Buddhism – an anchor in the midst of depression.

 

Lo and behold, I found myself there again.

It was in between those drifting days in the space within Christmas and New Year, that bizarre time of the year when time slows down yet everything speeds up and the meaning to life is yet to be caught up with. Except my meaning, which had gone AWOL again, and had been in a place somewhere other than where it should have been for quite a few months.

It all started somewhere in between my car breaking down and a family member dying; I never had the strength to trace back and pin point exactly when. 2018 was hours away, a new year, new start! But my energies were lying in every single negative incident that made up 2017, every single one, which i’m sure there was something in the fine print that these major mess up moves were supposed to be spread out during the course of ones lifetime not in a single year, I wouldn’t have signed up for it otherwise, surely?

Anyway, the new year was set to be a write off. And then my mind made a flip move on to one that most people with bipolar or some other severe mental health issues do one in their lives; I started practicing Buddhism.

The past few months have been a blur, yet a positive enriched blur. I have followed closely the words of the Dharma, engaged in mindfulness and meditation, a whole lot of books, even more podcasts, taken up the precepts and signed up to my second Buddhist course of the year and attended classes where a lot of tears and a lot of hugs were exchanged (and only two months have passed). My perception on life as it was has pointed itself in the opposite direction. And what a life saver it has all been. I am 10 week medication free for the first time in four years (though I am not so immune and past it all to believe I won’t need them again somewhere down the line!).

To sum up the year so far, I am okay (even though I am still walking through a wreckage of a life that is not yet okay).

For anyone interested, I have listed below my recommendations for some beginners reading in to buddhism. Happy reading 🙂

 

Buddhist Bootcamp – Timber Hawkeye 

Buddhism for Busy people – David Michie

Teachings of the Buddha – Jack Kornfield

Buddhism for beginners – Jack Kornfield

When things fall apart – Pema Chödrön

   Buddhism is not what you think – Steve Hagen 

 

 

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The External Hell Within, by Carol Anne.

 

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So many tears in grief stricken eyes

So much shame behind the lies

So many scars on such young skin

So much pain lies within

All the pain builds in side

All the tears you try to hide

You know it’s not the right thing to do

But no one seems to understand you

One more cut, not that deep

The blood will finally let you sleep

The calm has come after the storm

You are alive, the blood is warm

You know that now you must hide

And keep the shame you feel inside

You wish there was some other way

You wish you knew the words to say

Fall on deaf ears and unopened eyes

You aren’t proud of what you do

You wish the wispers weren’t about you

Nobody seems to understand

Except the blade you hold in your hand

You need proof that you are alive

Not cold and dead like you feel inside

The hurt is so much and it will not fade

It is your own flesh that has payed

You pay for pain and lies and shame

You feel the guilt when people speak your name

You just want someone to understand

And tell you it will be ok and hold your hand

Not ignore the problem and hope it will pass

Not say its a phase or even a fad

One more scar, there is nothing to lose

You don’t do it for them, you do it for you

Do you still try and hide it or make it known

You live in a glass house, do you cast the first stone

You know that some will call you insane and some will call you even worse

Before all this you were peoples dream

Now you are their curse

You don’t know how long you can hide behind the lies that you tell

Being clumsy may be hard but it hides the truth so well

How else do you explain the cuts, scrapes burns and broken bones

You fell down the stairs, slipped with a knife

And sometimes, you don’t even know

They don’t see what they don’t want to see

And you don’t feel what you don’t want to feel

The pain may subside but it always comes back after the last cut heals

Sometimes you wonder if you will run out of skin before you run out of pain

Or if you will finally be able to stop it all before you go totally insane

You know that you’re not trying to die, you’re actually trying to live

You’re not trying to take your life, it’s life you’re trying to give

You’re trying to make people see the hurt you feel inside

Trying to use your pain to help them open up their eyes

You don’t do this for fun or to try and fit in

You’re making external, the hell within

 

By Carol Anne, an alter in a did system.

 

Find more of Carol Anne’s writing here;

blog: http://therapybits.com/

twitter: @manymultiplied1

 

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Grief.

 

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Some people say, that grief washes over you like waves. Those some people, are absolutely right.

When the morning approaches, it hits my body before my mind even has the chance to wake up and acknowledge the day. I feel it; a solid, heavy burning weight, like my heart has been set alight before I even open my eyes. And then I do, and the anchor of reality sinks me.

This is how I have spent each and every once of my mornings for the past 3 months. Most of these days, I have succeeded to bite down hard and talk myself in to getting out of bed and facing the day. Others, I have not.

