Imagine, if you will, sitting in a boat. Doesn’t have to be a fancy boat, just any old boat will do. As long as it floats.
You are in the middle of the ocean. You can’t see land in any direction. How does the sea look to you? Calm, tranquil?
Here is what it looks like to me: The waves are massive, they look like they could swamp the boat at any minute. The boat goes up one side, then slides down the other. Not only is the boat moving forwards and back, it is also moving from side to side. Feeling seasick yet?
Wondered why I asked you to imagine this? Because this is what depression feels like for me. There are moments of calm and peace, but there are also huge crests and troughs.
Outside, if anyone is looking at me, they see someone who is smiling and happy. Yet if you looked close enough, you would see that my eyes don’t seem to share the same sparkle. They don’t glitter with glee, they seem sad. Because inside of my head, I don’t know who I am, what I am doing or what I want to do, and depression can be frightening.
Depression is a hidden illness. If you broke your arm, you would have a plaster cast or a sling. Depression is a broken brain, something isn’t working or processing like it should. Whether it is your thought patterns, or an actual chemical imbalance, no one can actually test you and find out what is wrong.
I was first diagnosed with depression about three years ago. At first, my Doctor and I agreed to try alternative methods – increased exercising, St Johns Wort, Fish Oil, anything that could change the behaviour. Unfortunately, a year later I was back, worse than ever. And that is when I started on the chemical process.
Antidepressants worried me. I didn’t want to have to take them, but I am glad that I did. Not everything works though, and I am now on my fourth lot. Next time I “crash” as I call my episodes – I am off to the Mental Health Unit at the Hospital to visit with a psychiatrist.
How do I live with myself? Well I can tell you, it isn’t easy. Fortunately I have a wonderful support base. My mother and Bobba are wonderful and my husband is there for me. We have a check in every morning to make sure I slept OK, that I am feeling alright, not anxious or worried about anything. If I am, he tells me that it will be OK.
I have learnt that if I have a big day (by that I mean a lot going on) then I break things down into small manageable pieces. I just take it minute by minute, hour by hour until the day is done. Often my husband and I will talk about our days, just to have a check in, make sure I survived.
Yoga and meditation has become a big part of my life now, and even my husband does yoga with me, which is really nice. We both find the moves comforting and easy on our aging bones (we are still young, but we have days where we feel OLD!) I have found if I have had a stressful day, or feeling anxious, rather than reach for medication, I will try 20 – 30 minutes of yoga first. It feels nice to stretch out the muscles and leave some of the anxiety behind.
I also attend counselling. At first I didn’t think I would need it, and only wanted to learn coping strategies, but my counsellor was cleverer than me, and finally she got me talking. I have a lot of issues in my life that needed to be discussed, pulled out, untangled and set straight. Sometimes your head can make something horrific seem like it happened to someone else in order to make it easier for you to cope, but in reality, it is only delaying the inevitable. Pulling things out into the open, into the light makes things harder to hide, and the pain starts to ease. Believe me, I know, I have been to counselling for about two years now. It isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t stop just because I didn’t want to get to the bottom of it.
I love to read, and write, and generally when a crash occurs, I find that my writing is the first thing to suffer. While I have lots of ideas, I won’t be able to write – or at least get a concept to come together. I can come up with great ideas, which I jot down, because that is about all I can do. Reading however, the more depressed I am, the more I read.
My advice to you, if you feel like a boat tossed about in an ocean – talk to someone. A trusted friend, who will support and encourage you. Not someone who will laugh at you if you suggest it might be depression. If you feel like life isn’t worth living, you are wrong. Go and see your Doctor, or a counsellor ASAP!
We are all flawed individuals, and one day, my experiences with depression will help someone – just like John Kirwan has been able to help people with his ads, and his book. It is temporary, the medication might be permanent, but just taking one day at a time is all you need to do.