I last took anti depressant medication in 2018. With the passing of time, there is a temptation to avoid thinking about the illness. Especially as it affected me for at least eleven years, in varying degrees of severity and ways it presented. However, there has been so many important things I have taken from the experience that I wanted to share it.
I got used to it
A fundamentally bleak view of the world was something I thought was just the way it was. Sure, we can’t always see the bright side but for intrusive and negative thoughts to be a default doesn’t need to be how you are. That said, I had settled in to this. The day to day being too much at times and the unhelpful ways of trying to escape this kept me in a cycle where alternatives just did not seem possible.
Looking back, it can be upsetting to recall certain passages. Reminders of lost opportunities and what stopped me from taking them are always around. Now though, it feels easier to be grateful for how I have come through the haze of these days. When once I was angry, unable to find a way through, I can now appreciate the moments of calm that were once so elusive. Just as I had got used to cycles of depression, now I am getting used to going along in a different way.
It’s you that gets better but it needs someone else to help
I think that consciously or otherwise I was waiting for someone else to drag me out of the low points. I didn’t feel like I could do it, both in terms of motivation or energy but also through the lack of knowledge on what to do. I had resentment of people around me, kept inside where it did nothing but anger me more, for them not helping. Couldn’t they see what was going on? Probably not. I wasn’t able to describe it myself, particularly in the early days, so how could anyone else detect it?!
When I got help it was me that did it. I walked to the GP’s surgery. I went to the chemist to pick up the prescription. I took the medication. I booked an appointment with a therapist. I started meditation and keeping a diary. I gave up alcohol. That now fills me with a sense of achievement. At each stage though there was someone else. The GP who listened and made me feel I mattered. The therapist who gave me the space to share more. The people I have swapped stories who have reminded me I was not alone in being affected by the illness.
Things I resisted I now embrace
Like many, I have always enjoyed my own company. For years though, I resisted this. Time alone was a problem. It could lead to rumination, a spiral of negative thoughts where I would slip into the dark places I dreaded. Therefore, I wanted to be with others. Drinking usually but anything else to occupy my time and, most importantly, my mind. Now, the introverted side of my character is one I embrace. A balance has been found between connecting with others and having time to myself to rest and relax.
Mental health is a continuum
For all the notable advances in mental health awareness, we have stalled a little recently. Mental health is a topic covered a lot but can be done narrowly. The genuinely nice offers of people’s DM’s being open or urging people to speak if they are struggling is a world away from where things were just a few years ago. That said, it shouldn’t be that we only offer those close to us the permission to talk about their feelings when they’ve reached a crisis.
By the time my symptoms of depression had really kicked in, the last thing I felt like doing was talking to someone about it. No-one would care, I deserved it, it was my fault, I’m not worth a penny- thoughts like this would come up before any considering asking for help.
The reactive approach- based on sympathy for the situation someone is in, getting them help to slowly recover from the pain they are in- is unsustainable. However, full awareness of mental health, including understanding what signs and symptoms of declining health are as well as where to get help and what can keep you healthy is emerging. The Covid pandemic has seen lots of great shares in the proactive side of it. Long may it continue and grow.
If a mental health continuum is a scale with ‘optimal’ at the top and ‘worst’ at the bottom, I now realise they are things I can do to help nudge it to the positive end. There’s also things I can watch out for to help prevent a slide the other way. It’s not an exact science. I haven’t discovered an ancient secret to eliminating depressive illness but I do know more now to spot things, for good or bad, and be proactive.
It’s not weak to speak
This phrase that has been attached to Opening Up Cricket for years now is perhaps approaching being trite and cliched. I still believe it wholeheartedly though. It doesn’t mean telling everyone about your feelings and emotions, it may just be that one special person you share with.
We all encounter difficulties, be it diagnosed disorders or life events, and sharing a little of that made the difference for me. I know that by the contrast of not speaking compared to letting some of it out. It doesn’t just help you. Others see it and realise the world didn’t start falling apart because someone showed a bit of what is going on inside. That can help them to share and on and on.
Everyone is different
Obviously. It is worth repeating though. My experience may be similar to yours or completely alien. Things you deal with well, I may find difficult and vice versa. A big part of my route to long term wellness has been trying to practice more acceptance of the world around, including how different people react to the situations and events. This aids an outlook that helps me deal with things. It’s a work in progress- the instinct to form a quick judgement can be strong- but it is always worthwhile attempting.
Wishing you all the best,