Guest Post – Shelley

D Day…

It was a normal sort of day, I’d got up after a restless night of new ideas early, well early as is the norm when you live with two five year olds, a husband and a hungry cat.

The children were lively this morning which always makes for an interesting ride. A combination of tiredness and the fact they’d eaten too many sugar puffs. I dressed them, combed their hair and found their shoes while making a mental note to polish them at some point. I didn’t feel anxious but rather a little apprehensive as I drove them to school to deposit them for a day of free babysitting.

Once back in the car, my thoughts turned to the day ahead. My tummy had butterflies, not the little fluttery kind but the kind you see in museum drawers from tropical shores. Today was the day that I was to return to listen to my mental health assessment. My psychologist was a lovely lady but it didn’t stop me wondering what lay ahead as I boarded a train to the big city. In my bag was my packed lunch and large notebook which I had taken to carrying everywhere for my next idea. I had lots of ideas, usually at 4am in the morning and usually that came to nothing.

Once on the train, I sat by where the doors were opening so I could feel the cool air at each station in an attempt to reduce my anxiety. I amused myself by writing people’s life stories in my head as they got on and off the train.
Once in the big city, I made my way up what seemed like endless escalators to emerge into a bright sunny day. The city was extra busy today as the schools were on half term and the incessant chatter of little people was everywhere. It held some attraction for me, especially if I was having a busy head day. I made my way down Bold Street, which amused me as today I felt anything but bold! Glancing at the time on my phone, I realised I was ridiculously early, not my best record but not far off. I’d reserved that honour for a two hour earliness in a car park in Colwyn Bay some months earlier. I was early enough to wander into a cathedral across the road for a few moments of quiet before my appointment. I’d been into the cathedral many times, but it still took my breath away when I looked up at the amazing stained glass windows and quiet yet ginormous open space.

I found a coffee shop and sat for half an hour, enjoying the stillness and quiet in the middle of the big noisy city. All too quickly my time was up, I went into the bathroom and caught sign of my own reflection in the mirror. Would I be different after today? Would I still recognise myself? I came to the conclusion that whatever today held, I would still be me, still hold the same values and beliefs and hopefully people would still love me for that.

To get to this point had been no mean feat, I’d tried over the years to access mental health services but consistently came up against the same barriers, “You can’t be ill cause you’re still in work” “But you seem like such a happy person!” To have to fight for something when you feel least like fighting is the hardest thing. 17 years after I had first presented at my GPs with depression and anxiety I was finally being listened to.

88 Rodney Street was a grand Georgian house and as I walked into the reception area, I was greeted by dark oak panelled walls and chandeliers, in stark contrast to my everyday life!

I didn’t wait long before I was called into room eighteen, a consulting room on the top floor of the building behind a physiotherapist and a back specialist.

I recalled the room from the previous appointment when I had completed all my assessment forms. As I settled into the wing back leather armchair I began to listen to my life contained in 5 sides of A4 paper. It was strange to hear, being reminded of my over reactions to everyday events, my depressive moments, and my times when I had been so low I had thought there was no way out of my black hole. I squirmed a little as it was read out. My psychologist luckily recognised I was having difficulty with the waiting so in an effort to reduce my anxiety, at the end of the first page, she paused and said; “I believe Shelley to be bipolar” She paused after she had said it and asked me what I thought. I expressed my relief at there finally being a word I could associate with and waited for my reaction to her diagnosis. But there wasn’t a reaction. The room was silent, I felt relieved but other than that I was ok.

I wasn’t devastated at being a little bit different to the general populace, I hadn’t fizzled up into a few grains of sand and I was still sat in the same wing back arm chair. The cars outside hadnt paused in response to my diagnosis and the sun was still shining through the Georgian windows. An unbelievable stillness come over me and I think for the first time ever, I felt something that may have been contentment or hope. I continued to listen to my assessment and finally made my way out of room to step back out into the street.

I wandered down the street of Georgian town houses that were once elegant homes. They were almost all consulting rooms that had sprung up in response to our modern illnesses and wondered how I would have been treated years previously.

