Steps

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I’m not sure what happened but something finally spurred me into action and I finally made it to the doctors at the end of November. It was a year ago when I went to re-register with my GP here and I remember it being Christmas time and lying to my mum about where I’d been. It was yet another year before that when I realised that I am not able to cope alone and even if it’s only a placebo effect, the medication that I took before seemed to help and I had my most productive and happy time in 20 odd years when I was taking it. The doctor didn’t ask much, it didn’t seem as though they had any of my records from when I was at university but I took one of the old boxes with me and she wrote me a new prescription for the same one.

It has been about 6 weeks since I started back on them and I think it is helping. Although they tell you it takes 4-6 weeks to take effect, I noticed around an hour after I took the first one that I felt different. It could be placebo, but my pupils were dilated and I felt energised by it like a (recreational) drug. It was almost as if I needed it. It’s difficult to know how to feel about that. I have long suspected there is something wrong with how my brain works. I know that there isn’t a very strong case for SSRIs being effective but I feel better for being on them again (despite it adding another monthly expense I can ill afford).

My general mood has improved but I still have the deeper underlying sense that life is meaningless and a crushing sense of alienation. I have been so isolated for 3 years now, it takes its toll. I still think about suicide, it seems like the only sensible thing to do sometimes. There isn’t really any reason that I want to be alive besides not inflicting the grief on my family. It’s bearable for now though. Maybe there’s still some hope for me.

Ages ago I joined a Social Anxiety group on Meetup but I’d never been to any of them since it seemed like a lot of the people in the group knew each other and I was afraid of being the new person. I did make it to one in December though, we were planning on going to a Christmas thing in the Arboretum. Only about 6 people were meant to be attending but the weather got so awful (after I’d already gone out..) that only 3 of us actually turned up. It went ok, I didn’t really say a lot but the two people I met seemed quite nice. I might go along to the next one and see how it goes. The thing is, I always feel as though I’m putting on a performance by trying to appear normal. If you are a dark, miserable person like me then you cannot “be yourself”.

The loneliness has been getting to me. I want to write more about this but it’s late and I haven’t been sleeping well. Hopefully I will remember to write more than one post every two months this year. Let’s hope 2016 is a good one.

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Isolation

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I have been thinking a lot about how being alone is so damaging to my (I don’t want to speak for others, some people like being alone, although I would question how many would prefer complete isolation…) mental wellbeing recently. I think I touched on this in a previous post but I have been thinking back to when the last time I actually spent time with or talked to anyone outside my family and apart from a few occasions with people who I wouldn’t even call acquaintances, it has been over 18 months. I am afraid that it is doing irreparable damage to me. Even my own family doesn’t really seem interested in what I have to say. Practically every time I try and talk to one of my parents they either change the subject to something about themselves or just start doing other things or walking away. I know that I am not the most interesting person but I am starting to feel invisible. In the rare times when I do get to say anything, I feel like I am falling over my words or almost stuttering, which I never used to do. Years of being stuck in this situation can’t be good for you.

Since I last posted I have continued to feel very depressed. It’s still not quite as bad as it has been in the past, the period in late 2006 when I was at my first job being the absolute worst that I’ve ever felt, even more so than when I tried to kill myself, but I do feel more hopeless than I have in a long time. It seems strange to think back a few years when I was writing such despairing posts on here. I did feel absolutely terrible at times but by all accounts I was so much better off then than I am now. I was younger and doing something with my life that isn’t seen by society as a complete waste. I had a lot more going for me then than I do now, people I talked to online who cared about me and even a few people who would speak to me in real life.

I have slid so far backwards, I am practically at the same point that I was when I first started the original posts 6 years ago that eventually became this blog. The main difference is that this time I have nowhere to go. Back then I still had university ahead of me and I was young enough that I could get away with being behind on a lot of things. Now every single day I feel more and more inadequate compared to other people my age. Even the people I met who were years younger than me have already far surpassed me.

I’m tired of being an embarrassment. There is nothing that can be realistically expected that would make things seem ok to me now. There is no path that I can see that would lead to me ever feeling any different, it’s too late to turn things around now.

