‘Down Days’ or normal life?

What are ‘Down Days’?

I follow a mental health blogger, Natasha Tracey, and, while some posts don’t resonate with me every time, most of what she talks about I can identify with completely.

Many people will refer to being ‘down’ and they do not have clinical depression or a Bi Polar diagnosis. Sadly, these comments do not help those with serious mental health conditions as they trivialise what is, for those of us with such disorders, something debilitating and immobilising.

In her latest blog, Natasha talks about someone referring to ‘Down Days’ and she makes the point that hers are not days but more likely weeks and months. You can read her blog here and, if you find it of interest you can follow her and receive updates in your inbox.

I, too, don’t have ‘down days’. I know immediately that my mood has dropped. It will follow a period of busyness, project building, possibly excessive spending which, at the time, seems absolutely necessary but, in the time that follows, reality tells me that I did not need whatever it was I spent my money on.

I used to ruminate about recent spending but have learnt over the years not to take off labels, to keep receipts and seriously consider returning items, if that is possible. If I decide to keep some dubious purchases, I have discovered that a few months or a year or two down the line these items can be used and are not a waste. If you suffer from this behaviour, take heart that all is not lost.

But back to ‘Down days’. I recently had an email from a ‘friend’ who referred to her ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. She does not have Bi Polar or mental health issues. Her ‘high’ was related to a holiday or some success and her ‘low’ was linked to losing a relative to cancer. And this is where the boundaries between what is normal and what is a serious mental health condition become blurred. Hers were the ‘normal life’ happenings with natural emotional responses. Mental illness is something else altogether.

I do wish those who do not have mental health issues would not trivialise the emotional states of those who do by referring to themselves, as if they suffer the same states. They do not. The extremes with Bi Polar are so great that normal living becomes almost impossible. A high state can result in losing sense of reality and psychotic symptoms such as believing you can achieve the well-nigh impossible or drift into some paranoid state whereby one believes the people waiting on the street are police about to arrest you, when in fact, they may be Jehovah Witnesses discussing where next to visit. The ‘crash’ that follows a ‘high’ involves much regret at spending or actions taken and are far deeper than simple ‘down days’.

I know that some people suffer rapid cycling and can experience both high and low states in one day or in a few weeks but most people with Bi Polar will go through a period of wellness when their activity increases, their happiness is unbounded, optimism is high and life is good. That is fine until the mood slips slightly higher and the behaviour is more erratic.

The low period that follows such a ‘high’ period is not just a ‘down day’. It can suddenly envelop you in total inertia, lack of motivation and anxiety which can lead to an inability to get out of bed each morning. Even when up and moving, the brain and body are so slow that taking a shower is a major undertaking and simple activities such as making a cup of tea become increasingly difficult. The weight on my shoulders is so great that, after a cup of tea and a small breakfast, I am so exhausted I have to lie down and this repeats itself through the day as I try to overcome the lethargy and feelings of ‘walking through treacle’. Minor day to day happenings can appear insurmountable.

I dread the warning sign that I am sinking low as, unless I am very lucky and can stop it in its tracks, I know I am in for at least a month, possibly two when normal life will cease. It is, as I have said, more than just a ‘down day’, more like a ‘down month’. Luckily my medication means that I rarely go into deep depression for longer periods and I employ strategies to bring me back to a fully functioning human being. However, I am not complacent. I know that I could sink for longer periods as I did in the past.

But I have had help and advice, counselling and support.

So I know the following:

SLEEP is the key. If necessary I will take a small dose of Zopiclone for a few days to regulate my sleep pattern. I can increase my medication slightly .

RELAXATION is absent but must be reclaimed. I have a reflexologist who also has trained me in ‘tapping’ techniques. One or two visits will set me on the path to recovery.

EXERCISE is vital. Mornings are rubbish so an early lunch and then a long walk in the afternoon is called for. I combine this with sitting in the sun watching the waves roll in – the joy of living at the seaside.

CREATIVITY is absent so I try to write in my notebook each day. The entries make sorry reading later but I do include TO DO lists and the POSITIVES of each day. Re-reading these entries demonstrates how each time I sink low I need to explore why this has happened and how I can reclaim my equilibrium.

