This too shall pass…………..but the wait feels unbearable.


I feel like I’ve been living under a dark cloud for months, every time there seems to be a glimmer of light something happens to make it cloud over again.  I am trying to stay strong, do all the things that are meant to help – eat healthily, exercise, talk to friends, engage in activities and remember that this too will pass.  These are all tried and tested techniques for reducing the effects of depression, and yet my head tells me to withdraw from the world and eat food that is unhealthy, so everyday is a challenge as I fight against my instinct. 

Usually knowing that eventually the feeling will pass is helpful. My head tells me that it’s not true and things will always be this way, but experience tells me this is not the case and there have been better times! The problem at the moment is that the feelings are linked to work and the intolerable situation I am experiencing.  I have endeavoured to do everything I can to resolve the issues but with little success.  I need my boss to take control and sort out the problems but this just isn’t happening and so it continues. An issue that should have been nipped in the bud in November still goes on today and I’m finding it unbearable.  My job has always been something in my life that has kept me functional, something that harnesses my self-esteem, but as I experience work place bullying this is no longer the case.  Although I have been a victim of bullying as a child, I never thought it would happen again, people see me as a strong leader at work so it’s been a shock to find myself back in that crushed state.  I am seeking support and I known that this too will pass; I just hope it doesn’t destroy me or my career first.image


Style Counsel

As a 40th birthday present a good friend bought me a shopping spree with a stylist which has turned out to be one of the best birthday presents ever!

It is something I have thought about since my weight loss, knowing that although I had got more adventurous with colour I was still stuck in my style of baggy clothes to cover up all imperfections.

When I’ve looked into it I have always been drawn to the free stylists you can get from department stores, imagining myself sitting in the waiting room sipping tea while they bring me a wealth of clothes to try on. What put me off was the thought of feeling obliged to buy and the limitations of a department store. My friend sought out someone who came at a cost but was much more appealing in her way of working with a real emphasis on helping to show you how to wear clothes and learn what styles suited you, she had no allegiance to the stores and wasn’t worried about whether you made a purchase other than if you were looking to buy.

The first task was to complete a pre-shop questionnaire so that Clare the stylist could learn about what I already had in my wardrobe, what shops I liked, what styles I leaned towards and how much budget I had for the day itself. I also sent her a picture of myself so that she could start to get an idea of what I looked like. Clare then phoned to have a further discussion and explain her plan for the day. This was an opportunity to think about if there was anything specific I was looking for and discuss any styles I really objected to. Already I felt that she had a grasp of me and what I was looking for.

The day itself arrived and I was nervous about meeting a stylist, worried that I would feel drab and old next to her. Clare did indeed look fab but she was disarming in her manner and I took an immediate liking to her, feeling relaxed in her company and eager to begin the shop. In the first shop she picked up an array of clothes in different styles and colours. I felt a little concerned as I knew there were things in the pile I wouldn’t dream of putting on. However, her mission soon became clear. The first task was to find out what styles suited me and what didn’t, the best way to help me see this was to show me by looking at what suited my figure best, emphasising my good points, and what made me look like a box! This was incredibly helpful and I couldn’t believe how much I learnt in this first shop. One of the first things she did was take me down a size and show me how I needed to wear shorter tops or tuck them in to show off my legs and that baggy tops far from hiding my imperfections just made me look bigger than I am.

For the next 3 hours we went round a variety of different shops and Clare picked out clothes for me to try on. I’m usually spent after an hour but my enthusiasm didn’t wane as the chore of looking was taken away and the excitement of seeing myself looking good in clothes I wouldn’t normally consider grew. I learned I could wear stripes if they were thin and close together, that a straight leg trouser suits me better than my usual boot leg and the importance of elongating my neckline. As my budget had been set we didn’t go into shops out of my price range, where I would be lucky if I could buy a pair of tights! Instead we went into a few shops I hadn’t thought of trying and lots that I often go into, but this time with a new pair of eyes. I found being with a stylist was inspirational, I knew I was going to find it good but I had no idea just how much I would appreciate the help, advice and support she gave me, the encouragement to wear new styles and just how much I learned. I did find myself buying a lot of the clothes that I tried and liked, but Clare was good about keeping track of costs, mindful of my budget, and made sure everything could be worn together so that I had a variety of different outfits through mixing and matching. I was amazed that just by changing an accessory an outfit can go from day wear to evening wear, or by adding a different jacket you change a look entirely.

