Tag Archives: support

Understanding Depression – The Truths and Myths

Depression does not discriminate. Depression is not a choice.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are becoming
much better understood, but we still need to be clearer.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos

Depression can hit anyone – it does not discriminate. Depression ignores your gender, race, age, and any other excuse people can throw at it. It doesn’t matter your financial situation, or your degree of education, or your place in this world. It doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled, or happy, or desperate and suicidal. It does not discriminate.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Weeping Geranium

© Lisa Shambrook

Types of depression

There are several types of depression including – Clinical DepressionPost-natal DepressionBi-polar Disorder (Manic Depression)SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)GriefSituational Depression – and they range from mild, moderate, to severe.

The NHS website explains that ‘There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.’ Depression can be caused by circumstance, events, or medical conditions, or family history, or through chemical imbalances.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Pensive Raven Cat

© Lisa Shambrook

Situational depression is perhaps the easiest (a misnomer if there ever was one, no depression is easy) to deal with as its root cause trauma, trigger, or event, can often be located and treated or understood, the same could be said for depression triggered by grief. A trauma or loss often brings on acute sadness and depression, which may need treating medically or psychologically, but is a condition that can be worked through and hopefully overcome with time.

Other types of depression are harder and maybe impossible to ‘cure’.

Yet, there are still people who claim you can change your life, become more positive, appreciate your blessings, and then you can beat your depression. Maybe, who knows, for some people with situational depression, maybe they can overcome and ride out the bad times, maybe they can ‘pull themselves together’ (I hate that term), maybe they can recognise and make changes in their life and beat depression. Maybe, but also, maybe not.

I’ll add a caveat here: depression (and mental illness as a whole) is not ‘one size fits all’. My experience will be different from yours, and where some people may find depression a blip in their lives, something to overcome, many don’t and will fight it their entire lives.

We must be non-judgmental, compassionate, and understanding in our dealings with those who live with depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Within the Ocean Cave

© Bekah Shambrook

How Depression is treated

Depression is treated in many ways. Mild depression can be treated with a ‘wait and see’ approach, exercise helps ease depression – and I can bear witness to that – as can diet, psychotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and counselling. More serious depression needs a stronger approach. All of the above can help, talking and counselling can be a godsend, but medication can also be necessary. Antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, if these chemicals are out of balance they can affect many aspects of your body and mind, including mood. There are several types of antidepressants, and the most popular of these SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase the levels of the chemical messenger in the brain – serotonin. Serotonin is an amino acid that is found in food, and it helps run much of your body, and deficiency can cause depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Sertraline-antidepressant

© Lisa Shambrook

I have written about Antidepressants and my history, and about Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants, but I still get people telling me that I ought to be more positive, or count my blessings, or that I’m lucky to have everything I do, or that others would be happy with a tiny bit of what I have in my life…

There are a multitude of posts and lists out there online that list the things no one should ever say – and what they should say – to someone living with depression – but people still say them! Get over it, they say, choose to be happy, count your blessings, there’s always someone worse off than you, don’t be selfish, it’s all in your mind (actually, yes, it is – but it’s physiological and psychological, not made-up), try to be happy… If it was as easy as that we wouldn’t be suffering with depression.

Depression is not a choice. Being sad can be a choice, making changes that help you get over problems in your life is a choice, being positive is a choice, but being depressed is not a choice.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Clifftop

© Lisa Shambrook

I am a happy person, I’m a positive person, but I also have clinical depression and have had it since I was fourteen-years-old. I was diagnosed at eighteen, and have lived with it ever since. I have taken courses of antidepressants, had counselling, had psychiatric help, seen a psychologist, seen a therapist, used exercise, and I still live with depression.

Thirteen months ago I stood on a bridge at 2am. Life seemed too much. I was overwhelmed. Depression drowned me. I got help and have had counselling and antidepressants since. None of that, or of my history of depression, panic, and anxiety, changes the fact that my life is fulfilling, I adore my husband and children, I love who I am. I have self-harmed since I was twelve-years-old (when I didn’t even know what self-harm was), but that doesn’t change that I know I’m blessed, that I’m happy with my talents, and I love my life.

I know that depression will haunt me throughout my life, but I will manage it. Antidepressants will ‘fix me’ short term, until the chemicals in my brain misalign once more. I will make use of the services available to me, which are getting better.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Steel Rainbow Sky

© Lisa Shambrook

But the point of this post is to help understanding and appreciation of what depression truly means.

Depression is not a choice, and it does not discriminate.
It is a condition that those who live with will manage to the best of their ability.
We deserve support and compassion, be the person who seeks to understand.  

