What is it about prozac that makes me want to cut all my hair off? The first time I was prescribed it, I did this:
I’ve had a fringe before. I was kinda bullied into it by an over-zealous hairdresser, who charged me a stupid amount and then made me cry. It worked, sometimes, but whenever it rained the edges would curl up and my head would resemble a mop – or a dog of some kind. So, really, I think I knew I couldn’t get a fringe again. Least of all because I promised the Husband not to let me do it again because they’re such a pain to grow out.
But, man, I really wanted one.
Luckily, one of my dearest friends is also genderly-misaligned (I think I made up that phrase, I’m still playing around with how to describe it that will most annoy, without being offensive – that’s the way with friends). This means that I can get girly advice whenever I need it without having to talk to girls, which I find almost impossible. So, Wordman (Wordperson?) talked me out of anything too short, too extreme or too difficult to change as soon as I’m back on my feet and maybe not so mental.
Above is the result. I’m a bit nervous about the sweeping side-parting, but hairdressers have been trying to get me to take a side parting for longer than I can remember, so I let her have a go. And she’s lovely, so I trust her.
In other news… Wordgirl (nah, that sounds too much like street slang) has maybe set up a way to leave comments on this site. Which may, or may not, be a good thing. We’ll see…
The final piece of Ramona’s royal robes arrived this morning from Stickerbods. I’ve always had a thing for daisies; I wanted my parents to call LittleSis Daisy, but they wouldn’t. We made daisies a bit of a theme at our wedding, though I thought a daisy chain head-dress might be overkill.
Now, I have the ultimate daisy bicycle. The decals were really easy to use, and look fairly long-lasting. Excellent quality, and what a great way to spend a morning.
Oooh. Isn’t she pretty?! If only I could leave the house…
I think it’s important to mention from the outset what a staunch supporter of the NHS I am. I have been known to stop lessons – mid powerpoint – to wax lyrical about what a fantastic system it is. To make such grand speeches that it sounds as though I might be trying to whip the students into some sort of ecstatic patriotism about the beauty of free healthcare. I tell them it is the only thing that makes me proud to be British, and that sticks with them since they all read the Daily Mail and fly St George’s flags from their windows. I love the NHS. I love that we have created a workable system to care for those in need. I buy into it one hundred percent and worry for its future.
I went to the doctor in March last year, nearly a year ago. They diagnosed me with depression and put me on the lowest dose of citalopram they could. They sent me away. I went back. They referred me to the hospital for CBT, where I spent two gruesome sessions with a group of people in far worse states than I was and learnt nothing. It didn’t help that the girls running it were several years younger than me and clearly nervous. I think I went into teacher mode, and very soon, they were looking to me for support and encouragement that they were doing a good job, and I was answering all their questions with the answers that I knew were right, because I have read more books on the subject than they can have had time for in their short lives. Don’t give me handouts photocopied from books I read when I was 19.
I went back to the doctors – a different one this time – before December and was given a higher dose. He said he was amazed I’d only been put on 10mg and it was no wonder it was doing no good. No one explained to me what the thought behind any of that was. On the higher dose, I experienced such horrid side effects that I even passed out on one occasion and banged my head pretty hard on the bathroom floor. When I went to them that day, to get them to check me over, no one asked about the medication and I wasn’t in a position to tell them. Surely, if you were checking out an otherwise healthy, young patient after they passed out with no good reason, you would check what medication they were on? Wouldn’t you?
My regular doctor, weeks later, put me down to 10mg again, and sent me away. We didn’t make any plan about when I should return. When I asked, she said “You can come back whenever you want to”. Which was very sweet, but utterly unhelpful.
