How to Deal with Burnout

How to deal with burnout, depression and mental health

Generally, I have a very blessed and wonderful life, but I’ve always been quite open about that fact that I suffer from depression. These ‘down days’ are always impossible to pre-empt, sometimes not appearing for weeks or even months at a time, but over the years I’ve been able to develop coping mechanisms in order to maintain some sort of functionality when a depressive episode strikes. 

This year, however, the down days were increasingly more extreme and lasted for much longer periods of time. I was dealing with a number of negative and stressful situations in both my personal and professional life over a number of months and was struggling with feelings of pressure and de-motivation, but I began to find myself unable to complete even the most menial of tasks. I didn’t particularly want to go outside, my appetite increased and I began comfort eating excessively, I felt physically and mentally tired all the time but couldn’t sleep, I felt physically unwell, eventually developing laryngitis which took several weeks to recover from, I couldn’t concentrate to the point where I even forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. I even started to lose interest in the creative things that made me happy, becoming disillusioned with my own blog and the community. For me, feeling low was part of life that I had learned to accept and work with when I needed to, but when the bad days turned into bad weeks I knew that there was something wrong.  Continue reading

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Blog of the Day: Love, Laughter & Truth

Meet Matthew! He’s the creator of Love, Laughter and Truth, an open and sometimes brutally honest blog about life… I started writing about the different topics that he covers, but his About page explains his content far more succinctly than I ever could…

Sometimes, sh*t happens.

Depression, divorce, having to take the kids to an Olly Murs concert… we’ve all been there. Well, maybe not; the specifics might change but one thing’s for sure, if you’re reading this you’ve dealt with some sh*t along the way. That’s life folks!

The thing about sh*t though, it’s a great fertiliser. In dealing with the sh*t in our lives we learn, we grow, we become better people. Sometimes, we even start a blog. Continue reading

Frustrations With The Black Dog – Freewriting

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I had plans for this week for the blog. Having a few extra days to myself meant that I have had much more time to do all of the things that I’ve been wanting to do over the last few weeks. However, while the urge to write has been as strong as ever, every time I have sat down to create something, my mind has gone blank. I’ve experienced bloggers block on numerous occasions, but never as bad as this before. I have avoided posting something just for the sake of it, like I used to do in the early days of Suzie81 Speaks, but my lack of ideas has left me feeling really frustrated. Today I have decided to sit down and just write – freewriting was something I used when studying A Level English and I find that it is an effective way of unclogging the mind.

I’ve had quite a bad bout of down days over the last week, and this hasn’t helped. I’ve tried to remain as positive as possible, but the problem with ‘The Black Dog’ is that it takes time for it to subside, and I have to take things one day at a time until things start to ease. Depression has been a feature of my life for a number of years, but it isn’t a constant in the way that it seems to be with others. I can go for months feeling absolutely fine, and then it will suddenly hit me, usually after a period of extreme stress (which is often work related) and the only way that I can deal with it is to live life one day at a time and avoid looking at the big picture until things get better.

I often refrain from writing about my mental health until I feel better, mainly due to the large number of family and friends that now read my blog, but on days like today I offer no apologies to those who are put off or offended by my thoughts. This was the reason why the blog was created in the first place – I needed a place to exorcise the inner demons that were plaguing my everyday life and blogging has proven to be the best form of therapy I’ve ever had. There is still such a stigma surrounding mental health issues and I feel that it is important to discuss them when I need to.

It has been particularly bad over the last few days. I seem to have spent the last few days feeling an intense agitation – the insomnia has returned with a vengeance, I have experienced high levels of anxiety, and the slightest little thing has irritated me because I have been so tired. For example, as I write this, the man who lives on my road who frequently walks up and down shouting to himself is stood outside my house and shouting the same things over and over to himself. Normally, it wouldn’t bother me, he clearly has mental health issues and needs to be treated with understanding and compassion, but in my current state of mind I’m resisting the urge to fling open my door and yell at him to shut the f*ck up. However, I know that this will only make the situation worse and it certainly won’t make me feel any better. I’ve spent the week trying to remain calm and I’ve also been conscious not to take it out on The Bloke, who has also had a week off and has been in pain due to a torn muscle in his back, but he’s noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet and, as usual, he’s been understanding and supportive.