Tomorrow, October 5th, is the National Depression Screening Day in the US,
and October 10th is World Mental Health Day… please show your support…

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When You Stop Running…

There are many reasons why people run away.
It’s important to have someone to come back to.

when-you-stop-running-the-last-krystallos-titleThe UK police receive more than 100,000 missing adults reports a year. Up to 80 per cent of these adults have mental health issues, and a significant number have experience of domestic violence, financial problems, family conflict, or alcohol problems. It is difficult to find statistics of those who return, but missingpeople.org.uk say few of them receive support to tackle the problems that caused them to go missing in the first place. The police are responsible for undertaking a “Safe and Well Check” soon after a missing person returns to find out where they have been, if they suffered harm, and to provide an opportunity to disclose any offending by or against them. However, following a Safe and Well Check, most adults do not get offered a proper assessment of their health and support needs, or help to get their life back on track, and consequently many go missing again.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s important to have someone to come back to, someone who will offer support and any help that is necessary. I’ve written about Running Away and how important it is to have someone to come back to…so maybe I should illuminate how I discovered this during a major depressive episode:

I woke empty. My tears were dry though my heart drowned and I moved through the early hours in automaton. I dropped the children at school then returned home. I pulled clothes from my cupboards and zipped up my bag. My heart thumped within the restrictive bounds of my chest, but I refused to allow emotions to surface. My hands shook as I drove. My eyes flicked to and fro like a frightened rabbit and blood pounded through my veins.

I drove. I drove miles and miles…and then kept driving. My hands gripped the wheel and my mind, still empty, focussed on nothing but the road.

I had no idea how far I drove, I just hit the motorway and kept going. Almost two hours later, about to cross the Severn Bridge and a single thought invaded, I had no money and if I crossed the bridge I wouldn’t be able to pay the toll to return.

For a few wild moments I toyed with continuing to drive, but my hands ignored me and pulled into the services. There, in a far corner of the car park, I let the tears fall and they fell until there was nothing left and emptiness filled my heart again.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I sat in my car for hours unable and unwilling to allow rational thought inside my head, until an alarm sounded. I automatically checked my phone but it was quiet. I tended to get caught up in writing at home and had an alarm that gave me fifteen minutes grace before leaving to collect the children from school.

No alarm had gone off, except the natural alarm within my head. Now thoughts of my children waiting for me at school, waiting for a mother who failed to return filled my mind. Those thoughts swarmed and turned to my husband and I imagined the school trying to contact him when I didn’t turn up. He would find calls queueing on his phone and worry. He would hurry to collect the children with thoughts of his errant wife in the back of his head…or maybe the fore front of his mind.

He’d return with the children to an empty home.

My mind played out the entire week and finally a flicker in my heart lit and fear ignited. The fear of leaving, the fear of being permanently lost overwhelmed me. Now the only thought in my head was home.

I drove those one hundred miles with a hammering heart and a depth I didn’t know I had.

My fifteen minute alarm went off half an hour from home. I was late picking up my children. Reality kicked back in as I got home. My children never noticed the extra bag I carried as they took their own school bags inside and they didn’t see my red eyes, and my empty heart kept well hidden.

Nobody knew about my bid for escape. Nobody knew for a long time.

try not to run away from those you nee let them be there for you, try not to run away, those who care, running away, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

I ran more than once. I ran in different directions. Sometimes I walked out of an empty home, sometimes I left people behind. But, and it’s an important but, when I walked away from family, they kept calling, they left messages, they texted…and when I was ready I returned.

There was always someone there who cared. There was always someone to go home to.

It doesn’t always work out, I know sometimes people run and they don’t come back, but sometimes they do.

And sometimes they don’t run too far or too long. I’m lucky that there is always someone to return to, and that they care enough to support and offer help when I need it.

In Beneath the Old Oak Meg’s mother goes missing due to mental health issues. Meg and her father go through the process of reporting a missing person and the stress, strain and heartbreak that goes with it. The important thing is, no matter what happens to Meg’s mother, her family remain hopeful.

missing persons, missing people, runaways, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having someone you love go missing. If you run, please consider letting your family know you’re okay. The police have a duty of care and will be able to pass on a message and allow you to stay missing if that’s what you want. If you want to return home, again the police and charities they work with can help facilitate and get you home again.

116 000 is the number to call or text for a free and confidential 24 hour service from missingpeople.org.uk or contact your local police station. These links can help to report a missing person: missingpeople.org.uk and gov.uk.

Try not to run, but if you do, always remember those you can trust,
those who love you, those who need you.

