My journey through psychotic depression – Part III

If you haven’t read Part I and Part II and you want to, you can find them here (Part I) and here (Part II).

If you see anything of yourself or your own experiences in this post, perhaps you’ll feel relieved that you are not alone. Maybe you’ll even recognise some of the symptoms in a friend or family member? Or it’s feasible you’ll gain insight into different mental health problems and see how difficult it is for people who experience mental ill health?

……….I was struggling desperately. I couldn’t see an end to the pain. I felt scared, worthless, hopeless and I honestly felt suicidal. It was then that I had my own ‘break down‘. And that’s exactly what it felt like; both physically and mentally, I was broken.

Panic attacks

I was having panic attacks throughout the day and particularly at night, keeping me awake. Alongside the huge purple sacks under my eyes, the weight loss, dizziness and nausea, I looked bloody awful and felt even worse.  It was torturous; twenty-four-seven, week on week and, with no end in sight, I wished I was dead.

Natural Stress Relief

Girl sitting on the rock by the peaceful sea at sunset.

I tried every natural and herbal stress relief, sleep inducing, over-the-counter remedy known to man, without effect. As an aromatherapist, I made up lots of pretty little bottles of stress relief oils then bathed in them and doused myself liberally. However, despite all the lovely citrusy, spicy and fruity oils, all I could smell was the lavender, reminiscent of my grannies old underwear drawers. This didn’t work either.

Soothing massage

As a qualified massage therapist, I was aware of the benefits so I booked massagemyself in for a few sessions. However, the first lady almost pecked at me like a small bird trying to feed itself for the first time; there was no pressure applied and she missed areas of my body out! The second time, I went for seated massage, which ought to involve sitting on the massagemassage seated chair with your upper body leaning forward, your arms on armrests and your face peeking through a hole. Looks comfortable, right? This lady, who’d attended the seated massage course with me, had me sit on a swivelling office chair! With my muscles tensing, I tried using my feet and legs to keep the chair from spinning, to no avail so told her to stop. She couldn’t understand why I refused to pay?

Exercise

running machinejpg

I joined the local gym and went seven days a week, twice on Sunday; pounding the treadmill and pedalling like fury on the exercise bike. I got so wound up if I couldn’t go to the gym for any reason but made up by jogging on the spot and running up and down our stairs. I tried most everything to relieve the constant anxiety and to wear myself out so I could sleep, but even the excessive exercise proved fruitless.

Hallucinations and paranoia

I was permanently exhausted and after three nights in a row without sleep, I started to hear, see and feel odd things. People (I didn’t recognise the voices – but they were very real) were talking to me and about me, saying I was no good, I was dirty, together with lots of other negative comments and expletives. I could see things; mice running along my wooden floorboards and unidentifiable faces at my windows. Worse still, one night I was wide awake curled up on my kitchen floor, with my back against the heater and it came to me – I’d killed someone.

I Big treeremembered how and where I’d buried that someone; by a huge tree outside my aunt’s flats, but I couldn’t think who it was that I’d killed. The next day, I saw a police car and thought ‘This is it. They’re coming for me.’ Jeez! I was terrified. For months, if I saw a police car down our street, I’d turn and retrace my steps or go round to my back door. If the police were in the square at the back, I’d whizz round the front. I sometimes wondered if I should just hand myself in and let them find out who this someone was that I’d killed. In hindsight, obviously if they were after me, they would have got me. 

Mad, nuts or crazy

Although close friends and family were aware of my break-up with thedepressed girl boys’ dad and knew how devastated I was, I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my head. I was afraid they’d think I was mad, nuts, crazy and that I should be locked away. Seeing mice or rats scurrying under my sofa and the unknown ugly faces frightened me, but if I closed my eyes at least I would get some temporary relief. However, the voices were incessant and unbearable; the constant rabble of people discussing what only I knew as my fears. They played on them, they were cruel, repeating the negative thoughts I’d so often had myself. They knew which buttons to push.

Trying to sleepRelaxing music

When I attempted to sleep in my bed the voices seemingly delighted in keeping me awake with their constant and irrepressible verbal abuse. One day, after work and before picking up my youngest, I bought a cd player, ear plugs and a few ‘out there’ cds with relaxing music, water sounds and dolphins in the background. I played these throughout the nights but still, my heart pounded in my chest and thundered in my ears, my breathing was irregular and the panic attacks raged.

