Saturday, December 22, 2012

#tattoo date in Birmingham

  Geoff and I had a great day of tattooing this last Thursday. Jo suggested we come over to her new home instead of the shop, which gave us a delightfully chilled day of tattooing and chat. She's got a lovely place too - and a bathroom to *die* for ;)

We didn't take too many pictures (cos we were all too chilled to remember), but Jo did some beautiful work on us both: finishing the solid colour into Geoff's armpit and down onto his ribs, and starting to colour the leaves and flowers on my own. Unfortunately, my meds seem to be messing with my tolerance for pain and what used to be a pleasure is rapidly turning into a dreaded test of endurance. Even with some judicious use of numbing cream this time I was only able to manage two hours out of the four we had planned. 

Still, it is beautiful work...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"There's comfort in melancholy"

There's not been much blogging here for a while I know.

Those on Twitter will know that my life-long partner, Geoff, had a bit of a meltdown a few months ago - finally caving under the weight of a years worth of work stress, topped off with several months of personal stress organising the house move of his Mum so that she can live closer to us as she ages.

He has been my rock and my anchor - the one who has daily seen me through some of the roughest parts of my own depression over the last few years - and it was heart-wrenching to feel that rock suddenly crumble beneath me. I literally awoke one morning to find him crumpled on the kitchen floor in tears. I don't know where the strength came from, but I simply held him for an hour whilst he shook and sobbed that he just could not go on any longer - telling him that it was OK, that we would sort everything out together...

I guess that giving of strength must have drained my own - because the next day I found myself stopped in a lay-by on my way to work - overwhelmed by a relapse in my depression and unable to see the road ahead for my tears.

We are lucky to have an excellent GP who understands depression and anxiety (and who has been treating me for mine for the last two years); he insisted that we both take a gentle couple of weeks off work to recover, and then be granted a slow phased return to work.

Then my poor Handler finally yielded to months of unhappiness and uncertainty in His own job, and has had to go off-grid for a while whilst He tries to recover His equilibrium...

I guess, as Joni says "we all live so close to that line, and so far from satisfaction"


It has been a rough month or so for us all - and one were we have all turned inwards a little to give ourselves and each other a little of the space and support that we each need - however, I am now happy to say that we are all doing a great deal better.

Geoff had a long meeting with his boss, and they have regraded his post and reallocated some of his responsibilities; his Mum has also backed off on her daily demands (interestingly, she said she understood because his Father had silently suffered with anxiety and depression, which was one reason why they downsized to take early retirement - something that none of the family had been aware of before).

I had my own meetings at work too - and sorted most of the problems I was facing here, save one.

Some of you might already know that I keep a separate daily photo-blog, called the '11th hour', were I share a photo of whatever I am doing/working on each day. Just before Sir and I went to Amsterdam I received a very angry phone call and several acidic emails from my institution's marketing department, saying that my blog had come to their attention after one of my posts had been retweeted in a way that could be seen as unfavourable to the institution, and demanding that I therefore 'cease and desist' the blog immediately. They angrily told me that my photographs broke data-protection laws and constituted an invasion of privacy - and then they contacted my manager to complain of  my 'unprofessional and inappropriate use of work time'. All of this despite the fact that the blog is incredibly popular with my students, has previously received positive comments from other Librarians, and has even received a mention on the twitter feed of my professional governing body.

Luckily my manager was understanding and apologetic, but I finally had to concede and officially closed the blog earlier this month - but it left me with quite a bitter taste that has kept me from away from social media for a while.


So. A bit of a confessional post, but I felt some explanation of silence was necessary. I also felt it important to write about our different reactions to stress because I was so saddened by the story of Geoff's Father's depression, hidden from the rest of the family for years in shame.

I find it almost unbelievable that mental illness and emotional distress still carries such negative stigma.

No one would think less of a person for being a diabetic and requiring insulin, or having to take warfarin for high blood pressure - so why do we feel uncomfortable when we hear a colleague is taking citalopram or diazepam to help them live with their depression? It is simply an illness the same as any other, after-all.

In truth, the only reason we are afraid of mental illness is because we are ignorant of it - and therefore fear it. And that is despite the fact that 1 in 4 of us will suffer at some point in our lives. That's a higher percentage than will suffer cancer.

Cancer crossed over from being a disease never spoken off; depression and mental illness can do so too - but only if those of us who live with it can be open and honest, where and when it is appropriate to do so.

There is no shame in suffering under depression or anxiety.

Emotional strength is no less infinite than the physical; no matter how tall or strong, we all have a limit to our internal strength, and it is no weakness if we break when that limit is reached and exceeded - any more than it would be weakness for our backs to break were we asked to carry a mountain.

And sometimes it is OK just to feel down or melancholic too...

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