Thank goodness for those you can come back to.

BeneathOldOak_Cover_Amazon-(1)-Low-Res-245kbTo read more of running away in ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ the book is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.

‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’
Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.

Understanding Self-Harm: the Truths and Myths and How to Help

Self-harm is a behaviour that is becoming much more common in our society.
When a specific behaviour becomes more common it’s essential
to
understand it and be able to offer non-judgemental compassion to those who suffer.

understanding self harm, truths about self harm, myths about self harm, the last krystallos,

I’ve written about depression and about running away because they are subjects I live and know. I have self-harmed since I was fourteen-years-old and I expect to be fighting the urge for the rest of my life. It’s not a mental illness, but a behaviour. Sometimes we can deal with our mental illness issues, but support for our learned behaviour is much harder to come by and more difficult to stop.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

What is self-harm or self-injury?

Self-harm is when a person intentionally physically damages or hurts their body.

Why do people self-harm?

It’s easier to deal with physical pain than emotional pain – many of those who self-harm find a manifestation of physical pain can both ease and replace emotional pain that’s just too unbearable or too overwhelming. Sometimes depression or other mental illnesses can leave you emotionless or in a virtual black-hole, physical pain can bring you back from that void.

It’s a physical manifestation of your emotional pain – sometimes you need to show your pain, it needs to be visible.

Control issues – you have control over the pain you’re feeling, especially if that emotional pain or situation is overwhelming.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

The reasons behind self-harming can be diverse from suffering abuse, to bullying, to PTSD, and is also related to many other conditions. A high percentage of sufferers already suffer from depression and/or anxiety.

There are many myths* surrounding self-harm which are damaging to sufferers and to the level of compassion or criticism they receive.

People who self-harm don’t do it to seek attention, or to be cool, or manipulative. In fact many people hide the fact that they hurt themselves. Many will wear long sleeves or clothes to cover their scars or injuries. They often blame ‘the cat’ or other circumstances for their injuries.

In general those who self-harm are not suicidal. It’s often a cry for help, but often a very private one, as seen by the ability to hide the behaviour.

Please don’t believe that the only self-harmers out there are teenage girls, Goths and Emos. It’s an offensive stereotype. People who self-harm come from every part of society and every age range and gender. I, myself, am forty-three and my background is one of being a shy child, a people-pleaser and anxious. It’s also not a phase that sufferers will grow out of. Help can be found and behaviours can be changed, but it’s not a phase.

It’s not true that cutting, many lines or tracks up and down arms, is the only or most common form of self-harm. It’s the most publicised form therefore a form that many new self-harmers take on. My own cutting is kept to one or two places, and consists of reopening old scars. Therefore my arms are not a mess of scars, just one or two that consistently reappear. Many cutters cut shoulders, thighs, stomachs and other locations, not only arms.

Some people believe self-harm only consists of cutting. It is a large variety of behaviours including: hair pulling, scratching, biting, burning, drug-taking, eating disorders, alcoholism, and risk taking behaviour, to name but a few!

understanding self harm, ask without judgement and with compassion, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

So, how do you stop self-harming?

I have had periods when I’ve stopped for years, but the urge returned and though currently manageable, it’s always there. Some of the following have helped:

Some people wear rubber bands and snap them when the urge to hurt hits. Sometimes the sudden pain from a band can suppress the urge.

Take time out…breathe. There are plenty of breathing exercises for coping with anxiety out there and some can work for this too. Ride it out. The urge to cut usually lasts for a specific time, if you know your pattern, then try to ride it out. Resist for as long as you can. Breathe, let your emotions settle and see if you can resist the urge. Be with someone, you’re less likely to cut if you’re with someone who cares.

Distract yourself. I have a stim (something to distract me, usually associated as a behaviour which helps you cope with a given situation) I carry an acorn cup with me, I have several, and when the urge to panic, or cut, or run appears my first action is to hold and stroke the acorn cup. It’s a soothing action which offers my mind a distraction and the space to allow myself to calm down. Along with distraction you should remove yourself from the situation causing the urge.

Another thing is to identify your triggers. Know what causes your urge and see if you can find ways to deal with them.

Lastly, find another way to express your emotions/pain: write, shout, sing, run, or scribble violently on paper. Find something which can replace the urge to self-harm.

Finally, I want to say to those who self-harm, do not feel guilty. This is a behaviour and with help it can be overcome. There is no shame, no guilt and you are a worthwhile person. And to those who know someone who harms, talk to them – let them know that you’re someone they can talk to, someone they can share with. Often we are so scared people will judge, criticise or scorn that we hide things we need to talk about. The best way to stop harming is to be with someone who cares.