By the time I got the boys up for school, I was a wreck; my eyes were red-rimmed and it felt like there sand in them. I was sluggish and jittery, but I somehow managed to hide it from the boys. My job at a high end clothing company was demanding, which helped abate the voices for a few hours but the anxiety, depression negative thoughts and panic remained. Colleagues at work noticed the 4 stone weight loss and saw how my clothes fell from my gaunt body. It certainly wasn’t a good image for the brand. Fortunately, a good friend in the sewing department kindly offered to take them in.

hypnosisHypnosis

I even tried extortionately priced hypnotherapy but I couldn’t relax enough to go into a trance-like state. However, I’d bought myself a Paul McKenna relaxation video and when the boys were I bed I’d get it out. I’d half sit, half lie in one of my padded beach chairs, directly in front of the t.v so I could get the full effects of both the visuals and the sounds. Amazingly, I managed to relax and as the video ended, I’d carefully take this relaxation up to bed with me and finally managed to get a few good hours sleep. Sometimes it didn’t work and I suffered the torture again but I was so grateful for the times it did work.

What’s the problem?

After a while, not sure how long as I was in a constant haze back then, I took the boys to see our GP about their asthma. Once he’d seen them he sent them out, turned to me and, with his hand resting lightly on my arm, he said “Tell me, what’s the problem? You so thin and though you smile, I think you very sad.” The floodgates opened and it all came tumbling out; I sobbed and wiped the tears and snot on my hand as I explained how the boys’ dad had been seeing someone else and about the breakup around eighteen months ago. He told me to let the boys go home, he would make some telephone calls and I was to come back in to see him.

Having spoken to a colleague who agreed to see me, like – now, at our local general hospital, Dr Nga was going to drop me off! I knew it was a general hospital, rather than a mental one, but I soon found out that there was one mental health ward there.

The asylum

I thought back to how, as kids we’d all say stupid things like “The men in white coats will come to get you.” or “You’ll end up in Stratheden, (our nearest asylum) you will.” We were all terrified just at the mention of the asylum.

Well, one day mum said my stepdad was taking her to hospital for a few days and I asked if I could go with them. Dad said no, mum said “Yes; she’ll be fine.” So off we went and when I noticed we’d gone past the hospital, I didn’t think too much of it – until I saw the huge sign looming up – Stratheden Hospital.

Stratheden Hospital
Stratheden Hospital –CC0 1.0 Universal

I assumed and hoped we’d just drive past that too. However, when we pulled up at the foreboding buildings and the grounds surrounded by high metal railings – and gates that were opened by the porter who otherwise sat in his wooden lodge, reading a paper. I was petrified and felt a certain shame; my mum was going into an asylum. Oh my God!

From the car park I could see people roaming around, some with an odd gait, others making strange utterances. A lady with long scraggly grey hair, wearing unusual clothing, waved at me frantically then cackled like an old witch. Not sure if it was designed to frighten me, but that she did! Mum and dad got out of the car but I wasn’t allowed to go into the building with them so was left sitting in the car and told not to open the doors to anyone. Ha, as if.

ECTIn later years I would learn that mum had been in an asylum once before and on both occasions she had ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy),  which is given under general anesthesia. Doctors use a course of ECT

  1. if you have severe or life-threatening depression where your life is at risk so you need urgent treatment
  2. and to treat severe depression where there’s a lack of response or intolerance to medication.

I’d say it looks barbaric but ECT is said to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to relieve symptoms in severely depressed or suicidal people. Some people find ECT helpful while others don’t and repeated ECT is only recommended if you have previously responded well to it, or if all other options have been considered.

Back to the future

Dr Nga had dropped me off at the hospital and fortunately, although I had suicidal thoughts, the Consultant Psychiatrist and the Psychology team were confident that I had no intention of killing myself – I’d said even though I felt suicidal, I knew I couldn’t do that to my sons. I couldn’t possibly leave them with that legacy. So, no admission was necessary and three years of weekly painful, gut-wrenching counselling followed – on and off, because sometimes I was too afraid of myself and my responses to the psychologist. I didn’t want to hear what I had to say, so how would the counsellor feel?

I do hope you’ll continue to read My story, Part IV (The finale) which will follow shortly. You’ll learn about my suicide attempt and the hell I went through during my Psychotic Depression.  Thank you for staying with me.

