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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Out of the Blue and In The Pink

It comes, it goes, it stays, it leaves...

My last weekend's post is fragmented with ups and downs, and therefore late because my mental health has been fluctuating, but knowing that writing helps, here it is.

Monday 18th January.

I'm feeling so so about the day ahead. Neither good nor bad, neither despairing or excited, at least right now. Right now I'm concentrating on the essentials: getting out of bed. Making the bed. Showering. Drying my hair. Dressing for the day and packing up my rucksack. Then there's the rush or swift pacing towards the train. And on the platform beside me are hundreds of others who have just gone through all those same things and probably more. They might have children to rouse and cajole and chastise through all of those steps above, parents or other relatives to care for, or perhaps they have already been up for hours exercising. (It is, after all, still January.)

Last week I wrote a blog post for Mind on the so-called and fictitious Blue Monday, explaining as clearly as I could that anyone with with depression could be #blueanyday.

So here's a look at my week.

Monday last, I performed all of the above. With a new year goal to try to be healthy and fit, with a hope that as a side effect I would lose some of the two stone I've gained since breaking my back and being on a cocktail of drugs, at least one of which appears to have beaten down with a stick my ability to eat well, exercise regularly and manage (to a better extent, at least) my weight.

I was extremely busy all day with a number of meetings with team members, colleagues leading projects I'm involved with, my boss and with others. On these days I know I won't have created a document (or 'deliverable', the word my business seems - inexplicably - to prefer) in my hand at the end of the day, the management consultant's equivalent of a painting to take home to mummy and daddy to put on the fridge with proud faces. I rush around the building, knowing that I will certainly meet my daily target of 10,000 steps as my meetings are randomly situated over the fourteen-storey two-building expanse that is my office.

Working my brain into an oiled gets a little rusty over the weekends at time

There is a reason that I schedule all these meetings together though. One after the other the meetings happen, and I take "a mindful breath" before each one, and get through them. during the first I might feel my gears or cognitive cogs creaking into life after the weekend of luxurious lie-ins (till 7:45!). But as the first meets progresses my clanking cranium starts to move more steadily and stronger, the oil of my breathing and breakfast silently slithering around inside me so I start functioning properly. My point is: once the wheels are turning, I want to keep going as much as I can. 

It's worth it to get my brain in gear and be productive

My mind is whirring eventually and I can actually think about each topic on the agenda and bring something valuable into what we discuss. And my second point is, that, I can't get any detailed work document compiled in a snatched half hour where I should also try to grab my lunch. So, at the end of Monday I feel surprised that it has arrived. I don't have anything in my hand to show for it, to prove I've done anything worthwhile, except a notebook of actions and considerations; but I did get through the day, which I always try to see as something positive these days, and attending so many meetings in a way makes the most of my mental and physical energy reserves to speak and contribute and to be in front of people.

My day can end with notes on a piece of paper, 
but those notes lead to decisions and - finally - to 'deliverables'

I go home and eat something for dinner. Something healthy, and watch television and then to bed. I didn't sleep properly on Sunday night so today, I hope, things will be different.

Tuesday 19th January

Just keep going. Get dressed, and do the things that come after that. 

Tuesday is usually the same, but last week a combination of needing to spend a large amount of time on teleconferences with colleagues in other locations meant I decided to stay at home. Without a three-hour round trip commute I can just get so much more done. Unfortunately I didn't sleep well again, so I indulged in an additional 45 minutes in bed. Some attempt that when I rose, finally, I would be able to push my mind into a state where I could work. I had more listening to do rather than talking, more notes to take, then, but also more time to be quiet even while listening to others talking.

The structure of Monday (with all its meetings stacked up) works for me, but I need both company and solitude to balance my mental health, and time away from the office is a great way to be fully involved in my work but not exposed to the anxieties of travel, dressing up, all the above "start the day" activities. Plus, no one can see my face or any part of me; I could be wearing my pyjamas or my jeans. (If I'm at home as I was for most of Tuesday, I'll likely be wearing jeans, thick socks, a woollen t shirt, two jumpers, a woolly snood, a rug-like scarf and a hat. Our central heating is either on and not very hot or off. Either way sitting still for hours is not the best if you want to stay warm.) the point of this alone time is to be able to carry on working on terms that help my mental health not get in the way of progress.

I ended the day with a treat to see a film - Room - at the cinema, alone. I love solo cinema trips, since it was always too late to organise spontaneous visits with friends most weekends. Alone in the cinema I can think whatever I want and it doesn't matter if others disagree. I won't need to be polite and listen and broker my way through the discussion; it's just me on my own in the dark watching a story unfold, and my review is in my head, not open for discussion or critique.

