I’m sure there are many people out there struggling one way or another with anxiety, stress, depression, with being in lockdown, unable to see family members, I was gifted this book by the lovely #SamMissingham on Twitter after posting that I was struggling. It arrived in the post today, originally I was just going to pick it up and read a chapter or two, but before I knew it the afternoon has gone and I finished it. Everything that #MattHaig has written in his book could have been about me, about my life. It all made sense, the feelings of utter despair, fear of going out alone, I never thought of it as separation anxiety but it so is, I can go out if I have someone with me, but I cannot go out alone without it causing me severe panic, this is something that has developed over the last two years, after I had a fall. I was mum to 4 children and only that for so many years, always had a house full of their friends who also always called me mum, so now being alone is tough.
Matt is totally open in his book of all the things that affected him and how they affected him. How debilitating anxiety and depression can be. There are some good ideas and tips to take on board as well, some of which I will be able to take try others I won’t be able to do because I am disabled. But if you are struggling I would definitely recommend this book. It may help you understand some of what you are feeling and the fact you aren’t alone with those feelings. This is definite must read for anyone with any type of anxiety/depression. It may be a new thing that you don’t understand from being in lockdown.
A 5⭐️ read, that makes sense.
MUSINGS AFTER READING
I do now wonder if I was pre disposed to get depression as my grandad drowned himself, we had lived next door to my grandparents for the first 17 years of my life, I spent a lot of time sitting with them in the evenings watching the television, I sat holding my grandads hand whilst he cried as he had depression. Three weeks after we moved from Leicester to Bournemouth my grandad was gone, he had walked himself down to the reservoir a place he hadn’t walked to in many many years and drowned. I was heartbroken, I had sensed that morning something was wrong, just a feeling, when I got home my dad was on the phone and I remember telling my mum before I even knew that grandad was gone, but the shock was that he had taken his own life I hadn’t been prepared for that. So is depression hereditary?
At 18 I started training to be a nurse, a job I had always wanted to do. I was doing well, despite some bullying by a staff nurse on my first ward, I loved the work. On my third ward I had a practical assessment the first one, this is when I had my first anxiety attack, I had always been terrified of talking in front of people, now I had to do a bed bath and know everything about my patient to be assessed by a nursing officer, then questioned afterwards. I was almost paralysed by the anxiety I felt. But somehow got through it. But shortly before finishing my training I had knee problems which soon put an end to my career. Failure number one.
I married my first husband at 19, far too young, he had already knocked me about, thrown me down a flight of stairs, I tried to call the wedding off, but my parents talked round it as the invites had gone out and the family had hired a coach to bring them all from Leicester to Bournemouth. I had my first son at 21, he was 3 months old on Boxing Day when my husband confessed he had had a fling whilst I was pregnant and working and he wasn’t sure if he was the father of another child. After he told me he thought that would be it everything normal. I gave him a chance but he hit me again and I knew I wasn’t going to put my son through that so marriage over. Failure two.
I became a special constable, where I met my second husband, but I didn’t manage to do too many duties after a year because of the knees and the standing again. Failure three.
My first bout of depression was post natal depression after my third son, I had had my second son exactly a year earlier, in fact they had both been due on the same date but a year apart, but I hadn’t wanted another boy I had desperately wanted a girl, I remember lying in the bed sobbing all night long that it wasn’t a girl, I had no control over how I felt. But I went through the motions of doing everything you do for a baby, but at some stage it was almost zombie like, I felt no joy, no happiness that I should have felt and even now I feel some guilt. I saw a psychiatrist was given anti depressants as was the norm. Eventually felt better and three years later had my daughter.
So I now had 4 children, was married to a man who was a workaholic, who worked away from home a lot, sometimes 6 – 7 weeks at a time, I had health problems with arthritis in my knees, then he developed Crohn’s disease but he never did what the dr’s said. So if he wasn’t working away then it was 3 or 4 months in hospital. The marriage became unhealthy, not just for me but in hindsight for the children, the fights and arguments which they witnessed. But he wouldn’t move out of the house and I didn’t know where I could go with 4 young children so it went on, by now my health had deteriorated with osteoarthritis in other joints, fibromyalgia, gall stones, and several operations.