I was the great grand daughter of a man who had spent 15 years in bed, a man who had gambled away his family’s inheritance on nags and dogs before hiding from the world. He was one of the lucky ones, he had a family who loved him so much they cared for him for fifteen years, while the unlucky ones were sent away to live in secure institutions for the rest of their lives. As I turned a corner, I thanked my lucky stars that I lived in 2013. A time when people were beginning to challenge stigma and discrimination around mental ill health, not that it was anywhere near perfect but it was a good start.

Twelve months previously I had become a volunteer for Time to Change Wales. As an educator I went out to talk to people about my experiences of mental ill health. I had had many different reactions, mostly positive but there were still the odd instance where I would hear the audience discussing the merits of keeping “people like that” in secure medical hospitals.

Who did they mean? People like my great grandad? People like the many thousands of others who overcome mental ill health on a daily basis? People like me?

Two weeks post diagnosis and I still feel incredibly relieved more than anything. I believe people around me have struggled to come to terms with my diagnosis much more than I have. Maybe for a fear of change, fear of the future for them and me. Maybe I’m wrong and my diagnosis hasn’t sunk in yet, but I do firmly believe it is a part of my personality, it’s what makes me, me, and hopefully as I learn to understand it, I can become more confident in my own abilities.

Ultimately I believe that from understanding will come acceptance and at the end of the day if I can look in a mirror and the reflection looking back is me, I’m doing ok. (Well, assuming its a good day!)

Until then, I’ll carry on wearing purple knickers every day, writing a novel a week and embracing my individuality.

Shelley Moorfield

Shelley can be found on twitter here

Why Having Something to Look Forward to is Important

I spoke before about my targets for 2013 here and one of them was paying it forward to help other people.

With that in mind I have volunteered to attend the Time To Change Stereo Hype festival taking place in 2 weeks. I have been assigned to speak to people attending about mental health and it is something I am both excited and nervous about in equal measure!

Here is what I have in store..

Volunteer at the event

Getting African and Caribbean communities talking about mental health.

Stereo-Hype will take place at London’s Stratford Circus on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 January 2013. We’re looking for volunteers with lived experience of mental health problems to help us!

This two-day festival of performance, talks and creative arts is being run with and for people from African and Caribbean communities, and aims to start conversations about mental health and wellbeing. We particularly want people from African and Caribbean communities in east London to join us.

Volunteers will help us to encourage new understanding and challenge stereotypes around mental illness by talking to people about their experiences of mental health problems. There will be a range of roles for you to choose from, including a limited number helping us manage the event. Also roles speaking about your personal experience of mental health problems.  Full training will be provided.

 

obviously I am not African-Caribbean but this is by the by, it is an opportunity for me to speak to people about mental health and this is all part of the year of the Moose in helping others.

I am fortunate in the sense that I am comfortable speaking to people in most situations (usually shutting me up is the problem), I am happy to talk about my depression around people because I hope it gives other people the courage to do the same. Imagine if I spoke to one person, they spoke to another and so on – this is my motivation.

The big thing for me though is that I have something planned for the future, I will be going out and helping others as well as myself. I find that having something to look forward to works wonders for my depression.

Knowing I HAVE to go out and attend the event because I was selected as a volunteer gives me something to look forward to. It gives me a chance for 2 days of getting out instead of staring at the same four walls everyday and the days merging into another.

Every day brings a different challenge with depression so having a date in my diary gives me the chance to stay positive and aim for something!

This is vital when battling depression, knowing that something different is happening or going to happy, breaking the monotony of each day. Speaking from my own experience I know how much my mood improves just by going out and meeting people. As hard as it is to fight the urges to cancel, pull out at the last minute or no show it really is something I recommend to anyone with depression.

I’m even meeting a good Facebook buddy of mine in February so I am working hard to get out and about! And as we know how hard it is for me with my IBS issues to leave the house if I can do it then what is stopping you?

Naturally, what works for me is not going to work for others but have you at least given it a try? Hell I’m only on the end of the central line if you want to give it a try!

Get out, even for a few hours and it has the chance to make improvements in mood. Yet even if that fails at least you can say you have got out of the house and attempted something different!