Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hairdressing - Old School Therapy


What kind of person tells another person about their one night stand booty call that ended up with a pregnancy and a bout of chlamydia (condoms people, come on)? Oh, and I forgot to note, mentions this whilst the person is eye level with their vagina, applying a spray tan? Beauty salon customers, that’s who.

They also show the hairdresser their pics with filters (because I’m sure she really wants to see them), they look bamboozled and throw a tantrum when the hairdresser can’t change their hair from black to blonde in one day (I mean Kim Kardashian can do it, so why can’t I), turn up late and then try to rush a huge job into an impossible time period because they have to get the kids from school and try and book a last minute Christmas appointment and refuse to leave when the hairdresser says “we’ve been booked for months” (oh, but it’s only a few foils). So basically, we’ve established that people who go to the beauty salon can be bitches.

Earlier this week I went to the hairdresser (hence this post). I’m still deciding if I’m one of the bitches or not. I love going to the hairdresser. Ah, the relaxing, peaceful, pampering that happens when I step into the salon. I have to wonder if there is actually anything better than getting a fresh cut and colour, and a wonderful head massage (seriously, how great are they), all whilst sitting and relaxing and forgetting about the time?

Perhaps, it’s all of this, PLUS the added excitement of everyone losing their inhibitions and oversharing to the hairdresser for your listening pleasure. So many people expect too much from their hairdresser, and I wonder if expecting them to be your personal therapist is where we should be drawing the line.

My hairdresser is a friend, so pretty much anything is fair game, however it’s amazing how much someone is willing to share when they enter a hair salon. Their whole life is exposed to both their hairdresser as well as everyone else in the salon at the same time. You may not know the person’s name, but you know that they’ve been in hospital recently, or that their mother-in-law is difficult to get along with, or that they’re considering leaving their partner. You even find about those early pregnancies, or those work issues, or some other strange secret. Their affairs are out in the open, that time they went to jail is just casual conversation, or the fact that they’re hiding this pampering from their husband by purchasing visa gift cards when they do their shopping to make the payment (I guess it’s true that men really don’t notice when you’ve been to the hairdresser).

The possibilities are endless when you step into that salon. In the walls of a salon anything goes, and because they put it all out there, it’s easy, as another client in the salon, to comment on another person’s life and offer some advice (girl, you need to kick him to the kerb), whilst you’re sitting nearby with your colour on, even though they’re a stranger and you only met them half an hour ago.

But why? Barmaids hearing everything makes complete sense, we’ve all done and shared stupid shit whilst under the influence of alcohol. But hairdressers? I mean they put sharp objects to your head repeatedly. If you get your eyebrows waxed like I do, they could seriously fuck up your face for a while. One would think that you’d be on your best behaviour, and yet, people rarely are. Is there something in the hair dye that breaks through your skull to reveal your innermost secrets? Or perhaps it’s only certain colours that trigger the oversharing? Like if you choose brown number 63 you’ll share too much, but brown number 85 means you’ll somehow restrain yourself form the oversharing mess.

All I know is that bitches are why I’ll never be a hairdresser (that and the fact that my only experience was the great self-cutting fringe fuck up of 1996), and over-sharers whilst hilarious a lot of the time, would eventually have me telling someone that I don’t want to see a “fucking picture of them with a sepia filter because I really don’t give a shit”, so probably best I avoid the profession.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Recovery?

The thing about recovery is that you never know when it’s going to happen. One minute you are sitting there bawling, head in hands, feeling angry at the world. Then suddenly you notice the changes, your mood improves, your energy increases and the dreadful thoughts stop cycling rapidly through your mind.  It’s really important to remind yourself when in those moments of chaos that recovery has come before, and will again if you fight against those thoughts and feelings for long enough, and finally find peace within yourself. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Same same

Take these pills, do this group, are you feeling better now? No? Walk the hallway, wonder how long it will take? When will you be magically cured? Because everyday feels the same. Take these pills, do this group, walk the hallway, scream in the bed, beg for it all to be over, take these pills, do this group, walk the hallway, beg for it all to be over. Beg for it all to be over, no matter the ending. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Sacrificing today for a better tomorrow

I’m not sure why this feels like such a huge decision, but it does. After more than 150 days in hospital over the past 12 months, you would think that the last thing I would do is sign up for another admission.

However, I have done just that. On Sunday I will be admitted to the Belmont Private Hospital. This time will differ from the other times though. This time I’m opting to go into hospital for a two week period to complete an introduction to DBT course. One week I’ll be focusing on mindfulness and grounding, and the other week I’ll be focusing on distress tolerance. These skills will both be of great benefit to me and help me work towards recovery.

I keep reminding myself that this time hospital is different. That this time, I’m proactively making the decision to seek help and gain skills, to avoid future hospital admissions. And I really hope that this works and I’m able to acquire the skills taught, because I’m tired of waking up in hospital, but even more so, I’m tired of not wanting to wake up at all.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Surviving

120. The approximate number of days I’ve spent in hospital over the past year. 120 or roughly one third of the last year has been spent away from home, in a hospital bed, trying to find something to “fix” me, without realising that I’m not actually broken, and to quote Matchbox 20, I’m just a little unwell.

