Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

Adjusting (or not)

I find it difficult to get used to this place. The next door neighbor is a single mum with three young kids, and from my point of view the kids are out of control, the whole family constantly screaming at each other (and worse on occasion). Though her youngest and mine rarely play together- the pervasiveness of their life is starting to affect my kids. Rafe, who is normally incredibly good natured, has started screaming at me. I have long learned how to handle that type of behaviour and can nip it in the bud with a stern word of warning, but it disturbs me just the same. My daughter,11, occasionally plays with the other girls on the street, and afterwards she is belligerent, demanding and snotty. Trying to manage these new behaviours is demanding as they are not part of my kids normal makeup, and are the result of influence. I find that I have to be even more strict than usual and can’t let them get away with it for a second. My eldest is son is thankfully not yet affected, he is not allowed to hang out with the few boys his age on the street as I know they smoke and drink. He’d like to go to the skatepark but the kids there are nasty little cretins and Dev finds that instead of just being able to play, he has to spend his whole time arguing or standing up for himself. Never mind that he is bigger than the kids and could easily lay them out if he decided to let them have it, that’s not in his genetic makeup and I think they see that.

The nights are difficult. Though we are fairly tucked away, our road is some sort of bus through-fare and they come and go at all hours. People come and go all night as well, usually loud and drunkenly. The dogs of the neighbourhood wake me up early every morning with collective howling and barking. During the day the street is full of kids, normally just playing, but when the neighbor kids are about you can be sure their mother will turn up soon and they will all start screaming again, usually just outside our windows. The little one, only 6, will inevitably start crying and there will be more screaming and I end up pacing the floor, wondering what I can do and usually just taking my kids to the park so they don’t have to listen to it anymore. Once I could hear her sobbing through the walls with occasional screaming at the kids and I gathered up all my courage and went over to ask if I could help, maybe by taking her kids to the park or something, she pretended not to be there, and when I pressed said she was fine, thank you.

Her behaviour disturbs me, especially as I worry about her kids, and the effect on mine, and initially I was very judgemental about her. I softened though when I remembered being a single mother for 8 years with two kids, one of which would later be diagnosed with a “social communication disorder”, which just means he screamed a lot as a kid, and occasionally jumped out of moving cars on busy roads because he couldn’t control his anger. It took me a few years to get the hang of this parenting stuff, and I remember being so hard on my son for silly things. I want to help my new neighbour, but she clearly does not want my help. She struts around the neighbourhood, wine class in hand, screaming at her kids or sobbing about some transgression to the adolescent girls that make up her entourage. I find myself less sympathetic and understanding and more irritated and disgusted. When the screaming starts I twitch the curtains, worried she will strike one of the children and knowing that if, when, it happens I will not be able to stay out of it anymore. My family knows this, and while I don’t think they would truly want me to stand back if she were beating them, I know they want me to be quiet, mind my own business, not get involved. I feel embarrassed that they feel this way, that I am some big mouth always getting involved in things that they don’t think concern me. I feel ashamed of them, too. We once came across a man and a woman fighting in the back of the van at a red light. We could see him punching her, could see the blood on her face and clothes. Instinctively I got out of the car, started to shout at them but was dragged back in by the sounds of my family shouting at me. I knew it could end up with me being hurt and didn’t want my kids to see that, so I got back in, and called the police instead. I thought perhaps I had taught my kids an important lesson that night, but now I wonder. Could it be that I am raising kids, and am married to a man, who can stand back and do nothing while others are hurt or treated badly and worse, believe that is better somehow than getting involved?

I long for our detached house in the tiny little cul-de-sac, where the cats could sleep all day on the road outside without ever being disturbed, where the nights were mostly silent and the only noise on a Sunday morning are the church bells in town, which I opened my windows wide to, so that we could hear them better, especially in the winter, when they chime Christmas carols.

trapped

I feel… trapped. Imprisoned. My chains? No, not the children. Not even the husband. Religion? Nope. Gender? Not in the west in 2011. So, why? How can I feel trapped? I have a roof over my head, food in my ample belly. Opportunities that women in other countries can only dream of. How can I feel trapped?