I carry no shame or guilt with my scars, they are part of me and I love them. Sometimes they are red and angry, other times they fade away to white, gossamer threads, but they will always be there and I will love them – as they are me.  

If you need help, please see your GP, or at least check out some of the
great sites online that can help: NHS ChoicesThe SiteNSPCCHelp Guide

* There are always going to be some exceptions to these rules. I know someone who got professional help for a condition and was asked why they weren’t self-harming along with their other symptoms. They went away and began cutting in the traditional form, because they felt they were expected to.

2. Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalSelf-harm is part of my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ and an unedited NaNoWriMo snippet can be read here. To read more of Meg and her mother’s struggles ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ is available on Amazon and Etsy.

“Turn those dreams of escape into hope…”
Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control and she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak, but a devastating storm will change her life forever.

Blues Buster: Eminence Front

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

The crowd’s roar and applause made her cringe, the noise, so loud, so big, and so cloying. Sarah gazed through the colours, through the bobbing heads, and saw only frontrunners sprinting across the finish line.

Silver foil flashed, the sun catching it and blinding Sarah momentarily. She blinked and eased back. Trumpets bugled and hooters hooted, cheers and cries of congratulations rose over the onlookers, and Sarah glanced up at the big screen on the building opposite. She squeezed herself into a small spot on the wall and pulled her legs in close.

The winners, the frontrunners, smiled on the screen. Teeth and twinkling eyes pixelated and jumped as the competitors caught their breath and accepted adulation. Sponsors raced forward to position themselves, banners rising with winners, and products placed in advantageous sites. Cameramen arced down to legs attached to pistons and blades, shiny carbon-fibre appendages in racing black decorated with beads of sweat.

The winners had the best equipment, the biggest sponsors, the most money, and Sarah sighed.

Even pixelated the racing blades, the prosthetics, and the artificial limbs shone as state of the art. Money bought winners, and winners bought sponsors, and from the crowd’s clamour about her, that bought adoration and fame. She bit her lip and climbed into a standing position to stare down the road, but only shiny blades continued to catch the light and glare back at her.

She steeled herself, pushed the encroaching crowd away, and settled back down on the wall.

For a couple of hours she listened as the crowds cheered the marathon runners, and watched as they dwindled as the prosthetic tech became less impressive, and the sponsors less memorable.

Finally, light faded, the tech reverted, and the hum of the crowd declined.

Sarah scrambled to her feet, and clung to the lamppost beside her. She stared down the road, but the low light made it difficult to see. Floodlights suddenly devoured the dusk and Sarah blinked again, shielding her eyes from the dazzling brilliance. Black spots danced before her vision, as the big screen suddenly snapped back on and focussed on the empty road.

Sarah’s stomach lurched, and her heart rose with hope and anticipation. She pushed through the muddle of people still left, those who’d lost interest hours ago, but hung around with the hope of a last minute story. And here it was.

Sarah’s eyes glazed as a dot on the horizon grew steadily bigger. She glanced up at the screen as it pixelated and focussed. Far down the road her son approached, a lone walker, a figure shuffling forward with determination and grit. Sarah didn’t even try to stop the tears that rolled down her face. Every fibre of her heart reached out to the boy, every ounce of strength, of resolve and stamina poured down the road to her boy.

The TV screen adjusted and the image sharpened, and the remaining crowd visibly held their breath.

Sarah’s heart swelled to proportions she’d never before encountered and she thought she’d burst. Tears glistened in every eye as her son limped, and dragged his foot, his leg-brace no longer holding him steady. The buckles broken, the metal, bent, but the lad still walked with his head led high, and his brow shimmering with diamonds of perspiration.

Gasps trickled through the audience as barriers broke, and suddenly athletes, runners and racers who’d finished the marathon hours before, surrounded the boy. Carbon fibre blades, and modern artificial appendages, accompanied the teenager with the broken brace and twisted leg, and silence suddenly blossomed into cheers.

Applause echoed throughout the darkening streets, and Sarah wept as her son’s smile filled the big screen, as his shuffle moved him forward and the pain on his face diminished with pride.

He crossed the line, with as many onlookers as the frontrunners, and Sarah caught him in her arms. They both knew you didn’t need money, or sponsors, or anything more than love and belief, to win.

(663 Words)
@LastKrystallos

My story for Jeff at The Tsuruoka Files Blues Buster. The song prompt is The Who’s Eminence Front. Check out the other stories!

