Me, Myself and I – Olga, Wild Westerner, Hippy, Biker Chick, Mrs.Fonz ('Aaaay...') and Goth.
I'm coming out and out and out. And I'm starting to enjoy it, even though the weather is cold, grey, wet and yukky out there. (It is February in good ol' UK. Brrr. Picture's appropriate, taken in Edinburgh before Xmas!)
Two years plus since the mixed blessing medication crisis that ultimately freed me from that cruel and nasty grip of depression and anxiety, I'm becoming more and more 'me'' - whatever that is! It's a good me, happily. :-D!
I've always been a tad eccentric-ish (was once described as 'pleasantly eccentric' by Husband's boss's wife), creative, and, since my schooldays, fascinated by hard shootin', drinkin' and smokin' cigars wild western women. I became a writer of lighthearted anecdotes after my kids arrived, many of which were published, then I began my humungous western novel with my hard shootin' heroine, upon which I'm working as I think. But there's oodles of stuff I wanna do before I get run over by that number 9 bus. (Why number 9? It's always number 9. And is this a British thing?).
I'm a Renaissance Soul and always have been. Quite proud of that. As a hormonal young person I wanted to get onto an archaeological (I can spell it - yay!) dig. The germ of an idea was planted when one took place in Shepperton, Middlesex, near my school, the small town next to my home village of Sunbury-on-Thames. My appearance at the dig never happened. Since then I've been on the lookout for them. Then depression clamped down and that was that - *Bleaughhhh...*. I really fancy the delicate uncovering of a human skull or piece of pottery, the washing of finds, the documentation, the research etcetera. I've replaced it, I guess, with beachcombing and finding odds and sods anywhere and everywhere, including our back garden, local meadows and our large King's pond. I'd considered mudlarking - I'm definitely one of those - up to my ankles in Thames mud in London when the tide's out. Many things have been unmudded, including a Victorian prisoner's ball and chain (sans prisoner, hahaha. You do wonder what happened to him), but you need insurance and I couldn't be arsed with all that!
When not digging for broken bits of blue patterned china (always blue. Ugh?) I'm counting the number of countries I/we've visited - twenty - and can officially class myself as a traveller, apparently, according to a travel mag I read once. And who am I to disbelieve them? *Yay! (again!)* and I want to snorkel in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Go buy a snorkel and practice in the bathtub first.
Another thing I wanted to do as an 'orrible teen was archery. My uncle was an archer. A school friend and I watched him arching with his club and that decided me. And yes - I did it, surprise surprise! My kids were quite young when I joined a local club here in Hampshire. I acquired a bow and pretty pearlised pink arrows. I wasn't a bad shot, either. But bloody depression got in the way again. Now I want to return. Mustmustmust. This year. Nag me, people.
I've always rowed as well. Was brought up beside the Thames and rowed the family dinghy from the moment I could utter 'Land Ahoy!' Now we own a traditional Canadian canoe, which goes with the wild west hobby. It lay gathering cobwebs for some time, sulking in the garden, but last year we actually used it more than once, on raging rivers around Weybridge, Surrey, where Husband was living as a student when I met him umpteen years ago. We've considered camping by canoe a la Three Men in a Boat. Or put the canoe on the roof of our narrow boat and use it when we moor. Might just happen. Never know.
I have a bucket list item that I have a suspicion will never happen. To be an extra on a telly or film set. They get paid to sit around a lot, knitting. And do idiotic things that look rather fun on the box, such as running en-masse into exotic looking seas and have fun (can't remember which ad that was. Insurance? Telecommunications?). Or be the person reading a book in the background on a bus or in the cafe in Neighbours (yes, I watch Neighbours. Want to make something of it...?). Being realistic, though, extras - or background artistes (official posh title) - have to be up at the crack of first blush (found that on Thesaurus. Rather like it). First Blush/crack of cockcrow and I never got on. Having said that, since my full recovery made its tentative way through my cranium and into my eyeballs, I actually do manage an earlier get-up time when necessary. Husband's gob has been smacked, and is growing all the more smacked as life goes on.
Bearing all this in mind, you never know what might happen next. In fact, our next plan is to buy a three wheeler motor bike. Yes! All because our son acquired a Harley a while ago. Fab!But away from bikes. Let me make a couple of things clear - I'm gonna finish that darn novel before that bus flattens me, and I'm gonna be rich and famous. Allow me amend those last two little factoids. Rich and famous? :-D! I do wanna get this blog out there cuz there are many folk with mental health issues that need encouragement, inspiration and a good laugh (can't always guarantee the last), and I wanna get my creativity out from under that darn bushel cuz I know I can do it.
Third time yay! :-D
Smartphone photos and artwork
Ever since I acquired my Smartphone I've gone bonkers with it. Artistic (I hope) landscapes, nature, granddaughters, husband, architecture, out and about...you name it.