I think to myself that I am limited by my bank account, that I want to get on a boat or a train and see the world, I want my only limits to what I can do, to what my family can do, to be our imaginations. I think I want to grab life by the horns and live it to the absolute fullest and if only I had a few million in the bank, I could.

Other days I don’t want that at all, I want nothing more than a big house in the country, surrounded by fields and to spend my days pottering around my large kitchen, or lounging in my library, reading or writing. Having huge holiday celebrations and family reunions and just…living a good, content, full life.

Alas, both options require money. I am not sure why my life in its current state cannot content me. My children are healthy, intelligent, beautiful. My husband is caring and loyal. Even on the days when the cupboard and the fridge is full, there is plenty of money in the bank account, the bills are paid and my hair is clean and shiny, I still feel…unfulfilled. As if something is missing and I can’t work out what it is. A sense of purpose? Perhaps. Security? Independence? Perhaps.

I feel as if I am living constantly in the house of cards my teenage son constructed this summer, stuck at home with a broken leg and a pack of cards I had just handed him. He had never built one before and even the slightest hint of a breath would send it tumbling to the floor. I can’t get that feeling out of my head. Every day I become more certain that I never will. No matter how successful I might ever become, or how much money amasses in my bank account, no matter what great things my children persue in their lives, I fear that I will never escape that feeling of everything tumbling down around me at the slightest hint of a breath. That no matter how many pills I take or counseling I have, I will never feel happy with myself or my life.

I wonder why this is? Is it because I was unhappy as a child? Bullied incessantly at school and disliked at home? Have I become conditioned to feel this way? Certain that any feeling of happiness or pleasure is a sign of a great wind bearing down on my house of cards. Is it because there is some fundamental glitch in my programming?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, only that as I get older (Hello, 30! See you soon!) they become more pressing, more relevant. I wonder if it is perhaps a part of growing up, and that perhaps I will grow out of it, as indeed I grew out of my “I know everything, nobody can tell me what to do, it’s MY life so fuck off” teenage years.

On the bad days, the ones where for whatever reason I have found myself lying in bed at 11am, sobbing uncontrollably, the black hole in my chest absorbing light and life and threatening to consume every ounce of me, I find myself wanting nothing more then to go home.

“I want to go home.” I sob in to my husband’s chest hair, helpless and small and wishing I could melt into him, not understanding why I’m saying it, why my heart is feeling it. There is nothing left for me there. I think if I were to die suddenly I would not want to be returned there, to travel 6000 miles in a box and be buried so far from the people that love me the most, so why do I long to be back there in my darkest days? Perhaps what is calling to me is the desert which I love so much, the free and open spaces where I could never feel trapped or confined, where I could climb a mountain and watch the sunrise over the peaks and cactus. Even standing on the shores of Great Britain, gazing into the Atlantic Ocean, where there is nothing but sea and sky before me, I feel trapped. An island full of unfamiliar people behind me, a vast inhospitable sea before me.

I wonder if I will ever leave this country again, if I will ever leave behind the feeling of being imprisoned and lost within myself.

Seriously, my kitchen is a disaster area.

“I can’t.”

Oh, I can’t even tell you the amount of times I have uttered those two little words in my mind over the last six months or so. I can’t. is what makes me retreat to my bed and curl up under my big fluffy duvet and close my eyes, sometimes sleeping, sometimes crying, sometimes just… laying. Not studying, not writing the assignments that are majorily overdue, not sorting out my kitchen which is still in post move chaos.

