The Road Less Travelled

I very much wanted to write another post today. And now I’m finding it difficult to start. This was going to be a continuation of my last post regarding the fight my depressed mind always puts up against anti depressants in the initial stages of treatment. If I’m brutally honest, I’ve been there enough times to know I don’t want to revisit some of the scariest periods of my life. But acceptance had changed me and given me an incredible need to share experiences I Never would have. If only to promote empathy and some understanding in those that have never had to fight with the Black Dog. Twelve months ago, I was back on anti-depressants about 2-3 weeks and all was not well. My serotonin levels were completely obliterated and unlike a healthy person, my brain Will Not reproduce serotonin of its own accord, hence my mental illness. So although anti-depressants are often referred to as ‘Happy Pills’, this is definitely not the case. A quick fix they ain’t. What they do is start to Gradually help your brain to produce the serotonin you so Badly need. But this takes time. I can remember my very concerned sister telling me I’d be better in a couple of days. She couldn’t believe it when a month into my treatment, there was very little improvement. For me it takes 8 Long very difficult weeks to feel like I’m starting to see just a glimmer of light in the long dark tunnel. And about three months in total (with counselling, and meditating twice daily) to feel like the old me has returned. I distinctly remember a particularly bad day last year when I felt really terrified. I was only back on the meds about a week. And wasn’t working on this particular day, which had dawned as blackly as any day could. When I’m sick, I become incredibly clingy towards my family and close friends. Especially my Dad for some reason. I go back to being a frightened little girl who just want to keep him near as much as possible. I didn’t want to alarm him, as he wasn’t aware my depression had returned. But I needed him very much on the day in question.So I took a deep breath and phoned him. I told him it had returned, and I was back on the meds and I needed to get out of the house for a couple of hours. I felt like a total failure for telling him and guilty for needing him so much, but I was desperate. I was putting on a brave face because I didn’t want anyone worrying about me. But I knew my Dad would be cool about it and there would be no need to pretend. He said ‘no probs’ in his naturally easygoing way. And we went for a long drive. The sun was shining in a blue cloudless sky but it didn’t make any difference to me. I felt like my stubborn sick brain would never let the sun in again. When we started out, my dad told me about a young hurler from Galway who had taken his own life some days before, his name was Niall O’Donoghue. (I’ve never forgotten his name) My stomach turned when I heard this. Because I was having black thoughts at this time. Which were bombarding me, and I was fighting them each second of each day. I assumed wrongly that he hadn’t been getting any treatment, but my father told me he had been receiving treatment, and all his friends were aware of his illness. This scared me. But I knew how he must have felt, and understood the massive struggle he had surely gone through. The meds don’t work for everyone. I’m extremely lucky in that they work for me. In my worst days, that’s what I’ve always told myself. My life depended on them working, along with counselling and meditating.But that day in the car with my dad, I couldn’t imagine fighting an illness as overwhelmingly ferocious as depression where the meds don’t work. Because the illness can and tragically does win in some cases. People who suffer from depression don’t kill themselves . Depression kills them. It’s as heartbreakingly simple as that.

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What is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is recurrent depression. Which unfortunately is what I have.

Around this time last year (believe me, I remember it well) I had my third bout of severe depression in three years. And as per usual it came back with a BANG! There were some warning signs ie. feelings of intense panic at times, but overall  was in good form. Then a severe low mood kicked in. And by God do you notice that. Suddenly it’s like your whole personality is completely wiped out, and there’s nothing left. You’re on autopilot, and start to feel like everything is pointless. Your sleep is seriously disturbed and you spend endless nights diving down, down, down into a black bottomless pit. Life is carrying on as normal all around you, but your mind is being attacked by hundreds and hundreds of endless black thoughts. Wave after wave after wave. There  is no let up.

So I ran back to my doctor. At that time I’d been off anti depressants for two months after a 6 month course of them. She prescribed me 20mg of Prozac. I was gutted. I felt like I’d taken twenty steps back. Then she referred me to a psychiatrist. Because my depression had recurred every year for the last three (since the birth of my daughter). I was stunned. Inwardly  I convinced myself I didn’t need to see a psychiatrist. That evening I told my husband I was not going to see a psychiatrist, because I was not mad. He told me to do what my doctor advised. I argued there was no way I was sitting in the waiting room of a psychiatric clinic because other people would see me, and I was NOT one of them. I felt so crap about it, I chickened out of going, scared of what the psychiatrist would say to me. He’d probably admit me to hospital. If I ignore it, it will go away. Wrong, I got another appointment. I phoned the secretary on the morning of the appointment, explaining how anxious I felt about being recognised by others in the waiting room. She said it would be quiet. But I’m having none of it. I arrived complete with a dark hat pulled down as far as I could manage (it sounds ridiculous to me now, but I was very much in denial of my illness at that time)

The nurse brings me to a small room where I can wait. After a while the psychiatrist is ready to see me. He shakes my hand and introduces himself. I feel like a complete basket case.Why is this happening to me? Why me? Why? Why? Why? I just want to be normal, like everyone else. He asks me how many bouts of depression I’ve had in my life. I tell him this is my fifth. He asks how I’m feeling. I tell him I’m not tired, am functioning, going to work etc. but I’m in a pretty black hole. My head is utterly destroyed.

He tells me that I more than likely have clinical depression. He said every time a bout of depression recurs, the percentage of it recurring again increases. I keep disagreeing with him, coming up with various reasons why it’s recurred. I tell him that I’d drank too much on a night out and that’s why it came back. I tell him I kick it pretty quickly each time it comes back (about two months) but I know myself it takes at least 2 months for the meds to start working. He recommends I stay on anti-depressants indefinitely, possibly for the rest of my life. I keep telling him I don’t have Clinical depression, because I just couldn’t have something like that.He also recommends I see a counsellor and meditate 3 times a day (I ignore this).

When I get home I feel very frightened and am still reeling.I tell my husband, I don’t want to have Clinical Depression. I want it to go away. I tell him I’m frightened of losing my mind, of going mad. Because if I lose my mind, I might never get it back again. And I don’t want to ever have to put him and my daughter through that, or my close friends and family.

I suppose even though I didn’t realise it at the time, I was actually on my way towards finally accepting a part of myself that I never thought I would.

Depression in itself is horrific, but in my experience the journey you go on when starting back on meds is another type of horror. And the truly sad thing about it is you look fine to everyone else. There’s no broken arm, no red spots. Just an excruciating inner turmoil. That is completely invisible to everyone, including your family and friends.
I think the only people who saw through my tough facade were friends who’d been down the same desolate road as many times as I had.
I’ll continue my story in the next blog.

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I Never thought I’d start a Blog

Well I didn’t. I always thought bloggers were hip, cool kinda people. With a lot to write about. (How could they put their thoughts out there like that? I could never do that) But thanks to Twitter, and pretty inspirational blogs like Sunny Scattered. I changed my mind. I’ll probably wake up in the morning and go ‘What the f**k was I thinking? Cop on girl’But tough. It’s done now and I’m sticking with it.

Ths blog will be a bit of a lucky dip. With some nice funny things, and some not so funny:

1.My experiences with depression (5 bouts since the age of nineteen) and overcoming it. Happily a lot of people are coming forward regarding mental health in order to reduce stigma. I’m absolutely all for that. Now. But that is only in the last year. Up to that point I was so ashamed of it that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide it anytime I was sick.

2. Funny stuff. A sense of humour has helped me out a lot in life, seeing the funny side has been a real blessing to me at times. I’m a bit of a giggler. Just letting you know. (Still can’t believe I’ve started a blog, but as I’ve already said, it’s done and it’ll be fun!)

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