Thursday, 30 October 2014

Depression in it's physical manifestation?

So I thought it might be a good idea to tell you all about this journey of discovery into my depression and  what my symptoms were and how things came to the point at which I find myself today.

Back in May of this year I didn't really think things were any different to how they had been for many years. Busy times as a single working parent, juggling my responsibilities as a working adult with my full time caring duties as a single parent to a nine year old daughter.
When you're on your own even small ups and downs in the road of life can often become quite overwhelming and my life was no different to a lot of other peoples in this vain. Money problems, concerns about your children's discipline and diet, guilt about juggling work against child care. Family worries and emotional support being called upon from others. Relationships with co-workers and inter-office politics. Pets and their problems. Household chores and gardening. Shopping and saving money or trying to for holidays and so on and so on. My point I guess is there seems to be a never ending list of things to stress you, things that need worrying about. If you're not careful these seemingly minor things can all clump together like a knot in a child's hair and become insurmountable problems that seem impossible to detangle and deal with. Then you keep going, keep fighting often for years and years. All the time you keep dragging that proverbial comb through the hair until it finally and permanently it snags in the knot and there's no going back. Everything stops.
The comb is stuck good and fast and no amount of wriggling or jiggling or pulling on it will shift it unless you finally address the tangles and the condition of the hair!

The hair 'my life' I guess got to that point in May. The comb finally snagged and everything stopped. I desperately tried to pull the comb free but it just broke off leaving me with no way forward but to deal with my life and the issues therein. In May I started to feel physically very poorly, I had acute dizziness like a travel sickness. the world would spin and I had to hold on to things to walk around. My head felt like it was in a nut cracker. Physically painful and under constant pressure. It hurt and made me physically sick if I ignored the pain and tried to carry on. I started doing odd things and my memory and ability to recall things in the short term seemed to vanish. I'd leave cooking rings on, make two cups of tea having forgotten I'd only just made one. Park in a free zone yet text the car park a payment despite being no where near it. My body ached all over like having flu and my hands and feet kept going numb with pins and needles. Fatigue, I felt dragging tiredness. The smallest outing or event left me struggling to keep my eyes open and this still hasn't changed of yet.

I went to my GP on a Monday and outlined my symptoms. He determined that I had a tension headache and gave me some strong pain killers for my head. By the Friday I was struggling big time with the power of the headache, it hurt so bad I wanted to wrap it in cotton wool and hide in a box. I went back to the GP. This time he scared the life out of me by saying perhaps I had a brain bleed? He called me an ambulance, refused to let me leave and left me sobbing and in a complete panic. This was 10am on a Friday morning.
I live alone with my daughter and two dogs. I had walked out the door that morning thinking I'd be back in an hour. I had to arrange dog care, someone to pick up my daughter from school and be loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital. No one to call to give me moral support, all alone and terrified. When we arrived at A&E the questions started and I was moved to an observation ward.

During that day I had a CT Scan of my head and blood tests but other than that was left alone in a bed. No food or drink, small amount of money on me. Stranded away from home with no transport and worried sick what my little girl would think when someone else's mum picked her up and told her I was in hospital. My mobile battery was ebbing away slowly but surely and I had no charger. All in all I lay there scared, alone and sobbing to myself for hours and hours. The CT scan was clear and the relief was amazing. My ex then brought my daughter to see me (under duress I might add) and I just wanted to collapse and be the needy one. She had packed me an overnight bag herself and that and the random contents made me smile. But I just wanted a hug and to be given some love but she clearly needed the comfort and I remained strong, as always, and gave her the support she clearly needed and tried to be bright and unworried. After ten minutes they went away again as it was by now 8pm some 9 hours after my arrival and they had decided to do a lumbar puncture of my spine to rule out meningitis. Watching my daughter leave and feeling the loneliness and emptiness return was like a punch in the guts and I just wanted to sob but the doctor was there straight away to stick a giant needle in my spine and tap my spinal fluid. Ouch that hurts! After the lumbar puncture I was instructed to lie flat for a couple of hours. One hour without moving at all and then after that I could go to the toilet but should return straight to bed. So after an hour at 9.30pm I got up and went to the toilet. I was hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely and generally pretty low and dejected. But the side ward I was in was now empty, the staff had moved elsewhere and I was bodily alone as well as psychologically. I thought it must have gone past the time of day where I'll be sent home surely? But I wasn't sure and went back to bed to wait out the next hour. I struggled to stay awake but I did and thought I could expect the staff to check on me at the two hour mark.... wrong!
I must have fallen asleep but I was awoken at 0130 hours my a nurse. She roughly shook me awake and before I could really even get my bearing she blurted out the lumbar puncture was clear you can leave now I'll call you a taxi. With that and with me still wiping the sleep from my eyes she walked away. The tears came. I started to panic whether I had enough money for a taxi and started after her asking how much it would be from there to home. She shrugged her shoulders. I also asked what happened now? She seemed confused. I said about my symptoms and why I was here. She shrugged again and said 'see your GP'
Then I started wondering how else I could get home. I couldn't wake friends at this time of the day, the buses weren't running and my back hurt badly from the LP and walking across town in the middle of the night to the station seemed really scary and a bleak prospect. There was no warmth from anyone. No one said I could sit in a room until morning or even in the empty bed for a few more hours. I was being chucked out. In a matter of minutes the taxi arrived and I had to ask him quite shamefully how much it would cost as I wasn't sure I had enough. He was genuinely nice and for the first time all day someone showed me some kindness. He said it would be a set £15 and even offered to take me to my car at the GP's surgery. My back was agony and came on top of the remaining symptoms of a blinding headache, flu like aches and dead hands and feet.
By two thirty in the morning I was home and able to sob in peace. Finally I felt safe if bloody ill. But I was in my cocoon.

