Saturday, 11 July 2015

I’m being open about my chronic depression

So… I just realised I am probably depressed and have been for some months now.  This may seem like a strange statement to make, but I am no stranger to depression, so I thought I would have recognised it straight away. I have experienced various levels of depression, on and off, throughout my life. Possibly starting around when my mom died when I was 13, but maybe preceding that time (causes and triggers are for another day).

In the early years I just sucked it up and carried on.  Luckily for me I could manage like this and my depression was not severe enough to take me to darker places.

Until I had two kids, and a business, and a church running from my lounge, and my father had a massive stroke.  Then I wasn’t really managing anymore, so I lay on the couch for a while and then I went to see a counsellor who finally gave me ‘permission’ to go onto medication.  She actually encouraged me to go onto anti-depressants, considering my long history of depleted serotonin. This was exactly what I needed, because although I had considered it many times, there was always that stigma that makes it such a difficult step to take.

If you haven’t ever been depressed, then you might not know that it isn’t always about ‘feeling sad’.  Sadness can be a symptom, but for me depression is primarily about what I call ‘a lack of mental and emotional energy’.  It is lacking the will to tackle what has to be done.  We all need that, at minimum, in fact most of us need a lot more – we need to do a lot more than just survive.  For our own sake, we need to take on things that lead to growth and progress, and for the sake of those around us, we need energy to love and nurture them.

So after being on anti-depressants for a time, which enabled me to cope very well with 2 very difficult years with my dad; I then went off them (a truly awful experience) in order to fall pregnant.  I was quick to recognise the symptoms of decline when my baby was about 6 weeks old and took steps to get back on medication; deciding that this would probably be a lifetime decision as I didn’t want a rollercoaster journey of medicating-feeling better-going off-feeling terrible-coping-feeling worse-medicating again.  I know a short time of medication can work for some people (usually those whose depression is onset by circumstances rather than being an ongoing chronic condition).   I have been on a low dose of medication for about 6 years now and haven’t had to worry about the black dog of depression for some time.

We often hear people talking about their ‘happy pills’, but sadly medication does not really make one happy!   I still have ups and downs like any normal person.  I’m still not a particularly bubbly, sunshiny person.  Pills won’t give you a personality change.  But they do give me the mental energy to take care of myself, engage socially, do favours for other people, take care of my family and hold down a job whilst leading a reasonably happy life.

Hence my surprise at finding myself there again.  Having been ‘in remission’ as it were for 6 years, it didn’t occur to me for some time that I could again be facing the big D.

I thought I was just tired of my job (and I am) and that I was just busy (four kids, say no more) and that I was struggling to lose weight (yes) and that we have financial pressures (that too) but then the long weekend came and I was home and I intended to cook a good meal and catch up on some work I am behind on (red flag right there) and … I just… could… not… do it.  And then it hit me – I know this thing, I am more than just tired, I have no mental or emotional energy, in fact I have been running on empty for some time now.  I will say it… I am depressed.

Establishing a diagnosis is always a huge step towards healing, but treatment can be a mixed blessing.  Despite everything I’ve said I don’t like the idea of being on medication and I don’t like the idea of increasing my dose.  I know the risks are minimal but I don’t like the idea of being dependant on something that I may not be able to access one day, there is that fear.  Unfortunately there aren’t too many options, aside from intensive counselling which is lovely but the time and monetary cost make it a short term option only.  Please don’t tell me about dietary, herbal or exercise remedies, those are great for mild depression.  Moderate to severe depression does not respond to those band aids.

Ok so that’s it. Stay posted to see how it pans out.

PS.  I love hearing responses to my writing but I don’t write to receive therapy J So if you think taking anti-depressants is wrong or you think you know exactly what I am doing wrong in my life, I’d prefer it if you kept your opinion to yourself.  I don’t want advice or pity.  Empathy and shared experiences are welcome. :-) 

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