I suppose things are not so bleak as previously. I smile and laugh with my children, and enjoy our evening strolls.  I get up early, much as I did before…all this… and the baby and I water the flowers and make breakfast and it is nice. But when the children have gone to school or out to play and the husband is busy and I am faced with the neccessity of working, I freeze up. I can’t. I just can’t.     I make halfhearted efforts to whip the kitchen into shape and congratulate myself when I have cleared some counter space, only to feel dejected when just 12 hours later, it is a mess again. I get out the textbooks and do some reading, but after about 5 pages, realize I have no idea what is being discussed and no understanding of the concepts being explained. I start work on a research report, now 2 months overdue, and freeze 10 words in. I just don’t know what to write, or how to write it.

My doctor told me I had severe depression (what does that even mean?) and that my brain wasn’t working right and I needed to take a break from my studies. I couldn’t bear to do that, so I kept on, and now I’m in a gigantic hole that I can’t seem to climb out of.

This degree means so much to me and I am so dearly afraid it is slipping out of my grasp. At some point after my husband hung my whiteboard over my desk, my kids and my husband wrote messages on it. They say “You can do it!”  “You know you can do it, silly!” “PASS!” and lots of smiley faces.   When I saw that for the first time, my heart leapt. I am so so lucky to have them. They believe in me, and they love me and I don’t want to let them down. Yet, that seems to be the only thing I feel I actually can do at the moment.

I am here. I feel a bit like I’m glued to the seat of the roundabout in my kids favorite park. Just endlessly spinning round and round, dizzy and unable to focus on anything. But, I am here.

And, I have chocolate.

 

 

"If just one person believes in you, deep enough and strong enough..."

I can’t.

If there were ever two words to describe what depression feels like.

– Dooce.com

A freaking plus (or my 305th post, according to wordpress, wahoo!, or five years of blogging and 305 posts is all I’ve managed, christ, I really am lazy.)

So, I’m feeling much better on the meds. Functioning even. Yet, after three hours of working on a developmental psychology essay on the developing brain, I have only managed the following 49 words.

“The brain. The brain. The fucking brain is made up of 100000000000 (that’s one hundred billion if you can’t be assed to count all those fucking zeros) neurons that start out life as one big jiggling mass of nothingness, eventually sorting themselves the fuck out. This is cool. It’s called self-organization which is better than anything I can fucking manage. Good job, neurons.”

Yeah. Still not quite got the mojo back, then…

Burn Out

A few months ago something started to happen that I wasn’t expecting. I stopped caring about my psychology degree. It was like I had been racing along my degree track, working at furious pace to get my degree next year, really enjoying my two current courses and suddenly ran headlong into a brick wall. I just didn’t care anymore at all. I’d sit and stare at the computer for hours, meaning to write an essay, or do some research and I’d open up a document or log into the search facility only to realize suddenly that at some point I’d switched to facebook and had been staring at that for 20 minutes. I stopped going to the library cold, it’s been two months at least since I’ve been, and I used to go five days a week and spend three hours there studying. I’ve had extensions for my last four assignments and only completed them by staying up and working through the night before and the entire day they were due.

My son had broken his leg and there was the eviction and money worries and of course all the other stuff going on in a family of five and I was finding this feeling of not caring was becoming usual. Poor attitudes or behaviour from my children which I would never normally put up with, I’d shrug my shoulders at. I couldn’t muster up any interest in anything, my kitchen whiteboard had the same information on it for three weeks at one point. And then I started crying. I’d be completely unmoved by anything for days, and then I’d wake up morning feeling like the whole world was crashing down on me and I just wanted to go home and crawl into my own bed 6000 miles away and sob and sob. (Which is funny because my mom sold that bed, which I loved, ages ago) I’d be walking through the grocery store, robotically picking up every piece of junk food there, not even realizing it and occasionally turning to my husband and standing in the middle of the aisle crying as he held me.

I could see that something was wrong, really very wrong so I finally went to my doctor who, obviously, diagnosed me with depression and gave me the British or generic or whatever version of Prozac and told me to take a 2 month extension on all my course work and come back in two weeks. I promised I would. But, you can’t take two month extensions on OU course work, that would put me two months behind on my next two assignments as well, not to mention putting me smack dab in the middle exam revision time. I was afraid that telling the OU would be disastrous- would they insist I drop my courses? Take a sabbatical? Would it delay getting my degree? So, I kept quite. And I didn’t go back to my doctor, because she would ask about the extensions and what would I say?