The following morning I could barely move but the dogs sitter brought the dogs back and I had to pay her £20 for their one nights stay. (Being ill is costly especially when you're hard up in the first place)
My daughter was returned to me too and there I was right back to having to be strong and pretending all was well in the world for her sake.

I returned to my GP on the Monday but he was away! A nurse practitioner saw me and fobbed my off with some pills and told me to come back and see the GP the following week. Over the next couple of weeks he ran various series' of tests but everything came back as negative, except for a neck x-ray showing I had cervical spondylitis, and a blood test that showed at some point unbeknown to me I had had glandular fever. After a couple of weeks though he decided the only way forwards was to refer me for a neurology consultant appointment on an urgent referral due to the continued headaches. It was a shock when the appointment came through as the 28th August! Three months away....urgent?! So after that point I just waited and waited.

Work got cross and started the UPP process as previously discussed on earlier blogs and I continued to feel horrible.
They of course referred me to occupational health and the doctor there was actually really supportive and nice. He however was the first person to hands on physically examine me and he found a lump in my throat and asked me to get my GP to follow up on that!

The neurology appointment finally arrived, seven days after my step mum finally died of cancer and he was a stand offish misery of a guy who didn't have time for me. he stated very quickly that he thought it was a tension headache which swung me right back to day 1 at the GP! I had a tantrum, burst in to tears and left the consultation rapidly. I had pinned three months worth of hopes in him telling me something was tangibly wrong. I was crushed. I wanted vindication for the way I'd been feeling. I wanted a name for my illness. I sat in the hospital car park sobbing again.

My GP kept coming back to stress and I kept arguing vehemently against it. I had physical symptoms. I had been feeling atrocious for months. How could this all be stress? I was referred to the ENT department for my neck lump and on again for an ultrasound. Again that proved negative as the lump was connected to my cervical spondylitis.

Eventually a colleague and friend from work sat me down and tentatively suggested that for the UPP process it would do me some favours to have a diagnosis as there were murmurings a foot that I was swinging the lead and skiving. In reality I think she was actually saying look inside yourself, look in the mirror, look at your tangled hair and the comb stuck there!! I felt cornered, caught and like an animal in the headlights.

But the more I thought on her words the truer they became and finally I when I went back to the GP and I said I think it may possibly be depression? A wry knowing smile decorated his face and he looked like someone that had known for ages but who had been waiting for me to catch up with the truth. He prescribed some anti-depressants and a sick note that runs out this Monday. Sadly this realisation probably came to late for me to tackle it's implications effectively as I think I probably needed longer in this knowledge to take the counselling (I'm on a 6-12 week waiting list) and get more equipped to go back and face the world. But as half pay looms at the six month mark of being off work I simply have no choice but to go back to work.

I'm still struggling with my physical symptoms.

I'm still dog tired for doing very little.

I'm still very fragile mentally........ but I guess the comb is finally free and I perhaps can always go and buy myself some detangling spray?!

Dread wells in my guts and there's the familiar panicky lump in my throat as next week looms :-(

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

FIRST STAGE UPP MEETING - Reg 15 Police Regs 2012

So Monday the 27th October came and went.

I got up feeling fairly accepting of what the day was going to bring, that was until I read a tweet from my dear friend and it brought home that it was actually a meeting with some quite a serious implications for me. She talked of being with me in spirit and that everything would be okay. Then I started crying and for a while I was quite tearful on and off. I maintained 'my front' around my daughter however and tried to appear nonchalant and looking as if I was at ease with the world. A skill I am becoming used to.

I walked my dogs up and over the hill at the back of the house and it felt weird thinking I was going to a meeting whereby they would be deciding whether or not to start a ball rolling that could eventually sack me and why? ....Because I've been signed off sick by a medical practitioner for five and a half months.
One would think the half pay looming would be motivation enough, but no the Winsor review brought in these new regulations and procedures. I pondered as I walked about the first I had heard of it and them and it was after I had been off work for a month and my boss who had not been in touch at all decided to come and visit me at home. It turned out that he actually wanted to complete paperwork with me in regards of the Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures at that early stage. He sat in my lounge filling out paperwork in regards of my 'unsatisfactory performance'. There was one question that asked him as a line manager how could the officer improve their attendance and performance?! At the time I was incensed by the question and the whole process as it suggested to me I was being unsatisfactory 'naughty' by being off sick.

Then he put that away and went through all thirteen of my case files asking me where I was at with each job and what I had done. Like a progress review. But let's remember I had been off work a month by now, had been in hospital and feeling horrific with crashing headaches, aching body, crippling fatigue and so on. The pressure I felt was immense and I had to read back through my own logs and progress comments to even recall what each job was and where I was at with it.

I spoke to my boss once more between this one month stage and the service of further paperwork relating to the unsatisfactory performance procedures at the five months stage.

I got home from the dog walk and jumped in a bath wanting to get myself washed and dressed with plenty of time to spare. The meeting was at 1400 hours, I had to drop my daughter to a friend around 1315 hours and meet the federation at 1330 hours so I didn't want to be late or rushing which would panic me more especially with 'mini me' in tow! Then came the 'what to wear' dilemma. Business, casual or a mixture? I didn't want to look to obliging or together but on the flip side not too dishevelled or  rebellious! I stood staring at a flowery blouse for ages trying to decide if it was so jolly and frivolous for such a serious occasion. I couldn't decide and went downstairs where my daughter said I looked 'weird' which helped immensely as you can imagine! By now my nerves are frazzled and jangling and my next dilemma was whether or not to straighten my hair or not!? Naturally curly unruly hair or straight business like bob?! I decided on frazzled like the inside of my head! I also decided the only make up I would wear would be mascara and a small amount of lippy. Again not wanting to appear too 'with it' or ready for work! Overthinking things or what?!

