Seek Alter(n)ative Route

2nd October 2012

I’ve never seen this sign on our roundabout before. It was so bright and in your face I read it as a message directly from some greater power. Even if it was a greater power with dodgy spelling.

Seek alter(n)ative route.

If you can’t get where you need to go, take the circuitous, less obvious, alternative route. In this case, everyone else is doing it too, but you could be the only one, apparently a nutter, trying to travel counter-intuitively.

Path least travelled, any path. When the one you’re on reaches an impasse, it’s the only way to continue the journey. Or stop where you are. Metaphor city on the highway of life. Oh yes.

How to get my boys to go to school and stay in school? We keep hitting dead ends. I so wish I had my own neon sign.

As it is I’m going to pretend it’s this one and seek an alternative route, in the same way that this inspiring LED deity has with their spelling.


May the pole be with you


Wednesday 5th Sept 2012

You probably all know by now how I loves me a good metaphor and have noticed my pathological delight in unravelling any half-decent analogy until it’s completely unspooled before me. Well. Maypoles are awesome for all kinds of metaphorical whatnot.

Think about it: multiple threads in different colours held by individuals, who can either work together in harmony to create patterns and complex structures, or who can do whatever the heck they like with their ribbons, paying no attention to anyone else around them and causing mayhem. I’ve seen this first hand when teaching very small people the basics of skipping with neck level ribbons: it can be chaos. You can throttle people, trip over, wind yourself round the pole and crash heads all too easily without some simple guidelines. The mess at the end is horrendous too – ever tried untangling ribbons from a badly used maypole? No? Well I can tell you it’s BLOODY AWFUL.

The way that maypole dancing works is quite straightforward: every individual is essential, but must work with everyone else. You cannot over take. You must go at the same speed. But equally, you need to keep an eye out for everyone around you. Nobody is the leader, everyone is equally important. If one person fails to make an effort, the result is ruined for all. Equally, by watching the person in front and by modifying your moves to fit with them, it’s beautiful and great fun.

In many ways it’s the perfect symbol for teamwork, for cooperation and working in an organisation. Dancing together is like living together – it really only works if you all put in similar effort. And boy when it works, is it beautiful! Have you ever seen the Barbers pole formation? Two concentric circles dancing in opposite directions around the pole to make stripes climb up the Maypole. Or, my favourite, the dangerously complex Spiders Web, where an inner ring stands still and the outer ring of dancers weave in and out and around the others, almost knitting the ribbons into a three dimensional lacy web. Gorgeous and very satisfying!

And the analogy goes further. Of course it does. And so I love it. Yes, the whole Maypole dancing malarkey can only work if you have steady anchors in the middle too. They must sit or stand on the wooden feet, keeping the central axis steady. Even with very small children we need the anchor in the middle. When we teach a class, the anchors rotate so that everyone has a turn to dance: I think that is an important point too. We all are dancers and all are anchors, but not necessarily at the same time. In fact, often it’s impossible to be both simultaneously. But, being one doesn’t preclude you from being the other at another moment.

So as far as I’m concerned, and I got a whole load of seasonal stick for this on twitter the other day, a Maypole isn’t just for springtime, it’s for life.


Blue Skies

Monday 19th March 2012

Blue Skies


When I drive, my phone sits on my dashboard and often acts as a handy satnav, which was especially useful today while on an impromptu visit to see a friend in Dorset on the way home* from Somerset. (*not really on the way, but also, not not on the way home) And as I was driving it was easy to just push the button and capture a random image. I like doing that sometimes, just clicking without looking and then at the end of the journey seeing where I’ve been or where I was going.

You miss things when you’re driving. You are busy concentrating on keeping a sensible distance from the car in front, on sudden flashes of brake lights, on finding the next signpost to the A303. Of course. That is driving. But it’s not the same as being a passenger in the car, looking out of the window, absorbing the landscape.

So although the sky was an intense blue all day today, it wasn’t really until I looked at my pictures at the end of the day that I properly noticed. And the green of the fields, the sheep, the trees, the all-round springiness of the day,  I only noticed a bit of them. Bits, even.

