Keep On Talking

This time last week I sat at my computer and decided it was time to open up and tell you all about the Depression I’m dealing with at the moment. I didn’t consider it a brave decision to do so, I just wanted to be honest to anyone who reads this blog but more importantly, I wanted to be honest to myself. I wasn’t myself for a good while recently and I’m certainly never going to be 100% again, I’ll just have to accept whatever percentage I can get to.

There are two things that I need to acknowledge and say thank you for before I continue. I so appreciate the fact that even one person will take the time to read my posts. For someone struggling with self-esteem issues to know that people read my ‘Let’s Talk Depression’  post got me through a lot last week so thank you.

I’m always thankful that anyone reads the blog, but if they then take the time to comment on what they’ve read as well, then that’s even better. I have loved every comment, like on Facebook and conversation that the post has provoked. I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed by the response and it’s been a real support and comfort to hear from people who have gone through Depression themselves or helped a loved one through it.

It’s taken me a week to follow-up on that post because it took a hell of a lot out of me to share that information. I would love to be able to post every day, or at least more often, but the concentration it takes to write a post drains me so much, I can barely even look at my computer for a couple of days afterwards. The tiredness brought on by this concentration is my excuse for spelling errors or typos that you may come across. So to the person who reads this with a red pen in hand (you know who you are!), I’m sorry that sometimes even the spell and grammar checks make mistakes! 🙂

As I said, unloading some of my thoughts last week was really cathartic and lifted a little weight from my shoulders. Unfortunately anyone who has fibro will know that can never be the end of the story. Every single day pain and fatigue are there to be overcome, some days I feel a little better, some days I feel a little worse but they are constants in my life. They are always the starter symptoms to which different mixes of all the other symptoms are added.

Every morning brings the symptom checker. I wake up, if I’ve been lucky enough to actually sleep, and perform a quick body scan. For starters I rarely feel refreshed after the sleep so I’m exhausted most of the time and I think it’s more often the pain and not my alarm clock that wakes me up. I start with my toes and move slowly up my body. Just as an example I’ll take you through this mornings’ check-up;

Toes like icicles, throbbing pain in instep, ankles cracking and have very little mobility at the minute. (Luckily by the time I’ve gone through my body, my ankles should be warmed up enough to take my weight when I stand up out of bed) Next my shins feel like I took a kicking last night and my knees are stiff and really sore.

This means two things, firstly I’m going to be walking a little funny until they loosen up but secondly, it also means it’s a cold but clear morning outside. How do I know? Well my knees have developed into the most accurate barometers I know! Hips weren’t too bad this morning. They were sore but not any more than the usual, my lower back however was a different story.

If I thought my lower back was sore and stiff, then I ran out of words for my shoulders and neck. Stiff doesn’t seem strong enough, I certainly wouldn’t be driving anywhere until they relaxed a little. My hands were as cold as my feet, due to the Raynauds, and felt swollen and the base of my thumbs were killing me. By the time I reached my head I was even more exhausted than when I woke up but I kept going. My head felt like Ali in his prime had given me a box and I’d a horrible migraine, but that’s only the physical symptoms.

When I reached my head there was also a battle going on. My Depression was niggling at me saying ‘why bother getting up today when you’re so sore?’, ‘you won’t achieve anything today anyway’, ‘it’s lucky no one is relying on you to work today because you’re worthless in this state’.

Fighting thoughts like that over and over again, every morning is draining but today has had a decent outcome. I took my time, did some stretching in bed, loosened my joints a little, swung my feet over the side of the bed and my ankles were strong enough to bear the weight.

You see my fibro symptoms haven’t gone away just because I’ve got Depression and vice versa. Fibro and Depression along with my sleep apnoea, my irritable bowel disease and everything else are all screaming for attention each and every day. Some days one is louder than the other but they’re all there constantly.

To everyone who read my blog last week and saw something of themselves or a loved one in my writing I’ve a little message. Just as Depression is an invisible illness and hates to be discussed, so too is fibromyalgia and a host of other illnesses. So let’s keep the discussion going and help each other over the hurdles we all face each day.

Good luck, I know I for one will need it.

Let’s Talk Depression

So my name is Fibrofella and I’ve got Depression. That’s the one with a capital D and all its related symptoms, impacts and treatments. It’s something I’ve struggled to put my hand up and admit to recently but the fact is it’s affecting me and I need to acknowledge it so that I can start the healing process. People have told me I’m brave to say I have Depression, I can’t see it that way at the moment but I know it’s been a necessary step for me to take.

Depression, in my opinion, can only be dealt with effectively when it is acknowledged. I said nothing to friends and family for about a month after I knew I needed to help. The energy it took to hide my pain and heartache was debilitating so I opened my mouth, choked back the tears and told them the truth of how low I was feeling and the treatment I had begun. I’ve also questioned whether I should even write this post but I’ll tell you now why I have done.

I always wanted this blog to be upbeat and to talk about how I was combating the fibro but I also pledged to make it honest. So it would be wrong for me not to write anything during the times I feel like crap. It’s important that anyone who reads this blog sees the full range of symptoms and experiences that I go through. I’ve had bad days with fibro but this is a sustained and on-going feeling that has taken over many aspects of my life recently.

It’s hard to start describing the symptoms I’m experiencing as there are plenty and they all feel like the worst symptom at times. But then again a lack of decision-making and doubting myself is a symptom in itself, so I’ll start with that.

Last week I had to stay overnight in a hotel so I needed clean clothes for the second day. There was no limit to what I could choose to pack and there could be no wrong answer. Ten minutes later I had a t-shirt in each hand and couldn’t choose what to pack, I was literally frozen to the spot with indecision. That’s a simple decision, I did the same while food shopping, I did the same over what TV programme to watch. I didn’t trust myself to make the right choice. I’m asking people to read over my emails before I send them where just a few months ago I could trust myself to do it right and get on with it.