I kept checking the clock it was now 1130 hours.... the clocks having just gone back 'mini me' then announces 'I'm hungry' grrrr and I try and concentrate hard enough to muster the motivation to go and make her some lunch! Then the federation representative started texting me and I got distracted by that! I decide against my 'financial' better judgement to order a pizza as I just could focus enough to fix food. So an order was placed and I start to feel tight chested again....

Then the fed rep asks me if he can ring me.....urghhh...... last thing I need right now I was thinking BUT he's doing an awesome job and I owe him big style so he rings ......

                            STAND DOWN   STAND DOWN   STAND DOWN!!!

Turns out that during our text conversation I had told him that I would be returning to work on the 5/11 as I just cannot manage on half pay. He had then gone and fought my corner with my line manager and HR quoting police regulations at them and generally hassling them big style about whose interests it would be in to hold the meeting or to put me onto Stage 1. Initially he said they were not having any of it but eventually they agreed and cancelled the meeting.  Never underestimate having federation support and if you aren't a member and you are 'job' get yourself some membership right now. Incredible advice and support when you need it most and in the current shoot them first ask questions later times and with all the tactics being used you never know when you'll be next in the firing line and in need of their help.

So there I was all dressed with nowhere to go and my daughter was sulking as she had to stay with me and not go to the child care!!! CHARMED I'M SURE!

As it was we went to the park and she crushed her foot on a stepper which has left her on crutches!! That's karma for you!!

Now I'm counting down the days until I go back to work :-( a week today.
A phased return a bit at a time.
I'm already looking forward to my leave at Christmas and hoping I get that far without doing something drastic like resign!

The day after the meeting was cancelled a colleague contacted me to ask me how I wanted my 'long service medal' awarded?!!
Ceremony or privately?
Talk about two contrasting days!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Soul Searching

Do people generally spend time psychoanalysing themselves or am I just a complete freak? Since writing my last post I have had to do a lot of soul searching.

I was awaiting figures you may recall for the half pay scenario to show me how bad things would be if I was still off work sick and the half pay kicked in as of 17/11. Well I'm not too good at maths but the general picture painted to me is that going onto half pay is a no no. Especially if your trouble is stress, anxiety and depression because there are so many variables, and variables' mean uncertainty and uncertainty means stress.  There's the unpredictability of an ESA claim from the DWP and whether or not you would be awarded the £72 a week for 13 weeks and there's also an immense chapter and verse type 52 page form, detailing your bust size to how many times a week you fart, to fill out in order to be assessed for it. There's also a claim to be made and paperwork to be completed for the police federation group insurance which would I'm told make up 25% of your gross salary. There's also the the fact you'd be even further removed from the work place and dealing with the stress of ever climbing back on the work train. In fact it was made perfectly clear to me that this was not a viable option and therefore the only way forwards is back to work.

The next hurdle is whether or not the force will still decide tomorrow to put me on stage one of the unsatisfactory performance procedures, and then to work out how/where and for how long I go back to work in the first instance. I've been told to consider what are my stress factors, to identify them so they can be considered and possibly circumnavigated.

Well people in general trigger my stress so let's clear them out the way first off!!... yes all of them!

In all seriousness every time I sit and consider this question seriously I start to panic and move away from the thoughts so I can calm down. I'm already feeling panicked and tight chested just thinking about going up to headquarters for this meeting tomorrow. I've been told not to speak during the meeting and let the fed rep do it all!! I hope I don't have a Tourette's style outburst! Sticking tape may be called for!

It's been suggested I work away from my normal station to start with...but I think that's counterproductive. But the advice is confused because in one breath it's you have to face coming back sometime but in the next breath it's work somewhere else. How is that facing things? It just postpones the inevitable and leaves me anxious about what's being said about me working elsewhere by my normal work colleagues' . Plus I'd have to explain to whomever I ended up working with why I'm there for a small amount of time. No back to normal it has to be and let's hope the elastic band in my head doesn't snap! So it's half term this week and my sick note expires on the 2/11. So I'll go back to my GP 3/11, get signed back with a prescriptive detailed 'fit' note and bite the bullet and go back to my normal office and face the music.

Easy to write, not so easy to do! What do I wear tomorrow? Business clothes? But then I'll look 'too' together. Make Up? Or go looking gaunt and manic! Or dirty jeans so I look as unkempt on the outside as I feel on the inside?! God knows...?  I can't even plan that in my head without feeling queasy and why is that? Let's face it all I have to do is drive there, sit in a meeting saying nothing and leave again! I guess it's being judged, being pitied, or maybe being despised and yes definitely being talked about when I'm not there. Just being a focal point isn't comfortable is it?

Something else that troubles me is just finding the motivation and energy to go back to work. Getting out of bed to walk dogs, to get my daughter ready for school. Getting her to school. Getting to work on time. Running around at work, running home. Collecting her from childcare. Making tea and feeding her. Doing her reading etc. walking the dogs again. My working days are endless and full of chores. Yet at the moment just finding the energy or the inclination to switch on the telly, or pick socks off the floor is challenging and difficult. How the hell am I going to get all that done again every day? I sit and stare in to space and time just ebbs by like water in a river.

I feel so lost. I feel so crumpled and inept. I feel like the piece of paper that's been screwed up as it's unwanted and useless. I feel like the bit that's been thrown at the bin yet missed the receptacle and landed lonely and spent on the floor somewhere nearby. The piece of paper that was almost useful once but then was abandoned and left in a crumpled heap on the floor.

I'll let you know how tomorrow goes!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Half Pay Dilemmas

So today is the 23rd October 2014....I will be on half pay from my part time role as a police sergeant as of the 17th November 2014 and quite possibly bankrupt shortly thereafter!!

