Sunday 7 June 2009

Neck-deep in sludge

Riddle me this. How come I’m on antidepressants and yet I’m still revoltingly depressed? It’s been two months now and I still feel as if I’m neck deep in a monochrome swamp. Thinking is an effort, even breathing is tough – every so often I realise I have been living on the shallowest whispers of air and have to take a huge gasp. There’s a fog in my head and my limbs feel like lead. My immune system has taken a crash and so the weird palindromic rheumatism I suffer has returned and is proliferating, a bit like a Russian vine, thrusting shoots all over my body so everything aches. I just get rid of one pus-laden spot and another one appears. On my face of course.
I sit at my desk, day after day, and watch my life passing by and just want to shake myself. I try all the old tricks – thinking of things to be grateful for; remembering all those who are far, FAR worse off than I am; taking it moment by moment. But sometimes I could slap the people who write the self-help books (and that would include me – the irony doesn’t escape me). Every night I go to bed and think that ‘tomorrow I’ll be OK. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I will get my act together and get my life back on the road.’ Then tomorrow comes and the day passes and every evening is a fresh failure.

‘Don’t be so tough on yourself,’ people say. They point out that my mother died just six months’ ago (it seems like yesterday) and that the last few years have been extraordinarily tough on many counts. But the brutal truth is that I can’t afford to lie on the sofa and stare at the ceiling (as I would dearly love to do).
‘Oh, don’t fret. Everyone’s on happy pills,’ says a mother at the school gate, bright as a button, neat as a pin (swirling around managing a family and two jobs AND fund raising AND looking gorgeous).
‘Even you?’
‘Yup, even me.’
Yet hers are obviously having the desired effect and mine aren’t.

My doctor phoned up the other day.
‘Hello,’ he said, brightly.
‘Hello,’ said I, bleakly.
‘How can I help you?’
‘Er, I don’t know.’
‘Well, were you phoning about your results?’
‘I didn’t phone you.’
He sounded a bit disgruntled.
‘Well, your liver is fine.’
‘Great. Back on the booze then?’
‘Ha ha ha. Your chest x-ray showed up a little abnormality so we’ll get another one done. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about though.’
‘Oh. Good.’
‘Anything else?’ Still acting like I’d called him.
‘Well, I’m still not feeling great. Pretty grim really.’
‘You’re better than you were.’
Well, true. If not bursting into tears all the time is better. Now I don’t cry but I’m not sure that’s particularly healthy either. Grief has to go somewhere and if you squash it down it lays heavy on the heart.

Instead of crying, I read. All I really want to do is curl up in bed, or in a chair by the window, or lie on the sofa and lose myself in other people’s words and worlds. There is nothing as comforting as a good book and this last fortnight I have read some absolute stunners.

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz – which took me right out of myself (a good place to be) and had me marvelling at his imagination and dark humour and use of language. So effortless. So sublime.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh – backdrop the Opium Wars, cast a motley crew. Again, the language is remarkable (if sometimes difficult – a glossary would be useful) – an epic of a book (the next two instalments eagerly awaited).

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry – a 100-year old Irish woman details her pitifully harrowing life, alongside the testimony of her psychiatrist. I struggled with this to start with – and soon realised that its themes of memory, motherhood and betrayal touched particular chords.

I’ve now started Philip Hensher’s The Northern Clemency (yes, I’m working my way through the Booker shortlist) and holding out great hopes for it. He was one of my tutors on the Arvon course I went on and just fabulous – funny, generous, scary, inspiring. If you haven’t read The Mulberry Empire, grab a copy and give yourself a treat.

I was also sent review copies of a couple of books in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series by Charlaine Harris (Dead Until Dark is the opener). It seems our appetite for sexy vampires isn’t remotely sated – though don’t expect the dreamy teen landscape of Twilight – it’s far more earthy and tongue-in-cheek, with a bit of crime plot to boot. I rather like the calm matter-of-fact way that Harris handles her alternative reality. Vampires have ‘come out’ and some try to rub along with humans (drinking synthetic blood and keeping their fangs to themselves). The heroine (a small town waitress) has her own ‘disability’ (she can read minds) and it soon transpires that half the town is ‘different’ in one way or another. Total nonsense of course but huge fun and wildly undemanding.

