, I consider myself lucky to have found (for starters, because it took two goes) San Crispino, plus Valentino which was great when we couldn't find Crispino (its sign is tiny!). (Okay, don't say I never give you anything. Here are Trip Advisor's best gelati recommendations...)


Still, I had to see the glories of Rome one more time, ten years after my first visit, so I had to see the wedding cake, the Pantheon, forum (which is a real forum in the sense of amalgamating the styles and structures across different imperial eras, despite the attempts of emperors to tidy things up), and of course - again the Colosseum.

The Fantastic Forum

And final advice: buy some shoes. I brought six pairs out with me, and returned with nine. In retrospect I'm glad I took some with me; and my bank manager's also quite delighted.

My shoes + two pairs by Carlo Cecchini Shoes.
Leather that feels as soft as silk

I see when I read through this blog that it is a mishmash of experiences, the ancient and the new, the colourful modern and statuesque ruins, but I suppose that's how Rome was. A few slices of history, a sprinkling of the new and a hefty serving of gelato. Bellisima every way. x

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

La Dolce Vita...When in Rome, Let's Roam...

La Dolce Vita...

When you’re all grown up in your thirties, and I say that with a profound sense of irony, for anyone out there who might miss it (i.e. who doesn't know that I’m a sarky mare) it can be hard to get together with beloved friends from one’s younger and more vulnerable years. My particular group of great friends, the ones you meet in your first term but do not wish to give up in the second, but in fact are the ones that you keep for life, see each other with bittersweet rarity these days, with all of us living either in different parts of the country or – at various times – abroad.

Centurion on his cell...

There is some sense of rightness, then, that in order to reunite we would need to do so on foreign soil, where all of our ‘otherness’ lives, our different jobs and partners and paths are momentarily put on pause while we hold our beautiful reunion together in a place unknown to all of us which sets us, once more, on terra firma of our long lost university days, when everything was before us.
And so to Rome, which wasn't built in a day, but where our marble and stone friendships survived in all of their original glory and rose to their former obelisks and mighty friezes as if we had never started to lay foundations elsewhere, as if this, the original project of our friendship, was all that there was.

Roma Roof Terrace

At university we had wanted beauty and love and learning, so there was really no better place (especially considering half of our party were Classicists anyhow), and there was also tennis and the promise of a Matisse exhibition as well as the eternal gelati and food in general to lure us. We stayed in the leafy and peaceful Parioli neighbourhood at a magnificent place found on airbnb which catered for 5 people, perhaps an unusual number for most, but perfect for our purposes. Here we looked out from a great height onto the unused gardens of the Polish embassy and ate slices of prosciutto di Parma on the roof terrace each morning (and possibly afternoon and evening, such is my obsession with that particular food stuff…)


I had packed with some ridiculousness, nodding at the style I so wanted to exude in line with the holy grail of fashion streets – la via Condotti – six pairs of shoes and four pairs of sunglasses, one per day. I planned my outfits to allow me to - comfortably (my feet (no I’m afraid I must mention my feet and my back, even though their decrepitude does not suit the style of a blog about Rome…) – explore the known and the unknown piazzi of the city and its treasures whilst styled in my most beautiful dresses and outfits.

Gardens of the Villa Borghese...Can you picture the nymphs at play?

We had a few shared quests: to eat ice cream every day, to eat well every day, to see Caravaggios and Berninis between this eating, and wander through the squares and streets together absorbing the sound of church bells and bicycles and melodious Italian voices (broken only by the equally eternal street salesman with their “Selfie!” shtick).

Security after the Selfie-Stick-Sellers

I joined the party post tennis, post sunburn from the tennis when there was no shade of any kind, but pre-Matisse Arabesques exhibition and a visit to the fundamentals of Rome: the Colosseum and forum area. With only four days I knew there would be some effort needed physically to attain more flavours of the city than simply a couple of (large) scoops of gelati, but nonetheless, barring my near decision to nix the whole trip in favour of a few hours more of precious sleep at 4am last Thursday when my alarm went off, I was delighted and determined to do.

Panzanella on the terrace. Perfect lunch.