Golly I have to joke a bit because just when I thought I was making some headway (no pun intended) the ground goes and shifts from under my feet again. I feel like f I didn't try and lighten my darkness a little I might just end up hiding under the duvet for the foreseeable future. I do feel like I'm on the edge of a cliff hanging on to my normality but only just and I really do feel only a very short distance away from disaster. My head space is so fragile and splintered.

I must look calm and normal though as nobody seems to know or guess. In fact people keep saying 'you look so well' and I just keep wishing that I felt just a fraction of that wellness in reality.

Do these things feelings happen to other people or just depression sufferers? It seems to me that I keep picking myself up off the floor like a proverbial skittle that's been knocked over and just as I regain my balance and think 'yes I can stand firm and not wobble' another blooming bowling ball hits me and BANG there I go again!

Yesterday I arranged a meeting with my police federation rep (union rep) to discuss the fact that as of the 2012 update to police regulations the force now view my long term absence through ill health purely through business eyes and ask themselves 'is she providing us value for money?' The answer clearly is no I am not in the eyes of HR. They then can consider implementing unsatisfactory performance procedures. Apparently there are three stages to this process and the ultimate sanction after stage three could be the force dispensing with my services. I am currently being considered for placement on stage 1. I have to attend a meeting with my line manager, a representative from HR and my federation rep next Monday the 27th October 2014 when the decision whether or not to place me on stage 1 will be decided.

So yesterday we were discussing this process and also the notice that I have had from my deputy chief constable placing me on half pay as of the 17th November 2014.

The fed rep is a genuinely nice guy with huge empathy and communication skills. He has come highly recommended as someone that will fight my corner tooth and nail and also someone that knows his stuff inside and out. I have been told to trust him implicitly and follow his lead. Looking at the federation in isolation for a minute the reps don't get a lot extra if anything for putting themselves out an amazing amount for others. They look after multiple officers who are generally going through utterly life changing crap situations. This is a huge commitment on top of their day jobs, often as front line officers and I for one am very thankful.   He said to me yesterday if you want to speak to me at three in the morning just text me and I think he genuinely meant it too.

So it took me somewhat aback when he said to me out of the blue yesterday 'I want you to go back to work' I was shocked to be honest but when he rationalised to me why he thought it was for the best I could see it made perfect sense. Sitting there in that room at headquarters it did seem to make perfect sense. He said he thought it would be best if I worked reduced hours a couple of times a week and at a different location to where I normally worked. Again perfectly logical. He asked me what I thought... I knew the idea of going onto half pay was terrifying me and the not knowing if I'd be able to pay the bills was an immense weight around my neck so it felt the only rational way forwards was to agree and I did agree if with a fairly large dose of trepidation running through my veins. But as I've said I've been told he's the best and to trust in him.

So I left and started the drive home. Well dear goodness I wasn't expecting the panic attack that ensued or the tears. I wasn't shocked that my head felt like it was going to explode as the splitting pain in my head has been a constant since May. But I was utterly surprised by the violent physical reaction to the thought of returning to work and to say it was overwhelming and hugely scary is an understatement. My chest tightened and my breathing became laboured, my eye sight blurred and I felt really dizzy. My joints all started aching very painfully and my right hand went numb again. I felt physically sick like I had eaten a chunk of food far too big to swallow and it was stuck at the base of my throat.

I had to go and pick my daughter and her friend up from school and it was all I could do to function and communicate with them but carry on I did.

Later after my daughters friend had gone home and I'd done the swimming lesson shuttles to and from the pool I had a text from my best friend asking me how things had gone with the fed rep. I replied that I'd been shocked that he had asked me to return to work, told her that I had agreed at the time but that I had since gone in to meltdown and been very tearful.

This whole reaction and chain of events is very worrying and has left me with the obvious question... 'if this is how the mere suggestion has rendered me, how will the actuality play out?'

I will draw an analogy Olympic athlete breaks his leg just before the main race. His coach says never mind you can still compete. Yes he could but he'd fall flat on his face, he certainly wouldn't win and he'd feel pretty humiliated wouldn't he? That's how I think going back to work is likely to play out for me. I'll fall on my face (not literally although I'd never rule it out completely) , make a prat of myself (some would say inevitable) and I wouldn't win the day and be a healthy rounded person.

BUT and it's a blooming BIG BUT

I am a single parent with bills and commitments how can I not go back to work? So now I've started thinking perhaps I could ask the GP for some form of drug that would quell the panic attacks? A sedation type pill that would just get me through? Or once I got there would I actually cope okay and it's just the fear of it provoking the panic? But we must also remember that I'm only two weeks in to anti-depressant pills and they make take longer to have a positive affect mightn't they?

So when I woke up this morning I decided I needed to know the figures. Exactly what was the difference from where I'm at now to where I'd be on half pay?

Because the half pay would get topped up with a federation group insurance payment plus I'd be able to claim ESA from the DWP apparently. So I've asked for the figures to be worked out if at all possible because just scaremongering and telling me I'd be worse off isn't helpful. Plus I've asked if I can suspend my pension contributions temporarily or whether that's a one off decision. In or out so to speak. Once I can see this amount versus the other amount I'm hoping I'll know better whether it's a necessary evil just to survive.

So as of now I await those figures. Then I'll go and see my GP .... and then I have a pretty vast decision to make.....

make or break literally!