Going Back to the Doctor

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I can’t remember when the last time I made an appointment with my doctor was, it has been years since I went to the GP here where I live. When I was at university I got tired of messing around with the psychiatrist and couldn’t stand dealing with the unhelpful person they used to send to see me (presumably to make sure I wasn’t about to hurt myself) and so worked my usual avoidance magic until I was free of them. The medication I used to take was on a repeat prescription so I managed to get that for a few months without making a doctor’s appointment and I’d stopped taking it by the time came for it to be reviewed. The GP I used to see there had left and after all the different medical staff I’ve had to try and explain my situation to over the years I didn’t fancy going through all of that again with someone else. At any rate, I felt I could get on without the antidepressants by that point and I managed reasonably well.

Lately I have felt like I really need to talk to someone again though. I think I would benefit from being back on the sertraline too, I just hope that it works again, it took a lot of tries to find an antidepressant that made a difference without awful side effects. I don’t want to repeat myself, but I am practically in the exact situation I was in back in 2008 yet again, only this time I am 5 years older and don’t have the chance to escape to university.

It’s been months and I just can’t get myself to overcome the obstacles in the way though. It might seem like I should just make an appointment and go, but it isn’t that simple. I will try to explain what’s stopping me. I realise this will sound crazy but it’s just how my mind works.

  • I will have to let my mum know because she’ll want to know where I’m going and I don’t want her to worry about me. She seems to think I am over the depression but in reality it’s just a lot easier to hide when I don’t have the stresses of uni work or a job but that has to change at some point. If I start working I know I won’t be able to cope alone.
  • Having to explain everything to yet another new GP is very difficult for me to do.
  • I don’t even know if I’m still registered at the doctor’s surgery here. I didn’t tell them I’d registered at the one where I went to university.
  • Making the actual appointment itself. This may seem trivial but using the phone is still something I go to any lengths to avoid. I don’t know if I can do it.
  • Money is very tight and because I’m not on jobseekers allowance (for a multitude of reasons that I have gone into before) I would have to pay for the prescription which I can’t really afford.

I might try and talk to my mum about it but I keep remembering how much she used to get upset about it all before. I don’t think she wants to think of me as someone who needs mental health help. Also considering how much she blames my suicide attempt entirely on the paroxetine I used to take despite me being suicidal for years previously, I don’t think she’s too keen on me taking any sort of antidepressant.

End of an era

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Wow I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. I guess I haven’t been in much of a writing mood for the past couple of months, perhaps because of all the work I had to do on my dissertation kind of burned me out.

Finishing university was a big event for me. It’s taken me much longer than most people, after my first attempt ended in failure it was probably the start of my mental health beginning it’s lasting impact on my life. That was a very difficult time for me, I was pretty much still in the same place mentally as when I was at school/sixth form. Most of the same people were still around me and I didn’t feel like I could express my true self without being open to further ridicule and I felt trapped being around those people. I’ve written about this at length before so I’ll spare you the details.

The university where I completed my degree (starting 4 years after I left the first one) was in a different city and I made a clean break from the poisonous people who previously made me feel terrible. I won’t lie, it has been a difficult process. Moving away from home was a big deal for me and although I struggled, I am very glad that I did it. The entire process of studying was made even more difficult by my anxiety and depression. It’s hard to explain or expect other people to empathise with how hard it can be to deal with even basic things like making sure you have food to eat. There were many occasions when I would go without meals or sneak out and buy a sandwich or something because I daren’t go into the kitchen when other people were around or I was afraid other people might be there.

I constantly felt like I was swimming against the tide to try and stay on top of the workload especially in my final year where I had to keep regular attendance for certain workshop sessions that involved robotics equipment that I couldn’t do at home (which was my usual standby for missing workshops. I didn’t like the demonstrators or anyone nearby to see my work). This was my second attempt at the final year, remember. I already had a very lucky reprieve after I completely messed up in 2010/11 when I should have finished. There was real pressure to get things right this time and fortunately my depression, which was probably my biggest obstacle in previous years, was not as bad this time and I managed to cope reasonably well.

The problem I gave into so many times before was worrying about a workshop session (in the computer labs) and barely sleeping all night, then waking up and finding it easy to justify missing the class to myself. I’m sure this feeling will be familiar to some of you. I fell into the trap so frequently at college that I ended up only attending 2 classes all semester for one particular module as things began to snowball and my poor attendance weighed on my mind. “He’ll want to know why I wasn’t here the past 2/3/4 weeks” I would think and then rationalise missing the class again. Thankfully I managed to keep this largely in check this year and I only missed one robotics workshop and a small number of other sessions. Overall this year was probably my best attendance.

