Posts Tagged anxiety

New Hope

So… an exciting Thing is happening regarding my mental health situation.

A while ago (pre-lockdown), my lovely Dr told me about some medical trials going on for those with ‘treatment-resistant depression.’ I appeared to meet the criteria, so she put my name forward.

This is the project – Brightmind (I keep wanting to call it Brightburn, but that’s a very different thing 😂).

I’ve had confirmation today that I’m pretty much their ideal candidate, and after the formal assessment next week (and MRI scan to check my brain), I can begin in early September.

I’ve kept this quiet until it was confirmed, and also because I should’ve started in February – but then the MRI machines became suddenly busy. The team at Nottingham University, working with QMC Hospital Nottingham, are super-keen to get working again, and their enthusiasm is really giving me hope.

Short version: this is like ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), but using magnets. So it’s not invasive at all and has shown a high rate of success. The last statistics I found showed 80% of improvement in patients, with the remainder showing no change. NO side-effects.

I’m hopeful. No guarantees, but any improvement is A Good Thing.

I will be updating on here, and possibly with videos as well. I’ve seen other folks on YouTube document such journeys, and their positive experiences have been a big factor in my going forward with this.

A Big Adventure is about to begin! Fingers – and everything else – crossed.

Also, before anyone says anything: yes, I’ve read ‘Firestarter’ and books like that. I promise to use any resulting superpowers for good. Including a clearer brain 😊

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Monday

I’ve never been sure what Real Druids (or Pagans, Witches or whatever) are supposed to do on a daily basis.

I’m sure you’ve seen memes involving Getafix or Gandalf. I rather like this one from Living Liminally:

druid meme2

Even that’s not been possible for most of this year, alas. Looking over my garden is kind of my limit for outdoor contact – or walking the dogs close to home. That’s something, and it’s more than many, I know.

Today I’m wondering what I should be doing, according to others. Because when I woke up, my brain decided to regale me with all of the demands made by others who clearly Know Better.

(They don’t. Some folks just love to critique based on a glimpse of the person they think they know.)

The softest target is my health. Lately this has been a real bone of contention, and apparently a problem for others as well as me.

Every time I post something about my health (read: my depression, anxiety, what have you), I feel bad. The voices gleefully squeal ‘Oh, she’s off again! What is it now? They don’t care, you know.’ Or, that biggest of guns: ‘She just wants attention.’

I don’t. I really don’t. I want to talk about how I’m feeling because every time I do, I get quiet messages telling me that being honest and up-front about it is helpful. I’m not actually whingeing; I’m striking a chord with someone stuck in their own dark hole.

A lot of what I do is invisible, thinking about it – meaning that it happens, but can’t easily be seen. Battling my illness. Working with energy, connecting with the world around, chatting to spirits or deity. Or – gasp! – writing.

Writing is sorting ideas somehow in your head, transmitting those coherently through my fingers onto this page. Broadly speaking.

But there’s also the jump to simply do the work. To get up, find the writing tool – laptop, pen and paper – and make the words happen. That can be as difficult as putting on running gear to head out of the door. Especially when feeling low, because the Brain wants to convince you that you can’t do it. You don’t need to. Nobody cares, anyway.

Shut up, f*ck off, I’m doing it.

A common piece of advice from writers is to Just Write. Neil Gaiman put it so well when he said something akin to ‘Put one word after another and keep going.’ Yep. Like running – one step, then another, repeat.

It is at once that simple and at the same time so much more difficult!

Here I am, then. Wittering on. Hoping that these words strike that note to inspire.

This Druid does indeed have Things to do today. They are Good Things. Reading through my students’ work; reading review books and preparing my ideas on them, answering messages – and seeing what happens as they day goes on! Last week, I worked on the upcoming issue of Pagan Dawn. New things come along all the time. Druid Life is interesting.

Normally at this time of year, I’d be so busy with public rituals, talks, camps and suchlike. This year is quiet, generally at home. But I’m still doing my best.

Try not to judge. It’s likely you can’t see everything about a person from just a glance or a Twitter status. Look deeper into the story if you’re interested; you might find something you like.