The session finished and I immediately began wearing my new clothes and also wearing my old clothes differently. I felt a little self conscious at first, wondering how people would react, but I have been pleasantly surprised. On numerous occasions I have had people telling me that I was looking good, asking if I’ve lost weight, wondering what I’m doing differently. I have had so many positive comments that my ego has been boosted and I find myself singing the praises of a stylist and recommending to everyone that they have a session. Brilliant birthday present!

Loving the Olympics, hating the congestion!

I am hugely excited about the Olympics. I enjoy watching all the different sporting events and seeing the wonderful athletes so determined to do their country proud. I also think that any event that helps unite a country is a worthy event, and we’ve had a few of those this year.

London is looking spectacular, cleaning up the city for the event has been well worth it and walking along the South Bank has been a pleasure.

The congestion however, is another matter all together. It is doing my head in! I keep hearing Boris telling me to ‘get ahead of the games’ and plan my route during the Olympics as we are expecting a huge number of visitors into the capital. This is all very well, however, there aren’t many routes I can take to get into work and all the different ways are likely to be struck by Olympic traffic, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m meant to do! The website they direct me to for support isn’t much help and I don’t have the option of not going into the office. Today I was in Victoria at about 11am and the number of tourists was immense, all dragging huge suitcases and standing in inappropriate places.

This is almost empty in comparison to what we’re currently experiencing!

I want to be welcoming to all the visitors and charitable about their lack of knowledge for underground etiquette, but quite frankly when I’m hot, bothered and rushing around it is extremely hard to do! The transport network can hardly manage the everyday traffic so I’m not sure how it’s going to manage all the additional people travelling across London. I can only hope that a significant amount of Londoners have left the capital for the summer and this will balance it out.

I have tickets for a couple of events and I’m looking forward to watching the rest on TV. I sincerely hope that team GB manage to obtain a significant amount of medals, but regardless it will be fun. Although I’m worried about the congestion and am sure it will cause me plenty of annoyance over the next 6 weeks, I’m giving London a ‘gold’ for the effort they have put into hosting the event and hope it’s great for everyone.

You know you’ve grown up when…………..

1. You sit down on a Sunday evening eagerly awaiting Antiques Roadshow followed by Countryfile
2. You no longer wear clothes that you can wash and wear, but instead have a pile of ironing to get through
3. The weekend is a time for doing household chores and small DIY jobs
4. You contemplate having an allotment so you can grow your own vegetables
5. When the sun is shining you go out for a walk to make the most of it and get some fresh air
6. You go to a concert of one of your favourite bands and hear young people talk about how they grew up listening to this old music because their parents loved it
7. You are not in the group of young people hanging out in the park / on the street / in the shopping centre
8. Your friends are getting divorced rather than getting married
9. You’ve battled an addiction or long standing habit
10. You find yourself talking about the good times and realise they were over 20 years ago
11. Staying home and pottering is more appealing than going out to get wasted
12. Young male store assistants flirt with you safe in the knowledge that you won’t take them seriously given your age
13. When it rains you wear a rain coat and wellington boots, when it’s cold you put on your thermals and when it’s hot you obsess about high factor sun cream
14. You feel out of touch if you haven’t watched the news
15. You have a mortgage and a savings account
16. There are certain clothes you won’t wear as they make you look like mutton dressed as lamb
17. You have items you save for ‘best’
18. You look forward to being able to have an afternoon ‘nana nap’
19. You feel responsible for your parents and check in on them, rather than the other way around
20. You look forward to going to bed at night and it’s always before midnight

Do animals have ‘feelings’?

A colleague rang in to say her dog had died and she was feeling overwhelmed with grief. On top of that she was worrying about her other dog who appeared to also be mourning the loss of ‘her friend’. Another colleague mocked the first when she heard about this, stating that the first colleague was applying human emotions to animals and she should gain some perspective.

