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Last winter heralded in a period of depression and hopelessness that seemed to orbit around boredom and unemployment. I felt like nothing was going to improve or change, and that my state of of vegetation would only perpetuate as time went on.

As January drew to a close I started working for a bank in one of their ‘contact centres’, which is a more respectable and less dismal way of calling it a call centre. I was happy to have some routine, regular 9-5 working hours and the chance to socialise with a bunch of lovely people.

I noticed that the days which I wasn’t at work were usually the days in which my bad mood struck back. This wasn’t of a major concern to me, I thought it was to be expected. My initial training period drew to a close, and the time spent on the phone dealing with enquries increased.

Having just recovered from a blip of social anxiety, I often questioned my choices regarding this job. Why was I doing something that I used to terrify me not so long ago? That still terrified me? I needed the money, end of.

Another blow was when they totally changed the call stream that we had to handle. All of my anxieties resurfaced and were reinforced by the very nature of the customers with whom we spoke.

My mental health took a nose dive at the deep end around this time. I was physically sick to my stomach at the thought of having to go into work. I was fantasising about self harm and suicide as a means of escape. It totally consumed my thoughts.

Eventually I spoke with a doctor who signed me off work after a hysterical conversation (if you could call it that) in their office. Following this a huge sense of relief washed over me and I handed in my immediate notice shortly afterwards.

I admit that I took a huge risk by doing this without any other offers in the pipeline, though I did have some interviews in the pipeline. I was incredibly lucky on this occasion, because I was successful in one of the interviews for a position that I really wanted and cared for. This has boosted my confidence and given me hope that I thought was lost not too many months previously.

This has been an example of how interconnected my wellbeing and social circumstances are, which they never really have been before. As I develop and gain more experiences I can’t help but feel vulnerable and prone to upset. I’m not trying to be pessimistic but it is a rather logical deduction based on experience. I’m okay with that. I own my feelings no matter what they are.

I can’t remember when we met,
I turned my head and up you’d crept.
Curled up and made a nest,
quite at home amongst the mess.

I barely noticed you sitting there,
until now and then, you’re anger would flare
up and out of my eyes and ears
drowning out sounds, consuming me with fear

You couldn’t leave me on my own,
but in your presence, I feel I’ve grown.
Your light no longer blinds my eyes,
but points me towards starry skies

Please forgive the somewhat cynical title of this post, and also the delay in it. New Years is an event that often divides people, which is visible from the statuses posted on Facebook. You’ll have the camp that declares optimism and time for change (no pun intended) and then the other that say that this year will be just as crummy as the one just past. It can be hard to express your feelings about the upcoming new year and the promise of change that it represents without looking like a happy go lucky moron or a cynical old toad.

In my own shoes, I have often found that such celebratory events are full of anticipation for something grand and meaningful. To fall in love with the basketball player through the medium of song and dance, but in reality I’m at home with my parents in a depressed stupor. I have often found the entire festive period to be full of expectations that society has for us. Here, have this massive celebration with all of your friends and family! What, you’re in bed scrolling through Tumblr? You ought to be enjoying yourself!

Thing is, in my own way I am enjoying myself.

Having gone through counselling I have learned that some of these expectations that we have for ourselves can have a negative impact on our wellbeing, especially if reality doesn’t quite make the grade. This is in part why I don’t make resolutions, not to save myself the hassle of having to work towards a goal, but because I feel that resolutions have much more pressure on them than any other life altering decision one makes.

Personally, if something in my life needs fixing, I’ll do it at the earliest convenience rather than waiting until the new year to do. There is a touch of irony in this statement as I have recently joined the gym, though technically speaking I did join just shy of 2013!

One of the things I do enjoy about New Year, is taking the opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the course of the last year. Granted, this time last year I wasn’t receiving treatment for depression, but since then I have graduated, gained lots of work experience, and found a job. Whats more is that I’ve completely flown the nest as I can safely say that I won’t have to return to my parents house unless things go completely tits up, fingers crossed.

Significantly,this past year has surprised me. I exceeded my own expectations when it came to my degree, I’ve endured the brunt of unemployment, and I found love in the most unexpected place. If you had told me this time last year that in less than half a year I’d have met the love of my life, no less a man, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

We make our own fates, but sometimes life nudges you in unexpected directions for the better.

The festive season is upon us whether we like it or not. Every year around the end of October you’ll see all the shops decked out with tinsel, and shelves full of Nivea gift sets for him and her. Along with this you’ll hear the classic ‘oh this is ridiculous’ or ‘I just love Christmas!’ from those surrounding you.

I’ve never really looked forward to Christmas in the past, and a lot of this is to do with expectations and reality. Expectations that I have of the day, as well as the ones that society enforces upon us. Lots of presents; a turkey with all the trimmings; all of the family round; happiness and smiles. Well, Christmas for me has never really been like that. Not to say that it has been unpleasant but it has always been rather subdued and inferior in comparison to those standards. Not to mention the bit about happiness. It’s no Iceland advert that’s for sure.

When I felt rather depressed a couple of years ago, all the glitz and joviality was too much for my tender heart to take. Every glinting light and happy snowman felt like a kick to the stomach. Each advert on the television served to highlight how unhappy I was in comparison. I felt like there was something wrong with me for not being able to be happy during this time.

Personally, I’ve always found Christmas day to be a big build up to a whole lot of nothing. You open some presents – the good bit in my opinion. Then you have to dither about doing nothing until you eat a roast dinner in silence with your family (we’ve never really been that communicative) followed by an afternoon where it’s socially unacceptable to spend any time apart from your mute relatives. Where is the fun in that?