Then there's my art, most of which speaks for itself. Some of the artwork doesn't translate very well on the site, for which I apologize and will try to correct. I would like to have titled the images, unfortunately this site doesn't let me do that. Most of the photographs are either out and about my region in and around Hampshire, UK, or abroad. We travelled to Madeira and Barcelona this year, and stayed in Looe, Cornwall - one of our favourite places - last Xmas (excellent!). Bristol last year, Amsterdam... We have a narrow boat in Warwickshire, so many of my pics are taken around there. Beautiful landscape. The image to the right was taken from our hotel room in Funchal, Madeira. Gorgeous place! (If you'd like to know where any particular photo has been taken, please let me know.)
I'm Jo, I'm 63 and I'm a UK artist, writer, traveller and wild westerner (www.kitty-le-roy.co.uk) with a zillion other interests. My decision to start a blog has been very much a 'Shall I, shan't I?' affair. Yesnoyesnoyesno... I'm subscribed to umpteen blogs and felt strongly that it would be a great idea to put my own Creativity, Travels, Life and Musings out there. Fool! :-D
One big reason for this is because I've suffered on and off for thirty years with depression and anxiety. It really got hammering after the births of my children and two years ago I had a medication crisis. I'm lucky enough to have the brilliant support of family, particularly my hero Husband/soulmate/rock. We were thankfully introduced to an amazing mental health team. They sorted my medication and gave me Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and two years later I feel better and more confident than I've ever felt before.
Now I'm building the life I've always wanted. Not for me a life of domestic contentment. No thankyou. But a slightly eccentric kick-ass life of creativity, interests, adventure, travels, fun, friendship... All the things I've been missing. And a blog. Always wanted to say: 'I'm a blogger.' Now I can say it.
Ps. I've got a contact page at the back, so if folk would like to say 'Hello', that would be great!
Not Purged, Leeched or Chucked Off a Cliff
I'm grateful I wasn't born centuries ago. I would have been purged, leeched, made to vomit, thrown off a cliff, or institutionalised and never seen again. I arrived during the early fifties, when an anti-depressant was discovered purely by chance. I'm rather pleased about that.
My youth consisted of creativity, quirks, moods, and my dominant mother. She was the steel-minded daughter of a post war Olympics organiser. Says it all, really. She found my sensitivities difficult, and the family teased me about them. I was told off for 'overreacting'. Talk about a double whammy. They were a down-to-earth, practical lot of the 'pull yourself together' (like a pair of curtains – my words) sort. I felt judged by family and their friends, particularly my older siblings and their wives, and was discouraged from excitability. I mean, if you're excitable, you're excitable.
I matured. So did my interests – hundreds of them. Not for me a golden future of domestic bliss, ta muchly. I wanted different. I took flying lessons aged seventeen, when everyone else was learning to drive (a newspaper photo of me at small plane cockpit controls, trying to look intelligent, appeared on a school noticeboard. Some bright spark had drawn a moustache on me. Hah!). I rowed on the Thames as soon as l learned the term 'rollocks' (the metal thingies that hold the oars). I travelled abroad. I Greyhounded the States up, down, and sideways, two years running, then I met Husband. My soul mate/rock/best pal. As interested in Life, the World and Everything in it as I was/am. The same schoolboy humour. This was IT. We got engaged. I got scared. We married. I felt low. All this happiness and bliss biz applied to engagement and marrying had taken a trip to Outer Mongolia as far as I was concerned. 'You should be happy.' Mother said. She was 'right'. She knew lots. I enrolled on a three year art course and felt better. Then I became pregnant. Wham!Anti-natal depression. I recovered. Gorgeous daughter was born. Wham! Post natal depression. 'You should be happy,' they (mostly family) said. 'Lovely baby, lovely husband, nice home..'
I coped. Just about. Lots of tears. Fact was, looking back, even had I been well, I would have been bored silly. I'm not domesticated. Mother used to comment on my undusted house. Whatever. Boooring. A year later I was prescribed anti-depressants, which helped enormously. 'So that's what it is!' Said mother. She still didn't fully understand. I attended coffee mornings like they were going out of fashion, did voluntary work with baby strapped to my front, produced art for exhibitions, and wrote light-hearted anecdotes. I even started my humongous novel, typing with one hand while I fed baby with the other.
Three years later, I had my son. Husband and I had always wanted family and felt that we were now aware of depression and would manage it better. Hey ho. The depression was worse this time, and God – did I hate young motherhood! 'Eat your greens.' 'Sit up straight.' 'Don't get your clothes dirty.' Guggh. Discipline had to be taught, and manners, respect, dadehdah. But I did it, and they're brilliant kids/young adults, now. Our best mates. They reached eighteen and that was it. I booted them out of the house and told them to get on with it. Just kidding. But I did quit nannying. And oh, what a relief! I liked their teens. I like teenagers and their sometimes extreme points of view. Just point them in the right directions sometimes. When they drive you insane, you can nip out for coffee and leave them to stew.
When my daughter produced twin daughters of her own, ten years ago, we rejoiced. With good reason. They're brilliant. And fun. Oh, we love grannie/grandadhood! But I was still up and down with anxiety and depressions, and my medications had changed over the years. I'd had a medication crisis - too many types and mixes - but when you're relying on the medical establishment and official sources on the internet, what's a person to do?
