I've been in the fog for about a week. In a way it feels like I've been reunited with an evil, lost relative. Someone from my past I can vaguely recognize - and then it comes to me, oh yes, it's depression. I remember now... This time it's different than any of my past episodes, At this point when I had depression in the past I'd be panicking that my old self is gone - my old personality gone and this new deader one to replace it. But even in this chaos I sort of know this is temporary, I just happen to have this disease and this loss of identity is part of it; my mind is just out of the office for a minute.
Over the last 15 years, the number of complaints against doctors to the GMC has quadrupled. In 2013 there were more than 8,500 complaints about doctors of which just over 3,000 went on to be investigated. More than a third of those are still under investigation.
I think it's normal to feel a bit weird at this time of year. We build up Christmas to such a fever pitch of twee imagination and rose-tinted memories that it can end up feel disappointing and miserable. Sometimes, surrounded by a barrage of Good Will to All Men and Joy to the World and Christmas Cheer, we feel lost and alone, longing for a feeling we can't find anymore.
We've come a long way in recent times in our ability to talk about mental health. Increasingly people are able to admit when they're struggling, to realise that they need help, and we're slowly, albeit too slowly for my liking, chipping away at the stigma that surrounds mental illness. But then something like this pops up.
Animal-assisted therapy is nothing new, though largely unheard of. Used for varying therapies, from in prisons to deal with aggression to nursing homes to deal with isolation, or, as I have found most handy, to help with depression, the unconditional love of an animal can be a wonderfully soothing thing. Here are seven reasons why you should consider getting a fluffy animal this Christmas:
It's hard for me to write this and come up with words and sentences because it feels like no one is at the wheel of the ship - so who's writing this? I'm pushing myself to keep going so I can remember what it looks like when it's written down and for everyone else who suffers with this to say this is not your imagination, you are not being self indulgent (I'm fighting my mind on that one). It's exactly what it says on the bottle, it's poison, terrifying and a complete mummification in nothingness.
Research says that if we spend money preventing the illness, then it will save resources in other sectors in the future. Some people who struggle with mental health turn to drink and drugs crime to survive, we only have to look at our hero's from the army, many of whom are homeless to back this up.
You came into my life at the tender age of 9. I didn't know what you were, but you immobilised me, and took me away from the life I knew. I lived in a bubble you made, so thick I couldn't break out. You kept me hidden in my room, existing but not living.
The key to feeling better is to get to the root of the problem and do what you can to turn these negative feelings around. Despite the therapy and medications, people still continue to suffer. And there's a good reason why... actually there are eight good reasons. Sometimes the cause behind anxiety and depression isn't mental at all! It's physical.
The Christmas period serves up an array of situations that can trigger an anxiety attack. For many of us, spending time with our extended families can cause an increase in stress which may lead to downing that extra glass of mulled wine to get through the day.
Mental health is an economic problem. It is a problem that this country cannot afford to ignore. While we have made considerable progress in the last decade, mental health continues to be a sensitive issue.
Here is the part that makes me want to climb inside the internet and destroy all those pages of ill-advised advice about the dangers of taking antidepressants if you are breastfeeding: You can take antidepressants when you are breastfeeding. I know, because I recently did it. And guess what? It turns out me and my baby are fine...
I don't like my labels. I didn't ask for them, and I would certainly rather I didn't have them. But I do. They don't define me, and they're not all I am, not by a long shot. But accepting them, rather than fighting them, has brought me just that bit closer to being able to manage them. So go ahead, label me, it helps. Just don't judge me.
I know you don't have unlimited resources. I know I'm only one of several million people in the UK who needs help for depression. But what am I supposed to do? What are any of us supposed to do who can't afford to pay for therapy?
When you lose someone, you often find yourself in a cliché firing line as, 'It was their time to go', 'Time is a healer' and 'Everything will be okay' are shot at you. Of course, people are trying to help as best they can (which is appreciated immensely), but it is so difficult to digest anything positive when things are painfully raw and you are suffocating in grief.
There is a significant prize here for all concerned. For people with mental health problems, a chance to find appropriate work in a supportive workplace; for employers, the opportunity to support the mental health of all staff; and for the wider economy, the potential to deliver a significant change to our society.