So I sit and read, or lie and read, and let the housework go hang, let everything go hang. Presumably I will surface at some point or another. But right now being inside other people’s heads is a much nicer place to be than inside my own.

PS – I’m not entirely sure that seeing my books (look on the sidebar) being sold for 1p on Amazon is helping my mood. How depressing is that?

If you want to read something a little cheerier check out my other (far more professional, far less self-absorbed) blog –

Chalk and cheese, yin and yang……ah whatever.....


Cat said...

I am trudging along side you. My Cymbalta dose keeps me from the crying but I have no energy and ache for no reason. I lie to myself and say I don't need the stupid pill but I know I do.
I want to be my old self. The person who was always smiling and singing. I want her back.
I'm reading your Spirit of the Home. I am enjoying it and can't wait to put something into practice and see if I can change the feel of this home. On page 54 and reading on.
Feel better...

Minnie said...

So sorry, Jane, to hear you are so low (putting it mildly). No, nothing works at times like these. And comparisons with those less fortunate merely increase already-irksome burden of guilt - and it sounds from your post that you are experiencing some form of free-floating guilt, which is unbearable. At present. It WILL pass.
Six months is insufficient time to recover from a 'close death'; in such circs it is never a question of 'pulling yourself together'. Do be kinder to yourself. Perhaps ask for a different SSRI? Dunno. Can't help; wish I could ... Me, Rep, TKoTS and Mrs G are on the case anyway (as ever), if that helps (which is, sadly, doubtful).
Love the condensed book reviews, tho'. PHensher: one of my heroes (ref on blog)! S Barry: yes! Love the whimsical originality of the vampire chronicles: must read! Others: will also sample. Thank you. See, even when low, you are casting pearls before you to share.
Next year, on the Cote ...

Zoë said...

{{{{ Jane }}}}}

Understand more than you know.

Staying strong is so hard, my GP won't give me smiley pills, on too many already; antibiotics long term; Cancer drugs; Diabetes and hypertension meds; I suspect anything else will see me a walking chemical hazard!

Some days I think I must make the best of everyday, and others the darkness moves in and I think what's the point any more, I may be dead in 5 years. I couldn't tell you what makes it happen, it just does!

Often I think its a form of grief too, and I dont think there is any way we can hurry the process along, it just takes time. So give yourself time and don't feel guilty about it.

Loads of love, Zoë

Minnie said...

PS at risk of being intrusive and appallingly Pollyannaesque (bleurgh: slow strangulation too good for, etc): it's very good news that EJ liver and lungs are OK. Us followers, missus [tugs forelock, shifts straw in gob, gurns grotesquely], are relieved even if you're not. Not yet, that is: probably hasn't sunk in. It will + mood WILL lift.

Saz said...

Oh my dear! I wish I could help..this is very much the topic in blogland right now..
have you read my recent posts? and
sallymandys recent posts on this and paste in your address bar..

and ERIN at woman in the window here...

and this fab post...

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! keep in touch, I find reading helps me escape, walking briskly helps, cuddling dogs or people is so helpful too, the physical contact, not necessarily sexual, (that can add pressures at this time)and...

this one

we all talk about our shadows all the time..

and email me if you like to pressure

oh and btw the meds can take 2-3 months to kick in...if you arent feeling any different by now though, I would ask your doctor if you can tweak your dose..its not magic and sometimes take a few tries to get it right for YOU....

hold on. Breathe.

Saz said...

thanks for the book heads up, l'm a voracious reader too...
and your Jack looks like my passed doggie dogs are here somewhere if you care to look on the blog...
tlak soon..

mountainear said...

Don't know what to say Jane that won't sound like a trivial platitude - I've not been to the place you're in. Sounds grim.

I hope you find something which helps. Best wishes x

Bluestocking Mum said...

Dear Jane

I do understand, and unfortunately, I have to tell you that it will get worse before it gets better...

After my mum/nan died I found it more difficult as the months passed. People say that time is a great healer. What a crock! It actually got worse - the sadness and depression, the guilt, the anger, the fond memories; lots of things - it has been so confusing to feel such an enormous range of emotions to this person who influenced my life so much.