Two years ago nearing Christmas, I was prescribed another anti-depressant. On Christmas Day I became suicidal for two days. The most revolting thing that's ever happened to us, and my poor husband – my amazing carer - was at his wit's end. The neighbours came in to help. One of them had worked with a local mental health team, and her daughter said: 'Mum – have you got their phone number?' I was invited in to see the team (I was a shambled wreck – 'reasonably kempt', according to the nursing report) on New Year's Day. Gee whizz! I was taken off the new medication, stabilized, given a new one on top of my old medication – called 'California Rocket Fuel', then, finally, CBT''d (cognitive behavioral therapy).
I can't say that creativity helped throughout all this, just that I needed to do it. Particularly writing, as I could write out my feelings, which did help. But art went for a dive. I did produce some art, but my enthusiasm was as low as low.
Both my parents died the following Christmas, and various other family crisis occurred, but, compared to THE crisis, they were nothing. I got better and better. Never felt this good. Ever. Since my literal cure, the creativity has returned. I'm painting, writing, sculpturing...etcetera-ing.I now have a new life to build, and build it I will. Just see if I don't.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Boring title, but a rather essential, important subject. CBT, in my experience, has been fantastico, but it helps enormously if you have someone - sympathetic friend or family - who can take you through it. I'm extraordinarily lucky in that Husband/rock/lover/best pal/soulmate etcetera is a natural at it (another article about carers - of whom there is never enough thought and attention - is forthcoming).
I used to scorn councilling. I'd had a bellyful of it. It did work to a degree - I'd leave feeling a tad lighter, perhaps - but it never actually did the trick. Never quite got in there. Once, after I'd had my son, a lady called Beth councilled me. It was one of those sessions where you let it all hang out. In other words, you talk, she listens. And gawd, did I talk! There were long silences when she'd gaze sweetly at me, waiting for me to gas on...and on...and on...
I'd always hated silences. Always felt the need to fill that shrieking gap. Had been brought up to be sociable and believe that silence = boredom. So I ploughed on. And on...and on. I remember jabbering on about wanting to be another Calamity Jane, wanting to part of the wild west scene. Maybe true, but I'd just wished she would respond. She did respond, every now and then, but oh! - I was knackered. I was so relieved by the end of the session I left that room and never returned. I'm sure Beth did a brilliant job with other 'clients', but I needed councillors who responded. Get a bit of feedback.
I had various other councillors, but I'd often say: 'I don't need councilling. It's biological, not psychological.' That might have been true in the early years, but when you've suffered forever - well, umpteen of them - your mind begins to distort your thoughts. And this is what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy deals with.
I believed 'psychiatrist' was a dirty word. 'You don't need a psychiatrist.' That was highly likely a parental (mother) observation. She was an expert, you see. And you listen to your parents. Well, most of us good, sensible people do. When I did finally see a psychiatrist, I didn't tell the old folks. Not on your nelly. The Psychiatrist was good. He introduced a new medication which worked well, although the anxiety that had been growing didn't completely disappear, preventing us from fully indulging our interests. He councilled me regularly for some months, and certainly that did help. Fast forward seven years. This med began to wear off as the anxiety and depression had grown worse. My psychiatrist prescribed another new medication. This was to become the catalyst towards my full recovery. Not that I knew it then.
I plunged, Christmas Day two and a half years ago, or so. I ended up in bed, suicidal on and off. Husband was beside himself. I'll gloss over details, because I'm talking CBT. We were introduced to our brilliant mental health team who ordered me off the new medication, and gradually, over the last two years, I was stabalised, after which I've come to where I am now. A psychiatrist put me on a combination of medications - my original one plus one other - together called 'California Rocket Fuel'! Love love love! Gimme! I grew brighter, brighter, brighter. But they weren't finished. 'You must do CBT. It's brilliant.' My nurse practicioner had said at the start. He was right.
A psychologist taught myself and another patient the rules. After thirty years the thoughts had become distorted, and the task was to straighten them out. Every time depression attacked, the first task was to STOP. Whatever you're doing, if it's safe to do so - STOP. Sit down. Go somewhere calm, quiet - if you can. Preferably with your other half/best friend...whoever's your nominated person.
Husband, for me, was perfect. A planner, logical, scientifically minded, empathic, sympathetic. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have him. Not everyone has a Husband. But if you can get yourself a CBT partner, so much the better. After STOP, you must think about what you were thinking. Depression is set off by a thought, and you have to work out what that was. That's the difficult part. Often, at the beginning, I would eventually reach that point and tell him the thought, however fleeting, that had passed through my head, then I'd burst into tears. Success! We'd touched on the problem. Depending on the circumstance, you have to ask the question: Is that a fact? I felt stressed walking down a frenetic town high street one day. I burst into tears. All too much. We sat in the car and talked. Yes - my stressed feeling was real. The town was frenetic. Fact. Another circumstance was the feeling of deep anxiety over camping at a wild west living history event. I had a history, when anxious and clinically depressed, to arrive at one of these events and encountering not-so-friendly individuals who would denounce whatever you were doing. My brain had trained itself to remember this. My anxiety was trained on this. 'Is it a fact that I meet unfriendly people every time I attend an event? No. Not a fact.