Wednesday 20th January

Wednesday was similar in form to Tuesday. I spent my working hours at home on calls and producing some documents in the time in between. I can't remember whether I slept well on Tuesday night or not, but I suspect I didn't. Somewhere along the way through Wednesday morning a combination of feeling numb and feeling desperate seep in and I notice by lunchtime that I feel like going to bed and not getting up for the rest of the day. 

I wasn't overworked, I was overwhelmed by depression.
Not the same thing. It can happen through over work,
but I'm still working on understanding this skittish illness

Where does it come from? I had therapy coming up later and so, so wanted to stay at home and slip under the duvet away from everything and everyone in the world until Mat finally got home. But the practical part of me somehow wrestled me into boots and out of the door. I didn't enjoy the fresh air on the walk as I felt the despair of myself - the self I cannot love - in spades. But I know that the exercise and air are natural remedies for better mental health. And luckily for me, it was beautiful. Rationally and unobjectionably beautiful.

The only thing I can think of ito explain what has become a regular mood dip is that the middle of the week is when I have involved myself in the work equivalent of a mess of wool and knitting needles of activity, and if I stop every stitch will perhaps unravel, or if I continue I must be unrelenting in my commitment to progress. You can't make an omelette, etc. Perhaps that is it. It's the second Wednesday in a row when I have felt like this. I can't remember if it came on at the same time, but by the time I'm through with crying in therapy and back at home in the evening, still crying, I did remember how it feels to feel desperate and that things won't get better.

TV. Food. Sleep. I think the sleep worked this time. I didn't have anxiety in my stomach and tingling all over me the next day. That's all I've got. So that has to be good enough.

Thursday 21st January

Thursday was unusual. I had to go to Tooting for a hospital appointment and walked all the way there from home, rising very early, to try to use the walking and fresh air I know - rationally - that I have to include in my life for better mental health. My feet hurt by the time I arrived but I focussed more on hope that my brain would be flooded with positive endorphins of the exercise rather than the dull, murky and lumpy vessels of whatever chemicals are causing my depression to come back and dip my mood again. I also wondered whether two days at home consecutively had made me lonely, so I` don't know. I'm just trying a lot of things I know are good for me and hoping for a better day tomorrow if today is rubbish.

I had a reason to feel somewhat abnormal. I was nervous about seeing my neuro-spinal surgeon a whole year after our last meeting. He is both a brilliant surgeon and a thoroughly nice man but I was terrified that I wouldn't be deemed fit and well to have the screws taken out of my spine and afraid in equal measure that I would. I had to call my health insurer to gain an authorisation code for the surgery which is another worry for me, as the representatives are trained to the precise words that come from their mouths to offer a balance of sympathy and firmness, the latter in particular when one of them tells you that you aren't covered for that and that there is nothing that they can do, even if you might find your life at risk because of that seemingly irrational and quite silly conclusion. (To be fair this has only happened once, for suspected sleep apnoea.)

When I've got a lot on my mind, my thoughts
weight twice as much as my body

The rest of Thursday was part triumph and part disappointment. There are so many days like that, where hour to hour I feel elated one moment, but the next in a slough of despond. I had a couple of great meetings but also several where no one showed up. If this happens once, great, I can use the time to get things updated for one project or another, find the resources to fee fulfilled. Three or four cancellations, though, and I'm slightly panicked that I won't be able to achieve the things I was meant to, feeling sick. These things happen; I have to tell myself that, and that there's no reason that it's me. 

This sometimes worries me... 
I am, after all a control freak... so I can control scheduling the meeting,
but not who attends them!

Sunday 23rd January

I'm skipping forward to Sunday as its getting late and I'm very tired. Even blogging, which I love, takes energy, and I need some reserves for Monday. Continuing to try exercise for health, I  had run on Saturday morning and struggled but running on Sunday was easier. Reading through the above makes me feel sad, because it really wasn't a bad week at all, but I hate how a small thing can make me feel really dragged down. Meeting up with two lovely women from the In The Pink a cappella group to discuss International Women's Day and their performance at my work was a delight and so much fun. We laughed and shared our love of music and its powerful means to make me (and everyone) feel good. and walking around beautiful Oxford with Mat lifted me up again. Not necessarily forever, but the inspiration of music and beautiful buildings, happy memories and fantastic people are always going to be magical medication, and make me feel well again. 

Doing what I can to stay in the pink and out of the blue

So here's to another week of ups and downs that leave me somewhere along the narrow road to tomorrow. Take care. x

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