I'll let you know x

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Assessment phone call

I've just spent fifty minutes on the telephone to Steps2Wellbeing for my 'assessment' phone call, as referred by my GP.
What an odd experience that was. I found the endless questions that started on a scale of 1-8 how..... very disconcerting. I appreciate and understand the purpose but trying to compartmentalise the way you feel into survey type questions is really off putting.
Then she asked me what sort of therapy I thought I needed? Throwing the ball into my court so to speak! There was me thinking you'd tell me I wanted to scream back at her! So I asked her what there was available not really knowing and therefore struggling to answer her. So she starts rambling on about low intensity telephone based/computer input with a workbook, or high intensity counselling or high intensity CBT. Crikey it all sounded like a work out schedule!
Again having outlined the available therapies she threw the ball back into my court.... All I can say is it's a good job I've been self reflecting and writing things down over the last few days as it gave me a small heads up as to how I am really feeling and what I feel I really need.
As I had explained and rambled away to her on the phone I began to realise that it's more than possible that all my issues stem right back to my over bearing, psychologically tortuous Mother who bullied me unrelentingly throughout my childhood and way on into my adult years. I was explaining to her how I had had a period of stress and counselling back in 2002 and it then dawned on me as I was explaining it that this was around the time my Dad had his affair and left my Mother.
It was also at this juncture that Mother and I had a blazing row on the telephone around the subject and she gave me an ultimatum. 'Ditch your Dad and have nothing more to do with him or I want nothing more to do with you.' She put the emotional thumb screws on saying he'd wronged her and how could I want anything to do with him. I recall arguing back that he had done wrong but that I could still have both of my parents in my life. It was at this point that she started screaming abuse down the telephone and I said I was going to end the call if she continued to abuse me. She continued and I hung up. I have not spoken to her from that day to this.
In 2005 when I had my daughter I wrote to her offering her the opportunity to have a relationship with Ellie if not me. She wrote back telling me it was a 'fate worse than death' and that she would one day tell my darling daughter what a bitch her Mum really was. Charming!
For several years thereafter I tried to maintain a relationship with my family (her relatives) in Cornwall but as she saw them a lot and she seemed to have told them her own version of events and I felt myself turning into a black sheep and for what?
Dad and his new lady Sue married several days after Ellie was born. I wasn't invited.  It took me a while to accept Sue but I did and she was an incredible woman but sadly as I said in a previous blog she has recently passed away.
When I look back at it all I think the way I am, the damaged individual I have become, my history, my family is more than likely where all these issues started.

The lady on the telephone agreed and we decided that one to one counselling to deal with the past was paramount before then perhaps moving to CBT type work. Then the blow.....there's a long waiting list I think she said. I'll get the admin staff to call you but it'll be quite a while before we can help! Great I thought!

Whilst I'm airing my thoughts on family... I haven't spent one single Christmas with my family in 20 years? I haven't been invited to share Christmas or birthdays in that long. Is that normal?
I also recall one Christmas on my own when my parents were still together them ringing me and regaling me with the tales of all the lovely social functions they had planned for the festive season and Christmas Day. They then asked me what I was doing for Christmas Day....I'm on my own I said, I'll have a ready meal for one. Oh enjoy that then was the response. No invite, no love just rejection.

I recall when my relationship with my daughters Dad was failing and I just had to escape from the house I paid for a holiday property down near where my Dad and Sue lived. I was hoping that I would feel the love, maybe they'd want to help me or see me. Ellie was quite small. As it was they didn't really seem that interested all week until they then agreed to come and spend a day with me. I was so excited. I got Ellie up early, bathed her, dressed her in beautiful clothes and went through quite a ritual preparing ourselves for a 'family' day. Then Dad rang and cancelled. Sorry I have my books to do for the accountant I can't afford the time. My world collapsed and I remember sitting on the bed howling in despair. He offered me a crumb by saying come to lunch tomorrow...bring something to eat?! So daft old me ..I did. Whilst I was there Sue managed to drop a clanger by telling me what a lovely day they'd had at the garden centre the day before. Well what a punch in the guts that was I can tell you.
In fact I only ever stayed over with Dad and Sue once. The morning after the 'night' so to speak I wasn't offered breakfast and our bags were brought down from the spare room and put by the front door for us! Bit of a clue I thought to leave!!

Are these the reasons I don't socialise... because I'm scared of rejection?
If you can't trust your parents to love you, cherish you and want to spend time with you, why would anyone else want you?
Is that why I feel like a nothing and a nobody?

I love my Dad dearly but he's always pushed me away, there's always been something more important to do or somebody more important to spend the time with.

Soul searching over for the day...............more laters x

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Day from hell

Yesterday was the day from hell. I think yesterday was possibly the worst day I can recall in forever.

I woke up with my ever present banging headache.  I remembered virtually the instant I regained consciousness that I'm broke and would have to start robbing peter to pay paul if I was to get through this month unscathed and as I'm lying there I'm also wondering to myself if I would actually be bothered to get out of the bed if it wasn't for my daughter and the dogs hassling me or being around? Probably not I decided. I'm feeling useless and hopeless and my favourite saying of the moment is tripping through my brain taunting me. 'I'm a nothing and a nobody' This was just the start of my day...

I did get up of course as there is no choice and I sorted out breakfast for my daughter and I. Then I set about walking my pooches.

When I get back from my walk I have a missed phone call from the school on my landline asking me why Ellie wasn't in school today and telling me off as I haven't rung in notifying them of her continued absence on each and every day. So I ring them back and explain myself to them and accept my telling off which leaves me feeling quite deflated....

...........then within minutes my police boss rings and leaves me a voicemail asking me to ring him back and stating he wanted to visit me next week. That's the worst news ever. My heart sinks and my heart rate elevates. My head pounds and the anxiety in my throat rises. Panic sets in.

