The Semicolon Project

The Semicolon Project

“Your story isn’t over yet.”

Indeed – it isn’t. There have been many – too many – times that I thought it was. Times I couldn’t see a way out of the daily hell I was living. Times I planned ways to end things; to end my life. I am still here; my story continues and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to run this blog and share with all of you in hopes of helping someone else.

The Semicolon Project has been all over the UK news outlets in the past few days and I instantly wanted in on the campaign. Officially the day to do it was April 16th 2013, but lately the vehicle of outspoken mental health advocates has been gaining so much momentum. Essentially, the message being broadcast is this: A Semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The Author is you and the sentence is your life.

I am determined that my sentence will continue on its destined path; whatever that may bring. That is why I am adding my voice and lending a small patch of skin to the many people out there who are working so hard to raise awareness and end the stigma of depression, anxiety and other mental illness. This is my declaration that I am not ashamed; I am full of hope; this is not how it ends.

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P.S. I’m sorry mummy!

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The Semicolon Project

Criticisms

No one likes criticism, but most people deal with it. I’m very proud to report that I am well practiced at not rising to it; I’m less happy with the fall-out after. Today has been a day of bollockings and I’m not at all happy about it. Less happy about a colleague commenting ‘well I can understand why he was shouting at you,’ after I got off a ten minute ear-bashing over the phone.

My job is a balancing act. I have targets and deadlines to meet, and I work hard to meet them. And not only do I meet them, I beat them every month. My problem is that me meeting deadlines and targets is achieved by causing financial implications to other businesses that can’t very well afford the impact. This makes me feel like a bad person.

I’m fed up of selling my soul to the daily grind. I want to do something that matters; I want to impact this world in a positive way. I’m a small, temping fish in a very big corporate pond. Worst of all is the fact this impacts my mental wellbeing in a big way.

Back to that criticism thing. I am so proud of how I handled the phone call; remained calm and level-headed throughout. ‘Yes I understand,’ and ‘Of course I can see your point.’ On the inside, though, my blood was boiling. And it still is; you’d just never guess it to look at me or talk to me. Sure, I thought about walking out. I’ve thought about doing that a lot; pleased to say common sense has always prevailed and I’ve stuck it out.

I am excited for the referral that my CPN is making to a team that can offer CBT and DBT. I can’t wait to learn skills that will help me deal with emotionally charged situations in a healthy way. For now, I’ll bite my tongue.

Criticisms

Back to work and a bit on personality disorders

I’m pleased to be able to report that as of 12:30 today I’m back in the saddle; catching up on nearly a week’s absence has kept me busy enough that I’ve not really had time to think about Tweeting or Pressing until now. My CPN was very encouraging that I should come back and get some routine in my schedule. Part of the issue of the last few days has been being caught between not-coping-with-work and not-coping-alone-at-home.

This morning’s appointment threw a curve-ball at me. We chatted a bit about what’s been going on and ways to mitigate dangerous situations and then she said the team thinks I have a personality disorder going on in the soup I like to call my mind. They are referring me to a specialist team, who will do an assessment, and then from there I am likely to be offered talk-therapy; this is fab news really, but the idea of having another label kind of freaks me out too. I know it shouldn’t, but whoever decided to call them personality disorders needs a good spanking – your personality is a key part of your identity and saying there’s something wrong with it is a bit like being nut-punched in the mind.

Of course, being me, I’ve now been reading up on the various types of personality disorder (there are ten of them). I have known people with Borderline Personality Disorder and know how difficult a condition it is to live with for them, but I have never really identified with this disorder.

Here’s a super-brief rundown of the ten types:

Cluster A:

  • Paranoid PD: irrational suspicion and mistrust of people
  • Schizoid PD: social detachment, apathy
  • Schizotypal PD: social interactions are uncomfortable, unusual or eccentric beliefs.

Cluster B:

  • Antisocial PD: lack of empathy, grandiosity and manipulative behaviour
  • Borderline PD: unstable relationships and self-harm is common
  • Histrionic PD: attention-seeking behaviour, excessive emotions
  • Narcissistic PD: grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy.

Cluster C:

  • Avoidant PD: social inhibition and sensitivity to criticism
  • Dependent PD: psychological need to be cared for
  • Obsessive-compulsive PD: sticks to rules, perfectionism and control.

I am feeling a lot of anxiety towards Histrionic Personality Disorder; I know this is because I’ve been accused of attention-seeking in the past and I think I would feel like a fraud in every aspect of my life. It almost feels like that diagnosis would invalidate the last three years of ups and downs, and that makes me nervous.

All I can do is wait for the referral and see what comes of it. I am keen to access talk-therapy again as this was helpful the last time I did a course with a psychologist.

Back to work and a bit on personality disorders

A Level Of Functioning

I saw a tweet yesterday that said something about ‘getting to the point of functioning’ and I thought, yes, that’s me!

During the good times, I thrive. I can face life head on and enjoy things like work. The obstacles seem easy to hop over (or knock down). When the blips happen, however, things change. Simple activities like taking a bus home become hurdles that feel six feet tall. My perspective on life is different, and it’s hard to deal with. The key point becomes surviving – functioning.

