Sunday, 2 September 2012

Things I Have Learned About Chronic Depression.

1.        Understanding the theory doesn’t make it feel any better.  It ought to, but it doesn’t.  It just makes conversing with therapists a bit more interesting (I suspect most of that is on their side, rather than mine).  It’s also a great means of avoiding the subject (which is probably as annoying to therapists as it is to me…but showing off my hard won knowledge is irresistible).

2.       It’s okay to believe that the whole thing is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and accordingly, take medication.  But it’s also a damn good thing to work out whether there’s a root cause, and deal with it.  The chemical imbalance might or might not go away, but the root cause won’t unless you address it.

3.       The root cause may well look as if it’s more than one thing…but in the end, they are all related.  It’s a bit like working on a net; move one bit, and the rest of it shifts accordingly.

4.       It’s a long road, without a map.  As a result, you may find yourself endlessly looping round the same cul de sac, but with subtle differences in syntax and vocabulary.

5.       None of the ‘experts’ seem to want to write about chronic depression.  I suspect this is because short episodes are much easier to treat, they have happy endings, usually, and they don’t make ‘experts’ feel challenged (or helpless).

6.       Your GP’s surgery will not have a clinic to monitor your progress annually, though they have them for other chronic illnesses (like diabetes or asthma).  

7.       It takes time to process stuff.  It has taken me thirty years and four ‘breakdowns’ at least to get to where I am now, and even although I’m on an even keel, it doesn’t take much for me to disappear down a black hole.

8.       You don’t tend to notice you’re depressed until you’re coming out the other side (though those around you will probably have spotted it the day before it starts).

9.       If you’re not at risk of harming self and/or others, the NHS isn’t interested in chronic mental health issues, and provides no assistance other than scraping the suicidal off the floor and putting them together again well enough to function.  Better, if you can, to find a really good private therapist and stick with him/her.  Of course, that is probably not an option for most people, if only for cost reasons.  

       A few people just don’t understand, at all.  Most people don’t want to understand.  So cherish the people who do; they will be your greatest allies. The same, incidentally, can be said of doctors, up to and including psychiatrists.  Just because they’re trained for it, doesn’t mean they either like or enjoy the job, which inevitably impacts on the service they provide. 

      Try not to get overly paranoid.  Everything that comes out of your mouth may well be considered as just another symptom, but that doesn't make talking less important; if anything, it makes it more so.

      Doctors and psychiatrists don't always get it right.  Sometimes a second opinion is essential, albeit difficult to achieve.  

      Above all, keep believing.  It will get better.  It does get better.  Honest.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I Hate HousePainting...

it's official.  Well, for a start, it's boring.  And fiddly.  All those straight edges.  And then, I'm not very good at it.  And then, Robin tells me I'm not very good at it, going round after me, criticising this bit here and that bit there.  It's really a no win situation.  Except that I get it done.  In this case, I'm undercoating so that he can do the top coat.  Mwahaha.  Because there will be The Conversation.  You said you were never going to do house painting again.  True.  And you're bad at it.  True.  So why did you do it?  Well... I wanted it done.  I've started, so I hope he'll finish.  Now... where else needs doing...?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Weeding Out...

A local resident..who doesn't like the cats...
the 'naughty plants' (les mauvaises herbes)... a much nicer term than 'weeds' for a plant growing in the wrong place.  I'm so not a gardener.  But having had someone come and do some gardening, including clearing one of the (very few) borders, I thought that it was a good idea not to let things get out of hand again.  I'm going to have to clear the rest of it myself, though... no money for frivolities like help with the gardening.

Oddly enough, when I actually get out there and start doing it, I feel fine about it.  I think it's the same process as happens when I'm working.  There is a real need for concentration (I know a weed from a plant, but it's sometimes touch and go...), and so the task becomes a contemplation, and the contemplation becomes a meditation, albeit in a very uncomfortable position (must ask for a kneeler mat for my birthday...). 

And then there's the cats.  They think it's Very Strange that I'm in the garden for any length of time; I'm usually just passing through on the way to the studio, or out to the car... so they study what I'm doing with a certain measure of incredulity.  After a while, the oldest comes and pats me on the arm, and that's the sign that enough gardening has been done for the day, at least in his view... and its time to Play.  That involves him chasing a stick around the garden, or a bit of dead plant... and the other three looking on, waiting for the opportunity to jump in. 

