My mother once said to me “why is it you when you fall, you always land on your feet?” Actually I always fall on my a**e, but I pull myself up again and face life head on. I finally faced up to having depression recently - I had ignored all the warning signs for too long - and if I’m honest, I’ve probably been suffering from depression for a long time.
I was just too scared to admit it, mainly to myself because it meant I was failing, was a failure. The black days became more and more frequent and more and more unshakable - I could no longer fight them, but succumb to them with an almost eagerness that made no sense. I couldn’t face speaking to people, not even friends, I found eye contact difficult, so it became easier and easier to hide myself away at home.
Home was my sanctuary, here I could ignore the phone, ignore face book messages (if I wanted to), and wrap myself up in a blanket of self-pity and self-doubt. But my sanctuary became my prison - I began to feel trapped within its four walls, and the rut I had dug myself into was too deep for me to climb my way out off. So I remained in that rut, for months and months, watching the world from my window, a voyeur on other people’s lives, their daily comings and goings, wishing that somehow I could find the strength to go outside too. Bur whenever I felt I could step outside and face people, something pulled me back inside, and it was easier for me to close the door and hide under that blanket again, than it was to simply step over the doorstep and say hello to others.
Friends watched on, almost helpless as I spiralled downwards, making gentle, subtle hints that perhaps I should get out more, that perhaps I should talk to someone; that perhaps I needed some rest. Until the day that the D word was first mentioned, at the mention of this word, I lashed out, angry that they could even think that. I was full of denial, I was not depressed, just a bit low, and they were way off the mark, so completely wrong. But I agreed to go and see my GP, just so I could prove them wrong.
But it was me who was wrong - the GP did indeed diagnose depression and gave me some pills “to help me feel better”. I didn’t want to just feel better though, I wanted to actually get better! I didn’t want to take them, and let them sit and glower at me from the kitchen table for a couple of days. It was a wild west stand-off - they won. He was full of praise for me, saying I was doing the right thing, and he would continue to help and support me. The pills and I didn’t get on (Im very sensitive to drugs and often react badly), so I simply stopped taking them after a few days. Instead I looked at changing my diet, to include a lot of “mood-food” (oily fish, eggs, whole grains, fruit and veg, etc) and cut out the refined sugar such as chocolate. I also vowed to get out of the house each day, even if it was just for a short walk, or to sit by the river - and more importantly, start meeting people again. I try to use positive thinking, where there is a negative, there will be a positive. (this takes a bit of doing at times ;) )
Within a week, I felt more energised than I had done in a very long time. I felt healthier, not just in body but in mind and spirit too. I felt calmer, more at peace and actually able to speak to people without making a feeble excuse to get away. What’s more, I felt a sense of enjoyment that had long since left me (or more likely, I pushed away). I’ve rejoined some village activities which I’m loving and have been told that its nice to have me “back”. I guess, in short, I’m trying to help myself, rather than relying on chemicals.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have black days, but I no longer wrap myself up in that blanket I mentioned, but go and sit by the river, such a peaceful place, and take notice of what’s around me. Tonight I saw our resident harbour seal fishing for the fat salmon that live in the waters - 2 months ago, I wouldn’t have noticed this. There are times when Ive made arrangements to meet someone, and I feel that old, familiar sense of dread as I prepare to step out of the door. So many times I have almost closed the door on the world again, ready to bolt back into to the house. But I make myself go, promising myself that if I find it all too much after 30 mins, I can come home again. I’ve yet to leave at the 30 mins mark, instead staying until the end.
Depression will affect one in four adults in the UK - yet it is still a taboo subject, misunderstood and ignorance about it is still rife. Its not catching, its not restricted to any one particular social/ethnic/age/hair colour group - depression isn’t choosy as to whom it affects. There is no shame in admitting to having depression - perhaps if more did, then there would be greater understanding - its an illness, and one that can people can recover from.
I am still unsure about sharing this - it is very personal after all - but maybe someone will read this and realise that that having depression doesn’t equal failure, that help is at hand.