So, life is very different to how it was when I last posted a Blog. I think it might be time to pick this up again. But not tonight, I have had a busy day and it’s time to sleep.
This evening I have been working on repairing the damage to a very old family photo. It is of my Grandfather on my Fathers side with his three brothers, sister and my Great Grand Parents. Quite by accident I discovered an editing tool in Photoshop which was perfect for the job 🙂
After a particularly emotional and difficult year we are celebrating Christmas in ‘pared down’ style this year, just a twig tree for us, it still looks pretty through!
We had snow this week, so pretty to look at when I am inside in the warm!
It has been months since I have written anything for my blog, I intend to remedy this, but not tonight, here is my promise to myself, I will write something very soon…..
It is over a month since I last wrote, there has been a lot happening at home, our son was offered, and has started a new job, this is his first full time employment contract since leaving school. His other jobs have been zero hour contracts and agency work. We are delighted for him and he is enjoying it, he has spent the last few weeks training, working in all the sections of the factory and will be working in the quality control department once he has completed his familiarisation training.
Our daughter has moved out, she has lived away from home before and has returned but she says that at 26, she thinks that this will now be permanent. She is sharing a flat in North Greenwich, it is a purpose built 1970’s flat, the views from their second floor windows are fabulous. They can see Greenwich Observatory to the left, Greenwich Power Station (almost identical to Battersea Power Station) directly in front, and the Shard to the right. The flat is 5 minutes walk to the Thames and the Cutty Sark. We spent a busy and tiring day transporting all her things from our home to her new one.
I also have job news, I have a new job and will be starting in just over a week to work for a UK charity that changes young lives through taking children with a serious illness or disability, without their parents, on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida. I am delighted! During my first week, their offices are moving to the town where I live and it will take me 17 minutes to walk there (according to Google Maps). I feel privileged to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile cause and the staff are all lovely.
I am prompted to write today as I saw a post at lunch-time by ‘Mind’ on Facebook that Sally Brampton has died. I read her book ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’ earlier this year when I was at a particularly low point, it was immensely helpful. I am so sad to hear this news, thinking of Sally’s family. I must admit the news shook me, I am not one to cry but today I did, I suppose I thought that as Sally was well enough to have written the book and had also written others, that she was managing well and was unlikely to relapse to such a severe degree, but it seems the ‘Black Dog’ returned to nip at her heals and it is this which scares me.
I have been doing really well since the dark days earlier this year, and with the supervision of my GP have come off the anti-depressants. I have also received the diagnosis of having an under-active thyroid, something which I have long suspected so it didn’t come a surprise, and am two weeks in to taking the initial dose of thyroxine. Low thyroid levels can be a factor in low mood and depression, I wonder if this may have been a contributory factor in my problems this winter.
What happened to Sally scares me because it reminds me that we are all vulnerable to relapse, I worry that it will happen to me too. But I am aware that to some extent, I can take charge of my mental health, there may be times when things get out of control but I hope that I have the strength to get through the bad times. I am practising self help as much as I possibly can, my new job will give me a new challenge, which may be stressful to start with but will I feel be offset by working for such a worthwhile cause and with such lovely colleagues. Being able to walk to and from work will give me more exercise which I really need, and will get me out in the fresh air, also a benefit. So I am hopeful that these things will be a positive contribution to maintaining good mental health. I am continuing with crafting and have several fairs over the next few weeks.
Although over recent weeks I have been unable to meet up with friends due to work commitments, this will settle down soon and I will make time for coffees and catch ups.
So having spent most of today in the garden working on restyling various things and making a large size dreamcatcher for my stall, I have enjoyed a tasty dinner cooked by my husband, and am now enjoying a glass of red wine before toddling off to bed. Here is the next instalment of my life story:
Chapter One – Part Two, Geoffrey’s Back-story.
My Paternal Grandfather, Robert, was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1897, he and his family moved to the UK at some point before his youngest brother was born in Camberwell in 1899. My Paternal Grandmother, Elsie, was born in Dartford, Kent in 1898, she was a secretary before they married in 1924.
Granddad Saunders second from left, Nana Saunders third from left:
My Grandfather served in the Army during the First World War and sustained a severe head wound but was able to return to the front after recovery. During the Second World War he served with the Kent Fire Service.
Granddad was an accountant in business with his brothers but they all fell out at some stage, after which he worked for a company called Patchell & Boobyer until his retirement. My grandad made news in the local paper a few times for having car accidents, after having so many crashes, no one would give him insurance. I think he was a bit of a daredevil!
Dad was born on 10 March 1929, his oldest brother, Donald, was born in 1925, then came Brian and Patricia (Twins) born in 1927. Sadly Patricia was either stillborn or died as an infant, we are not sure of the exact circumstances. Then came my Dad, he was born in a nursing home on 10th March 1929. A as a young child thought him being born in a nursing home meant that he had been adopted. Finally came Doreen, born in 1932.
At around age 7, Donald contracted Measles and suffered complications, we do not know which, but it was most likely meningitis – an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or encephalitis – an infection of the brain itself. As a result he suffered epilepsy, development delay & violent episodes. The family had a Nursery Nurse or ‘help’ for some time to assist with the care of the children and the home.
I remember hearing that there was an incident where Donald had an aggressive eposode and injured Brian, after this he went to live at The Stoke Park Colony for Mentally Defective Children, near Stapleton, Bristol:
The family lived in a detached bungalow, Glendon, 17, York Road, Dartford, Kent. The children attended St Albans Infants School and then York Road Primary School which was next door to their home, so no excuses for being late!