And then there's the frogs.  There are about five of them, and they have all been getting busy in the pond.  The evidence for that is in the piles of frogspawn and the splish splashing every time I go out the back door.  They're keen, but shy.  And, of course, they don't like the cats. 

I seem to be somewhat converted to the idea of gardening... might even  plant some flowers this year... if we get enough rain to make a hosepipe ban avoidable... seems pointless, otherwise.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

when you don't have any chocolate in the house?  I asked on Facebook, and got some interesting answers. Drink, they said, sex, pancakes...right down to, go and get some.  Good move.  But I'm trying not to go out in the car unnecessarily, and the need for a chocolate fix isn't really a major problem, particularly when I'm planning to go out tomorrow.  So I'm going to do what everyone does in this case... make a chocolate cake. 

My son earned my disapprobation when he said that Byfords of Holt make better chocolate cake than I do...but he might be right.  Sigh.  But I remembered an old Delia recipe for Chocolate Beer Cake, so whipped out her first big recipe book...and it wasn't there.  It was in one of the earlier books, the Evening Standard one, I think... which I gave away long ago, thinking I didn't use it.  Well, I didn't...except for that cake.  Thanks to the joy of the internet, however, I am reprieved... it is here. 

Phew.  I don't like TV chefs as a rule, and have only ever bought that original Delia cookbook and one by the ubiquitous Nigella Lawson, but I rarely consult them.  I don't like their style, but for different reasons.  They both irritate me hugely, though I accept that they do what they do well, and are worshipped (I use the word advisedly...) by millions.  I guess I just don't like being told what to do.  I've been cooking for over thirty years, and have gone from reading a recipe and following it verbatim, through consulting a recipe, and following it vaguely, to creating my own recipes, vigourously.  And unwritten.  And containing words like 'slug', 'smidgen' and 'bit'.  Maybe I should write a cookery book...but first, I'm going to make That Cake...

 Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to Spring, to see how my clematis will do after being hacked to the ground by the gardener last autumn.  He swears it will run rampant...I hope he's right; it's one of my favourite flowers.  The cats are keen for Spring Proper, too, and have followed me about all day, asking me to switch the rain off.  Of course, we shouldn't want that, as drought is a real problem for Norfolk, but secretly, I think everyone but the farmers would like a nice day once in a while.  It has cleared up here, after three days of persistent rain, so the cats have shot out of the catflap to do catty things.  Let's hope they come back again...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When In Doubt... cake.  Chocolate is good, undeniably, but cake is marginally better.  I've taken to making a dozen cupcakes, which last us nicely through the week.  The carrot cake aberration, but a tasty one.  To make my cupcakes, I use a Victoria Sponge recipe, using 3 eggs.  I find that's enough to fill twelve muffin cases.  To the basic recipe, I add the grated rind of an orange, and then make orange flavoured icing using some of the juice.  Yum yum; my neighbour, who isn't really very sweet toothed, called them 'refreshing'.  They certainly smell delightfully of orange. 

The carrot cake is an online recipe I found some time ago; search the BBC cookery website and search for 'Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake'.  I have to say, the cake tastes better than the title sounds...   The last time I made it, I substituted allspice for the cinnamon and nutmeg, put in a handful of raisins and some sour cherries.  That was delicious.  This time, I've added a handful of raisins and some dried cranberries, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that comes out.  This lot should keep us going until the middle of next week...unless we're deluged by visitors, of course.  That doesn't happen much, but I did promise to take a couple to a friend for coffee...twice... that's four down, eight to go...

Saturday, 25 February 2012


I think the world divides rather nicely into two camps...those who do housework, and those who don't.  Though, more correctly, perhaps, it's a continuum, along which we all slide.  At each extreme, the slob and the house  proud.  It slides along from slob to lazy to disinterested to vaguely interested to meaning well to keeping things clean to keeping things tidy to house proud.  People vary in their ability to see what needs to be done.  I see lots of things that need doing, but I don't always actually do them.  Others just won't see what needs to be done.  Or will brandish their inabilities, proudly, like bright flags, as in 'You know, I've never been able to work out how to use the washing machine (which we've had for five years)'. 