He's spoken to me very infrequently since I've been off for the last five months but usually when he does make contact it's not for kind caring reasons but to share official business with me. Don't get me wrong I don't mind because I do not connect with him and dislike our conversations intently but as support goes he wouldn't know how to support a limp lettuce leaf. I simply did not feel able to ring him back and the thought of him setting foot inside my home is abhorrent. I started trying to think of all the reasons I can that he can't come! In fact as things stand I have still ignored the voicemail and have put off speaking to him altogether! He'll probably be livid and think I was out tripping the light fantastic somewhere too busy to speak with him! I probably should have at least e mailed him but I just don't have the ability to find the mental capacity to deal with the 'how are you?' 'are you feeling better?' type of conversation. Especially when I know full well that he doesn't believe I'm ill at all and probably just thinks that I've been swinging the lead for the last five months. So I don't face up to making the call but I do find myself fretting about having not rung him back all day which intensifies my headache to the point of feeling like it 's going to explode. I even tried texting my police federation representative and asking him if there was any official reason I could use to stop him coming out! He just suggested he could be present which seemed ludicrous to me for a welfare visit! I can't have federation representation for a welfare visit can I?!!

Then as if I'm a skittle in need of knocking down again the bank ring as well and hassle me about my lack of funds. As if things aren't sliding down hill rapidly enough then the post arrives with several ominous looking envelopes! Number one is a large official type A4 white envelope with a give away crime prevention franking stamp upon it! That contains a jaunty letter from my deputy chief constable lamenting about my long term illness, wishing me to get well soon and notifying me that they're going to put me on half pay soon!! How pleasant! Thank you so much! Lovely that's just what the day needed!! The next two are in those manila type computer generated envelopes that those of us seasoned bill jugglers will instantly recognise. Two overdue bill warning letters. So by the time I've ripped into those three arrivals I can barely see straight for my head pain, my eye sight is blurring again and I'm shaking. I just want to cry but can't even manage that.

All the time I'm trying to appear normal to my daughter and not let the cracks show. It feels like it should be obvious to anyone looking at me how I'm feeling but apparently not. It's a secret well hidden.

My next humiliating job is to sit down at the computer and extend my credit line just enough to bring all my bills up to date. My head is crashing and the shakes haven't gone. The feeling of rising panic is in my throat again and all I can think is surely things must get better sometime soon? They can't get any worse today surely. Enough's enough for one day.....

Then my daughter starts bleating that she's hungry and asks if she can have chicken nuggets for her tea. Still holding it together for her sake and wanting an easy life I agree and get up from the computer to get the requested items from the freezer. I'm in a bit of a daze still feeling appalling still feeling shell shocked, still feeling pathetic and useless when 'BOOM' things only go and get worse.

I'm confused initially that the chips aren't hard and that they're soft and pulpy and that the nuggets are the same. The realisation of the scale of the disaster dawns very slowly, almost as if in slow motion. The truth creeps in to my brain like a burglar as I discover drawer by drawer, packet by packet that all my food in the chest freezer, my survival stash, has been ruined and stolen from me. My daughter would appear to have switched off the plug socket feeding the freezer the day before. Unbeknown to me when she plugged in an extension cable to feed the iPad she had clearly flicked off the freezer socket. The drawers are full of water, the food is all soggy and beyond saving and I feel like my world is imploding. As I empty all my food in to bin bags and cart it out to the bin I can but wonder what I've done to deserve all of this?!

Afterwards I sit with my head in my hands wanting above all else to be able to cry to release the tension to get rid of this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. I can't manage it. My head actually feels as if it's going to split open and my world is spinning about me as if I'm drunk. My poor daughter starts blaming me for the disaster and chattering away behind me on the subject. She's worried about her lost chicken nuggets more than anything else. 'What will I have for tea now?
Oh for life to be that simple again. Arghhh!

I manage to pull together a meal from the very small freezer I have on my fridge and afterwards I just sit shaking on the sofa with my eyes closed wishing the day would be over. Hankering after a glass of wine but knowing at the same time that my head already hurts too badly to drink alcohol. I sit there wishing I could just relax and watch the telly and forget all my troubles and yet the worries and the guilt just bob to the surface and float around in front of the telly like ghostly apparitions. Guilt that I hadn't rung my boss back. Guilt that I hadn't spoken to my Dad in a while. Guilt that I'm so useless with money. Guilt that I can't be stronger and back at work. Lots and lots of guilt and anxiety.

My Dad lost his wife, my step Mum two months ago to cancer. Sue was just 57 years old. I just haven't had the capacity to ring him for two weeks. It's a very hard thing to explain but I feel like a battery running on empty. There's nothing left to give anyone right now. What very little there is I have to save for my daughter and myself.

Eventually I give in to the fatigue, the headache and the anxiety and as I'm failing to follow the plot of the programme I'm attempting to watch on the television anyway I go to bed.
But even then it's not that simple as my brain won't let any of it's worries or guilt drop quite that easily and it's at least it's another hour before I finally manage to fall into a troubled restless sleep and leave the day from hell behind.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Nature or nurture?

