Thursday, 31 July 2014

Eureka! The Truth About Misdiagnosing Women with Depression

Hello all,

This blog post is a little off the subject of grey hair this time, but I do think this might ring a bell with many of you.

Yesterday I came upon an article in the Daily Mail about treating women with depression with oestrogen instead of anti-depressants.  It was a revelatory moment for me as I have been suffering from 'depression' for years, but with very distinct gaps between each bout.

I first went to the doctor in my early twenties.  There was nothing situational in my life that could cause depression, I'd had no childhood trauma that might have risen up again that needed to be addressed.  At that time in the UK, talking therapies were not the norm, so I was prescribed a very strong anti-depressant which I took for about 6 months.  The 'depression' abated, but only because I was wafting about in a hazy dulled state.  I stopped taking the drug, and about 18 months later, it came back.  This time I was given prozac.  I can hand on heart say that it did absolutely nothing.  No nasty side effects either, but it certainly did not make me 'happier'.

All the while, from the age of 17, I had be put on one contraceptive pill after the other.  None seemed right - one made me very fat (which co-incided with depressvie bout no.1) another gave me severe headaches.  Eventually, in my mid twenties, I was put on the mini pill - a progesterone only pill.

On the min pill I did not have periods, which meant I did not ovulate.  I never had any of the physical or emotional symptoms of PMS.  Also on the mini pill, I did not experience a single bout of depression.  I had a fabulous first pregnancy where I felt unusually calm and contented,  I had my first child at 29 and immediately went back on the pill and to the stability of not having periods.

It wasn't until I had my second child at 36 that the spectre of severe depression cropped up again.  I had returned to work when he was only 14 weeks old to a new executive job that involved long hours and lots of driving.  Scared of admitting I wasn't coping, I carried on, covering up the increasing sense of anxiety I was feeling.  This time, there was one major difference.  I had chosen to not go back on the pill, but have the 'safer' option of a coil as a contraceptive.  When my son was ten months old I had a complete melt down which presented as extreme anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, fear of being out in public and total inability to drive, especially on the motorway.  I visited my (female) doctor in a lot of distress and she diagnosed me with depression and a work related anxiety disorder.  Not once did she consider that I might have post natal depression. She offered me anti-drepressants (I refused) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which there was a 6 month waiting list for.

It was during her questioning and the initial assessment that I was asked about the very first time I'd experienced depression.  Both the doctor and the therapist found it hard to accept my answer - that I had been 11 years old.  I then explained that I had experienced frequent, very intense periods of depression and suicidal feelings throughout my teens and twenties.

In the intervening months before my therapy was due to begin, I took myself in hand, cleaned up my diet and exercised regularly.   I went on a Buddhist retreat, learned to meditate and started using guided hypnotherapy.  I felt my anxiety naturally abating and easing.  I decided to decline the CTB when it came up as I didn't feel ill enough and felt I would be depriving someone else who needed it more urgently.

With my continued improved fitness, life carried on fairly evenly until I found I was pregnant.  The coil had not worked (happens more often than you think apparently!).  Again, my third pregnancy, even with two other children to look after, was one of happiness and hope.  This time, after the birth, I had a year off and my husband had a vasectomy.  I now had no need to go back on the pill or take any other form of contraception.  I started having periods chemical free for the first time in years and very quickly I realised that my PMT wasn't just bad - it was HORRENDOUS.  Factor in my age then (40) and I realised I was coming into the peri-menopausal phase of my reproductive life.

Last year (age 43) my eldest son was ill and it was an intensly stressful and distressing period of time for me.  I turned to my new doctor, who was hugely sympathetic and not one to dish out drugs easily.  He suggested I take an anti-depressant which would take 'two or three weeks' to kick in.  This time, I felt strange the moment I started taking it.  It was like an amphetamine, speeding me up, contstantly thirsty, feeling edgy and paranoid.  The symptoms were so bad, I found after 4 weeks that I could not cope with working and looking after my children, so I stopped taking it.  Again, there was no relief from the natural distress I was experiencing about my child's illness.  This time I got CBT quickly as an 'urgent case'.  Whilst I can report that the man was lovely, it didn't help one bit.  The questions he asked me at the beginning and end of the sessions to monitor my improvement seemed very hard to answer.

