Depression is something very difficult for me to write about. It’s not something I’ve ever felt like sharing with the wider world previously. I’ve been rather secretive about my experiences, and my relationship with Depression. Of it’s debilitating affects, of it’s roller coaster ride of highs and lows. The fact is for me it is time to come clean and tell my story of Depression.
For the last decade, in fact most likely since I was that sullen child I remember being, I have been suffering from Depression. It’s been something very personal to me. Like a close and constant companion that has always stuck by me. Almost a confidant. Someone to share my darkest thoughts with and to wallow in self pity. I’ve experienced it all. I have had the suicidal thoughts when waking up, I’ve had the black moods which have been completely immobilising, where all I can see feel and think is despondence, melancholia and negativity. I spent much of my 20’s being aimless, rudderless and wasting days staring at the walls. Existing and not living as it were. I had been experiencing an endless cycle of self-hatred and low self-esteem for a very long time, which has affected so many parts of my life, as well as those I care for around me. I feel for my boyfriend, close friends and family who have known me for a long time, as I know I have been a difficult, anti-social and introverted person, someone who cannot seem to get out of their shell, someone who is almost unable to open themselves and share their lives, emotions and experiences with others. Someone of a complexity that is hard to break through, and hard to get to know.
Recently, after the worst breakdown which involved an anxiety attack and crying uncontrollably and feeling such helplessness as I’ve never experienced, as well as one of the most severe bouts of depression that I’ve experienced in my life, I decided to take some action and see a doctor. And to get myself on some form of medication. Which has been a massive step for me. I have two people to thank for pointing me in this direction. My boyfriend and a close friend, who both told me that it was time to enquire about medication, and that it was a commonplace thing. To me, medication for mental illnesses and anti-depressants has always been a controversial topic. You’d think in this day and age that it would be something which is relatively ok to discuss, yet I feel almost ashamed to admit that I’m currently on anti-depressants, or to tell you about my story with Depression. Why did I feel such shame coming forward and admitting that maybe medication was the answer, or at least a part of the solution? Is it because in my mind I felt like a failure as a human being? That my inability to cope with my Depression, negative thought processes and black moods were things that were simply a part of life for everyone and meant that therefore I was weak? That I needed a ‘Happy Pill’ to set myself right as I wasn’t strong enough to on my own? Should I feel any worse for requiring outside help in the form of a pill to alleviate the crushing affects of my depression? I have a history of working through my eternal melancholia on my own. I’ve exercised, seen counselors, opened up with friends and loved ones, read mountains of self help books. It doesn’t help that I come from a family who are vigorously anti-medication for mental illnesses, and this has had a completely adverse affect on me.
I still recall being taken to school as a kid in mum’s car in the morning, listening to talkback radio and having such phrases as ‘Stress doesn’t exist, it’s simply an excuse’ shouted down by a self-righteous invisible man in the radio. Thanks Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and John Laws for your veritable words of wisdom. These people have a lot to answer for. Such things should never be spoken about in such absolutes and overtly black and white terms. It’s so easy to influence people when you’re in a position of authority and power projection, like a talkback jockey. It’s easy, and dangerous to proselytise when you’re far off and removed from your audience. It’s also easy to preach on a pulpit, yet reality is never so simple or clean cut as these radio hosts make people believe.
It’s taken me over a decade to undo the damage, to change the way I think about Depression, from something that was simply and quietly dealt with internally, to something that needed to be talked about. Feelings needed to be expressed, I needed to clear the debris and to reset myself, and to take some initiative, some affirmative action and seek the help I needed. It’s amazing how one simple act like seeing a doctor one early, cool autumnal morning can bring about such change. I still can recall the nervousness, fear and anxiety that I felt that morning. I still remember the internal monologue that ran in my mind on how I would open up to this stranger of a doctor and tell her my situation. It was one of the hardest, most arduous things I’ve ever had to do. I guess for me, writing this is a cathartic and therapeutic exercise. I’m doing this so you can read this, and if you do and someone you know sounds like how I’ve been, to talk to them, and encourage them to get the help they need.
I’m only a short way into my course of medication, a month to be exact. Yet I already feel a change. Like cobwebs being lifted from my vision, or a veil falling from a covered window and light shining through. I know I’m speaking in cliches but that’s the best and only way I can describe how I’m feeling. I find myself smiling with less effort; something that has always been something so unnatural to me. It would usually take a lot for me to smile convincingly; I could never without any sort of genuine reason. But lately I find myself able to do this one simple yet such a symbolic act with ease and comfort. Heck, I’ve smiled to strangers on the footpath which I would never usually do. I’m also finding it easier and less dramatic to get out and meet friends out in social settings. I’m able to confidently meet someone for the first time without having any anxiety. Previously it would take untold levels of effort, so much energy and willpower to go out and meet someone. It wouldn’t matter who it was. The ever present thought patterns would emerge, the internal monologues would play out, my nerves would fray and I would cancel out and stay in the comfortable womb that is home. I’m re-learning that in order to grow, I need to leave my comfort zone. Something that is getting easier and easier with every coming day. I find myself accomplishing things with ease. Like writing this blog for instance. It’s become a goal of mine to get it happening, to write more so someone out there can read this and see the person I am. I’ve managed to become more prolific, much less of a procrastinator, and more able to see the light in things and less of the dark. The overriding theme for me is obviously one of regrowth, re-education and reinvigoration.
Does all of this mean I’m not the same person I am due to the medication? Is the person I truly am the one I seem to be coalescing into, or is the true me the one that was clinically depressed and pre-medication? I’ve already had remarks from friends who have noticed a change on how different I am, how I’m easier to be with, more relaxed and generally more social. How much of this change is simply a placebo and simply in my mind, and how much is due to a chemical imbalance that is now being corrected? Does this pill make me the person I’m meant to be, or is it creating a new layer over me, a new version of me?
All I know is that so far, so good.