YOGA is essential for my wellbeing but is something I have often neglected before this phase. I start with 20 minutes on a blanket and try to increase it each day. This can strengthen the muscles which when we are inactive become weak.

DAYLIGHT is another essential. Sitting outside in the daylight, walking or gardening all helps.

DEEP BREATHING – also used in yoga – helps anxiety and aids relaxation.

LISTENING TO MUSIC is a recent addition to my strategies. Listening to classical music has been found to have positive effects on the brain. Uplifting music and dance tunes can also help. You may find yourself singing or jigging away, perhaps even dancing. Creating your own music ie playing the piano or another instrument can take you out of yourself.

As a writer, I need to WRITE but this is hard at these times. This when I turn to blog posts such as this which I hope will help others. One thousand words is an achievement. Of course, I would prefer it was a chapter in a long abandoned novel but it is keeping the creative writing juices lubricated.

COMMUNICATION – is so important, with family, friends but is one of the hardest parts of the illness. Keep TALKING even if only to yourself while out walking. I try to talk to someone every day when I am out for a walk. It keeps me connected.

Depression is often a state of disconnectedness where we have lost some of our ability to relate to others and the world around us. However, it will return. It will pass.

What helps you cope with these low periods?

Bi-Polar, Uncategorized

Suicide in those with Bi Polar

Living at the coast I am well aware of the power of the sea and how it should not be underestimated but in coastal areas there are other dangers, one of which is the accessibility to cliffs for someone wishing to end their life.

Recently this happened near to where I live. The person was Bi Polar and had stopped taking her medication a week prior to the incident. The dangers of ceasing taking medication when one is Bi Polar are profound. A friend whose Bi Polar son passed through a difficult phase, was advised by a doctor to cease taking one of his mood levelling medications. Within weeks he had committed suicide with devastating effects on his family.

It is easy for me as a compliant BPD sufferer to say we should never, ever cease taking our medication even if we feel particularly well. In fact this is the dangerous point in this most evil of diseases. Sufferers pass through a well phase, feel they can cope with anything and stop taking their tablets. The effect is to cause a sudden sharp dip in mood when the person will become suicidal.

While not wanting to cast an opinion on the role of relatives in this case, those close to the patient should be alert, particularly if they appear resistant to taking medication which is common. If you have a relative who appears reluctant and complains that the medication makes them drowsy and complains about other side effects, this relative is probably vulnerable to believing he or she can do without it.

Those close to me know I am such a fan of my medication they need not worry. This is because for years my non-aware GP failed to refer me for psychiatric help despite the fact that I had received regular checkups at my previous address and all this was documented on my notes. The result was a few years of miserable times coupled with manic highs when I risked much financially and fell out with people. When I was finally referred after the intervention of my partner’s GP, I was put on Quetiapine and immediately felt the effects (once the initial dizziness and muzziness had passed). Eight years later and this has changed my life. I sleep well – Quetiapine has a sedative combined – and the regular sleep has made a difference. Whereas before I had weeks without sleeping or only sleeping 2-3 hours and long periods of early waking – that awful jump start at 5am and the sinking feeling in the stomach that reminds you how depressed you are – I now sleep a regular eight hours and wake refreshed. At night, I fall asleep quickly which prevents rumination and anxiety.

I am not saying it is all plain sailing. There are difficult life events and periods when I may wake on and off and wake up anxious but I use Mindfulness and take a herbal remedy such as Kalms for a week or so until  the symptoms subside.

Years ago I often had suicide ideation – when you do not make plans but the idea is there that one day you might use that way out but this has passed. This is partly because of the medication and partly that I have seven grandchildren and made the decision some years ago that I would not want them to live with the knowledge that their grandmother had taken that route out of life. I want to be a role model for them so they have been my salvation.

My writing is also my therapy and absolutely free. I make sure I write something every day even if it is only a diary entry – when low sometimes the creative juices dry up. However, depression is common amongst writers and research has not established whether it is because depressed people turn to writing as therapy or whether writers are more vulnerable. It is a solitary occupation so writers need to have networks to keep up social interaction.

