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Part One: I used to wish so hard that I had depression.

Published October 11, 2017 by Ellie

Depression is such an awful illness, it’s sneaky, and it lies, and it takes people from us all the damned time. Almost all the writers who inspire me write wonderful accounts of their life with depression (Wil Wheaton, Jenny Lawson, and Allie Brosh jump to mind first) which makes me wonder if surviving depression pushes some people to become more compassionate but funny.

As such, I tended to post fairly regularly on social media about depression and mental illness. It’s not shameful and it’s vital to talk openly so people know they aren’t alone. The most helpful resources I’ve found are the wonderful Black Dog YouTube cartoon, the comforting Boggle the Owl (an empowering account to follow, this was the first of their cartoons I saw), and helpful campaigns aimed at giving people practical tools to support friends and family who may be suffering from depression, like the Make It Okay project.

So clearly I was being a Really Good Mental Health Ally! I’m open about mental health! I’m ending the stigma! I’ve found all these good resources to share, both for people living with mental illness, and people living with people who are living with mental illness! Yay me! Do you see what’s missing? I still felt too ashamed to talk about my own experiences with mental illness.

Looking back, I can recognise that my depression started before I knew what depression was, around my early teens. I assumed that depression was something to do with feeling really really sad all the time. I didn’t feel sad all the time, so I clearly didn’t have depression.

This is when I started to wish I had depression. 

If I had depression I could get treatment, I could see a professional for talk therapy, maybe take some medication to help balance out the problematic brain chemistry. But I didn’t have depression, I was just an awful person, there’s no treatment for that. I was so disgustingly lazy that I neglected basic personal hygiene and slept so much. I never met deadlines, my homework was never ever on time, I was so forgetful, and seemed to struggle so much with really simple things that everyone else had no problems completing. I was such a useless garbage person, it didn’t seem fair to make other people endure the burden of my presence, I was a monster but not THAT much of a monster, so I kept away from regular humans as much as possible. If only I had depression!

It took two children, occasional flings with antidepressants, and an uncharacteristic level of self awareness, but I came to understand that I did have depression, and my depression is linked to hormones and my menstrual cycle. When the children were still babies (my body reeling from building and expelling two people in an irresponsibly short amount of time, plus chronic sleep deprivation), I had two weeks per month of gradual escalation of despair, utter desolation, and bursts of terrifying rage. Somehow I found the kindness to permit myself to take antidepressants again, and allow myself to keep taking them, though there was still self loathing. I suspected that everyone felt the same way, but they just get on with it. I ought to be better than this, I ought to do better than this.

The happy ending (and to cut short a long exciting story full of dragons, battles, true love, and probably ninjas) is that I made some pretty huge changes in my life, with a lot of help from my wonderful husband. I’m gradually learning that the world doesn’t actually end if I find ways to have my own needs met, and sometimes that actually makes other people’s lives better, and has nothing to do with being a selfish garbage person. With a lot of therapy I came to accept that it’s okay to disappoint people sometimes. My hormones settled to the point that I was able to stop taking antidepressants about 5 years ago. I implemented various coping mechanisms for the few days of my cycle when I was feeling complicated: usually telling my hubs that my period was due so he didn’t worry too much if I got fixated on some tiny thing because I’d convinced myself that if I didn’t stay up until 2am to finish making those cupcakes then there was an unavoidable domino effect which meant that our children could never go to college.

Has it all been sunshine and rainbows ever since? Of course! However mental health is a wonderful and exciting journey, as your body ages and its biochemistry changes there are always new things to learn about your own mental health, and new connections you spot.

Part two of this blog post will be published soon, in which I’ll open up for the first time about being recently diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. Am I the only one who had no idea that panic attacks come in many different flavours?

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Always back up your work, especially if you’re going to the zoo!

Published October 5, 2017 by Ellie

20160705_173722.jpgImagine you were playing your favourite game (Candy Crush, a crossword, Pokémon, that jigsaw that took you ages) and you’d put in about 40 hours. Then something happens which was either preventable or something you know you ought to have prepared for (a power cut, phone fell in the bath, earthquake) and you lost that whole game, all the progress, plus another 40 hours you had yet to do.

I lost a knitting project at the zoo a year ago, about 40 hours in, probably 40 to go.

It was a fugly project, but was a nice balance of challenging yet rewarding. The yarn was an interesting one, reclaimed Nepalese silk. It had really short colour changes and looked muddy knit in stockinette, so after some swatches, I settled on entrelac to help it pool and really bring out the jewel tones. I planned to make a rectangle, try felting it, and sew the results together to make a simple (fugly but beloved) messenger style bag.

It fell or was taken out of my bag that I know I ought to close properly, especially after having my purse stolen that way a few years ago. I don’t learn, it’s one of my issues.

