The Truth About Depression
Around five years ago I was diagnosed with depression after attempting suicide. Like many people, this was triggered by events in my life taking a turn for the worse and a genuine belief that the world would be better off without me. Slowly but surely I picked myself up and with a lot of help from those close to me, I found myself well enough to come off the medication and I was generally in a much happier place. Great job, great home, great girlfriend, the works. Life was quite amazing and depression was just a distant memory. Until about a year ago when I rather unexpectedly found myself single, in an empty flat, and conditions at work becoming rather unfavourable. For any “normal” person, this is a little hump in the road that we just get over and carry on. Not for me. Once again, overwhelmed by my emotions, I wanted to rage quit life. Breakdown number two was upon me. This time the depression came with a smattering of anxiety. The icing on the shitcake that is my sad life.
Before I go any further, I’d like to take this opportunity and platform to say sorry to all those that I’ve let down or hurt over the past five years. This condition has changed me in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend. I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry. I really am truly, very sorry.
I would also like to thank those of you that have helped me get through this so far. There are quite a few of you and you know who you are. How you have managed to put up with me beggars belief. Thank you.
Depression is a bit more than being a little sad. It’s like an all consuming, unescapable blanket of sadness, draped over your whole self. No amount of “chin up” or “be positive” will change that, so don’t bother. I have learnt to accept it, if you could do the same, that’d be great
Depression can make you lazy. When you don’t see the point of anything, including your own life, you generally don’t feel there’s much point in getting up and going about your day. Given the choice, I’d rather just sit at home and die. No, I don’t want to see or talk to anyone at all. Even that seems pointless. These feelings come and go. Sometimes I might be down for a few days, sometimes it’s much more short lived and fleeting.
Then there’s the anxiety. When you can be bothered, when you really want to go out and smash the day, anxiety comes along and instils such genuine fear about everything that you’re unable to function. It’s mostly irrational fear too. What’s scary about getting on a train? Everything. What’s scary about going to work? Everything. What’s scary about going out with friends? Everything. What’s scary about people asking how you are? Everything.
It’s All Lies
The truth is often ugly so we avoid it. This is one of the reasons seeing other humans is such an issue. I don’t like lying — I hate it, actually — but more often than not the first question in any social situation is “how are you?” The answer to this in reality should read thusly: “I feel like crap. I'm not sleeping properly but I can barely get out of bed. Some days I simply don’t want to be alive any more. Now leave me alone and stop talking to me.” Not ideal, so instead we lie and pretend everything is rosy. Sure, it’d be much better for me if I told the truth but I don’t want to bring anyone else down. Being miserable sucks. I don’t want anyone else to be miserable so I shield them from the truth and stew in my own internal conflict.
When you suffer with depression and/or anxiety, it changes your behaviour towards others. To some you might seem standoffish, to others it might look like you have no fucks to give. Most people just think I'm a bit grumpy and a little bit (or a lot) emotionally unstable. Not entirely untrue but it runs a lot deeper than that. Thanks to irrational behaviour and occasional mania (always fun), I'm not always the most affable of humans. Sorry about that, but I can’t help it.
I take pills every day just to be “normal”. I’m currently on two different antidepressants (fluoxetine and amitriptyline). The fluoxetine, in my experience works well for combating depression. The difference it makes is quite amazing. Unfortunately for me, it seems to make the anxiety worse and prevents me from sleeping. It also causes hair loss, excessive sweating and gives me the tremors. The amitriptyline has recently been prescribed to help me with the sleep and anxiety issues. So far, not so good. I’m sleeping more but I have very little control over when this happens. The result being constant tiredness. There has also been a significant drop in my libido. This is quite an issue… Early days, though, so we’ll have to wait and see.
My biggest issue with the antidepressants is not so much the physiological effects but more psychological and even philosophical to some degree. I'm currently left wondering, if I have a good day, is that me or the drugs? Is everything in my life now an effect of the medication or am I still in control? I'm afraid I just don’t know. Who the fuck am I anyway? I haven’t seen myself in such a long time, I have no idea.
Like many a rich american (I’m not rich or american, by the way), I'm in therapy. I'm on a waiting list for CBT… Can’t rush the NHS! Until that happens, I’ll just have to make do with seeing a psychiatric nurse every couple of weeks.
It’s All In My Head
Is it? I don’t know. It might be purely psychological. It might be a chemical imbalance in the brain. It might be related to an unknown physiological condition. Whichever it may be, it’s real and it affects lives; not only that of the afflicted but everyone else around them.
Anxiety and depression are debilitating conditions that we don’t yet fully understand. Not only are they debilitating, they can also be killers. If it weren’t for my family and friends, I wouldn’t be here. Fact.
Mental illness is serious business. Please be considerate. It’s hard enough to deal with as it is.