I feel intense sadness for the family of the person who chose to jump from our nearby cliffs. I can only guess at their heartache and the possible guilt they may feel that they did not recognise the signs or take any action. In mitigation I would say that Bi Polar sufferers are canny hiding their symptoms and mood swings. I am sure that, in this case, the nearest relatives were kept completely in the dark. We are quite private people. We may talk a lot at times and disclose much but we do not wish to burden people with tales of our darker mental states. Also those who sink to such low levels become quite secretive and quiet.

It is therefore no wonder that relatives find themselves unable to prevent such a tragedy. Beyond investigating if medical intervention and monitoring was sufficient – and lets’ face it the mental health services are in disarray with lack of funding, all of which is a disgrace to our present government –  all I can say is they should take some comfort from the fact that this was an action of choice albeit an unfortunate one.

If you know someone who might have stopped taking their medication you need to speak to a medical professional ideally someone with experience and expertise in mental health. Some years ago, it was planned that there would be a point of contact in each GP surgery – a mental health professional or counsellor who could deal with distressed patients or worried relatives on a ‘walk-in’ basis. As far as I am aware this has not happened.

It is time for the government to place importance on mental health services with a view to preventing such tragedies in the future.


Early Warning Signs (EWS) and how to deal with them

There was a time when, following a move and a new GP, I struggled with my Bi Polar and would pay visits to the surgery in the hope that some help would be forthcoming. When I related my symptoms I was told that I was being super sensitive to the feelings and frightened of descending into previous illness that had resulted in hospitalisation. I often wondered if she had read my notes.
After attending a Living with Bi-Polar course I learnt that these thoughts, feelings and behaviour are important for they are our EWS (early warning signs). While these may differ between us, many are commonly experienced by sufferers of BPD.

If you are reading this because you suspect you may have the condition I hope you will be heartened by the knowledge that all these feelings will pass but there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better in the meantime. However, if you identify with the symptoms you should consult your GP who may refer you for further assessment.

My trigger is usually a period of stress even if I think, at the time, that I am coping. Sometimes, I have a fall, a sign my balance is off centre or that I am not concentrating. I may have been exceptionally busy with normal activities but not manic. Holidays and Christmas can cause this.

So what are my early warning signs of bipolar depression? First I begin to wake up tired rather than refreshed and find it difficult to get up. I am aware that something in my life is missing and that is the sense of joie de vivre, being able to enjoy simple activities and generally looking forward to what life has to offer. I begin to lose interest in activities I previously enjoyed. Over a few days I notice I am feeling overwhelmed with a range of daily activities that I would normally take in my stride. I begin to forget things and find it difficult to plan ahead. Time becomes short and I cannot fit in what needs to be done. This causes some anxiety and I become aware of a few worries. These increase over a few days. My sleep is disturbed. Whereas my medication usually knocks me out, suddenly I either cannot get off to sleep or I wake with a start in the night. Early waking might happen but if I am lucky my medication will allow me to drop off again. While I have been enjoying my food when well, now I feel sick in the mornings and may feel giddy or uninterested in food. I may have difficulty swallowing, particularly where tablets are concerned. As a writer, one sign is that I stop writing or find it difficult to engage with a manuscript that previously had excited me. I begin to spend more time sitting on the sofa but achieving little. I get things out and do nothing with them, start to read an article but fail to finish. A number of half read papers start to pile up. By now the kitchen is untidy and my normal attention to cleanliness is notably absent. Dishes in the sink and cold cups of tea sit forgotten on the table, made before I wandered off to do something else. I am now feeling unsociable and am reluctant to answer the phone or make arrangements to meet with friends. If one of my friends cannot meet up I may experience a feeling of relief.

Now none of the above is a serious warning sign on its own. As the peer specialist told us, ‘it is when several EWS are observed and they hang around for a while.’ The key is being aware. Unsurprisingly most of the delegates on my refresher course last year identified with many of the above signs.

Luckily I now recognise these signs and rather than ignore them which my GP thought I should, I know that I need to take some action.