Then I see the photos on facebook, or the tales of other people, who have had a simply smashing Christmas and I feel like there is something wrong with mine. Why wasn’t my Christmas fun, why am I always miserable, why can’t it be like that for me?

It’s the difference between my expectations and the reality of it all that get me down. The season is just never what it’s made out to be for me, leaving me disenchanted and uninterested in the matter. The thing that’s different this year is that I have him in my life. For once I feel like there is someone who I feel is worth sharing the festivities with. I did have the opportunity to spend Christmas with his family, an opportunity I feel incredibly privileged to have been offered. As much as I would have loved to have gone, I know it would have upset my family and there is no real reason for me abandoning them.

Having said all of the above, I do feel somewhat optimistic about Christmas this year. I am cooking the Christmas lunch which will give me something to busy myself with rather than just sit in front of my laptop. And at least this year I don’t have third year university exams to prepare for so I can cuddle up in the evenings with my beautiful dogs. Better still, knowing that back in Yorkshire there is someone who loves me will make my Christmas lights twinkle that little bit brighter this year.

Sadly this will not be an awkward rendition of the Destiny’s Child hit that goes by the name of Bills, Bills, Bills, but another entry on the experiences I’ve had with the anti-depressants I have been taking to combat clinical depression.

 

When I realised that my money was wearing thin a few weeks ago, I decided to stop taking my medication – it was £7.65 that I would have rather spent on something more enjoyable such as food or alcohol. This wasn’t the best idea in the world, as anyone would probably tell you. If anything, this little experiment confirmed that I do actually need these white magical pills. I felt awful, stinking, and low – albeit not the worst I’ve felt by a long shot. I would get frustrated with myself and the reasons why I’d stopped taken them to begin with.

 

Coming back onto the pills brought with it a second instalment of side effects to get used to, however they weren’t as strong as the first time round. They brought my appetite back a bit, which I had lost prior to resuming course, and made me quite sleepy. This is nothing I can’t handle and adapt to but there are certain aspects of the illness that get my goat.

 

It does affect my concentration and memory, and I find it infuriating that I can be watching or reading something that is as clear as day in front of me, however I cannot for the life of me recall it back to someone else. It makes me feel utterly stupid when someone makes the odd remark at my inability to remember something. I feel like these people, who are very close to me, should be more understanding or careful with their choice of words, but I don’t want special treatment.

 

I don’t feel like a victim, I don’t want to be tip toed around like a restless infant who has finally fallen asleep. I’m just trying to survive. All I ask of others is that my feelings to be taken into account, people can say what they want to me and vice versa but I just wish I had the courage to call things out when I get hurt. Rather than hide behind a keyboard and mope about for an hour or two. But where is the balance when it comes to this?

 

I am getting sick of talking about how I feel these days truth be told, I’m quite happy to get on with life and swallow a pill each morning to keep the ghouls at bay. I’m finding my counselling sessions less and less useful as time goes on. I think I’ve had all the breakthroughs I’m going to have now, and I have taken away some very important messages – the most being that all of my feelings are valid. Whilst having a set 50 minutes a week to focus on myself has been beneficial, I don’t just want to save it for the therapy room anymore. I want to just express it as it comes, therapy on the go if you will.

 

It is important for me not to get complacent about my mood, and associated behaviours. I know that merely swallowing a tablet will not make my problems fade away, but it will alleviate my mood enough for me to resume a lifestyle that shall ultimately catalyse the process of recovery for me.

 A characteristic trait of mine that often makes an appearance during my own times of need is a want to care and look after others. In an instant, the sight or sound of someone who needs a good hug comes before my own need to wallow about and mope in my own misery. For this reason I believe that caring for someone, or something, else is beneficial to my own mental health and self-esteem.

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I have always loved animals, dogs in particular. All of them bring me such joy, they are so happy with their own lives which are so much simpler than our own. I truly admire that quality, in fact I often envy it.

 

My dogs, especially Charlie who I helped raise from a tiny puppy, fill me up with an overwhelming sense of unconditional love. Only my boyfriend evokes such strong emotions from a single glance, or in my dog’s case, the wag of a tail.

 charlie2

When I first re-entered a depressive state I longed deeply for a pet, which my current leasehold agreement disallows. The need to look after and nurture another life, to have something depend on me would have added value to my own life. It would have given me a reason to get out of bed and out of the door in the morning. It would have given me responsibilities, aside from my responsibilities to myself which I so often neglect.

 

What  I love the most about my dogs is the affection and loyalty that they seem to have an endless supply of. The way I feel about them can be summed up perfectly by the heartwarming words of John Grogan in Marley and Me.

A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?

Everyone thinks that their pets are the most special and interesting… And they are. They are as wonderful as people in my eyes. I love talking about my dogs, especially Charlie, who was the naughtiest little puppy and is now an intelligent and alert security dog. You wouldn’t think it when you come to our hectic family home. He greets our guests with affectionate licks and playful jumps. He has a heart of gold, but he doesn’t know his own strength and enthusiasm.

I’ve never known any other dog to eat an unopened loaf of bread that was hidden away in the bread bin without damaging the plastic. What a genius.

 

charlie

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    • Laura: Hi Belinda! I have been re-reading some of your blog entries and came across this little number (as always very well written!). If this was anonymised
    • booksforever1blog. BarkUpToday!: Charlie is wonderful.I too am a huge German shepherd fan.Curious and naughty as pups, but probably the most intelligent and sensitive dogs to have aro
    • Marcela: Lol. I do agree with you your Charlie is a genius if he was able to manage not damaging the plastic:) I agree with you, the amount of love and loyal
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