So my final thoughts relate to how my depression has impacted on my life….the impact has been life changing as I am not the same person that I once was. It is still possible to achieve good work while suffering depression – I hold down a responsible job and my niece has just graduated with first class honours while on anti-depressants – but that comes at huge personal cost. I have learnt to act ‘normal’ in front of clients, colleagues and school staff, as when you are asked how you are, nobody really wants you to say ‘ I feel horrendous and I struggled to motivate myself to get out of bed today’ so I, like most others, say ‘fine’ and carry on. I can put on a brave face in front of those who do not know me well but my family and closest friends recognise the signs immediately – the monotone voice on the phone, the lack of proactive contact from me, disappearing from Facebook and a lack of planning any social activities and even a reluctance to accept their invitations.
During my highs, I have started to ‘live for the moment’ as I never know how long I have got, feeling this way , so I want to make the most of it . But while relishing the here and now, I am always peering over my shoulder, anticipating the tell- tale signs that darkness is on its way. It is a horrendous feeling to know it is approaching yet by powerless to fend it off.
I have an ominous feeling , rather like I am terminally ill, and so I do not waste any time on those who are not good for my mental health and I am much more blunt than I would ordinarily be. If someone is not pulling their weight at work for instance, instead of compensating for them , I would now expose the problem and confront the issue head on. I have recently unfriended several people in my Facebook account because they did not appear to be interested in me or Joshua, suffice to say, they have not even noticed that I have gone!
Being a sufferer myself, I am now much more sympathetic to other victims of mental health problems and I tend to identify sufferers before they have received a diagnosis even. I recognise the symptoms that I have experienced in them. For instance I was talking to a mum earlier this week, who apologised that she had taken 2 weeks to respond to a letter that I had written to her. She explained, but did not need to, that she struggled to open her mail and when I am down, I too let the post back up in the letter box outside – so much so that a snail started eating out letters last winter – because in most of the letters somebody wanted something from me , be it an appointment with Joshua or the payment of the bill. Unlike her, we are blessed not to have financial worries, but it still meant that I had another task on my ever-increasing ‘to do list’.
When I am well, I run the household in terms of paying the bills and taking our son to all of his medical appointments, but when I am low, even these tasks are overwhelming and demand extra ordinary effort. The more challenging post gets ignored and becomes a monster in the kitchen, glaring at me. In the end last year with one particular action that needed to be taken with a home insurance claim we had, we were chased and chased, until the Insurance Company wrote to say that as we had not responded, that we would no longer be covered for subsidence, which jolted me into guilty action. My depression changes the structure of our household, because my husband gave me a choice : either do things as you usually do or ask me to do them, but please do not just ignore them. This was revolutionary, though it sounds obvious now, and I left him a note overnight asking him to call the insurance company , which surprised him that that was my choice, but he made some phone calls that I could not face. Now that I am well again, I have taken full responsibility back and the building work begins next week!
Depression is all encompassing and is now part of who I am and I guess the reality is, it always will be.
I have been asked by friends how they should treat me when I am down and how they can help? The basic answer for me is that there is very little that can be done as my recovery can only come from inside me and that feels like a time thing more than anything else, it has to run its course, then it is over.
But there are a few things that would make me feel better :
- Be patient, it will get better with time but nobody knows when
- Show that you care without placing any demands on me, such as sending me a text that will make me smile but not demand a reply, or dropping me a card/letter in the post full of your news so that I am still up to date, without having to seek the information out.
- Do not try to cheer me up as it is not that kind of sadness, it’s deeper somehow. So an invitation to come out to play would create more stress and guilt than benefit.
- Know that I am still thinking about you just as much as before, it is just that I cannot show it in communicating with you
I hope that is helpful?