Burn with the Brightest Flame and Believe in Yourself…

Dream big, and you can be anything…

dream big, burn with the brightest flame, believe in yourself,  the last krystallos,

Driving home last week, through the most beautiful welsh countryside, I felt on top of the world, truly amazing! I was thinking how blessed I and my family are living our dreams. What a great feeling…and then The Script and Will I Am came on with ‘Hall of Fame’, and I realised just how true the lyrics read.

“You can go the distance. You can run the mile. You can walk straight through hell with a smile. You can be the hero. You can get the gold. Breaking all the records they thought never could be broke.
Yeah, do it for your people, do it for your pride. How are you ever gonna know if you never even try?
Do it for your country, do it for your name, ’cause there’s gonna be a day…
When you’re standing in the hall of fame, and the world’s gonna know your name, cause you burn with the brightest flame, and the world’s gonna know your name, and you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame…”

It’s what I’ve always believed…you can do anything, be anything…
but, you’ve got to live your dreams…

castle on a cloud, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos, clouds,

Dreaming of the castle on a cloud © Lisa Shambrook

There was a time, many years ago, when I was a shy little thing and I let my dreams escape. I didn’t believe my dreams were worth dreaming. My default was to put aside my own feelings but be sure to fix everyone else. This continued from early childhood into my teens, where I allowed someone else’s preference push me to a different path than the one I wanted, and then on into adulthood.

I became the mother with holes in my boots for a decade because I refused to buy myself a new pair, deeming everyone else more important. There’s a time and a place for others to take priority, but that should never be a permanent condition!

My family © Lisa Shambrook

My family © Lisa Shambrook

As I hit a breakdown and emerged, still snow blinded, the other side, I began to be coaxed by my wonderful husband and children into believing in myself. Now I know that I’m important too, that my dreams are worth dreaming, and more than that, they’re worth putting into action!

There’s nothing I want more for my children than for them to live their dreams…

My oldest is extremely talented and enthusiastic, and always threw caution to the wind when embracing her dreams! She lacked direction, but as she’s matured, her direction evolves and her plans are coming to fruition. We’ve been able to instil self-belief and a confidence I only wish I’d had thirty years ago! She’s recently had the strength to do something my younger version would have cowered from, which is to close some of her enterprises and head towards a new ambition. She stands with assurance and ability and dreams. My soul bursts with pride as I see my child grow and plan and act towards her new horizon…

My son is moving into an exceptional period of his life. He struggled greatly at school, and had some real soul searching to discover what he wanted to do once he left. He has since excelled in the work he’s done, to the point that his employer would love him to stay on at work, but he’s made a decision to explore life. He has, of his own volition, decided to serve a ministering mission for the church which we belong to. This means accepting a call to preach in a place he’s never been. He’s been called to serve in Halifax, Canada for the period of two years, and he is bursting with excitement and opportunity, and so am I…

My youngest is still at school and of an age where I struggled to be anything but a shy little bird. Exams and subjects she’s not keen on bury her, and I see her heart trying to decide where it lies. Those middle teens are years I’d not choose to return to, but they are the years where you grow, where you begin to learn who you are and where you want to go. These are the years where my daughter will begin to grow wings, to emerge from within and to want to fly. These are the years when I will refuse to stand in her way, and I will encourage with everything that I have, just as I have with her siblings, to be just who she will be. ..

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

My husband and I both waited years to begin to achieve. I lived with clipped and broken wings for many years, but I want my children to believe in themselves, to spread their wings and fly.

To do that they, and we, need to dream, and dream big!

To quote The Script again “Be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers, be believers, be leaders, be astronauts, be champions, be truth seekers…” and we can, we can be all of those, if we just dream and believe!

Did you get encouragement to believe in yourself?

Have you achieved what you set out to do, or is it an ongoing goal?

Share your dreams and encouragement…

The Tragedy of Demonising Depression

‘The truth is that people with depression are all around us – they are our teachers and solicitors; our plumbers and health professionals. Having depression does not necessarily make you unfit to work, but, based upon the headlines in many of today’s papers you could be forgiven for thinking that it does.’
(‘Don’t blame depression for the Germanwings tragedy’ – Masuma Rahim –
The Guardian 27th March 2015)

the tragedy of demonising depression, germanwings crash, air crash, depression,

I’ve been terribly disappointed with not only the headlines surrounding the tragedy that was the Germanwings air crash, but also the vitriol that poured across social media. It is indeed a huge and devastating loss, and my heart goes out to the families of those who died, but it is likely no one will ever know what was going on in Andreas Lubitz’s (the co-pilot) mind. It brings lots of questions into play and many areas that will need to be looked at within the airline industry, but the reports circulating blaming depression can only do more harm than good.

