Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Depression Awareness Week. Depression and me

I'll try not to be flippant about this, although that does tend to be my default position. But.

I'm depressed.

There, I said it.

I have been half my life.  I've hurt myself mentally and physically and have the scars to prove it.  This doesn't make me a depressive, it just means I have an illness. A treatable illness.  On and off for the better part of ten years I've been on various types of medication. Some helped, some didn't but the main thing is the medication now does to the extent that I'm coming off it.  My little companion in a blister pack right now is Citalopram. 20mg of the stuff in small, white tablet form taken once a day.  Much more beneficial than Fluoxetine for me.

Depression is an illness. Unfortunately, a damned annoying one. It's not like a virus or a broken leg so it can't be fixed with immunisation or a plaster cast. It can be controlled though and that's where I am right now. It's being controlled to the extent that I don't think about it.

My depression has varied in it's severity over the years and hasn't had a trigger or a predictable onset. For me it's an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. The chaotic lack of certain chemicals in my brain isn't anyone's fault and they mean that I don't feel the benefit of so called feelgood hormones when I should. So for me, SSRIs (Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors) help. I don't know how and I don't particularly need to know how. Just like most people who drive don't know the inner theories behind the internal combustion engine.

Seratonin, probably my missing link

The hardest part of depression isn't the darkness in your head, the feeling of hopelessness or the lack of energy, sleep and appetite. The hardest part is frustration.  The frustration of being looked at like you're 'mental', the frustration of being misunderstood.  As someone who is depressed you get misunderstood by an awful lot of people, from friends and family to the doctors who you expect to help you.  That's why it's hard to tell other people, you don't want your friends to view you any differently and let's face it, it's not something you can slip into conversation with your boss.

My first experience of GPs was a bad one. I was young and having trouble sleeping. I was a teenager and so wasn't able to put a name to what I really felt. I was told to make sure I got enough exercise. What wonderful insight, you can't buy that knowledge! And so I descended into denial and ultimately got worse. The next trip to the GP was infinitely more successful, unfortunately for me, it happened a bit later than it should. In the meantime there had been a flirtation with overly heavy drinking and non prescription drugs. I was reaching out for something to help me cope in the absence of actually coping. I still do have a problem with alcohol. Eight years after major difficulties with the demon drink I still have to be careful. It wasn't alcoholism but it was close.

Depression didn't cost me friendships, jobs and help destroy relationships. It was my frustration at not being to adequately explain myself and the misunderstanding of the illness in general that did these things. I'm not being a victim, I being honest. I've managed to rebuild a lot of the bridges I strafed with napalm back then and am altogether much more 'level' than before.

The reason Depression Awareness Week is important is to help people is to get people talking about depression. Talking about it the only way to build understanding, remove stigma and help people recover and get on with their lives.

Seratonin. Manic. Bipolar. 9.2%. Black Dog. S.A.D. Prozac. Therapy. 1 in 10.

Throwing statistics and euphemisms at people won't work. We just have to talk about it.