One day, around three weeks ago, I woke up and realised that I did not want to live. This was not a passive, drifting thought. This was a certified, stubborn fact. I did not want to be here. The weightiness of Bipolar depression, of a spiral hard hitting life events, a year worth of losses, are an unhealthy concoction for the mind and the spirit.

I went to see my GP just before the truth occurred to me, an she suggested that I increased by anti-depressant up by double. I reluctantly took the prescription, paid for the charge regardless of not being able to afford them and started on my higher dose. Then a few days later, I stopped. I stopped taking my meds altogether.

You would have thought, having lived with this for years exactly how dangerous it is to just stop, that I would have accumulated at least some wisdom to keep me alive along the way. The last time I stopped taking them, I ended up attempting to drive to the hospital to seek help but instead had a brain blip and ended up manically driving to another country instead. The time before that, I also had another brain blip, but this time it happened in an Asda Superstore which resulted in me being chaperoned by an ambulance and being left hovering around in A&E with none of the medical staff not knowing what to do with me. But no, I got to the point where everything that had a point did not have a point anymore. Including taking my medication. They were not working, so what was the point in taking them?

And so I fell. I fell further than what I thought could be humanly possible.

One night, out of panic, frustration, anger at the world and with the impulse to kick and scream and do something at least, I ran out of the house, got in the car and put my foot down. I ended up in the hills, in the middle of the night but instead of screaming or doing something stupid, I fumbled around frantically for a pen and ripped a scrap of paper and wrote the first thing my hand would write, without even thinking of what I was writing. I wrote one word and then froze with it.

FRAUD. 

Fraud. Is that what I have been feeling all this time? A fraud? The answer was yes. I did not feel like I belonged. I don’t belong in a room full of people. I don’t belong in society. My thoughts, my beliefs, my morals were all different and it pushed me further and further from this planet until I got pushed so far I could not find my way back in to it.

I took a train one evening. I got out in to town, I tried to enjoy myself, but it was there, ebbing inside my chest. Fraud. I took a train, but the train was cancelled and moved to another platform. It was busy. The whole of the commuters pushed and ran – why were they running? –  they ran like a flock of desperate souls to this other platform, and they all scrambled on to this train, pushing and shoving and elbowing in the battle, each one of them only looking out for themselves in their fight to get on to this train and get a seat at the cost of other people. I did not understand why they were running for this train like their lives depended on it. I did not understand why they were fighting to aggressively to get a seat. Was it really so important? I stood beside the crowd, watching them like rats in their desperate efforts and felt more like an outsider because I couldn’t understand it. They scrambled on to the train like I had been scrambling on to my last reason to stay alive.

I fell further. I stopped sleeping properly. I didn’t tell people. Occasionally, I mentioned it to my partner.

“I feel down.”

“I don’t feel too good today.”

“My anxiety is shocking.”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Then we would talk, and I would feel comforted for a moment. Then the next day I’d say, “I feel bad today,” and he’d say –

“Why? I thought you was feeling better?”

If a rant, and a cuddle and a cry on ones shoulder was all it took to make it completely disappear, then I would be the healthiest and most happiest girl on this planet. Depression doesn’t care whether you are rich with love and with the strength given by other people.

So I stopped talking as much. Because that, as all, felt pointless too.

I went on autopilot mode. I wrote bullet lists. I wrote LOTS of bullet lists. I checked them off one after another. Trying to pass the time and distract me from ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’ because sitting there with my own thoughts in my own mind was too much. I tried not to think about the present. I tried not to think about Christmas. I tried not to think about the future. I tried not to think about lying there sleepless in the dark, night after night with my mind tormenting me. My heart hurt. Like, physically hurt. I was walking around with a sharp shooting pain which wouldn’t ease.

Why am I getting pains in my heart? Am I going to die?!

No, Megan. You are not going to die. 

Then, few nights ago, to add insult to injury; I lost someone close to me.

This is the first family death to have occurred in my life, as I have been fortunate to have everyone still here up until this week. And it hit me, slowly with the steady pace that realisation sometimes does when it can’t be arsed smacking you cold in the face, but it did, and it came over me wave after wave after wave, just like they said it would.

The pain of losing a loved one is an unbearable ache. It is a burning fire in your chest that sits there uninvited and ever present, and occasionally gets washed over by the deepest waves of sadness whilst memories come flooding up to the surface. Then the waves go, and you carry that unbearable burning in you chest again. Rinse and repeat. With this in mind, I have come to another hard-realisation this week. The realisation that pure pain of depression and anxiety and feelings of ‘doom’ and the so many fragments of the things I have been experiencing over the past months which can no just be summed up in to a one word-diagnosis, felt the same as my grief did.