My confidence and self-belief have gone through the floor. I get no sense of accomplishment because I can’t work. I’m tearful, I’m anxious, I’m paranoid, I’m irritable, I’m inpatient. I’M NOT ME.

Depression hates to be talked about and it is the Depression itself that has me feeling like this and not me. These are two very important points that have been made to me recently. Every time I tell someone about my depression or write a post like this the power of the Depression is diminished a little bit. Whenever I feel one of the symptoms above or any of the myriad other symptoms of Depression, I now try to remind myself that they are not my feelings but feelings caused by the Depression.

Moody is often used to describe sullen teenagers, it has a very negative connotation but I want to use it to describe myself right now. I’m moody because it is impossible to pinpoint exactly how I am feeling at any given time. One thing that has come along with the Depression for me is mood swings. I can change from complete despair to complete elation (and back again!) at any point. I’m moody because I go through every emotion that has ever been described as a mood every day. Meet me for a coffee and it’ll be the best day of my life but if I have to cancel that for any reason, I’d feel like it’s the end of the world.

There is always an elephant in the room whenever someone talks about Depression, so to confront it and discuss it, one of my doctors likes to use the very euphemistic ‘dark thoughts’.

This is an extremely emotive topic to discuss but it’s vital for me to deal with it if I’m to be truly honest. Whether they last for seconds, minutes, days, weeks is not the issue, the truth is I have had thoughts about self-harm and suicide. I think every one of us in the deepest recesses of our brains can have thoughts about death, sex, murder, fantasies etc. that we would never discuss or act upon. I’m not going to deny them just because some are frightening thoughts rather than my dreams of scoring the winner in the world cup final.

I have a great team of professionals who work with me to improve my situation with my fibro and it is just the same with the Depression I’m now going through. Nothing radical needs to change with the care and support my friends and family provide because I’m lucky that they are top-notch. Even still it’s important for everyone to know that even though I’m not myself at the moment, I’ll be there soon. I have a great counsellor I can talk to and I’m taking medications to help get through this phase in my life. As I said above, I’m acknowledging the Depression and I’ve got started with the healing process.

Close to one in five people in Ireland will develop Depression at some point in their lives. So no matter how alone and isolated you may feel in times of despair, myself and others are there beside you struggling but fighting with whatever energy we can muster. So let’s get talking. Tell your friends and family when you feel down, tell your GP, tell your pets, tell your imaginary friend or tell the man on the moon.

Depression hates to be talked about because it loses its power when we do just that. So take it from Fibrofella, a superhero who is at a low ebb at the minute; Talk, Talk, Talk and Talk some more about your Depression and we’ll get through this together.


Feeling Like Superman! (not)

Happy (belated) Halloween to one and all! I hope you all enjoyed an exciting, and more importantly safe, night. Halloween has never been high on my list of events to celebrate in the year. As far back as I can remember, I don’t think I ever enjoyed Halloween. I never got the point and have no interest in fires and bangers. I love firework displays though, just once they’re in the hands of the professionals.

Halloween is a great opportunity to dress up and have a laugh. I remember when a black sack with a hole cut in it for your head constituted ‘dressing up’, now it seems it’s all about buying a ready-made costume. Normally I’d be working in the pub on Halloween but I do remember being off once when I was 17 I think it was. I didn’t think the lads were serious about dressing up to go to the pub so I arrived in my mate’s house in ordinary clothes. A quick think-tank was set up and I left for the pub dressed as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. I know as much now as I did then about that film but I also know I enjoyed pints of stout, in front of a roaring fire, dressed in a dressing gown and slippers that night. Now that is a Halloween I can get behind!

As I said, Halloween is an opportunity to dress up and costumes have come a long way since I was a kid. If children buy into it at a young age and enjoy it then I’m sure it’s a great night. My niece who’s four was so excited about last night. She was dressing up as Rapunzel and she was going to get to eat lots of sweets. I know Rapunzel isn’t a scary or typically dark choice to dress up as but as more and more costumes are bought; Halloween seems to be more about the dressing up itself, rather than dressing up with the intent to scare.

I’ve had a few jobs over the years and all of them have required the wearing of a uniform. Whether it was my first job as a fuel injection engineer (Petrol Pump Attendant), working as a lifeguard and gym instructor or most recently as a barman before what has become an extended period of absence. The uniforms I wore for each of these jobs involved a little bit of dressing up each day before work. Putting on the uniform focused the mind on what the job entailed, who I was representing and how I needed to treat customers and the general public.

Some people dressing up for Halloween put on a costume because they want to embody the character that costume represents while others dress up just to get a laugh from people. The last time I posted something here was before the JA Family Day. For that day I dressed up as Superman. We were trying to draw attention to the fact that all the children that were there, and ourselves as mentors, are all superheroes for fighting our fibro, arthritis etc.

The Superman costume is sitting on the table beside me here now. I told my family I’d wear it over to my sisters’ house last night so I could join my nieces in having some fun and maybe even steal some of their sweets. It didn’t happen though.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog, a longer gap between posts than ever before. The truth is I’m having a rough time of it at the moment. While I’m aware everyone has their issues and hurdles to overcome, I need a little help at the moment to overcome mine. That help is there and for that I must thank my family, my friends and others who help in their own way.

Halloween is all about dressing up and embodying the character that you’ve chosen to dress as. I’ve never felt less like Superman than I have done recently so it was a much better idea for me to stay away from dressing up this year. It’s good to know that the costume is there though because at some point I’ll be on top of this and be ready to be Superman again.