This week has been National Depression Awareness week in the UK and my thoughts and opinions about all things depression have been much in demand. I was interviewed by Sky news for a piece on antidepressants, the Sunday Telegraph about the dangers and risks of taking antidepressants and Thomson Reuters about my experiences of depression generally. In addition I have contributed the odd comment or two at work and on Facebook so it has been a busy week. I am looking forward to the 3-day weekend to recuperate a little.
Out of all the things I have discussed this week however, one person has struck a chord with me. When asked the question, “What defines good mental health?” her response was that for her, good mental health is determined by consistency. Consistency of mood and emotions so that she is able to plan events and outings knowing that she is well enough to follow through on those plans instead of having to change or cancel them at the last minute when not feeling so good. Going to bed as one person and waking up as another is also problematic and can lead people with these symptoms to stop planning altogether so they don’t let friends or family down.
I understand this but quite often forget that it is a symptom of my ilness. It’s hard to keep letting people down when they are so patient and understanding and the overwhelming feeling of guilt makes you feel even worse. I have always said that I don’t have many friends as if I can’t guarantee being able to be a good friend to them then I can’t expect the reverse to be true. It’s not fair. It’s not equitable.
But actually, that’s what friends are for. They do understand and they are forgiving. Real friends are the salt of the earth and you should cherish them as and when you can.
But being inconsistent, whilst it is incredibly frustrating, can also be veiwed as a positive attribute! If you are a constant surprise to yourself as well as others, you can never be called boring! Unpredictable maybe, off-the-wall and kooky perhaps.
from my last devastating relapse into a severe depression and how am I doing?
Quite well actually.
This time last year I was suicidal, hopeless, uncommunicative and emotionally numb. Fluctuating between tears and staring into blank space, spending 16-20 hours asleep too exhausted and uninterested to get out of bed I knew I was in trouble and with my reactions to this illness honed from previous episodes of depression I switched to auto-pilot and found myself at the GP surgery seeking help.
The good thing about recovering from bouts of depression is that you know you can do it. It gives you hope. It keeps you from buying THAT bottle of vodka which you want to mix with the Valium/Tramadol tablets stored in the drawer upstairs for just these desperate times. When asked by the Doctor if I would consider killing myself my answer is unequivocally “Yes.” Why would I want to live my life feeling (or not feeling) like this? What do I have to live for? I have failed in everything I have done. I have no skills. My husband could look after himself without me. My son is now 18 and can live independently. Who would miss me anyway?
These were hard times yet I had done so well being off my antidepressants for 18 months. But the sudden and unpredicted spiral into a major depression convinced me that it was just too hard to carry on without the support they give me. I’m not ashamed of taking them. They work for me and if they enable me to enjoy a certain quality of life, continue working and stay alive then bring them on.
Thankfully I have a great GP service. I have a Clinical psychologist who has known me for more than 20 years who understands me and my illness. They work together and come up with the best treatment for me. My medication was changed to suit my symptoms, which now include anxiety as well as depression, and the dose was adjusted until I reached a stable mood level. Sadly, I am one of the lucky ones who have this support. Everyone should have this expertise and care but the funds just are not available. This is appalling and condemns too many people to an existence that need not be.
More funding; more understanding of the complexity of mental illness; more mental health professionals; a review of the police reaction to suicide attempts and those with mental illness; respite facilities; talking therapies and counselling; regular drug reviews; support for families etc etc etc; I could go on and on but there is so much work that needs to be done in the treatment of mental illness I would be here for a year trying to explain.
We have made a great start by encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences whether good or bad. Everyone has their own experience of mental illness which should be respected. One size does not fit all but there are basic things we can all do to help those with mental illness- being kind and understanding is top of the list.