The sub-conscious is gradually, over a long period of time - in my case, two years - retrained to think differently. You're not even aware of the fact. I had a problem whereby every time I was any length of time in the house, I would grow depressed and cry. I needed to go out, which we did, and my mood would lift. I reflected back to when I was a young mum, and a return home was filled with dread. I would be depressed and having to care for small children. My sub-conscious had remembered this and translated that thought into the current moment. Husband reinforced the fact that I was no longer looking after small children and I was my own woman again (yes - he was brilliant!).
I must add that it doesn't work for everyone. You have to approach it with the right frame of mind. Husband's niece had used CBT and she told me how successful she had found it. 'And it'll work for you too.' It does help if you have an inner belief system, which I obviously did, because I felt better at the mere suggestion that CBT would work for me. I was determined, too, that I would return to a life full of exciting possibilities. I'm not made for being comfortable at home, for putting up with this life of domestic contentment. So be it.
Gradually, over time, my thoughts have other, fun and interesting things to reflect on. Things to look forward to. My sculpture course, a surface pattern design course, travel, a successful living history event, open mic nights, our daughter and our granddaughters, our son, this blog, our writing group, Facebook groups... We're slowly fixing up a house that's been sorely neglected over the years,
Finally, I can honestly say I feel better today than I've ever felt! So there I have it. I was worried, at the beginning, that I'd slip, that the medication would stop working, but Husband pulled me up time and time again. 'You're cured. There's no reason to feel low.'
My brain now believes that. Finally.
Not enough attention caters to the carer in any of these situations. 'How's the patient?' Is asked. Rarely: 'How's the carer?
I'm aware of how extraordinarily lucky I am in Husband. Quite apart from being my lover/best mate/soul-mate/rock, he's also a brilliant carer. He's looked after me - in cliched terms - through thick and thin, for thirty years. He's fun (we both have a silly schoolboy sense of humour), he's funny, he has a brain the size of a small planet, he's practical, he's scientifically minded and logical. In short, he's the best possible person I could have had throughout these years. He's had it tough. When I was at my worst, he was told by the medics to keep up the positives with me, which meant telling me everything would be okay. Even if he felt shit. Which he did, often. He wasn't allowed, in his own mind, to tell me that he felt shit, that he was peed off with the whole thing. Had to keep all that to himself. Awful.
When it came to cognitive behavioral therapy, he was/is a natural. After my first session with the psychologist, I came home with a handful of bedtime reading matter. He read through it and pronounced: 'This makes absolute sense. Just got to try it out.' And we did. Every time I had a depressive wobbly - which was frequently at the start of treatment - I had To STOP. Change my environment. Talk to Husband about what I'd been thinking about. Difficult, that part. But he was brilliant. I could never do it. He's struggling a bit himself now, and we're applying CBT to his experience and things are improving. I'm a more pracical soul. 'Cuppa tea?' 'Go for a walk?' I've told him he has to tell me what's on his mind, not keep it to himself.
A great thing about the mental health team is that they also take care of carers. They hold coffee mornings for them, and iTalk is available to them. Husband is with iTalk as we speak. Very good.
We can't all be like Husband. I'm just so lucky, and grateful.
I want to talk about WRAP - the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I can't honestly remember where I read about it, but it was referred to several times with my mental health team. I could have worked on it throughout my recovery, but as I do involve myself with some of my favourite activities anyway, you could say I follow it without actually referring to it.
It's simply a means of writing, journaling, scrapbooking, collaging, anyway you like-ing the things that make you feel better when you're down. A bubble bath, chocolate, walking, yoga, crafting, exercise, watching cartoons, friends, music... the list goes on. It even suggests reference to the people - family or friends or professionals - who will care for you when you're feeling bad, or even suicidal. An emergency referral. Someone you can count on when feeling really depressed, or mentally bad. Plus the medications you might have to take. Everything that you need to keep going through the bad patches. Anyway, read it for yourself and see what you think.
I was going to call this Change, which it is, but I decided on Expelled! because I was!
I'm feisty. Always have been. I tend to speak from the hip, speak my mind. But I do try to be nice about it. If something displeases me, I usually say so. For instance, the other day, Husband and me, having a pleasant morning coffee in Nero's as is our habit, were interrupted by a couple of small children - three, four year olds - having a lovely old time nearby (mum was getting the drinks). Giggling, daft noises, raspberries - as you do - loudly. The sort of thing reserved for playground and home. They were annoying the young adult foursome at the next table. They were certainly annoying us. Finally I glared at them. 'Be quiet!' I barked, 'I'm having a nice time here. Stop spoiling it.' Or something on those lines. They stared at me and shut up. Yay! Result. And stayed shut up. The foursome smiled my way. I thought: 'I'll be in trouble when mum turns up. 'That nasty lady told us to be quiet.'' Surprisingly, I wasn't, and they simply moved to a table further away.
Have been known, when with Husband, to spark off at young males who offend me with over-loud radios, for example. And Husband retorts afterwards: 'Please don't do that. One day, they're going to retaliate and thump me.' He's right. Shut up, Jo.
