An Open Letter to Friends of People who Live with a Mental Illness.

Posted on Facebook:

For my friend: 

For all close to me and many, many more sadly this is very poignant, and will forever be in our minds and hearts. In support of everyone I know who wrestled with the black dog….Yes depression is relentless. A lot of us have been close to that edge, and some have lost friends and loved ones. Let’s look out for each other and stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Hope to see this on the walls of my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, no Sharing! (Hold screen to copy text)

  
Dear Friends of People who Live with a Mental Illness,

I am one of those who suffers from depression. 

A mental illness.

It’s tough. 
Yes. 

Relentless.
Yes.

But a black dog? Nope that’s not how I would describe it. Dogs for me are full of life. Energy. Nothing about our ur dogs my heart makes me think of depression. 

I describe my depression in one of three ways:

The weather– think of a persistent  weather system, that won’t clear up. My English friends will understand it- the heavy grey clouds that seem to feature in January, where they just make the mood and everything seem grey and dull. And then when the sun comes out and the clouds disappear, everything seems light and colourful.

Rowing– bizarre I know, but on the days when my depression has a grip on my life everything seems hard. Everything requires an effort and is a challenge. So I feel like I’m rowing upstream and that I’m not even moving. 

Being in a pit. This is more about once I’m in a low, just how hard/ impossible it is to get out. I can try the suggested ‘natural remedies’- sleep, healthy eating, exercise, but they don’t work. Like trying to climb out of a pit- it feels like it’s futile. 

When depression hits (well for me anyway), life becomes a challenge. Everyday life. I can’t cope with my children bickering. I have no patience. No tolerances. I shout. I lose my cool. I don’t feel like cooking, so meals become take outs. I have no energy, so the house becomes a mess.  I don’t want to go out, yet staying in drags me down further. I am critical. My marriage becomes shakey, because my husband can’t do anything right- though he hasn’t changed his behaviour from the previous week. 

Friends may I ask- if you’re willing to show support to those of us who suffer from a mental illness, please don’t do it by sharing a post on Facebook for an hour. Rather send text asking how it is going, letting someone know tha you were thinking of them. Pick up the phone, give them a call, invite them round for coffee. Take them out for a walk. Offer to help. Give them a hug. 

Supporting a loved one through mental illness isn’t easy. In my case- I am negative, critical and full of complaints. I am not fun to be around- but the one thing that I need is help to pull me out of the pit. 

So please dear friends, come and pull me out of the pit and spare a thought to my family- who have to live with me when I’m like this. 

To my family and friends who have supported me through my most recent bout- thank you. I am so grateful for your support, for your love and mostly for your amazing patience and tolerance because I know that I am not pleasant to be around. I truly appreciate your love and support. 

Hugs

C

PS: It turns out I have written about depression before!!

Living with Depression

Creating Order- Day 11 of a 20 day challenge

Creating Order PSD copyI have given myself the challenge of trying to create more order in my life. There are areas where I manage well and others where I fail dismally and cause me stress. I would love nothing more, than to have routines and habits that enable life to just flow better. I am hoping that by posting everyday the various areas that need I feel improvement, that it will keep me accountable and I will achieve my to do list for once in my life. 

“Where are your goggles?” Decibel levels rising in parallel to the frustration levels.

“I don’t know!” My daughter replied, wiping away a tear.

“Why didn’t you do it last night?”

“I forgot,” came the reply.

” And this is the consequence of you forgetting.” Hubby calmly reminded her.
It was 7:03.am on Friday morning. My girls have an early morning club at school, which requires them to be out of the door before 7am. My friend, who was driving them in, had been waiting outside for a couple of minutes and things were getting frazzled to say the least.

It was a valid reminder of the value of doing the evening routine.

To make the morning flow, the evening needs to have its routine and when the evening routine is done, the morning routine will flow.
So what is our morning routine?

The Children’s Morning Routine:

Their routine is pretty basic for now, involving 6 steps:

  1. Get up,
  2. Get dressed,
  3. Have breakfast,
  4. Brush teeth and
  5. Pack bags,
  6. Coats etc on

It’s on their ‘Easy Peasy Chore Chart‘ but they effectively know it. That’s what makes a routine so good- it becomes a habit.

