Tuesday, 21 October 2014

White Noise

I stare at the grey wall, swiping my iPad lock screen back and forth, back and forth.  Outside, the wind blows, threatening to rain but not quite breaking.  I roll over.  I stare at the other grey wall, into the eyes of Audrey Hepburn as her lifeless image looks coyly back at me.  

A million thoughts roll through my head, none leaving the slightest trace of a footprint.  The boiler switches on and whirs into life.  The noise distracts me temporarily from my daze.  All around me lie books, papers, a dictionary.  I know that I need to pick them up, to begin working, but I can't.  

It's like my brain is white noise: constantly flooded yet empty of all sense.  My eyes flicker over to a pragmatics textbook lying open by my feet.  I should reach down and read a chapter.  It's not that difficult, but yet at this moment it feels like an insurmountable task.  

I sigh.  The heating behind my bed is on full blast yet I barely feel it.  I am aware that I am warm, but even removing a jumper seems impossible.

Generally depression hits with torturous anxiety or uncontrollable grief.  The reality is that it hits in many ways.

A month ago I wrote that I was recovering, feeling happier and stronger than ever before.  However one bad dream, one terrifying flashback has brought me back, and left me weak, hiding in the prison of my mind.  Seeing me, you would never guess.  The happy, laughing, confident girl in public is replaced by a shell, devoid of motivation and energy.  

I sigh again.  The longer I stay like this, the worse I will feel and the more behind I will become.  Though I know I am supported, I feel as though I am falling into a vicious circle of devastation.  I don't want to go back to where I was, hiding away, releasing emotion through pain and tears, if not for the impact upon my life, but upon the lives of my family.  

Taking a deep breath, I sit up.  I switch the light on.  Come on Hannah.

xx

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Scare Away The Dark

"If we all light up we can scare away the dark."

Scare Away The Dark by Passenger

I've taken somewhat of a blogging sabbatical this summer, not so much due to lack of time, but lack of motivation and joie de vivre.  But this post comes as an absolute pleasure to write, so get a hot chocolate and snuggle down.

As of my last post (yes, June, it was that long ago), things have changed.  In my last post, I spoke about how lost and vulnerable I was feeling, and that I had begun to feel crippled by the weight of depression that was bring me down.  Despite being surrounded by my family, and supported from afar by Josh, I felt so alone, and that I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I kept believing this until about three weeks ago.

It was as though my mind suddenly began to think clearly for the first time, as though it was able to wade through the memories and distractions that were clouding my head and finally begin sorting through them.  I had many sleepless nights, with my mind racing through past memories, working out why they hurt and what could be done, and then they were simply filed away.  On awaking in the morning, I felt like there was room to breathe.  After several more nights like this, my mind just began to feel emptier and clearer, in a way that I have never felt.  The only way I can describe it is if you have been to an insanely loud gig, and you leave with ringing in your ears: it's the moment you realise that it has faded away entirely. 

In brief, I felt free.  Free from the panic, the anxiety, and the misery that had been following me for longer than I can remember.  I can wake up and face the day with a smile.  I can laugh at silly animal videos on youtube, not just a half-hearted giggle, but proper laughter.  Josh has noticed such a difference: the Hannah that he met two and a half years ago is back, but more than ever.  I can eat (70% of the time) without worrying and feeling huge pangs of guilt: I'm not eating to comfort or to punish, but I'm eating to survive.  More than anything though is, with the return of university, I can think.  Before my mind would constantly stray from the task in hand, so that working on anything for more than a few minutes was impossible.  But I can now sit down in a class and be completely there in every sense of the word. 

Honestly, I never thought that I'd be here, feeling as I do.  Things have become so much better that, after support since February, I have been signed off from counselling.  I no longer feel that I am a danger to myself.  The emotional and physical scars are fading fast, and life suddenly feels worth living.  And, okay, I am still on the medication for at least the next eight months, but I think that after that, I will be ready to be completely free.

Basically, I just wanted to write this to say that if you're suffering from depression, or are supporting someone who is, get the help you need, as recovery is so worth it.  Like a packet of digestive biscuits after two days of 'nil by mouth' in a hospital bed.  Like a long, warm bath after finishing the Duke of Edinburgh expedition.  The feeling of relief is incredible, and worth every second of pain myself and everyone around me went through.  You can do it.  Like any illness, depression can be helped, you just need the right support.

And if we all light up we can scare away the dark.

xx

 


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sticks and Stones

As I write, I have been home for three weeks, though it honestly feels like I never left.  As great as it is to be back, and to be around my family and friends, it has been a very difficult time.

The first week was a whirlwind of unpacking, and seeing everyone that I had missed so much over the year.  Three days in, Josh dropped the biggest of all bomb-shells - he'd been given an amazing opportunity to move with work up to Manchester (one of his favourite cities) to help run one of the biggest bars in the country.  Naturally, he took it, with some major cheering from me.  I am wholeheartedly proud and pleased to bits for him: his perfect job, a pay rise, perfect city, and now we have found the perfect flat there.  The only slight niggle is that I can't go with him.

