In The Pursuit Of Happiness

I am fed up, completely and utterly fed up.

I have spent another day in the pursuit of happiness and failed. Yet again I find myself overwhelmed by unhappiness, depression and hopelessness. I have made numerous attempts to pull myself together and it’s just not happening.

I’m angry today, angry at my condition, angry at my medication, angry at my inability to get better.

On paper I’ve done well this week- looked after my children all week, managed the back to school routine, cooked, cleaned and coped. The list of things I haven’t managed is still bigger and the simple things I can’t cope with frustrates me. I spend my days feeling restless and agitated with nothing to do and no impetuous to do anything. On reflection I can’t believe the past week has just been a week, it feels far longer.

I find myself longing for the highs more than ever, I know each high brought a corresponding low but at the moment it’s a risk I’m willing to take. The highs brought their own agitation and restlessness but it could be satisfied by carrying out any of the hundreds of wonderful ideas I had, now I have no ideas.

I’m due to see my psychiatrist on Monday to discuss the pervading depression I don’t know what I expect her to do or say, I just need some hope.

Living With It

Today marks the end of my first week at home, officially recovered enough to leave the hospital.

It’s been a challenging week and again I am finding the simplest tasks are beyond me. Housework overwhelms me and trying to fill in the seemingly endless pile of forms I’ve been putting off until I feel up to it has me in tears.

My children have returned to school so the days have some structure and routine but during the time they are away I have nothing to do other than attend appointments with health professionals. The truth is I don’t feel up to doing anything anyway.

People keep telling me I need to find things to do but with no motivation it’s very difficult. I still hanker for all the things I used to do and I miss my job. I know that it is too soon to go back to work- I still struggle to go to a supermarket but my job was such a large part of my identity I feel lost without it. I can’t think of anything I want to do other than the rather vague plea of “get my life back”.

I attended my CBT appointment this morning to be told that I am too depressed or getting too depressed for CBT to be effective and I should seek an appointment with my psychiatrist to discuss what to do next. This invariably means more medication; the current pile is enough to induce a bout of weeping when I pick them up. The side effects from my medication continue to affect me and I can’t decide which I hate more- the weight gain or the tremor. I know I could take more medication to counteract the tremor but it has its own side effects so it’s no easy decision.

On the upside, I have a letter from DVLA telling me I can drive, so I have a little of my independence back. I used my car yesterday to drive to the home of an acquaintance who revealed over coffee that they had been through a similar experience to me some years ago. It is so good to know that I’m not alone and that others have been there, done that and come out the other side.

I’m hoping to come out the other side sometime soon, and I hope to stay there.

First They Came for the Muslims...

Beginning with the controversy about the Islamic community center and mosque being planned several blocks away from the World Trade Center site in NYC, there seems to be a concerted, nationwide campaign underway to villify and persecute Muslims, mosques and any kind of Islamic activity across the country. Nine years AFTER 9/11, people seem to be going crazy with intense hatred of Muslims and anything to do with Islam. This is so disturbing on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

First of all, the fact that people across the nation are going on the warpath against mosques and Muslims demonstrates that this is NOT really about the mosque in NYC, which has anyway been in the works for a long time, and would not be major news if not for people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich doing all they can to make this into an angry, divisive issue. This is one in a continuing series of efforts (remember the phony controversy over Death Panels?) to use lies and distortions to whip up a fearful and poorly-informed population into a mad mob frenzy for political purposes. The Republican Party and their Tea Party and FOX News divisions clearly want people to spend lots and lots of time talking about the "Muslim menace" supposedly demonstrated by Islamic groups doing horrible, heinous things like applying for construction permits.

Why do the Republicans want to push the panic button, if not the "Beat up on Muslims" button across the country? Because they know that the more that people get worked up over things like this, the less time and energy they will have to think seriously about issues like the Gulf oil catastrophe, the economy and the plight of the millions of unemployed, and the opposition of the Republican party to ANY government programs to help people or regulate corrupt and out-of-control corporations. The same applies to the news media, who get caught up in chasing these Republican Party-guided, FOX News-generated phantoms instead of attempting any thoughtful analysis or investigative reporting into matters of greater relevance to people's day-to-day lives. This kind of phony controversy plays perfectly to the Republicans' desire to portray themselves as the champions of patriotic, Christian, conservative white people--REAL Americans-- who desire protection, if not pogroms, against such horrible un-American entities as Hispanics, Muslims, gays, and liberals. In fact, you could almost say that the split in our politics today could be described as a divide between one party that proposes programs, and another that advocates pogroms.

But let's go back to the original topic. I noted that this is a phony controversy. It is important to understand the facts. (1) The proposed mosque and community center will NOT be at Ground Zero, but several blocks away, taking the place of a defunct clothing store, the Burlington Coat Factory. So all the noise you hear about the suppposed outrage of building a mosque on the hallowed ground of Ground Zero is hyperbole and crap. (2) The Muslims involved are peace-loving Sufis. They have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or any Islamic extremism or terrorism. (3) The intention of the Muslim group planning the construction is not to build some kind of anti-American, pro-9/11 Muslim victory monument, but to create an institution like the Jewish-run 92nd St. Y, where lectures, concerts and other events open to the public can be held, along with a swimming pool and yes, a mosque, one of more than 100 in the NYC area.

This may very well seem a completely different situation than what you may have been hearing or reading from journalists and politicians bent on stirring up anti-Muslim passions. If you doubt what I am describing, please take some time and check the facts from a reputable news source like Reuters, Associated Press or The New York Times.