I feel very lucky that I managed to pull this off when it mattered most really. If you aren’t familiar with the British university system, a bachelor’s degree typically takes 3 years, the first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification and it’s usually all based on how well you do in your final year by using everything you’ve learned to write a dissertation or create a project (this is a very general description). Everything pretty much rode on how well I could do this year. My second year grades were lacklustre, I scraped a lower second (2:2) so I needed to improve this time.

My final grade was an upper second (2:1) which is the 2nd highest you can get, and although it’s not spectacular I was very pleased that I managed to get here at last after all the troubles I’ve had. It’s been a challenging journey and my anxiety & depression has literally threatened my life at times. The period I spent in hospital, or rather the time recovering from what happened – I don’t remember much of when I was actually there which is quite disconcerting, was a constant struggle and mentally exhausting in itself. I worried that I had done irreparable damage not only to my brain but also to my relationship with my family. I still have issues with the latter but it is a relief that I have not destroyed my mind.

So, good news on the academic front. I hope you’ll allow me a long entry as it has been so long, but quite a lot of things have been going through my head since I last updated.

I had barely finished my last exam when I discovered that my dad had been admitted to hospital for heart problems. My mum had known a couple of days earlier but didn’t want to panic me before my exams which I am thankful for now but I was annoyed at the time. It came as a big shock to me because unlike me, my dad has always been very active and still cycled to work and back 6 miles each way into his sixties and he’s not overweight. He ended up needing an angioplasty to widen the arteries but he has recovered very well since. I went to see him in hospital the day I got back from moving all my stuff home and it was quite difficult to see him like that. He is not an emotional man, though he’s not cold either, he just doesn’t give much away but when my sister and I arrived he had tears in his eyes.

Even though it wasn’t life threatening, it is impossible not to think about death when it comes to hearts. Dealing with the realities of mortality is hard to cope with. Being back at the hospital, the smell and suffocating heat, brought back the vague memories I have of being in there, and the trips we took each day made me think about how difficult it must have been for my family to make similar trips to see me. I was hardly coherent for weeks and I dread to think what must have gone through their heads seeing me like that. It was very hard to see my dad in a vulnerable state and this was compounded by the guilt of what I put everyone through with my own actions.

Things have been relatively quiet since he got to go home (he’s been out a while now, I just didn’t want to write about it before I knew he was better) but recently I have started to feel like some of the old depressive feelings are creeping back. If anyone has been reading this blog for a long time, you’ll remember that my sense of purposelessness was one of the main catalysts for my depression back in the days before and just after my diagnosis with clinical depression and social anxiety.

Back in 2007 I was unemployed and had no real prospects. I didn’t have good enough qualifications to do anything in the computing field that wasn’t helpdesk oriented and after my utterly disastrous time doing that at my first job I had no intention of going back to that. It was the absolute worst time of my entire life, I actually felt worse then than I did when I attempted suicide strange as it may seem. Going back to university gave me a goal and arguably more important to either the pressure I put on myself or I mistakenly ascribed to my mum (I haven’t decided which it is, but it’s probably a combination) it meant I wasn’t “unemployed”. I mean, yes technically I was only working in the holidays but the rest of the time I was doing something useful. This is over now of course and I am back to the same situation.

I’m getting quite tired now, it’s gone 3.30am but I will finish this train of thought tomorrow, I promise. Thank you to anyone that’s still reading and thanks for your comments.

Finishing University

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Again I must apologise for leaving such a long gap between updates. The past month or so has been one of the busiest of my academic life. I’ve had a robotics project to develop and demonstrate, software engineering assignment and my final project/dissertation to complete. I haven’t managed my time perfectly, but it has been a vast improvement on last year when I only managed to get one assignment done (and had to ask for an extension for it) before messing up completely which resulted in me having to repeat the year. I’ve managed to get everything in on time this year without any extensions, so that’s something to be pleased about.