There are a few strategies which can bring you back on to a previous mood level before depression takes hold. Some cost money and others are there for free. The following ideas are a mix. You may not find them all helpful but some should suit where you find yourself at the moment.
• Getting out for a walk, however short, in the fresh air and, hopefully, sunshine, will boost endorphins.
• Writing a mood diary and recording daily activities will get you writing.
• Reading poetry takes less concentration and might help. Try humorous poetry.
• Set achievable goals especially when tidying up neglected areas. Choose a few shelves or one file at a time. To plan to tidy the whole house will result in failure and increase your despondency.
• If you can find a reasonably priced therapist book a reflexology session for deep relaxation.
• Experiment with ‘tapping’ techniques. Tapping therapy or EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is explained on various websites. If you are unsure it would be worth paying for half an hour of therapy for a demonstration and help with setting intentions.
• Write a To Do list every day with achievable tasks. Keep it short and cross off those completed. This aids memory too.
• Phone or visit a member of your family.
• Watch ‘happy’ television programmes and avoid the news which can increase anxiety.
• If reading is a problem, watch an interesting documentary dealing with a topical debate.
• Write down three positives for each day. These could include cooking a meal, phoning a friend or watching tv. A walk in the sun, sending an email to a friend or writing your diary also qualify.
• Take the pressure off yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not getting out of bed in the morning, give yourself permission to stay in bed for a short time. If it is a choice you will feel better. You will soon be getting up more smartly when you feel better.
• Accept you have an illness and that this phase is part of your illness. I was told this a year ago and found it liberating.
• Tell yourself that your brain worked hard and was overstimulated before this phase. Depression is often the brain’s way of ‘having a rest’. Let it rest and don’t fight it or force yourself to do things you find difficult at this time. Make a choice to rest your brain and keep occupied with physical activities that are possible at the moment. This is NOT giving in or being lazy. It is allowing your brain to recover.
• Listen to music or play an instrument.
• Do some stretching exercises each day. Practise yoga and feel the difference.
• Remember depression does pass.

Some of the points above I have already written about on my blog eg the idea of writing down 3 positives each day. Other points here will be expanded on in future posts.


Party Girl

Once again on New Year’s Eve I found myself in a conundrum.

Friends for drinks, more friends to meet in town and someone’s idea to go to another pub at the other end of our town where there would be a Karaoke.

it has happened before. By 10pm I have had a few wines – even the mulled variety has its effects – and much excitement donning fancy dress to march up and down our seaside high street trying to spot those we know despite the vast amount of makeup, wigs and costumes.

It is lovely to laugh and joke with friends and I didn’t want the evening to end. We saw in the New Year on the street and then were driven to the pub. By then it was nearly 1am, I sang my Karaoke song very badly following another large wine and then had to wait for my friend to have her name called to sing.

We didn’t come away until 2am which is early for most on New Year’s Eve. But not if you are Bi Polar. I knew at 1 am that I really needed my night time medication and to curl up in my bed to sleep for 9-10 hours. It is the only way I can cope with my condition. Luckily I did not get carried away and stay on until 4am which some other friends did in a pub elsewhere in the town.

Once through my front door I fell on my meds pouch like a starving child being offered food. I drank plenty of water and made for my bed.

Of course I didn’t go to sleep for a long, long time. Disrupted routine, alcohol and excitement do not go hand in hand nicely with Bi Polar. So I am still lying awake at 4 am thinking I could have stayed out but, actually, no, that would have made it worse. It takes me time to ‘come down’ from being a Party Girl and the insomnia is caused by a lurking worry that this disruption may signal a ‘bad week’. I do so well coping with my Bi Polar that I really do not relish the idea of a spell of bad mood.

But this year I am in luck. I eventually drop off and do not wake up until 10.30 and I know that the following evening I can go to bed earlier and catch up. Well, perhaps not that night as we have family visiting but by the evening of 2nd January I know that I am stabilising and my late night has not put me into a low and spoilt my grandchildren’s visit.

Phew, I have escaped. Next year I may decline to go to the pub following Auld Lang Syne. For now I am getting through January without the terrible debilitating depression I experienced last year.