Since being back, my health - mentally speaking - has deteriorated.  The doctor explained that now I am in a safe environment surrounded by people that will love and protect me, my mind is ready to start dealing with the trauma I faced a few years ago, and begin the path to recovery.

I have begun my counselling with the wonderful staff at UEA, and though I know it is necessary, boy is it harder than I anticipated.  I am naturally a 'don't worry, everything is rosy' kind of girl, so really opening up to a stranger (albeit one I have been speaking to for three months via email, and a professional) is incredibly challenging.  The first session was fine: I pretty much just filled her in on how it was being back, and Josh's move, and didn't hit on any 'big' topics, persay.

The second however was completely different.  I have always had a strange relationship with food.  After being overweight and bullied terribly for it as a child, I was able to become healthy and lose the weight.  However after discovering I was gluten intolerant, I developed a kind of phobia of anything that wasn't fresh fruit or vegetables, as it had the potential to make me ill, and as a result, I read the packets of everything and ended up very concious of ingredients and calories.  After beginning the course of Citalopram, my appetite dropped, I lost a lot of weight (I have put a little back on since being back, but I'm still lighter than I was two months ago), and I only ate fruit, salad and the occasional ice cream.  I also blame the heat of Seville in the spring, but hey.  Josh, having not witness me eating and this downward spiral, became very worried about me when he realised that my eating tiny portions and skipping meals in favour of eating fruit and insisted I spoke to the counsellor as he didn't want another illness to get added to the pile.  However, she helped me to realise that this is a way of me being in control, which was a symptom of me feeling out of control with my state of mind.  I have since started to eat properly - more or less - and am favouring balanced meals with protein and vegetables rather than pure veggies, meaning that I have more energy and am stronger to deal with what is coming at me.

We also began to deal with the 'trauma' (which is far too personal to go into detail about here at the moment, but possibly one day).  She explained the routes we could take into starting to deal with it, the best of which meant reliving the event.  I left feeling very tense and panicky.


I will put a short disclaimer here: this next part may prove disturbing for some of you, particularly those of you who are going through depression in a similar way to me, so continue with caution.

That night, I had the worst dreams - people trying to kill me, me slitting my throat, hanging myself: brutal stuff.  I woke up, told myself it was just a dream and got ready for the day.  Just as I was about to leave, I started crying.  I ran back to the bedroom where Josh was sleeping and curled up next to him.  I cried my eyes out.  After I calmed down momentarily, I went to the bathroom to get a tissue, and found myself curled up again on the floor clawing at myself, screaming and crying.  I was terrified and in so much internal pain I couldn't handle it.

I returned to our bedroom, where Josh wrapped his arms around me and tried to comfort me.  I just lost it.  I began shaking, hyperventilating.  I scratched at my arms and wrists, and bit my hands so hard that there were marks the following day.  I felt like I had been possessed, like I was going mad.  Josh just held me tight, and restrained my arms until I had calmed down.

I then lay down, and looked at the floor - there was a black belt and a packet of tablets on the floor - and memories of the dreams came back.  I started panicking again, and started screaming and crying that I wanted to die, I wanted to kill myself.  Josh hid the belt and the tablets and then held me again until I calmed down.

This happened one more time, by which point I had contacted my mum, and Josh told her that I should see a doctor.  As I got ready, I wandered aimlessly around the flat, where I saw a knife and started sawing at my thumb until I drew blood.  I felt completely overwhelmed and dazed, and so out of control that I didn't know what to do.

Shortly after, my mum arrived and rushed me off to Hethersett surgery, where I had another attack, biting my arms, crying that I wanted to run away and die, this time with my mum restraining me, telling me that I was safe and loved, and nothing bad was going to happen.

The doctor saw me, and told me, much to my surprise, that this was normal: I was beginning to deal with the trauma of what happened. After another attack in her offiice  - thankfully my mum came in with me to help me talk and was able to calm me down - I was given a higher dose of Citalopram, taking me up to 30mg a day, and a drug called Lorazepam - which is used to immediately calm or sedate patients who are suffering from severe anxiety attacks or agitation - of which I was told to take half to one tablet as and when I needed them.  I was also told that I shouldn't be alone for a few days.

I spent the rest of the day with Josh's mum, sleeping, pottering about and being in a Lorazepam induced vegetive state, but at least I was safe.  Since that day, I haven't been quite as bad, but had noticed when I was getting close and took half a tablet in order to avoid the peak of the attack.

My counsellor decided that I wasn't ready to start dealing with the trauma straight away, and so she has started to teach me ways to calm myself down, including through led calming exercises, and I left feeling sleepy but so much better.

I am so glad I was taken to the doctor that day, as honestly I really do not know what would have happened.  If I had been left alone, I am sure that it would have got a lot worse, and that I would have attempted suicide.  However, I am so thankful to Josh, my parents and his parents for taking care of me and ensuring that I was safe through the worst.

Unbeknown to me (and it took me a while to notice), after I had left to go to the doctor, Josh hid all the sharp objects, lighters, tablets and belts in the house just in case I took a turn for the worse.  He only returned them yesterday - a week after the incident, but even the sight of the black bag full of potential death almost set me off, and as I was alone for the first night since, I hid it in a suitcase so that I wouldn't have to see them, and would be less likely to tempt me should my panic increase.

As a result of all of this, I am not going with Josh to Manchester initially: the idea of being so far away from my family and people that can care for me, and Josh needing to spend so much time and energy on his new job would mean that I would be very vulnerable, and so, until I am in a safer state of mind, it is not worth putting myself in danger - as much as I want to be with him and be there to support him.

If anything I have said sounds familiar, please speak to someone close to you or a GP - depression is an illness that needs to be addressed, and believe me, it is way more common than you might think.  If you need someone to speak to, I am always here, so contact me on coquetin.blogger@gmail.com, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Stay safe xx


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Two Weeks Left

Well, technically less than two weeks.  I must admit, this last chunk of time in Seville has flown by, what with a weekend in Madrid, followed by the Feria de Abril, beach trips and going to school as often as I can.

Though I do feel better in myself with regards to depression, I am still struggling.  My mood goes up and down on a seemingly weekly cycle, which fortunately seems to mean that I am happiest during the week at school, though it does feel like a struggle at times, and goes down towards the end of the week.  When I am in a down period, I feel terrible.  All I can bring myself to do is lie in bed in silence, playing Dots on my iPad.  Even having music on in the background feels too much.

I had such a low on Friday, preceded by a anxiety attack in the supermarket, meaning that I cancelled all my plans for the afternoon, and spent the night on skype to my parents.  The thing is, though I know it was what I needed to do, and my friends are aware of why I cancelled, I feel guilty and like a let-down because 'feeling a bit sad' doesn't feel like a genuine reason in my head.  But I know that had I gone, I would have been terrible company, and a quiet night at home was what I really needed.

However, the ups I have make it completely worth it.  Being able to go to and enjoy the Feria in a flamenco dress, despite my anxiety (Bach rescue remedy is my new best friend) meant so much to me, as did a genuinely happy day at the beach with my friends.  Actually having these happy moments is something that I have been missing, which sounds weird, as I have had so many experiences that I would normally have loved (The Lion King in Madrid or time spent with Josh for example), but because of my brain being my worst enemy, I haven't been able to relax or enjoy them.

Citalopram is working well for me: thanks to sleeping tablets, I am able to feel well rested and as alert as humanly possible at school in the morning, though I do struggle to sleep past 7am.  The only slightly strange effect is that my appetite still hasn't properly returned, and I have lost 8lb, going from 9st 9 ish to 9st 1 in a couple of weeks.  Though being smaller has been a bit of a confidence boost, it's probably not healthy to be eating as little as I have been (though when it's 35 degrees plus outside, all I can bring myself to eat is watermelon anyway), and the thought of food does make me feel physically sick, as does having eaten a proper meal.  However getting back to England in a couple of weeks, and having to cook for a insatiably hungry man as well as myself, and the drop in temperature, will undoubtedly help to increase my appetite again.  So long as I don't go below nine stone in the meantime, then I'll be okay.

I am making sure that, even if I don't spend time with other people, I make time for myself.  Whether it is a mug of hot milk whilst watching 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2' (honestly, it's brilliantly silly and funny), or going the long way home, and taking a detour through Maria Luisa park to watch the duckling and terrapins in the pond, I am spending time doing things.  I've also been trying to spend less time with headphones in: listening to podcasts does help me when I am feeling really low as it is a good distraction from my thoughts, but I need to let my brain work through my thoughts, no matter how troubling or annoying they may be if I stand any chance of recovering.  As a result, I'm becoming less scared of my own thoughts, and allow my brain to wander, without censoring myself or worrying, which is proving more positive than I had anticipated.

On the whole, things are looking up.  Josh is coming to Seville for a few days later today, and unlike last time, I can actually feel excited for it.  We have been apart from nearly five weeks, and despite talking much more than we had before, we have missed each other so much more.  We're also celebrating our second anniversary on Tuesday, so we have a lot to be happy for!  And after that, I have my last weekend in Seville, and then I begin four hard days of saying goodbye to the children, teachers and friends who have become like family to me over the last year, the thought of which is so bittersweet.  I can't wait to go home, but not seeing my favourite little kids on a weekly basis will be horrible.

All in all, the last few weeks have been lovelier than the rest of the year combined, and with so little time left, it almost feels like I'm on holiday.  Which is really what I need.

Madrid




The Real Alcazar



The Feria

xx