But, here’s the thing. I’m touching wood as I type, *lowers voice conspiratorially* I think that my meds may be kicking in. I know. Too exciting! I’m trying to be supercool about this in case I jinx it. The sun has shone all day, I have had a sunny feeling inside all day and I am happy to say that the sunny feeling is currently transmuting itself into a warm winey feeling for this evening. I went to see my wonderful GP this afternoon, after my usual epic Monday round trip to Somerset. I adore her. She is real and funny, kind, wise and offers me as much therapeutic relief from my visits to her, as the drugs she prescribes.

She is a real person. She has suffered chronic illness too. She understands completely what it feels like to be out of work, to worry about getting back, and she is my biggest ally in this battle with bipolar. So when she looked at me today and said,”Charlotte, today is the first day I’ve looked at you in here and thought, ‘Yes, she really might get back to work!’”, instead of feeling offended or mortified, I was overjoyed. Really.

You see, I trust my doctor. I absolutely trust her judgement. If she tells me that looking at me today, she can see I am more in control, calmer, more myself, then I believe her. She tells me she is confident I am on the mend, I feel I am mending as she says it. Medicine is not all about taking medicine. It’s not all about the cost of my drugs. For me, to see my GP is a positive experience. I appreciate that this is not always the case, not everyone is as fortunate to have a gem of a medic as mine, but you know what? We have all been lucky here. We have all been able to see our doctors, to have our fears allayed or confirmed for free. That is good fortune.

If we can no longer count on a free NHS, if we can no longer go and see our doctors when we need to, but are constrained by our economic status, I fear for us all. Not melodrama, but reality. If I can’t see my doctor for free, I certainly can’t afford medical insurance. Who on earth would insure me knowing that I have bipolar disorder, under consultant care and not yet stable on medication? How much would all the drugs cost that I am prescribed? Crikey. I wouldn’t bloody insure me! So what happens then?

I think that what happens then is that I don’t get better. I couldn’t get better without GP care, without my consultant. I can’t then get better and get back to work. I can’t look after my children. My mental health affects that of my kids. If I am permanently ill, I am pretty sure that impacts severely on my children’s mental health, with aspergers, with ADHD, young people trying to look after their, at times, fragile mother. If I can’t work I can’t earn and yet I am a qualified teacher. I have a job waiting for me. I need to be doing it. I want to be working: I am not just lazing around here, nibbling grapes and indulging myself.

So blue skies today, and a sunny mood. But dark clouds of concern for the future of healthcare in this country. For all our sakes, frankly.

The way through the woods

If you squint hard at the photo above, you will see a motley collection of buildings on the horizon, almost hidden by trees. That is my school, where I teach and where my daughter goes every day. This morning, like most mornings, I parked along the road, dropped her off and then left the car to walk in the woods with the dog.

There are a number of different routes through the woods, but I almost always start and end at this point, looking out across the fields at school. It looks oddly distant, a far off unfamiliar place from this angle. The roofline is barely recognisable from the back view, doesn’t look like the place where I trained and worked and where many of the other parents and my colleagues are close friends.

During my teacher training, I organised a school trip for 90 Year 2 children, which followed this route, walking from school, along the lane, across the ford and up to the pig farm in the woods behind me. It was remarkably stressful to arrange, with interminable risk assessments to write, bags of medical equipment to pack, and wellies to arrange, but was a magical day out when it happened. The aim of the trip was to provide a creative writing focus, children were collecting sounds and smells and textures in the wood, each child armed with a paper bag (for interesting found objects, beech nut husks, stones, sticks, feathers, bark) a notebook & pencil. Picnics were eaten in the woods after long games of hide and seek, story-telling and den-building. On the way home, we dipped the toes of our wellies in the edge of the ford, and as we did, a couple of eagle-eyed six year olds spotted the glass pebbles that we had hidden at the water’s edge…one for every child. We took a lot of photos of children reaching into the ford to pick out their glass pebble, crouching down, grubbing in the sandy stream for the exact nugget they wanted. It was noisy, wet and exciting.

What would happen, we asked the children, if your pebble had a magic power? What would it do? What could you do with it? We walked back, all with a nugget of glass from the local garden centre, clutched in a grubby palm, wondering and talking about magical powers, where we’d go, what we’d become and would we ever come back?

That was nearly three years ago now. Before I was ill, when I was still married, when the hill I was climbing was that of fulltime postgraduate training, teaching and looking after my three children. It was a good time, actually, when I slept very little, worked very hard and felt incredibly positive about where I was in my life. I was almost forty, and almost a qualified infant teacher, with all three children in school. I was very excited about achieving this life ambition that had so far been rather elusive.

