Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Oops I did it again !

Back in 2003 I was consumed by a bout of serious depression, at that time I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament. Being ill meant taking time off to recover but taking time off when you are I the public eye and accountable for me meant explaining why I was ill to the people I represented. I also felt very strongly that I should be honest about suffering mental health illness,  didn’t want to the ‘stigma’ to silence me – it just didn’t seem right. So, I ‘went public’  I shared my story then I buggered off to get well……….  And in time I did indeed bounce back as best I could. I got myself back in the office and eventually back in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament. I had been inundated with supportive cards, comments, prayers etc etc. I was very fortunate and I really appreciated the support I received back then. Individuals and organisations appreciated my speaking out which  really helped because speaking out came at a cost. I’ve never really worked out whether being open about my health was good for me or not. Mental health illness still carries with it that terrible stigma and maybe its my imagination, dare I say my mental health, my paranoia but I still feel weakened by the fact that folk out there know about my fragility, my weakness. The thing is I’m back there again – im ill all over again. I have been for months now and I’m not getting better fast. I don’t sleep well at all, I worry when I’m out and about that something bad will happen to me and if it were not for the support of my daughters, my partner, my family and my very patient friends…… well, I’d be seriously fucked.

I get by ok and sometimes for ages even years then it  all goes haywire and my wee heid gets invaded with useless worries. I find I can’t communicate the way I need to. I become emotionally tangled, angry, lonely, sad. I make plans then I cant see them through – simple plans like meeting a friend or going to the shops or writing a letter – I plan then I can’t so I fail then I feel worse. I mean to tell my GP how I am and let him know I’m not doing well and the pills are fine but they’re not enough… but instead I joke; I smile; for fucks sake I find myself reassuring him so he can feel like a good Doctor. its not my GPs fault it’s the way I do things. Now… if he tried to see me each day for a week he would soon find out I’m a serial canceller, he would also find out the pills only work a wee bit and he would find out that I’m really a bit of a shambles. But then what could he do ? the services I need are thin on the ground, Christ I don’t even know what those services are which is funny really because I’m a mental health support worker or I would be if I could do my job, if I was well. There is a place I’m waiting to hear from, I’m waiting to hear from  PATHWAYS but I don’t know if I can go along. I don’t know if I can do the ‘talking thing’ again. I don’t know who I can trust with the part of me that’s no very well at the moment. I don’t know if I can cope with getting well, starting again, looking forward just to discover in the future that I’m fucked up at some later date.

I know what I like, I like music and drama and I like to write I love having fun with my daughters, chatting with my partner, meeting my friends and  more than anything my life is filled with the love of my wee grandson. I think that when I’m ill I’m actually funny my emotions bubble to the surface and I laugh easily, yes I also cry and shout and sulk but oddly my random thoughts seem free and uninhibited and when those thoughts and feelings are free and safe it can be nice. I feel as if I can perform which is no surprise because anyone who has been where I am knows how much of a show you have to put on just to get by. So, I’m not at all well at the moment and I feel a bit bombarded but I also think I should be able to find a way of using what’s working in my head. Why cant I be allowed, supported in this? I need flexibility when I’m ill because if I cant sustain something I run for cover and then I get worse and feel even more isolated. Last month I was fortunate enough to be involved in a musical play called Miss Smith. We did four shows. I got to sing and  dance and act. All I had to do was get to rehearsal each week for one day then two days of performances in November. I was able to do this. My friends were involved and my partner was roped in – it didn’t fail and that made me feel good and best of all I got to pretend, I got to be someone else for a wee while and people enjoyed it.

Tomorrow I’ll be forced to tell a stranger all about me. I will have to talk about how crap I feel and how lonely it can get. I will have to talk about all the bad thoughts. I have no idea who this person will be or what they will think of me, I will feel frightened and nervous and I will have my good friend by my side supporting me. This stranger will be medically trained and on another day they may help folk like me – but tomorrow they will be listening to me and ticking boxes on a computer in response to my answers. They will press a button and another stranger will decide whether or not I get my Employment Support Allowance of £67.50 a week. If the ‘me’ that is comical and supportive comes out to play and If I feel a wee bit sorry for the stranger or they look a bit awkward then that’s exactly what could happen, its what I do – then I’m guessing im seriously knackered but I cant really control that so we will have to see.

Bottom line, and this is the ACTUAL bottom line if I can tell it to this stranger for £67.50 a week then I can tell it to you.


