“Coming out” and admitting to my depression wasn’t the easiest thing that I’ve ever done, but it has been one of the most fulfilling, challenging and rewarding decisions I’ve made and furthermore I have no regrets. So how about someone who has “come out” twice? Firstly as a gay man and secondly as a depression/anxiety sufferer.
Today I met such a person and the more we got chatting the more I recognised the similarities between the two admissions. The fear of stigma, personal reconciliation, the “journey” towards self-acceptance followed by public admission, reaction of friends, family and colleagues. All were common themes in our discussions and their experience gained over a period of almost 20 years will help me develop a similar support network for my colleagues who have experience of mental illness. This support network needs to address concerns about confidentiality and anonymity and honest and open communication depending on what stage of the “journey” towards self acceptance and admission people are at. Not an easy task but one which is suddenly made easier to tackle by working with someone who has been there twice!
All this has come about because of my willingness to talk about my experience with depression and regular readers may recognise my mantra: ” I’m not saying it will be easy. I am telling you it will be worth it”.
One of my friends who suffers with anxiety writes a very open and honest Blog about this condition and how he deals with it on a daily basis. As with depression, there are good days and bad days, but with some patience and a lot of hard work the good days might just start out-numbering the bad ones soon.
Here, with his permission, is his latest post and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to publish it on my Blog today. So I introduce, Fighting the blues.
As I read back over yesterday’s post I am struck by a few things. None of them are particularly positive. That is to say as I read over the text I observe a ‘me’ I don’t like very much. I blogged truthfully, I said what I felt and I felt what I said but nevertheless I am left with a strong feeling that I have painted a picture of myself that is none too pretty – for the first time since I began my blog I feel I have presented myself as a little self-indulgent, an impression of self-pity.
That was not my intention and if anyone else read it that way please accept my apologies. And to those who left comments (here and on facebook) thank you – thank you for replying as honestly as I tried to blog.
As a result of these reflections I have tried to get up with a more positive attitude. Those who struggle with depression and anxiety know that is very easy to say and very difficult to do. The deeper the anxiety the more difficult it is to challenge.
Followers of this blog know I have to move house because my job in the army has changed and the second word of ‘posting order’ is ‘order’! Is morale low – yes. Is the move this time a fearful event (at least in my mind) – yes, of course it is! But I have taken on board some excellent (but frankly terrifying) advice given to me by my psychologist – to treat my anxiety almost as a person. And when feeling low (as I have been lately, in particular, worrying about my son – student loan, job prospects etc. – despite the advice and assurance of those who know us both who say my anxiety is almost certainly unfounded) to do the opposite of what the anxiety expects and demands of me.
What did it demand of me this morning? To give up, not bother and do nothing. Oh yes, let’s not forget a large measure of self-pity thrown into today’s ‘misery pot’!
So I’ve tried to follow the advice I have been given. I got up – well, come on, it’s a good start. I’ve been outside all day in the fresh air although the sun has been mostly cloud hidden. I’ve got a lot of practical things done ready to move and I can see the results of my labour.
Most importantly doing the ‘opposite’ has made me feel a lot more positive. Simple as. My hope and my prayer is that this may encourage me to believe that my anxieties are unfounded and I start to feel better about myself with a degree of consistency.
It is almost a year (next week) since I admitted to the world and anyone who would listen that I have had bouts of moderate to severe depression all my adult life and what a year it has been since. I will save the details for a celebratory anniversary post due on the 26 May but one of the most incredible and unexpected side effects has been an outpouring of creativity which has clearly been suppressed for too many years. As a trained Tax Consultant with an analytical mind, creativity took a back seat for a good many years and sometimes I wonder whether this has contributed to my frustrations. A creative soul harnessed by the practical need to pay the mortgage.
Since last May however I have often felt like I have been turned inside out whilst a gush of ideas and creativity exploded from within. Melodramatic as this sounds, it has felt very physical at times and I have spent many hours writing down my thoughts lest I forget them. I think my cork well and truly popped.
As well as writing this Blog, which I count as a daily essential rather than a “nice to have”, poems, articles for magazines, photographs, watercolour painting, scrap-booking, etc etc, I seem to have a supply of “ideas” which involve others in the creation of something just a bit out of the ordinary.
And so we have the Depression Alliance “Big Picnic” taking place on Sunday 5th May all over the UK. I’m hoping that we can put a 2012 calendar together using photos taken by the wonderfully talented members of the DA Facebook page and I am also helping my colleagues and my employer deal with depression more effectively and efficiently.
So, whilst I do admit that depression can be a milestone, it can also be a source of great innovation and creativity. If only everyone could find a way to release it as I have done.
I wish you all the luck and success in the world. You CAN do it.
I try so hard. I now think that I try too hard and I can’t do it anymore. Maybe it’s a small misunderstanding between friends, I’m not sure but it feels like a huge chasm has opened up and all of a sudden everything seems hopeless. Unfortunately it is the middle of the night and there are no trains out of here but I’m up and ready to leave if I have to. I suppose I’ll head home but I’ve got past caring. A train anywhere will do. I can’t be bothered.
I’m lucky I have my son William. I wouldn’t be here fighting this losing battle if I didn’t. I would be forever at peace, rid of this torment and turmoil that is depression. Despair overwhelms me as it has threatened to do for weeks now and I have no resources left to resist. It’s strange that after all I’ve said and done that one small sentence can tip me over the edge. To be so misunderstood is heartbreaking and I thought I’d done so well. How wrong can you be.
But that’s the stuff of dreams right now. I have to fight, I have to stay strong, and it will take every ounce of my energy but I will still be here tomorrow, and the day after and the day after.
I started this blog last November during a period of time off work recovering from a particularly severe bout of depression brought on by me doing too much and not looking after myself. I finally “saw the light”, put provisions in place to prevent this from happening again and sensibly (for me) took some time out to gather my thoughts and my equilibrium. Although I was feeling particularly raw and vulnerable I was still determined to use my experience to try and help the “depressed community” by writing openly and honestly about my battles with depression. By community I mean people who suffer themselves, as well as the family and friends who are often at a loss how to cope with and help someone with depression and/or anxiety. And so “Poppyposts” was born.
I am increasingly proud of “Poppyposts” because, contrary to my initial expectations, it clearly and thankfully serves a purpose. It is helpful for many. If I can only help a few people recognise their condition and seek help, start people talking about depression as not some dreaded lurgy but as a perfectly valid illness in it’s own right, and get sufferers, their friends and family together to fight this illness I will be more than content.
A big “THANK YOU” to the people who have visited this blog 4,500 times in less than 6 months.
Let’s kick depression into touch and regain control.
Some of you reading this post will have already come across a lovely slimline book called ” Sod it! The depression ‘virus’ and how to deal with it” written by Martin Davies.
If you haven’t yet discovered this gem, I recommend it for its light-hearted but very practical and informative way in which it explains what depression is, its symptoms, its causes and ways to help lift yourself out of the gloom.
Illustrated with amusing cartoons throughout, this book is an easy read and perfect for friends and family who would like to understand more about depression and how they can help. As the author himself has experienced several episodes of depression the information and guidance clearly resonates. It is always easier to accept what are sometimes difficult messages from someone who understands and this is one of the reasons that this book is so successful.
Treat yourself to some light reading over Easter and get this book now. I’m sure you won’t regret 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 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.