Please see Mind’s response to the media’s reaction.

I’ve heard people write on social media that anyone with depression should not be employed as a pilot, and that what he (the co-pilot) did was hateful.

rain on dark window, raindrops on black and white window, rain on window, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

These are points I’d like to confront:

Firstly, as the quote at the top of my post says, people with depression are all around us and employed in every kind of job there is. See this list of famous people who have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, which includes such notables as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Buzz Aldrin and Isaac Newton, should these people who excelled in their work have been prevented the opportunity to work in these fields?

The world would be poorer if they had.

Mental illness is still not taken as seriously as it should, help is still far from being what it should, and I agree that people diagnosed with any mental illness should be monitored in sensitive employment, but no one* should be prevented from working in whatever field they choose.

* I will add a caveat, of course people with severe mental impairments may not be able to work, but it demonstrates that each person should be assessed on an individual basis. I don’t know the severity of whatever condition Andreas Lubitz had, or on any treatment, and therefore couldn’t comment on his suitability to his job, that would be the responsibility of the airline he worked for.

steps, escape, tunnel, shaft, escape shaft, steps in shaft, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

I would hate for my opportunities and abilities to be disregarded just because I suffer depression. I am a fully functioning member of society who suffers with depression, panic disorder and severe anxiety, but I am still fully able to be part of society without being side-lined.

Secondly, yes, what the co-pilot did was wrong, 100% wrong, but where do you begin applying blame and labelling ‘hateful’ especially if he was suffering from a mental illness?

I believe entirely that whatever he was suffering was more than depression, yet the headlines have begun to demonise depression yet again. Depression and all the conditions that go with it are different for each sufferer. People can relate to my symptoms but it may affect them differently. There is no textbook, overarching description that will apply to every case.

What happened that fateful day was dreadful, but for those who ache every day with depressive disorders it will be frighteningly relatable. Depression strips you of emotion; it plunges you into an abyss and leaves you there. At that point if help is not sought or given, you are at the mercy of the black dog. The condition moves from depression to something much more serious.

I have been stuck at the bottom of that pit, and my emotions blurred, my senses broken. I’ve been driving and found myself thinking about swerving into the lane of oncoming traffic. People seem to understand or accept that those in this condition may hurt themselves, but can’t imagine them taking anyone with them. Ever seen a news article on a parent who committed suicide and killed their children first? It happens. When your mind contemplates those extreme measures you are lost within the grip of psychosis, and all common sense is gone, all emotion is gone. I am incredibly lucky that I’ve won those battles, and that my arms and hands gripping the steering wheel did not give in and swerve.

owning our own story brene brown, brave, courageous, worth, self-worth, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

One day society will understand that those suffering mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia and more are effective members of our society. We may sometimes need medication and understanding, but we are valuable and able and regular people. You may even know some of us. After all, we are who we are, warts and all, and owning our own story. Sometimes we just need society’s help and not its discrimination.

The Battle to Beat Depression

We all fight battles – some more than others, but all of us fight and struggle through.

The Battle to Beat Depression | The Last Krystallos - black dog, depression, ways to beat depression, antidepressants, thelastkrystallos,

Fending off the black dog… © Lisa Shambrook

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (a quote thought to have come from Ian Maclaren but now widely misattributed to Plato – don’t you love Pinterest and its mass of misattributes?!) This quote speaks volumes.

Lara Croft, weapons, axe, arrows, bow, quiver, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Not one of us escapes these skirmishes, so we need to be well equipped.

Two things lead me to write this article: firstly I’m making weapons for Cosplay; just last week I made a quiver and arrows to go with my bow and this week I made an axe, so I have weapons on my mind. Secondly I read a post by a friend, who suffers depression, and she listed her ‘antidepressants’ over on her blog A Slice of Reality and it makes sense to know what yours and mine are too!

Back in 2013, The Guardian reported that ‘Nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.’ That’s one in every five people you know. Simply put, we all know people who suffer with depression and/or anxiety and a whole host of other mental health problems. Thankfully, we are now becoming not only more aware, but more able to talk about mental health issues.

So go and read my friend’s post and see what her antidepressants are…see what mine are and then go and work on yours.

antidepressants, the battle to beat depression, tablets, water, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Medication is the first port of call when you go to your GP. In fact, in general, according to the British Medical Journal, antidepressants are being overprescribed. This is not to say they don’t have a place, but the most effective use of antidepressants is a short course that resets the chemical imbalance caused by depression until your body is ready to produce them again.
*Though everyone is different and Dr’s advice should be adhered to.