Let’s try to keep inspired, eh? Your story is just as valid as anyone’s. I’m telling my frustrating brain that today – now with an added topping of ‘Look, you wrote something! Not useless after all!’

Solidarity and love in these difficult times, my friends.

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Challenging

*possible triggers for abuse*

This morning, in an activity that continued since yesterday, my brain decided to tell me all the things that have been shouted at me over the years. Often directly into my face. Sometimes wordless, just a deluge of vituperation (aren’t words great?).

‘Oh, stop being stupid.’ – too many to count.

‘You’ve got an answer for everything.’ – Mum.

‘Don’t think – just do what I tell you.’ – lecturer/boss (female), Derby University.

‘I think you’re disabled and shouldn’t be here.’ – boss (male), NHS.

*uncontrolled, mocking laughter* – too many to count.

‘You know the only way to get taken seriously is to *mimes cutting wrists*’ – on-call Doctor.

‘Just stop talking.’ – boss (male, not mine), previous workplace.

‘What were you thinking?!’ – boss (male, mine).

We’ve all got these lists. Key words fly out at me from where my subconscious has stored them: stupid, know-all, ungrateful, bitch, cunt…

A lovely friend summed up this negative-deluge as ‘the brain misfiring.’ Wires are crossed and a safety switch triggered, fight or flight become confused and you’re overwhelmed with noise, emotion, feeling, panic.

This is a symptom of anxiety and depression, mental illness generally. But… I think it’s a symptom of modern life as well.

I’ve never understood how someone can act in such a way. To cover up for themselves? To project power? What could I (or anyone) have possibly done to warrant such treatment?

Conclusion: I must have done something REALLY BAD.

For most of my childhood, I was quiet. Bullied regularly, scared to speak up, often the new girl, mocked and tricked. I learned defensive tactics, and hid inside stories – my own and mountains of books. Libraries and green spaces were my refuge.

At University, I learned to speak up, to stand up… but still found myself a target. Of course I wasn’t perfect, but it was as if I was never allowed to make mistakes. Taking responsibility and trying to fix things didn’t help – I was still WRONG.

In recent years, it seems as if a ‘last straw’ was somehow reached. Sometimes, when my mental state is at its lowest, I feel like an abused animal, cringing away from imagined blows about to fall. And hating myself for it.

I wish that I could summon my strength, that I know is inside, and return to those moments when I just took those words in. I wish I could raise a hand and simply say ‘No.’ Or turn and walk away.

So many of us have experienced such things; I know it’s not unusual, and I’m not seeking sympathy or pity. I know I got off comparatively lightly.

I’m asking that we learn and stand up moving forward. We stand for ourselves or with others who can’t, and say NO.

I’m so glad that young people these days have so many strong role models. I love that we’re being told to challenge. But of course, we know that it’s not always so simple – that a verbal threat can quickly become a physical one.

I try to stand, inside my own thoughts, imagining that ‘NO.’ Stop the misfiring. Mentally time-travel and silence the abuse. Challenge the thoughts.

And so be able to challenge the wrong when I feel or see it today.

This post was inspired by others, mostly from the #InternationalWomensDay tag on social media. It’s not confined to women, though, not at all.

To all my friends, be they male, female or any other shade of the rainbow, I will try to stand with you as best I can. Know that you are not alone.

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Inspiration from A Bad Day

Last weekend, I had  the pleasure of attending Pagan Pride in Nottingham. I’ve been there every year since the very beginning ten years ago, and it’s always a joy. I’ve seen it blossom and grow, under the careful tending of hard-working volunteers, a community truly coming together in friendship and shared interests.

As is usual, I gave a talk – this time about mental health, and how my Pagan practice helps me to manage it. There were tears, and I felt myself falter several times as I struggled to put words to very amorphous feelings. But I think I helped.

Pagan Pride 2018

(Picture by Victoria Furminger)

The weekend was glorious. Dear friends stayed over, Pride was a full and fun day… but then came the inevitable fallout. I had called in credit on spoons, it seemed, and my inner overdraft had hit its limit.

