Monthly Archives: April 2014

When days are good and bad.

Tuesday was not a good day!

Today is better, but Tuesday was a bad one!

Do I want to go back and relive the day? Not really. I’d rather take the next tentative steps towards wellness and not be constantly dragged back towards a dark and dreary place. It’s a place from where it can be difficult to escape and if I chose to wallow in the abysmal  scene that was then, I would simply be taking two steps forward and three steps back……..

 So I choose to look forward. I choose to see a sky speckled with clouds instead of a grey sky interspersed with blue. For me, it is sometimes about perception; I can perceive the glass half full or constantly half empty. And even if the glass is half empty, there is enough to drink, is there not? At the moment I have enough reserves to fight off this latest bout of sadness. I have enough love surrounding me to help me fight. And that is a good place to be!!

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The Emotional Bank Account


Whatever the relationship, be it with family, friends, work colleagues or those closest to you (normally parents, spouses and children), it is necessary to understand the personal impact you have on each other; the higher or greater the impact, the closer the relationship.

But when you put depression into the mix, relationships get very complicated. Going through a bout of depression, the likes I have not felt in a very long time has made me very introspective. My world-view has shrunk to the point that the only person important at the moment is myself. That statement is one of the most selfish things I have ever written and I don’t consider myself a selfish individual normally. I would consider myself normally a person with a generous heart.   I am quick to anger sometimes, but by the same token I am quick to ask forgiveness or to forgive. But when your waking day is lived through the black veil that not only descends upon you but consumes you inside and out, through sleeping or waking moments, it is hard to be unselfish. It is not that you set out to be, or try to be, it is that you literally can’t see beyond your own nose.

My sister asked me recently what if my husband asked me to have a conversation about something that was vitally important to him, to us as a couple, while I was depressed – what would my answer to my husband be? Would I have the conversation or not? And unequivocally I said no; without hesitation, without even having to think about it. She was very surprised and asked me did I not think that that was the absolute epitome of selfishness and I said yes. It got me thinking however afterwards as to why I would say no. And it was only much later I realized that at that particular moment, it wouldn’t be that I couldn’t have the conversation, although that was purely my instinctual reaction and reasoning at the time, it was that to have a conversation as important as us, as important as my family at that time would really and truly do him and me a complete and utter disservice. He would not be getting the full me. He would not be getting the rational, thoughtful, caring me that I know I am. He would be getting a shell of me; a doppleganger who looks like me, talks like me but doesn’t think in any way shape or form like me, because at that moment in time I am not myself.

It is very hard to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and walk their walk when at times it’s even a gargantuan struggle for you to get yourself out of bed in the morning. I’m not talking about the days we all have, where we just want to pull the covers over our heads and wait for the next day to come, we all have those. I mean the days that start off with the blackness descending even before you open your eyes in the morning and everything seems so utterly pointless and valueless as to leave you questioning your very worth and existence.

To ask me to have a conversation about our relationship or future at that particular moment in time when that is my mindset is to me the most selfish thing he could do to me – to us! Now all this is hypothetical, but it begs the question what happens to family members of those who struggle with depression during a bout? Where do they fit in? What has to be their role?

I can only answer it from my own perspective. I know for a fact my children and my husband take a back seat to my depression during a breakout. My husband takes up the slack and parents our three teenagers, who thankfully have arrived almost to adulthood without being scarred by my illness. And he does it because he knows that when I am well, I add to our ‘emotional bank account’ so as to not only compensate for what I have to withdraw when I’m sick, but almost overcompensate because I don’t know when I’ll have to draw from it again or for how long. It’s like anything in life, you can only take out what you have given or put in. If you continue to be a taker or withdraw (to stick to the one analogy here), eventually the account will run dry.

But that is true of all relationships, not just marriage is it not?

I think however it is especially true of a marriage; which is why successful marriages are ones where each couple constantly works at making their relationship better, for themselves but most and possibly more importantly for the other person.