I have also tried to be proactive – I’ve been into work on several occasions and have tidied up my classrooms and cupboards, I’ve done some washing and I’ve treated myself to some tat from the new home store that has opened up on the high street, which always makes me happy, and I’m proud of myself for not taking my usual approach and just retreating to the couch, but I’m getting a bit fed up of feeling like this.

What I need is a break – a proper break away from everything that has been bringing me down. My youngest sister and her new husband have been on their honeymoon over the last week in New York, my middle sister has been jetting off all over Europe with her job and I’ve seen all the lovely pictures that my friends have been posting on various social media accounts of their recent adventures and holidays, and while I’m delighted that they are all having a wonderful time, it has made me realise that The Bloke and I need to get away. We aren’t financially destitute by any means, but over the last few years we have been hit with large unexpected bills which have had to take priority, which we are just beginning to recover from. We try and visit London a few times a year, but the last time we went on holiday was in 2010, when I surprised him with a trip to Paris for five days. We have very different ideas of what makes a holiday – he likes to have lots of things to see and do, whereas I like to lay about by a pool in gloriously hot weather and do nothing for a while – but we’ve decided that our next destination is Washington D.C. I visited there when I was supervising a school trip in 2010, and we ended up being stranded in the city for a week longer than our planned excursion because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, which grounded all flights back to the UK. The extra week gave us the opportunity to see and experience many more things than we had originally planned, and I completely fell in love with the place, but having 56 young students to take care of meant that I had to constantly be in ‘teacher mode’ and I couldn’t truly relax during the entire trip. I want to go back to experience all of the same things again without having to tell someone where the toilet is or answer random questions like ‘Miss, what’s your favourite pizza topping?’ when I am sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and contemplating Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Still, it gives me something to look forward to and I feel safe in the knowledge that these feelings will eventually subside – they always do. And when it does, I am always left feeling grateful that I have lots of people and things in my life to be thankful for…

What about you guys? What are your tips for dealing with depression?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Image Credit: AJ Giel

 

Revisiting My Youth… and Wishing I Hadn’t

Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

Loneliness is an interesting feeling, particularly when it isn’t evident that you’re living a lonely existence.

One of my biggest blogging regrets is that I didn’t start one sooner. I have always kept journals from a young age and I have boxes that are filled with notebooks full of the ramblings of my younger self.

As an experiment I thought that it would be a fun idea to return to those notebooks for the first time in years and revisit my youth. I’ve seen quite a few inspiring posts based upon a similar concept and I invisaged that I would be able to glean some insightful content that would make me smile and remind me of happy memories of my life, experiences and of who I used to be.

I wish I hadn’t.

I have always believed myself to be content with my own company, proudly stating this on many occasions. However, what struck me about those diary entries was just how lonely I was. I have been known to rant on my little blog, but the rants that I discovered in those notebooks were of epic proportions. I hated everyone and everything. I was heavily in debt, I couldn’t afford to heat my house or eat properly and I was angry at the situation I had got myself into. Large amounts of the pages were taken up with financial charts that were designed to resolve my circumstances and pay everything off, but they never seemed to work. I was bored, I hated my job, my family, my friends. I wrote the same things again and again, and it never seemed to occur to me that I needed to change things if I wanted the situation to get better. I was man obsessed and desperate for affection – I had written about my ‘feelings’ for male acquaintances that I only have moderate recollections of now and I spent pages and pages quoting my favourite romantic movies and creating imaginary scenarios in my head where my knight in shining armour would rescue me. I wasn’t living, but merely existing, and despite being surrounded by lots of people, I felt completely and utterly alone.

There was one particular paragraph that made me stop and stare.

‘I procrastinate and talk utter sh*te to myself over and over again, making false promises to myself and those around me that I never follow through with, getting through life from day to day and not really achieving anything. At the end of each day I sit, alone, on my uncomfortable couch in a messy house watching inane programmes on the television until the early hours of the morning that only serve to make me want to believe that life is like the movies…’

Wow.