This got me thinking about animals I’ve known and whilst I recognise it’s important not to get too caught up in applying human emotion to them, I’m convinced they do go through a range of emotions and therefore do have ‘feelings’.

My childhood dog would know 10 minutes before one of us got home that we were on our way and start getting excited and pining. Then when we came through the door she would greet us with what can only be described as a grin, her mouth quite literally changed from any other time, curling up at the sides as she expressed her excitement.

I recognise different moods in my cats. They sulk when I go away, get annoyed if I move them from their preferred sleeping space and demand attention when they are in need of some loving! I nearly always know what they want from me by the way they behave or how they meow; this is their way of showing their feelings as well as their needs. One of my cats gets very jealous if I’m giving attention to the other and even if he is fast asleep he will come over and butt in, trying to get the attention onto himself. I’ve heard about animals who have stopped eating or shown rage after they experience bereavement, which surely indicates an emotional response to loss.

I believe animals are sentient beings, they share the same underlying circuitry as ourselves, so whilst they may not have the complexity of emotions we have they most certainly have some. I imagine that animals experience anger, fear, jealously, rage, sadness, surprise and devotion; otherwise they would struggle to make the right choices to survive in the world and ensure the survival of their offspring. I suspect, however, that animals may be far more emotionally complex than we give them credit for and think anyone who has ever developed a relationship with an animal might agree with this.

In addition, animals become an important part of our households and we certainly develop strong emotional bonds to them, so experiencing their loss is absolutely a bereavement and we have to go through the whole range of emotions associated with this before we are able to move on.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”
Simon and Garfunkel

Life is a struggle at the moment and I’m trying hard to keep my head above the parapet and not sink into the depths of depression. Sometimes it feels as if depression is what I know best, it’s like an old friend greeting me, the familiarity means I feel comfortable there and that makes the fight all the harder.

I look around at friends and family and wonder how they manage to stay positive when things go wrong, how they can keep things in perspective and manage to keep going. I find it so hard and all I want to do is sink into my bed, put my head under the covers and just the let world carry on without me. It feels as if I’ve always been like this. I look back on my life and all I remember is how sad I’ve always felt; how hard it has been to keep going when I feel so bad about who I am. Therapy has helped me understand that this is depression talking, this is what I have to master, not letting that voice become so loud that it drowns out everything else.

I have never let depression debilitate me completely, always managing to keep going despite feeling like I don’t want to. I think my job has played an important part in this, seeing how the lives of other people can be so hard and yet their resilience enables them to keep hopeful; believing I could contribute to making a difference to others has made life have some purpose. Hope is the key, without hope we’re left with nothing. I was once scared to be hopeful, thinking that by hoping life would be better I was setting myself up to fail. This is when I turned to food, cigarettes and spliffs, as a way to block out all feeling and just live with numbness. It didn’t feel good, but it didn’t feel bad, I just didn’t really feel anything. I have stopped this behaviour and am learning to manage my feelings, but there are times when all I want to do is fall back on old coping strategies.

I believed losing weight was the answer to all my problems; that if I was thin I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself; if I was thin I would have the confidence to take on the challenges of life; if I was thin everything would magically work itself out and I would suddenly feel fulfilled – the emptiness would go. Losing weight has indeed been incredibly helpful but it certainly hasn’t been the all encompassing ‘everything will be all right now’ that I thought it would be. Losing weight has given me the courage to try and undertake some of the activities that I believe might help me overcome depression, the strength to adopt more healthy coping strategies where being overweight was an excuse not to.

There is a reason I feel so low at the moment. A relationship with someone I loved very much has ended. A good friend is emigrating to the other side of the world in a matter of weeks, this seems to be an emerging theme amongst my friends! Other friends have moved away from London as they have children and so I feel more isolated than I used to. And then there is work, the one place I have always managed to absorb myself in.

