Criticise

Criticise

I noticed that today’s word prompt is Criticise which is a term I know well.  To criticise someone is to indicate fault or express judgement.  Mental illness unfortunately invites criticism more than most.  Nobody likes to be criticised but when it happens in relation to something you can’t change then it’s even harder to deal with.

“Why can’t you just be happy?”, “Can’t you just snap out of it?”, “You should try thinking of good things instead of bad things”, “Just don’t let it beat you”, “Can’t you see what a good life you have?”, “Take up a new hobby, you’re just bored”, “You’re not ill, you’re just tired”, “Don’t be anxious, there is nothing to worry about”, “You can’t let your problems stop you doing things”.

It’s all words I’ve heard since being diagnosed with depression.  As if it isn’t hard enough fighting your brain constantly to carry on, people think that making criticism or judgement will help.  There is offering advice and support and there is criticising someone for the way the live with illness.  I hate being told to just smile and get through it, to snap out of depression and stop letting it effect me so much.  I don’t have a say in how my depression affects me, I can’t just wake up one day and say “Today I’m going to be happy and depression is in the past” and that’s what makes an invisible illness harder, having people criticise and judge you because physically you appear healthy.

Even worse is the people that criticise when they have no experience in the matter, people who have never been affected by depression will criticise the way I handle it, they will tell me I’m dealing with it in the wrong way, that I’m not trying to recover properly.  It’s one of the main reasons I don’t think CBT worked for me, I went through three separate courses of the therapy and it was degrading being told I wasn’t putting enough effort into getting better, that I wasn’t trying to change my life when every day it was a struggle to get up and carry on living.

I spend most of my time at home, my anxiety limits my activities a lot.  It makes me feel isolated and weird because I don’t react the same way as others to situations.  I can’t just get up and go out shopping, I can’t go to concerts or to a place with groups of people.  Then people come along and say “But what are you worried about? nothing bad is going to happen” and expect it to fix everything, they expect that if they tell me not to worry then all of a sudden my anxiety is going to just turn itself off.  When it continues they get angry and frustrated at me because what they’ve said has had no effect and they criticise me for not trying.

CFS means my body is aching and sore all of the time, I am in a constant state of exhaustion and need roughly 14 hours of sleep to function for just three hours, then I need to sleep again.  Yet sleep doesn’t refresh me, it doesn’t make me feel better, it just charges my body enough to do the bare minimum and some days I can’t even do that.  “You’re just lazy” ,”You just need to sleep better”, “Go to bed earlier”, “Do more work and then you’ll wake up eventually”, “You’re only tired because you’re not doing anything or going out”.  It’s amazing that, for a condition with very little research or treatment, that some people think themselves experts and think they are in a position to criticise.

Criticism can be a good thing if it’s constructive, if it’s advice or a suggestion to help.  Criticism that just aims to judge and point out failure is not helpful, it’s harmful.  I have to listen to it everyday in some form, sometimes from people who love me and don’t realise what they are saying is hurtful.  People with a chronic illness have to deal with enough, without people adding judgement and criticism to make them feel even worse.  Everyone you meet may be struggling with something and unless you know their situation and how they feel inside then you have no right to judge.  It’s hard enough fighting something that I can’t see, I don’t need to be criticised and judged for the way I fight it.

One best friend is better than a bunch of alright friends.

One best friend is better than a bunch of alright friends.

One thing depression and anxiety are good at is pushing people away and isolating you so it has its chance to make you feel worthless and alone.  Before depression, I had a group of about six close friends that I spent time with.  We were a close group of friends and enjoyed going on days out, camping trips and just having fun together.  It seems like a really long time ago now and I miss the days of being able to enjoy days out and socialising with people.  Socialising now brings feelings of fear, panic and general anxiety, and it’s just easier to avoid it, so that I avoid panicking and making myself worse.

After being diagnosed with depression, I hid it from my friends.  It was easy to hide because I became a very good actress and almost became two people, the one I was with friends was happy and confident but once I was home I’d shrink into myself and become quiet and withdrawn.  I began to avoid socialising, cancelling on my friends and making excuse after excuse to get out of plans.  This was about the time I began to self harm because I hated myself, I hated that I was avoiding my friends and isolating myself but I couldn’t stop doing it, depression was in control and I was just left trailing behind doing whatever I could to bring some sense of peace.  Self harm was my way of getting rid of the frustration I felt at losing control and it was away to take out my hatred of myself.  I hated the way I looked, I thought I was fat and ugly so I wanted to rip apart my skin and cause pain and make my outside look as ugly and distressed as my inside felt.

As the months passed by, my friends stopped inviting me to go out and I’d see pictures on the internet of them enjoying themselves and going to events and out for meals, and it made me feel worse.  Even though I was the one who pushed them away, it still felt horrible and I was angry at them for letting me push them away, why didn’t they try harder? why couldn’t they see I was struggling?