I would like to include a few more items- music practice for the older ones, their folded clothes into their cupboards, reading with my youngest one, but at the moment I am content with them being self sufficient in getting ready, which is why having a routine is so useful and such a lifesaver.

But my routine has gone by the wayside. My depression, Plantar Fasciitus, back pain has resulted in me being in survival mode. I get the basics done- get up, make tea, make lunches, make breakfasts, get dressed, take the children to school. But there is so much more I’d like to do, and I know it is possible to do more, as I have achieved it on the rare occasion. (Survival mode has been in more areas than just the morning routine- I’ve had days when I’ve come to wash the pots and pans and realise that we used them two days previously.)

So in an ideal world, my morning will look like this:

6:10 Wake the body.

: This would involve, getting up without hitting the snooze button and grabbing myself a glass of water with lemon. The health benefits of drinking a glass of water first things in the morning are long. I’m hoping that by drinking this glass, it will kick start me in the right direction.

: Basic exercises. This is basically a simplified version of what my Physio has given me. It involves some stretches and then the crucial strength builders I need to facilitate healing and recovery. I plan to do more thorough (namely cardiovascular and strength building) exercises 3 times a week.

6:20 Wake the spirit.

: I would love to finish reading my Cover to Cover Complete Bible in a Year. I’ve yet to make it past week 12. So, 5-10 minutes reading the daily reading, followed by praying for my husband (with some help from The Power of a Praying Wife). I will also use Stormie’s The Power of a Praying Parent as a guide for praying for my children. Hopefully this would set me up with a positive start, before I come back later in the day to have a more in depth devotion.


6:30 Plan my day.

: Grab my planner, my calendar and daily planner and just use the time to plan my day, so I can achieve the necessities while still having time to accomplish the nice to dos (goals, hobbies, exploring) and the invaluables( time spent with family and friends.)

6:45 Into the kitchen

: Time to get sorted…. Finish making the lunches (at best, taking everything out of the fridge and putting them into lunch boxes, at the worst- making them from scratch.). Make my caffeine fix and breakfast for myself and the family.

7:15 The dining room

: When I was first married, I discovered that ‘A’, and M had a routine of sitting down every morning and eating breakfast together. I found that challenging as I was used to living on my own and just eating my breakfast while making my lunch. Interestingly, we now all eat breakfast separately, but it would be so good to bring us all sitting down at the breakfast table together back into our morning routine.

7:30 Beauty calls…

: Shower, dressed, make up. All pretty self explanatory.

7:50 Reading time.

: Just sitting for 5-10 minutes with J, listening to him read.

8:00 Time to go.

So, that’s what I’d like to do. One day (but not yet) I would like to do more exercise (physical and spiritual) in the morning and have cleared the kitchen and completed the next stage of the laundry routine, so that when I walk out of the door for drop off, I am free to do what I wish.

But that’s one day.

Today is today and I’m going to tackle this in a manageable way- building on what I do already do. If I can crack the first 30 minutes of the day, that would be great.

(I will say that my PF is significantly better, thanks to my visit to the orthopaedic surgeon last week- hence my ability to feel like I can challenge my morning routine.)

So my challenge for this week, is to crack the first 30 minutes. Building into my routine, so it becomes a habit.

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Creating Order- Day 6 of a 20 day challenge

Creating Order PSD copyI have given myself the challenge of trying to create more order in my life. There are areas where I manage well and others where I fail dismally and cause me stress. I would love nothing more, than to have routines and habits that enable life to just flow better. I am hoping that by posting everyday the various areas that need I feel improvement, that it will keep me accountable and I will achieve my to do list for once in my life. 

Today, and for the rest of the week, I will be focussing on the evening routine.  If you follow any blog that covers home making as a theme, such as FlyLady, you will see that an organised morning starts with an organised evening. 

I personally have found that when I’m organised in the evening, my mornings flow much better. 

My evening routine has fallen by the wayside, as by the time I get to ‘arsenic hour’ (though to be fair- my children have graduated from THAT age group), my Plantar Fasciitus is playing up. Besides making walking painful, it drains my energy and saps me of positivity. I hadn’t realised just how much it was affecting me until last night, when I had energy, felt super positive and so scrubbed my kitchen! 

As I write this post, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room, hoping that my PF is going to be a thing of the past. 