Work is very difficult – first I had to overcome a new boss who seemed overwhelmed with the responsibility and to compensate micro managed, which in turned made me feel like I was inadequate. After some difficult conversations we appear to be overcoming this. However, now I have a deputy who is angry and upset with me for not giving her what she wants. She is known for her difficult behaviour but I have always met her at her level and not let her intimidate me. We have had a good relationship and I felt I understood her and tried hard to support her. This has now broken down and I have been on the receiving end of her bullish and intimidating behaviour. She has picked her moment well, kicking me when I’m down, and although I feel supported by colleagues she feeds into the vulnerable side of me, the depressed side of me, the side of me that feels useless and unable to manage.

I know that I can’t give in to my feelings. I need to take steps to overcome them – meet up with friends, engage in activities to get me out and about, do some exercise, eat healthily, talk / write about it, focus on events I have coming up and remember good times I’ve had and the things in my life that make me happy. I don’t know why this is so hard but it is. Depression is selfish, something that goes against my nature, but it makes me forget about people who are really suffering and I become absorbed in my own misery and the empty feeling inside seems overwhelming. I worry I’m unlovable, fear that I’m worthless and can’t see that this will ever change. Depression makes me feel as if I’m always here, as if nothing has ever been good and nothing ever will be. This is not a truth, this is depression talking. I’ve allowed it to pin me down too often and am determined not to let it do it again. It is a constant fight and I hope that one day it won’t feel quite so hard.

Is Something better than Nothing?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself over the last couple of weeks as my relationship with ‘scrabble friend’ has ended. We got to that same place we’d been in before where we realised that the whole time we were together neither of us was likely to meet someone else as we either didn’t look, or we compared everyone else to each other and they didn’t match up.

We talked about making a real effort to look for other people but I just couldn’t manage that. The thought of him telling me he’d found someone he wanted to pursue things with, and so our relationship would have to end, broke my heart; if the relationship had to end better to be now when we both cared for each other deeply than when I felt angry and bitter towards him. I think part of me wanted him to say we should give it a go and be more than friends with benefits, but I also knew that would never happen. I’m not sure if he knows it, but he has some ‘finding’ of himself to do before he gets to a place where he could make that commitment. He is still searching for someone he can settle down with and have children, I can’t offer him this, so unless he had a radical rethink it was obvious to me our relationship would never move beyond what it was. I loved what we had but wanted more. I want someone to share my life with, to come with me to see friends and family, someone who feels like my partner.

We discussed the situation, went round in circles and then realised that the most sensible thing to do was to say goodbye and cease all contact – because without that we would likely slip back to where we were. That was a couple of weeks ago and now I’m trying hard to cope with the aftermath of saying goodbye to someone who has been my best friend for a year, who I love very much and who I don’t regret one minute of the time I spent with him. He gave me a confidence I was lacking and I will always be grateful to him for that. We had a lot of fun together!

I’m in that place now where I feel like I have nothing and I wonder why I gave up what we did have. Should I have just let it continue and see what happened, isn’t something better than nothing? Maybe neither of us would meet someone else and we could have continued enjoying each others love and friendship. I know it’s unlikely and that we did what we did because it was the sensible thing to do, but sometimes being sensible sucks. I miss him loads and he was such a formidable scrabble opponent!

I’m alone again, questioning what my life is all about, whether I will ever get to a place where I feel content. I know being in a relationship isn’t the answer to all that. I see many people in relationships that don’t make them happy but they fear being on their own; I see how insecure those relationships make them and realise the longer they stay the harder it will be for them to leave. My friends tell me I’m strong for having the courage to end something that wasn’t right; I hope that’s true.

I would really like to find someone to share my life with, who is that ‘special person’ to me. I fear this won’t happen, that I’m destined to be on my own forever. I know it’s common to feel like that at the end of a relationship, the challenge is not to let myself sink so low that I go to that dark place of depression where it feels impossible to get out. I must think positively but it is hard as internet dating doesn’t seem to work for me and I don’t really meet anyone any other way. I’m trying to engage myself in activities to meet others but more importantly just to enjoy myself, but I’ve never really found that hobby that gets me excited. The more I question whether I will find anyone the more I wonder if something is better than nothing and if I shouldn’t have left things as they were because I miss my scrabble friend so much.