Overspending during depression and bi-polar highs

There is a common problem with those who suffer mental health problems that sometimes they get carried away with their spending and overspend often to the point of landing in debt.

It is a well known fact that we think that buying the ‘next thing’ will make us happy and using a £5 off voucher if you spend £35.00 in the supermarket is actually saving you £5 when, in fact, you are probably spending more than you would if you did not have the voucher.

I came across the article below which, forgive me if it is wordy, does explain some aspects of why we overspend. At this time of year when we are feeling drab and the nights are still closing in before 4.30 it is easy to think that going out shopping and buying something we have always wanted or a holiday that we see others enjoying will be the answer to our low mood.

I did read something about spending to make  ourselves happy. It is on a previous blog on happiness. Apparently we buy something and experience some temporary feeling of satisfaction so we think it has worked. In fact the feeling soon goes away and sometimes our mood can plummet when we realise that the purchase did not act as the magic bullet. The realisation that we have spent £x and got no long-term reward can send us into a decline of regret and evoke feelings where we ‘beat ourselves up’ for falling for this ploy once again. The temporary easing of our anxiety can bounce back to hit us full in the face, worse than before.

I am now subscribing to the minimalist theory. A few pairs of black leggings, a good pair of boots and a few tops and layers are seeing me through the winter. I have a lovely skirt I bought in the Mistral sale which I wear to go out and my previous purchases for winter come out occasionally. There is NO need for any more new clothes so the January sales will not be seeing me this year.

Try it and see if you feel better by NOT spending.


Mental Health Services in crisis

Eighteen months ago I suffered a manic episode after acute pancreatitis was followed by kidney failure. I required urgent inpatient treatment in a secure unit. I am not blaming the infection and water retention entirely as there are people who suffer acute infections who do not go off their head. But I am Bi Polar so am particularly vulnerable when I have physical illnesses. Also the drugs which keep me well could not be excreted during my kidney failure and built up to a dangerously high level.

I cannot fault the treatment I received and the kindness of the staff but I live in Dorset. However, I am well aware of the patchiness of mental health care. As a member of Depression Alliance I receive Single Step, the bi monthly magazine which allows mental health sufferers to air their views on their condition and how their recovery has been helped in a variety of ways.

I also have a profoundly deaf sister whose mental health condition has deteriorated in the last few years. She lives in Oxford. In July after several months of deep depression and worrying behaviour, she became aggressive during a visit by her step daughter, who called the police. My sister was taken away but not before she had apparently attacked the police officers. This was during the day and she spent several hours at a police station as did her husband before he was allowed home but she was detained. I understand that thankfully interpreters were present. During the night – I presume she was detained in a cell – my sister decided she wanted to go home. Amazingly she had not been sectioned so she was taken back in the early hours to her quiet residential street by two women police officers. Unable to rouse my profoundly deaf brother in law – surprise, surprise – ladders were obtained from one neighbour but finally a neighbour who held a key was roused. These very same neighbours had experienced considerable disturbance both that evening and on previous occasions when my sister became unreasonable and police were called.

The following day the GP accompanied by another doctor – presumably for the purposes of sectioning my sister – arrived at the house. My sister refused their admittance but eventually allowed her GP into the house then barricaded the door thereby blocking his exit. After some time the GP left. Soon after this my sister became distressed. Neighbours report hearing her sounding very upset and shouting at my brother in law in the garden. She then suffered a serious fall sustaining a large cut to her face which required stitches. My brother in law took her to the surgery and the GP sent a referral to the local hospital recommending that, in addition to attention to her injury, she undergo a full psychiatric assessment.

It was only that morning that I was advised of the events of the previous day. The psychiatrist relayed the facts as he had perceived them but I did suspect that he had been criticised for not sectioning my sister that evening in the police station. Later I realised that the lack of sectioning was linked to the lack of mental health beds in the area. Now it makes sense!