As I was lying in bed this morning hoping the world would stay asleep all day so that I could too, my brain started ambling around certain notions....
Depression? Is it something you're born with or is it something that is nurtured along depending on what comes your way? Or is it a little of both?
Depression is an illness, and some illnesses are genetic and therefore passed from generation to generation aren't they? But then that said I know personally that I have ups and downs dependant on life and what it's throwing at me so it must be a bit of both surely? My mind then set itself to pondering when I 'caught' my depression?!
I ambled casually through my memories trying to recall a time when I was content and well... not suffering from anxiety. Now that was tough! I've always been a miserable cow! A glass half empty type of character.
I think the period of time when I first joined the police back in 1989 was probably one of the best in my life. I was achieving something, I felt worthwhile and I had friends. Well squad became my family. I was posted to a rural backwater and onto a squad of men. Mostly older men. I was 20 years old, a slim and very young girl. Utterly naïve.. but I seemed to have the confidence to find my way through training college and my probation. When I reflect back now I wonder how I managed it? I don't think I could do it now. There were women who were the age I am now who joined with me, who left children at home whilst they were at training college and I look at my life now and I just wouldn't have the drive, the motivation or even the psychological or physical strength to even contemplate it.
I'm not saying it wasn't difficult even at 20 years old. I met my first male chauvinist pigs and I started to cultivate a life long chip on my shoulder about being a female in a male dominated world. Now I need to qualify that comment. It's an odd thing to try and explain. The squad banter, being called a 'strumpet whore' ...the commandant at training college who always called me 'missy' fact I remember on one parade during an inspection he said to me 'missy, will you ever be a real police woman or are you always going to be the course mascot'  All these derogatory comments weren't necessarily an issue. Male or female officers were hounded with insulting banter. It was a sign you were popular and accepted. I didn't mind the banter. I think the chip is more about how hard I had to work just to be accepted as opposed to male colleagues, how I considered and perceived my own lack of physical strength let me down and caused the older male officers to look upon me as a weak link. That wasn't fair in my mind because I couldn't change it. My squad sergeant who touched me up and the fact I did not feel able to say a word about it or against it as he was partly responsible for assessing my probationary period. I also know I'd be shunned if I had spoken out. Things were different back then....but were they? If I'd said anything back then I would have been openly treated with contempt by my squad and other officers. I think you are now encouraged to blow the whistle on wrong doing, however the contempt has just been driven underground. It's still there. The old boys network, protect our backs at all costs mentality still exists without a shadow of a doubt.

But I digress, I was happy and accepted and I was achieving and doing well. I think then perhaps the first time I had my first experience of anxiety and depression was 1993 when I was posted out of the blue from my lovely rural backwater to a major conurbation. I had been lucky enough as a single officer to have a police house to live in and had two dogs by then. I had taken immense pleasure from walking hour upon hour around the beautiful countryside with my pooches. Even then though I never had a social life.  The move meant I was to lose my home and lifestyle. I would have to find myself somewhere to live in a new built up area. Back in those days any property you wanted to live in had to be approved by your supervision and the local command team. I found the wrench from rural to urban horrific to contemplate, I found the task of finding an acceptable property in the sprawling metropolis quite daunting and I found the prospect of 'losing' my squad quite appalling. This was where I first felt the angst. I also had a relationship end very painfully at the same time and all in all this transitional period was quite a low time for me.

What actually happened in the end was that a lovely Chief Superintendent who has sadly since passed away called me to his office and asked me about the impending move. He took pity upon my plight, probably seeing how stressed I was. He arranged there and then for a further police house to be allocated to me. Which was a major coup d'état as on the dark 'urban' side of the county they were only supposed to be allocated to married couples!! I often wonder what would have happened had he not eased my way with such kindness. If you didn't serve back then it may sound odd for me to be so grateful for such a relatively small act of kindness. Trust me back then for a Chief Super to have even spoken one on one with me was like getting an audience with the pope! For a Chief Super to put himself out to do something unnecessary and yet so kind for a lowly WPC was nothing short of astounding. Put it this way 25 years later and I'm still grateful and amazed he did it. What a guy. RIP x

Actually I think I'll leave writing about my next 'job' phase ...the urban jungle... to the next time I post x Adieu x

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Confusion reigns

I can't quite understand why it's confusing me...but now I've admitted to myself and my GP that I am suffering with depression and anxiety I sort of expected the cathartic experience to release me from the bonds of the depression and deliver me back into some form of normality! I am feeling quite confused and cheated that the knowledge and admission alone have not cured me! How ridiculous!

I finally revved myself up and rang the cognitive therapy people...what a let down that was! I was expecting a full blown question and answer session followed by being given a specific appointment. Wrong! I was given an appointment of sorts but for a therapist to telephone me at home and assess me that way. Wasn't expecting that! I always thought that in order to understand how a person was feeling you had to see all their cues, verbal and non verbal communication. Eye contact, folded arms etc. It seems that she will assess my needs by telephone and then decide on what therapy I need. Oh well it's all new to me I guess I have to just go with it.

These anti-depressants the doctor has given me are making me feel sicky and very tired. I didn't think I could feel any more fatigued than I have for the last few months but this is worse. How long will they take to have any positive affects? Will the sick feeling go away?

Is it normal to want to try and avoid social interaction? Even out walking with the dogs I find myself seeing somebody on the horizon and changing my course to avoid them? I can't figure out why I can't face them. I just cannot bring myself to be bothered even when I can see it's someone I would normally have passed the time of day with. That and telephone calls. Can't bear speaking to people on the phone!! Bodes well for this CBT therapist call doesn't it?!!

My anxiety levels are sky high and my finances are tight. It's half term the week after next. Another week of trying to do amazingly exciting things with madam on a non-existent budget!
I know money isn't everything but when you're alone and you have none and can see the bills on the horizon the knock on anxiety and stress is debilitating.

I feel like I'm stuck in a self perpetuating nightmare. The anxiety of being alone and struggling stresses me so much I'm sure it feeds my depression. How can you tackle depression whilst a source of anxiety like that is still present?