I arrived in time for lunch on the terrace of our apartment, which was in a modern-ish building (comparatively; I think Augustus probably would have loved to have built marble elevators but even he couldn't make that work…) but with views of other mansion blocks (and I really do mean ‘blocks’) in the area. Jasmine and massive Amaryllises, as well as an actual Roman vine gently sat in stately fashion beside us and above us as we indulged in panzanella, prosciutto (of course) and pink wine.

Ah beautiful (not cruel) amaryllis

(I should say that I’m not planning to write much about my friends here, except to say that they are wonderful, because that part of my life is not just private (and of course they are not blogging so I respect their right to privacy) but even though I've made some attempt to tell you about our friendship I don’t think I could convey here how it works with all of our differences and ever make you understand how magical and potent a mixture of all the right aspects of a delightful long-standing bond ours is. Plus you’d never get all the private jokes, though some of those may make it into here, and if you’re not laughing, well, then, I was right, wasn't I?)

Dinner of steak and rocket...and parmesan savings. Delicious!

Fresh food is found aplenty in the UK of course, but just as you cannot, really, get croissants that actually taste as if they've been bought straight from the boulangerie, in London, you also find it hard to find prosciutto di Parma that has the remarkable dual features of being ultra-thin but extra-fatty and flavoursome. I’m a complete prosciutto addict at the best of times, but this stuff. It was something else. Worth the plane fare on its own. I had prepared for the trip carefully by packing loose clothing that would accommodate my ever expanding belly during the food fest, and I was glad even after that first lunch to have done so. I even indulged myself with a nap in the afternoon, choosing being awake and dinner with friends over the Galleria Borghese, because I still need to make these choices to ensure that I stay healthy and can last through a holiday.

Tonnarelli. So, so, so good.

I chose dinner locations (not sure why I decided to assume the stress position...) on both nights we ate out together during my visit, by the coincidence of my nap on the first day and because I and my friend Kristian remained alone for the last night. As always I was concerned to choose a good enough location (hello higher standards, nice to see you came with me to Rome) and consulted a few reviews on Trip Advisor, keen to see reviews in Italiano and for the price to suit our not-too-deep-pocket requirements whilst the menu satiated our tightening waist bands.

Beef carpaccio and red radicchio...delicious

At Mamma Mia, near the Galleria Borghese, dinner service begins at 7:30pm and I managed to convey in stunted Italian a request for table for four at 8pm to the charming waitress who decided – though it was clear that to make this request comprised the sum total of my Italian – to be polite and answer me in Italian (grazie mille!). We ate amazing first courses of delicate crepes with tomato sauce, zucchini and other vegetable tempura, presented in tiny ‘chip pan’ like mesh container, and thick, juicy mortadella adorned with balsamic dressing to add the sourness to the meat’s sweet flavour.

Crepes at Mamma Mia...and all I can say is, well, how can I resist you?

The next point is trickier to navigate: are we hungry enough for primi (pasta) AND secondi (meat) or should we divide and conquer? We chose the latter option (and I would recommend that less is more because they really do give you ‘more’) and therefore had the chance to taste some of both: ravioli with bacon and red wine (you had me at ‘bacon’) and tonnarelli with cacia e pepe – cheese and pepper – the Roman thing to eat and rich and fabulous, even though it sounds on paper like I’m describing the Roman equivalent of mac and cheese. Black truffled risotto had me drooling when the menus arrived and did not disappoint and nor did a tiny sliver of the enoteca and lardo salumi (I think that’s how you spell it…apologies if not) which is a moist and tender steak fillet with a very thin slice of fat stretched over the top, giving delectably fatty flavour. Yum.

Spanish steps...a panoramic tourist vista

The next day we ate pizza, Roman style, for lunch, ordering a selection of slices – we nearly didn't manage it all but forced it down like true British school children taught to finish what’s on our plate – and – of course – gelati. Photographs of food can never convey the flavour but, yum, again, and thrice yum.

Pizza Romana...So good I sacrificed my size to it

On the final night we wandered our way to Trastevere, across the Tiber, for a different vibe and type of square – not the massive stately piazzi with their grand churches and anonymous stone palaces but poky, tiny squares where there are bursts of bright flowers, old and new cars crushed into the non-existent parking options, and where you’re more likely to see someone’s washing hanging out of the window than be harassed to take a selfie or buy a wilting rose.

Trastevere - the Brooklyn of Roma?