Then came the sexual abuse, that was the thing that tipped me over the edge, I was on 250mg of Amytriptiline a night which would knock me out, for someone who is not used to this drug 10mg will knock them out for the night and leave them feeling drowsy for most of the following day. But I would fall asleep totally out of it then wake up stripped of my nightwear and find myself being abused, but I was told I had made a move!!! How? This went on, until I couldn’t take it anymore and I took my first overdose, I no longer wanted to be here, but the strange thing is I am terrified of death, which is one of the things Matt says in his book, death is scary. I was taken to hospital released the next morning, someone came out to see me, asked was I hearing voices? ‘no’ did I hear voices from the tv? ‘no’ then they left. I tried 4 more times to end my life the last time I very nearly succeeded. I was kept in hospital for longer on the last attempt, and a few more questions asked, I explained what was happening, I spoke to the police, but nothing they could do, my word against his. I was already on Venlafaxine that obviously didn’t help, I had also been on Prozac which for me did not make me happy as everyone said it would it made me want to kill, Citalopram, seroxat, quetiapine, so many different anti depressants over the years and non really seemed to work. My daughter who was now 14 and I went into a hostel, but we were so scared in there, despite the fact there were security camera’s etc. The mix of people was alcoholic’s, drug addicts, other families, we left and went back to the house, but found ourselves back in the hostel a few weeks later. The hostel tried to get us into a women’s refuge but I was refused because I had tried to take my own life. A few years later a support worker tried to get me into classes to deal with anxiety but again I was refused because of my suicide attempts. I have never been a danger to anyone else so it has always seemed crazy that I have been turned down for help.
Eventually I found somewhere for the two of us to live, by this time my three sons were 18, 19, and 24.
I had tried to do an Access Course whilst married to enable me to go to University and get a qualification, but my husband didn’t want me doing it, so I had to quit because I just couldn’t manage without the support, failed again. In 2009/10 I enrolled again for the course and managed to pass with flying colours and ended up helping a lot of the younger students get there folders of work together. Finally I had achieved something. I was accepted into Southampton University to study Criminology, but not long after starting I developed OA in my right hand so had to postpone and start again the following year once I had had surgery. Tried again following year, travelling became too much, affected my health so I couldn’t do it. Failed again.
I started divorce proceedings, after 22 years of marriage, I should have left 10 years earlier. He didn’t want a divorce until he was on a dating site and met someone. I felt lighter, for the first time in a long time, the anxiety didn’t go away or the depression not immediately. Over the next 10 years we moved home around 10 times. Trying to find somewhere that felt like home. My ex got married and took on her two daughters and threw his sons out, and hardly had anything to do with his daughter. I had dates, met someone who I had very strong feelings for and thought we had a future, but it didn’t work out, my heart got broken. I focused for so long on my children’s lives, they have been my life. But then each gradually moved away, starting new lives themselves, the only one left living close by is my daughter who is my best friend. My eldest son is married with 2 young sons, my second lives with his fiancée, my youngest son is due a baby August, and my daughter has a 2 year old boy with her husband.
In December 2018 we lost my only sibling, my sister to cancer, I feel guilty now, that she died and I am alive, after all I had tried to take my life, she never stood a chance. It was tough on my parents. I drove to the funeral which was up in Milton Keynes, then we stayed at my sons for a couple of nights in Leicester, but I made the mistake of driving home in the dark, and my anxiety went through the roof, I felt like just abandoning the car and just sobbing half way home, my parents don’t drive so I had to continue, but that has completely knocked my confidence in driving. I am always worrying about my children having an accident now as well, I have become so terrified of losing one of them it starts to take over. Again reading this book I got the sense this is something that is normal in a brain that goes over anxiety and depression.
Since then my depression or as Matt refers to it at times the black dog is there, losing my sister knocked me, my mobility has deteriorated with the knees, which has in effect left me scared to go out on my own, I’ve had several more operations on my hands and was due another earlier this year but with Covid it’s obviously been put back, now I’m sitting with a knee infection, a problem with my left shoulder, and waiting for surgery on my left hand. I have spent the last 14 weeks in lockdown, I have someone who collects my medications weekly, as well as getting me some shopping, I saw my daughter at the weekend, but this has to be the hardest time, that I am struggling with, insomnia, anxiety attacks, loneliness, the only people I know are on social media, I am now 58 years old and have no friends, I don’t mean that in a poor me way, it just seems unbelievable that i have somehow lost touch with everyone. I had a group of friends that I did my nurse training with but then somewhere along the line they stopped including me in things, I see posts of them going to London for afternoon tea, or to take in a show, and I wonder what I did to be excluded. But I guess this is where the doubts of yourself come in as well, all part of the negativity you feel that goes with depression and anxiety.
I now know that I will never be free of it, and reading Matt’s book I think reinforces that in a way, I have to accept how my brain works, I have been trying meditation, and mindfulness, but sometimes my brain refuses to switch off, so I have to force myself to focus on the breathing. Last week was the closest I have come to me just taking a handful of pills than I have in a few years. But just by mentioning how I was feeling on Twitter gave me some support, through reading and just writing my blog I have met some wonderful people that I hope one day I may get to meet in person somehow. I don’t expect anyone to read all this as it does go on a bit, but I thought it might be a bit cathartic writing it down. Maybe it will help me deal with some of these feelings, and cope better. I know once lockdown etc is over I need to try and push myself to step out of that front door alone, and try and get a life back somehow. I know I need to be with people, but that walking into any room, or social situation is so daunting and terrifying, and I feel the longer this lockdown goes on the harder it is going to be not just for me but for many many people.