 

 

My journey through a psychotic depression – part II

If you haven’t read Part I and you want to, you can find it here

Tony didn’t come back that day, or the next. His mum did though and she sat with me while I cried some more. She’d brought with her some of those tissues with lotion in them to keep your nose from chafing and while I appreciated the thought, they should come with a ‘sneeze alert’ cos when I did sneeze, a great big shower of snot burst through the tissues onto my fingers. We both laughed. I loved his mum dearly (she has since sadly passed away) and though she meant well, she could be very forward. She’d asked if everything was okay in the bedroom? Maybe I’d put on too much weight? highly unlikely as at 5′ 4″ I was a slight 7 stone 101b. Was I spending all his money?

As usual, on Saturdays, I got calls from family and friends, asking how I was or whether I’d be out later and I engaged with them all cheerily before putting the phone down and bursting into tears – again. I couldn’t tell them, not yet anyway because, despite how I felt about Tony, I didn’t want anyone else to hate him.

Telling the boys

As agreed Tony’s parents brought the boys back Sunday afternoon and I had the hellish job of telling them that daddy wouldn’t be coming home but that he still loved them. The boys’ faces never crumbled or scrunched up when they cried, they were pretty as pictures, tears just gathered in their huge brown eyes then spilled down their cheeks. My heart was breaking for them as I smiled and they leant in for hugs; not sure if the hugs were for me or for them but they wouldn’t let go and I could feel their small bodies trembling. Christ Tony! I could kill you! I thought bitterly. The “Why mummy?” almost crucified me but I had to answer kindly and gently and explain that daddy would still see them and they could see daddy whenever they wanted. The poor little things should never have had to go to bed with heavy hearts and a funny tummy my baby (five year old) said.

A cheerful 5 minutes

Two days later the boys were really excited when I picked them up from school. They handed me Valentine’s day cards, their seven and five year old scribbles telling me not to be sad and that they loved me lots. It was just too much, too painful that they thought they had to cheer me up and I cried and sniffed all the way home in the car. I couldn’t help it. It was supposed to be my job to look after them, to make them feel safe and to cheer them up, not the other way round. However later that night Tony’s mum phoned and cheered me up and even made me giggle momentarily. The little madam he left me for tried to put Valentine’s cards and gifts through her letterbox and each card she posted was ripped up by his mum and dropped back through the letterbox along with the gifts. His mum usually never swore but on this occasion, in her Spanish accent, she cussed the girl, told her to eff off, to go away you little tart and keep your rubbish as she shoved out yet another gift.

Weeks passed, I hadn’t eaten and weight was falling off me. My colleagues at Head Office of a high-end fashion chain noticed and were kind enough to take my clothes in for me. The whole team were going out one night and Tony offered to babysit in our home. So dressed in a super new outfit I was ready to leave when Tony laughed “You ain’t going out in that are you? Not with your fat arse.” Something I’d moaned about ages ago but certainly couldn’t complain about now at well under 7 stone. The b*stard was with that madam but still felt the need to put the boot in!

A street fight

Off we went round the trendy bars in Islington, all the while I was pulling at my skirt, feeling desperately uncomfortable. Around 10 p.m. I couldn’t stand any more and I wasn’t having fun so I went home. As I neared the corner of my home I could hear an almighty row going on and it only took seconds to realise it was coming from outside my house. It was Tony and her so I stood and listened. I heard him tell he to get away from the house, she’ll (me) be back any time soon. And I could hear the cheeky mare shouting she didn’t care so I turned the corner and the two of them froze. I walked past her then him into my home and told him he could leave now but the interfering little bitch whinged “It’s ‘is kids as well you know. You can’t tell him what to do.”

“Really?” and I spluttered as I realised who she was – only the ugliest girl out of the three he worked with. The one who’s blue eyeshadow and red lipstick looked like it had been drawn on by a three year old. Her black high heels were so worn down, the material on the heels had curled up and showed the white underneath. I laughed hysterically saying “Is this her?” then turned to her laughing and said “I think you should leave now.” She spun her chewing gum round her finger and replied “Nah. I’m with him, why should I?”

“Cos there’s two little boys upstairs in bed. If nothing else, don’t you care about them?”

“Nah! I don’t actually.” and before I knew it she had a tight grip on my hair and was pulling me out into the street, down onto the pavement. I was momentarily stunned but after a lot of toing and froing I managed to get on top of her, holding her arms to stop her from attacking me further. By now Tony’s punching my head, yelling at me to get off her when out of the corner of my eye I could see a recognisable car pass us then reverse back and stop.