We ate at Meridionale, another Trip Advisor find, after an almost unsuccessful email exchange where I tried to book dinner for 7 using email and misunderstood the reply – it was a ‘yes’ but we thought it was a ‘no’!

Prosecco chasers. Salute!

When prosecco chasers sent over, we already knew we were onto a winner, but here were our menu choices in this delightful, hidden gem: beef carpaccio with red radicchio and hazlenuts was delectable and huge, salmon carpaccio with tangerines and salad less impressive but juicy; spaghetti de l’nduja (spicy sausage) was spicy indeed and we were grateful for the rich but soothing familiar flavours of tonnarelli con cacia e pepe again…ahhh. No dessert here – far too full – but I can recommend the Poggiomaestro Toscana we drank with our meal, which was rich but not overbearing. A delight.

Andouille sausage pasta...spicy but nice

There must always be more to write about Rome, and there is, but with a full belly and happy heart I will leave it there for now and save the shopping and more for another post. A prossima! X 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Day in the Life Part Three: An Ordinary Day Between Anxiety and Side Effects

It's that time of the year again - time for post 3 in the Day in the Life of MH series #dayinthelifemh. I found this one harder to write because I didn't really feel particularly like writing anything, and in any case the entire day appears to have been one I spent either eating or drinking, sleeping, or reflecting on the day gone and the day to come.

Still, I believe that in this week, Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 (#MHAW2015) which has #Mindfulness as its theme it's a good chance for everyone to think a bit about his or her days and whether they pass us by or are something that we take notice of, or do sometimes at least.

Find out more on how you can contribute to the exciting and 
important #dayinthelifemh project below

If you haven't already and would like to you can still post your entry for 10th May by clicking on this link. I encourage you to share if you have / or know someone who has a mental illness close to you so that we can all work together to raise awareness and understanding of this much misunderstood group of illnesses. Here's my entry. Tomorrow I'm off to Rome...expect #mindful posts on #gelato and #pasta. And then posts on doing a lot of exercising and juicing when I'm back. Till soon! x

I woke up feeling a little more rested than on some other days. Sometimes the medication means that my husband and I sleep in separate rooms because the level of snoring from the clonazepam that I take on and off to combat (partially) the intense restless legs syndrome that I used to think was some kind of made up condition, but actually is a very real and unpleasant one I have as a side effect of escitalopram. On this night my husband had the Hobson’s choice of napping with me or with his best friend from school. All things not being always equal where love and childhood friendships are concerned, in this case my poor husband was caught between a rock and a hard place – both of us snore like fluey walruses.

"Who me? No, I don't snore."

When I don’t take the clonazepam I find myself withdrawing on those in-between days, causing massive anxiety (or perhaps not combatting it…anxiety is also a side effect of escitalopram, which for an anti-depressant is kind of, erm, depressing…)

Because my depression has been very bad again recently I went to hospital for day patient care the week prior to this day in the life, completing treatment on Friday and going back to work tomorrow (Monday 11th). By today I’m feeling more normal again than I did a couple of days back. I’m looking forward to a slap up lunch which I’m helping aforementioned husband and friend cook. Not, though, before we go for a slap up breakfast to give us the energy to cook. They certainly can both eat, I’ll give them that.
Lunch is served. Pork belly for three. Needless to say we could have fed six.

On some days I don’t want to wear makeup or make an effort but I nearly always do because I feel better looking okay on the outside, even if on the inside I feel horrendous. Eating out can be an effort because it requires not only engaging with people at the table, but with waiting staff, greeters and potentially members of the public also. Sometimes the sound of plates clanking, knives and forks scraping and chatter and muzak above it all overwhelms me, but today, thankfully, it was relatively quiet in the restaurant.

Luckily it wasn't one of these days...

Added to which I’m thankful for a whole lot more: the fact that I was among close friends and with my husband; the fact that there was no expectation of me beyond being just as I was; the fact that I didn't expect anything of me than that. That last one’s the hardest, and one I keep working on. And on. And on.

I had to get something in about ice cream. It's on my mind...

After a big lunch and a few drinks I was ready for bed much earlier than usual, and aware how much I needed to get a decent rest before the day in the office ahead.

More lunch. It was that kind of a day.