Now, I’m looking at my school across the field and I feel quite distant. I qualified in 2010 and became a Newly Qualified Teacher. But I haven’t worked since the beginning of November 2011 and I really miss being part of my team. I miss knowing I’m an active part of the school, that I’m needed and necessary, and I really, really miss the children. But at the same time, I am still a long way from being able to go back in as a teacher and just do my job. I have a new and challenging hill that I’m climbing, which is learning to live with and manage my Bipolar disorder, finding an effective cocktail of medication to stabilise my moods and to allow me to get back to being a competent person again.

I think I will get there. I am sure I will. Even on my worst days, I think I will get there. I don’t know how long it will take, though. That makes me anxious, I realise, despite attempting a zen-like calm when discussing this with friends and colleagues. Finances are an issue, of course, as I have a mortgage and bills to pay. And school need me back: there are things that I need to be doing – my colleagues miss the piano being played for spur of the moment events, and my daughter says that other children say it’s a bit odd not seeing me every day any more. I’m glad I am missed.

From this point in my walk, it takes me about fifteen minutes to walk back to school. On the way, it disappears from view, as I cross fields, dipping along a deeply banked bridlepath. At the ford the dog has a drink, a quick paddle and sometimes a swim. I always look to see if any glass pebbles remain, accidentally hidden in the gravel: I’d love to find one myself one day. And although I know what magical power I’d like to give to my pebble, to cut out all this uncertainty and anguish, I think if I just keep walking and not worrying, if I keep straight on, I will eventually get back to school.

A Book and its cover…

This afternoon I sat in Costa in Wokingham and read this book after an appointment with my consultant psychiatrist. It’s a bloody brilliant book, and I recommend it to anyone with Bipolar or who knows someone with it, or who simply has an interest in mental health. It’s wonderfully written and gripping from start to finish (or middle, as that’s where I am).

I left the book like this on the table while I went to fetch a spoon (to eat the chocolate foam in my coffee cup, naturally) and when I returned I found that an elderly woman was standing by my table, my book in her hand.

Seeing me arrive at the table, she hastily put it back down. “I liked the cover. I think I’ve seen it on TV. Is it about something to do with your face?”

“er, no, not really” I replied. “It’s about mental illness. It’s really very good.”

“oh!” she said, “I might buy it for my friend then. I was quite sure that bipolar was something to do with your face not working down one side.”

“No, I think that may be a different illness you’re thinking of. Bipolar disorder is a form of depression, where you get really wild mood swings. Very high episodes and deep lows. I’m really just finding out about it all myself, to be honest.”

“Well. Fancy that.” She looked at me, smiled, shrugged, and wandered back to her table and cup of tea.

So I sat back down, spoon in one hand, book in the other and pondered to myself. How good to be able to read that book in a coffee shop and not worry about what anyone else thought about it. And good that someone else had picked up my book. Very good that she’d asked and even better that I’d told her. All in all, very good. Even if she did think it was probably all about Bells Palsy.


Fairy Lights at the end of the tunnel…

In the past, the run up to Christmas has been a torrid time in my family. My eldest son hates Christmas. Not in a ‘bah humbug’ way, or a mean-spirited Scroogey way, but in a teeth-clenched, skin-crawlingly miserable way. He hates the uncertainty, the change, not knowing what is going to happen. He hates Christmas decorations, the Christmas tree, big dinners, lots of guests… You name it, whatever it is that the family tradition dictates at Christmas, the poor lad hates it.

However, for many years we didn’t know what it was that caused the meltdowns, the howling fits, the running out of the house. As he got older, he became more able to articulate his concerns and by the time he was about 9 or 10, and we had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome  (aged 7), we were able to work out strategies to help minimize his anxieties at Christmas time.

