The last few months have been hectic to say the least and the shortage of time and energy has meant that I haven’t felt much like writing before collapsing in a heap snoring away merrily at the end of the day.
So what’s made life so hectic?…. in no particular order;
I started a new job in December
I turned 50 a few weeks ago
I have started ice-skating lessons
I am now the proud owner of a kindle
I have lost 2 stones in weight
and that’s just a few of the things going on day-to-day which have had more than a minor impact on my routine.
A few brave choices have meant that whilst in the short term I am busy and under quite a bit of stress, the mid and long-term benefits will be worth the effort.
My only concern amongst all this positivity is that I have a relapse due to a reaction to all this excess activity which has plagued me in the past. I am trying to eat sensibly, get enough sleep and not get too stressed about “stuff”. My depression has a pattern which I discovered during a series of therapy sessions with my psychologist. We had been working for a long time on cause and effect and after looking at a number of possible triggers we found the answer. My most severe depressive episodes have arrived after a period of prolonged stress-either physical or mental-which suggests that a good proportion of my mental reaction to stress is physical. Chemicals have a lot to answer for and if they are not happy and balanced, neither am I! I guess this is why anti-depressants worked so well for me even though there were also underlying issues that I needed to deal with along the way.
Depression is so complex!
Anyway-suffice to say that I am feeling much much better and life is good again. I’m not taking anything for granted but neither am I being too negative…that’s easy to do.
As and when I get the chance I will write about my experiences in the hope that some will gain hope and assurance that life can and will get better if you stay strong and stay positive.
Sometimes however you have to be brave and take a chance to put things right. Follow your heart. Trust your instinct.
“Fighting depression with positivity” is my tag-line and thankfully that’s just what I have been able to do this year. So much so that I am now celebrating a year without antidepressants and I really do feel that I have this unpredictable and debilitating illness under control at last.
Being positive can be hard work. I know from personal experience that changing one’s thought processes from negative to positive and trying to block out unnecessary”white noise” and “rubbish” is exhausting and the amount of effort that it takes to implement these emotional changes often takes people by surprise. But with the right help and support it gets easier and the further you progress, the more natural “positive thinking” will become.
So, I would like to thank all my family, friends and colleagues for their continued support during 2012. I wouldn’t be able to maintain such a positive and stable mindset without my networks-I never underestimate their importance or take them for granted.
No anti-depressants, no counselling, no psychotherapy, no sleeping tablets, no set-backs, no devastating “lows” and equally, no manic-high energy phases either. No dibilitating exhaustion, no persistent nagging expectation. In short, no depression.
Instead a calmer, more philospohical approach to day-to-day living, accepting slight swings in mood as perfectly normal and nothing to panic about. Final realisation that I’m not Superwoman and never have been (only in my head) and I can only do my best. If my best isn’t good enough, I’m destined for other things but actually, my best isnt that bad.
Many years of CBT treatment are without doubt helping but I still have my reservations about the extent of the benefits with particular types of depression. I do enjoy challenging my thoughts and assumptions and proving myself “wrong” but have to say that being a hyper-sensitive and very observant person, my first instincts are usually right. Hence the limitations of the CBT approach.
Since I have stopped “taking the tablets” my head is clearer and my level of reasoning and ability to follow up on my conclusions have much improved. I have more energy and interest in certain parts of my life which had been sorely neglected. I am also now able to streamline and tailor my life to suit me and my needs.
Looking back I was clearly ready to ditch the meds for a while but without doubt used them as a crutch during some difficult times. Not wanting to jeopardise the equilibrium that they provided with reduced effort on my part I kept popping the pills. That’s fine and it was right for me at the time but no more. This is my time and I intend to enjoy it without the brain fog that the ADs induced when I didn’t need them.
There is no one solution to this illness and it would be extremely arrogant and ill-informed of me to say otherwise. You have to find your own answer but it can be done.
Note: No one should stop taking medication without consulting their medical practitioner. If you are considering stopping your meds, seek guidance from your GP/CPN/psychiatrist/psychologist.
I still have to pinch myself but I am now on week 5 living drug-free. No Fluoxetine (Prozac) and no Amitryptyline. For the first time in several years I am off the anti-depressants and in charge of my life. I’m sleeping well and feel calmer and more content than I have done for a good many years.
I’m not saying that it’s always easy as it most definitely is not. I’m not happy, smiley all the time but who is? Small set-backs can still produce tears of despair and frustration and Monday mornings ain’t great. So it is for most people.
I have worked hard at getting to this stage and I should be proud of my efforts. However, caution makes me very modest and I take nothing for granted. I just enjoy every day as it comes and every day I cope without meds is another secret triumph. I’ve had a couple of really crap days. Serious issues at work combined with minor frustrations would normally have condemned me to a tearful, hopeless and helpless victim of circumstance. But that old chestnut ” Keep calm and carry on” symbolises my approach to the various hurdles I’ve had to face over the last 48 hours and it worked.