I’ve read comments by partners of those who have been depressed and almost all of them said one of the huge factors for them was the absolute selfishness of the individual when ill that caused the end of the relationship. But coming from the point of view of someone who struggles with bi-polar and now depression, support is vital in helping me get through a particularly hard time. The mundane things are important; if you have children it is in caring for them, looking after them, making sure they eat and have clean clothes every day and making sure they get to and from school etc, but anyone can do that. What is of the utmost absolute necessity for me is the emotional support I get from hubby. You can’t buy that, or bottle it and I didn’t always get it either. The times my own marriage was rocky, were the times that he withdrew his emotional support because it was extremely difficult for him to see me be so selfish, to the point of excluding almost everyone, but especially him, from my life. I didn’t intend to, but that was the result. It’s not easy living with someone who struggles with this illness. Its very hard to see depression that way, as an illness, because it is not something that can be fixed quickly with a pill, or a week in bed and because of its recurrent nature; it is a very insidious illness, and it does destroy families; it can destroy a partners self worth as they watch their other half wallow in what they see as a well of self pity. I’ve no doubt its not easy living with me, I’ve no doubt that at times I try his very considerable patience, I’ve no doubt that there have been times where he considered walking away, because that would have been the easier option. But he didn’t and I am thankful every day that he didn’t. The fact I am really secure in the knowledge that my illness will not be ‘an issue’ means I can afford to be selfish and concentrate on me when I need to, it means I make damn sure that when I am well, I am as positive a force as I can be in his life, it means I add to our emotional bank account as often and as much as I can so that when its time for me take again, there’s plenty of credit there…

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Do You have to Love Your Family?

I came across a blog recently while surfing, by titled ‘Family’ (check it out people…).  The blog about her family and what it means to her was interesting.  I can’t say I agree with her sentiments, because I don’t – actually not in the slightest.  Her assertion that she needed to prove herself constantly to her parents and sibling was alien to me.   Here’s her final comment, just in case you don’t have the time to check the whole blog out, (which would be a pity however):

To me, this is family. Family is about proving myself. Not proving that I am one of us but rather proving that I am a capable independent and don’t “need” them. Perhaps that sounds harsh. But it’s how I’ve been raised and learned to think. Toughen up–or you won’t make it in this cold world.

For me, family is ‘about’ lots of things.  It is a shared background, a shared upbringing that means I don’t have to explain my opinions or myself.  It is about a deep sense of belonging to something bigger than myself, of me being part of a whole and that ‘whole’ is my family unit.  It’s also about responsibility towards others; my siblings and my parents, to be the best person I can be, not only for me, but for our unit also.  Yes, I want to be independent and capable of standing on my own, yes it’s important to be an independent thinker and accomplished in this life as I do agree it is a tough world out there.  But I view it from a different perspective; I feel that I don’t ‘have’ to do it alone because I am not alone.  My family offers me unconditional love and support.  My sisters and brothers want to spend time with me when they can.  I am not a person they ‘put up with’, or see because it is expected and we’re family and vice versa.  My relationship with my siblings and my parents is borne from actually liking each other and wanting to spend time getting to know the adult individual when we’ve known and grown up with the ‘child’ sibling for so long.  Even in saying that, I am twelve years younger than my oldest brother and his experiences of our family and my parents is vastly different to mine.   It is that shared history, yet shared ‘difference’ that is exciting and challenging and in our case bonding.   And for that I am truly grateful.

It’s funny that I found this particular blog after just returning from Australia where I have spent the last few weeks visiting my sister and two of my three brothers.  This always makes me very introspective because I only get to see them once a year.  Even in that, I am extremely lucky! I miss them terribly throughout the year but especially after I’ve just come home because I know it’ll be at least a year before I see them again.   In the past, festive holidays used to be spent crammed around my parents table where I and all my siblings and their spouses or partners and children would spend the day lapping up each others company and usually playing card or board games into the wee hours of the night.   Now however, with only one sister still in Ireland, we don’t quite ‘rattle’ around my parents’ table but we’re not far off.

Having said all that, distance is a great motivator too.  It means for three weeks of the year, I get to see the best of my siblings; there are no fights, no issues, just harmony and cohesion.  Its amazing what I learn each time I visit them.  As each of them heads what seems ever faster towards middle age, I see them in a light I may not have were they still here in Ireland.  We may all have taken each other for granted, we may have seen each other only rarely, but I don’t ever envisage us not getting along.  We are one of those families where each child stays part of the family; mind you we are far from children now.  Do we all seem similar? – Yes.  Are we boring? Oh, far from it.  In her blog, Laura said that when it comes to family, if someone uses the word love, is it because of the blood relation and innocent memories? To me, family is something to be grateful for but it is also an exchange.  For Laura the exchange was about ensuring they knew she could stand on her own two feet.  For me, family is knowing I can stand on my own two feet but because I am part of a family, it is also the very gratifying knowledge that I don’t have to!

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What Makes Us Happy?


What Makes Us Happy?

My brother asked me recently was I happy?  And as I listed off my ‘life’s ‘work’ and how I felt about it; my job as a mother to three growing teenagers and the angst they bring to any life, my job outside my home as an editor in a busy publishing company, as the wife of a busy businessman,’ he shished me into silence and asked me, “Yes, but are YOU happy?” 