Today is turning into a domestic day.  The washing machine is on, the dishwasher too, and I'm contemplating the ironing (though may not get any further than that...).  I've got the kitchen to clean, the floor to do.  It's a never ending list.  As soon as that floor is done, the cats will parade over it with muddy paws, or someone, usually me, will spill something, and it's away again.  The clothes get worn, the dishes reused.  It never ends.

Victorian ladies who sat on chaise longues and sewed had servants, of course.  No wonder they could do intricate needlework.  They were fed, watered, looked after and generally pampered.  If I want to be pampered, I have to do it myself, and the best I can do right this minute is to head out for the studio.  It's not tidy either, but at least I'll have fun in there...

Friday, 24 February 2012

There's The Good News...

which is that Robin started a temporary job today, which will bring in some much needed cash.  We're far from living on the poverty line... we did that when we were first married, and believe  me, I know the difference.  If it hadn't been for Robin's parents, we would have struggled enormously.  Just in case you were thinking that I don't know what I'm talking about.  But, of course, the more income you have, the more commitments, too... like mortgages.  Children aren't cheap, either, not even grown up ones.  

The bad news... well, you would think I would be delighted, wouldn't you.  Instead, the demon depression is snarling at my heels.  We are, of course, not out of the woods yet by any means.  But it is typical of me to go through difficult times, ignoring how I feel, and then have it all slap me in the face when things get a bit easier.  Still, there are lots of benefits to the position we're in at present, many of them revolving around food... no surprises there, huh?  My banana bread has improved in leaps and bounds.  I've created a number of interesting soups.  And I discovered a carrot cake recipe to die for... so there are bonuses. 

Nothing is ever as black as it feels.  And these things pass...particularly feelings.  To help the bad ones along, I'm going to go play in the studio this afternoon.  The fact that I don't feel like it, is proof that I should be doing it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Togetherness... wonderful in theory.  This is the longest time Robin has ever been out of work, and it's proving to be...interesting.  It's nice to have him at home.  It's just that I like a lot of quiet time on my own, and it feels weird to have someone else in the house, hogging the PC (thank goodness I didn't listen to him, and bought a laptop last year, or I wouldn't be able to blog!) and interrupting the work at odd moments, usually the moments where you really wanted to be concentrating on whatever it was.  It does, however, make me wonder how he will cope when he retires.  I have a lot of things to do, arguably too many.  Robin, though, like many men (I won't say most, though I wonder if that is true...) focusses strongly on his work, and other than going to the fooball, has very little in the way of hobbies.  Once you've trawled the internet for hours, applied for jobs and talked to agencies on the phone, for even more hours, what do you do? 

The first time Robin lost his job, we bought some paint, and he started to paint the living room.  He immediately started getting a lot of phone calls, and he ended up in a job, with the living room only half finished.  This time, he has repainted the (very tiny) downstairs loo, but clearly that wasn't enough to interest the employment gods.  Interestingly, though, when he took to his bed with a migraine, he got three calls on the trot about possible temporary jobs.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, perhaps, he doesn't get migraines very often.  Not sure how to feel about that...

This does, however, give me a profound respect for couples who live and work together.  I don't think I'd work well with Robin, and vice versa, yet friends of ours manage that level of togetherness with ease.  One couple is completely devoted...the other two seem to thrive on scrapping with each other.  Each way works for them.  I think we're somewhere in the middle.  I also think Ill be working in the studio at the bottom of the garden next week.  I daren't ask Robin how he feels about it all, but I suspect he might enjoy the break!

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Way To A Man's Heart...

...has traditionally been through his stomach.  So, as I can't go out and buy a present, I thought that I would bake a cake.  I've had the heart shaped tin for ages, but have rarely ever used it, except at Christmas.  But today was the day, whilst he was at the acupuncturist.  Today was also the day for orange cupcakes; orange rind in the batter, freshly squeezed orange juice in the icing.  Yum.  And the soup is made for the week, and pizza is in the oven (home made, of course).  I'm not obsessed with food, honest...I just like to eat a lot!  And home made is always best.

So...what have you got your sweetie for Valentine's?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Problem With Depression...

...or one of them anyway, is that you have a tendency to not do stuff.  That'll wait til later... I can't be bothered... I'll fail, anyway... It's procrastination gone mad.  And I use the word advisedly.  I suffer from procrastination; I think we all do.  When I'm depressed, though, everything becomes pointless, so nothing gets done. 