My psychologist always told me that the best cure for depression is how you live your life. It all sounds so easy and we have had many a debate about his apparent all too easy attitude towards the treatment of depression but I do understand what he means. My life has changed for the better since I have indulged my creative tendencies and not pooh-poohed them as an extravagance. For me now, to be creative is a necessity and an outlet which must be allowed to function daily for as long as necessary. If that means I am up to all hours making things, writing, painting, or just thinking up ideas then so be it. It is no longer a luxury. It’s a must and it keeps me sane.
Night time can be a very lonely place when you are unable to sleep. Worries and concerns are exaggerated and there is little to do to distract you from the fears and frustrations that plague you in the wee small hours. The tiniest thing can become a burden and on some nights a myriad of negative thoughts take over my head and prevent the onset of restful sleep. Usually I take a sleeping tablet which provides eight hours of much needed oblivion but I don’t always remember and by the time I do, it’s too late. Instead I am faced with having to fight my low mood and bubbling emotions without help and I have often fought a thousand battles before I get up for work the following morning.
I’m sure that the long-term answer to my depression is not anti-depressant medication. Likewise the cure for my insomnia is not sleeping tablets but there is only so much I can do to exhaust myself in the vain hope that fatigue will take over and render me unconscious for a welcome rest before the utterly numbing resulting tiredness impacts on everything I do. Grumpy, tearful, hostile and irritable. Argumentative, despairing and emotionally demanding. All side effects of the lack of sleep and unpleasant ones for all concerned.
For now I will keep taking the tablets. As for the future, who knows. But I am determined to put things right so that when one day I finally put my head on my pillow I will drift off into a peaceful self-content sleep of the unburdened.
I have read many books about depression but I have never read such a wonderfully written, poignant and honest account of this illness which focuses on the effects of bi-polar depression on the family of the patient, Michael’s daughter Sally, rather than the patient themselves. That is not so say that Sally, her symptoms and recovery, are overlooked, and reading this book as a parent myself, I felt every sympathy for Michael. I come from a family which has been affected by depression for generations and I live in constant fear that my 15 year old son will present symptoms at some point. I hope not, and so far so good. But how would you cope if your child went mad overnight, which is what seemingly happened to Sally Greenberg, Michael’s teenage daughter.
Michael and his family suddenly have to deal with Sally’s apparent swift descent into manic depression and her extreme highs and lows. Behaviour which they had previously thought of as typically adolescent. This all changed when Sally was brought home by the police one evening after she had run into a busy road thinking she could stop the traffic. Sally was subsequently admitted for inpatient psychiatric care and then come the real battles. The family experience the prejudice and the stigma towards mental illness, the heart breaking affect of the strong anti-depressant and mood stabilising drugs that Sally had to take to get her back on the road to recovery and the overwhelming feeling of guilt that they should have spotted the early signs of psychosis earlier and somehow prevented the breakdown. Frightening stuff and Michael does not shy away from the problems experienced by the whole family as they come to terms with Sally’s illness and the realisation that she will never be the same.
Although I found this book to be a positive and intimate account of Michael’s experiences, don’t expect a happy ending. Bi-polar depression doesn’t go away overnight and the book ends with a summary of Sally’s troubled life to date which gives the reader an indication of the hard work, perseverance and self-awareness that people like Sally have to demonstrate just to lead a life. It is energy sapping just to read about it, but hopefully, this heart-warming story of survival will help people understand a little more about mental illness and it’s effect on everyone concerned and perhaps make them want to learn more.
Blues Begone is an on-line CBT resource available for you to purchase and do at home in your own time.
David Purves, the psychologist who has developed the programme says;
Depression isn’t something that you can just ‘snap out of’. The most effective form of treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is the approach that Blues BeGone uses.
Up until now CBT has only been available face-to-face from therapists, but this is often difficult or impossible to get when you need it, and can be expensive. Blues BeGone tackles these problems as it lets you treat yourself with proven CBT, developed by a qualified and experienced Chartered Psychologist, by computer when and where you need it. Careful research has shown that it is as effective as both face to face therapy and anti-depressant drugs. Start to get better now and beat the blues.
I spoke with David a while back and I am fortunate to have trialled this programme. After receiving many, many CBT sessions myself and talking from experience, I recommend Blues Begone as an affordable alternative if you are unable to get talking therapies via your GP straight away.
In addition to the on-line programme, you get regular email support and guidance to help with your depression and anxiety.
Depression Alliance has carried out research on the programme-the results here.