So what are our evening routines?


Children’s Evening Routine:

I have an evening routine for my children for three main reasons:

  1. So their morning flows smoothly
  2. So I’m not being harassed with requests of “Where’s my school shirt?” Or “I’ve got swimming today and I can’t find my goggles!”
  3. They may learn the value of being organised the night before.

I have used my ‘Easy Peasy Chore Chart’ for the last two years. I love it. When I made it, I bought trading card sleeves, magnets and some stickers from the ¥100 shop, a large magnetic white board from a homewares shop, printed off the chores and hey presto- an instant chore chart that the kids love! My son has been using it since he was 2, using the pictures to help him to know what to do. 

  
It has definitely helped in teaching them what they need to do as part of their routine in the evenings and when I enforce it, the house generally looks quite neat in the evening when hubby returns home from work. 

If you would like to buy an electronic copy, please click here and you will be transferred over to their site.

My Evening Routine:

My evening routine isn’t linked to a time. I aim to start at about 10pm, with my light out by 11pm. Realistically, it usually takes me a bit longer (as I get suckered into some sort of game on my iPad) and I generally start later than planned. Ideally, I would like to start at 10pm and lights out by 11pm!

I have 5 things I aim to do in my evening routine and these are the things I will be giving you feedback as to how well I have managed this week…

  1. Clean the kitchen
  2. Load of washing on
  3. Prep for tomorrow
  4. Make the children’s lunches (or part thereof)
  5. Walk through and pick up

In between doing all of these, I like to make a cup of tea for myself and hubby for us to enjoy while we read in bed. 

Here’s to 5/5 this week!
This post contains affiliate links. This means that by clicking on the links and purchasing the products, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for your continued support.

Creating Order- Day 1 of a 20 day challenge

Creating Order PSD copyI have given myself the challenge of trying to create more order in my life. There are areas where I manage well and others where I fail dismally and cause me stress. I would love nothing more, than to have routines and habits that enable life to just flow better. I am hoping that by posting everyday the various areas that need I feel improvement, that it will keep me accountable and I will achieve my to do list for once in my life. 

I have mentioned before that I like my to do lists. So in true me style, I spent 1 and 1/2 an hour on the weekend making my plan for the month:

Starting big, working my way down.
What do I need to do to create order that will bring peace to my heart?

Various things came to mind, so I have broken them down into themes for each week day.


Monday: What’s in the week?

I find I need Monday, to revover from the weekend.I try and keep the weekend low keyed and family orientated, to such an extent I do nominal housekeeping tasks, and I try not to ask too much of the kids. Generally speaking then, the house is usually a tip, come Monday morning. 

So I’m keeping this on my list, using it as an opportunity to consolidate on routines I try to do, so the house almost runs itself!

Week One: Menu planning
Week Two: Evening Routine
Week Three: Afternoon Routine
Week Four: The Week Ahead

Tuesday: Tasks

I volunteer at the school allotment and Tuesday afternoons is when we meet at the plot. I also run 1st Tokyo Cub and Beaver pack. I use my Tuesday mornings to tackle the planning, preparation and and if I have time, some of the course work I need to do to achieve my wood badge. (Yip- more paperwork/admin!!) As my Tuesdays are already quite full, I am limiting them to tasks that are on my To Do List and hopefully won’t take too long.

Week One: Christmas To Do List
Week Two: Christmas Shopping
Week Three: Creating a Laundry Routine/ Organising the Laundry Room
Week Four: Christmas Cards

OK- Maybe they will take longer than I’d like them to be… Ho Hum!

Wednesday: Tackling the biggies
My children have after school clubs on a Wednesday, which means that I drop them off at 8:15 and only see them again from 4:30. Effectively, this means that I have from 9am-4pm to get a LOT done. So, I am going to allocate my next 4 Wednesdays to tackling the Biggies, starting with my nemesis.
Week One: Tackling the Paperwork
Week Two: Organising the children’s artwork
Week Three: Photograph Organisation
Week Four: Organising our home office.