Feeling sad and hopeless today. Adieu x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Inner turmoil

Part of me wants to shout really loudly about my realisations, part of me wants to ignore it and the largest part of me wants to go back to sticking my head in the sand and pretending everything is okay.
Depression is such a dreary depressing word isn't it filled with stereotypes and misconceptions. If somebody tells you they have depression what would you say to them? How can you say anything constructive? Let's face it as a culture in England if someone asks you how you are you say 'fine thank you' If you ask someone how they are and they respond in any other way or start telling you they've heartburn or a broken finger you're generally pretty taken aback that they'd waste your ear time on telling you!! Despite having just blooming well asked!!
My friends have known for months that I've been suffering with blinding headaches and a whole host of other symptoms' so some people are genuinely asking me 'how are you?' However I'm still not answering truthfully. I still cannot bring myself to admit what I feel is a huge dark secret. I think I am terrified they'll think I have been untruthful and that they'll think that I haven't genuinely felt horrid for months. They'll think that I've stolen their sympathy unjustifiably. The truth is that I have felt horrid, the truth is that I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with me and there was.... just not how I thought there was. My body clearly got fed up with me ignoring the anxiety, ignoring the stress, ignoring my emotional melt down and decided to make me listen by making me ill in a way I would listen to.
It has struck me that in writing this I am well and truly letting the cat out of the bag in any case. If anyone sees my blog they'll know my secrets. Isn't it sad how hung up on the stigma I am? If I did have a physical illness I'd be more than happy to talk about it. Yet finally realising after all these years of pretending otherwise that I do have depression and I do need to deal with it seems like a huge mountain to climb.
Today is Monday and the people from the cognitive behaviour therapy rang me late Friday and left a voicemail. I'm meant to be ringing them back and setting my first tentative toe on the treadmill towards starting therapy. But right now I'm typing this instead. Sort of hoping they ring me again as picking up the phone and ringing them is just too difficult. One step too far today. Why is it so difficult? Is making that call a further admission that this is actually happening? Crikkie it's giving me palpitations just considering making the call. The last three weeks have just passed in a blur of school runs and daytime telly. I'm not really achieving a lot but that said I don't feel like I can do anything right now. Right here and right now I feel pathetic, useless and a waste of skin. Incompetent and incapable. That's my depression talking right there..........Before I wallow any lower today I think I'll sign off for now and go and make tonight's dinner! Adieu x

Facing up to depresson as a diagnosis...........

Hello world!

Well I guess hello is a good place to start! So hello x
I’ve been writing in a diary for many years on and off recording my feelings and thoughts on the world but have always hankered after speaking to a larger audience than my own notebook. So as I find myself five months into sick leave from work I finally have the ‘time’ to think about writing a little more and trying to work my way through the maze that has become my life.

I’m a forty five year old woman who single parents a beautiful nine year old daughter. We live in Dorset, England. We have two dogs and one hamster. And I have lots of demons.

Since I was nineteen years old I have been a police officer. I have committed myself to a tough job and tried my best. But over the years I have struggled with stress and anxiety and probably depression but until this week I’ve never looked in the mirror and realised it. I’ve never stood up and admitted to myself that I am suffering. I have been diagnosed with stress before, I have been on a self destructive path with debt all my adult life and I have struggled to have relationships and allow myself to be loved. But I’ve always stood tall and blamed anything and everything else I could lay my mind  to, as to why I felt and behaved the way I have.

I’ve been off work since the end of May 2014 still burying my head in the sand. I’ve had horrific headaches, aching limbs, hot sweats, grinding fatigue and terrible anxiety. I’ve maintained throughout that it WAS NOT stress driven. The symptoms were genuine, I have felt awful and I did not want to admit to any stress or god forbid depression because I felt it would diminish my illness, make people doubt that I had really been feeling crap. But finally this week I feel like I have been caught. Caught because I have been running from the reality all my life, caught and cornered because a good friend finally faced me down and told me to deal with it. It was an emotional realisation, draining even.

Over the past months in my quest for a physical diagnosis I have been to neurologists about my headaches and broken down in floods of tears and anger when he told me it was stress. I have been to ENT consultants as they thought I had a lump in my neck. I had an ultra scan that proved otherwise.  I have had a CT Scan and a lumbar puncture when they thought I had a brain bleed but at every turn there has been no sign of any physical problems. I just feel them and feel ill. All the way along my doctor has asked and asked about stress and depression and all along I’ve argued no. But yesterday I possibly took one of my bravest steps to date and walked into the surgery and admitted I have a problem. So I finally have a diagnosis not the one I wanted but one I will have to deal with.
I can only imagine how gay people feel when they ‘come out’ but this to me feels like my ‘coming out’ I feel like I should stand on the tallest hill and scream ‘I have depression’ I feel like I should post on ‘FaceBook’ for all my friends to read ’I have depression’ but something is still stopping me. The stigma, the fear of people thinking I’ve been making up the way I have been feeling, the fear of being labelled a malingerer, the fear of being ridiculed and laughed about. As a police officer I’ve dealt with people with mental illness and there are comments made and attitudes’ displayed that I’m not sure I can handle. I’ve taken an important step but can I deal with this or will I bury it again and go back to pretending I’m okay?

I definitely feel like I’m at a cross roads and I’m currently a lost soul….

These feelings have been with me on and off as long as I can remember and I’m scared to contemplate that in order to move forwards I may need a complete change of lifestyle.  I’m always in financial strife. Always have been. I’ve always used buying ‘stuff’ as my crutch. Feeling low?… go and buy something shiny and new that’ll help. Even when I know full well I do not have the money. The harsh reality is I’ve always used credit and buying 'stuff' to medicate myself. And finally I’ve realised it, probably run out of friends patience and driven the doctor to hell and back!! I have depression.
The doctor has prescribed anti-depressants and referred me for some cognitive behaviour therapy. The tablets are making me feel nauseous and more stupid than normal. 
I’ve just about still got a job but the police service are initiating steps against me using a policy entitled ’unsatisfactory performance procedures’ and I’ve been advised to get legal advice and help from my ‘union’ the police federation to fight it and stick up for myself. I’m six weeks away from being put on half pay too.

All in all my life seems pretty dark at the moment. However I can see that I do have a beautiful daughter who I thank my lucky stars for and friends around me who care.

I will find a path through the maze……….. come along for the ride and help me x