I've been called pleasantly eccentric. That's nice. Well, one is, I suppose. One enjoys larking around as an armed-to-the-teeth cowgirl, doing somersaults over bars, building igloos in the back garden in deep snow, and enjoying pillion motor bike rides on son's Harley (always wanted a motor bike instead of the piddly 49cc Suzuki moped when I was young. Didn't want to bother passing the test and buying a bike when I really wanted to go globe trotting... Had to get my priorities right.) Anyway...
You now have a gist of moi. Throughout depression, particularly when I was down, I was, if not especially quiet, certainly not as perky as I could have been. It always surprised folk when they discovered I suffered depression. 'No! But you're so bubbly and bouncy.' Bubbly and bouncy. Nice. There's an element of tears of a clown there. Putting on a mask. I've always been that way. Now I'm cured, and things have changed. More bubbly. More bouncy. More mouthy (oops).
There are three rather large examples of change. I've said a number of times how I feel better than I've ever felt, and that's true. This is how I was always meant to be. And this change has showed itself firstly with my family, then at the writing group I'd been attending for around ten years, and the third, with a relationship I'd nutured since my kids were the size of a peanut. I'll start with my family. I'd felt judged by them forever, particularly by the siblings and their wives. I'd been nagged all my young life. Told I 'should' do this or that. 'Must' do this or that. Never took me seriously. Teased me to death. Then told me off for 'overreacting'. Uh?! No wonder... No wonder a lot of stuff. I finally answered my mother back in my forties. When asked what I had done with my day, I explained that I'd attended a Womans' World Day of Prayer. I'm not religious, but I am spiritual, and I am searching. Instead of: 'That's interesting. Tell me more.' It was (not unexpectedly, knowing my mother): 'What do you want to do a thing like that for? You don't even believe in god.' (I'd never said that). I responded: 'Just because you don't believe in god, doesn't mean I don't.' That shut her up. Fist pump moment.
In recent years, before my parents died, I told my dad - who I loved dearly (I always made my peace with him) - what my family could do with themselves because of the way they had treated me. Like a naughty schoolgirl, in essence. Since my parents died within days of one another nearly two years ago, the obligation I felt to be in touch with certain members of my family – those who had contributed to my depression - fell away.
My friend. Her turn to be dissected, if you will. Poor girl. I've known her for perhaps twenty-five years. Lovely girl. I grew to know her when my kids were very wee. She talks non-stop and so do I. We both suffer depression and are both on medication. Both of us are creative. We had a good giggle and met up once a week for a coffee morning in town for years. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I'd pop into her house for coffee occasionally, and we'd meet every week for morning coffee at our local art gallery.
Then I was cured. Over the last two and a bit years, I've found myself becoming more open, more confident, more speaking from the hip. I do love it, but I do have to watch my big trap. My friend is old before her time. She has no children, so no kids to keep her up to date. She's quite timid, very sensitive. My sense of humour can sometimes be black. She doesn't understand black. She pre-empties what you're going to say. A lot. In recent times I found a certain thrill in shocking her, but found myself growing more and more irritated with her, and a number of times needing to end our sessions. Only one thing I can say – I've changed and she's grown more serious with age. Pity. We no longer meet as we did, only occasionally. I don't want to lose touch completely, because she has helped me enormously in many ways.
Finally – and this is where 'expelled' comes in – I'd been a member of my writing group for over ten years. Mostly older people. Late sixties and seventies. One was ninety-five. I liked her. My tutor was a senior hippy. I'm rather fond of him, too. Several of my current friendships were established there. I enjoyed the group and we all got on extremely well, although the majority were so behind the times. We'd write a piece at home – poetry, article, short story, chapter...whatever, and read it out at each meeting. There I learned confidence and the fact that my writing was pretty good and funny. I invariably made them titter. Even chuckle or laugh out loud. My tutor loved my stuff. Told me I should be a journalist (working on it...sort of!). The long and the short of this story is that the members disliked, intensley, Facebook. I love it. I do understand where they're coming from, but did they have to diss it virtually every week? When they dissed it one time too many, I pronounced how much I ******* loved it and how it had helped enormously while I'd been depressed! Tutor calmed us/me down and we carried on.
Tutor also had a habit of not really critiquing. He'd make suggestions, and scribble a little on your work, but eventually the group morphed into a glorified coffee morning. Each after session I'd meet Husband for lunch and have a moan about the standard of writing, and how certain members had not/would not improve. One sweet gentleman was writing for his grandchildren. The stories were terrible Enid Blyton-ish, and he insisted on introducing bible quotations into the mouth of an eleven-year-old boy. I did suggest one or three times that this simply wouldn't happen in this day and age. One afternoon, the day before a meeting, Tutor rang me and nervously told me that three members had asked that I be removed from the membership because of my ...er...behaviour. Hah! No problem, I said. I've got better and more outspoken. Sorry about that.
I always wanted to be expelled from something. *Grin*. Husband and I are now members of a split-off, intimate group of writing friends. We are ourselves. I am myself. Thoroughly enjoying it. Kabam!
