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Surviving or Thriving? Tuesday May 9, 2017

That's the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, 8-14 May.

What a comfort to see it 'trending' on Twitter yesterday morning: #MHAW17

Alongside: #MondayMotivation

Having just sent another email to my manager informing her I will not be coming into work until at least the end of May, my Monday motivation is slightly different to the pantheon of hard-workers, contributors to society, bread-winners, go-getters, all with their stories of success and starting the week right with Starbucks, spirit and sass.

My motivation today: survive.

I am currently in a state of limbo, waiting to be seen by a psychiatrist (end of May), having had a referral made the first week of February... it's been a long few months. I have gone from a severe depressive episode with serious thoughts of suicide to being back at work (albeit on less hours) with an output above and beyond my normal full-time level (but then what's 'normal' to us Moodscopers...) With over 10 years' worth of highs and lows, there is a possibility of a bipolar diagnosis and in the mean-time I find myself questioning everything, still unable to stop or slow down yet beyond exhausted, seduced by self-harm and comfort eating.

I am not afraid of labels; I am open and willing to receive whatever course of treatment is right for me. The on and offs and altered dosages of citalopram and sertraline might have helped with low episodes, but they don't seem to have prevented them nor helped achieve balance in my life. Even on good days, thoughts out of nowhere arrive and say "If you died today, at least you'd die happy."

Right now, all my energies are focused on surviving; a new one for me as most of the time they are equally spread across work, relationships, friendships, supporting others ("sharing is caring" as we say). But now I have pressed pause no matter what the cost to the above. I have had to remind myself that if I don't stop now, I won't even be here to do a job that I love. So if I lose my job is that really the worst that could happen? Perhaps we shouldn't ask ourselves that question – I'm sure most of us could come up with an array of catastrophic answers.

I count myself extremely lucky that I have family and friends to support me, who want me to both survive AND thrive.

Thriving will come – that I truly believe – but for now, let's simply survive. And be kind to ourselves for doing so; depressives are so often told to be compassionate with themselves. This comes in many different forms for all of us but what bigger act of compassion than choosing life? What better Monday motivation than: "I will survive." ?

As long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive...

Sending light, love and disco diva strength to all you survivors and thrivers.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Tutti Frutti Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:00am

Hi Sylvia
A great blog. Thanks. The email didn't display properly for me this morning which may be why you haven't had any comments yet. I will alert Caroline.
I hadn't actually realised that it was mental health week yet so thank you for alerting me

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:21am

More below phone went wrong mid comment. Love TF x

Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 9:16am

Hi TF, thanks for alerting me. My fault, sorry Sylvia! I've just sent the blog out again with the correct version. Caroline

Hopeful One Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:05am

Hi Sylvia- my heart goes out to you -oh what a difficult situation! I think your strategy is just the right thing .When one is between a rock and a hard place self care is the most paramount need. And you are doing just that fortunately supported by a good network. It's never pleasant to get thoughts of self harm but as long as they remain just thoughts they will pass.

A laugh might just make you keep things in perspective and appreciate that there is a world out there rooting for you

Warning: this joke implies gender differences which some may find offensive.

A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swater.
"What are you doing" she asked
"Hunting flies" he replied
"Oh! Killed any?" she asked
"Yes, three males and two females'" he replied
Intrigued , she asked" How can you tell them apart?"
He responded" Three were on the beer can and two on the phone"

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:25am

Liked the joke. Thanks love TF x

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:20am

Sorry phone keyboard froze so had to cease previous comment in a hurry. I always have a bit of a quandary on whether to do anything in response to mental health week. Should I be more open at work to reduce stigma? I always worry about freaking out junior staff who don't yet know me well and might have to work with me. Probably totally inappropriate to do it this week anyway as my boss is in the middle of collecting appraisal comments for my review on Friday - but perhaps I will be brave enough to send round something belatedly after the appraisal.

As you say there are times when we can thrive and times when we just have to hang on in there. You are quite right to focus on survival right now and I am sending virtual hugs. I hope you do get a better diagnosis and that it allows them to find meds that keep you more stable.

Love and hugs TF xoxo

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 8:22am

Oh and I meant to say that I love your choice of song!

Anna Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 10:19am

Sylvia, thank you for your brace and honest blog. I have been there with the serious thoughts of suicide (i.e. planning rather than just ideation), and know how tough this time must be for you. I was diagnosed with bipolar seven years ago and it really helped me get the right treatment and understand what was happening, as well as leading me to mindfulness; learning to spot the early warning signs and take action.

Work is an interesting one. I too have catastrophised about losing the career I love because of this illness (which for me goes hand in hand with addiction I "manage" as best I can). Work for me is freelance and contracts last between four and six months. Within that time I can only bill for the days that I work so any sick days have to be covered by me and I take my holidays between jobs. One might think this is an unsuitable situation for someone like me but strangely it helps. I have forced myself into work many times with thoughts of self hatred and suicide crowding my brain, sometimes unwashed, makeup refreshed rather than removed and reapplied, perfume and chewing gum as a cover for the lack of a shower. But what happens to me is that for that time that I am actually working, the depression is somewhat suspended. As soon as I go to the loo or walk out to get a sandwich it pounces on me again, but when my brain is filled up with work or work conversation, the darkness gets temporarily pushed aside.

I don't want to be high handed by saying people ought to try to work whilst ill, but perhaps just gently suggest that if you tried it, perhaps it might just bring some temporary relief? It might also make you feel like you're achieving something, rather than just surviving.

I hope you get the help you deserve in a few weeks time and that this passes even sooner.