The Occupational Health nurse I saw in early January asked if I’d ever had blood tests or been referred to a psychiatrist. “No”, I said, despite the fact that I have been seeing different doctors, on and off, for depression since I was 19. She said GPs were pretty useless, all in all, and suggested I go to see a psychiatrist on Harley Street if we could afford it. The Husband and I discussed it. It wasn’t about the money (not at first, though when we looked into it and found that we’d need 4 sessions at nearly £300 each, it wasn’t going to happen anyway), no, it was about the principle of the thing. I don’t go private. We have the Mighty NHS. The NHS that was starting to look a lot like it didn’t really know what it was doing…
The next time I saw the Occupation Health nurse, she was startled to find that I was no better than the last time she had seen me. It was probably made worse by the fact that there was some sort of school trip to the Civic Centre that day, and walking through a group of teenagers had given me the most extreme panic attack I’ve had in a while. She asked if I’d heard back from the counsellor she’d suggested the school pay for. No, I said, I’ve heard nothing from anyone that’s supposed to be helping me in over a month and I’m starting to feel like you’re all working in cahoots behind my back to keep me sick long enough to fire me because secretly everyone hates me. She said I wasn’t well enough to go back to work, and sent me away with no mention of when she would see me again.
It was over a week before the doctor’s had a free appointment time. And then I saw a Locum. I get that part of loving the NHS is accepting its flaws, but when you haven’t been to work for over two months and your medication isn’t doing anything and you start to think you could probably diagnose yourself better using google (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy? A thyroid problem? Bipolar Personality Disorder with hypermania?) you begin to have your doubts.
This doctor gave me a prescription for Prozac, which I know has worked in the past and sent me away telling me to come back in two weeks to be checked on (that wasn’t so hard, was it?).
Curiously, though, I noticed on the computer screen that my diagnosis has changed. Apparently, I am no longer suffering from Depression, no longer Anxiety or Stress. No, what I have is Low Mood. Brilliant. There’s not even anything really wrong with me except that I feel a bit down… which is obviously why I have had nearly a whole half term off work.
There are no quick fixes, the Locum tells me. Yep. Especially if no one else is helping.
“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky, that’s all… To hold a front position in this rat-race, you’ve got to believe you are lucky” – Tennessee Williams
I’ve been very open about my illness and the state of my life at the moment. In part, that was an exercise in honesty, a writer’s attempt at not editing herself. In part it was something bigger; I want to take away the stigma attached to mental illness, by making it something it is okay to discuss. And maybe, although I didn’t realise or consciously know, in part it was a cry for help.
To that end, I have been inundated with messages of support and offerings of love. When they come from the people you love and expect to support you, it’s always a little too easy to take them for granted. I know that there are a few people in my life who are constant in their support for me, and who have never knowingly left my side, except – perhaps – to renew their strength before coming back. It is hard supporting someone in their darkest nights; I know, I have done it before. For those people, my nearest and closest, I am always thankful even if I don’t show it enough.
But this post is not about them. This post is about those people who have been in touch who I wouldn’t have expected. The people who I know on facebook but maybe haven’t seen for years. Those friends who were, perhaps, never particularly close, or ones that were very close, but with whom I’d lost any real contact. Those are the people I want to thank here.
Every message that has come into my inbox, even if maybe I couldn’t reply, has been a blessing. They often start “I don’t know what you’re going through, but…” and usually continue to describe the exact kind of pain I’m in, from people who have felt it too. Sometimes, people say “I never knew you felt this way”… that has often been a problem of mine. All of them, are full of such kindness – these people don’t need to write to me, they make a conscious decision to do so, simply to check I’m ok and give me their support. I am very blessed to have met people this beautiful on my journey in life, and I wanted to publicly thank them all.
At some point in the middle of the night, you start to wonder what would happen if you stay up until after dawn. The fact that everyone else is asleep; unless they work nights, or can’t sleep, or have young babies, becomes attractive. You think about the many, different people in the world who are awake at the same time as you. In New Zealand, they’re awake and having a lovely day. It isn’t winter there.
I used to love drinking until the sun came up. I did it many times with many people. I used to love the cold air coming through the open window as I smoked and we talked about why we should all be somewhere else. Sleeping, waking up in our own beds, getting up for lectures… I think I miss those times.
I know it isn’t healthy to stay up so late that it becomes the next day. I know this won’t be helping my recovery. But there’s something so freeing in knowing that you have the control over your life that means you don’t have to go to bed when anyone else tells you to.