In the run up to my crisis in December I was nowhere near thriving. Unfortunately, because I was functioning (going to work, getting home safely), my concerns were not heard properly. My CPN was fabulous and referred me on to the Home Treatment Team, but from that point on I felt I was not being listened to when I said I couldn’t face another day.

Every call I made to HTT for help went something like this:

ME: “I’m at work and I’m struggling to cope with it.”

HTT: “We’re sorry to hear that, but you’re still working?”

ME: “Yes, but I can’t concentrate and really don’t think I can last the afternoon.”

HTT: “OK well try to stay calm for the rest of the day and focus on getting home.”

I think I usually gave up at that point. They just couldn’t seem to get their head round the idea of someone working through such a tumultuous time. The problem is that I hate to take time off ill; I feel as though I’m letting work down, even when I know I really shouldn’t be at my desk. The idea of work piling up in my absence gives me massive anxiety.

In fact, it took an intervention from my CPN and psychiatrist to persuade me to take time off in December to go into crisis care. It was like I needed their permission to admit temporary defeat. I couldn’t do it on my own authority; even though I knew it would be best for me.

And now I find myself in a position of functioning again. Work is a little too stressful, but I’m still ploughing through; I’m definitely not thriving though. Once again, I’m doing what I have to to survive.

A Level Of Functioning

Is It Just Me, Or Did The World Just Slow Down?

One of those things familiar to anyone who has lived with hypomania or mania is the feeling of time standing still around you, whilst you whizz through the world at top-speed.

Time drags on. You look at the clock every few minutes and you’re surprised that you’ve got so much done in a matter of moments. On days like this (taking Friday as an example) I can process 36 emails in 20 minutes; and even then it feels like I’ve not worked at full capacity. My 100 mph brain is relentless in presenting myriad thoughts in quick succession. There’s barely enough time to register thought one when thoughts two, three and four come flying in for consideration.

Even Twitter can’t keep up, which really should serve as an example of just how quickly my brain flies through the day. I am forever grateful to Twitter for serving as an outlet for the random thoughts that I feel the need to express; I am also apologetic to those who have to read them (I don’t mind if you don’t!)

The other thing that happens – along with Father Time hitting the pause button – is a certain vividness that takes over the planet. It’s like I just switched from an old television to a Full-HD, 3D, ultra-clear-and-bright screen. On a day like today that is gloomy and overcast, I see the world as if it were a 28⁰C midsummer’s day. The pine trees are glorious green with wonderfully contrasting brown trunks, and the grey of the building is more akin to shimmering silver that is truly eye-catching.

I’ve refreshed my inbox at least ten times since I began writing this post. Nothing’s happening. I check the spam folder in case something interesting pops up. Still nothing. The benefit of this kind of hypomanic mood is that I am incredibly productive; with the caveat that I find it impossible to stay focussed for very long. In the little bursts of attention I get so much done though, that it hardly matters that I don’t stick with a task for more than a few minutes.

All in all, I love this kind of mood. Sure, it can be a little overwhelming, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort. I pray to a God I don’t believe in that it stays steady; that it doesn’t go overboard or turn to a mixed mood. Whatever happens, I will thank my stars that at least one aspect of this diagnosis has a benefit.

Is It Just Me, Or Did The World Just Slow Down?

When I Hit The Bottom (trigger warning)

I knew it was bad when I spoke to my husband and couldn’t bring myself to tell him I loved him. How could I say that to him when I was planning my suicide for that evening? I knew I was at rock bottom then, but I couldn’t tell anyone. What could they do about it? I needed a quick-fix, I needed to not feel this way for another day; and it was still three days till my appointment with my CPN.

The plan was fully formed in my head, and the wish to feel nothing was the strongest urge in my mind. I felt guilty, yes, but not so guilty that it was enough to discourage me from my plan. I tried to reason with myself, to think it through logically, but ended up frantic each time. The need I had to not exist tomorrow, to not have to face the office and my life, was overwhelmingly powerful.

That evening I walked home via the pharmacy and bought a pack of paracetamol. I wondered if the pharmacist could see in my eyes the pain I felt; I wished and prayed that she would recognise the look of desperation of someone who has reached the end of their tether. I even hoped she was somehow telepathic and could read my mind. She couldn’t.

It can seem somewhat contradictory that I was hoping for someone to stop me, yet hadn’t told anyone my plans. The thing about being so depressed is that you do not wish for death; you just wish to not exist, to not feel anything anymore. It doesn’t take away the guilt or the sadness over your actions. Death is still scary to someone planning suicide – it’s just that it’s less scary than facing another day of pain.

What can you say to someone in that state? All responses seem trite; ‘it gets better’ and ‘think of what you have to live for’ are meaningless words. I believed with every fibre of my soul that I was destined to spend the rest of my life in a real-world hell and chose to bet my life on death being the better option.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight I know that what I thought was the end of my world was just another episode in the illness I live with. An experience I hope I can learn from; but there’s no guarantee that the rot won’t set in again – no guarantee that I won’t find myself in the place where I resent the people who keep me safe. There is nothing worse than being angry at your other half because they called an ambulance and want you to live, when all you want is to end the torture of living.

I hope I never return to that dark place for the rest of my life. I hope that if I do end up back at the bottom I have the strength and presence of mind to ask for help. Overall I hope I remember that things do get better; yes, it takes time but life is worth it.

When I Hit The Bottom (trigger warning)