The Gardener Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 10:27am

HO, joke lovely. Sylvia, I feel for you so much - but am also so glad that you, like me, are supported by family and friends - whether you just 'survive' or come out the other end of current depression and 'thrive' depends on so many factors. The Health Service in the UK is going to be a major debating point in the coming election - and, with all the sympathy in the world for you and fellow sufferers I CANNOT see where the time and money is to come from to get you (and the aged, another huge problem) the care they need. I, here in France, have fantastic medical support for my husband with Alzhheimers - my GP says NEVER hesitate to call me - I go to his surgery, he makes a house visit same day for my O/H, although, unless it is a physical medical matter, there is little he can do. I have (had) a friend of over 50 years - most of which time she has 'claimed' depression. I say 'claimed' because although she has had all due attention from the medical profession, she has never 'got better'. I know depression is recurrent - arrives from nowhere, etc. But this woman really needs a permanent 'prop' in her life. She has demanded ever more attention, more medication. Her GP said 'no more medication, it will have to be a psychiatric hospital'. Her husband, high profile in their area, could not face it - appealed to me for help - the hours I've spent talking to her. They've spent a fortune on what were often charlatans. Now, of course, she 'doses' herself via the web. Yesterday, at the 8th May celebration, a 'high profile' man spoke openly of the weird English woman he lives with as a 'liability'. She is said to be 'fragile' - definitely attention seeking, makes scenes in public, even to insulting this 'partner' (all vague, as she has a husband down the road). Close friends wonder why on earth he does not split from her - one can only suppose he is human, and probably is scared of what might happen if her 'prop' is removed. This is a long preamble. What I really want to say that (iniquitous before said) that there ought to be a 'priority' of care in cases like yours, Sylvia - who are still relatively young, have careers, family, responsibilities and that those who will NOT accept help, and have no responsibilities, should go to the bottom of any list. But that's playing God - but it is an issue the next government will have to face. I hope that you have the 'luck' I have had - super GP's in UK and France, family back-up and friendship. I've lost count of the amount of hours of non-professional help I've had this week-end, even to the chemist's sons cutting my hedges - hilarious as well as helpful, given there are 65 years between us. Go well xx

Kelly Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 2:13pm

Honestly, I'm still just surviving. I was hit with an episode of major depression in February that I'm still fighting. I realized how poorly I was doing and am at least in therapy and under the care of a psychiatrist (and back on anti-depressants) at this point. My job was always part time and that's why I'm handling it as well as I am... It's probably done something towards keeping me from giving into my suicidal feelings too...if I lived through another attempt I wouldn't have this job I fought so hard for probably.

There is still some uncertainty as to whether or not I'm somewhere on the bipolar spectrum too...and I've accepted that. It is what it is and all I want at this point is to be...and stay...relatively well.

I relate to what you said about at least dying happy...I don't remember the last time that death felt like something I didn't want at all. My suicidal thoughts get much much quieter and I go for stretches without thinking about it at all but I find myself thinking if I died somehow....I'd be ok with that. Anxiety also makes me very afraid of all that could go wrong in the next 40+ years....

Sally Tue, May 9th 2017 @ 4:28pm

Thank you for this Sylvia. Your words describe exactly the place that I'm at too. Good luck and best wishes from one survivor to another.

fiona Wed, May 10th 2017 @ 7:11am

As I read your email I am struck by the power of your honesty and how refreshing that is. It enveloped me in powerful way; feeling finally that I am not alone. Your bravery and insight is an inspiration. I've felt this way also, since my early 20's (I'm now 34) and have never manages to summarise it so succinctly - to myself or anyone else. What you have achieved with your email for me, was profoundly moving. I'm sure you will receive lots of advice you've heard lots of time, but it feels wrong to receive such an uplifting gift from you and not reciprocate. My experience has taught me if you can learn to meditate (when not poorly) the practice will help ease the chaotic times and come more easily when you need the headspace. It too shall pass.

May you be well,may you be happy, may good things come to you ?

Sylvia Thu, Jun 1st 2017 @ 7:22am

Dear all,

I just wanted to say thank you for all your lovely comments. They mean so much to me and I'm so very grateful to all of you for taking the time to reply and say such encouraging and supportive things. I didn't reply straight away as you know how hard it can be sometimes to engage, find the words, energy, pizazz...whatever it is that makes us hit the keyboard and type!

Well here we are a few weeks later...I have seen my consultant psychiatrist who has not yet made an official 'diagnosis' as he wants to spend a bit more time looking over my history and to see me again before making a final decision. However he is inclined towards a mood disorder, either bipolar II or cyclothymia. What I'm really struggling with at the moment are my support systems reactions; some are disagreeing and saying they personally don't see it, others that what I'm going through at the moment is 'normal'.

I understand that all of their comments ultimately come from a place of love and wanting me to be happy and healthy but having family & friends thrust their opinion on to me is really not helping at a time when I need to be processing my own thoughts and feelings about what's happening.

I'm still off work as although the routine is something that normally keeps me ticking, the thought of going in and getting on with an actual piece of work is's taken me 3 weeks just to reply to you all! I have a very public-facing and creative job in a theatre, coordinating around 60+ volunteers, working with other organisations, dealing with research requests and booking/leading tours for 50+ people 4 times a month, so sadly it's not the kind of job where I can just sit at my desk and zone demands so much of my attention that I just don't have the energy or wherewithal to comprehend whilst going through a diagnosis and period of such unknown. I normally love my job to pieces, it gives me such self-confidence and worth but right now I feel so very far away from it which is very hard for me as it's such a part of my identity.

I'm just rambling now but thank you all again for your kind words and well wishes, they mean so very much to me.

Sending light and love to all and Kelly, Sally and Fiona...this is one serious battle; I'm right there with you.


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