Thursday: Health
I am trying to focus on my health at the moment. I don’t know how much of my depression, plantar fasciitus or back pain is diet related. Since moving to Tokyo, I have gained 10kg, that much weight isn’t going to help any foot/ back pain, or self confidence issues which then can impact the mood. I am currently trying to reduce my calorific intake, but I want to make lifestyle changes too. I want to get off the yoyo dieting bandwagon and model to my girls the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

Week One: Fluid
Week Two: Intake
Week Three: Rest
Week Four: Exercise

Friday: Ready for the weekend.
This is a bit like Monday. If we are going away for the weekend, I try and use the Friday to get organised, have the house tidy, laundry all up to date etc. It is also a good time for me to get the car sorted. ‘A’ hates sharing a car with me, as most often it is a mobile garbage truck. I have been trying to improve (and am getting there- Hooray), and would like to start giving the car a fortnightly hoover and monthly wash.
Week One: Home
Week Two: Car
Week Three: Bags
Week Four: Planning

Now that you’ve seen the ideas- lets begin:

Besides, needing to catch up from the weekend on a Monday, I also like to spend some time planning for the week ahead. This helps me feel like I have more control over my life.

My main focus at the moment is my health and diet, so I am kicking off the challenge with meal planning. I am trying to cut gluten out of my diet to see whether it effects my depression and mood. My biggest challenge with no gluten are the breakfasts as I LOVE my cereals! I have found that eggs for breakfast do keep me fuller for longer, but there are limits as to how many mornings I can enjoy boiled eggs for breakfast.

Lunches can be an issue too, as I get a bit bored of salads, so I would like to come up with some more ideas. I also need to make lunches for the children every day, and they are also very hungry when they return from school, so planning a healthy snack for them would be a good idea too.

Weekend meals is another where I fall off the healthy eating wagon, as we tend to eat out at least once (so I don’t have to cook), and gluten features on most menus.
So today’s challenge is to plan a month’s worth of meals, this will include the lunch boxes for the children. There are various menu planners on the web. I like this one from Organizing Home Life or head over to Intentional By Grace, where Leigh Anne has found over 150+ printables, including a variety for menu planning.
I have created my own monthly planner, which is a bit bigger than I planned it to be. I haven’t yet mastered how to attach printables, but should you want a copy of my planner (which I show you this evening) please leave me a comment and I will get in touch.
Happy Meal Planning!

Love is the hardest part.

Love is the hardest part copyI do admire my husband for marrying again. I’m not sure I would do it.

I grew up with the happily ever after. My parents have been married for over 40 years and while they are happily married, I know that they have had their difficulties.
I married Mr Perfect and everything would be…well… Perfect and we would live happily ever after.
End of.

By the time we were celebrating our second wedding anniversary I was 6 months into my second pregnancy and a year later diagnosed with PND. M was going through a troubling time at school, but was she having issues because of her age or because of my mental state at home? I was emotionally challenged as my moods swung from anger to apathy to enjoyment. I was emotionally challenging to anyone who shared the house with me due to those mood swings. I don’t know how many times I threatened to leave my hubby during those dark parts.

The biggest blessings?
My husband and my mother.
‘A’ didn’t understand how hormones can play havoc mind. That this was something beyond my control. I think in a way, he still struggles with it. But he went with the flow. He never challenged my threats or made any of his own. To that I owe him our marriage.
My mother I owe my sanity. She recognised the signs of depression,and after a disastrous anniversary date where we came back separately, she took me to her doctor who put me onto anti depressants.

Things now are a lot better. But love is the hardest part.

Love requires commitment:
A commitment to keep loving the person, even when he/ she doesn’t necessarily deserve it. (I’m not talking about abusive relationships here, that’s another area altogether.)

Love requires sacrifice:
Sacrifice of self to another persons desires and interests. After all we haven’t married a mannequin.

Love requires hearing:
Hearing what the person is saying verbally and non-verbally. When K was 4 months old, I mentioned to my health visitor that I had answered the PND questions online and had failed the test (really badly). Her response? ‘Thats because you are trying to be a perfect Mum’. My non-verbal statement- I’m not coping, please help. That cry was only heard 2 years later.

Love requires giving:
Giving of your trust. Your emotions. Your time. These will enable love to grow and flourish.

Love requires patience:
Patience to bear each others faults. There is no Mr or Mrs Perfect. Patience and tolerance go a long way for deepening love.

This year ‘A’ and I celebrated 11 years of marriage and we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for.