I met a fair amount of opposition in the early days. Mainly because the children’s dad wanted them all to be treated the same, and was uncomfortable with me doing things differently for C. Which is fair enough I guess, and a commonly held view. But I firmly believe C needed a different approach in order to manage his worries and his stress. The first main stress, for example, was not knowing what he was going to get for Christmas. Even though he might get something lovely, not knowing what it might be, caused him utter misery. So when he was nine, I decided, against the wishes of my (now ex-) husband, to take him with me to buy a Christmas present. I talked to him about it, and asked him if he would be happier knowing something he was going to get for Christmas. The relief in his face was palpable. I could have kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner. So that year, we went out and bought The Guinness Book of World Records, and agreed that although he knew he was getting it, I would wrap it up and put it under the tree. After that, he relaxed, because he knew that whatever else he did or didn’t get, he would be able to unwrap the book he wanted, for sure. I wondered if, over the coming weeks, he would insist on having the book immediately, but no, he was quite happy knowing that I had bought him what he wanted, and that it would definitely appear under the tree on Christmas morning.

The next issue was Father Christmas. The whole idea of a strange bloke coming into our house, by magic, for god’s sake, when he didn’t have a key, when we locked front and back doors every night just freaked the poor little mite out. I hadn’t realised that for years, he had been worrying about all the other ways that strange bearded men might get into his bedroom. So although he still believed in Father Christmas, and he had two younger siblings who definitely did and were not worried at all, I changed how we did things. The same year, aged nine, I suggested to him that perhaps he’d like me to have a word with Father Christmas and see if it was ok for me to do his stocking instead. This pleased C immensely, and so from then on, it was agreed with him and the younger two that Father Christmas would only come to them, but I would do C’s stocking, on behalf of Santa.

The following year, C was no longer believing in the whole FC conspiracy, and so we then had to make up more baloney for the sake of the younger ones. He could not, of course, keep it to himself that Father Christmas was in fact, Mum and Dad, as he is always compelled to say every last thing that comes into his head. Especially anything he shouldn’t say of course, tact not being a huge strength for many people with Asperger’s Syndrome. But O and G were happy to accept that obviously Father Christmas wouldn’t do C’s stocking if he didn’t believe in him: we kept this going for a little longer…

But Christmas is one of those times where families are supposed to do stuff together. There are school plays to go to, carol services to attend and family bunfights to field. These used to cause me so much stress, because I’d try and get all five of us to events, and then would usually end up leaving early with a distressed child. Pretty soon it was clear to me that taking C to a carol service was just a miserable experience for all involved, particularly for him. He really doesn’t like the noise, the closeness of other people and gets no joy from the occasion. So why persist?


I wanted to go that’s why. I wanted to be a family. I wanted to be a proper family that does things together, wears matching hats and scarves and sings carols round the piano. I just wanted to do stuff altogether.

However. That was not going to happen. For many years I had to give up on all these things. I tried to get to my younger son and daughter’s school events, but regularly missed them because I was looking after C. We never ever went altogether to anything, because either my husband or I would be at home with our eldest son. It just never happened. It used to break my heart because I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It felt as though we were becoming an increasingly autistic, insular family, lonely and away from everyone else. I used to watch other families from a distance and try not to envy their assumption that they would just go out together.

And that’s why I wanted to write this. Because, you know what? There really is light at the end of the tunnel and for once, it’s not the headlights of an oncoming train. No, it really is a bit fantastic. I don’t want to jinx the entire festive season, but actually, what the hell. This year’s run up to Christmas has been the best ever with C. And that is pretty odd for several reasons.

The first reason why I’m surprised is that it’s the first Christmas since my husband and I split up in January. I know that the kids have been apprehensive about Christmas, worrying about how it will be without their Dad there. The second reason is that I have been ill for the last 5 weeks, as I’ve been trying to get used to taking lithium and antidepressants to combat Bipolar Disorder. I’ve not been at my strongest, physically or emotionally and I am certainly less organised for the whole Christmas thing than usual.

So I was astonished at my boy, who had taken everything in his stride. Quite amazingly well. The present choosing was fine – he wanted an electric razor, which I bought him. He asked specifically not to have a stocking, as he feels it is a waste of money to be given things he hasn’t asked for. I explained to him that actually, putting things in his stocking made me very happy and I’d like to be able to do it still. I promised him that I would only give him useful presents, “none of those silly things that are pointless, please Mum”. Oh! Ok. Pants and deodorant it is, then! (and God knows, he needs the latter)

And since he is now almost fourteen, it has been much easier for me to leave him at home while I have attended Christmas concerts and events for the other two children, safe in the knowledge that the worst he will be doing while I am out is spending the entire evening glued to the Playstation. So although I still haven’t managed to go to something as a ‘whole’ family, I have at least been able to go to things, be there for the other two children, and not be panicking that I’d have to leave in the middle with a shouty child.