I am documenting this because I promised, at the start of this blog, to never edit myself: to always tell the truth. I want to stay up to dawn so I can sleep all day tomorrow. I don’t know why that’s important. Maybe it’s sabotage, maybe it’s self-preservation, maybe it’s the wine.
I wish there were some easy answers.
Someone asked me today whether I still want to be a teacher. It made me suddenly, and overwhelmingly, sad. I have been teaching for seven years. When I started, in those early days, it was tough. I knew it was going to be tough, I didn’t pretend to myself that teaching would be an easy job, with short days and long holidays. My Mother was a teacher, I wasn’t hiding behind idealistic, or false dreams of what the job meant. In the early days, when I would come home in tears, or with more marking and planning than it felt possible to do in one evening, or one weekend; in the days when I would fall asleep on the bathroom floor waiting for the bath to run, I still believed that somehow what I was doing in the classroom made up for it all. I loved my job. I loved to see the moments when a pupil’s eyes spark at a new idea, or when a class hold their breath as I tell them a story, or give them an opinion they’ve never heard before. I loved to train up new staff to do the same, and sometimes better. A teacher creates lessons, creates work sheets and activities. I loved the creative nature of it, the magic of putting together all the things I’d been told about how children learn into a neat, hour-long package. I had a tutor group who were the closest thing I ever had to children of my own, who I watched grow up = cried for, rejoiced with, fought for and supported. I loved to learn new things from the students, every day.
Teaching isn’t just a job. Being a teacher defined me. The best teachers I know, see it as a calling of sorts, they didn’t become teachers because they couldn’t think of anything better to do, or because they wanted to have the same holidays as their kids. They became teachers because they wanted to teach people something; either the subject they loved, or just something about how human beings should be. I spent years trying not to be a teacher before I finally trained; I didn’t want the responsibility. I believe that God told me to be a teacher, back when God and I were still talking to one another. I believe it’s what He wanted me to do.
And how can I give that up?
But. But. Teaching is killing me. The nature of the job, the demands placed upon me by the students, by my colleagues, the management, the government… they’re too much. Unless you don’t do them all properly, and that’s not something I can do. I won’t do a half-hearted job, can’t teach a not-excellent lesson, can’t leave behind my worries about the pupils when they go home at the end of the day…
I’m not in a position at the moment to think about getting a new job, I have to get better and get back to work – they’re still paying me, and I owe them. But, long term, it might be time to start thinking about what I really want to be doing.
I don’t even know where to start.
My bicycle and I are still getting to know one another. Sometimes I worry she and I are both a little too preoccupied with all the smiles and waves we get when she is wearing her basket, so today we cycled into Wimbledon without it. She looks a little bare without the rambling roses she wears in her hair (basket), but that’s all set to change when her new accessories arrive in the post over the next few days. It’s important to me that she stands out from the crowd. A part of me wants to get myself a name in the neighbourhood: That crazy bike woman of the Wood. She’ll be a beautiful bike when she’s finished and all will be in favour of her style, yes. I’ll be proud of her, anyway.
The speed we’re travelling on our rides might not be up to the Husband’s IronMan speed, but it’s a pretty good workout, as well as being a fab way to enjoy those early days of Spring. I like the freedom of being on a bike, and the good, old fashioned innocence of it all. One of the plusses of being on a Dutch-style bike is the amount of room you take up on the road, it makes me feel safer somehow. I’m still not up to tackling some of the crazier roads around, but I’m getting a little more confident (and wearing my helmet, yes, mum).
It’s a beautiful day out. Spring is definitely on it’s way, which makes everything feel a little happier. A reminder that everything passes and everything changes. Today is a good day.
I have named my bike. I name most of my favourite items, my iPhone is Ermintrude, and the MacBook is Dougal. Throughout this blog I have left 5 clues as to the name of my pretty new friend. Can you spot them all? Extra points if you can reference them without the use of Google!
Answers on a Twitter Postcard, or Facebook me!
(The winner will receive a signed photo of the bike herself – easy now!)