Meeting the right someone is hard.
But loving them forever is the hardest part.

Living with Depression

Depression is a dreadful illness to suffer from. Few people admit to it. Few people understand it. Few people know how to deal with it.

Last month, I participated in the Yamathon. A urban marathon where a team of 3 or 4 have to navigate themselves round the Yamanote train line, taking photographs of the entire team at every station. Our team managed it in 8 1/2 hours, covering a distance of 40.5km. It was a major accomplishment for all of us, for me even more so as only a year ago I was undergoing tests for a possible hip injury, and my knees swelled up after every major practice walk.

   

Amazingly, I didn’t feel tired the following day, or stiff, or even hungover. (I must confess that the after walk celebration was rather enjoyable, and due to the lack of food consumed that day, quite inebriating!) but then on the Monday it hit me.

I fell into the pit.

I tried to climb out, but it was deep. A few times that day, I managed to get to the surface, but just when I thought I had pulled myself out, back I fell.

I have no reason to be down. I have no hurts from my past that need dealing with. My health is good. My marriage is good. (Though when I’m depressed I don’t think it is!). I have four children who are generally well behaved, polite and well spoken. We have food on the table, the opportunity to explore new countries- I  literally have no reason to be depressed.

Like a storm billowing up on the horizon, I can feel it billowing up inside. Most days, I can fight it off. But when I can’t. Life just becomes too much. Nothing is good enough. My poor hubby cannot do anything right. Yet I don’t want to do anything. I don’t have the energy to go out, yet I don’t want to stay at home. I want to be alone, yet all I want to do is talk about how I’m feeling.
Life just becomes too much and all I want to do is run away.

Depression is a self centred illness. When a person is struggling with it, they crave attention, validation, support. Yet, when they are in the pit, they are hard work. It’s understandable why their friends don’t wish to be around them- yet it’s the very time they need their friends.
Being able to talk about stuff, is what I need. (I don’t want to speak for all depression sufferers) Being made to get out- even when I don’t want to. Someone who can put up with my worst- and drag me back to being my best.

Depression is a mental health illness. It isn’t commonly discussed, shared or such like. The stigma is still large. (Japan especially so.) What makes it even more depressing ( excuse the pun!), is that despite it’s stigma, it is very common. According to the Mental Health Foundation, UK, 1 in 4 Brits will suffer from a mental health problem  (mainly depression and anxiety) over the course of a year.


Hopefully though, through this post, I can help raise awareness about depression- even if it’s just a little bit.
To lift the curtain of shame, so people can feel comfortable in saying to their friends, family or gp- ‘I really don’t feel like I’m coping. Please help.’

My 2015 Goals Update

We are already at the end of the first quarter of 2015 and I’ve found myself in an interesting place.

2015 Goals copy

When I wrote my goals for 2015, I planned to assess my progress at the end of each quarter. What I didn’t bargain for was my change of heart.
January was a tough month and towards the end of the month, I was fighting my depression to the best of my abilities. One weapon in my armoury was to ‘cut myself some slack’, which I did- by shelving my goal list as it was becoming a grindstone around my neck.

It was amazingly freeing. To be able to get up in the morning and not have to tick off a list what I should be doing. (Note the word ‘should’). The constant tick list being carried over each week barely touched was adding to my blue mood.

So now that I’m at the end of the first quarter I’m looking back and assessing how things are looking.

: I am in a much better place emotionally. ( being ‘to do list’ free, spring being here and the Lent smile challenge have definitely helped.)
: I am ‘reading’ a lot more. (Thoroughly enjoying using Audible- so not really reading but rather listening.)
: I am socialising with my friends a lot more and exploring Tokyo at the same time.
: I am planning to do the Yamathon in May. (The Yamathon is a fundraising challenge in support of Oxfam Japan, where we have to walk the entire circuit of the Yamanote line. In teams of 3 or 4, we choose our own route {approx 42km}, taking photographs of the team outside each station. The teams have 12 hours to complete it!)
: Spiritually things are rather dry, but I know what I need to do to change that.

The realisation that my ‘To Do List’ was stressing me and shelving it was a great solution.
I still would like to achieve a lot of them, but now I view my goal list as a bucket list.
Something that I would like to achieve- sometime in my life….