But it was really when we decorated the tree this year that he just blew me away. In previous years, decorating the house has always been a period of great stress for C. I have never quite understood what it was that caused his panic and stress, over lights, tinsel and baubels, but for many years, he would shut himself in his bedroom while the rest of the kids and I decorated everywhere like mad. Once it was done, he would emerge, glaring at the offending pretty things and pace around the house to check what was where. Once he had done this, and poked the tinsel, switched the fairy lights on and off a couple of times, he would pronounce the tree “fine” and usually complain that we had not put the correct lights on it. But that would be the end of the stress. However, in all his years he has never participated in the actual Christmasifying of the house until now, which explains why I was unprepared for his sudden sea-change.

While the children were at school, I had bought a beautiful tree, but had suddenly run out of energy after hefting it out of the garden centre and into the boot, and had left it in the car. C and his younger brother volunteered to carry the tree inside, struggled in and brought it into the sitting room for me. At this point, I was beginning to feel quite ill, the tremor from the lithium was getting quite severe and I simply couldn’t lift the tree into the holder. But being a stubborn git, I continued to try, until I was forced to sit on the floor in a clammy state of wobbliness. While I sat there, swearing over my lack of a hacksaw and inability to lift a tree and generally, to do the whole Christmas thing on my own,  my boy said to me, “Mum, you should really let me do that, you know. I’m a lot stronger and bigger than you.”

Anyone that knows me in real life will know that I am spectactularly awful at accepting offers of help, particularly on this day, feeling that I should be somehow doing it all myself. I had persuaded myself that I had to be Supermum in the absence of the children’s dad…. (I know, idiotic).

So. I ignored C’s offer of help, as he tutted and shook his head at me. I carried on, with my younger son fetching the bread knife to hack bits off the bottom of the tree so we could fit it into the holder. But try as I might, I simply didn’t have the strength to saw the wood. C patiently sat there, holding the trunk, while I got crosser and crosser, cursing the perishing tree and myself with increasing ferocity and impending tears.

But after fifteen minutes of this, C had had enough. “For god’s sake Mum! ” he said, “Why aren’t you letting me do it? I can cut through that branch easily! You are so stubborn, mum. Jeez! You’re worse than me! Just stop! “

And he was right. I should have let him do it. I hadn’t yet made that change in my own head that I didn’t have to do it all myself, that I had a teenage boy who was bigger than me and far more capable of chopping up a tree than I was. I was in Protective Mother Mode and didn’t want anyone cutting their fingers or hacking their own legs off by accident. Which, in my ridiculously wibbly wobbly state was much more likely to happen to me than to him.

To cut a long and sweaty story short, I carried on until it turned out that my nine year old daughter had phoned her dad and asked him to bring the hacksaw over and help us put up the tree. I reluctantly admitted defeat and we all sat on the sofa with hot chocolate, while we looked at the bloody tree lying on the carpet in the middle of the room and waited for the arrival of some proper tools and my ex-husband. I pondered, as I sat there with my three kids, and, for the first time as a mother realised that my kids actually could help me. Properly and practically and essentially. It was being pointed out to me by my son with Asperger’s, whose empathy and compassion is not well known. But he is pragmatic and practical and he could see what I could not, in my emotional haze of “I’ve got to make our first Christmas just the four of us, utterly marvellous” that it is fine to ask other people, including your children, for help. I am often brought up short by my eldest son.

“Right”, said C, “Next year, mum, I don’t want any arguments from you. As of next year, being in charge of cutting the tree and putting it into its holder is mine and O’s job. Seriously. Ok?”

He fixed me with a fierce look, raised an eyebrow at me, “Ok, Mum?”

I sighed.

“Ok.” I said and hugged him.

So, um, is it all in my head, then?

Recently, I have had a lot of big questions swimming round my brain. They have got in the way of other thoughts and bounced off the inside of my head. Like rubber balls.  And they have made it difficult to think about anything else – work or home or family or love or opening letters or phoning the bank. And all of these circling questions orbit an even bigger one, that is lurking darkly: just who the heck am I now?