I took the pills, and after the third week stopped taking them, I don’t know why, it started with just forgetting and I kept on forgetting. Now I feel like I’m back where I was a month ago. Staring at the computer, knowing I have a huge project due, but not able to do anything. Not caring. Knowing I have another assignment due for my other course, but I haven’t even cracked the new books on that one yet. The whiteboard in my kitchen has the same stuff on it that it did last week. I wander through the grocery store, blindly picking up crap, only to be humiliated when I get to the checkout and discover I have tarts, cakes, cookies, makings for chocolate cream pie, and ice cream piled up on the belt.

I’m not sure what this is, perhaps the equivalent of the runners wall. I know I was better after I’d been on the pills for a couple of weeks, so they must have been helping, and I know I need to get back to the doctor and sort it out. But, I’m worried. Am I sabotaging my degree? How will I break through this? Why is it happening? Is it just a temporary wall? Am I truly burned out? Is it just biological- depression, fucked up neurotransmitters in my brain?

I feel awful, and I tear myself down. I’m lazy, not dedicated, irresponsible, not cut out for it. Then I cry, then I just stay away from it. Avoid the computer, the books completely. Then it all starts again. I wish I knew who to talk to about it, I wish I knew someone who had been through a similar time and could hold my hand through it. I feel like I’m throwing my degree away and I can’t stop myself.

Greed and Anger and the cruelty of eviction.

2010 was a hard year for me. 2011 was a chance for things to be better, a fresh start in a new year. Unfortunately, 2011 was doomed from the start. My husband lost his job early on, I was already not working due to valid personal reasons. We missed a months rent, but within two weeks it was sorted and paid in full. Within that time, and after I’d already explained and made a significant partial payment, my landlord had been at the door screaming about eviction in front of my kids. Please keep in mind that by that point we had lived here two years and had never missed a single rent payment. The next month, it was clear we would not be able to pay in full, we prepared for eviction, but our housing benefit came through and while it wouldn’t pay the full amount each month,it would pay most of it, the shortfall being less than £200. The one month back rent was paid, with even the difference paid by us. Technically we were not behind anymore. Yet, our landlord came to us, verbally abused us, called me stupid, and threw an eviction notice in my face and screamed at us about the “condition of the house” (normal ware and tear to the carpets and the crappy to begin with kitchen cupboards, which I have complained about three times). The benefits coming in do not cover even our normal expenses, and we certainly can’t pay the excess rent each month, so I understand his right to evict us.

What infuriates me is his complete unwillingness to work with us for even a few months while I find a job and D gets some training to qualify him for something new. His unwillingness to admit that we are not the months behind with our rent that he has claimed we are to the council and that we can prove it. His abusive and horrible attitude, his coldheartedness. We have three young children, we have lived here without incident for over two years, we are trying to get back on our feet. He is getting his money, every month. Yet, almost every week he turns up and insults and treats us like trash, demands to know when he will get his money (I only assume he means the difference between monthly rent and our benefit) and when we will get out of the house. Threatens to have his guys force the door and get in (to do what? I’m terrified to ask). I point out that any excess rent due once we have vacated he may take out of our £1250 deposit. He has more or less admitted he did not, as the law demands, protect out deposit when we moved in.

We do not have £2000 sitting around for a new deposit so we’ve had to go begging to the council for emergency housing. They insist we stay here until after the date on our notice, until a court order has been gotten by the landlord and bailiffs are standing on our doorstep, only then will the council step in and get us into a new place.