Had he said, 'So, do you regularly have completely unexplainable, random feelings of acute rage towards complete strangers that are entirely unprovoked?' I'd have shouted YES!  Or perhaps, 'Do you sometimes feel like taking all the dirty laundry that's been strewn around the house by various male personages into the back garden, pouring petrol on it and setting it on fire while laughing maically?'  Again, a resounding, YES!

Now I know why - beyond the expected stresses of family life, coping with work and illness, I did not have a 'mental health problem'.  What I'd had - since the age of 11 - the year I had started my periods, was Reproductive Depression, sometimes called PMDD – premenstrual dysphoric disorder.  No wonder then that the anti-depressants and talking therapies didn't even touch the sides.  What had caused my depression over the years - and what had eased it was physical - it was my hormones. Indeed, in a recent article in the Guardian on the subject, a doctor even warns that putting women on the combined pill can make the symptoms much more extreme.

The periods of my life when I have been most happy were before the age of 11 (when everything changed), during periods of time when I was on the mini pill and not experiencing the massive surge in progesterone that causes this illness and during my pregnancies.

I'm now experiencing very low feelings almost every month, despite all the 'home made' preventions I've put in place.  I'm off the the doctor this afternoon armed with the article in the Daily Mail.- I wonder what reaction to all this I will get?  Well, I'll let you know.

I just wondered if anyone has had a similar experience of this and being wrongly diagnosed and prescibed with drugs?

One thing is for sure - if my doctor does agree this is what has been causing my regular low moods, I want my medical history amended.  Now I suspect that WILL be a battle!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Facing the Fear - Getting a Cut

As some of you may know, I didn't like hairdressers.  It's not hairdressers as people - they're quite a jolly bunch I've found.  I'm not sure I could be that friendly all day.  That's why I'm a teacher.  I get to legitimately be stern and moody most of the time.  It suits.

No, it's the bad past experiences I couldn't get over.  That's why I stopped visiting the hairdresser and rather disasterously 'cut' my own hair for about seven years.

It took a lot of guts to finally go back to a hairdresser and admit I needed professional help.  Luckily, I had one recommended to me by a trusted friend and I first met Paul at HQ in Tankerton in October 2013.  He cuts the hair of Clio Barnard who is an amazing Film Director.  My students will be studying her work next year (if I get any work).  See this BFI interview with her if you like gritty Social Realist British film - The Selfish Giant.

My biggest fear was that he would try and convince me to dye it.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The first time I went, the owner made his own client come over and look at my hair.  I told her all about Going Gray, Looking Great and about Kama's 1000 Silver Women meet up planned for 2015 and she seemed really inspired.

I told Paul I wanted to grow my hair long, so he just cuts it each time to look alright as it gets longer.  I'm not in a hurry.  I'd rather have nice blunt ends and hair in good nick than not have it cut for a year. To give it a chance to get longer, he's told me to leave it 4-5 months between visits.

The bike ride home totally ruined my blow dry!

So - thanks Paul and the chaps at HQ - you've totally restored my faith in (good) hairdressers!  Yay!

Here's a couple of shots of my new cut once I'd got off the bike and brushed it!

Just a little lower than shoulder length

At the annoying 'goes inside your collar' length - but I can put it up now!

See you all soon!  Ta raa!

By the way silver sisters - here's my new website.  Take a look and see what I've been up to and what I've got planned.  AliDilnutt

Grey Hater Alert!

It's not often, in the last two years since I've 'come out' as a silver haired person, that I've met with actual real discrimination against those that transition, but yesterday a good friend told me about a very unpleasant encounter she had


Let's call her Midge (sorry M, but you, like me are very short!).  She runs a successful business in our home town, Whitstable.  Mid morning, a tall gentleman with a magnificent beard came in to her shop and asked her about some products for an ailment he was suffering from.  When Midge began giving him advice, he stopped her in her tracks.

He said, 'Sorry, I have to ask - why haven't you dyed your hair?'

Well poor Midge was a little stumped.

'Why should I dye my hair?  she countered.

He stroked his beard and appraised her entire body and face.  'Well, you're quite young, pretty.  You're wearing make-up.  The hair just give off a negative signal.'