Some readers of this Pagan-oriented blog may wonder why I am taking so much time on this Muslim matter. "None of our business; they're not us, so who cares?" you might say, but you would be wrong. Modern-day Pagan movements are only possible in the USA and other countries because of the increased respect for social and cultural diversity, including religious diversity, that has been part of American culture and to some extent world culture since the 1960s, building on our long-ignored, Constitional respect for freedom of religion. If we start going back to a witch-hunting, minority-persecuting mentality in this country, it will only be a matter of time before emboldened conservative Christians will undertake a crusade against Pagans and Heathens along with anyone else whose life does not revolve around Jesus and the Bible. Remember the 1950s and McCarthyism? To some, those were the "good old days."

If you don't want to see our country go backwards toward Christian conformity and open season on anyone defined as an "Un-Christian," or "Un-American" Other, STAND UP, SPEAK UP and FIGHT BACK against the persecution of Muslims, as well as the persecution of Hispanics going on with the anti-immigrant movement. If you hear someone in the supermarket, at your work place, or in your ritual circle spouting anti-Muslim nonsense based on misleading news sources, open your mouth and calmly set the person straight. Otherwise, we may all end up rephrasing that old poem about the advent of Nazism: "When they came for the Hispanic immigrants, I didn't say anything because I am not a Hispanic immigrant. When they came for the Muslims, I did not speak out because I am not a Muslim. When they came for the Pagans...."

Time for T

I feel like I’ve lost 9 months of my life. When I look back I can see snippets but I really have no idea where all that time has gone. However in those 9 months my life has changed immeasurably and forever.

I now face the prospect of rebuilding my life and fitting in all the extra stuff that mental illness and the pursuit of good mental health requires. I don’t really know where to start.

I know from previous experience that my usual rush to ‘get back to normal’ doesn’t help so I’m mindful to avoid it but then I’m left with “what do I do?”

Advice from others is always the same- take it easy, don’t rush, find new activities to fill my time. The problem is I don’t want new activities; I want to be able to do the old ones. I suppose to be fair I haven’t tried many new activities though I did have one foisted upon my by the occupational therapist at the hospital.

Occupational therapy is hard to define; even the occupational therapists themselves seem to struggle to define their purpose. I initially thought the aim was to prepare me in some way for the world of work again, I envisaged reading newspapers, maybe writing the odd newsletter or press release- but no, I was to make a greetings card.

I am not entirely against expressing myself artistically, indeed I drew and painted feverishly during my manic episodes, but cutting out stuff and sticking it to a card was not something I ever wanted to do so being made to do it for an hour whilst two strangers heaped false praise on my pitiful effort was cringingly awful.

I was asked what I thought of the finished item so I replied honestly, as I do, “I think it’s shit” (because it was). The ‘art’ session did nothing for my self-esteem though I did gain a hilariously tacky gift for a much-loved friend- in it I wrote “they forced me to make this, lots of love, ZoĆ« xxx

Not being ones to give up easily, much like the stalkers of the psychiatric ward, OT have also offered me the chance to do some cooking, who they think caters for the dietary needs of my children is beyond me, indeed one of the upsides of being in hospital is that there is no cooking.

If OT really wanted to help they could’ve made sure my sick note for work was up to date, helped fill in my council tax benefit form, sourced school uniforms online, ensured I saw the doctor when he was on the ward, even just made me a cup of tea and stopped for a chat.

However in an environment where any kind of therapy is a rarity perhaps the OT department should be congratulated, at least they try, even if it is a little misguided.

I have also started CBT- cognitive behavioural therapy; you can Google it for a number of explanations. As far as I can tell CBT is aimed at changing the way I think but without addressing why I think that way in the first place. I’ve had 2 sessions and so far all I can see is that I react in the wrong way to almost every situation! I clearly have a lot of work to do.

The good news is that this work will be done “on the outside” as I hope to be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday. I finally feel well enough to go home for good and this time I hope it is for good.

Get Up And Go Has Got Up And Gone

It’s been a real struggle to write this piece which has lead to much anguish on my part that I may have been medicated boring. I’m grateful for stability but live in fear that the way I lived my life before and the things I did were more down to my illness than my personality.

I find myself these days frustrated at having nothing to do but with no energy or imagination to do anything anyway. I still wouldn’t say I’m bored, being bored suggests one has the desire to look for things to do.

I have no imagination and no creativity and I miss them both.

I Wanna Go Home

Given that it’s after 10am on Sunday morning and I’m sitting in bed on cup of tea number 7 it’s easy to see things with a slight rosy tint but I really feel like I may have turned a corner.

I managed Friday night and Saturday with the children, managed to go out, even stood in the longest chip shop queue ever on Friday night (for the best ever cod supper). My house is a mess- which is actually a good sign as it indicates I’ve been relaxed enough to ignore what needs done in favour of lying watching TV.

I am due to go back to the hospital tomorrow, the plan is to gradually extend my time at home over the next 3 weeks (during which time my fantastic CPN is on holiday) but now I’m not so sure it will take so long. For the first time I feel a glimmer of “I don’t want to go back”.

The purpose the hospital serves in my recovery is quite easy to define- it’s a protective bubble, a place where I can just ‘be’ where no demands are made of me- except to stand in the twice daily queue for medication. It’s a sanctuary from normal life and one I have undoubtedly needed recently. Second time around it’s been a much more positive experience.

Second time around you know how it works; you know what to expect and when to expect it. Second time around you get less cards and flowers but staff know you better (and tell you they read your blog!). Second time around you don’t feel the need to seek validation for being there. Second time around I’m happy to be there for as long as I feel I need to be.

So I’ll go back tomorrow and see how it feels to be back safe in the knowledge that I can do it, I’ve just had to change my expectations of what it is.