Monday, 27 June 2011

Pollen and Depression

Last week was not a good one for my state of mind; I noticed it and my wife told me.  The reason was simple, the pollen level was high.

Now this, at first glance may not seem to be a very obvious connection but, for me, it is.  When the pollen level is high my chest tightens up because of my asthma and this results in a drop in the oxygen level in my blood.  It is this that causes me a problem because oxygen is the fuel that powers the brain and blood is the delivery system.  Less oxygen in the blood slows my brain down and makes it harder for me to think clearly.  Up to this point what I have described is normal for a lot of people with pollen triggered asthma but for me there is an added complication - I am battling with depression.

Most of the time I do fairly well in this battle but it takes more of my mental effort than I realise.  Anything that makes thinking harder is a problem and in this case just a high pollen level is enough to make me slip back.  This isn't an insurmountable problem but it is just one more thing that I have to be aware of as I battle with my oddly wired brain.

One thing to be drawn from this is that my physical health affects my mental health and I am sure that this is true of a lot of other people. We are made to be complete beings and any imbalance in one part will affect the whole.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Moving On

This post was nearly The Problem with Alcohol 3 but that would have been too limiting.  However it is a problem that I want to talk about, the problem of moving on.  Put like that it sounds easy but I am finding it to be a problem; a problem for me, a problem for my family and a problem for those who know me.

To explain what I mean I have to explain a bit about what happened to me.  I had a breakdown that had been a long time coming but when it did it was rather spectacular.  This resulted in me receiving treatment that has enabled me to understand what happened to me, why it happened and, I hope, what I need to do to stop it happening again.  The end result is that I feel like a different person and I want to move on.  Sounds simple doesn’t it.

The problem is that I’m not actually a different person but a modified and updated version of the old person who still looks the same and, in some ways, still behaves the same.  People around me still treat me the same way as they always did and will bring up things that the ‘old me’ did.  I want to shout and say “That’s not me, that’s the old me but I’m a completely different person now.” but that won’t work.  I am both the old and new me.  I have to show everyone that I have changed so that they will treat me differently because if they bring up how I was too often it drags me down and stirs up the old me.  That is not to blame anyone but myself for how I used to be and, therefore, how others react to me now; I’m just trying to explain how things are. 

So you see moving on isn’t as simple as it seems.  I don’t just have to move myself onwards but I have to be able to take my friends and family onwards with me and that isn’t easy.

Now I haven’t written this to get sympathy but to explain what it is like to recover from mental illness; in my case depression.  If this is how it is for me it is probably the same for a lot of other people who go through mental illness and come out the other side.  We want to be accepted and loved for who we are and not reminded of who we were – we know that only to well without any reminders.

Monday, 20 June 2011

A Paradox

No I’m not thinking of the ingenious one in Pirates of Penzance but of one in the medical culture in the UK.

The starting point for my thoughts was Sir Terry Pratchett’s film for the BBC on assisted suicide which, I have to admit, I didn’t watch.  I understand both sides of the argument and have made no attempt to come down on one side or the other. I understand why someone whose body is dying might want to finish their life before it become unbearable and I also understand the worries of disability groups, and others, that it might lead to the elderly and disabled being pushed towards taking their lives.

It was at this point that the paradox hit me.  Our health service seems committed to keeping people alive at all costs and yet abortion is freely available.

When my father was dying the hospital called me to be with him but then took him down for a scan to see if they could find out what was happening.  It was pointless as he was fighting so hard to breathe that he couldn’t keep still enough for them to get a clear scan and they didn’t find out anything that they didn’t already know; his heart was giving out and he was dying.  In one way I am grateful that they did everything they could but another part of me wonders whether it wouldn’t have been more dignified to have just let him die and to not have confused him by wheeling him around the hospital.

I’m old enough to remember when abortion was legalised in the UK and so I remember that there were assurances at the time that this would not lead to abortion on demand but only on medical need.  No matter how well intentioned those assurances were I doubt if anyone would seriously argue that we haven’t ended up with exactly that even if it is never called that by name.

This is where we hit the paradox; if you are old and dying the health professionals will do everything they can to keep you alive but if you are so young that you haven’t been born they see no problem in not letting you live.

This is not an attempt to argue the case for or against either assisted suicide or abortion but just pointing out how inconsistent we can all be when we compartmentalise our lives.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Problem with Drink 2

So no sooner have posted about my personal issues with alcohol than it hits the headlines again.