When I was depressed, I didn't want to create art, and I felt really disappointed as an adult when I felt that way. As a moody teen and early twenties at home, my mother would say: 'When you feel like that, you should paint.' I appreciate her sentiment now, but I just didn't want to paint, or do anything artistic. She couldn't possibly understand because she wasn't made that way, and she never would. At least she tried, bless her.
But, as an adult, although, when depressed, I didn't have the inner spark to want to create art. I was happy to write though. That was easy. I had had light hearted anecdotal articles published too. And I could write exactly how I felt, particularly if I felt embarrassed and couldn't verbalise what I was thinking, especially if the thought concerned Husband.
For instance, I felt sad about my hobby, the wild west. What? You may well ask. (See what I mean about embarrassment?) I wanted to be a cowgirl, a rough 'n tough, smokin', cursin', drinkin', sharp shootin' frontierswoman. Not stuck at home, looking after family. And I couldn't indulge that hobby much because I didn't have the energy and also I felt out of it because of anxiety among the more intense living history re-enactors who I was anxious may judge (some did, because I was portraying an unconventional female character).
Husband, insightfully, had said long ago when I began to head into depressions, that he could see my hobby rearing its head and being the subject of my depression. I'd be obsessed with something (I was good at being obsessed with things) and the wild west was it. Iwas writing my novel (about a cowgirl, naturally...) and that did help, although, of course, I wanted my book to be perfect. So, yes – that was a subject I had to write about to make sense of it.
I had considered art therapy. To paint, draw or collage how I felt. That didn't work either. I didn't want to do any of that. In order to express how I felt, I wrote. If I did do anything artistic, the subject would be anything I would normally do, nothing to do with depression or anxiety. That was what writing did for me.
But I did, so much, want to be artistic. And I wanted to be happy working in my 'creative space' (I was too embarrassed – that word again – to call it an art studio) in our conservatory. But I wasn't, for a long time, happy working there. I'd be okay for a short time, then depression would gradually swallow me up. So I wrote a lot, about lots, and not in my creative space. It wasn't until really recently that I began to feel good about being there and being creative. It's taken this long.
And I'm delving into dark, dusty corners and discovering artwork that I'd done in the dark and distant past and forgotten about. 'Wow! That's good!' I've thought, occasionally. No time for modesty, thank you. Anyway, shoving modesty aside, I'm uploading them onto Facebook and my blog and getting lovely responses to them. I'm also on the verge of recreating and organising my art area. And I'm beginning to get quite excited about it. A plant or flowers here, a water feature there, paints here, pencils there, sketchbooks here, boxed canvases there...
Yay! Artistic me is coming back!
I don't goo over babies, particularly when they’re not mine. It was a close thing even then. Pink blobs. Little or large. Wobbly. They’re wet at both ends,
They don’t laugh at your stories, don’t joke, and don’t indulge in decent conversation or debates. The word ‘babies’ conjures up the jelly variety that I bite the heads off. The strawberry ones are my favorite.
My urges, to this day, extend to placing the ugly ones into those springy baby chairs and catapulting them through open windows – boing! - their pudgy arms and legs wriggling, to see how far they flew. Feel free to call me wicked. Psychiatrists adore me. My mother wasn’t into goo either, although she fell short of catapults. She informed me before the advent of my own family, that I would love them. Gasp! What if I didn’t? It’s a great misconception - pardon the pun - that women like other women’s babies because you can return them. Mother loved us, not other mothers’ offspring. But those doting ladies ooh and aah into prams and I'm wanting to poke it to see if it cries.
A vivid memory of mine is of being a fifth former at school when a female teacher visited our all girl domestic science lesson with her newborn in a pram. I resisted that desire to poke it. A non-goo friend and I hung back and shrugged, bemused and puzzled, while a stampede bunched around the pram, gooing. I had/have no maternal instincts, not one iota, although my two adult children and my wee unidentical twin granddaughters do produce a hint of maternal-ism. Just a hint. Husband insists I do, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to bring up our two without murdering them. They survived despite me.
I finished my art course, aged thirty, and found myself bun in oven. I didn’t bloom, but Husband and I were hugely bemused at my state of hugeness. ‘Jos don’t get pregnant,’ he said. Although the biology of the process fascinated me (not that bit, I mean the development of the feotus et al) the practicalities drifted over my head – hadn't even considered them. I was dragged to Mothercare by mother to buy baby gear. We bought a carrycot with a zigzag pattern that gave you a headache. Like a telly gone wrong. Husband's migraines couldn’t take it.
My doctor and midwife were lovely, but when I was ‘invited’ by the local hospital to join the string of beached whales being checked by strange men in white coats, I grudgingly went along. I gazed at the form asking ‘Do you work or are you a housewife?’ and wrote something rude. I inspected the whales and wondered why the heck I was there. Later, I told my doctor that if he ever asked me to do the whale thing again, I would kill him with his own forceps. He apologized.
My fantasy labour involved nature - taking a break from the fields to give birth like g-g-g-g-g granny might have done. Or surrounded by mum, midwife and husband at home, just like granny most certainly could have done. Or a water birth complete with candles and joss sticks and classical music. The reality was a tad different. I had high blood pressure and required an induction.