About six weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I’d asked for the referral myself from my GP. I had been noticing increasingly marked patterns in my mood swings and periods of depression over the last few years, wondering if perhaps they amounted to more than momentary lows and highs. I had been finding out about the illness, talking to others with it, trying to see if the diagnosis fitted me. And I was pretty sure it did. So I really shouldn’t have felt the shock that I felt when the Consultant Psychiatrist said, “yes, after reviewing your history,  I think you do fit the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar II.”

I really thought I would be relieved to know that, to find out the reason why I felt the way I did. Be able to find a few answers. But you know what? I really didn’t. No, I left the clinic feeling pole-axed. And it has taken me, is still taking me time to come to terms with that. I feel quite silly about it. I feel I am making too much fuss. After all, I am the same person who walked into the clinic as walked out. Nothing has really changed except for words. Except it has.

All those bouts of depression that I suffered, I felt I’d “beaten”. I was proud of getting over every single one, but each time I fell into another, I got cross with myself for the perceived weakness that meant I had allowed myself to get ill and depressed again. I wanted to see my life as a happy life, just peppered with occasional moments of depression: I have always hated being referred to as “depressive”. For god’s sake! I’m the cheeriest person you’ll meet! I am a cock-eyed, ridiculous optimist. I am annoyingly sunny and I love life. I am silly, I laugh a LOT. I did not want to think that my life could be summed up like that: “depressive”. No. Not me.

But worse than my changed view on depression were my new views on the mania, I realised. Because I have always lived my life up and down with very little in the middle. I am not severely bipolar, and when I’m high, I am not at all antisocial. I just do everything faster and faster, sleep less and less, have more of  a ‘devil may care’ attitude and ridiculous amounts of enthusiasm for practically any venture you’d care to throw at me. My fuse is shorter then too, and I am inclined to be rather impatient. I’m probably exhausting to be around at that point. But the thing is – I quite like me like that. I feel good. I can do things. I can write things. I have energy and a buzz. I make stuff and my kids think I’m fun to be around.

So the bit of this ‘coming to terms’ malarkey that I’m really struggling with is looking at this part of me, which I really like, and wondering if it is really just down to mental illness. Is it me, who knits scarves into the early hours and comes up with plots for novels, and invents cakes or is it illness? Is it creativity or mania? Is the illness an extraneous part of me, or am I the illness? And do I have to treat it? Can’t I just keep that whizzy bit? Find a way to get some sleep, but keep the crazy thrill of doing everything at super fast speeds? There’s got to be some bloody upside to it all.

But that thrill doesn’t stay. That’s the problem. The faster I go, the quicker I get to the top of the summit and then the faster I plummet to earth. Crash and burn. I’m a mum to three children, on my own, and I can’t be crashing and burning and looking after them. And I go to work. I teach. I can’t be falling apart in class, I need to find a balance of stability within myself and my life. I don’t want to lose parts of me, but perhaps in the short term, it’s a risk I have to take in order to manage the responsibilities I have. The flighty part of me doesn’t want mood stabilisers. The grown-up part knows it’s probably what I have to do. I’m frightened I’m going to find I’m not who I think I am when I start taking them. I don’t want to be cured of the bits of me I really like. I really like riding the rollercoaster you see.

Perhaps unsurprisingly,  the best advice and the kindest words I’ve had, have been from my children. We have talked about my illness and talked about what Bipolar means. My children had questions of their own, of course, especially the boys, who in their lives have also come to terms with lifelong diagnoses of their own. They asked, “Can you get better and be cured?” (sadly,no); “Is it like Dementia, that it gets worse until you die of it?” (thankfully, no); “If you take the medicine will you feel better?” (probably). “Will you always have it?”. Well, yes I will.

But my eldest son said to me, “Mum, it’s just a diagnosis. You will get used to it.” He should know.He has got used to his. As has his younger brother. And of course, all three children were right: I’m the same mum, I’m the same me. I just have a new label, a new signpost.

“You will get the right help now, Mum, that’s all it means”, said Boy 1, “What’s for dinner?”

And as I cooked the supper and the kids bickered over the tv remote, I realised why  I was upset in the clinic. I had wanted the doctor to tell me I was mistaken, that it was all in my head, that I just had mood swings and the odd bout of depression. But of course, that is exactly what the consultant told me: really, it is all in my head.