First up was this: FA Cup to be sponsored by Budweiser beer .  We already had the Carling Cup (League Cup) and now the main football cup competition will also be sponsored by beer.  Now that tobacco is no longer allowed to sponsor sports events it looks as if alcohol has moved in to fill gap.  Nothing wrong with that in itself but when drinking has become a major social issue is it good for the country to have alcohol, which can harm us, linked to sport, which should be good for us?

Then this morning one of the first things I heard on the news was this Parents' behaviour 'can influence teen drinking'  Now if I hadn't already posted about this after talking to my children I would, correctly, have felt incredibly guilty.  The terrible thing is that if I had still been drinking I would have forced this information through some sort of filter in my mind to say that it didn't apply to me. But it did and all I can do is to say here publically that I am sorry that my drinking has had a bad effect on my children.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Problem with Drink

I recently read an article about the Bishop of Stafford condemning binge drinking as sin; actually what he said was “Alcohol abuse is one of the major ‘sins’ of our time – and it is one that governments do very little to prevent.” and I agree with him.  We now have a society in which significant proportions go out not to have a drink with friends but to get drunk without any thought for the costs to the whole of society in policing them and treating them when they hurt themselves, others or do permanent damage to their bodies.  Unfortunately bishops are no longer respected figures whose pronouncements have the ear of government but are considered to be out of touch with the modern world and so they can be ignored; even when they are right.

People who know me may well be saying “hypocrite” knowing that I like a drink and have often had more than is good for me and, in all likelihood, for those around me.  To that I have no answer except to say that I now acknowledge that I had a problem and I no longer drink as it is incompatible with one of my medications.  That, however, is only part of the story as I wasn’t an alcoholic (I would stop for periods when I wanted to) but my drinking was one of the ways I was trying to cope with the depression that had been part of my life since I was in my teens. While I admit that I like good beer, full bodied red wines and malt whisky they, in themselves, were not the problem; I was drinking, and drinking too much, to dull the inner pain of depression.  In the end this didn’t work and I end up in what my wife called the ‘loony bin’ for 2½ weeks.

It was only then, and through months of counselling, that I could openly admit what I knew deep inside – I had a drink problem.  When I was put on Prozac I had to give up drinking as it won’t work properly when combined with alcohol but this has given me the opportunity to not drink and to begin to appreciate not drinking. I am limited to the small glass of wine I am allowed at special celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries and my son’s forthcoming wedding and that is all. I had thought that if I ever stopped taking Prozac I would be able to have the odd drink but I now realise that this won’t be possible as I rarely stop at the ‘odd drink.’  So I am now going to say openly something that inside I have known for some time: I have to give up alcohol. 

I have to give up alcohol not only for myself but for those around me, family and friends, who have had to put up with me drinking too much.  For years I have kidded myself that the only person I was putting at risk was me but I have just read the book ‘Jesus, my father, the CIA and me’ by Ian Morgan Cron and it made me realise how much I have damaged my family (and possibly others) by my drinking. I can’t go back and undo that damage but I can make sure I stay clear of drink so that I don’t make the same mistakes in the future.

I will still allow myself the small glass for celebrations but that is all or I will slowly (or quickly) fall back into drinking too much.  Alcohol in itself is not the problem but there are some of us whose genetic makeup makes us vulnerable to its hold even though this can take years to make itself apparent but once it does our best hope is to steer clear and not drink.

I know I haven’t explained myself very well so I have tried to put what happened to me into a poem.

I like a drink.
I like the taste of good beer.
I like the taste of full bodied red wine.
I like the taste of malt whisky.

But somehow that stopped being enough
I needed a drink.
Not for itself,
But to dull the pain.

The pain of being.
The pain of being me.
The pain of living.
The pain of living with depression.

At first it was just a drink.
Then it took more.
Enough to make me hide it
From those closest to me.

I needed the drink
Not for itself
But to kill the pain.
Then I could cope.
A couple of pain dulled hours
And I could cope with the pain.
For a while.

But I wasn’t coping.
The pain was building;
Building until even the drink didn’t help.

It was only then
When all hope had gone
That I could admit the truth.

The truth that drink didn’t help.
That it just hid the problem.
Hid it from me.
Hid it until it was too big to hide.
Too big for me
To cope.

It was only as the pain washed over me
That I could confront it,
Find the wounds
And bind them.

Some wounds will heal.
Other have to be cleaned
And dressed
So they don’t spread infection.

And that means no drink.
So the wounds can close
The infection die
And with them
The pain.