Two pairs of shiny black boots came into view and a kindly policeman took my arm and said “Come on love, let her go. I think we know what’s happened here but you need to let go.” I did and watched as tart picked up her clutch bag, scrabbling to pick up her makeup and hair brush while she ranted, calling me an effin bitch. Now I’m not proud of this but I almost threw myself at her before the kindly policeman put his hand out and said “Love, if you carry this on, we’ll have no choice……” then turned to Tony saying “Mate, you need to sort this.” “Yep, okay.” said Tony looking at me “I’ll just put her in a cab then I’ll come back to yours.”

“Ha! I don’t think so. If you put her in a cab then you can get in with her.” His mum was furious the next day when I popped in for coffee before work, especially because he’s punched me several times. I felt so ashamed.

After this, the little tart took to following me around, going to my local bars, always wearing a cheaper copy of the clothes she’d seen me in the week before, barging into me and trying to introduce herself to my pals as Tony’s new girlfriend. She and her pals would follow my car home so I drove as slow as I could, just to annoy her then on reaching my front door, I’d get out of the car, sit on the bonnet and light a ciggie. They’d eventually gotten bored and driven off shouting obscenities from the windows.

Wise words from a good friend

She started calling my home from 11pm onwards and hanging up. I knew it was her because she did night shift at the cab office they worked in. Then she began calling early evening and hanging up, knowing Tony was round to see the boys. This was all really stressing me out when an older and wiser friend said “Look, you know Tony, you know how he works. She doesn’t. When he comes round to see the boys, offer him a cup of tea, a sandwich even and let him read the boys a bedtime story. The longer he stays at yours, the more p’d off she’s going to get. When he’s gone, phone me if you need to shout and swear, but keep him there ages.”

It worked cos the cheeky little tart started phoning, asking “Is Tony there?”

“Hang on a minute.” I’d tell her and I’d shout upstairs where Tony was lying on the boys’ beds reading “Babes,you out of bed yet? Tart’s on the phone.” and before he could get down, she’d hung up. Another night I might say “Hang on, he’s in the bath” or “He’s in bed, who is it?” I knew it was causing nightmares between them because my cousin lived in her flats and told me about the rows and physical fights they had. In my mind, if I was suffering then so should she.

Odd sensations

Months on, I wasn’t eating or sleeping and while I was in bed I started to get these odd sensations; I could feel my heart thumping but I could also hear it pounding in my ears as I lay my head on the pillow. My fingers and toes were tingling and I was finding hard to catch a breath. Lots of jumbled thoughts were racing round in my head and I felt scared for some reason. I’d have to sit up quickly and put the light for a while. Some nights I found myself down in my kitchen, wrapped in my dressing gown, sitting on the floor with my back to the radiator, smoking incessantly and drinking hot milk (I’d read somewhere not to drink caffeine at night time). I’d take myself back up to my room before the boys woke up and collapse into bed exhausted both physically and mentally.

I was always on edge, I was jittery and easily agitated at work. Noises were exaggerated and aggravating. Like the crunching into a massive apple each day at 11 a.m. by the girl at who sat opposite me at work. I got up from my desk one morning with the sole intention of shoving her big fat apple down her throat but fortunately something made me walk past her and upstairs into the ladies, shaking like a leaf. I didn’t know what had got into me.

Self-help

Pre the www I joined the local library and picked up books like the Relate guide to relationships, on moods and stress, where I learned what the odd sensations were i.e. anxiety, stress overload, panic attacks. Moreover I learned tips on how to manage relationship breakdowns. But most of all I learnt that I was doing the right thing by the boys i.e. not miscalling their dad (in front of them), being polite and calm when he came round, having their dad explain (not me) to them why he couldn’t have them some weekends, so that he saw the disappointment on their innocent faces. I had mastered how to speak to Tony calmly and could see that this unnerved him. I loved these books and read many more (they’d later be called self-help books) – you couldn’t keep me away from the library.

Still, having to deal with Tart’s constant provocation, Tony’s foul mouth and his refusal to help support the boys because I was using his money for my Friday night out! was taking its toll. What with having to keep smiling for the boys, ferrying them to their beloved activities, often seven days a week because their dad couldn’t be bothered to even take them to Sunday football, I was struggling. I couldn’t see an end to the pain. I felt scared, worthless, hopeless and I honestly felt suicidal.

I do hope you’ll continue to read My story, Part III which will follow shortly. You’ll learn about my suicide attempt and the hell I went through during my Psychotic Depression. I will end with My story Part IV. Thank you for staying with me.