I’ve taken several courses of antidepressants during my life and each time they’ve helped me overcome the illness. If I need them these days I’ll take a six month course and work on lifting myself out at the same time. My family and I prefer me not to take them as I become a zombie – I want to feel alive not comatose. Antidepressants react differently with different people, but don’t expect to take them without the myriad side effects.

Lisa Shambrook, depression, pain, thelastkrystallos, the battle to beat depression,

© Lisa Shambrook

The most important intervention a GP can offer is therapy. I’ve taken courses of therapy, but only privately. The waiting lists were always too long for me. In my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ Meg’s mother refuses her GP’s help.  Her reaction is typical of someone suffering depression:

“I’m wasting money that could be spent on people who are really sick, and why? Because I’m sad!” She [mum] flung her arms in the air. “I’m sad, really sad, and not in the being upset terms either! Sad, weak and stupid. I’m stupid, therefore I do stupid things, therefore I should see a counsellor, but I can’t because I’m not stupid enough!”
Meg rolled her eyes.
“Maybe I should do something stupid…”
“Maybe we should get dinner, Mum. C’mon, let’s get dinner.” Meg moved towards the kitchen. “Mum? Did you put yourself on the list for counselling anyway?”
Mum shook her head. “What’s the point? I’ll be better after I take these [antidepressants]. I’ll be fine in less than a few years! The list is for people with serious problems, not bored housewives who feel sad.” She strode past her daughter. “C’mon, Meg, I’ll be fine in no time.”

If you think is that there’s always someone worse off, that it’s not so bad, that you don’t want to take up valuable NHS time, and you don’t put yourself on the list – that’s a vicious circle. You are worth it, and if you are ever offered therapy of any kind from your GP – take it!

dog paws, Roxy, GSD, german shepherd, thelastkrystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Exercise is, for me, the most effective antidepressant there is. Another friend once sent me an essay she’d written, for her thesis, about the effects of exercise on depression, it was an eye opener! Exercise is a natural way to increase serotonin, as is getting out in the sunshine, and it can help lift the depressive state. Almost seven years ago we got a dog, and daily walks have increased my capacity to avoid depression hugely. Then last year our family joined the local gym. A mixture of exercise and a much healthier diet have impacted greatly on our weight, which has significantly decreased, our general fitness and health, and my predisposition for depression and anxiety. I cannot recommend exercise more. If you can’t afford the gym, or a dog, then just get yourself outside, take a walk and appreciate the abundance of nature!

psalm 61 2, overwhelmed, higher rock, scripture,In her post, my friend talks about her faith and I share it. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, or aren’t, or what spiritual beliefs you have, there are good things in life to be appreciated. Things that increase your faith, whether in humanity or deity, and these are good. Lean on your faith like I can rely on words of comfort from scripture…let it carry you.

Being creative is what keeps me going. When the chips are down, when I’m stuck in a black hole, I can escape through writing. If you’re lucky enough to have a creative talent, use it. If not, search one out, cultivate one, or find a hobby that makes you happy. I write when I need to release the pressure of anxiety, when panic threatens to overwhelm me, and when the pit of depression attempts to bind and suffocate me. Words are my world, and they save me.

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Anxiety © BekahShambrook

Some of us are also lucky to have families who, though they can’t always stop you from slipping into that pit, they can throw down the rope to haul us out. They may not understand, I know my self-harm is way beyond my husband’s comprehension, but he will always be there. They will make sure they’re there to hug you, reassure you and work out how to tug your little boat back into their harbour.

I know that for me these antidepressants work, most of the time. You may be reading this whilst you’re cowering in the darkness and these ideas may seem as far away as the sun is, but give yourself time, depression is not always curable, but it is liveable and survivable. I live with chronic depression, of the rapid cycling variety, (You can read more about mine here) and I know I will always live fending off the black dog, but I can – I can growl and he’ll back off… Learn how to tame yours.

How do you survive? What helps you through the tough times and what tips can you offer to tame the black dog? 

Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalTo read more of Meg and her mum’s battles, ‘Beneath the Old Oak ‘ is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.

‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’ Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.

Sometimes Stars Fall from the Sky – Depression

‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’

Rain_the_last_krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Several billion years after its life starts, a star will die. Some will fade into a black dwarf and others will explode in a supernova. I’m not a scientist, nor do I understand astrophysics, but stars die and fade across our infinite galaxies – all the time.

