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.
But never, ever, boring!
At the beginning of Depression Awareness Week I wrote a post about finding your inner child. The overriding message was to “play” more and find those hobbies that you enjoy or make sure that you rediscover all those things that you used to love doing and spend more time chilling out. Like all advice and suggestions to help you cope with low mood and depression it’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to put it into practice but this weekend I was determined to do just that.
I have to admit that I have been helped by my son Will, “The Willster”, who decided that he’d like to take up golf again. This is great as it is something which we can do together at weekends when he stays with me. We have been unable to play much golf during the last couple of summers due to a combination of William having two knee cartilage operations and growing out of his golf clubs. I also used to suffer from awful hay fever which made playing any sport in the summer unbearable but after two years of de-sensitisation injections I can now enjoy the sunshine without symptoms. Fresh air, entertainment (a bundle of laughs when we play), and great company makes 9 or 18 holes of golf the perfect way to unwind and forget all the rubbish floating around my head for a few hours. When I am standing on the first tee focusing on hitting a ball which looks the size of a pea praying that I at least hit it cleanly and not slice it onto the adjoining fairway all else fades into the background. So consumed am I with not making a fool of myself that worries, anxieties and feelings of personal inadequacy fly out of the window. My only wish is to get that ball onto the green!
So this weekend, Will bought himself a new set of clubs. I dusted off mine and off we went.
Today has been bright, sunny and a perfect day for golf. We had a great time making our way round the full 18 holes (I wanted to pack it in after 9 as I was winning!) and laughing so much at times that we couldn’t play until we controlled ourselves. I learn a lot from my 15-year old son. I always have. Today was no different. His view on performing a bad shot?
“If it makes someone laugh, then they are happy. If I have made them happy then I’m happy”.
What a philosophy at 15. I don’t know where he got it from but I’m glad he has. He didn’t mind that he lost 6 balls in the hedges during our afternoon’s play-it’s all part of the learning process. God help me when he gets used to his clubs….I’m in for a pasting!
Thank you Will for helping to put things into perspective. I’m very proud of you.
Sometimes through the experience of Blogging you come across a real gem. Be it a web-site, a blog or a person who shares the common journey with depression it is a great way to find and share information, support and new friends.
A few weeks ago I received a comment on one of my posts from a reader who has just created the fabulous All Things Depression blog. Fascinated by the title I duly investigated and discovered one of those gems. The site purports to provide “strategies for anxiety, depression, and anger. It does just that and the articles resonate with many.
As part of Depression Awareness Week I am trying to share some of the best self-help and information resources available.
All Things Depression is one of the best. Try it.
Next week, April 11-17th is Depression awareness week and I for one will be trying to get more people to talk about this illness and their experiences with the ultimate goal being that eventually it will be seen as a perfectly normal thing to do rather than a “brave move”. We still have a long way to go to succeed in our battle against stigma and discrimination, and public spending cuts don’t help the cause but as a “tribe” we can do a lot to change people’s perception of depression and mental illness ourselves and help to eradicate the myths which surround this illness.
To do this successfully we need to “stick together like birds of a feather” so that our voice is a united and strong one in both the public and private arenas. By joining forces with like-minded individuals and support organisations like the Depression Alliance we have a solid platform from which we can promote and demand change. By becoming members of and working with the Depression Alliance we get access to information and professional expertise in the medical, social policy and support disciplines as well as an opportunity to tell THEM what WE need.
So next week these are my goals;
- To link up with as many people at work that I know who have depression and make sure they know about Depression awareness week.
- To contact the Depression Alliance and discuss ideas and suggestions put forward by the Depression Alliance Facebook members
- To follow up and promote the Depression Alliance Picnic in the Park scheduled for early June-let’s make it happen and happen good!
- To blog everyday about a self-help technique or tool to alleviate depression symptoms
And yes, it’s great to have high-profile entertainers, sportsmen and women and politicians admitting to their depression and talking about how they cope with it but we also need all you “extraordinary-ordinary” people to come forward and do the same. Let’s follow their example and prove that this illness is nothing to be ashamed of and show that the only people who refuse to accept depression as an illness like any other and to provide proper care and support are those ignorant of the facts.