At various times over the past year I have felt completely broken and have held little hope for recovery. I’ve done things that I would not usually do, I’ve said things I would not usually have said. I have felt completely lost and completely hopeless and have needed medical intervention to save me from myself.

Poor mental health is a very real issue for those of us who experience it. I know everyone has bad days, but for those of us with mental illness, it’s not as simple as a bad day. We can’t provide ourselves with some positive motivation and have a better day. We can’t sleep it off and feel better tomorrow. And contrary to what many people believe, it’s not as simple as taking a pill to “fix” your mental health.

As you would have seen in my earlier posts, I went through over 25 electroconvulsive therapy treatments, I went through 30 transcranial magnetic therapy treatments, I now take 14.5 tablets every single day to counteract the symptoms of my mental illness. These treatments have not “cured” or “fixed” me, but somehow, they appear to make it a little easier each day for me to keep on keeping on.

I watch every day closely, internally assessing it. Each day I note a feeling of depression I fear that the depression is worsening and mentally start planning my suicide and wondering how I go about hiding my depression from everyone that I love. Each day I note that my mood becomes elevated I consider that this may not be a “normal” mood, and I may be escalating to a place where I feel invincible and make poor decisions based on this. The hypomanic episodes are easier to dismiss, as part of me feels like they are a reward for the shitty depression episodes. Rationally I know that they cause just as much (if not more) damage than the depressive episodes, but after so long feeling so down that nothing would brighten you up, it’s easy to dismiss that voice of reason that tells you that you need to manage your hypomania before it takes control.

Why am I writing this? I don’t know. Part of me finds comfort in writing down what I’m feeling and letting it out of my head. Part of me also feels like this allows me to share my feelings with family and friends so that they don’t need to ask or assume what is going on with my mental health. And part of me hopes that it will encourage others who experience these mental health struggles to know that they’re not alone, and that it’s all worth fighting for.

Friday, August 9, 2019

When All Hope Is Gone...

**Trigger Warning – Mental Illness, Depression, Anxiety, Hopelessness, Suicidal Ideation**

“Sometimes, all you can do is lie in bed, and hope to fall asleep before you fall apart.”
- William C. Hannan

I am not sharing this post for your sympathy. I’m sharing it because usually when I share thoughts about my journey, it’s once I’ve turned the corner and can see the positive in life, once I’m in remission and am fighting to recover and gain control of my mind. I am raw, I overshare a lot, but I want to keep this real, and I want so desperately to help those without lived experience of this hell to understand why it’s not as simple as “thinking positively” or “going to the gym” or “trying yoga” or “appreciating the good things in your life and thinking about everyone else who is so special to you.”

I want to help people comprehend what it is like when depression, anxiety, and mental illness in general, take control of your mind and fight you each time you make a conscientious decision to take back that control and convince yourself to keep going. You try to plan for a future that right now your mind tells you doesn’t exist. You surround yourself with loved ones. You read stories of others who’ve overcome these obstacles. You read the stories of families who have lost someone that they love to these terrible illnesses and never recover. You take the medication you’re prescribed by the psychiatrist. You see the psychologist. You try alternative therapies like Transcranial Magnetic Therapy (TMS) and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).

Your brain isn’t rational, your mind fights back and rejects the limited positive thoughts that you’re able to find each time that they resurface, trying to convince you that things will get better. And still you feel hopeless, you feel defeated, you feel like a burden, you feel the pain overtake you, and you know that you just can’t do this anymore. You’re exhausted, and you just want your journey to end, you want the fight to be over.

You’re put into hospital to keep you safe from yourself. To stop you from making a decision to end it all, and escape from the hell that exists in your head from the moment that you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.

The anxiety stops you from wanting to be around others. At meal times you don’t eat. You’re not hungry, but even more so, being in that confined space with everyone around you, makes your heart race, makes it so hard to breathe, you get hot and cold flushes, you feel dizzy, you feel nauseous, you feel like you’ll pass out, and your mind just tells you to run away, get out of there, leave right now. You can’t do this. So you return to your room and isolate yourself, feeding into the anxiety and letting it remain in control.

You sit in your bed, you try to find positive inspiration online, you try to remember all those positive times you’ve had in the past, you look at the photos of those you love, photos of amazing memories, with your husband, with your family, with your friends, you remind yourself that you’ve overcome this battle in the past and you’ve got so much to be thankful for, and so many people who love you, you’re not alone. But the depression tells you that this time it’s different. This time you’re in too far and you’ll never get out alive.

The depression makes you want to isolate yourself from everyone and everything. The depression tells you that your family, your friends, that everyone, will be better without you here putting them through hell, you’re a burden. You’re a failure, and they’ll start to resent you for making them relive the pain of your existence, watching you suffering, listening over and over to your crying, witnessing you getting frustrated, saying horrible things to them that you don’t mean, and not being able to stop these things for you. You know they’ll never admit that you’re a burden on their lives, you know that maybe right now they can’t see it, but you know that disappearing from their lives would be so much better for them in the long term.