Only during the last months or so have things crystallised for me. For some reason, I've started to have all sorts of strange dreams (that she had not really died/she came back to life/she was discovered in the morgue, still breathing - very bizarre stuff, almost like I'm in denial.)

Who knows what it all means, or how long these will go on for. I've accepted them now.

What I'm trying to say, my friend, is that I think what you are experiencing is perfectly normal. There was a lot of very complex stuff about your relationship with your mother(as I also had with mine.)

All the physical symptoms are simply a manifestation of whats going on inside your head(I've also got a pus laden spot... on my inner thigh btw and you know all about MY immune system.)

It's hard, I know. Try not to analyse too much. You ARE completely normal. (Well, as normal as normal is.)

Like me, you're just a little more sensitive than most.

Keep doing what you're doing...keep writing and immerse yourself in other things....for the time being, at least.

Most of all be kind to yourself.


Exmoorjane said...

Oh heck, well your replies got the tears rolling a good way, I'm sure.

Cathy: Well, we can keep one another company eh? Seems a long time ago that I wrote Spirit of the Home....and another person (but had the odd patch in the sludge then too). Glad you're enjoying it.

Phidelm: Ah, I hope so. I'm sure so. But not sure I can wait the two years it is supposed to take...
V glad to hear you, Rep, TKoTS and Mrs G are on the case - gawd love 'em. Damn right next year on the Cote.

Zoe: big hug back honey. Know you understand this one too...and heaven only knows I don't have what you are going through...think we need to sit down in the garden again some time and put ourselves to rights!

Phidelm: liver OK (amazed really as have been giving it a battering) but still waiting for next x-ray I fear....

FFF: oh wow, thank you for such a wonderfully supportive comment. Bless your heart. I shall check out those posts for sure....and shall go back to your blog to remind self of your dogs....I have an appalling memory.

Mountaineer: thank you. I am heartily glad that you haven't experienced this...just so horrible.

Angel: Ah, yes, of course you dreams are just well out of order. Sometimes I dream of Mum but often of my adopted father who died a few years back. And always those wretched decaying rooms, full of damp and despair.

Stephanie said...

Wish I had some magic words for you! I do know that often those smiley pils take quite a bit longer then 8 weeks to reach their full potential! Virtual hugs...

ArtSparker said...

I don't know much about it (being a cheap date in the sense that prozac worked for me when I needed it) but my understanding is that not everything works the same way for everyone, although I am sure switching medications is a drag. I tend to elevate physical activity above sitting around working at being good (or grateful).

I can relate to the discounted books, having spent a good bit of time making mosaic sculpture which is now unsalable ( have been avoiding communicating with the galleries that still have it). These things loom at times.

Hope that today you encounter some unexpected delight.

claire p said...

Ah yes the fog. Like a grey cloud that just sort of sits there. You're not alone with this. And my mum has palindromic rhumatism, so far we have never come across anyone else with it. Looks like I'm heading that way also.

I will look out for the vampire books. I'm afraid I am a grown up Twilighter!!! Other might try but for me it will always be Edward, sigh.(word verification is 'necke'!)

Unknown said...

Antidepressants are a strange thing - how can they make you feel so bad when you desperately want to feel better?! I know partly what you're going through and like others have said, it will take a while before you start to feel human again. Hugs xxx

blackbird said...

I wish that you were closer. Keep reading, keep moving, eat the right foods, treat yourself and enjoy as many little moments as you can.

I would check back with your doctor on medication- they do take time to work but if they're not working- they're not working. We've been through this for the past year with my niece who is mentally handicapped as well. Now she's found a combination that seems to be working but the process has been worrying, annoying and frustrating. Her doctor also gave her a prescription for a vitamin pill because, I guess, some of the medications don't work if you aren't eating a balanced diet.

After my father dies suddenly, I couldn't stop crying for months. And books were the only thing that allowed me to escape and lose myself. I'd hoped that at least I'd lose weight with my grief but it didn't work. Take care.

Exmoorjane said...

MM: thanks so much. Realise with horror that it's actually nearer three months now....

ArtSpark: exercise used to do it for me (well it helped) but the ploody rheumatism sort of puts pay to that sadly.....grrrr.

Claire: now your mum is the first person I'VE ever come across with did hers develop? They think mine was triggered by a virus.
There are a hoard of YA vampire books - was just reading about them on prophecygirl's blog.
Not sure about Edward - all that alabaster hard skin....eeew.

Clarey: huge thanks - yes, I probably need to be patient.

Exmoorjane said...

Blackbird - yours snuck in while i was typing......thank you so very much. My doctor is inclined to up the dose but I'm just not sure. Ah yes, me too on the losing weight - sadly it's the opposite that's happening. Thank you so much for caring.

Exmoorjane said...

btw, lovers of vampire books (especially of the Twilight YA variety) check out - Prophecygirl reviews a HUGE pile of the little biters.

rachel said...

Jane, it's probably taken you a lifetime to get into this state, and it certainly isn't going to lift in a few weeks, magic pills or no magic pills. And losing your mother (and your daughterhood), selling her house, along with all the other losses, memories and mixed emotions that follow the bereavement itself, is a long and complex process. All I can say, from my own experience, is be gentle with yourself, don't expect too much too soon, and have patience - it will pass. It really will. Meantime, reading, resting, friendship and family can only help. My warmest wishes and much sympathy. x

The bike shed said...

No easy answers. Been there myself, so sympathise and empathise. Laughter helps if you can find it somewhere.
And remember Solomon.
Gam zeh ya'avor' : 'This too shall pass'
Hold on to that.

Lane Mathias said...

Hold on in there.

Reading helps the sludge so don't feel guilty about that. x

Edward said...

Dear Jane, wish I could write something that would help. Lost both my parents within a month of each other fifteen years ago - I ended up on Prozac but it didn't do anything for me except make me want to self-harm, which was worse than the depression. I didn't think of asking for a different treatment - I just tried (and, I suppose, succeeded) in getting past the stage of feeling utterly bereft. Best love, E

Jude said...

When the fog comes down, it's horrid. I've woken myself up, crying in my sleep...
I'm so sorry you feel so grot. Hang in there, don't feel guilty about reading, prob the best way to get some relaxing.
I've not got any answers, just wanted to say I feel for you and have some idea how awful you feel.

Milla said...

darling Jane, have nothing of value to say, being Queen of Trivia and not much else. Haven't even got a funny word verif to pass on.
You are such a fabulous, life-enhancing person (and I can say that since I know for real and not just through your gorgeous writing) that it is wrong that your own life ain't enhanced at the moment. No easy answers and I've not been where you are, nor have I been on anti-ds so have little of value to say. But I can't bear to think of you sad. Maybe, don't fight it, let it be awful now, let it drift, let it be crap and then maybe a corner will turn without you noticing. xx

Jacqueline said...

On a very selfish level, I missed you last week, I checked your blog every day. I did read your other blog, and got some good advice about walking (which I try to do regularly, and usually fail) and allergies (cats, dogs, horses, house dust mites!). I'm really sorry you feel so awful, wish there was something I could do.

Herbalgirl said...

Jane, As a great lover of your blog and all it has done to enhance my life (book recs, fit flops, humor, etc, etc.), I can only pip in with my own deepest wishes for things to turn around. SSRIs often need dose adjustment and certainly time to work. In the meantime, it's healthy to get all of this off your chest--you have so many friends to help support you along the way. xx

Exmoorjane said...

Rachel: you're right, I know. Don't we always want a magic bullet? Which simply don't exist.

Mark: Ah, true. This too will indeed pass. Thank you.

Lane: thank you. Reading DOES help, it has always been my solace - though sometimes I do wonder if it's just another way of hiding.

Edward: I think that must be the hardest - losing two so close. Shocking that Prozac had that effect....does worry me sometimes that these things make one worse, not better. Thank you.

Jude: thank you. I did that once, crying in my sleep - such a strange, sad thing.

Milla: Ah, I think you're will pass (I hope so) and maybe just need to be patient and let it be. Funny really, however much you say it, I never ever think of you as any way.

Jacqueline: that is so kind and makes me smile which is indeed something. Glad you found some useful stuff on the other blog...!!

Deb: thank you so much. Ah, if I have managed to bring fitflops into someone's life, I reckon that's a pretty good achievement.

Brown Dog said...

Dear Jane - So sorry to hear this, especially as I know how much help and support you've been to others in a similar situation. I wish I could do or say something helpful. Six months is not a long time to come to terms with losing someone who's been close to you for a whole lifetime. Be kind to yourself. No one is happy and together all the time. This will pass, really. I just hope it will be soon. xx

Rob-bear said...

I read the first line of your post and thought, Oh Dear, Jane!!!" (That's not actually what I thought; what I thought couldn't be printed on the blog of a lady such as yourself.)

Do hope things get better, and soon!

Bear hugs from across the pond.

toady said...

Only just caught up with this.
Six months is no time at all really so allow yourself the luxury of time.
Have you tried a different kind of pils. I was on Prozac for years and my new GP changed me to Citalopram which seem to suit me much better. Now looking forward to the time I can start leaving them off.
Hang on in there Girl.

Fennie said...

My best wishes and hope it passes soon. Fortunately depression seems to have little effect on the quality of one's work; in fact it may even improve it. So put the time to good use. If all else fails come and visit Rosie and me in South Wales. As for physic - I'm sure you and your doctor know the pharmaceuticals but they always terrify me. Give me aspirin and maybe a glass of malt whisky any day. As they say:

Nothing to do but work
Nothing alas, alack.
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back!

Mum Gone Mad said...

Well everyone else has said it already I think, but just to let you know, you're not on your own with this (not that I was cheered much when people used to say that to me). I used to spend days swimming through soup (not literally) yet being bright and cheery and amusing to the world outside, yet nothing felt interesting or even do-able...I don't know when it lifted, but lift it did and it will with you too, not sure who said it but "this too shall pass" was a phrase I would repeat over and over to myself. Keep your chin up (and poss discuss your dosage, I know it takes a while for these things to kick in but it's usually weeks and not months) luv Karen x

Maggie Christie said...

Golly so many erudite comments above. I can't add much, except to echo that it will pass, but I can't help but hear you yell back: "I know! But when?!" Soon, I hope, but as Zoe says, I don't think it's a process you can hurry. Best wishes. xx

maddie said...

I had no idea. You've worn it well so far. When you have something bubbling under the surface like this and then the weather goes dull and cold after being so bright and cheerful, I'm sure our souls turn inwards to compensate.
God, that sounded bollocks didn't it? I am a shallow individual and can't offer much in the way of advice. Except keep taking the tablets if you have to or pour them down the loo and go for a long run, walk or cycle and soak up the beauty around you.

Welsh Girl said...

I know that there is nothing that can be said to make depression go away. It is like the weather - out of our control and you only realise how bad it was when it clears up.

However I can suggest that you need to read some froth in with your excellent reading list. I suggest Georgette Heyer's Arabella as it can't fail but make you smile.....

claire p said...

Hi Jane, mum developed her palindromic rheumatism in her twenties (she's 70 now). It was in her knees. One would swell for about ten days then go down. About a week later the other one would do the same. She had them both replaced a few years ago. They still give her trouble but much less now. I'm not sure how it started but it did go while she was pregnant. And it alwas got worse when she ate strawberries!

Anonymous said...

I was tagged recently and enjoyed answering the questions, and I had to choose eight people to pass it on to and you’re one of my eight. You may like to do it, and I’m sure bloggers would enjoy reading your responses, but not to worry if it’s not your thing.

By the way - what you say about what you're going through is courageous. It resonates with me and obviously lots of other people. Keep breathing, tread carefully.

Exmoorjane said...

DD: ooooh, don't tempt me...that sounds just fabulous.

LBD: I am feeling a bit brighter today - could be the weather... I know I have to give it more time..

Rob-Bear - thank you - so kind to comment when I know you're not feeling great yourself.

Toady - thank, me darling...knew you'd understand. I am going to talk to my doctor very soon.

Fennie: suspect a trip to see you and Rosie (particularly in a theatrical capacity) would be remarkably therapeutic. Some day, I promise!

Mum gone Mad; it DOES help actually. A lot. Thank you.

Mags: I'm always in too much of a're darn right, must give it time.

Maddie: no, not bollocks at all. Sometimes I look around (and by heck Ilive in a gorgeous place) and am stunned that it can't pull me out...but it will come.

Welsh Girl: love the idea of froth. Got told off for reading Georgette Heyer (and basing history essay around it) when at school!

