So I thought it might be a good idea to tell you all about this journey of discovery into my depression and what my symptoms were and how things came to the point at which I find myself today.
Back in May of this year I didn't really think things were any different to how they had been for many years. Busy times as a single working parent, juggling my responsibilities as a working adult with my full time caring duties as a single parent to a nine year old daughter.
When you're on your own even small ups and downs in the road of life can often become quite overwhelming and my life was no different to a lot of other peoples in this vain. Money problems, concerns about your children's discipline and diet, guilt about juggling work against child care. Family worries and emotional support being called upon from others. Relationships with co-workers and inter-office politics. Pets and their problems. Household chores and gardening. Shopping and saving money or trying to for holidays and so on and so on. My point I guess is there seems to be a never ending list of things to stress you, things that need worrying about. If you're not careful these seemingly minor things can all clump together like a knot in a child's hair and become insurmountable problems that seem impossible to detangle and deal with. Then you keep going, keep fighting often for years and years. All the time you keep dragging that proverbial comb through the hair until it finally and permanently it snags in the knot and there's no going back. Everything stops.
The comb is stuck good and fast and no amount of wriggling or jiggling or pulling on it will shift it unless you finally address the tangles and the condition of the hair!
The hair 'my life' I guess got to that point in May. The comb finally snagged and everything stopped. I desperately tried to pull the comb free but it just broke off leaving me with no way forward but to deal with my life and the issues therein. In May I started to feel physically very poorly, I had acute dizziness like a travel sickness. the world would spin and I had to hold on to things to walk around. My head felt like it was in a nut cracker. Physically painful and under constant pressure. It hurt and made me physically sick if I ignored the pain and tried to carry on. I started doing odd things and my memory and ability to recall things in the short term seemed to vanish. I'd leave cooking rings on, make two cups of tea having forgotten I'd only just made one. Park in a free zone yet text the car park a payment despite being no where near it. My body ached all over like having flu and my hands and feet kept going numb with pins and needles. Fatigue, I felt dragging tiredness. The smallest outing or event left me struggling to keep my eyes open and this still hasn't changed of yet.
I went to my GP on a Monday and outlined my symptoms. He determined that I had a tension headache and gave me some strong pain killers for my head. By the Friday I was struggling big time with the power of the headache, it hurt so bad I wanted to wrap it in cotton wool and hide in a box. I went back to the GP. This time he scared the life out of me by saying perhaps I had a brain bleed? He called me an ambulance, refused to let me leave and left me sobbing and in a complete panic. This was 10am on a Friday morning.
I live alone with my daughter and two dogs. I had walked out the door that morning thinking I'd be back in an hour. I had to arrange dog care, someone to pick up my daughter from school and be loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital. No one to call to give me moral support, all alone and terrified. When we arrived at A&E the questions started and I was moved to an observation ward.
During that day I had a CT Scan of my head and blood tests but other than that was left alone in a bed. No food or drink, small amount of money on me. Stranded away from home with no transport and worried sick what my little girl would think when someone else's mum picked her up and told her I was in hospital. My mobile battery was ebbing away slowly but surely and I had no charger. All in all I lay there scared, alone and sobbing to myself for hours and hours. The CT scan was clear and the relief was amazing. My ex then brought my daughter to see me (under duress I might add) and I just wanted to collapse and be the needy one. She had packed me an overnight bag herself and that and the random contents made me smile. But I just wanted a hug and to be given some love but she clearly needed the comfort and I remained strong, as always, and gave her the support she clearly needed and tried to be bright and unworried. After ten minutes they went away again as it was by now 8pm some 9 hours after my arrival and they had decided to do a lumbar puncture of my spine to rule out meningitis. Watching my daughter leave and feeling the loneliness and emptiness return was like a punch in the guts and I just wanted to sob but the doctor was there straight away to stick a giant needle in my spine and tap my spinal fluid. Ouch that hurts! After the lumbar puncture I was instructed to lie flat for a couple of hours. One hour without moving at all and then after that I could go to the toilet but should return straight to bed. So after an hour at 9.30pm I got up and went to the toilet. I was hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely and generally pretty low and dejected. But the side ward I was in was now empty, the staff had moved elsewhere and I was bodily alone as well as psychologically. I thought it must have gone past the time of day where I'll be sent home surely? But I wasn't sure and went back to bed to wait out the next hour. I struggled to stay awake but I did and thought I could expect the staff to check on me at the two hour mark.... wrong!