This is what I have not been well with, all this time. Grief. I am grieving. Not just at the loss of my Nan. I have been grieving these past few months. At the loss of everything this year, at the loss of myself, my home, my dignity, all the other things I have lost this year? I did not know, but I was grieving nonetheless.

And so, the next time someone asks me what it feels like to feel this bad, I can truthfully and most honestly say this. It feels like Grief.

With the push of my partner I ended up filling out another prescription with my meds, and to start taking them again. The doctors surgery wouldn’t release them without another ‘medication review’ (which I had just 5 weeks ago) and so I ended up having to fill up on one the out of hours appointments, thus wasting NHS services again.

“What can I do for you Megan?”

“Um…”

No matter how many times I have been there, said that, admitting that I am not okay and that I need help still fills me with shame, dread and other taunting emotions that, if you look at it from an outsiders point of view, I should not be obliged to feel.

“Have you, or have you feel like hurting yourself?”

“Yes.”

“How have you hurt yourself?”

Please don’t make me say it.

“Have you felt suicidal?”

“Yes.”

“Have you or do you feel like making any plans to act on these feelings?”

“No.”

Which is true – although they might seem like two of the same questions, I have picked up within the last few years that practitioners always ask and separate the following:

1. Do you feel suicidal?

2. Have you made any plans to commit suicide?

Although I made my mind up a while back now that no, I did not want to live – but it didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to die either.

He gave me two weeks worth of both my medications.

“Two weeks? So does that mean I have to make another appointment in a fortnight to claim my monthly rolling prescription back?”

“I can’t give you more than that just incase you decide to take them all at once.”

Oh. Good point.

And so I started my medication again, and wrote another bullet list.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. But I do know this. I am depressed. I am grieving. I am not functioning and I am not well. And it has taken me over three months to admit it.

But also,

I am still.

I am.

NaNoWriMo 2017 for Rochdale and District Mind

 

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As November closely approaches, we are also getting geared up to dive in to the madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – a major annual event which sees published author’s and aspiring writers amongst us preparing to face the challenge of undertaking 50,000 words during the course of November.

That’s averaging 1,667 words per day, and provides 100% commitment from the participant to meet that target.

To give you a vague idea of the amount of work 50k is, that’s pretty much just over the word count of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby… (47,097!)

This year, I have geared myself up for my first ever NaNoWriMo challenge, and took the sensible advice to start prepping early. To say I started three months ago, it certainly has come around quickly!

Whilst taking this challenge, I also thought it a great opportunity to do some fundraising for a charity that is very close to my heart.

Rochdale and District Mind is a local mental health and wellbeing organisation who primarily relay on donations and sponsorships to keep the Charity afloat. The volunteers work tirelessly to support and assist in recovery for those in need – myself being one of those seeking help when I turned 18.

Mind was the first services that I braved to access on my own. At the time, I was severely struggling with depression, cripplingly low self esteem, bouts of mania, self-harm and addiction after suffering in silence from my early teens. This pathway ultimately lead me on the right pathway to get my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder – from which I received the treatment I needed to get back on my feet, go back to university and raise my beautiful young daughter.

As of many people who I have to be thankful for, the kindness and the efforts of the service workers at Rochdale Mind saved my life.

As much as I feel I can’t give enough back, this is my way of saying thank you. For my NaNoWriMo project 2017, I will be undertaking my first fiction project, a novel, which focusses on the realities of mental health.

Please help support Rochdale and District Mind (and also encourage me in my word count!) by visiting my just giving page below and giving a small donation.

 

DONATE HERE!

 

I’d also love to hear from those who are taking part with NaNo this year!

 

Thank you!

 

To find more about the incredible services and support that Rochdale Mind do please visit their website: https://www.rochdalemind.org.uk/

I am so much more.

 

woman

 

Badgered and bullied

I always felt both sadness and rage

at home and school

 

just wanted a moment that was mine

where I didn’t feel swept and carried away

by some sea that was not mine,

 

and my best friend were books

few people seemed to understand me or care

those who did only wanted to use me;

 

I am putting those years behind me

looking forward to a better future because

I choose to be happy even on my hardest days

 

won’t let depression or anxiety conquer me

I am so much more than this misery, anger, and pain

that is trying to strangle the life from me.

 – By Linda M. Crate.

 

You can find more of Linda’s words here at https://www.facebook.com/Linda-M-Crate-129813357119547/

 

Image rights by Pexels stock images. 

Self Care.

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Self-care is a really difficult thing to endure when you are feeling under the weather yourself.

