Category Archives: Depression

I Wish My Friends Knew…

Last week, Kyle Swartz – a primary school teacher from Colorado – set a fairly innocuous-seeming piece of homework for her class of eight and nine year-olds; to complete the sentence, ‘I wish my teacher knew…’. The responses were a heartbreaking window into the worries and struggles of childhood life and have proved a thought-provoking hit on social media around the world.

After reading the story, blogger @depressednotsad (AKA ‘Little Blue Fish’, interviewed here) wondered what she’d have written when she was child and – perhaps more pertinently – what she’d write now. The result was #IWishMyFriendsKnew, and her replies are a brave and desperately moving insight into the thoughts and worries of both an ordinary mum with depression and a survivor of child abuse.

Inspired by @depressednotsad‘s bravery and honesty, there have since been hundreds of tweets completing the same sentence, ‘I wish my friends knew…’. It’s a poignant account of the secret fears, thoughts and feelings of people with mental health problems, and I’ve collected just a few of them here. Tissues at the ready! [EDIT: I’ve had to type these out because embedding the tweets made the webpage load too slowly]

I wish my friends knew…That I am sorry for letting them down over and over again (@flathooves

I wish my friends knew…how worthless I feel all the time (@ActivistBlues)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m really lonely on the psychiatric ward and I’d love a visit- someone to make me laugh or listen to music with me (@mentalbattle)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m so grateful for the people who have stuck by me through the tough times. I love you. (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…that it’s scarier for me to talk about feeling suicidal than it is for them to hear about it. (@TBad33

iWishMyFriends

I wish my friends knew…when I hide myself away it’s not because I don’t want to see them, it’s because I want to spare them from being with me. (@tweety123pie)

I wish my friends knew…that I blame myself for my #depression & every time I get ill, I feel like a failure #SelfStigma (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…i dont mean to be a constant let down its just the demons in my head are stronger than me (@lozmariegreen)

I wish my friends knew…that I envy them for being able to feel excited and challenged by things while I’m at home, low & exhausted again. (@drinksinthedark)

I wish my friends knew…just how much they mean to me 🙂 (@LifeOfAPanicPix)

I wish my friends knew…that’s it’s ok to feel awkward about asking about my mental health, but ask anyway, you may learn something (@jonnyward21)

I wish my friends knew…that even though I look ok at dinner with them I often spend the following night crying (@DepressedPhD)

I wish my friends knew…that is much easier to answer “I’m Fine” when you ask how I am, as the alternative is way too complicated. (@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…sometimes shutting down and keeping everyone at arm’s length is the only way I can cope when I feel depression coming on (@ZodiacEclipse)

I wish my friends knew… just how thankful I am for their unwavering love and support; no matter much I want to give up, they remind to hold on x (@Justdreamingof)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m scared to go outside or do anything enjoyable when I’m off sick with #Depression in case they think I’m faking (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…that I’m jealous of their lives (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…how much effort goes into getting out of bed in the mornings when #depressed let alone in getting to work (@Katcopley)

I wish my friends knew…that I feel so lonely all the time even when I’m surrounded by people (@run4yourMind)

I wish my friends knew…how grateful I am for everything they do; for staying up all night keeping me safe, for not giving up, for accepting me. (@laurahanc_)

I wish my friends knew…that #mentalillness is not contagious, and that they can come see me in the psych ward and not worry. (@IAmMichaelCrook)

(Trigger warning for suicide) I wish my friends knew…that I’ve been scared to go to the beach recently as I don’t trust myself not to drown myself (@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…how much I appreciate all the things & kind words they do & say! (@mrspiglet07

I wish my friends knew…what it is like never to have a day off; never a moment without anxiety. #exhausting (@sherbetlemon1

I wish my friends knew…how bitter I feel that my abuser has a marriage, good job, big house and money, and my life is in a mess. (@depressednotsad

I wish my friends knew…how exhausting it sometimes is to try to keep going (@learningtofloat

I wish my friends knew…that my emotions are so intense they physically hurt. Yet I’m expected to react in a way that seems ‘normal’ (@fortitude321

I wish my friends knew…Just how much I wish I could ask for their help, but I feel I would become an irritating burden. (@flathooves

I wish my friends knew…how much effort & energy is required for me to do ordinary things that they’d never need to think about (@bdogrunner

I wish my friends knew…how much a hug would me to me and how much I want them to give me one. (@DepressedPhD

I wish my friends knew…that I constantly worry about my friends abandoning me because I have no idea why they’d want to be friends with me. (@Violet_Emily_

I wish my friends knew…how much it hurts not to be able to help them when they are in pain and how much I wish I could change that so I could x (@g3reth

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t see them because I am scared that I’m boring and that I have nothing to say (@Lababup

I wish my friends knew…that I put off telling people when I have bad days in case they get fed up with me (@Katcopley