I must have fallen asleep but I was awoken at 0130 hours my a nurse. She roughly shook me awake and before I could really even get my bearing she blurted out the lumbar puncture was clear you can leave now I'll call you a taxi. With that and with me still wiping the sleep from my eyes she walked away. The tears came. I started to panic whether I had enough money for a taxi and started after her asking how much it would be from there to home. She shrugged her shoulders. I also asked what happened now? She seemed confused. I said about my symptoms and why I was here. She shrugged again and said 'see your GP'
Then I started wondering how else I could get home. I couldn't wake friends at this time of the day, the buses weren't running and my back hurt badly from the LP and walking across town in the middle of the night to the station seemed really scary and a bleak prospect. There was no warmth from anyone. No one said I could sit in a room until morning or even in the empty bed for a few more hours. I was being chucked out. In a matter of minutes the taxi arrived and I had to ask him quite shamefully how much it would cost as I wasn't sure I had enough. He was genuinely nice and for the first time all day someone showed me some kindness. He said it would be a set £15 and even offered to take me to my car at the GP's surgery. My back was agony and came on top of the remaining symptoms of a blinding headache, flu like aches and dead hands and feet.
By two thirty in the morning I was home and able to sob in peace. Finally I felt safe if bloody ill. But I was in my cocoon.
The following morning I could barely move but the dogs sitter brought the dogs back and I had to pay her £20 for their one nights stay. (Being ill is costly especially when you're hard up in the first place)
My daughter was returned to me too and there I was right back to having to be strong and pretending all was well in the world for her sake.
I returned to my GP on the Monday but he was away! A nurse practitioner saw me and fobbed my off with some pills and told me to come back and see the GP the following week. Over the next couple of weeks he ran various series' of tests but everything came back as negative, except for a neck x-ray showing I had cervical spondylitis, and a blood test that showed at some point unbeknown to me I had had glandular fever. After a couple of weeks though he decided the only way forwards was to refer me for a neurology consultant appointment on an urgent referral due to the continued headaches. It was a shock when the appointment came through as the 28th August! Three months away....urgent?! So after that point I just waited and waited.
Work got cross and started the UPP process as previously discussed on earlier blogs and I continued to feel horrible.
They of course referred me to occupational health and the doctor there was actually really supportive and nice. He however was the first person to hands on physically examine me and he found a lump in my throat and asked me to get my GP to follow up on that!
The neurology appointment finally arrived, seven days after my step mum finally died of cancer and he was a stand offish misery of a guy who didn't have time for me. he stated very quickly that he thought it was a tension headache which swung me right back to day 1 at the GP! I had a tantrum, burst in to tears and left the consultation rapidly. I had pinned three months worth of hopes in him telling me something was tangibly wrong. I was crushed. I wanted vindication for the way I'd been feeling. I wanted a name for my illness. I sat in the hospital car park sobbing again.
My GP kept coming back to stress and I kept arguing vehemently against it. I had physical symptoms. I had been feeling atrocious for months. How could this all be stress? I was referred to the ENT department for my neck lump and on again for an ultrasound. Again that proved negative as the lump was connected to my cervical spondylitis.
Eventually a colleague and friend from work sat me down and tentatively suggested that for the UPP process it would do me some favours to have a diagnosis as there were murmurings a foot that I was swinging the lead and skiving. In reality I think she was actually saying look inside yourself, look in the mirror, look at your tangled hair and the comb stuck there!! I felt cornered, caught and like an animal in the headlights.
But the more I thought on her words the truer they became and finally I when I went back to the GP and I said I think it may possibly be depression? A wry knowing smile decorated his face and he looked like someone that had known for ages but who had been waiting for me to catch up with the truth. He prescribed some anti-depressants and a sick note that runs out this Monday. Sadly this realisation probably came to late for me to tackle it's implications effectively as I think I probably needed longer in this knowledge to take the counselling (I'm on a 6-12 week waiting list) and get more equipped to go back and face the world. But as half pay looms at the six month mark of being off work I simply have no choice but to go back to work.
I'm still struggling with my physical symptoms.
I'm still dog tired for doing very little.
I'm still very fragile mentally........ but I guess the comb is finally free and I perhaps can always go and buy myself some detangling spray?!
Dread wells in my guts and there's the familiar panicky lump in my throat as next week looms :-(