I spent about an hour reading and resting before finally nodding off. It's good to have some down time when I'm enjoying reading. Sometimes I'm too distracted to work on it, but luckily today I was feeling just calm enough to enjoy rather than endure it - it can be a good distraction, but it's not fun when I know that distracting rather than de-stressing is what I'm doing.

Duck or you'll miss it!

As I read through this piece, I’m focusing on the day before and the day ahead, not so much on the day itself. All in all things went fine – I coped with socialising, having house guests, and managed to try and get some rest both before and afterwards. That’s a pretty good day. Not the most exciting, but I’m fine with that.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Marvellous Medicine? What is Private Hospital Care for Depression like?My Week.

It’s the end of my week off, hospital done and back to work next week.

Tomorrow I’ll be writing another #dayinthelifeMH post, and adding it to others’ contributions, but in this post I’m reflecting on my experience of taking time out for my depression (as I knew I needed to), seeking treatment for it, and going back to normality (whatever that means – I guess work and living) afterwards.

"Okay, I need help, time to take the mask off for a while and deal with this."

My experience of hospital is of private treatment for mental health patients with a variety of conditions, and it’s private because I am incredibly fortunate to be able to work for a company which provides, as a benefit, private health insurance. I can’t talk about public healthcare for mental health as I’ve never had it (see previous post for more details). What my private mental health coverage means is I have a psychiatrist and a one-to-one therapist I see, and in-patient or day-patient treatment which I can also make use of – depending on the severity of my depression at a given point, and also a fair amount of paper work which my psychiatrist, therapist, key worker (another therapist with whom I make appropriate treatment plans) and others complete to make the case to the insurance company that I should get approval for the treatment we believe I need.

Thanks very much, I'll take all that money from you right now...I need treatment

I knew that I’d be struggling after last weekend and a variety of external matters contributing to my worsening depression, so I took the step to see my psychiatrist beforehand and ask for the paper work to be submitted requesting day care at hospital for a couple of weeks (because it’s always easier to ask for more upfront than go back and ask for more later). Luckily my case was accepted and covered by my insurer. It’s not possible for me to pay for it privately, even on what I know is a really good salary. It’s just too expensive – something like £500-700/day, which, to be honest, if I were well I’d far rather splash out on a new pair of gorgeous Louboutin shoes as a massive extravagance (and a one off, not 5 pairs in a week, although if I ever win the lottery…).

Shoes fit for any Superheroine

The fact is that I might be able to pay for just one day of care at this amount, but I just wouldn't be able to pay for more, without going into debt. Money worries have always been a contributing factor to my anxiety and depression; when teaching I couldn't afford to feed myself without using my credit card (on £17K/year with London rents and prices) and I longed for a day when I would be able to pay my bills and eat, and socialise, without getting further and further into debt. Now that time has come, I feel physically sick at the thought of going back to that place. I cannot go back there. It would certainly worsen my health – probably both physically and mentally, as I know they’re connected (and I describe below).

When Depression Debbie comes calling, she's packs a punch.

Anyway, to hospital. My experience of private day care (as opposed to inpatient care, where I would stay in hospital) is to travel to hospital from home and to attend a number of groups every day which aim to educate and support people like me going through a difficult period of mental illness, whether that be depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, borderline personality disorder. I attend groups which my keyworker and I determine will best suit my needs.

Time for support group. Let's share our troubles and support one another.

The first group of the day is support group, where I and other day patients sit in a confidential environment to share how we are feeling, what issues we’re struggling with that day and what we think we will do about them. We have to go around the room to introduce ourselves and ‘check in’ with our state of mind and feelings. This is helpful since many people are ‘new’ to the group each day. This really all comes down to insurance – if you’re covered for a particular day you turn up that day but not on days when you’re not covered. In the last week I met at least twenty people I had never seen before (and a couple I already knew). We are all taking what we can get. The people I met varied every day, so there’s always something new to talk about.

Time to fight our illnesses together. Pow!

In the hospital environment, the support group is guided by a therapist – in our case the therapy manager – and this helps us to dig a bit deeper with the problems that we’re overcoming, whether our illnesses have been triggered by a family matter, work, other pressures or a mixture of all of these. I love support groups because I don’t have to take notes or apply particular therapeutic techniques, but sharing with others is a kind of release, and hearing and participating in group discussions about issues often help me to unpick some of my own personal struggles and find that I am not alone or that I have new options I had not previously recognised.