So your mind goes round and round. The thoughts get faster and faster. Sometimes the sedation medication helps to stop everything and you can sleep to escape it all, but when you awaken you know you’re just going to be right where you were before your eyes closed. You’re on a dangerous theme park ride, where the only way to make it stop is to unbuckle that safety belt and jump the hundreds of metres to the ground. To come crashing down, to fall to pieces, to make it stop and to never get up again. Despite what your friends and family argue, and try so desperately to convince you, you truly feel this is the best option for everyone.

Your psychiatrist visits you in hospital each morning. She tries to convince you that things will improve, that things will get better, that she’ll get you through this, that’s she is not giving up, that once she can get you to see that suicide is not the answer, and find that medication balance that you so desperately need, your life will turn around, and you’ll find life worth fighting for once again. But right now, you can’t see this, so you continue to feel like a prisoner, trapped inside your own mind, wishing and hoping for the day when they let you go home, after all they can’t keep you locked up indefinitely. They can’t keep you safe forever. One day the ride will stop, and you’ll be pain-free, it will all be over and this torment inside your head, that affects everyone you love and everyone you care about, will cease to exist. One day you’ll find peace and truly be free.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Electric Smiles

Trigger Warning - Depression and Suicidal Ideation

As long as I can remember, I’ve battled depression and fought against suicidal urges to end my life. Over the past 15 years, I know I have had more hospital admissions than I’m able to accurately keep track of.

There was an amazing time of bliss in the most recent few years where I was able to battle my mental illness as an outpatient, without the requirement for hospitalisation, and simply by taking regular medication and seeking assistance from a psychologist for talk therapy, I was able to stay in control and limit any real impact of mental illness on my life.

Everything was fine. Until it wasn’t. A few months ago I noticed that my mental health was slipping, and I wasn’t as in control as I would have liked. I noticed the suicidal thoughts becoming more and more, and the urges getting harder to fight against. November brought with it the first admission to the mental health ward in years. It wasn’t ideal, and I was devastated to need it after so long without it, but it served it’s purpose and kept me safe.

We changed the medication, I got back on my feet and I was ready to face the world once more, after only a week to get some time out and get back on track.

As time went on, the suicidal urges became more and became fixed at the forefront of my mind. I don’t know why I was depressed, all I knew is that I didn’t want to battle the depression any more, and if I was going to be depressed again, then I wanted it all to stop.

I stopped sleeping properly, my mind wandering, negative thought processes taking control. I ended up being honest with my psychiatrist and being admitted to the hospital for supervision and monitoring.

We used this time to try some alternative treatments for my depression, new medications, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy. Anything that would alleviate the struggle and make it easier to face the day.

Becoming unwell after a prolonged period of being well, I was crushed. It reinforced the suicidal thoughts. I mean, if things were always going to come back to feeling like this, what was the point in even trying to recover and be happy? Fighting against the urges to crash my car, or hang myself from a tree or tall building became harder and harder. I needed supervision, I needed support, I needed guidance and encouragement that things would improve.

That period of extreme suicidality, where my thoughts were consumed with how to escape the pain I was feeling, became like a never-ending obsession. Suicide was all I could think about. How would I do it? Where would I do it? When would I do it? I knew I needed to escape, and I knew that suicide would alleviate the stress and the pain that life was giving to me.

Admitted to hospital for weeks was never part of my plan. But looking back now, I can see how necessary it was. I was obsessed with suicidal thoughts and making plans, because that was all I could think about. People close to me witnessed my mood deteriorate, work colleagues and supervisors became concerned for my safety. 

I confided in a few people about just how bad I was feeling. They encouraged me to reach out for professional help. I was scared. I felt alone and I was petrified that this time, I was going to succeed in taking my own life to escape the mental anguish I was feeling.

Whilst the last few months feel like a huge blur, and I cannot recall a lot that has happened, I know a lot of that is for my own benefit. I know it’s still painful to think about how bad I was feeling. I know it’s still horrible to think about what I put those I love and care about through. I know how desperate I was for it all to stop, and how close I came to finding a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I feel so blessed that I have been surrounded by people who love and care for me, and that I have been continuously encouraged to take the time to look after myself and get myself back on the road to wellness. I feel so lucky that those people who are in my life have not judged me for my mental health struggles, but have offered guidance and support in ensuring that I make it through to the other side.

Whilst I know I’m not out of the woods yet, and suicide still crosses my mind when the depression grasps a firm hold, I feel like a lucky person to be surrounded by so many wonderful colleagues, friends and family. I know that although the battle is dark, and sometimes I fail to be able to see the light shining, reminding me that I’ll make it through, that I am so lucky to be surrounded by such a supporting army of wonderful people. I know that regardless of how often the suicidal thoughts cross my mind, or how fixated I feel my mind gets stuck on them, there are a bunch of people on my side, praying for me, and supporting me to make it through and out the other side. And for that, I am eternally grateful.