Time to Change
I made a pledge yesterday on the Time to Change website that I would talk about my own experience in the hope of getting rid of the stigma attached to mental illness. So here goes…..
I have suffered from depression and General Anxiety Disorder for most of my adult life. I am on daily medication and will be for the foreseeable future. There, I’ve said it.
Are you shocked? Didn’t you know? Surely a clever, outgoing, confident person like me can’t suffer from “that”. Well, it’s true. Most of the time it’s well-managed between my doctor and me and i am lucky to be able to live a very normal life, but sometimes, as it is at the moment, it overtakes me and becomes a life-limiting, debilitating, evil witch of a disease.
I think of my illness as a big, scary, ugly dragon that is hell bent on taking everything I love away from me. Most of the time I’m lucky because the dragon is way out of sight, not even in this country but I know she’s there (yes, the dragon is a she as she has the vindictive, ruinous power that only a woman possesses). Sometimes, she comes into my country, my county, my village and the nearer she is my behaviour and feelings change and my coping mechanisms have to be adjusted to deal with the threat.
The biggest problem comes when she is at my door, as she is now. I am thus rendered incapable of even basic tasks. Showering and dressing, for instance, are a daily hurdle I have to overcome. I have just about enough energy to sit on my sofa silently as my body seems to shut down. My mind is overcome with negative, pessimistic thoughts. I don’t want to talk, walk, cook or smile -and laughing and dancing seem like alien behaviours to me.
But I have to force myself to live my daily life as a working mother, a wife, a daughter, friend, sister etc. I have to struggle to maintain that precious reality and its the hardest thing I ever have to do when I’m feeling this way. You may as well ask me to climb Everest because that is the scale of things to me, having a normal, everyday life is sometimes like scaling the highest mountain in the world. But the only thing that beats the dragon is my normality, getting on with life.
And then there’s the guilt, the evil bedfellow. Oh the guilt is a particularly horrible thing because that makes things 10 times worse. The self-hatred that follows the guilt is all-consuming and, if it wasn’t for the love I have for my family and friends, it would be the thing that finally finished me.
What do I have to be depressed about? I have a husband who loves me, a child who is more precious to me than life itself, a lovely house, I go on fantastic holidays and we have an above average household income…. the guilt taunts me and makes me feel so ashamed.
But that’s the thing, you see, mental illness doesn’t just happen to the unfortunates of our society, it doesn’t just happen to weak people, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got or who you are. Why would your serotonin give a damn about a nice car or a good job? If I won the lottery tomorrow my depression wouldn’t disappear.
I am lucky to have support around me but even my nearest and dearest struggle to understand my illness. One of my sisters absolutely refuses to believe it exists, and she works in the medical profession!
My husband struggles, bless him. He has a very logical mind – things are black or white (grey is just ridiculous because it can’t decide if it’s one or the other!) so even though he does his very best to understand what’s happening, it’s really hard for him because there isn’t a manual for dealing with a wife who is transformed from the confident, capable woman who loves life to a sluggish, unhappy, unpredictable zombie. But he also doesn’t understand how much his logical interpretation of my illness when he’s talking me down saves me, it somehow makes it less scary and more easy to deal with, or how much I love him for sticking by me when lesser men would have run away screaming!
So, at the moment my life is really hard, it’s a daily, no make that hourly, battle full of blackness and tears. I try so hard to take one day at a time but my anxiety fights against that as my mind is constantly in disaster-planning mode and my brain constantly whirrs like a helicopter blade. I have only been out of the house once in the last 5 days. My writing helps, I can find the real me buried inside the darkness when I write.
But I will keep fighting and keep trying. That bitch of a dragon is not going to beat me, day by day I will get stronger and more positive and she can sod off back to wherever she comes from.
Maybe one day she will stay there forever?