My dissertation ended up being around 17,000 words, which isn’t as much as a lot of students but I had to develop and document a piece of software too which involves a lot of technical diagrams and I spent many hours each day over the past few weeks to make sure I got everything done. It wasn’t perfect and there was a lot more I would like to have added but I think it’s fairly good. My tentative goal is to get a 2:1 (the second highest grade) for my degree overall, although I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t get that. To be completely honest, it’s been other factors like my mental health and personal problems that have hampered my progress more than anything but I’ve tried really hard to stay on track this year. I’m sure those of you reading this who went to college/university know what a massive undertaking it is and I was completely mentally drained by the time I had to hand it in and demonstrate my software last week. One of my classmates actually got RSI while writing his, so maybe I got off lightly.

It seems very strange to be coming to the end of my university life. I just checked back on the post I wrote when I first started here and I can’t believe how quickly that time has gone. Despite the massive problems I’ve had, especially the obvious one, I’ve enjoyed being here and it’s been a great experience. I’ll be proud of myself for the first time in a long, long time if I manage to pass and get my degree (which, barring any catastrophes, I should do). It’s a weird time and I’m not sure how I feel about it but for once I’m not depressed or anxious about the near future.

The second part of this post is to thank everyone who voted for me in the About.com poll. I didn’t stand much of a chance against the excellent Social Anxiety UK site, which I used many times myself but I did get a Reader’s Choice finalist award, so thank you all for that. You can see the other winners here.

On a scale of 1 to 10

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Back again. I scheduled this one because the last post already went over 2000 words and I don’t want to bombard anyone who still reads this site with too much in one go.

Something that has seemed weird to me during the process of trying to deal with mental health issues is trying to apply any sort of scale to how depressed you are feeling. Whenever I had to go to the consultant psychiatrist he would always say without fail “On a scale of 1 to 10 if 1 is down in the dumps, how do you feel?” to which I would usually give my stock answer of 6 because honestly I find it impossible to do.

You might think that the lowest I have felt is in summer 2009 when I tried to kill myself but the truth is that I didn’t even feel that bad compared to times in the past or since then. I find it impossible to put a number on this, it doesn’t feel like a simple continuum. People have tried to find out from me what caused me to try and do that to myself, they seem to think there must have been some event that pushed me over the edge but there really wasn’t. I hadn’t planned it on that specific day, it had been months since I had made the preparations for it and I can’t even remember what was going through my head that evening.

To me it seems like a combination of things makes up how depressed I am. The usual stuff like a sense of hopelessness and lethargy, general sadness, feeling trapped and the big one for me: whether I can see a way out of it.

The time when I’ve been at my absolute lowest was when I was working at my first job. I have probably written about it before but there were several reasons why I hated it so much. First of all I had to work from 1.30pm til 10pm which meant I barely got to see my family, and since they are the only people I really talk to this meant that I would essentially go all week and hardly speak to anyone at all (although that’s not a lot different to my current situation..) because they’d gone to work in the morning and went to bed either before or not long after I got home from work. I hated the job itself, never realised how much I couldn’t stand phone calls especially with angry customers until then. The people I worked with, with the exception of a couple, would make fun of me every single day from the moment I got in the door because of how quiet I was and I couldn’t talk to them at all. I hated them.

Due to me not being able to drive, I used to have to leave the house at 12.00 to get there on time so it would be hours of each day spent in the place that I hated more than anywhere, counting down the minutes til I could at least escape for a while and sleep, which was the only respite I had. Because the only time I got to myself was late at night, I didn’t really have a chance to do anything that I wanted to do. Even if I had some kind of social life before, it would have gone out of the window when I started that job.

I can’t express how much I detested it even though I was only there for a few months. If I had to go back again, there’s absolutely no way I could cope. Towards the end, I would have to try my hardest to stop myself from crying or having a panic attack before I left the house to go to work and while I was there I had to hide in the toilets on numerous occasions to try and compose myself. It was an open plan office so there was no hiding from anyone during the day.

If you think that I felt worse then than I did when I tried to kill myself then you can get an idea of how bad it was.

The thing that worries me most is that I will feel like this wherever I go. The overriding feeling is that there is no escape from it. When I was there, I could see no end in sight, all I could think was that I had 40+ more years of that to contend with. I remember telling my sister at the time that I felt as though I had nothing to live for, nothing mattered to me. All I wanted to do was get out of there at the end of the day. Knowing what I know now, I have to ask myself is that kind of life really worth living?