The night before the big event, I vividly remember watching a 1960s Star Trek episode involving a Greek scenario with lots of Greek columns and gods and goddesses (they seemed to do that a lot in their early episodes), and when I went into labour the next day, a US political broadcast was shown. Good timing, huh? Husband has permanent nail-marks in the palm of his hand as a result (of the birth, not the politics. Could be both.)
The aftermath. Babies and I don’t mix. Geddaway. I was told I would feel guilty and worried about the baby. I didn’t and I wasn't. When your interests are as far removed from babies as a hairdryer is from a snowman (I saw this illustrated when I Googled 'opposites'. It tickled me), it's blasted painful to stop doing them in order to scrape the loo and feed the baby (not simultaneously). I rebelled. I began to write The Book, planned an art exhibition and did voluntary work with daughter asleep in her buggy. Even had I not been depressed (I was okay much of the time), I would have been bored rigid. Contented mother and homemaker... :-D!
Today daughter is thirty-one and her twin girls are ten. Son – yes, we wanted two, despite everything - is twenty-eight. I’m besotted by ‘em all. I used to envisage the catapulting chair thing with Sam’s little 'uns – she’d eyeball lightning right through my head, knowing what I was thinking (two jellybabes through the window – whoopee!) – but that didn’t jell haha and instead we take them to cafes. That’s what Gran does best – coffee and cake.
I promise never to bite their heads off, no matter what they taste of.
Depression and Mental Health Sites
When my daughter was born in 1985, there was zilch as far as organisagtions/associations/groups went. No-one really to contact to give you help as far as depression or mental illness went. And I went a year without anyone knowing about my state of mentality. It wasn't horrendous, but it wasn't fun, either. I learned to tolerate taking care of my daughter (a little like I learned to tolerate school – you just had to do it. Mumble/moan...). But by the time my son was born in 1988 and depression swamped me again *sigh*, matters were improving, and I approached a number of organisations. The first gave you a list of possible penpals you could write to (don't forget this was the time of snail mail!) so it was a very slow, time consuming task. Today it's so much better, and with the advent of Facebook and various other social media platforms (note the technical term – posh, eh?! :-D ) things are so much better! Anyway, here follows a list, with possible additions to come.
Sick Not Weak
Mental Movement (magazine)
London E15 4B 020 8519 2122 e:firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental Health Foundation www.mentalhealth.org.uk Colechurch House, 1 London Bridge Walk, SE1 44 (0) 207803110 @mentalhealthfoundation
Depression Alliance www.depressionalliance.org.uk (Depression Alliance has merged with Mind)
The Blurt Foundation www.blurtitout.org
Kind Over Matter
Mental Health Matters
Phone 116 123 (UK)
PO Box 9090,
PO Box 10566
Uncommon Knowledge Ltd
Tel: +(44)0 1273 77 67 70
Over My Dead Body
Told him straight, I did! Had a medication review today. Doc was surprised at high dosage and mix of medications I was on. Explained what the mental health team had done, and that I was happier than I'd ever been. Ever. He wondered if I would consider taking one tablet that equalled my dosage. Cheaper for the NHS, apparently. That's when I told him straight. I've spent thirty years of up and down moods and I wasn't going to be coerced into anything else. Nope. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Over my dead body. Anyway, after I told him straight, he said I'd have an annual medication check, which suits me well. All good.
The Novel and My Disbieving Mind!
Yet another bid to help me rid my mind of the pain of getting my Novel where it needs to be.I've always struggled mentally when it comes to my novel, quite apart from being depressed.I've been writing it forever, on and off since young parenthood (as I keep saying) to help keep me sane. Well, it did keep me sane. But my novel's been under wraps for so many years it needs to see the light of day. And I'm getting desperate.
The subject is the old west, rough n' tough womanhood and bisexuality, and there's just a tad bit of blood, swearing, and a lot of violence. But I had to write it. It's been in my brain definitely since my kids were born, probably since before I was married. I'm an artist, so my natural inclination, before I began the writing, was to illustrate my heroine. So I did. I used photographs of men in situations or poses that appealed to me and used them as models for my protagonist. Particularly cowboys, obviously. When I finally screwed up the courage to show my drawings to Husband, he told me she was sexy and that I must write that book. Allehlia!
She looks like a female Robert Redford. She has an androgynous beauty and androgynous voice. She's tall, sexy, charismatic, magnetic. She's hugely funny and fun when she's not frozen faced or volcanic with fury. Folk are scared of her (unsurprisingly) and jealous of her. She's adored, she's loathed. She's the fastest gun in the west.
So I've written my story – well, the beginning, muddle and end. And it's taken this long. About five parts. It's humungous (must be cut down!). The life story of my protagonist. At least, how she got to be where she is, uncontested fast draw, rancher and mayor of her home town in Wyoming. The initial writing is very schoolgirlish, but as the years have passed, I'm pleased to say that my writing has matured and the reading of it has become more exciting. Anyway, to shorten a long story, the revealing of it took years. I was embarrassed by it. Not a romantic little piece (although it does have romance), or a fun story (although it contains some fun), so I couldn't talk about it with my family – parents and siblings. I've never talked about it with them. They would never understand. So the story sat in its folders, in computer files, and in my head, only known about by my loyal husband and son, and my daughter, herself a successful author.