Orion_cut_of_Hubble_heic0206j

Orion – Hubble Telescope

Do we notice them go? We cannot even comprehend the size of our universe, let alone its number of stars, but imagine if Orion’s Rigel (Beta Orionis), one of the brightest stars in our night sky, forming the Hunter’s left knee, went out? Or Mintaka, one of stars forming his belt disappeared – it would be headline news.

For each star that fades, light is lost. On August 4th we remembered those who’d lost their lives in World War One. Many flames extinguished amid sacrifice. And yesterday we remembered a single star Robin Williams, who lost his battle with life itself.

The worst thing in life, alone... Robin WilliamsFor each star that falls, we mourn.

More often than not, we don’t control the way we go, but sometimes, our life is in our own hands and this is when death touches me more.

I do not fear death. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and fear not walking into that valley, and it’s a route I’ve considered, holding my precious life within my own hands.

Yesterday felt personal to me, and a quote, from an amazing blog post I read, resonated: ‘…here’s the thing about his death that is hurting so many people right now: when someone who publicly advocates for a disease that you’re intimately familiar with decides the pain is too much to bear – even with every resource available to him – what hope is there for the rest of us who battle this disease on a daily basis?’

Where is hope? According to official statistics, there were 5,981 suicides in the UK in 2012.

Eyes Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

Depression affects a fifth of all adults in the UK. Look around you, that’s 1 in 5 and we hide it well.

We have the highest rate of self-harm in Europe.

Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain, and 1 in 4 people will suffer some kind of mental health problem within a year.

Several times yesterday, I saw the word choice being used. Yes, for most of us there is a choice, but the black dog and society sometimes remove choice and the black hole of depression offers no alternative. 

When I hit my true lows, when I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit with my head in my hands and my eyes closed – I cannot see those around me, I cannot lift an arm or ask to be pulled up. I cannot see further than the gloom and fog that surround me and sometimes the nothing removes my choice. Depression can be a killer.

Isaiah 41.10

Isaiah 41:10

I am lucky, whether it be my faith, or my family, or my friends – someone is there to embrace me and lift me out even when I refuse to move.

So, why, when mental health issues are so prevalent, are we still so unwilling to talk about them? Why are treatments so difficult to find? And why are so many suffering in silence?

She was drowning but nobody saw her struggleI’ve self-harmed since I was 14. Had 6 months of anti-depressants at 18 and was offered pointless group therapy. I had a nervous breakdown at 32, 6 more months of anti-depressants and 9 months of private counselling which successfully resolved one major issue. I rejoiced, believing my depression overcome. I soon discovered that depression is not something you get over, it’s something you get through, until the next time.

During the next decade, depression and anxiety raised their ugly head time and time again. Anti-depressants are the first thing offered by doctors already struggling for resources. My experiences with anti-depressants are not fun. My family prefer me present though anxious and depressed, than an empty, emotionless zombie. I choose not to take anti-depressants for a variety of reasons: I don’t want to sleep my life away, I need my creativity, and I want to be me! Anti-depressants and meds have their place, and they have worked, short-term, for me.

Trying to keep your head above the waves...Tyler Knott GregsonLast year I was offered ‘Stress Management’ to help conquer my crippling anxiety. I took the 6 week course, hoping to talk about and share experiences and find answers. While I won’t criticise the course, which was presented very well, it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t find personal answers or help during a weekly 2 hour slide show of things I already knew.  If I want to talk or get personal help on the NHS several years will pass before help is offered. Most depressives won’t put themselves on that list, because they believe there are people more worthy, more desperate and in more need than they, which will be true until they become one of the statistics. Help isn’t offered until you do something desperate.

Anxiety_the_last_krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook/Bekah Shambrook

So my family continue to live with a woman who is flawed, cannot answer the telephone, suffers huge bouts of insecurity and paranoia (even after almost twenty-three years of wonderful marriage to my sweetheart, I still ask “Are you sure you’re happy you married me? Wouldn’t you be better off without me?”). A mother who disappears or runs away when things get too much, who has scars that reappear, who panics, and who slips into interminable black holes.

But you know what made me cry and gives me hope? My youngest listened to a friend who suffers all these things too, and said to her “It’s okay, if you ever need someone I’m here, because someone I love is like you and I know how to deal with it.”  I’m crying because Robin Williams had people like that and still couldn’t win.

Society needs to understand that depression is a hidden illness, and that it’s generally not something you get over.

It’s a lifelong condition.

Someone once said to me “…but you’re okay now, you’ve got over that depression thing…”

You never get over this depression thing – when people understand that, it will be easier for us all to get through, not over, it.

The best way out is through - Robert Frost
Offer support and understanding…and don’t let the stars in your life fall.