They seem to have had a quite privileged childhood, there were tales of building sailing boats to sail on ponds, go-karts and several holidays to the coast.
A holiday snap:
My Dad was apprenticed (maybe at age 14?) to Everards at Greenhithe, working on Thames Sailing Barges.
Dad and my Uncle Brian played basketball for Dartford, Basil Fanshawe Jagger (known to everybody as Joe) – Mick Jagger’s dad, was his coach. Dad remembered Mick going along to watch the team training and to matches.
Between age 17-21 (another unknown), Dad was called up to do his two years National Service. He worked as a mechanical engineer in the RAF for some of this time, based at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
Mum & Dad met at a fun-fair, they were engaged while Dad was still doing his National Service and after Dad was demobbed he returned to work for Everards.
Mum & Dad were married on 4th June 1952. Their first home was in Stone, near Dartford, they then moved to 10 Starboard Avenue, Greenhithe, in housing built for Everards employees and naval staff.
My eldest sister Sharon was born on 3rd September 1953 and middle sister Nicola on 31st January 1958.
Mum was ambitious for my Dad and encouraged him when he decided to study to become a Building Control Officer. When Dad was studying the dining room, my mum would lock the door so that my sisters couldn’t disturb him. He achieved his ONC in Building Control, progressing to HNC and then HND.
I will be writing more about my early years in a later chapter, today I am reflecting on more recent thoughts and feelings.
I recently read: 19 Things People Wish Their Friends Knew About Depression
Today I am considering the first of the nineteen:
I have a few friend with whom I will talk about how I am feeling, my husband Ray is my person of choice to talk to with about it. My children are both in their twenties, but I still resist being honest with them, I don’t want them worrying about me. My mothering ‘protection instincts’ kick in, I just don’t go there. This may be counter-productive, they can probably see that I’m not doing great, but it is not easy for me to talk to them about it, so in a way I’m treating depression like a stigma too.
But what about others? If you ask me how I am in a polite, conversation starter sort of way, my response will not be genuine. I, along with many depressives, will respond that I am fine, I am unwilling to bare my true self to people who are acquaintances, or to work colleagues. I would not want to risk the possibility of a true and frank conversation about the state of my mental health for fear of their reaction. I am an expert at deception when it comes to my mental health, most people I meet are probably totally unaware of my depression.
There are many people who I have begun a conversation with, who just don’t ‘get it’, they have no real conception of what depression is, and that it often does not happen for a definable reason. I have had experience of being advised to see a Psychiatrist (tried that), getting Psychotherapy (tried that too), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (doesn’t do much for me), and various holistic/alternative treatments, none of which have ‘cured’ me.
If depression were an illness for which one ‘outbreak’ produced antibodies to prevent it happening again, like Chicken Pox, or one which had an available vaccine like Measles, then yes, once you have recovered/had the jab, chances are it would never affect you again. Sadly this is far from the fact. For those of you that have suffered depression just once, or for those of you for whom it is almost a permanent state of being, the truth is that it is an individual illness, the range of suffering both in terms of severity and duration is enormous. It is as unique as your personality, which is what depression can mess with, temporarily or otherwise.
So how am I feeling? Over the past four weeks I have, under supervision from my GP, been reducing the dose of my medication. I have been taking 200 mg (the maximum allowed), for the past two years. It had been working for me until very recently. I will be on week five of gradual withdrawal tomorrow, down to 50 mg for the next two weeks and then back to my GP to discuss what to do next. Either try a different drug or see how I get on without.
January and February are always risky months for me, by the end of February phases of low mood were becoming more frequent and prolonged.
I knew I needed to see my doctor on the day I had the worst ‘black dog’ moment ever. In the past I have had thoughts of having ‘just a little accident’, some mishap that would mean I was confined to the house, giving me a justifiable reason to escape from the effort of trying to function normally, and making this effort is exhausting, really exhausting. I have never carried this through, preferring to take sick leave instead. But on this day, my thoughts were more extreme, they came out of nowhere, and were scaring me.
I thought about tablets, no, I’m too cowardly for this, what if I didn’t take enough? Using a kitchen knife, I hate the sight of blood, it makes my legs go wobbly and I get light headed and in danger of passing out, also I am seriously knife-phobic. I’m OK using a sharp knife myself, but if I’m in the room when someone is using knives or when Ray is sharpening our kitchen knives, I have to get out of there, it gives me the jitters.
I was home alone, working in my craft shed so what caused me to feel this way? I certainly didn’t choose these thoughts, I was in the middle of doing something I enjoy, but still the bad thoughts rose up and made their presence felt. I considered my options, I really had no wish to end my life despite what the depressive thoughts were trying to suggest. So, should I phone Ray (he was over an hour’s drive away), go and knock on a neighbour’s door, phone 111 or the Samaritans. I sat doing nothing for a long time, immobilised by my thoughts, eventually I decided to pick a physical task to immerse myself in. I had a mirror frame, one of the first things I had decorated, that I had never been entirely satisfied with, so dug this out to work on. I spent over an hour stripping off the decoupage and paint, I was able to totally focus on the task to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
When I had stripped the frame back to bare wood, I had got over it, the suicidal thoughts had retreated. To pick myself back up, I looked through ‘Pinterest’ for inspiration and began working on a completely different design. By the time I had completed the new design, it was as if the destructive thoughts had never happened. This is it: