Mental Health

Although I am physically feeling better, I found myself battling depression late last year.  It all started because my father in law’s health was deteriorating – his remission from prostate cancer came to an end.   You may recall that my father died in August 2011 so to go through it all again was extremely daunting.   You may already know that once depression takes hold, it is far too easy to focus on the negative of any given situation.  I even found myself feeling guilty that I was physically feeling better!  I had some counselling and this, together with prescribed anti-depressants, have really helped my state of mind.

I now feel that being able to help my husband and his family through grief, I have been able to let go of the guilt I felt at not being there for my own father.  Let me be clear – I was there as much as I could be bearing in mind that I live on the other side of an ocean.  I never stopped loving my dad and was deeply scarred when he died.

I continued to take antidepressants even after I started feeling better mainly because Helios and I are trying to move home and this process in the UK is extremely stressful – so much so that the closer we get to finally exchanging contracts, the less the antidepressants seem to work for me!  I have promised myself that I will stop taking them once we get into our new property.  In the meantime, I’ve also continued meditating at least once a day.  It is difficult to put everything that’s going on in my mind to one side for even a few minutes but I always emerge more calm.  I have found it really helps.  Finding something that helps is a relief in itself.


A new perspective

I have had a number of sessions with a counsellor.  She rarely speaks.  She just sits and listens, only occasionally asking pointed questions.  I spend the time recounting tales of how I felt when my father died, how I missed his funeral, when I visited his grave.  I expect I will always feel guilty for not being there.

However, since my father in law has died, I have a new enthusiasm for life: I have my husband and his family to look after.  I have a future to focus on – a living family that need me.  I told my counsellor that I found it odd that with the death of one good man, I could drop into despair while with the death of another good man, I remembered my strength.   My husband doesn’t need my strength – he just needs me to be there for him.   Believe me, I am.

I’ve discovered, quite by accident, a metaphor.  One of the few things I’ve enjoyed all along is taking photographs.  I like seeing things from new perspectives and showing my perspective to anyone who would like to see.  I try new angles.  I look at colours.



I was back at work as per usual on Tuesday this week.  There seemed to be something surreal about being back in my normal routine.  I had my annual appraisal at work where they acknowledged how wonderful I am.  How could they not?  I’m hoping that my good scores will lead to a pay rise.  I can hope!

I went to my counsellor on Thursday.  The loss of my father-in-law has left me feeling as though there’s another grey cloud around my heart.  In talking to her I remembered my father-in-law, a gentleman with a kind heart, and how happy he always appeared.  Remembering that I didn’t attend my own father’s funeral, I felt I wanted to do all I could for this one.   OK, it won’t make up for missing my dad’s funeral but, considering the circumstance, I have to believe that Dad wouldn’t have wanted me to travel 4000 miles and six time zones away in order to attend a funeral only to quickly hop a flight back home so that I could get back to work in good time.  It would have cost me thousands and I would have ended up struggling with jetlag as well as grief.

In my mind I thought if I brought the family together by being at this funeral, that my karma would go some way towards making up for missing my dad’s funeral.  I’m not saying that my English family aren’t close, but step families can be difficult.  I’m hoping that by being kind, I can keep lines of communication open.

I’m finding my counselling sessions to be a help.  I am remembering that I’m only human.  I’m remembering not to be too hard on myself.  When I feel bad, I send gifts and make people laugh in order to make me feel better.  I’m a good person, I just need to remember it.



I was full of dread going to the South West.  For ease of travel, we decided to go by train.  I wanted to be able to chat in comfort rather than wade through traffic for four/five hours.  Also, I am getting to the great part in my book and I wanted to try to finish.  It was a lovely journey.  At one point we were on the coast and I took a number of photos.


We had some fish and chips for tea with Helios’s mum that first night.  I had a heart to heart with his mum.  The trouble between Apollo and his grandmother is that he doesn’t get in touch enough.  I gently reminded her that there is a certain loyalty that children have for their parents – especially children raised by single parents.  Helios’s children are only now beginning to have the emotional maturity to question what they used to take as truth without question.  They are only beginning to realise that truth can have several sides.

The next morning we got up and got ready for the funeral.  I wore my black dress, black tights and black boots.  I swept my dark multi-coloured scarf around my neck.  Helios’s sister and I had a hug when the hearse arrived.  Flowers in the shape of DAD were at the foot of the coffin.  We set off in a limo behind Helios’s dad.  I was in the back seat with Helios’s mum and she and I held hands to the service.

Apollo was there when we arrived and I threw my arms around him.  I wanted to be sure he sat with the immediate family – including me.  People from the funeral home carried the coffin into the service.  Immediate family went in first followed by other family and friends.  I sat with my brother-in-law on one side and Apollo on the other.  Helios and his sister were on both sides of his mother.

I managed to keep from crying until the vicar said the following words from First Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I sobbed and grabbed Apollo’s hand.  We held hands throughout the rest of the service and, when we were directed to leave the church first, we remained holding hands until we got outside and began to meet friends and family so that they could offer their condolences.

Initially we stood together.  I confessed that I only knew a few people there – I knew Apollo would have the same problem so I introduced him to the few people I knew.  I tried to ensure he was comfortable.  I think he’s rather shy.  He has always been good with me but, having been shy as a youngster, I know how uncomfortable being in big crowds can be – especially if the crowd has a particular expectation of you.

All of us piled into the limo and headed for the pub.  I told Helios’s sister that every time I saw her father, he was had a smile on his face.  My father-in-law was a lovely man.

After the service we went to the pub for catered sandwiches and drinks.  Apollo and I again sat side by side for a bit.  I didn’t want to monopolise his time so I wandered off from time to time.  I figured he needs to know these people – most of whom are family – a bit better.  He didn’t move much and only drank a soft drink for the hours that we were there.  I know the feeling – if you don’t have much money you don’t want to accept drinks because you’d end up owing people an expensive round.  However, at this kind of occasion he could have let us treat him.

I learned that Apollo wasn’t always so shy.  When he was very young (about 4) he used to walk up to complete strangers, clamp himself to their legs and say “I love you!”  Helios’s mum said “You had to watch him!  Before you knew it he’d be off again and around someone else’s legs!”  Apollo grew red with embarrassment when he remembered.

There was more than enough food but we had only hired the pub until 3pm so we each headed for home.  Apollo went home and we did the same.  I gave Apollo a hug before we sent him on his way.

The next morning we went back to the funeral home and I took some photos of the family flowers.  I managed to take the photos without crying.



It was the next morning when we realised Apollo had sent flowers for the funeral.  What a thoughtful boy.

The rest of our time in the South West was spent going through my father-in-laws items with my mother-in-law.  She gave Helios a number of small items.  My concern is, as always, for them.



Get back up!

I’m finding it strangely ironic that, when it seems as though I finally found a permanent end to my pain, I’ve been struck with anxiety and depression.  If there’s a God of Irony, He’s laughing His polka-dotted socks off!

So my battle to feel better continues.  I am managing to go to work and stay there all day.  Oh sure, I get a little panicked right around lunchtime.  I find myself thinking “I could just go home” but I tough it out.  The more I’m there, the more I achieve just by being out in the wide world.  The more I’m in the wide world, the more natural it feels to be at work and interacting with people.  My list of “out of the ordinary” things to find intimidating is therefore lessening.  I even had lunch with my work colleagues on Friday – something I’ve only done once or twice before.

Unfortunately, due to the death and funeral of my father-in-law, I think my anti-depressants aren’t working as well as they were.  I’m hoping that, once my extra stresses diminish, my tablets will start working well again.  Also, I’m skipping two weeks of counselling sessions due to not knowing when the funeral was taking place.  However, this does mean that I’ll have LOTS to talk about when I get to see her again.  She’d better be ready for me!

I would like to thank Syn at Expiation for getting in touch.  Your blog is an inspiration!   I am grateful in particular for The Spirit of Counting Spoons and reminding me that I am not responsible for my illnesses nor my current depression and anxiety.  I am responsible for getting back up.


Depression, Anxiety and Counselling

As well as taking anti-depressants, I also have been seeing a counsellor.  My first appointment was all about what brought me to her door in the first place.  At the beginning of the second appointment I was pretty agitated and I said that I thought she was going to tell me that wasn’t as good a daughter to my father as I am to my mother.  We skimmed over my issues because she wanted information about my background and I went into detail about my childhood.  So far so good.  Nothing particularly controversial. After both appointments I was reasonably relaxed.

 The nice thing about the second appointment was that afterwards I remembered my parents are two different people and of course our relationships would differ.  Although we didn’t go into the reasons why I’m feeling so insecure, I felt happier.

 The third appointment started to deal with the meat of the matter.   I hope you can respect me when I say it was a good appointment and we can leave it at that.  There are some things I cannot tell you.

 I’m working hard to feel better.


Anti-Depressants and Counselling


I’m now taking 20mg Citalopram every evening.  I’m feeling better than I did but still not myself.  I’m finding anxiety to be difficult.    The trouble with living in England is that the country grinds to a halt after the first few flakes hit the ground.  Monday evening I was due to see Les Miserables with my husband and my film club.  That morning it snowed and I found myself struggling.  I had a hard time breathing.  My palms were sweaty.  My heart was pounding.  Once again, it was another out of control moment.  I struggle with things that are out of the ordinary.  I was unsure if we would be able to get home safely if we went to the movie.

Luckily that afternoon the snow turned to rain and I felt a bit more confident about being able to get home after the film.  I calmed down and saw the film.  Good film too.  I’d recommend it.  It probably wasn’t the right thing to watch if I’m feeling down but it was an epic and I appreciated it.   I enjoyed it.  I don’t normally like musicals.

Otherwise, I’m starting to find going to work a bit more natural.  I’m walking to the train station and home – which is about 30 minutes each way a day.  I generally get a bit of sweat out during my exercise.  Every morning I take lots of photographs to take advantage of the early morning light.  I really enjoy taking photographs.  I try and look at things from different perspectives.


I’ve had two counselling sessions.   One a week ago and one yesterday.  During the first we talked about what brought me to counselling and how I feel.  I told her about Dad’s birthday and how I’ve been feeling since then.  I told her that I was determined to feel better.  Oh sure I had a problem with depression after my divorce, a depression that realistically took me years to get over.  I am NOT going to struggle for that long with depression ever again.  I made an appointment for the following week.

Between appointments I was thinking about the relationship I have with my mom and the relationship I had with my dad.  By comparison, I think I’m a better daughter to my mom than I was to my dad.   However, the counsellor wanted to know some of my history.  It took me all of my appointment to get my life story through to when I arrived in England.  My parents divorced when I was 4.  My dad got remarried and redivorced when I was 6 and 8 respectively.  My sister was born when I was 12.  I talked about my friends in junior high and high school.  I talked about my decision at university to leave elementary education for European History and French.

After my session and going through my childhood, it felt good to remember that my parents were two very different people and that I ought not compare my relationship with my dad to my relationship with my mom: I communicated in a very masculine way with Dad and I have to remember that I owe him a lot for teaching me how to appreciate men for who they are and how they communicate.

Today I had a terrible throat so I stayed at home.  I’m grateful I did because it started snowing at about 10am.  If I had been at work I’m sure I would have panicked about being able to get home.  What a relief to be at home and admire the snow with no where to go!

I’m getting better slowly.  It’s a process.


Depression and Anxiety

My first week back to work has been more full of anxiety than I’d care to admit.  Who would have thought that three days at work would leave me shaking and ceaselessly wringing my hands?  I needed a follow-up with the GP to get more anti-depressants and got an appointment on Friday morning.  While there, I was given a repeat prescription and a phone number for a counsellor.  I had thought that I might get counselling through the NHS but the number I was given was for a service that charges an astonishing half-price for January of £99.  (!)

Of course I started to wonder what a counsellor might actually do for me and if I really needed the help.  My depression/anxiety started on the occasion of my deceased father’s birthday in November.  Am I still wrestling with the idea that I was a terrible daughter to him?  Yes.  I still feel guilty that I wasn’t there for him.  I missed my own father’s funeral.  While I did what I could at the time to mourn, but the guilt is there too.  I wasn’t there.  I feel I was never there.  Not for him, nor any of my American family.  It’s a constant and dark guilt that became sharp when my father died.  I had missed the opportunity to tell him how much I love being his daughter.

Not long after Dad died I had a dream.  I was in Dad’s house.  Helios was there, wearing a light blue and white bathrobe.  He walked from one room to another.  Then, I walked down the hall to the kitchen where Dad was holding a miniature version of me.  Dad was young, had a full head of hair and no sign of his Parkinsons Tremour.  He tickled the pint-sized girl under the chin the way he used to with me.  He pointedly looked at me and then to the child and then back at me.  He stood the girl on the chair and pointed at her and me as if to say “Look!  It’s you!”  It was as if we were unable to speak to one another – I wanted to say “I understand”;  I wanted to say “I miss you”.  At the time I took the dream as a sign that Dad had forgiven me and he still loved me.

I think what really set me off wasn’t just Dad’s birthday but the fact that a friend at work was unable to go to her grandmother’s funeral in Ghana.  The two events made me feel the full press of grief all over again.  Bearing this in mind, before I ask for counselling, I’ll speak to my friend and hear her story.  Perhaps after I speak to her I’ll feel a bit more positive about being able to leave the flat, go to work and feel a bit more like myself again?

Of course there may be other reasons why I am feeling the way I’m feeling but this is my most obvious starting point.  In the meantime, I’ve looked at more local counsellors and have  been recommended to speak to someone who only charges £20 per hour.


Goodbye 2012

Well friends, I cannot let the end of 2012 pass without pondering how it all went.  I have to say, 2012 was a long year.  At the beginning of 2012 I was still rather bloated and in a lot of pain.  I had a laparoscopic surgery in March where I expected endometriosis to be found and cleared.  Unfortunately, a new malady was found and, where possible, cleared.  Fibroids were the cause of my period pain this time.  For treatment I had two choices: I could live with it or I could have a hysterectomy.  It took a couple of weeks to come to a decision but, as soon as I had another period, I knew I had to have a hysterectomy.  I was at wits end and needed to wait three months for relief.

Meanwhile, during my recovery from my first surgery of 2012, I organised to go to the US using the money my father left me.  Emotionally, it was an intense trip.  It’s so hard to do and see and say everything that I want to within just a few days.  Having said that, I had a wonderful time and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Thanks Dad.

In June we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  I didn’t go to London but I did enjoy all the festivities from the comfort of my own sofa.  Brits don’t normally make a big deal about patriotism but, on this occasion, it was an astounding success.  It made me proud to call England home.

Shortly after the Jubilee, my sister and her boyfriend came to visit.  What a wonderful time we had!  England, despite periodic rain, has rarely looked so lovely.  I did my best to keep up with her but, I’m sorry to say, she has more energy in her little finger than I have in my entire body.

The London Olympics and Paralympics was an amazing experience.  I saw the Olympic Torch go by in person.  My husband and I went to see the Men’s Road Race event in person – because 1) it was reasonably close, 2) we didn’t need tickets and 3) we could say that we were there.  I absolutely loved the whole atmosphere of the country during the Olympics.

The wait continued for my hysterectomy.  Rarely has a mere 3 months felt more like 6 years!  In some ways, the wait was a good thing as I was able to do a number of things to lessen my recovery time overall.  By the time my date arrived I felt fat, bloated and uncomfortable.  I will never forget the sensation of constantly needing the loo –  my uterus was so full of fibroids it was pushing on my bladder and bowel.  They removed 2 kgs of material in my surgery – so I’m not surprised that I was uncomfortable beforehand!  My time in hospital passed without serious incident.   Afterwards I had a nasty stomach bug – which did nothing to shorten my recovery time!  However, the rest of my recovery time passed without incident.

Coming  back to a normal routine and finally feeling better has proved to be more of a struggle than I’d hoped.  After my dad’s birthday this year I’ve had problems with depression.  I think, after all the struggles I’ve had – not to mention two surgeries in the space of just a few months – my body may just be recovering from the various traumas in its own way.  You know how it goes when you’ve been really stressed for a few months and then, as soon as you get the chance to relax, you come down with a cold?  I think my depression may just  be the same sort of thing.  I’ll feel better overall once I get over my “cold”.

Let’s hope that everyone has a happier, healthier 2013!

Happy New Year