I’m often asked how my life is, on a normal regular day. I suspect some people imagine me rising with the dawn, greeting the sun and then feeding the dogs and cats like some sort of Druid Snow White, before heading to my desk to crank out a novel or two… 😉 Not quite!

So. For those who’ve asked, and as a PS to last weekend’s talk… here’s what today has looked like.

Today was A Very Bad Day, in terms of health. Mentally, my brain was done. Out of energy. Unable to focus. But still believing that it could, it seemed to be careening all over the inside of my skull like a pinball – or rather, with ideas like multiple pinballs, not letting me catch one for long enough to do much. And then all the balls would fall to earth with the weight of The One Ring. And I would collapse.

Physically, this meant I was almost exhausted. Regular fits of tears (today has been a Three-Hankie Day, so far), feeling like an exposed nerve in terms of anything setting me off, headaches, tension, aching joints, having to force myself to eat. Unable to focus, remember?

I did call my local Community Mental Health Team at one point, by the way. But my regular (lovely) Doctor wasn’t there. A random CPN was less than helpful.

I know going for a walk may do me good. I know I have to work to get better. But in the depths of crisis… not an option. (I do wonder if these individuals, well-meaning though they are, have ever experienced such intense feelings. I suspect I’d know if they had, in the same way that I see the solidarity in the faces of those who come up to hug me after the aforementioned Talks.)

The thought of leaving the house was terrifying, daunting beyond belief. I should have been getting on with jobs – going to the Post Office, joining my husband at an event that he’s enjoying. No. Impossible. Which led to the inevitable guilt, that my illness was taking over my life, I’m useless to everyone, what’s even the point, I might as well stop… spiralling down, ever down…

This is the Darkness which I speak of, which I’ve written of. It begins quietly, like a small tug, but quickly becomes an undertow and then a vortex. The easiest metaphor is to ‘ride the waves’, but often it’s just keeping a head above water.

Tactics were tried. Knitting was a good one, with a special skein of beautiful, tactile yarn that had been saved for just such an occasion. Tea, of course, and cookies. Amusing podcasts or Youtube clips, to provide friendly voices. Ultimately, however, the blanket fort was needed. Bed, with a book.

Books have saved my life so many times. And duvets. Each should come with vouchers to obtain the other.

The sun is now setting.

I am still here. The window is open, and my little guardian who has stayed by me all day is busy hopping outside and then back in, to check all is well. She slept with me today, but always with an eye cracked if I moved. In case of fuss, you understand.

Ink August 2018

I sit, looking around, and just letting things be. Breathing. The trick is to keep breathing. To find the stillness that I know is here, in these late hours of this day. The tiny magics are the most important, right now.

I’m knitting, with yarn from a friendly local shop. A beautiful, simple pattern that will make a portable hug.

I’m breathing the fresh air from my garden, combined with sweet incense gifted by a dear friend. I can hear the blackbirds singing. The last few cars heading home.

Himself is away, busy with his Knights. I should have been with him, but am hearing stories from those who were there, having fun and sharing their pleasure.

Ultimately, I’m being kept afloat by the love and good wishes of others. Through gifts passed on, carefully-made items that make me smile (and often well up, but in a good way this time). Through stories, quick messages of understanding. Chatting to friends miles – and hundreds of miles – away, who get it and who give a virtual hand to hold. Cooking a lovely meal from something  Himself prepared a while ago and froze, for just such an occasion as this.

I have another event tomorrow. Part of me has been terrified at the prospect. But the louder part, which is now winning, is reminding me who it is that keeps me going.

I have friends. I have those who care, and for whom I care in turn. When those ‘brain weasels’ arrive to tell me how useless, awful and unloved I am, I can prove them wrong. As I said last weekend, the tears sometimes have to flow, to let that vileness out. The pressure will ease. I can breathe freely again.

And I write. Just to prove that today has not been a total loss. Things had to be moved around, yes, but that was ok. People understand.

I’ll see some of those friends tomorrow, and in weeks to come. No doubt there’ll be ebbs and flows of health again, but I am well-armed, by all of you. To those who stand with me, I am so very grateful. Know that I’m with you too.

Onward.

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