Now, I'm not sure what I might have done in this situation.  Throat strike, headbutt - kick in nuts?  But to her credit, Midge stood her ground an remained poised with an aura of saintly calm.

Maybe she should have twatted him with her spoon....

'A negative signal about what?' she said.

The man had clearly realised he'd said something a little, let us say, off and shuffled about a bit. 'Um, you know, sex.'

Midge is married.  Midge likes to have sex with her husband.  Midge threw him out of the shop and banned him for life.  Go Midge!

Or maybe she should have strangled him with her scarf...

Now that's bad enough right?  But the story doesn't end there. Oh no!  This pillock then goes away and writes a blog about it.  Not just about her, but about women with grey hair in general.  He's called CK Blaine and his blog is called Living the Dream and you can see it here.

I urge you to read and share this masterpiece of discrimination and prejudice.  It will probably offend you, make you incandescent with rage.  I'd like to know - what would YOU DO if someone said that to you.  Answers on a postcard party people!

Midge on Whit beach, relaxing in the knowledge she'll never have to speak to him again!

Right - I'm off to the hairdresser today - photos to come!  Laters! x

Saturday, 5 July 2014

I actually won something!

 Very proud that I came second (no prizes for second place - except I got two...) in the Whitstable 365 Competition. It's a great community project which was extra special here just because there are so many talented photographers in Whitstable.

Above - Me (short - grey) next to lovely Nathalie (French, tall).  I actually didn't realise what a big deal it was until I got there. Look - a Mayor!

Above - this is me getting my prizes.  A trophy and a print by professional wildlife photogrpaher Steve Bloom.  Lots of confusion when I posted this onto Facebook.  People thought this was MY photo.   Most people know we don't have Hippos in the UK, flumping about in rivers.  It was a bit awkward pointing that out.  Still....

Here are some more pics of me that night.

Opted for the vintage look.  I love a frock and a red lip!

That nervous thing when you know you have to 'got up to the front'!

This is Sandi Tokvig - she is an extremely talented British humourist.  She made us all laugh a lot and opened the show.  I was very sneaky and grabbed her then bent her ear for 10 minutes about my new book (more about that later).  I shoved my synopsis and first 3 chapters at her.  It's worth a try right?! 

A very happy evening was had by all.  Plenty of beautiful silver haired ladies there, as you often get at arts events in England.

Massive apologies about missing my blog about my hairdresser - I made a stupid cookery video with my 8 year old son and had so much fun I forgot the time!  Please watch.  It's hilarious.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Do I Dare to Trolley?

The Ultimate Grey Haired Shopping Solution

So today my skip of a car finally reached the tipping point where it would cost more to repair than it is worth.  It's deady dead dead.  I'm letting go.

This means I am wonderfully car free.  I've done 8 months with a newborn before with no car but what I had then, for shopping purposes, was a baby buggy.  I could cram at least 4 shopping bags under that beast and it's a good half a mile walk to the supermarket.

Shop online!  I hear you shout.  Well yes, but sometimes you just want to nip out, don't you?  So I've been thinking about gettting...


Now, you know I'm grey, so I'm a little trepidicious about it.  I asked my 8 year old Jacob.   This is what he said:

'No.  You would look old and weird.  I will NOT be seen out in public with you if you get one!'  My 14 year old concurs.

Fairly clear on that then.   But then I thought, ooh, what if I got one that was, you know, COOL.  

Well there aren't any.

Still determined to make this work, I thought, hmmm, in the spirit of punk, I could customise one.  Here are my preferred Cool Trolleys:

Bit of a classic.  But it does rather put me in the Baby Boomer age bracket.

Needs work...

It's election year in 2015 here in the UK - why not make a political statement?  No?

A clear sub-culture statement I think.  I could adorn it with a bit of studd work or maybe some barbed wire to assist getting to the cheese counter in Sainsburys with less resistance.  

My particular favourite, especially if I could rig it up so red lasers do shine from the eyes for low light conditions.

I have yet to consult the husband.  I'm not optimistic, I have to say.  Maybe, he'll buy me a new car just to stop it happening.  Now there's a thought!

Lastly, perhaps I should take some inspiration from these people:

Granny Turismo - they rock!

Would love to know if any of you would dare to trolley...