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My depression looks like…

I used to think depression looked like someone crying all the time, someone with a sad face who is weeping and wailing. And sometimes depression does look like that! But not always.

Last year I had a really bad time with my mental health, I hit a big wall and I couldn’t shake it. I struggled to exist, it was a really dark and terrible time. Through talking therapy and antidepressants, I came through that valley of sadness to a place where I could see the light again.

Im still on antidepressants and for me they have been a life saver. But last week I found out that my surgeries haven’t worked and I have another hernia. My stomach is a map of scars and underneath I have adhesions and mesh and pig skin and all sorts of pain and discomfort and it’s hit me hard.

I feel low and I’m struggling, I can’t come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never be better, that I may always struggle with pain and I won’t be physically fit and healthy for the rest of my life.

And it got me thinking about how my depression looks and just how different it is from person to person.

My depression looks like a smile, a forced cheery “I’m fine!”, it looks like me sleeping a lot, it looks like me avoiding friends. My depression looks like me wearing a hat because I can’t bring Myself to shower and my hair is dirty. My depression looks like me pushing through and managing to work and be cheerful to the outside world.

My depression looks like me crying because I missed the blackberries in my allotment. It looks like my stiff upper lip as I excuse myself to sit with my head between my knees in the loo because I can’t breathe and it’s all too much. It looks like me smiling too big and laughing too forced because I don’t want you to see my sadness because if you’re nice to me it will all spill out and I don’t want to scare you.

It looks like brief moments of honesty when I can bring myself to write things like this.

Depression takes many forms, don’t be mistaken into thinking the person smiling in front of you is a-ok.

If you’re reading this and have depression, could you do me a favour and share what your depression looks like using #mydepressionlookslike – because I honestly believe that by talking and sharing we can create a more nurturing, understanding and caring environment where depression stops being a taboo,where people stop suffering in silence, where people stop dying.

#mydepressionlookslike

 

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

It’s #TimeToTalk

Today is #TimeeToTalk day, a day of awareness of mental health challenges.

It’s a day that brings the nation together to get talking and break the silence around mental health problems.

“Too often, people who experience a mental health problem are also expected to take the lead on talking about mental health in the wider sense. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to talk about mental health.

Mental health problems affect one in four of us yet people are still afraid to talk about it. For people with mental health problems not being able to talk about it can be one of the worst parts of the illness.

So by getting people talking about mental health we can break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery and take the stigma out of something that affects us all.”

family photo shoot with teenagers in Sheffield urban kelham island

Ive been quite open and honest about my struggles with mental health, though at times it was really hard to find the words.

After years of chronic illness and surgeries, my mental health took a real battering. I knew it and I tried seeking help through some talking therapy, this did help me sort out a lot of things from my childhood and past and I thought I was getting better.

Then in August last year, I fell into a pit. It snuck up on me until I realised that I was not well.  I am in two minds whether to admit this but I felt so low that I considered ways to kill myself.

I felt worthless. Worse than worthless, I felt like a burden to everyone around me, I felt that my very being made life worse for all the people I love. I felt like ending it all was the wisest decision.

What is scary now is that at that time, this felt like a totally rational and sensible decision. I remember googling ‘can you be suicidal and not depressed?’ as I really couldn’t see that these weren’t normal feelings.

It actually scares me to think back on this time, I could see no light, I felt stuck in this quicksand that pulled me down and held me fast but still allowed my head to be up in the real world so I could see everyone around me feeling happy and living wonderful lives.

I thought about running away from home a lot, about just packing a bag and disappearing, I fantasised about just going and leaving everything behind.  And then I felt extreme guilt about thinking about leaving my beautiful family.

I was in a cycle of bad thoughts and guilt.

It came to a head one day when it all came tumbling out, I cried and screamed and shouted at Timm. I lost it, pushing him away and telling him the horrible things that were going through my head.

I had 100% convinced myself that he was having an affair. I couldn’t imagine why he would want to be with me and I was so paranoid and lost that it became the truth.

I feel so sad now thinking back on this, I barely recognise myself in my own words.

The one thing that kept me going was my kids, my amazing children who I knew I would hurt more than I was hurting myself if I wasn’t here.

I read a quote once that said:

Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it just passes it on to someone else.

And that quote kept me going.

I eventually went to the doctors and I was faced with the most caring and compassionate GP who put all my fears to one side. He took his time and talked through everything, he listened and told me it was all ok. That the feelings I was having were frightening but that lots of people have them.

He told me that my thoughts of running away or ending it were my brain going through options but the fact that I’d made the decision to be there in his office showed that I had chosen the right option.