The upside of Robin being out of work, though, is that it provides an imperative.  I'm not buying convenience foods or anything that's expensive, for that matter, so if I don't cook, we don't eat.  And whilst I do have a repertoire of 'instant' meals, you get sick of the same thing over and over.  So I got a grip, cleaned the kitchen and made cake.  What else would you expect me to do?  Oh, I also made soup, and slow cooked a chicken until it melts in the mouth...but it's really the cake that does it.  In particular, I made a lovely carrot cake (the banana bread was okay, you understand, but not a patch on the carrot cake).  It's nearly all gone, of course...visitors and the two of us have put paid to all of it barring two slices, which are earmarked for tonight's tea.

Somehow, getting one thing moving in one part of your life, helps you to get other bits moving, particularly if you give it a bit of a gentle shove.  Yesterday was not a good day, but I made myself start clearing out the conservatory, which has been suffering from 'do it in another lifetime' syndrome.  Since I want to move Big Bertha out of the studio and into said conservatory, I need to make space for her.  More about that on the other blog; Bertha, if you didn't know, is my large scale Epson printer.  It felt like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, but I managed a little bit of it.  Today, I've got stuck in and have got half the room rearranged, with a perfect space for Bertha created.  I've moved my fabric around (the conservatory houses my fabric for dyeing), folding it up and making more space.  Things are slowly looking up.

And, of course, as I'm doing this, I'm seeing interesting things and thinking interesting thoughts.  As the depression fog lifts, my mind turns to what I need to do to get active and make some money.  I've been talking about getting stuff onto etsy for months...maybe now it's time to do it.    All of these things combined, make me feel better still.  As they say, a thousand mile journey begins with the first step.  No matter how wrong it might feel, the more I do, the better I feel.  I prophesy a return to regular blogging...  

Monday, 23 January 2012

Here We Go Again.

I'm in a bit of a state.  A year ago, my lovely husband took what seemed to be the perfect job.  And it was, on paper.  A year later, he could no longer bear to work there, for reasons I won't go into here, and handed in his notice.  He finished on 31 December, and has not been able to find more work.  Anyone looking for a good Finance Director anywhere in the UK, please feel free to shout out!

So... we have roughly £60 a week coming in until he gets another job, or six months passes, whichever comes first.  This has happened before, so we know how to handle it, but I thought I would record my attempts to save money, make do and mend and all those lovely things that we promise ourselves we will do when it's not strictly necessary, and immediately start to do when it is.

I've started by cooking up a storm; this has halved our food bill.  I think this is probably the most straightforward contribution I can make to our joint finances.  No convenience food of any kind, less meat, more veg, and home made cake and biscuits (this week, it's banana bread).   Strictly speaking, the cake etc is not necessary, but everybody has to have a little sweetness in their lives...  And the challenge is to use everything up... no throwing out.  At the moment, there's not all that much in my fridge, but I made fish pie yesterday, and made enough for two meals.  The tomato sauce I made to mix the fish into, I made a double amount of, and that is waiting in a container for me to make pizza.  There's some pork mince, some of which will be cooked with doughballs, and some as a chilli. 

Not throwing anything out means using the disasters, too.  I made some flapjacks with maple syrup,which didn't work too well, and crumbled as I took them out of the pan (note to self, leave overnight before removing from pan...the ones I had abandoned came out beautifully this morning, sigh.)  So, I made too much custard yesterday (that was to go with the remains of a chocolate and maple syrup sponge which I'd made from stuff in the storecupboard).  I've mixed that with a little creme fraiche and the remains of the  lemon curd I made at Christmas (no more of that, it's an indulgence...) Then I stirred the flapjack crumbs into the mix.  It tastes very nice...very rich, certainly, so small portions are on the cards, which means it will go further...hurrah.

I've applied for a couple of jobs, though given that I've been out of the job market for some time, it seems unlikely I'll get anything.  So, just in case things get out of hand, and we have to sell the house, I'll be doing the other half of my domestic diva impression, and finishing off all the jobs that I should probably have done years ago...and hopefully get rid of my son's possessions...which would give me a lot more room to play with!  So watch this space for more wittering about downsizing, repairing and generally tarting up...