Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack

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You are in a well. A deep, dark well with murky, warm water up to your thighs. If you look up, you can see a tiny chink of light, but it’s a long, long way away.

You are not alone down there in the well. There are many others. It is not frightening because it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. It almost feels quite comfortable, perhaps even safe.

Around the inner sides of the well are ladders, ropes and the occasional handle of all shapes and sizes. Some are short, some long, some a little broken and some sturdy. But not one of them reaches the whole way up to the light at the very top.

And on every ladder and rope, there are people trying to climb up. There are young people, old people, black, white, rich and poor, all heaving themselves up, slipping down, knocking others off as they fall. It’s utter carnage. So it’s easier here at the bottom in the warm water, because anyway who really knows what dangers lurk up at the top? Life at the top can be a perilous place.

Each ladder, rope and handle represents a lifeline.

First you have to haul your heavy wet body out of the soft, warm water. It is now cold and uncomfortable and your body is heavy with all the water, but you try. You reach for the first lifeline.

The first ladder is marked ‘doctor‘. It is a solid, strong and quite easy to climb up but as you progress, the rungs become narrower. So you need to move one of your feet onto another ladder.

This one is labelled ‘exercise‘ and is a little creaky, but seems to be helping you up a little further. As someone falls beside you, you reach out to the rope with the name ‘social interaction‘ on it. You start to feel enthused and energised and begin to look for other ladders.

There are some little handles on the wall with the name ‘meditation’ on them. You grab them. And all the while you can hear a wonderful voice giving ‘group counselling‘ to encourage and teach you how to reach higher for the ladders.

Yoga, Pilates, medication, therapy, exercise, medication, reading, writing, fresh air, light, gardening, baking, cleaning, cycling, good food … There are dozens of them …

Yes, there are ladders all around, and they are there to be used. All of them. Because one alone will rarely work. Each of us is different and some ladders work better for some whilst different ropes work better for others.

But despite our individual differences and needs, there are two factors that unite us. And they are:

It’s up to us to WANT to climb out of the hole, and it’s up to us to DO the climbing.

Katie x

Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety and was there a trigger?

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Wasting Time …

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Sometimes I astonish myself. It is quite extraordinary how I can so masterfully waste time. If there were degrees being handed out here, I’d have a First, with a distinction, several stars and a cherry on top for good measure.

I see myself as an (occasionally) rational person; I understand that time is one commodity that we in theory have control over, and yet as it slips away hour by hour, day by day, I manage to waste it on utter nonsense.

As I said to a fellow blogger this morning, what historically used to be ‘reading time’ to keep the grey matter alive and kicking, and as a very enjoyable pastime, I now can waste hours, hours on my iPad googling holidays that I obviously can’t afford, ways to make my eyelashes look longer and houses for sale in the deepest depths of France. And I use the word ‘waste’ because despite all this lengthy research, I still have no romantic little city-break booked, no house in Provence with a sparkling swimming pool, and my eyelashes are still as stubby as they were last week.

Reading my latest book, ( Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight) I have now had to resort to reading it in the bath. Even though my iPad I am sure would work perfectly well in the bathroom, I still have visions of it falling in amongst the bubbles and yours truly being electrocuted …. found days later with Rigor Mortis deforming my body and face whilst donning a particularly attractive perm. Not quite the death I had envisaged. As an aside, if one dies in an odd position, this ‘Rigor Mortis’ sets in, how do they fit you into a coffin? Would they have to force and squeeze you tightly into a recumbent, legs together position and then nail the lid on quickly in case suddenly you popped out like a Jack-in-the-box? Just a thought …

Anyway, I digress … now that I have used up my previous ‘reading time’, I am now using up my ‘bath’ time. Perhaps when I have realised that in fact I cannot be electrocuted by a battery operated machine, I will stop reading in the bath and the dreaded iPad will venture into the bathroom and I will start googling more nonsense from there. Heavens! My life is being taken over by a 6 x 9 inch piece of metal with a rather attractive purple cover.

So, Sarah Knight of the aforementioned book, explains very clearly and assisted by some fairly fruity language, that my problem is time management. We all have the designated 24 hours in a day, it’s just that some of us choose to use it better than others.