In my close group of friends, there was always one who I was closer to and I’d say we were more like sisters, we spent everyday together and she practically lived at my house.  She came on my family holidays and was the one I always went to first for advice.  During the time my depression got worse, she kept asking me about things, she was the one who carried on trying to get me to socialise and get out.  Unfortunately I was too far gone and I refused again and again.  Then I attempted suicide, a stupid and horrible decision I made which I regretted straight after, by that time though the pills and alcohol had started to kick in and I felt myself falling unconscious, this is when I called my friend for the first time in a while, luckily she came straight away, found me and called an ambulance which probably saved my life.  I don’t remember a lot about the hospital, my heart had issues and I was out of it but I do remember she stayed with me all night, she slept in a chair and refused to leave my bedside.  I think it was a shock for her to see me like that, with sliced up arms and practically unconscious, I regret that she had to go through that because of me.

After I got out of hospital I went through therapy and I got in touch with my old group of friends and told them what had happened to me, they were surprised and promised to be there if I needed anything and offered to talk anytime I needed it.  It’s about four years on now and that group of friends became more and more distant as my depression flummoxed between manageable and not manageable.  That one friend who stayed by my hospital bed though, she stuck by me through everything.  I didn’t deserve it, depression made me an awful friend because that’s what it does, it makes you selfish and care less about the people around you.  I pushed and pushed her away, I was distant and horrible but she kept coming through for me, she kept arranging to come and visit me.

In fact, I saw her today, while I’m going through a really awful time with my depression and CFS, and she really made me realise how lucky I am to have her in my life.  She is the only one who stuck by me and pushed back and even though I don’t see her as much as I’d like, she is there when I need her.  I did have a group of good friends and it was great but having that one best friend now surpasses that by far.  I think it’s way more important to have one best friend than a group of friends who when it gets tough, fade into the distance.  I owe a lot to my best friend, she probably saved my life the day I attempted suicide and she has continued to be there for me and make me feel loved when I haven’t deserved it.  It takes a special kind of person to stand by someone with depression and she is my guardian angel.  Depression is a horrible condition, it destroys who you are and makes life so hard, but the people that support you and love you make it a little bit easier to fight.

So thank you best friend, for never abandoning me and for always being there when I’ve needed you.  I haven’t been a good friend in return and for that I am sorry but I will continue to fight and be there for you, the same way you have always been for me.

Exhausted and Hopeless

Exhausted and Hopeless

It’s been one of those weeks again, my CFS has flared up and decided to make me look like the laziest person on earth.  The last two days have been spent in bed, unable to do anything because of the exhaustion and pain.  I hate feeling like I’m lazy but I just haven’t been able to move, so the washing has piled up again, the kitchen needs cleaning and so do the bathrooms.  My Fiancé has been doing as much as he can but he’s busy with work so at the end of the day it’s down to me to catch up on all the chores which will no doubt leave me crashing again, it’s a vicious cycle.

All I’ve managed to do today is have a bath which is so frustrating, and it’s made me ache all over just doing that.  It’s so depressing not being able to do simple things for myself like wash and get dressed, it’s a normal part of the day and for most people takes no energy but just that simple task leaves me out of breath and in pain.  I can’t even remember what I’ve eaten the past few days because I’ve been sleeping most of the time and just grabbing whatever in between which doesn’t help.  It seems wrong that my own body doesn’t care if I’m eating but all it cares about is sleeping, even if that means no food or drink for a whole day.

It makes it worse when professionals come out with “It’s your brain making you think you’re tired and in pain, it’s just your brain signals getting mixed up” because the pain and exhaustion I feel is not in my head, it’s in every part of my body, every inch aches and feels heavy and without energy.  This condition is so misunderstood and under researched that the amount of people who have never heard of it or just tell me I’m lazy is unbelievable.  For a condition which is so debilitating, it’s hard to understand why there is not more work being done to discover the causes and treatments.  I don’t want to lie in bed all day neglecting my house and Fiancé, I want to do normal household chores without sweating like I’m in a sauna and having to sit down because my legs are shaking and aching so much.  I don’t want to sleep a whole day away without food or drink, I don’t want to hurt all over and feel exhaustion in every inch of my body.

CFS is such a difficult subject to explain and I find myself getting more and more frustrated when people say “Just get out of bed and you’ll feel better” “Have a wash and you’ll feel more awake” “Go for a walk and you’ll feel better”.  It’s all rubbish, none of it makes me feel better.  It is the worst feeling in the world to sleep and feel no better when you wake up, it’s horrible when sleep doesn’t refresh you.  I wake up every morning just as tired as when I went to bed and it never stops, I sleep and it does nothing.  It comes to the point where you just don’t know why you bother sleeping at all when it makes no difference, but then your body just decides to sleep anyway.

People ask me “Why are you so tired if you haven’t done anything” and it makes me so depressed and angry because I can’t answer the question, it makes me feel fat and lazy, it makes me feel like the scum of the earth when I see people working twelve hour shifts and I can’t have a bath without needing to sit or lie down after.  What is the point? Why am I on this earth if I can contribute nothing to society.  Even writing this, my hands and arms are aching and my eyes are drifting shut again because I’m exhausted and the sad thing is, I’ll wake up feeling exactly the same.

