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Coming to terms with being depressed

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In many ways I brought this upon myself. No one told me I was depressed. I’ve felt ‘melancholy’ for just about as long as I can remember, but it probably stems back to about 20 years ago if I had to pin down a starting point for the way I currently feel. I’ve had huge waves of ups and downs over the year, generally more downs than ups, and I was starting to notice that the down periods were deeper and longer, and the up times were fewer and further between.

It was getting to the point of just feeling a combination everything — and I mean *everything* — being too much. The slightest bump in the day throws me off (and I’m aware that I’m switching tenses here. It’s probably something that will continue throughout). As something became overwhelming, I either lost interest in it, or it became a chore — which is a bit of a bitch when it comes to the food that needs to be prepared for me and my girlfriend. I was sick of feeling too much. Sick of feeling wretched. Life has to be better than this. Doesn’t it?

Tacking the label of ‘depression’ to myself could be seen as unhelpful — but it’s a fuck of a lot more helpful that ‘I feel shit’ or ‘I can’t be bothered’. Depression is a wide term, but it’s a stab in the right direction.

Having struggled to keep things under control using frankly shit techniques — just ignoring things, drinking, self-harm, etc — about three weeks ago I decided to mention to an old school friend that I felt I was teetering on the edge of depression. What the fuck should I do? I don’t have time for this! I’ve got other shit to be getting on with. Rather than paraphrase, I thought it easier to just reproduce what I said to him:

Looking for some advice and you seemed like a sensible person to reach out to. How do I even start a conversation with someone about feeling unstable and depressed? I don’t have time for this! I’m a full time carer for my disabled girlfriend and I’m struggling now. Emotionally and mentally. Up down up down up down. But each down is lower and the ups are increasingly shortlived. I’ve self harmed in the past, but not for about 10 years (cutting and cigarette burning) and I don’t feel compelled to go down that route again… but I need something to happen. Im switched on 24 hours a day so I’m on hand to whatever needs to happen for Nic, fitting in bits of work when I get chance. It’s killing me and our relationship. I want things to improve, but I can’t cope on my own any more. I need someone to take care of me… who do I turn to? I’m not thinking of doing anything stupid, so don’t worry about that, but considering your line of work I thought it made sense to drop you a message. Any advice welcome

CBT was mentioned. While it’s not something I have personal experience of, it’s something I’m aware of. Meditation and mindfulness also cropped up. Having tried mindfulness a couple of times in the past, I have mixed feelings about it. I had one fabulous experience during one session — managed to completely recreate the sensation of the first time I took ecstasy! — but on the whole I found the whole process quite frustrating. I’m not sure it’s something that will help me with this, but I guess I’m willing to look into it again.

A few days later I made a vague reference to how I was feeling to my girlfriend in saying that I felt mentally unwell and thought I should probably phone the doctor. I duly did and was told there was a two week wait to see anyone. Cue the start of an astonishing period of love and sharing from friends on Facebook. I must have been feeling particularly low to be compelled to start talking about this — I’ve always been someone who just gets on with stuff, regardless of how I’m feeling physically or mentally.

Still, being told that it was going to be two weeks until I could see someone was a bit of a bitch. I’ve opened the floodgates now! What am I supposed to do?

A friend questioned what I was hoping for from the doctor and whether my referring to myself as feeling ‘mentally unwell’ was helpful. I replied:

Emotionally unwell? Not sure what label is appropriate, but all I know is that I’m unwell in a way that’s not physical — ups and downs, lot more frequent lower/deeper downs, inability/feeling of inability to cope with day to day stuff, feeling overwhelmed, increased melancholy, feeling tearful for little/no reason, feelings of worthlessness/pointlessness, loss of interest in just about everything, a constant voice in my head (not literal) that says ‘oh for fuck’s sake’ and just…. soul-crushing weariness. I’m not sure what other label fits.

But ultimately the label doesn’t matter I guess. I have no idea what I need from the doctor. Just talking things through might be a start, and I’ve had CBT recommended by a friend. I’m not sure what’s out there for me really… I’m trying to find out.

Now advice and suggestions started to fly in from people. Some swore by CBT, others plain counselling. Some were very pro-medication, others vehemently opposed. I’d always been under the impression that CBT an medication was a good combination, but it was good to hear what other people had to say.

I’m not one to air my dirty laundry in public, but I’m also honest. Now I’d started to talk about the way I was feeling, it made complete sense to just have it all out there. If I’m looking for help and advice, what help can people be if they only know part of the story?

All sorts of friends started to share stories about their experiences with depression, therapy, self-harm, medication. It was incredible how many people were opening up to me. Why the fuck had I not said something sooner? These people had been getting help in different way for ages. It might not have ‘fixed’ them, but I could have been benefitting in the same way they did. What a dick.

Despite being a writer, trying to put into words my feeling was proving very difficult. What the fuck was I going to say to the doctor? ‘Hello, I’m depressed’? That’s what everyone on the lookout for a hand out of pills says, isn’t it?

I think the hardest things now is trying to find the words to describe what I need to say. What I’ve said so far doesn’t really quite get there. It’s a horrible, completely intangible thing that slips and slithers away whenever I try to pin it down with a description….