I started on antidepressants last year and the difference is amazing. This imbalance in my head was addressed and slowly, those feeling ebbed away.

There was no switch, no instant recovery. But one day I realised that I hadn’t had bad thoughts for a few days. My GP said it’s like the sun rising in the morning, if you keep watch it takes so long, but if you turn away to make a brew, you come back and realise that the sun is here.

Im still taking my tablets, they have been life changing but the other thing that has helped so much is opening up and talking to the people I love.

Its hard to admit you’re struggling, but my husband and my close friends listened, loved and didn’t judge and I’m forever grateful.

So there we go, today was my #timetotalk I hope you can find someone to talk to if you are having a tough time right now.

Thanks for taking the time to read

sam xx

 

the dark smog

I finally feel that I have enough energy to post about how things have been for me recently. I have posted about feeling down and anxious and seeing a counsellor but things have got worse and the last week has been the toughest time of my life.

Ive felt things slipping for a while, work has been stressful, my hernia is back (that’s a wholllllleeee other post!), my mum fell out with me in May and hasn’t spoken to me since, counselling brought up a lot of things from my childhood that aren’t resolved, Timm and I are having a rough time and so I’m really overwhelmed right now.

My sister came over from Australia for work for a few weeks which was amazing!!! But her going back is just a reminder of how far away she is. At the minute it feels like she’s the only person in my close family (not including Timm and the kids) who loves me and gives a shit, so her heading back home was tough and I miss her terribly.

But really, I don’t know what sparked this low point off. The past couple of weeks have been dark, this week I literally didn’t have the energy to move. I lay in bed hiding from the world.

I managed to work (I work from home) and so I kept things going on that side, but everything else went to shit. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move. Everything felt pointless, I felt pointless.

I suppose the biggest thing is that I’ll need another surgery and that has hit me hard. I just can’t believe I’m back to square one and I’m devastated. It’s made me feel so down on myself and my body. I feel like a failure. I feel like a burden. I feel like I only bring stress and shit (both literally and figuratively) to the people around me.

The thought of leaving the house and speaking to anyone made me cry and shake. I cancelled all plans. Even those with my best friends, I just couldn’t bring myself to move, let alone speak.

But for once I was honest about it, I text them and explained I was struggling. That was hard to do but I didn’t want them to think I was cancelling (yet again!) because I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be a shit friend.

I cancelled on my cousin for her child’s birthday party. But again, I was honest. I said I was struggling and couldn’t deal with a crowd.  I did joke that I should have come up with a more socially acceptable excuse but it actually helped to tell the truth.

I felt dark. Like everything was black and heavy. Like gravity had gone into overdrive and my body weighed more than is humanly possible. My mind went from spinning and whirling with terrible thoughts, to blank, silent numbness.  My mind was telling me how useless and worthless I am, it told me what a huge burden I am to everyone, it told me everyone would be better off without me.

It hurt.  No one ever told me that depression hurts, like physically pains you. My chest hurt, my head pounded, my mouth was dry and became ulcerated. My limbs ached, my back hurt, my eyes were dry and raw.

It came to a head on Friday, I exploded in grief and rage and fear and hurt. I threw it all at Timm and pushed him away from me. I said horrible things to hurt him. I told him to leave me.

I screamed and raged at him, I whispered the dark thoughts from my head and then waited for him to leave.

Because everyone leaves. My experience in life is that people who are meant to love you, they walk away and it tells you that you are worthless, that you literally aren’t worth the effort.  My dad did it, my mum has now done it, my sister doesn’t speak to me, cousins who I grew up with turned away at the blink of an eye, aunties block you without thought or care.

Everyone leaves.

Only he didn’t.

He kissed me and stroked my hair.  He rubbed my back and whispered words that told me I’d be ok.  He told me we were a team. He ran me a bath as I’ve not had the energy to bathe for a while. He loved me. He told me he has a choice, that he can choose to leave if he wants but he isn’t going anywhere.

He didn’t leave.  He stayed and loved me.

And it gave me a tiny bit of strength back, it helped me get dressed and take the kids to the opticians with him, it helped me to leave the house and see friends.  It showed me a crack of light in this dense, dark smog that is smothering me, it made me smile.  Even if it was only a small smile.

Its not a cure all. I’m not ok now, but I have slipped my fingertips into that chink of light and through it I can pull enough energy to call the doctors on Monday. It is just enough to allow me to ask for help.

And that’s what I will do.