Admittedly, my existing memories of that particular time weren’t great, even before I decided to read the diaries – things were tough – but to my recollection other times had been far tougher and my current recollections were nowhere near to the level that I had recorded on those pages. As I read more and more I started to become frustrated with myself at my words, my hatred, my anger. I saw those words from the point of an outsider – I wanted to jump into them, slap myself and point out all the good things that I had in my life. I had a job, a house, pets, friends and a family, however disfunctional. I had everything.

While I can look back at that period of my life through seemingly rose tinted spectacles as the person that I am now, my words told me that I was lost and unhappy and yet couldn’t give a reason as to why. I wasted so much time wanting things for my future, when I should have been living for the present. I rang my mother and told her what I had discovered, and her response put everything into perspective:

“You may not feel this way now, but you must have needed to write it down at the time, so in a way it was a positive thing for you…”

She was right, as she always is. I did need it. As my blog serves me with an outlet to vent, to talk, to discuss, so did those journals. I needed to put pen to paper and release everything into the open.

I took those pages and shredded them. Hundreds of them. And with each piece of paper that was destroyed, I told myself that I am not that person anymore.

Hopefully, I never will be again.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

There Is Always a Light

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S was a lovely man. Kind, quiet, considerate and friendly, he lived in the house next door to us. We were good neighbours to each other – we looked after his cat whenever he went on holiday, he would trim the hedges at the front of our house, we’d put each others bins out on rubbish day and we’d always have a nice chat in a morning as we left for work at the same time. I know that he had been having a rough time – he and his wife had separated and she had left, taking their son with her, but in conversations we had with him he seemed to be doing ok – he regularly went out with his friends, he had a new relationship, he went away on holiday for a break, and he seemed to greet us with a smile every morning as he left for work.

About a year after the separation, we received a knock on the front door. It was K, who lived in the house on the other side of S, and she was upset. S had taken his own life. He had been found in his house, hanging from the light fitting in his bedroom by his brother who had become concerned when he failed to show up for lunch. When we learned the time of his death we realised that when he was doing it, we were lying in bed in the room on the other side of the wall. A wall that was so thin that we could hear him cough and sneeze in the night.

I felt helpless. If he had only knocked on the door, or even on the wall, and told us that he was feeling this way. If only he had given some sort of inclination that he was struggling, that he needed help. If only he had told someone, anyone. If only…

I couldn’t sleep last night. I awoke at about 2am after a nightmare, and so I logged onto Twitter to calm my thoughts. Like the rest of the world, I was horrified to hear of the death of Robin Williams, an actor who’s many films have made me both laugh and cry. While many are quoting his performances in Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and Mrs Doubtfire, for me it was Bicentennial Man that has always stayed with me as being the absolute example of his ability to simply make us feel. Every death is tragic and a loss to the people around them, but a life taken by their own hands always leaves me with the same feeling that I experienced when S passed away. Helpless. How sad that a man who did so much for so many felt that there was no other option.

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Suicide is not chosen: it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. It is not a strength or weakness, or a defect. It doesn’t come with any moral wrongs or rights.

I am not a therapist, and I don’t possess any qualifications in counselling or mental health issues, but I know what it is like to feel that there is nothing. I know what it is like to be surrounded by people and feel entirely alone. I know the blackness and despair that depression can bring. I also know that, without help, the Black Dog doesn’t go away – it festers and grows, taking over and destroying every aspect of the mind and body, and the burden of carrying it alone makes it unbearable. I also know that things get better.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. I’m not saying anything different from millions of others this morning. If you’re feeling lost, alone, out of control, I’m imploring you to tell someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbour. Contact the Samaritans, or the National Suicide Prevention line. Or anyone. Just tell someone. You aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, and remember that no matter how badly you feel, there is always a light out there. There is hope, friendship, love and laughter. There is joy, inspiration, creativity and happiness.

There is life.

RIP Robin Williams, you will be greatly missed. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.