One thing that kept cropping up was the advice to just keep talking about things. It was helping to a point, but it’s also draining. In writing this, I’m already thinking that I should be spending my time more fruitfully. But at the same time, I need to take care of myself and this is part of that process. I’m rambling. I’m adopting a Kerouacian approach. Train of thought. Minimal editing save for the obvious typos. It may read like shit and I will probably cringe and shudder with embarrassment if I ever read it back — which I will have to do some extent, as I’m writing this in Word at the moment and will need to transfer it into WordPress.

I’m certainly going to try to keep talking about it. Seems a bit weird going from saying nothing to blurting everything out quite publicly on Facebook, but there you go! I think I’m just confused at the moment Feel seriously shitty and I’m not sure which way the causal link is working. Do I feel worse because I just got this out in the open and now have to deal with it? Or did feeling worse prompt me to do something about it? Does it even matter?

But the big question… what was I expecting from my meeting with the doctor?

I’m not looking for or expecting any particular set of options at the moment. I feel I’m at the start of the journey and the doctor will hopefully give me a map, or at least point me in the direction of someone with one. I’m ruling nothing in or out at this stage.

Life carried on as normal. Well, as normal as it was. Mood dropped considerably, despite the show of love from so many people, but actually picked up as the day of the appointment came round — I’m not sure that there was a link. Sitting in the waiting room, I felt the same as I did the day before I took my first driving lesson: excited (if that’s the right word), but also feeling as though I could throw up or shit myself at any moment.

Have some notes to refer to, but not sure they really touch on the right areas correctly. Hopefully doctor will be understanding enough to appreciate that taking the step of asking for help after so long is indicative enough of needing some sort of help, whatever form that may take.

Doctor was approachable and understanding, fairly easy to talk to:

So…. manage to blurt out something to the doctor that appeared to make some sort of sense to him and he’s suggesting a multi-pronged approach to things. The surgery doesnt currenty have a counsellor, but should do in about a month, so I’m in line for that. I’m also on the waiting list for CBT, but that might be a while away. For now, he has prescribed — of course — a low dosage (20mg) of prozac (fluozetine). I was kind of guessing that this would be suggested, but it was not pushed on me at all. I’d be interested to hear of anyone’s experience with said drug. I have another appointment in a fortnight to follow up.

Not sure how I feel at the moment, to be honest. I think perhaps I was expecting to feel as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, but that’s not the case. I guess I’m pleased that the ball in now in motion, I’m in the system etc, but that’s about it. Next decision is when/if do I start taking medication.

I’ve also been directed to some online CBT courses which I’ll need to find the time to look into at some point.

Do I need medication?

I feel like I need something. As I said to start with, I’ve gone into this without wanting to rule anything in or out. I’m not thinking ‘argh! no! not pills!’ by any means. I know that the drug has worked for people I know, but at the same time it doesn’t work for everyone. Suck it and see? I’m quite happy to have a crutch in the short-term.

For now, the key is to keep talking, I think. I have been absolutely blown away by the number of people who have been there in a supportive role. I had no idea so many people cared or would be willing to share their stories with me (and don’t worry — if you have told me anything, it is going no further). Maybe love is all you need.

Realistically, it’s not enough. I’m going to need to keep talking, learn ‘technique’ and fucking ‘copy mechanisms’, and I’m probably going to want to either stick with pills or try different varieties. One thing I am quite conscious of is how my outlook has changed. Before, the way I was feeling was something that was easily dismissed. Now, however I feel, whatever I do, I see it through the eyes of a depressive, or through the eyes of Prozac. It seems insane to talk about the effect of Prozac after two days, but psychologically I am aware that it is there.

Did I have the shits yesterday because of the pill, did I eat something dodgy, or was it just nerves? Do I feel better today because the Prozac is kicking in for me really quickly, or it is just a good day? I’m now constantly questioning everything. I think it’s making more tired, and hopefully it will calm down — I’m not keen on developing OCD or something like that.

Now it’s out in the open, does it make it more real? Does it make it bigger or worse? Will this affect my writing, my relationships, my worldview?

Was all of this a scary experience? No, not really. I don’t have a problem with saying how I’m feeling so that side of things has not been an issue. But I am aware that this is just the first steps on an incredibly difficult journey of unknown length — and that’s a fucking terrifying prospect.

4 comments

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  1. Karen

    mark, I didn’t realise you felt this bad and there was me telling you what happened to me, probably didn’t help you much and I’m sorry for mentioning it, there are only a few people that know and they are people I call true friends. Please if there is anything we can do to help let us know. On a lighter note we’ve got a lot of fences that need painting it’s very therapeutic ! Take care, thinking of you xxx

    1. Mark Wyciślik-Wilson

      Thanks Karen. I’m pleased you felt able to share some of your history with me — it meant a lot that you felt you could, and it’s good to help to understand people and what they’ve been through. x

    2. Lanette

      Wow I must confess you make some very trnenhact points.

  2. mark z.

    Mark, I’m right there with you. I don’t know you, but right now I want to die so bad that I’m grasping at anything to try to make sense of my life… like reading about other people’s depression. I hope you can find your way out of your state of mind. Drugs can help, but you might need to try a few to find the one that works for you. Good luck from someone else that’s standing in your shoes.

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