 

Sam xxx

 

So I have something to tell you…

I have been quite open on here about the ups and downs of this journey of mine, through meds, hospital stays, 5 surgeries, months of recovery and the multitude of things going wrong, I have documented the lot.  There are times when I feel positive and upbeat and other times when I feel thoroughly defeated.

You may have noticed that I didn’t blog for a good few months this year (from April to July) which is the longest time I have abandoned this place for.  The reason for that time away is that I am really struggling mentally.  And after months of hiding my feelings and plastering a smile on my face, I decided to start seeing a counsellor a few weeks ago.

I haven’t told many people this, I suppose I just wanted to keep it for me for a while, to try it out and see how I felt about it.  I suppose there is a small part of me that is a little embarrassed, I am not from a place or family that talks about needing support or showing any vulnerability or weakness.  I know this is bullshit, but I am fast discovering just how much crap my upbringing and environment has subconsciously taught me.

I don’t want to go into it too much, it is very much a private thing between me and her.  But I do want to say that just a month in, and I am feeling the benefit of it week on week.  Don’t get me wrong, it is HARD.  We are talking about things that hurt. A lot.  We are talking about things that bring a lump to my throat to just think about, let alone say them in front of another human.  But it is helping me to start to learn about myself, to pull things apart and think about them in a new way.

It is helping me to not only understand myself, but to start to think about the people in my life and how they are feeling and how their actions have affected me.

sam cleasby blogger mental health counsellor sheffield

It’s weird, I am quite controlled, yet when I am there, things come out of my mouth that I didn’t even know I wanted to say, that I hadn’t even thought about.  And her responses sometimes floor me.

I struggled with the very idea of counselling because I struggle with people who make excuses for their own behaviour (she has made me realise that growing up with alcoholics and drug addicts will do that to a person!). And so there is a big part of me that feels like I shouldn’t be there complaining, that I should just figure my shit out and deal with it myself.

But another part of me has realised that figuring my shit out requires the input of a very clever and compassionate therapist at this point in my life. And that’s OK.

I thought about whether to share this with you or not, and I came to the conclusion that if I do this, I do it honestly. I don’t want someone reading this blog and only seeing the Mary Poppins, sweetness and light, positive rainbow side of me and thinking ‘oh. why do I feel so shit and she is ok?’ I want to share the highs, and the lows.

I want to tell you all, and myself, that even when things are awful, even when you want to hide in bed or run away, when you feel like you are a burden to those around you, when you wonder what the point in carrying on is, when the world feels like a dark an scary place; you aren’t alone, I am here and I understand.

Love Sam xx

 

It doesn’t happen to people like me… World Mental Health Day

Mental health issues, they don’t affect people like me.  I’m a natural optimist, a giddy kipper who is loud, giggly and excitable.

People like me don’t get depressed. Don’t get anxiety. People like me are ok Jack.

Only it turns out that mental health issues don’t care about optimism or character.  They’re not bothered whether you’re old or young, rich or poor, working or at home.  They’re not fussed about race, sexuality, ethnicity or gender.  Mental health issues strike without prejudice.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression this year, it floored me.  For a while I couldn’t accept it, feeling that some mistake had been made. I wasn’t embarrassed, I have many people in my life with a whole host of mental health issues and never judged one of them.  I felt compassion for them, I wanted to help them.  But I didn’t see myself as the sort of person with depression.

But what is that? What does that person look like?  I imagined someone in bed, crying and alone, someone who always looked sad and miserable.  A pessimist, someone who saw the glass half empty. I basically imagined Eeyore in human form.

How patronising and judgmental of me.  It goes to show that mental health issues need to be spoken about more.  I’m a left wing, feminist, socially conscious person who desires to be aware of the struggles of fellow people and who would fight for the freedoms of others.  Yet I was holding silly, preconceived ideas of what a person with mental health issues looked like.

Depression takes many forms and has many faces.  And it took me having episodes of pure anxiety to recognise it in myself.

It has been terrifying to admit my feelings and one of the toughest things I’ve had to do is to go to the doctors and open up about the scary thoughts and feelings I’ve had.  To write about it on this blog and on social media took a lot of courage, but from that I have received nothing but support, compassion and help.


If you are struggling, I beg you to speak out. I promise you that you aren’t alone and that if you can take this massive leap, things can start to get better.

There’s no shame in asking for help and the stigma of mental health issues will only continue whilst we don’t speak out about the reality of it.

For a long time, I thought that mental health issues didn’t affect people like me.  Till it did.

On World Mental Health Day, please reach out, learn more, raise awareness and hold out your hand to anyone in your life who is affected.

www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
Sam XX