Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Gwen: People are the best tonic

It’s almost a better medicine than the medicine that I take.

It’s been nearly a year [since our last interview]. I started off really optimistic in September [2013]. I had a lovely summer holiday! It was really good, had lots and lots of nice stuff happen. I got out my comfort zone, I went and visited loads of people.  By November time I’d really dipped back into a horrible low. Exhaustion and literally couldn’t face going into work. The battles that I was having… There was stuff to do with workload. One thing on top of another, pretty bloody relentless. Bits of conflict [a colleague], just had a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back moment’ really. I went to a meeting then walked out and [hid] and cried. There was an off the cuff comment made by another person, sort of in reference to my depression and stuff about ‘well it’s not a conspiracy theory, you know.’  I was just sort of flummoxed.  So surprised.  I was just, battling…  a difficult relationship with that particular person and I was battling myself with the mental health condition.  I just ran out of fight, I think. Everyday seemed to be a fight, of some sort or another. Physically, or mentally, or work relationships, and I wasn’t coping, I wasn’t coping.


I felt ‘I’m at the point of tears at work, or driving to work feeling tearful, or not wanting to be there, doing that, day after day after day.  Is it worth it? Is it worth it?’ Not at the moment.  I think it’s a bit masochistic, to choose to go back there. At the minute, choosing to be punished. Why am I punishing myself? It doesn’t make any logical, reasonable sense.

There’s a worry [for me] about having a long term sick record but I put my CV on [various websites] and I’ve had lots of supply agencies ring me up, I could get work.  My [boss’s] been brilliant and said she would negotiate when I leave, depending on if I found something I really wanted to do. She was wonderful at Christmas. I met up with her a few times outside work and she was like, ‘You need to be off work, it’s the right thing for your long term wellbeing.’  Really supportive, yeah. Amazing actually.

Well… *long pause* while I’ve been off, I’ve been trying to eat properly. Started cooking properly. Sorted my house out, you realise what a mess things are when you’ve got time to sort things out. You just leave it. Then you can’t find stuff and you just notice the chaos. Probably a reflection of what’s chaotic in your head. So that’s been quite good.  Done research about careers, changing jobs or applying for some jobs in [the same field but] in a completely different context.

Sometimes I felt very, very lonely, [being off work].  But I’ve been better at being a bit more content with myself. What’s the point of me punishing myself about not being at work? I’m feeling better in my own company.  I’ve been able to socialise and go out.  That took a little while.  I could be be a little tense and uptight. You get out of the habit of socialising or conversing with people. I don’t know how to communicate, all the thoughts in my head are so big or horrible that I don’t want to communicate it to anybody else.  That’s got better the more I’ve done it. I know! It’s like you have to practice.   So that’s really helped, being with other people.  It’s almost a better medicine than the medicine that I take.

I’ve read a lot, an awful lot, I’ve read nine books [in the past three months], that’s not bad. I probably wouldn’t read that in a year if I was [at work], just tiredness really. I’d do three or four pages a day whereas now I do three or four chapters a day at the moment. Snow Child was beautiful.  I loved that one. I can’t remember the author but that was just…  a sort of fairyscape setting in Alaska which was a much a part of the novel as the characters. The language was beautiful really, compelling,and really well drawn.  I liked reading Dan Rhodes books because they are quite fluffy, humorous. Jo Nesbo books are really good as well.


It was about January last year [2013], I worked out I was being burgled, by [my neighbour]. He was arrested a few weeks later, I think he was arrested February, actually, when it was snowing.  Then he was eventually convicted in June but still continued to live next door for all that time, six, seven months. The landlord was sort of apologetic but didn’t see the burglary as his problem. It was nothing to do with him. Sometimes, I’d be walking down the street, or come out the shop [and see my neighbour] and I’d have to cross the road. It was really awkward.

It was just containing, the rage, the anger, the betrayal. The jewellery that wasn’t burgled, that was left, I’ve not looked at in over a year. I just can’t bring myself… I’ve even actually tried to hide away…the ring that wasn’t stolen, I’ve put it somewhere safe which I can’t find!  Think it might be in a knicker draw or something but it’s that safe, I can’t find it *laughter*.

Eventually, I think it was the end of August, start of September.  The neighbours, the shitty neighbours, the burgling, bastard neighbours, moved out. The landlord spoke to me and said ‘You know that they’re moving out?’ A few weeks before.  I went, ‘I do now.’  He said ‘I was coming to the point of evicting them anyway.’  But it was very stressful to live next to them.

I acquired a stalker. He’d leave messages on my phone because I wouldn’t pick it up.  I eventually, sent a text back saying, ‘I’m really not interested.’  He sent me one back saying ‘Fuck, you nasty bitch.’  I thought, ‘Well, that’s not normal.’ He  was persisting with text messages and with phone calls. I phoned the police once and they go, ‘There’s not much we can do.’  It was a woman and I thought, ‘That’s not very helpful.’  Then he turned up outside my circuit class, like he’d never called me ‘a fucking nasty bitch.’  I was really quite concerned. He knew where I lived as well, he lived on my street.  I think he was monitoring me.


You sort of think, ‘Am I cursed?’ All those things, it’s very hard to mentally move on. Because it’s what happened in your street but it’s not entirely of my creation.  Just shit stuff that’s happened.   It’s very hard to mentally park it when you’re stuck in that street. Where all that shit’s happened.  It’s not even in London. Not even in the ghetto anywhere. Just this tiny little town. What is going on? You just can’t make that up! It’s the shortest street in the country as well.

I have a nurse practitioner and he’s got a really good manner. He’s sort of sympathetic without being patronising.  He’s suggested Post Traumatic Stress counselling. He’s the one that sent me for my blood tests.  Blood test drama.



[I had] Virtually, negligible vitamin D levels. Like, bankrupt, vitamin D levels, so I’ve got supplements which should help. It’s to do with my feet problems. I can’t even walk very far and it hurts so you get less sunlight, sunlight helps with vitamin D, so it’s not being outside enough. Which also causes the depression.  Not just the [work] stuff, and it’s having things not working properly.

Actually, the thing I’ve most enjoyed while being off work has been being able to sit and read. I can’t read anything too heavyweight.  All my [work] stuff’s under a blanket in my attic. I don’t even look at it,  *laughter* I haven’t touched it, I haven’t even thought about looking at it. Yeah, so reading and sitting in Costa with a nice  coffee…  I’m sitting reading my book for an hour. Around people but not  isolated. I think that’s been good.  Able to have the time to re-establish friendships that have got lost because of the overwork. I don’t communicate when I’m depressed. It’s important that I help repair them because they do get damaged.  You’re difficult, you can be difficult when you are depressed because you don’t communicate, or how you communicate is poor. It’s about being locked in. So that’s been really nice actually,  sort of remembering that the friends that I’ve got are really good.  They are really nice people. I’ve made good choices but I’ve felt I’ve neglected them a lot due to the stress and whatever else has gone on. Or not been a good friend, or not reciprocating the friendship well enough. Not being able to, do that. I think medication is necessary, it probably stops you doing the things that your brain would like you to do sometimes, but the better thing is other people.  Spending time with you today is a better tonic than the medication. Works much better.



Gwen: People are the best tonic