  1. O Rosie that is so brave and beautiful and honest. It also contains a lot of the possible solutions. As I write a woman on R4 Today is talking about dealing with depression as she became homeless. A feature saying the average life expectancy of homeless women and men is 43 and 47 respectively and they're 9 times more likely to commit suicide. Shocking and tragic...
    But you and I know what lies at the root of the problem and know we must change the world, not just look to charity and elastoplasts to cover up the problem.
    But you ( and I ) have mental problems that need dealing with now. I have been trying to find solutions and would love to talk to you about them. Solutions that an lift depression fast, without medication. I have been doing workshops and seminars on this and have been looking to combine this with drama. The approach is called Human Givens. You can find it easily online and I promise you it is no quack crap.
    I'll DM my number to you on Twitter and if you would like to meet up I'd love to see you again after all these years.
    But whatever,keep yr pecker up, you brave woman, you are on the right lines. All the very best to you and yours for 2012.
    Tam X

  2. Rosie the road to recovery always starts with a single step - you've taken it. You'll no doubt also take a few backward steps along the way but you already know that you have friends and family who genuinely care for you and will help you cope with the bad days. Take care. I won't say have a "happy" Christmas but you've the strength within you and the support around you to make it a better New Year. Awrabest Bill

  3. Best wishes from Bella Rosie. Everyone is with you.

  4. Hi Rosie I'm glad you've been able to say how you're really feeling, I know very well how good you are at covering up when you are ill ("I'll just have some fruit!" remember that in Malta??!) That horrible interview tomorrow must be making it even worse. It's so unfair. Hard as it may be, try not to cover up the truth! Depression is so debilitating, I'm only feeling a bit down as my placement was horrible again, and I've been sick for a few days, but I feel taking the washing out the machine is too much effort! So I can only imagine how hard things are for you at the moment. However as you said you've got a great family round you. You're a very strong person but you're allowed not to be strong all the time! Sending you much love and catch up with you next week. Babbity xx

  5. Hi Rosie, this is written with such passion that only a sufferer can discribe in such detail. You'll be ok tomorrow whatever the outcome. You say you are not working but the support that you give to people in your life and on facebook is priceless. Acting is therapy for me too although I have lost my confidence lately but deep down I know its not forever. Just you keep loving and recieving love as it is a good cure. See you in the New Year sometime. Anne-Marie xx

  6. Rosie you are a beautiful person and an extremely giving person. This is a courageous (as always)and moving write. I'm sure it will connect with many many people. It was so good to see you the other week but I now know the effort involved. Though we did have a laugh and I can see the happiness Sam brings. I have got so much from our friendship not least your off the wall sense of humour - I did fall off the chair laughing in the old parly canteen. Let me know when you need me for any Atos stuff. PM me.I know depending on the day you may not have the energy or be in the right place to deal with those b******s but I have, and people are being picked off one by one, so we can try to link people together. Your post is brimming with humanity against their inhumanity. lots of love Francesxx

  7. Dear Rosie,

    Such an amazing, open and honest post about your current struggles with depression. You say it how it is, you express what it really feels like and we hope you got something out of writing it.

    Depression is such a debilitating condition, your day to day struggles to many may sound so basic, but with a heavy weight on your shoulders, the ability to lift is taken away and energies are reduced. We hope the fact that you’ve recovered before will give you the strength to keep fighting to get back to that place no matter how long it takes. Sometimes what worked before doesn’t always work again, but I’m sure something will trigger an improvement.

    Good luck for tomorrow; these assessments are not pleasant, but keep strong and stand your ground. Depression may an invisible condition, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there, it just tries to get us to cover up for self-preservation, that actually does us no good whatsoever! If we are not seen to be how we really feel, no wonder people think we are ok.

    If you’d like to use any of our services (completely confidential), you are more than welcome to; particularly our Living Life to the Full Interactive course You may find it particularly helpful over the coming weeks.

    We'll be open again on Tues 3rd Jan if you'd like to enquire.

  8. I was reading this and it sounded so familiar. Yet also so hard to explain to so many people. Depression is a complicated thing. What you are describing is exactly what I experience day to day. Anyone and everyone who has depression, understands this and knows how bloody awful it is.

    How enervating and exhausting it is. Nothing sensational, nothing to excite the newspaper headline writers - just a real person struggling day after day after day. That is work in itself. So is seeking, keeping and accepting support.

    What you have written is raw and cannot have been easy. I hope more people read it and understand. People who know or people who know people who do.

    Thanks for writing this.