I wish my friends knew…that sometimes faking a smile is much easier to do than explaining why I feel depressed (@mksimpson92

I wish my friends knew…that I feel guilty for having depression & feel it’s the least I deserve in life! (@mrspiglet07

I wish my friends knew…that even a lovely day with people I love doesn’t take away my depression(@depressednotsad)

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t be honest about my mood, because I worry they’ll lose patience with the fact I’m *still* depressed (@bdogrunner

I wish my friends knew…that I’m ashamed of the mess my life is in. (@KarenKts11

I wish my friends knew…that I can’t believe a compliment, but every criticism is added to my mental folder of ‘proof’ that I’m an awful person (@bdogrunner)

I wish my friends knew…that I struggle every second of every day, and can’t remember what it’s like not to feel tired. (@ElspethVanDHole

I wish my friends knew…how scared I am that things will never get better and I will never be well enough to work (@fortitude321

I wish my friends knew…how special they are to me & thankyou to my virtual friends to BIG HUGS (@lesleylyness)

If you’d like to read more, head over to the Twitter hashtag #IWishMyFriendsKnew

A day in the life of #BlackDogRunner (10 February 2015)

The following recounts my experience of 10th February 2015. It was written as part of the ‘Day in the Life‘ project, which aims to capture the ordinary daily experiences of people living with mental health problems. You can read more stories on the project website.

“I wake up. Half-an-hour before my alarm. I’m exhausted. Another poor night’s sleep. It’s my own fault. I had an upsetting chat before bed. That guarantees a bad night.

I think about going for a run. I know it’d help my mood. It might even help me wake? Oh, it’s too late now anyway. I go to the toilet. Most people wouldn’t mention such things. But for me – with my IBS – that’s half-an-hour gone. So now I’m running late, despite waking early. Was that even today? Why are mornings so hard!?

I have breakfast, get ready, and… hang on, what’s happened? I must have been daydreaming. I’m running horrendously late now. I can feel the anxiety surging. My chest’s on fire, my head’s pounding. I make a run for the next train… I think I’m going to make it. But the ticket machine’s out of order……

I get the train afterwards. I try to do some mindfulness medication. But I’m feeling too agitated. I get off and start walking to work. I’m quite wobbly. And my legs keep jerking. That might be the pregabalin; my new anti-anxiety drug. It causes involuntary muscle movements. Which means I’ve been even more clumsy than usual. I dread to think how I’d be feeling without it. At least the sun’s shining. I’m going to try to focus on that.

I’ve arrived at work. A whole two hours late. I feel so embarrassed. I’m currently working part time, due to my poor mental health, but I’m not that part time. I greet my colleagues. They’re a lovely bunch. Apparently I’m not looking well. ‘Decidedly peaky‘. One of them offers me water. It’s nice that they care.

I decide to start with lunch. Al desko, of course. Food always cheers me up. I wonder about eating one of the office biscuits. I then eat six. I’ve been binging a lot recently.

I’ll ease into work by looking at my ‘professional’ Twitter account. I get anxious thinking about ‘real’ work, so I’ll wait ’til I’m feeling less wobbly. I write some emails. It’s nice to feel I’m achieving something, even though it doesn’t really count. I’ve become terrible at replying to emails recently. I think it’s something to do with the anxiety.
I write an email to arrange my leaving do. I’m quite sad to be leaving. I’ve worked here for over seven years. But it was a mutual decision. My health has been too poor to continue.

A friend comes for a chat. She has chronic fatigue syndrome. We used to chat about stigma. Nowadays she talks, and I shake my head in dismay. She moaned about work on Facebook and management dragged her through two months of disciplinary hearings. I really feel for her. She was doing so well, but the stress caused a relapse. Today she’s been told that she ‘only has herself to blame‘. So I guess we’re back to chatting about stigma.

I return to my desk and work. The proper stuff now. A few hours go by. I spend most of it writing and rewriting the same few sentences. Writer’s block. Not ideal when you’re finishing a PhD.

It’s 6pm. Another friend is leaving the office. We walk to town together. She’s been going through some tough times. I listen. When did I become a listener? She’s really grateful. And that makes me happy.

On the way home, I try to catch up with my online friends. There are new messages from seven different people. I chat to four of them. Not bad, I think. But I’m feeling pretty exhausted.

I get home and greet my partner. It’s always so nice to see her. I heat up dinner – it’s a relief to be having left-over’s. We eat while listening to music. Food, conversation, music. Three of my favourite things. It’s the first time today that I feel relaxed. I should do this more often.

I head to the toilet, in quite a lot of pain. The more the anxiety, the more the pain. Then it’s 30 minutes playing a video game, before bed. Today seems very ordinary. But, looking at the positives, that’s a huge improvement on November.”