The following morning I was contacted by the A and E department of the local general hospital, the nurse telling me that my sister was refusing treatment and could I arrange for her glasses to be taken in so she could read what they wrote down. They had acquired a book of ‘signs’ they said and they were trying to use them. This, I told them, was useless as my sister is ‘oral’ ie she has been taught to lipread and speak, although her speech, especially when distressed, is not always clear. I spoke to a neighbour who went to ask my brother in law to take her glasses to the hospital. When I phoned later, she had received her glasses and had calmed down. They had managed to stitch her gash on her face but communication was still difficult. They were having difficulty getting her to stay on the A and E ward.

I immediately said I would travel up to Oxford to facilitate some interpretation. It appeared to me that interpreters had not been obtained for what was a very serious situation. The nurse was relieved to hear I would be arriving within a few hours.

When I arrived at the A and E ward, I saw my sister coming out of her side room. When she turned, her appearance was pitiful. Her face was black and blue and her clothes were blood spattered. But most alarming was the state of her wrists which were blackened, red and chaffed by, what she said, were the handcuffs she had been put in for several hours when she was taken away from the house.
The medics had been waiting for my arrival in the hope that I could keep my sister calm when they sectioned her. She has been resisting help via the inpatient system for several months and she has repeatedly shouted at me that she will not go into hospital. I warned the doctor that there may be a reaction. An interpreter had been obtained for the sectioning procedure so I was impressed that the communication was being assisted both by the interpreter and by me. It is a fact that my sister is calmer when I am present. By now it was early afternoon on the Friday.

What came next was a shock. There would not be a bed for my sister in a mental health unit until the Monday. We had 3 days to get through before she could be admitted to a psychiatric unit. Pressure on beds meant that they had to wait for someone to be discharged before she could be moved from the Accident and Emergency unit. I quickly realised that the staff in this emergency department would be hard pressed to cope with my sister in her manic state unless I was present. I stayed as long as possible with her, keeping her calm and talking down her angers and frustrations about family affairs and the health service. My partner drove me to a relative about 40 minutes’ drive away where I stayed overnight. The next day I travelled by train to Oxford and stayed all day in the emergency department providing support and calming my sister when she became agitated. I left in the evening on the Saturday, fairly nervous about how she would be in my absence. I explained she would have her dinner and then she could stay on her bed and settle down to sleep. I reiterated that she should not leave the ward – she had tried in my absence. I made her promise that she would stay on the ward while I was absent.
On the Sunday I arrived to find she had been moved to a mental health hospital but no-one was able to tell me where she was. It transpired her husband had been to the hospital and not found her so had gone home. I tracked him down at his son’s via mobile and by 2pm that day he knew where his wife was being held. To say I was disgusted at how this move had been handled and how he had been denied information is an understatement. I am speechless. I stood while sheafs of paper were shuffled with a multitude of names and their destinations written in barely decipherable handwriting. Whatever happened to computers?

Even worse was the fact that the foreign nurse who told me where my sister was could not pronounce the hospital name correctly and she offered no help as to how I could get there. Actually I don’t think she knew. A physiotherapist tried to help me by googling the mental hospital so that she could give me directions. After many google tries and her puzzled face, I gave up and said I would go to the taxi rank and get a taxi to the hospital by giving the name.
Which is what I did. When I arrived at the mental hospital no-one would tell me the ward my sister was on as it was private information. I wanted to scream. My brother in law had not yet arrived but he is profoundly deaf. How would he get directions? Eventually they did tell me, in a whisper, where she was but directions were sparse.

By now I was feeling faint with hunger. It was 2pm and I had spent the last three hours trying to find the hospital.

But it was Sunday!! The cafe was closed and the corridor leading to some self service machines was barricaded and out of use. I did get some directions to a nearby cafe which turned out to be a 45 minute walk into the nearby shopping centre. I eventually found a cafe and ordered some food and a coffee. Why this could not be available on site for visitors to the mental health unit I cannot understand.

When I eventually found my sister she was in a side room and calm. Surprising, as I expected she would be protesting but, like many with mental health problems, she knew the way to get discharged quickly was to be quiet, eat her meals and not cause any trouble.

