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.

For the love of Dog!

It always seems to cliche to talk about the weather, but sometimes it just needs to be done! The weather this weekend has been lovely, the sun has been shinning brightly and it lured me outside for a walk so I could enjoy it. While I was out I met so many dogs and their Owners, playing together in the sunshine and making the most of the outdoor space.

I long to have a dog, they are such great company and make going out for walks so much more fun. Unfortunately my current living situation and lifestyle make having a dog impossible. I sometimes feel resentful about this. I think that as I haven’t had children I should at least be blessed with a dog! It really isn’t possible at the moment. I don’t have enough space in my home, certainly no outdoor space which I think would be important. I also spend a long hours out of my home working and I’m don’t think this would be fair on a dog, they thrive on company and I’m not sure the cats would count as they would most certainly be very put out by the addition to their space!

I have always lived with cats, apart from a couple of years in college digs, and find them great company. I love their independence, the fact they choose to come back and live with me. I currently have two cats and they provide me with a lot of love and laughter. I know that I am in no position to have a dog but that doesn’t stop me from yearning for one.

When I was 14 years old we got a dog, she was a cross between a Labrador and a springer spaniel, she was a lovely good natured dog and I feel lucky to have had her around to comfort me when I was feeling blue. I remember fondly some wonderful walks with her and loved the fact she could accompany me to the shops or the pub; I could take her with me to visit friends, she really was a constant companion.

When I think about some of the children and young people I have worked with, who have experienced a number of different placements over their lives, each one stripping them of stability, I realise how overwhelming this must be. It struck me that if each of them had a pet that could stay with them then I think this would go some way to helping them maintain some stability in their life, which is one of the most important foundations required for a fulfilling life.

I am determined that at some point in my life I will have a dog. I will change my circumstances so that I can accommodate a dog and enjoy all the benefits this will bring. Until that time comes I will have to make do enjoying other people’s and keep on dreaming!

I love children but I couldn’t eat a whole one!

This week I have been in Dubai, visiting my best friend and her two boistrous boys, the older of whom is my godson (GS).

I love running around with my GS, shouting loudly, squirting water at each other, pretending to fart on each other and making each other laugh hysterically at our own ridiculousness. At six years old, he is a whiz on the computer and from the moment I came into the house he comandeered my iPad and showed me how to get to the next level of angry birds. When I eventually got my iPad back, I found hundreds of new games that he had downloaded on it!

Growing up, I always assumed I would meet someone, fall in love, have children with them and create a family of my own. Yet this is not how it turned out! I have spent my working life protecting children and have always found kids to be good company, but having turned 40, I am coming to accept that having children of my own is increasingly unlikely. And, actually, the older I get, the less appealing I find the idea!

Instead, I’m lucky enough to be an aunt to five fantastic neices and nephews and a ‘godmother’ to four equally amazing children of friends.  I have the very lucky role of being able to come in, wind them up to the full and then leave, while their parents have to cope with the aftermath!  Whilst this may sound horrifying, I have it on good authority that it is ok because during these times the parents get to have a breather as I become the focus of their children’s attention.

I am well aware that there are many wonderful aspects of parenting and that for all the moans, groans and difficulties my friends have, none of them would be without their children. I have to say, however, that sometimes I look round at them and wonder how they manage because it is exhausting and neverending! Having a child may be the most selfish thing a person can do, but once that child arrives then that same person is required to be utterly selfless, putting their child first at all times. This is by no means an easy feat, and I know from my work with children and families that not all parents manage it!

As for me, I have found that the older I get, the more set in my ways and selfish I have become and the less I’m prepared to compromise for the sake of children! I can’t imagine not being able to do what I want when I want and wonder how on earth parents manage when all they want to do is shut the world out but there are little people around who won’t let them do that.

It’s not just about age and lifestyle, though – there’s also the fact I’m not in a relationship (I think it would be too much responsibility to have children alone – respect to all those that manage it). Plus, I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which means concieving would not be easy. I have also had a full lower body lift following weight-loss surgery and the last thing I want now is to put on weight (even if a baby was the end result!).

But, as I said, I love seeing my nephews, nieces and godchildren. This week in Dubai, the reward for spending quality time with my GS are the small gestures that mean so much!  The first was when GS came up to me looking all sweet and innocent, puckered his lips up and went to plant a kiss on my cheek, or so I thought – what I actually got was a huge raspberry blown on my face. Then when we were in the swimming pool he insisted on holding on to me so that I could drag him along when he was too tired to swim himself. This was ok until I heard the words ‘giddy up’ coming from him and I realised he was treating me like his personal pack horse!  As I was getting out the pool, he took the opportunity to pull down my tankini bottoms and expose my big fat white arse to the world, which he of course found terribly amusing! Then there was the song he sang in the car on the way home about how I smelt, how he wanted to put me in the toilet and finally how he was going to wee on my head!  This was of course followed by raucous laughter about how funny he was, which in fact he is!

All that said, I love GS and find his company excellent. I particularly enjoy the little moments that shine through and let me know that he loves me too!  This is not the endless shouting of my name to come and help him, or being used as a human climbing frame or even the face that appears over mine at 6am to enquire if I’m ready to play yet.  It is things like today on the beach, when we were playing in the sand and got to a bit where if you weren’t careful you could fall in the water.  I felt a small hand grasp mine as I was close to the edge and a little voice that said “I’ll stop you falling if you get too close”!  He is of course far too little to manage that but it was the sentiment that counted.

I don’t know what the future holds and there is of course the possibility that I may get the opportunity to be a parent if I choose to, just not through conventional means; but for now, well……I love children but I couldn’t eat a whole one!