But – after my complete recovery from depression, I decided that enough was enough. I had to get that story out. And so I am. On this blog and onto Facebook. I send chapters to close friends. I should be happy and pleased. And I am. Delightfully so. But... My head is still ruled by my family – parents and siblings – who didn't understand me and caused so much of my depression. My sub concsious still doesn't believe that the story is good, that despite receiving great comments and critiques from Facebook groups, my story isn't good and shouldn't be revealed. And I'm getting desperate.
This is a case for cognitive behavioral therapy. I must say affirmations to myself, and I mean say - speak out loud – that my story is good , even better than good. That many other people like it, even love it. There's nothing to say my story has failed. There's no proof of that. And I need my subconscious to believe that.
I'm hoping that writing this will help this disbelieving subconscious of mine into actually believing it. That would be so good.
All Those Happy New Mums
All the first time mums among my family and friends have been happy and I've really resented it! Why me? Why can't some of them be depressed? I'm perfectly aware that if you're depressed, and you're not family or friends, you're not going to make it public, and we're not going to hear about it.
But I'm talking about family and friends, who you do know and hear about. None of the young mums among them have had depression, at least, not that I'm aware of. Even my daughter didn't, although she did have a brief wobble. And I resented them all for it (except daughter. You'd never want your own to suffer). On Facebook we see lovely pics of mums and babies and family all looking supremely happy. Unfair, I always felt. And I wanted them to have post natal depression, just so's they'd understand how I'd felt, and I'd reach out to help them. Now that's just mean! I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But in a frenzy of emotion and resentment I'd silently - or not so silently in the privacy of my home - howl at them.
Then Husband pointed out our current situation, and how damn lucky we are! It's true. 'May Husband end ai' (quote the Queen) are super duper soul mates. We're like a couple of naughty schoolboys. We were walking into town for our customary coffee this morning and discussing Facebook and all the happy, happy folk on it when I brought up the subject. He turned to face me, grabbed me by the lapels, gazed intently into my eyeballs and stated manfully: 'Look, we've been through 'merde' et/und 'Scheiße' and we've come through it all and now we're here. So stop it! We're very, very lucky. We've been married for thirty-whatever-it-is years and we're stronger than ever. A lot of people don't get that chance. So let that all go and work on what we've got now.'
Such wisdom. Oh, I'm blessed to have him! Now only occasionally my carer (when my brain does a whoopsy and he's called into action), but he's mostly my best mate, pal, chum (like the dog food), partner-in-crime, my shoulder to cry on... (I've written an article about him which I will be posting at some point). And it's now that I appreciate just how lucky I am indeed. A lot of our nearest and dearest friends have declared how lucky we are to have each other, and now I'm beginning to believe them. My own parents were devoted to one another, my mother dying five days after my dad, despite having severe dementia and apparently not hearing or being aware of anything when my big brother told her about dad's demise the day after. Spooky.
His Greatness (Husband) and I are devoted. So next time I begin being resentful over the happiness of a new mother in our midst, I've got to remember that.
Fine, Fine, Fine!
I've stated often in recent times that I've never felt this good. So, so true.
Difficult to explain. All through my childhood I was very up and down, with a mother who often uttered 'What ARE we going to do with you?' which immediately makes you feel it's your fault. Then there was school , which I just about tolerated after all the teasing. I wasn't academic. Both older bros got into grammar school and I went to secondary, which really doesn't help one's already down beaten ego. I just managed art and English O Levels, scraped CSE maths, and RSA 1 and 2 typing (which has proved really useful!). But I did manage to learn to fly a small plane straight and level when I was seventeen, just one of the things I'd really wanted to do, and was teased about at school ('Why can't you learn to drive like everyone else?' A newspaper article was pinned up at school, and some idiot had drawn a moustache on me. Hah!). So it wasn't all bad.
I did an art foundation course. Excellent. Then I worked in various art studios in and around London. I was fine then, even managed to travel abroad (my lone trips – two years running – Greyhounding it around the States with my backpack, and visiting vari0us wild west towns, were brilliant.). While working to earn the dosh for these travels, my myriad jobs were quite varied, including a stint at Kew Gardens as a messenger on a bike. That was a good one!
I got married and it's the best thing that ever happened to me! We all know that by now. But I still had my ups and downsies. And having kids screwed up my hormones big time. My body wasn't made for having kids, but by gum and golly – am I glad we've got 'em! We're great friends and they're brilliant (that word...).
It took thirty years of more ups and downs and depressions and anxieties to get to that point, three years ago, when the medication crisis became the catalyst for where we are now. I didn't know what it felt like to feel fine. But I'm fine! I'm good! Three years later it's brilliant (I say that a LOT...) to just feel steady and fine. I'm almost wrenching at the bit to get on with Life with a capital L. Find it difficult to sleep cuz there's so much I wanna do....