So, my resolution for the fast approaching New Year is to manage my time considerably better. Firstly I shall don a watch (that I secretly think my lovely husband is giving me for Christmas because I am apparently always late which is hard for these military types to cope with. As it’s a Christmas present I obviously can’t start this resolution immediately – procrastinator – surely not?). I shall then make to-do lists, must-do lists, get-your-bottom-off-the-sofa-lists. I shall have spreadsheets and bar charts and attempt to become a wonderfully efficient version of the scatty, forgetful, googling me. After all, isn’t that what resolutions are all about, a moment of pre-Christmas excited enthusiasm in changing one’s somewhat shoddy ways for the better? Any suggestions more than welcome.

Katie xx

Are you a time-waster like me? 😬

Are you organised and efficient? HOW do you do it …. ?

What do you google? (As per previous posts, nothing smutty or vulgar please!)

CBT … Stopping the Negative Thoughts.

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Good habits, bad habits, they’re a part of us.

I spend my life trying to halt the bad habits in their tracks with a large stop sign and a smattering of self control. I usually fail, dismally.

The limited good habits that I have and I am scrabbling around trying to think of what indeed they actually are, I am unbearably smug about. Ah yes, I don’t like dark chocolate at all and therefore I don’t eat it. Filthy stuff. So when offered some, I say with a sweet self-congratulatory and faintly superior smile, “Oh no, thank you, but I’ll pass this time!” as though I have some exorbitant levels of self control and treat my body like the proverbial temple. I don’t. I am effectively lying. I just don’t like dark chocolate. Oh God, I’m a fraud.

However, back to the point; stopping the negative thoughts. Do you have a habit of thinking about something vaguely depressing or negative (usually about the past) that within minutes can be blown out of all proportion? And one’s musings seem to slide downwards into the dark murky waters of depression? Well, in the wonderful world of CBT there is a name for this:

RUMINATION.

Now, when these negative thoughts start to take over, there are 3 points to ask:

1). Have I made any progress towards solving the problem?

2). Do I have a better understanding about this problem now that I’ve been thinking about it? And finally,

3). Am I feeling better or less depressed than before I started thinking about this?

If the answer is a clear NO, then yup, you’re ruminating.

Thinking about something and trying to find a solution is completely different and not to be confused with rumination. Trying to find a solution is positive. Rumination is not. Rumination is a habit, of the bad, disgusting dark chocolate variety.

How to stop it

The CBT experts will give you a load of chit chat about bringing yourself back to the present as rumination is so often about the past, I however need less of the chit and none of the chat. I need answers and solutions in what to do. So cutting through it all, the answer is this:

As soon as you have asked yourself those 3 questions above, recognised that yes, you are ruminating, immediately GET UP AND DO AN ACTIVITY. Um, yes it’s actually that simple but as with so many things, distraction is a powerful tool.

A pleasurable activity is of course the easiest way. Baby steps and all that. But in simple terms, find something, anything that ensures that your brain is totally and utterly focussed.

Despite some claiming to be able to multitask, it is impossible to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. Perhaps that is why rubbing your tummy and patting your head is so difficult, but maybe that’s just me. Whether this activity is turning on the television and cleaning out a cupboard, blogging, cooking, whatever floats your boat … it simply doesn’t matter. It’s just a case of stopping ‘feeding the beast’ and bringing an end to this self destructive habit called rumination.

Every time it happens again, repeat the process. Yes, your cupboards will be incredibly clean and you will have devoured the entire Game of Thrones series, but you will be learning how to stop the habit. And eventually, ‘the beast’ will wither and die. The habit will go and less effort will be required. You may become a serial cleaner with a penchant for trashy tv but hey … does it matter?

To me, this makes a lot of sense, and yes, I’m doing it. And yes, it works.

To summarise for those who haven’t read the above:

. Recognise it and act on it.

Give it a go … you have absolutely nothing to lose, but a happy and peaceful life to gain.

Katie xx

Do you ruminate? Do you let it lead you into the depths of despair or do you try and break the cycle?

NO! NO! NO!

red stop signage under clear blue sky
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Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.

Issue 1

I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.

Issue 2

I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.

And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.

I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.

So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.

And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.