It is hard to write this, to make it public knowledge. I feel ashamed. Like we are awful people who refuse to pay our rent. We aren’t, we’ve paid our rent on time in this house for over two years, and continue to do so. We paid our rent on time in every house we’ve lived in over the last six years. We’ve worked so hard for the last six years to cope with exorbitant rent, utility, transportation food and clothing costs. We buy the cheapest food, the cheapest clothing. I am studying for a degree, taking as many courses as my university will allow each year to finish as soon as possible. (I should point out that it is only this year I have qualified for financial aid, I have paid for all my courses since 2008 out of pocket) My husband is taking courses, 4 different ones, all in different areas, trying to gain qualifications to get a new job.

So, even though I am ashamed, I am also angry. What’s so wrong with taking a slightly smaller amount of rent for six months, or even a year? What’s so wrong with trying to work with good tenants who are struggling but trying to get back on their feet? What gives a landlord the right to be abusive and cruel? Is it greed? Our landlords actions the last few months have shocked us. Previously we would have said he was a good landlord, if not a bit annoying in his tendency to ignore minor (to him) problems. He has shown his true colours with this, lying to the council about our rent payments and the amount of our rent, lying to us, even accusing us of doing damage to the property which he knows is specified in the inspection as pre-existing to our tenancy. To demand we pay money we categorically do not owe, especially when we paid a large deposit which should cover all rent owing on our departure. What gave him the right to spend that money instead of protecting it as he is required to by law?

I feel broken down by this. I am afraid, first and foremost that the council will not come through for us and we will end up living in our car, if it’s not repossessed first! (Though I am being reassured this will not happen) I am afraid the landlord will force his way in and have our things removed before our notice is up, while we sit and wait for the council to help us. He comes here and only wants to deal with my husband, who is soft spoken and will agree to things he shouldn’t just so the landlord won’t scream and swear at him. I have to be the strong one and I don’t feel strong. I have to stand up and say no to this man who is bigger than me and nasty and cruel to me. I have to tell him to go, and point out that he is lying and that he has not done what he is required to by law. I have to instruct my oldest son that he is not to open the door to the landlord if we are not in.

We asked my inlaws if we could move in with them just while we tried to get back on our feet and they refused. Which is their right of course, but when they have three extra bedrooms and we have offered to pay rent and a share of the utilties and buy and prepare our own food and try to be as little nuisciance as possible, I can’t help but feel aggrieved by this.

I try to hide all of this, I don’t want people to know all our problems, or, worse think badly of us, but my blog is the place where I share my feelings and I can’t keep quite about this anymore. We are being forced out, over a measly £150 a month. Never once did he ask why, or how can I help, or how long do you think it will take to get back on your feet? From day one it was lies and insults and “GET OUT.”

Is that right?

Cornwall 2010

Around this time last year I was not in a good place, and as I watched my settlement money from my unfair dismissal claim quickly dwindle, I knew I needed to get away before it was all gone and I was poor again.

 

So, I made last minute arrangements (as in “Hi, do you have a room free? Great, we’ll be there in 6 hours” kind of arrangements), arranged for the neighbor to keep an eye on the cats who had plenty of food and water and an open window so they could come and go (we live in a quite cul-de-sac and the neighbor would keep an eye on them). We threw all our gear in the car and we went. We spent a week in Cornwall, our 1st favourite place in the UK. We stayed in the former governess quarters of a large Victorian manor house, and spent our days taking long walks, going to the beach, exploring all the wonderful Cornish towns and villages (Mevagissey, Polperro, etc) and just really enjoying being together and not having to worry or stress about anything. (Well, not completely true, I took our big computer with us so I could finish an essay that was due imminently, but by our 3rd day I admitted defeat and arranged an extension instead. Good decision.)

Newquay, 2010 Olivia and Rafe

I love going on holiday with my family. I am glad we had that week in Cornwall last year, and grateful we had the ability to do it. Yes, I’m feeling ragged and tired and another Cornish holiday is exactly what I’m dreaming about right now. But that was a good time, and the memories and the pictures make me happy. So, I’m marking the calendar for next year, and hopefully we’ll be able to take a holiday to celebrate being a family, and not another one hiding from the problems that have been tearing us apart, though even those can offer some solace to a tired soul.

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