 It gave me pause because for me, my life is my work, my life also revolves around my children, around their schedules, their school or college life, their hectic social life, my husbands work, his hectic schedule and for a while I had to think hard: well, am I happy?  It’s not a question I get asked a lot:  am I happy?  I am happy to do all those things, and be ‘all things to all people’ in my life; a daughter to parents I adore and who are actively in my life every day, a mother, a wife, a business partner, an agony aunt, a confidant, a lover to my husband of 22 years and yes a friend to my pals. Even that means different things to different pals.

I have a few women friends who own their own businesses and to each other we are a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on and a place to go to seek advice with work related issues, we find in each other a conspirator even and above all else an understanding ear; the worth of which can never be discounted.   To talk to other women who understand intimately the intricacies of business life for me is worth more than I can ever tell them. To others I am a confidant, a friend ready to listen and if my advice is sought to give it honestly in as much as I can; I’m closer to some than to others, but I am not a gossiper and what is said in confidence, remains that way.  I have friends whose company I enjoy and I would actively seek out if I was in need advice.  There are others who just want a meet up for a bit of fun and for them the strappings of friendship do not mean the same and therefore they do not get my one hundred percent!  After going through all of that quickly in my head as us women are wont to do, I had to think for a second as he shushed me quiet again; and consider am I happy?

It’s been a long time since that question was asked of me in such an open way.  Normally it would been prefaced with an incident resolved, or an upcoming function and it would be couched in those forms; are you happy the way things went – are you happy with the turnout – are you happy with the response – are you happy with a hundred other things that were within my control.  And the answer to those types of questions varies depending on how well or good I feel and what I have achieved.  But again my brother asked:  Sis, I don’t want to know about the ins and outs of your life; I want to know are you happy?

And I thought for a good while before I answered.

Yes, I am happy with myself, my lot, my family, my friends, my work, and everything else that makes up being a responsible adult…  Were I not happy in any sphere of any of that, I could still be happy in myself.  The same however can not be said the other way round.  When I am struggling with a bout of depression, then everything I do in life is tarnished as a result.  Everything is seen through a fog of unhappiness.  It’s been a while since I thought about just me; not work, not kids, not hubby, not anything else – just me as an individual.  I went to great lengths to explain to my brother that were I not happy, I wouldn’t or couldn’t do the things I do on a daily basis for everyone else, because putting yourself last can only be done as an act of selflessness and love towards others and if I am capable of loving others in that fashion, my own self worth is intact; therefore I do love my life and I am happy in it…


I don’t think he quite got it….  I think he felt for me be happy I need to think only about myself at times, and in my opinion that’s not true.  Not by a long shot!  But all this self-analysis did get me thinking however, what is actual happiness, how does it manifest itself and how do we all deal with it?  Just from our conversation, I know that the things that make him happy would drive me up the wall and I am sure vice versa. Am I content in my life, (under normal circumstances when I’m well,) absolutely; am I happy with my lot; absolutely, am I in control of my life and where it is heading; not always, but that’s life. Would I like to win the lotto and not have to worry again about doing work I don’t enjoy – pony up – where’s the winning ticket?  But who doesn’t regret certain elements of their lives.  Life wouldn’t be life without regret. Its how we choose to move on from and learn from that regret that is the true test of our mettle!!  And me – I’m pretty contented.  I’m still learning and I firmly believe you are never too old to learn something new and useful for your own life.  And with a big sigh I finally answered my brothers’ question.  ‘There is no place else I’d rather be than in his company right now, having this conversation, in the place he calls home surrounded by my family and those I love.  Yes, I am very happy indeed.’

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Down the Rabbit Hole Again!


Deep in the dark recesses of my brain, somewhere that is still conscious of what is going on, I know that I am in a place I wouldn’t want to be had I a choice. Deep down there too, is the knowledge that I am in big trouble.

Deep in my brain is the wisdom, the knowing that I can’t help myself and I end up screaming at myself every night; because at night time – when I am asleep – is the time my subconscious can reach up and punch my conscious mind.   But that constant punching causes problems with my mind during the day, as I struggle to cope with the waking hours having spent all night battling myself as I tossed and turned with my mind screaming; assaulting me with images, thoughts, struggles, pressures, worries that refuse to let me sleep a restful, useful sleep.

Having slumbered, tossed, and turned, my waking moments are lived in slow motion, with words forgotten, tears coming uncalled and the world seen through a veil of cotton wool, as if everything is dulled, muted and I slovenly work on half speed, with a mask in place to pretend I am still me, still fully there. I feel a lot of things and absolutely nothing at the same time. It is as if I know I should feel, am remembering a feeling but am equally incapable of feeling that feeling; I am recalling it as if from memory and not from the process of actually feeling it. My world is getting smaller, it wants to be smaller, and I want to be alone – to be quiet.