Hello Demon Difficulties. Please go away.

The other groups are harder. This week I attended a schema group, which educates us as to our core needs as “newborns”, and how our core needs (whether met, overly met or not met) lead us to ‘maladaptive’ coping strategies – i.e. things that we do to compensate for whatever our upbringing and childhood environment was like. For me there’s a lot to learn about the way that I behave now as an adult which links back to being bullied as a child and feeling isolated. It is fascinating and useful, but it is also very hard to think back to those times where I was in so much pain and had no means of understanding or coping with the situations into which I was placed. You can make friends at hospital - because you may bond with others. It's a matter of choice, though, because if you do make friends you often talk more and more about your and their struggles, making the experience more intense and potentially tougher.

Memory Lane. Tough as nails and stronger than steel. And ever growing.

Other groups look at cognitive behavioural techniques (conscious recognition and rational working through) for anxiety, depression, and other important areas like anger management and assertiveness. Practising recognising our negative feelings and the ways that we automatically respond to them, and hearing how to apply different thinking patterns to try to retrain ourselves is what we do in this group.

I can see you, negative thoughts. I'm ready to fight.

For example, if I text a friend and don’t receive a text back, the lonely and isolated, bullied child in me might apply an automatic response, linked to our old ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. I don’t receive a reply = I’m somehow in danger of getting hurt here; = My friend doesn’t like me anymore; = I’ve done something wrong… and so I start to become anxious because of these worries and start becoming  depressed as I wrack my brain for potential incidents in the past where my behaviour might have caused the person to dislike me. (The first – worry – leads to a build-up in anxiety, as the physical symptoms like a racing heart, feeling sick, feeling dizzy may strike in addition to the ‘cognitions’ or thoughts that I described above leading to the feelings – shame, guilt, fear, etc. The second – rumination – leads to increased depression and may include some of the physical symptoms above, but also add sluggishness, a feeling that one is hopeless, a failure (more shame, more guilt, anger at self and others, fear of never getting better.)

In this case, 'A' is very much for 'Anxiety'

When I read the above and tell you that attending these groups leaves me feeling exhausted, I hope that you are not surprised. It’s quite hard for me (and I think it’s hard for others) to acknowledge in the first place that I need help of this level. Unfortunately the part where I get help is far from easy, as I look to past events and their effect on my feelings and depression, and I have to recognise them and confront them in order to start working through those feelings and events to feel better.

I went through this on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, always attending the support group first thing, and following this with other groups. By the end of each day I am drained and sad, probably sadder than I was when I arrived, because it is hard to go through things from the past. However, the alternative – not to go through those things – not to challenge my past and my negative thinking – not to address the deep depression that is overwhelming me – is not to live. And since I choose to live, I choose to get help, even though it’s hard and afterwards I curl up in my bed under the duvet, with pillows all around me, and I tune out with Netflix or my Kindle, or with a radio programme, and perhaps go to sleep for a while.

Support group. Where we share and sometimes laugh together. 
It's good to know I'm not alone.

I took Friday as my last day before returning to work. I didn't go to hospital because I wanted some time to do more tuning out and re-acquaint myself with the land of the living, thinking a bit about work, doing some food shopping, posting some parcels, paying bills and so on. I also spent a good deal of time cleaning (which is surprisingly therapeutic as a physical activity that allows me tune out) and resting in bed with a book. It's also just good not to think about myself in such a focused way - not to work on myself anymore. It's a relief to stop that and necessary in order to dip into a week of treatment and then return to work immediately. For me, Friday was the opportunity to start back into life and lead into the weekend with rest, and with those sad, terrible thoughts not exactly put away, but left for a while to get some air and be revisited in a smaller way at a later date.

And time for sleep while that works away...

I now feel like I’m ready to work again, and I feel rested, and heard. On Tuesday I felt hopeless; on Wednesday more so; on Thursday tired by the whole thing, and on Friday relieved to be away from all that difficulty, but able to recognise its value. I could see the sun and smile quietly at it. I could walk and appreciate the wind (and drizzle!) on my face and be in the world without anger or self-hatred. It’s a step forward. I will keep stepping forward. 

Time to step forward.  And put my head band and shield back on. Obviously.