As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:

Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)

Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),

Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)

Again, I hope you get the gist.

There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”

I can’t say No!

So the question is twofold:

1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and

2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.

All answers, suggestions welcomed ….

Katie xx

Today I Shall Be Fabulous!

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When I was ensconced in the wonderful world of online dating, a friend of mine suggested I google a chap called Matthew Hussey. He’s a dating guru, young and full of vitality and dare I say it, happiness. I found myself slightly addicted to his YouTube videos so when I’d watched them all, I bought his audio book and played it again and again and yes, again.

He speaks sense. He understands the psychology of both men and women, of how we interact and sometimes how we fail to interact and also understand each other. He explains how what we say and what we do can be misinterpreted, and how our very basic caveman instincts are still absolutely paramount in terms of our current behaviour.

But one thing that he talks of, is practising talking and engaging with people. People in the queue at the coffee shop, people in the supermarket, people anywhere. Just a simple smile and a happy brief chat can not only make your day, but also someone else’s.

Now of course living in London, it is deemed as a little odd to smile at a stranger, and frankly unhinged should one make conversation … and yet, why should the most natural thing in the world be given a few raised eyebrows?

The other day on the tube, my fellow passengers and I became united as a small dog raced past us on the platform and on reaching the end, threw itself onto the tracks and bolted off towards the tunnel. What ensued, along with all trains on the Central Line coming to an almighty halt, was that we bonded. We chatted, laughed, made suggestions as to how to entice said dog back and enjoyed even more hilarity as the Platform Manager in her fluorescent jacket took to shouting abuse at our canine friend. What became of the dog, I know not, as it clearly was unimpressed by being roared at, and subsequently turned its back on her, cocked its leg on the tunnel wall and promptly trotted off into the darkness.

My purpose of this post is this; whether we are dating or not, Matthew Hussey has a point. Some of us are good at ‘small talk’, some not so. But as with everything that we want to improve or even excel at, we should take heed of his advice, and practise.

Engaging with people and the world whether that be sharing a smile or a little chat with a person is good for the soul and the spirit. Not just yours, but theirs also. Sometimes, your kind words can lift someone’s day from being somewhat shabby, to positively fabulous. Go on! Be fabulous today!

Katie xx

Are you good at small talk? Or do your inhibitions prevent you?

Breaking the Ice …

toddler wearing purple sweatshirt
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Yesterday I joined a wonderful class and being the first introductory meeting there were ‘housekeeping’ rules to discuss; where the loos and fire exits were, if a fire alarm was to go off to treat it as genuine as no practices were scheduled, no bad language allowed etc etc.

Two minutes in, the fire alarm goes off, the lady sitting next to me jumps up and exclaims, “Oh Fuck! It’s a fire!” clutches at her knickers, declares an ‘oops’ moment in her excitement and runs, semi crossed-legged out of the room. I’d say it was a pretty good icebreaker.

Katie xx

Ps. To reassure you, it was the toaster in the next door room that set it off! How we laughed! What made you laugh today or yesterday? X

Attacking Life, or Running Away

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Tell me … you have the answers … how do we get past a negative event or series of events?

Do we rely on time to be the healer? Isn’t that what our elders taught us? Or do we need to be thoroughly modern and undertake endless therapy? Or perhaps, is it just a combination of the two?

Either way, we still fail to quieten our over-zealous minds which are ravaged by the repetitive fear that history will repeat itself; and to add insult to injury, we see, hear or smell something daily that re-awakens the memories yet again.

So do we rise to meet the challenge of winning against our own mindset of negativity and fear and take a calculated risk that yes, we may be hurt again, or do we simply run away to protect ourselves?

Do we make ourselves strong again and further develop our life skills in order that should anything happen again we are better able to cope? Or do we hide in fear, creating our own little frightened coping mechanisms; after all, if we don’t take on life and attack it with fiery gusto, then surely it can’t bite back at us and hurt us?

Sometimes I think I have the answers and I am full of strength, optimism and a zest for life, and yet sometimes, just sometimes I want to be rid of the memories, the pain and the fear that my heart and soul will be broken again.

Katie xx

Well? Truthfully, what do you do, and does it change every day depending upon your frame of mind?