I called the zoo and sent over pictures of a similar project bag, but nothing was handed in. I’m under no illusions, it probably ended up straight in a trash can, but I was hopeful! I’ve even done it since, though with happier results, one project was even kept in a safe overnight after I explained how important it was! Totally justified, I feel, even if it’s only valuable to me.

Please keep an eye on your treasures, especially things like projects that you take everywhere! I’m hoping I won’t do it again, but let’s be honest, I will…

I lost over 120lbs and things got weirder than I was prepared for.

Published September 20, 2017 by Ellie

Screenshot_20170802-103747There’s no point me telling you how I did it, it’s boring. I’m afraid it involves a literal fuck-ton of diet and exercise, rather than a secret I discovered via a Facebook ad that promised to tell me why weight loss experts hate this grandmother. It also involves illness, which is another reason there’s no point me sharing, though I can confirm that escalating reflux is a pretty effective appetite suppressant.

But you came for the weird stuff, not life advice…

Read the rest of this entry →

Surgery recovery is so weird. 

Published August 22, 2017 by Ellie

Currently sleeping 10-14 hours a night, but I wake up sleepy! Sent this text to Hubbles this morning, but wanted to share! 

“Not sure what meds it’s related to [I’ve started a load of new ones and had to abruptly stop taking others that couldn’t be crushed], but my dreams are constant and exhausting. There’s a theme that runs all night throughout all my dreams, however much I try to wake up in between. Last night was hundreds of elaborate pastel 50s style cocktail dresses: from needing to design some for an urgent film production, then creating a high profile fashion show, then buying fabric for a TV show, then scouring vintage stores for some awards show, then hiring models for some viral marketing campaign, and the whole time someone was yelling in my ear, excitedly and loudly urging me to work faster and better and brighter, and making constant small suggestions. All night was just a colourful roar, like a too fast carousel.”

I had the same when I was in hospital, every time I woke up my ears were ringing so loud that I was sure I’d just screamed all night, but I’m sure someone would have mentioned it if I had.

I’ve never had this with other surgeries, it’s weird and interesting, but I’ll be glad when it passes. 

Ps. I have a few hundred design outlines if anyone’s in the market for elaborate 50s cocktail dresses.

Is Facebook dying? Can we sign a petition or change our profile pictures to help?

Published August 22, 2017 by Ellie

Why are people abandoning Facebook, or just not checking it as much? Here’s an example: I’ve been talking about my surgery for a few months, posted about it almost every day the week leading up to it, a few times a day while I was in hospital, and a couple of times a day since I got home. Yet for some of my friends and family, reading a version of this blog post I shared on Facebook will be the first time they’re hearing about it. I’ll feel obliged to go through it again to save them the trouble of finding the last week of my status updates.

Oh but dear Facebook, please show me GoT spoilers, a post with 347 comments from 3 participants arguing whether white supremacists have a point, something about wine with a picture of a minion next to it, and someone who’s profile picture is in black and white complaining about something wildly popular being irredeemably flawed and overrated. Show me those same posts at the top of my news feed every time for a full week and a half! PLEASE!

And while I have your attention, dear Facebook, that photo I posted had a FUCKING funny caption and I bet you showed it to three bloody people, you arsehole.

When your future is being debated by the media

Published July 27, 2017 by Ellie

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June 16th, 2015 saw the announcement of a presidential campaign which quickly discovered that the surest route to its success was demonising me. Not personally, I mean, I’m pretty amazing, but I haven’t managed to cause ripples quite that big. Yet.

Am I being overly dramatic? Yes. I’m documented, I’m not Latinx, I’m not Muslim, I’m not a refugee: those have been the main targets of that ongoing campaign. However, the particular visa which brought us to the US was specifically mentioned, I have been identified as a threat, the campaign gained support by promising to take action against me. And has since made good on that promise, though it’s acknowledged as largely symbolic, a gesture to his supporters. Read the rest of this entry →

Hiatus

Published July 1, 2017 by Ellie

I am back from my unplanned blog hiatus! I need to write more often, my writing muscles are withering away from disuse and my spark of creativity is barely glowing. Let’s get some oxygen up in here and get my writing heart back to fitness. Everything and nothing has changed in the years I’ve been unblogged, I’ve lost over 100 lbs and managed to get myself employable again! At least technically employable, I’m still a pretty poor prospect due to my impossibly high standards and crippling fear of success.  But yay me! I’m currently working on an article about immigration, it’s a hot topic at the moment, and for various reasons, I don’t feel well represented in the stories I’m reading. So I’m going to share my experiences, why immigration is a feminist issue, why it’s so much more complicated than is generally understood, and why I HATE HATE HATE the term ‘ex-pat’.