Claire: interesting. Mine flits all over - shoulder to hip to fingers to toes. Bloody pain.

Lizzie: thanks so much for tagging me - I've done this one already (though the questions have shifted a bit now). LOVE your blog, btw - all of your desperate to know where your new cottage is...

Cait O'Connor said...

I am late to this Jane, sorry.
Where would we be without books to escape to? I do understand your feelings. I am sure you are still in the grieving process. Try and take life a day at a time, even an hour at a time - be kind to yourself and spoil yourself.
This darkness will pass.
PS I am not impressed with Prozac (M was on it for a while, have you tried St Johns Wort?).

CAMILLA said...

Dear Jane,

Sorry I am late in reading, I have been over to your previous posts, so sorry to hear you have not be feeling on top form lately.

You are still in the grieving process, you also had a lot to sort out, and also not long moved into new house yourself.

I had Prozac moons ago, I was not content with this I must say, then I had The Quiet Life, tablet, took a while before it 'kicked' in.

Remember Jane, that you are a fabulous person, I am thinking of you, and keep up with the reading, spoil yourself rotten, that darkness will disappear for you dear Jane.


Anonymous said...

There are days when I just wish I had a magic wand to wave and magic everything better.

If I did have one I'd be giving you a quick wand wave right now!

You need the luxury of some "me" time for grief,


Ladybird World Mother said...

Ouch. Poor darling you. Wish I had that magic wand too. You bloody deserve one. Breathe. And listen to your heart beating. And find someone somewhere to hold you tight. Lots of love. XXX (and slap that bloody mother at the school gate. x)(not really.x)

roughseasinthemed said...

I'm not a regular reader, but I certainly empathised with your post and then with some of your commenters.
My parents died 5/6 years ago, and while the first death is a serious shock to the system, the death of the second is just totally bewildering. For me (selfishly I guess) I just felt like half my life had disappeared, my past, my history - gone. I guess we all accept that oldish parents will die one day, but what we don't know is how we will feel. It's not just about the disappearance of a loved (or otherwise) person from your life. It marks a transition period whether you want it to or not. It took me considerable time to stop crying about them, and dwelling on how I felt. Six months is nothing in the scheme of things so certainly don't beat yourself up for feeling low. I've not tried pills so no advice there, but everything that I have read by others suggests it can take a while to find the ones that work best for you. Much as I would like to escape into a book, I find doing things tends to lift my mood. Sending you lots of strength and determination.

mumplustwo said...

Hi Jane. I am brand new to this blog business ... somehow found you through family affairs ... just thought I'd write and say how much I enjoy the way you write. Sorry you have been feeling down. It's been a week since you wrote this piece so I hope things have improved already. I too lost my mum (though almost 10 years ago now) and my heart goes out to you. It is very, very hard. Sending you much strength across cyberspace.

Unknown said...

Jane, I have NEVER written in a blog and certainly not to someone I don't even know, however, you have touched my heart, I'm hoping to be of some help, I too was in your shoes, so depressed I could not get out of bed, it was as if my very soul had been removed from my body, I found myself enjoying NOTHING not even sex, and I was gaining weight, having been a size zero most of my life I was horrified at thickening waist, so I went to my male gyno, and told him that at 47, I was depressed, fat, and simply not myself anymore, I wondered aloud if perhaps I needed hormone replacement therapy, well I was told NO he said I needed an antidepressant yes Lexpro was what I needed said he,that would fix me right up, well time went by I took said drug, I got worse and lacked the motivation to get out of bed and seek help, I became a recluse, The turning point was an impending visit from my mother who warned me that she herself would take to the Dr. well, that put the fear of god into me :P and I got busy, found a female gyno who specialized in HRT, after testing I was found to be lacking in some hormones and almost empty in others, after my first week I was laughing All the time, The smile now almost never leaves my face, its like waking up from a long long sleep, I have my life back, please seek help, get tested whatever it takes, just do it, don't make me send my mother over there :P

Exmoorjane said...

Bethann - I can't find a profile to thank you properly for your lovely kind response....but thank you. Sorry this is so late but I've only just looked back and seen this. Things are a little better now but I'm going to pay heed to your advice. Thank you again. jx