As if my very spirit has been stolen, my life is lived purely by going through the motions; as if I have to do it, but no longer want to do it. It is as if someone has turned off a light in my head, in my heart. My brain just refuses to work at times and as I struggle for words more and more it makes me worry, angry, sad, and weary… Not even the words want to come from my head. Just be silent. Just to be silent, that would be wonderful.

To be alone and quiet and peaceful, resting, if that could happen, then perhaps I could mend….

Being depressed, suffering from depression is not a choice; it is an action, something that happens TO you, unwanted, unbidden and sometimes by complete surprise. It is also a battle; a fight with an unseen, powerful thing that sucks the very life out of everything you see, you touch, you do, you are…. It is an insidious illness that can destroy your very spirit, soul, heart, mind and life.

I have bi-polar disorder. I have struggled with this for twenty years and for twenty years I have managed the highs and lows with the help and support of my doctor, family, my husband and my children. But even with me, after so many years and so many swings I was in the depths of clinical depression without realizing it. Despite knowing and managing the symptoms of depression before, they snuck up on me this time.  I felt ‘deflated’, I felt unmotivated, flat and devoid of the slightest hint of energy or joy. I forgot the simplest of words regularly and struggled to put sentences together sometimes. I wanted quiet, silently screamed for it, in my surroundings, in my home, but most of all in my head.

When I slept, I tossed and turned, I didn’t get a refreshing sleep, not for months. I am exhausted both mentally and physically but being in a position of having to go on, I did, until I couldn’t any more. When I began to imagine myself crashing into the nearest truck just so I didn’t have to go to work and I could get some rest I knew there was something wrong. Who does that; imagines themselves slightly hurt; enough they’d have to go to hospital where they could sleep, be quiet and not be disturbed for a few weeks??

This is not like the depression I had felt before with the bi-polar. This came on so gradually I didn’t even realize I was different. Not until having seriously thought of hurting myself over and over and then wanting to do it morning after morning, did I admit to myself that I could be sick. So I asked for an emergency appointment with my doctor who has looked after me for over ten years and she told me that I was suffering from clinical depression.

To be honest, some of it was a relief. The idea of forgetting my words when I enjoy writing so much was very frightening.   When I talked, I couldn’t piece a sentence together without struggling to reach the words that were just ‘gone’. Simple words for everyday things were missing, unknown, unreachable, vanished completely from memory. This is a symptom of depression.

The idea of wanting to harm myself for some peace and quiet was seriously wrong, but this is a classic symptom of depression.

The thought of getting up day after day and going to work  – just doing the ‘run of the mill’ things we all have to do, was destroying my soul, my being and I was beginning to be incapable of doing it; this is a symptom of depression.

The idea of peace and quiet where I can be on my own to just sleep, to rest, is a symptom of depression.

Flashes of anger were not uncommon with my bi-polar but with this episode, it was more like absolute apathy, a feeling like I was wading through glue and no matter how hard I tried it was never going to get any easier, it was just going to get worse…

If I had thought my life was no longer worth living I would not be sitting here writing this now. Fortunately for me, I realized before that happened, there was something wrong.

What I am trying to tell you is that even someone who is used to a bi-polar disorder can struggle with an episode of clinical depression. This one snuck up on me, blindsided me, left me very depleted, more depleted than I have ever felt in my life. This is not a choice, this is not something I am in control of, this is not something I want nor would I wish this condition on any other person, friend or enemy. Unless you have suffered depression, there is no explaining what it does to your mind, body, soul and spirit. No explaining how depleted and spent and lacking in determination, joy or love you feel for life in general, for your life, for the lives of those you do actually love and who surround you every day. It’s not easy getting over depression. It takes an enormous effort from everyone, from the one struggling with it, to the ones who surround that person. I am extremely blessed to have a husband who understands me: my mind, soul and heart. His love, patience and caring is what at times gets me through the darkest of days, even when I feel absolutely nothing but apathy for him because of that very illness. Surrounding yourself with loved ones who know the real you, who can wait for the real you to come back is more important than they will ever understand. To those who say to people who have been struck down with depression like me “just snap out of it”, I wish you never have to feel this way. There is no ‘snapping out of it’; that’s the whole point. Were it that simple, don’t you think it’s a choice we would quickly, wholeheartedly, delightedly make? But depression takes time to recover from; time to heal, time to rest, time to come back to oneself. I am on that road now. I travel it as quickly as my mind allows. I travel this road more than willingly and I know there are times when I feel like I’m back at the start, moments when I feel utterly distraught for no reason, there are moments when I just want to sit down wherever I am and just not get up ever again, there are times when I just don’t want to talk to anyone for what feels like ever again, but I will get there.  I know I will – how long it takes, I’m not sure…..


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