The staff member I spoke to told me that they thought there was more than just a Bi Polar episode and they were going to have her assessed by the elderly care unit. A week later she was interviewed with an interpreter and other staff and discharged.

Three months later and after a brief ‘high’ when she faxed me good news every day, she has descended once more into deep depression. I have emailed her GP twice asking that she be seen. I was amazed that, having been seen by a doctor who deemed her needing ‘help’, she was not told to return if she did not feel better. At my practice a depressed person is asked to come back in a week or a fortnight so that their condition can be monitored. This does not seem to be happening in Oxford.

I am at a loss as to what to do. I do not live in the Oxford area and do not understand how things work there but from what I have seen I am not impressed.
Two years ago my sister was referred for BSL counselling. BSL (British Sign Language) is a medium my sister can work with although she was not taught by this method at school. She has learnt sign language since leaving school and this counselling would help her immensely. No-one seems to be chasing this up and we go on with no help.

My brother in law does not understand depression and both he and my sister are in a state of denial inasmuch as they do not want to talk about the difficulties that have caused the police and ambulance service to be called several times. In fact, only the police have been called, when, actually my sister required paramedics, an ambulance and admittance to a mental health unit immediately. Not to be kept in a police cell and then allowed to go home, get distressed and take a tumble out of the garden doors on to the patio sustaining severe injury.

So when I heard a 16 year old girl had been kept in a police cell because a mental health bed was not available I was not entirely surprised.

David Cameron!! What are you doing about mental health? I shall be asking strong questions of our Conservative candidate on this matter but, then, he never replies. His last reply came in October to an email I sent in July about the Disabled Students’ Allowance restrictions. How disgusting is that?
What next? I visit my sister and find a tearful, depressed individual who is lonely and getting no help. In our area there are courses for those with depression or Bi Polar Disorder which help those sufferers to cope with their conditions. Surely this should be possible for my sister with an interpreter present.

I know interpreters are thin on the ground and I do feel more funding should be available to encourage people to train in this area. I was pleased that every day while an inpatient my sister did have an interpreter for doctors’ rounds and consultant interviews. For that I am thankful but I should not have to be thankful. It should be the right of every deaf person to have this facility. They provide interpreters for the Poles and other East Europeans who come to this country so why not for a deaf woman who has lived all her life here and contributed to the health service via national insurance.
I know there are cuts to mental health services. This is an example of a situation which became quite bizarre because of lack of help. The scar on my sister’s face should not exist. She should not have been allowed to go home that Wednesday night from the police station. She should have been detained for her own safety.

I would like the luxury of time to ask the authorities to explain the events of July 2014 but my time is taken faxing encouraging messages to my sister, finding information on the internet, printing it and sending it by post.




I am NOT everyone

The one thing that annoys me is the well-worn phrase ‘everyone gets down at this time of year’. No. Those with clinical depression or who suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder should not have symptoms dismissed in such a light off-hand manner. Those with mental health problems – and do remember mental illness does not go away – are vulnerable and if they express such feelings they need to be taken seriously.

One way I respond to such nonsense about winter depression is to remind people that I can go low at any time of year. It does not merely require bad weather. I can be low even if the sun is shining if my triggers have combined with a down cycle in the ups and downs of my bi-polar life. I have been known to be manic in the winter.

Why is there still so much dismissal of the invisible pain of mental illness? No-one dismisses the arthritis sufferer who finds the damp weather exacerbates the condition and causes pain so why trivialise symptoms which can be life limiting and life threatening?

There are a range of useless comments used by those who do not understand mental illness.

‘We all get down sometimes’

‘It’s all in your head’

‘think how lucky you are’

‘you can’t expect to be happy all the time’

There is a clear difference between being unhappy and being depressed. If you are unhappy but still functioning normally each day the chances are you are not depressed. If you are overwhelmed with inexplicable sadness, loss of interest in things that previously brought enjoyment and you are finding normal every day tasks difficult you should seek help.

Let’s hope the first person you speak to doesn’t say, ‘but, everyone …………’




So, before you use that common winter phrase again, think carefully  about to whom you are speaking. Is this a vulnerable person who could slide once more into a full-blown episode which requires hospital admission.