Monday, 16 May 2016

Depression And Me

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.  My earliest memory of being depressed is from when I was in primary school. I remember standing outside the school gates and just feeling totally empty, feeling nothing, not feeling. I must have been about ten years old. That means that I have had depression on and off for over twenty years.

I am lucky. While my depression visits many times a year I am fortunate that it is rarely more than mild depression. There are many days I have had to battle to get out of bed, days at work when I haven’t wanted to speak to anyone, countless days I have gone to bed early because dreaming is better than being awake. But still it’s mild depression because I have been able to get out of bed, I know others aren't so lucky.

A white tulip on a black background


I have rarely reached the point where I have needed professional help and generally when I get really really bad it is just before I start to recover. I went to the doctors once to ask for help, they didn’t provide it. They weren’t helpful and they brushed aside how I was feeling. Unfortunately I am not alone in this experience. The support for depression is very variable. I have found that some services and individuals are much more tuned in to pick up signs of depression.

I was referred to Occupational Health at work for my migraines and in the long discussion I had with the doctor she picked up some responses which indicated my history of depression and she asked more about it. It wasn’t why I had been referred, and it wasn’t something I had raised, but by listening she heard what I was saying. This was the first professional who had picked up on it. She gave me help for my migraines, but also (confidentially) offered to refer me for a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with one of the Psychologists attached to the Occupational Health Service. 

By the time I met with the Occupational Health doctor I was used to speaking about having a history of depression. My close colleagues were aware that some days I struggled so I would be less sociable or less productive. My best friend has experience of it and I know that he will always be there if I need him. I have also talked to my current partner at length about it. It is really hard for him when I am going through one of my depressed phases. I am cold, I isolate myself, I snap lots for no reason. As the closest person to me my partner suffers the most. He knows that it is not his fault and my behaviour towards him isn’t a reflection of what he has done or what he deserves. He knows this, but he still finds it really hard to not take personally. My ex found it even harder.

Depression is really hard because you have so little control over it. When I find myself feeling low I know the best thing for me is to go out, to be around people. I can’t pull myself out of depression as I slip downwards, but I can go out and be around people, people who can have the power to stop me before it takes hold.

At my checking in appointment for my last pregnancy the midwife recorded I had mild depression. She put it on my notes and put me as high risk. This meant I wasn’t discharged from the midwifery service until 28 days post birth. They checked in with me regularly in the post birth period, but my mood was relatively buoyant. It was only afterwards that I have felt my mood dip. With a newborn it is easy to spend days on end at home, rarely seeing your partner and only having a crying baby and the TV for company. It is no wonder so many women get post natal depression, and it’s also not surprising that it often isn’t detected.

As I know that being home alone (or with a baby) is the worst thing for me when I’m feeling low I have been going out to baby groups, or for a walk, anything to avoid being alone all day. One morning I got to a baby group late and the room was full. It is so hard to go into a full room and make conversation when you don’t have the energy to talk. The Children’s Centre manager spoke to me and I had tears in my eyes. I left, walked back down the road, but then I stopped. I turned round and walked back. I forced myself to go back in.

That afternoon I received a message from the manager of the Children’s Centre. She asked if I was ok, told me about other groups and provided her number telling me to call if I needed to talk. This is one of the many times I have been aware of the local Children’s Centre providing much needed support to local parents. The Council plan to close this centre this year.

People don’t have control over getting depression. It might be triggered by events, but it is more than just feeling sad. It’s often an irrational feeling of sadness, or of not feeling any thing. A feeling of hopelessness or feeling empty. I believe that depression is caused by brain chemistry not working correctly. Other people might not understand why you are depressed, you might not understand why you are depressed. People do not have control over getting depressed, but they do have some control over the recovery. 

Having experienced depression on and off for such a long time I know that the best thing for me is company, exercise also helps and receiving unconditional support from those around me. Some days depression wins, but most days I am in control.

If you know someone with depression let them know you are there for them, even if you find it really tiring it is definitely worse for them. If you think you might be depressed, if you are feeling numb or sad and don’t know why, speak to someone, see your GP, keep speaking to people until you get help. Speaking out is the hardest thing. Not everyone is prepared to listen, but speak until you are heard so you can get help to get back to being you.
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