Come on body, don’t fail me now.

Come on body, don’t fail me now.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/M.E has really made me feel like a 90 year old woman and at 23 it’s a bit disheartening to feel like you’re an old woman already.  It’s not just the relentless fatigue which makes me sleep half my days away but the pain I feel for no physical reason.  It’s hard going to the doctors and being referred for so many tests and scans to find there is nothing that can explain the pain I feel.  Of course it’s a good thing that my bones and everything are physically fine but at times I wish I could just be diagnosed with something that can be seen and dealt with instead of being told there isn’t anything that can be done apart from managing the pain.

I get the worst pain in my back and when it hits, it’s hard to do anything.  And the smallest thing can trigger it, I can be picking up my niece, bending over or trying to hoover and it starts up and forces me to quit what I’m doing and rest.  I’ve tried heat pads, heat gel, cold pads and even a massaging pillow but nothing helps.  For a long time I was told to just take paracetamol but it didn’t help at all so I was given naproxen and various other painkillers which didn’t seem to touch the pain at all.  I take codeine now and it helps with the rest of my aches and pains and numbs down the pain in my back but it doesn’t rid me of it.  I’ve been doing physiotherapy which I initially thought was helping but seems to have been overruled by the pain in my body.

I’m 23 and I see women my age going for nights out, dancing, doing sports, going to the gym and just enjoying activities and it’s hard to not be able to do those things.  My anxiety stops me going on nights out and limits my social activities but i’d still like to be physically able to do these things.  I used to love wearing heels, it made me feel feminine and sexy, now my ankles are so weak they just give way.

Most days I just sit and internally scream at my body to sort itself out.  I try to overpower it with my mind, maybe if I can just make my brain understand that I’m 23 and there is no reason to be in pain then it will send a memo to my body.  It’s the most frustrating thing, I’ve been told that it’s mental and not physical and that my brain is just telling me to feel pain when there isn’t any but it just seems like a copout, because the pain I feel is real and telling me it’s not really there doesn’t help me.

All I can hope for is that one day my body wakes up and realises that it’s young and agile and not old and frail.  I wish that day would come soon because it’s hard spending every day in a constant state of exhaustion and pain.

Guilt and Shame

Guilt and Shame

Having an invisible illness brings a lot of judgement and opinions from others and a lot of time it’s negative and hurtful.  Living with Depression and Chronic Fatigue is hard enough as it is without other people making me feel worse about something I cannot change.

Before my Fiancé met me, he had never met someone affected by depression and anxiety and I think it shocked him to see how much it affected me.  He didn’t understand Depression and it took a while for him to get used to the condition but he made the effort to learn about it and support me as much as possible.  The anxiety was hard for him to deal with because he is such an outgoing person who loves to socialise and it caused a lot of stress in the relationship but we both eventually learned how to compromise and he learned my boundaries and respected them. The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome took a long time to diagnose and frustrated him to no end because he could see how my life was so negatively being impacted and it seemed like doctors just fobbed me off,  but he supported me through all of it, and he’s still supporting me even though he doesn’t understand how something you cant see can be so life changing.

Some people though aren’t as supportive and understanding, they have the impression that Depression is something I choose to live with and the Chronic Fatigue is just tiredness which I should get over.  I don’t currently work, I have done in the past and I would love to again, there is nothing more fulfilling than earning money for your future.  To others though, I choose not to work and am lazy, they see me sitting at home all day earning no money for my household and putting all the pressure on my Fiancé.  It makes me feel ashamed and I start to doubt even myself, am I weak? am I lazy? Could I do more?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is hard to explain and when people just accuse me of being tired and lazy it hurts me so much because I’m 23 and if I could I would be out there in the world preparing for my future and socialising, doing all the things a young person would do.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn’t just feeling tired, its feeling mentally and physically exhausted.  People take for granted waking up in the morning and feeling refreshed and ready for the day.  When I wake up in the morning, I feel nothing but exhaustion, I’ve slept all night but it’s not helped me, it’s not refreshed me, I feel just as tired as I did when I went to bed.  Then there is the constant aches in my muscles, it feels like I’ve run a marathon when all I’ve done is had a shower.  My joints are stiff and my temperature all over the place, I’m sweating one minute and the next I’m freezing cold.  I can’t concentrate for long, my mind feels foggy and I forget things so easily. When I sleep I have such vivid disturbing dreams that it’s surprising I sleep so much. I get up at 11am and by 3pm I need to sleep again, but I fight it because I feel so ashamed, I shouldn’t be tired because I haven’t done anything productive.

So it hurts when people think I am exaggerating or making my condition up, it hurts when people say I should be out working like everybody else because its just laziness.  It hurts when I have to fight for my benefits because Chronic Fatigue and Depression are not classed as long term illnesses.  I shouldn’t have to prove myself.  I have two illnesses that can’t be spotted physically but it doesn’t mean I’m not really ill, it just means I have to try harder to fight.