  9. Thanks Rosie, yer post, though difficult tae read, wis easy tae understand. Ah ken jist whit ye mean aboot wantin tae be open an honest aboot yer mental health, an yet...

    Jist keep in mind that ye've been inspirin fowk fer years, ah still mind yer first day in the parly, an ye're still inspirin fowk like me. Yer 'family' goes a lot further than jist the fowk ye can see. Keep bein open an honest, ye cannae go far wrang wi that, an ah'll see ye in the future, cos we'll baith be there!

    love fae Leith x

  10. That was a very honest post and I'm sure, certain, that everyone who reads it understands just how honest it is.

    I've suffered from depression for years, possibly all my life (who knows?). I've spoken to similar strangers a number of times and was always skeptical about whether it was helping. It did while I was there but it was always short interventions and in a few months or years I would be doing it again with another stranger. Nothing had really changed for me.

    I've never felt strong enough in the past to be as open about my illness. Some of this was because I'd seen what happened to colleagues when they did. It was used as an excuse by employers to break people down when they were at their most vulnerable. It sickened me and it scared me and I wasn't honest or strong enough to be open about it.

    I went to the Pathways project. It started out the same - speaking to someone. Then I received a referral to another stranger but this NHS stranger suggested something different that I was very unsure of - it was a group approach. More strangers - but this time like me, with their own neuroses, fears, worries, blocks, and strands of depression they had.

    It's hard to convey the difference this made to me. It was difficult to start with but I'd decided to push myself and open up to these people. It was a strange dynamic because I don't know these people in a common sense but I know so much more about them (and they do of me) than even the most closest around us.

    I found I could talk about my problems in a way I couldn't with those around me on a day to day basis. I could get upset and cry in front of these strangers and then go home and return to daily life. Sometimes I'd want our meetings to run on so I could get to the bottom of my problems but I think the break for a week and the time to reflect actually helped me.

    It was also an opportunity to help other people. This is something that's always been important to me and even when I felt I'd hogged the time people told me I'd helped them open up too because they saw me do it and saw how open I had become about everything.

    I left the group (in honesty probably sooner than I should have) because I managed to work through many of the issues I was having and had experience in the past. I missed them when I left and I still do. I miss the opportunity to be so open about things, have a greet and not have that voice in the back of my head telling me I fucked up.

    While I was on the group I decided to come off my medication against my GPs advice but I wanted to get to the bottom of my problems and felt the pills were masking things and stopping me from "feeling" properly. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone without the right support but the group stuff gave me this.

    I left the group in 2009 - maybe sooner than I should have but I felt like I had achieved a lot and had dealt with a lot of my problems. I missed going and still do and I miss the scheduled space with no distractions to reflect and get other people's perspectives. I also miss the other people, worry about them and hope they're ok.

    I found out I could replace my pills in the most part with exercise and enough sleep. This doesn't always work and there are times I crave for that space to talk again. I told my partner about "the group" and how it helped me and I think she can see what a difference it made in me.

    I guess what I'm trying to convey is that if you get a chance to take part in something similar then it might work for you too.

    Hope you're well and smiling, you have a great smile. :)


  11. Personally I'm glad you are feeling this way.

    It's Karma

    Tonight I've read you name call me non stop on Twitter, I see you mention Sheridan tonight too (obsessional behaviour) and then I see you also done a trolly post about Sheridan on here too.

    Like I say, I'm glad!!

    1. I see how old this post is and therefore may not be relevant still.... but how horrible of you to say to someone that you're glad they suffer from depression... you odious little twat!

  12. Wow Rosie, such raw, honest writing and so eloquent. As you know I've been there too but I'm not sure I could write about it the way you have although I do speak out. Like you I'm not always sure that it helps but I feel a need to do it rather than hide away, I did that for far too long.

    I wish I had found this in December, but I was overseas and not checking in to twitter to see the link.

    I really hope that you got the Atos stuff sorted, I've got it all to come and I'm dreading it even though my gp and my psychiatrist are supporting me.

    I also hope that things are improving, I'm glad you've got support from family and friends.

    You are an inspiration to me and to many others Rosie, don't ever forget it, and you never really lose the things you did in the past even though it may feel like it no one can take past accomplishments away from you.

    Hold your head high Rosie, honesty really does win in the end.

    Jen xx

  13. As a fellow sufferer of depression & anxiety I have nothing but complete admiration for you. Well done hen for having the courage to come forward and open up and allow folk to talk about this usually taboo subject.