Thinking of running a half-marathon for a mental health charity? ‘Just do it’!

The following is a recent interview with mental health charity Mind about my experiences of training and running for a half-marathon. 

Why did you decide to run the Great North Run for Mind?

I had a mental health crisis! I’d been in remission for nearly a decade and although I was on antidepressants I naively thought I was over it. When it came back, it hit me really hard. Although I got myself quickly onto the list for therapy, it was a while to wait, and every day is an age when you’re feeling that desperate. I needed a project to focus on; something meaningful that could provide a sense of purpose. That’s where the idea to run the GNR came from. I chose Mind because I wanted to help raise awareness of depression. And because I think their work is vital. Not just giving advice and support to those in need, but also campaigning and raising awareness

What was the idea behind running as a black dog?

The ‘black dog’ – that miserable presence that follows you around and darkens your world – is a fairly old metaphor for depression. I personally don’t think it entirely grasps the complexity, but I do find it helpful to think of my depression as separate from me; something I’m struggling against. Running became a bit of a symbol of that struggle; although my black dog had me on the run, I hadn’t stopped running. I thought it’d be fun to represent that. I also hoped it would help raise awareness. A lot of people with depression hide their black dogs because of shame and stigma. I hoped that running in a nine-foot costume would show that we don’t have anything to hide.

My half-marathon proved to be a pretty good metaphor for depression
My half-marathon proved to be a pretty good metaphor for depression

You say running had become a symbol of your struggle; do you find running helps your mental health?

Yes, but not how I expected. I started running out of desperation; I was looking for any source of hope. With all those posts claiming ‘running is the best antidepressant’ I thought it was worth a try.  When I first started, I was a bit disappointed. I’d been expecting a miracle, but the boost seemed quite small, I certainly didn’t get a ‘runner’s high’. Now I’ve been running a bit more, I think I have more reasonable expectations. It definitely helps me sleep, which is extremely important to my mood. A good run also really helps reduce my anxiety, albeit only for the next two to three hours.

Had you done much running before you signed up to the GNR?

Nope! I only started a few months beforehand, when I had my crisis. I’m definitely not a natural athlete. When I started, I was just a sweating, wheezing blob. I was so anxious about being seen in public that I used to take a route by the sewerage works, where few others dare to venture.

How did you find training?

Tough! I found it particularly hard to get out in the cold or wet. But the fear of knowing I’d eventually have to run 13.1 miles was a good motivator. The biggest challenge was my health. About four months before the race I had a terrible bout of fatigue; I could barely run a few hundred yards. That was my lowest point; I very nearly gave up. Luckily a few weeks of proper rest seemed to shake it.

What was it like, taking part in the Great North Run?

Absolutely amazing! I was completely unprepared for the scale. 57,000 runners… And then there’s the crowd. It was a hot sunny day, so people were cheering along the whole route. The kids got very excited by my outfit. During the first few miles I was waving and giving lots of hi-fives but by the end I could barely lift my arms! The truth is I underestimated the challenge; 13.1 miles is no leisurely run-in-the-park. It was a hot day and the costume proved extremely impractical. I ended up in the medical tent, but they were lovely and I even collected a few donations!

How was Mind’s support during your training and fundraising and on the day of the run?

I was so proud to be running for Mind; they made me feel really valued. I treasured my running pack, and I’ve kept my good luck and thank-you cards. But, for me, it was the support on the day that helped most – I really welcomed the cheer at the Mind charity point, not to mention the encouragement of all the other Mind runners. In fact, just seeing someone in a Mind vest gave me a glow of pride! Mental health may never get the same attention as cancer or heart disease, but the tide is turning, people are starting to recognise what an effect it has.

How does it feel to have raised so much money?

When I signed up, I was worried I’d manage to raise the target £300, so to get nearly £3,000 (with gift aid) was unbelievable. I got over 200 donations from all walks of life – it was really really humbling. And it really helped when I was struggling to finish; it was like they were all there cheering me on.

Are you still running?

I am! I’ve been suffering from severe anxiety over the past couple of months, so the running has been vital. But I’m looking forward to Spring, this winter weather is evil!

Do you think you will ever run in a black dog costume again?

I can’t for now, due to problems with my medication. But in the future, I’d love to! I poured a lot of energy into that blasted costume so it’d be a shame to leave it in the attic. But I might add a few more air holes, so it’s less like running with a sofa on my head.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of running in the GNR or Royal Parks Run for Mind?

Ha! I’m no expert, but how about:

  1. Get a good pair of running shoes and train in them for at least three months before the race
  2. If you’ve got health problems then be sensible – don’t push yourself too hard and make yourself worse.
  3. Just do it – it’s an incredible experience, and Mind are a wonderful and worthwhile charity.

You can find out more about running the Great North Run or Royal Parks Half-Marathon for Mind on their website