This week, I have had to force myself to get up off the couch, get showered and eat. Life changes, illness, pain and other indemnities have left me feeling tense and angry over the last few weeks and this has of course mirrored itself in the forefront of my mental health. I am one again finding myself enraged with not only the unpredictable practicalities of life, but aiming the flaming arrows at myself everyone around me. Not good news for my close friends and family, my partner and my daughter – particularly when I can’t seem to gain any sort of control over it.

I had my bi-annually medication review with my GP a few days ago, and mentioned to her that with all that is happening – decline in my physical health, moving house, the change in weather  – my mood has significantly dropped to the levels where I feel I’m in the red warning zone. She doubled my Sertraline, something which hasn’t happened in a long time, and two days later I can certainly feel the effects. This morning I managed to get myself out of bed without being too exhausted to want to crawl back in to it, I feel less like an emotional blubbering mess and my productivity and creativity has sky rocketed. Hallelujah.

I am starting to realise that the many medication tweaks and altering my environment to compliment my bipolar waves will be permanent. There is no easy ‘one state’ fix for me. These little adjustments are mandatory to see me through to a healthy life. I feel okay with this now, there will never be a single solution.

As the years go by, and I get further and further away from the messy life before diagnosis, I can feel how far I have come and how much I am learning from my past to implement in my future self-care. There’s so much value in experience.

 

The Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression.

the recovery letters

 

Last year, I had the honour to be approached by the founder of The Recovery Letters blog, James Withey, who asked me to submit a letter for his upcoming book, the Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression, which compiled letters from people who had once suffered – to the currently suffering.

My contribution made it through to final print, and when I got the package through from Jessica Kingsley publishers with a copy of the book, I wept with absolute joy. Upon reading the extracts, the book offers a real inspirational insight in to what it feels like to suffer, and each letter is raw with relatable stories, advice and hope.

Here is my contribution to the book.

 

From Megan. 

 

“Dear You,

 

Struggling with Depression is one of closest things a human being can endure to being stuck in time.

I’m sharing these thoughts from experience. It has been a journey I once kept contained within myself; one that I never thought I would even begin to understand, let alone gain the understanding of those close to me. The day I closed my eyes to the light and woke in the darkness was a day I was convinced that I’d lost myself completely.

 

How do you even begin to make sense of it when your life suddenly pauses and you find yourself stuck within an infinite stretch of nothingness; watching everyone around you carry on with their lives, running towards the future whilst you are left behind? That numbness you just can’t seem to comprehend, slowly replacing the oxygen you once breathed in, poisoning your bloodstream the more you struggle for air. The sadness you can’t shift, lurking around every corner you turn and echoing it’s cries through each painful movement your body tries to make. That vicious hum of anxious energy that strikes time and time again when you have your back turned, potent enough to stop your heart mid-pulse and cruel enough leave you hanging there until you are convinced it will be the last beat it will ever sing.

That desperate search to track down the glimmer that was once yourself, becomes a one-way road that always leads you back to where you first started. After a few effortful attempts running down the same path over and over again, you eventually find yourself getting more and more exhausted with every step you take; until your mind and your body begins to run on an empty soul; a dried up motor that rusts and cracks under the heat. Depression for me was a never ending moment in time, one which I thought I’d never escape from.

 

One of my first Therapists – one of many to follow – gave me some valuable recovery advice back then which has stayed with me to this day. He said to me;

 

“There is a clear difference between believing that you can’t, and knowing that you can’t.”

 

When I heard those words, my perspective finally shifted enough to stop myself from running down that same one path. The reason why I had stalled in this endless loop of despair and a tunnel vision of doom was because I had made myself believe that recovery wasn’t an option for me. But in reality? The opportunity to get better was there. My eyes just couldn’t shift the fog that was my own damned perspective.

 

And then all of a sudden, the possibility of recovery became real. It was as simple as getting out of my head and remembering where I was – more importantly who I was – at that very moment.  

 

So to you dear friend, please remember this. The next time you feel like you are stuck in time, the truth is; you are not. It only feels like you are stuck there. Remind yourself, that outside that perspective of yours, the clock really is ticking away. And it’s leading you to discover the most breath-taking, most beautiful opportunities you thought you could only dream of before now.

Hold on for hope, Recovery begins with you.

Love, Megan.”

 

Please do support James for all the hard work he has done by purchasing a copy for yourself, or even as a gift for someone you know is going through a tough time. Each one of these letters holds so much value and hope for those who are suffering. Details of how to purchase can be found in the link below, along with the Recovery Letters blog.

blog: http://therecoveryletters.com