Friday, 30 August 2013

One day we'll look back on this and laugh

familymwr / Foter / CC BY

I've had this post in draft for over a week, but have hestitated about publishing it but here goes.

The problem with admitting to being depressed is all the stigma that comes with it:  the guilt, the misconceptions about it and the impatience with it. It's difficult for people without experience of depression to understand what it's like, and I totally get that, because it's very hard to explain what it feels like. It isn't something I can 'snap out of', and neither can I 'pull myself together' - and I've been told to do both over the years.

For me, it's an overwhelming feeling of despair and an inability to see past it. I can't make decisions, I have no energy or enthusiasm for anything and I feel completely and utterly exhausted. When it's less severe I can hide it from other people, friends, colleagues but every so often it becomes too difficult to shake off and it's obvious that something isn't right. I'm having one of those episodes right now.

It's very easy to give in to depression, to succumb to its fug of despair, but this time around I want to work through it and try and manage it before it takes over completely. This time I want to take a different approach, an alternative way of dealing with it instead of masking it with medication. So I'm going to try and be proactive which is easy for me to say today, right this minute, because it seems achievable, but tomorrow or the day after maybe not so much.

The areas I'm going to work on are good nutrition; daily exercise; talking about it; and finding out about (and trying) natural anti-depressants.

Good nutrition - well, this one seems obvious but very hard to do when you're feeling low and all you want is to spend some quality time with a jam doughnut (or two). I absolutely have to get a healthier diet going on, not just to lose weight - although I need that too - but to feel better and have more energy.

Daily exercise - again, this has to be a absolute must-do. There are strong links between doing exercise and feeling good, we all know that of course, and it's to do with the release of endorphins into our body which makes us feel better and also acts as a sedative. The Blurt Foundation has a very good information sheet about the need for exercise.

Talking about it - a couple of years ago I asked for support at work and was referred to a occupational health counsellor. Unfortunately, it didn't work, mainly because I felt embarrassed to be there. The timing couldn't have been worse because my first appointment coincided with the news of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and there I was sitting in the counsellor's waiting room waiting to talk about being depressed. I felt guilty that there were plenty of people in the world far worse off than me and that I had no right to be depressed. It's the same now with Syria - I have no right to feel like this when such atrocities are taking place.

But of course that's not how it works. Depression doesn't discriminate. It comes at you like a wrecking ball, smashing everything else out of the way and knocking you completely off your feet.

This time I do need to talk about it, so I'm going to try two options. The first one is to have a mentor and I've requested one from the Blurt Foundation who can put you  in touch with mentors with personal experience of depression. I think this might be a way forward, to be able to talk to someone who understands what it feels like.

The other thing I'm going to do is to talk about it on this blog. I realise that it won't be everybody's cup of tea, but really, blogging is the cheapest form of therapy - I should know, I used it for years like that before deciding to be more guarded about my personal life. But needs must and this is going to be my outlet, my ranting place, my silent confidante.

Natural anti-depressants - after many years of using prescribed anti-depressants and gradually weaning myself off them earlier this year I want to try a different type of treatment. There are several natural ways of treating it, and I want to try them to avoid going back to the medication and its numerous side-effects. I had an appointment with my GP yesterday who, unexpectantly, suggested this to me before I had a chance to explain my plan. He thought I was exhausted from being years of 'coping' and dealing with life's challenges *cough* and suggested I needed some breathing space (breathing space = time off work) to find my feet again and rather than paper over the cracks with anti-depressants to actually deal with and fully repair them.

Yesterday, when I was explaining all of this to a friend he made me laugh by describing me as being "like Post-war Britain". I know it sounds bizarre but his theory was that the years of  being constantly 'at war' had finally taken its toll, and although I was over the worst it would take a while to repair the damage. I like his analogy, it seems to make perfect sense to me.

This is going to take some time to work through, and I'm not expecting quick results plus there's possibly some significant life changes that need to be made. I hope I can write more about those in the next few months.

Thanks for reading.

Oh, and by the way, if you know someone with depression, or suspect they may be experiencing it, please try and offer them support.