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Making a change
Posted by Widdles
24th Jan 2014

I was told, not so long ago, by someone I used to consider a friend, that I am always blaming others for my situation – that I ‘fail to take responsibility’. I also had my ex tell me how mental I was, and that I clearly need help. Both these people claim to suffer from depression also.

Obviously, I didn’t take this very well, and have since realised that these, although exceptionally understanding on the face of it, really don’t understand at all. I’m not about to defend myself with a long post about how they are wrong, as I, and my real friends, know this is not the case at all – and that’s what matters.

Living with depression is a daily struggle – at my worst, it’s a mammoth task to even remove myself from bed, let alone getting showered & dressed, then we have that whole ‘leaving the house’ thing to contend with.

Because you can’t see it, depression gets looked at as ‘the blues’ or a ‘bad day’, but my latest period of ‘the blues’ has lasted for months – since way before Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s taken me this long to realise how bad I actually am. I’ve been doing what is called ‘coping’ and ‘hiding’ from it.

So this taking responsibility thing. What have I been doing to try to get better?

I’ve seen the doctor once a month for the past few months. I am wary of changing my medication (I’ve done that before – not good – the side effects from coming off one drug and onto another make symptoms worse), however I am now on the maximum dose of citalopram, as well as taking propranolol for tension headaches and panic attacks. I was referred to see a counsellor, who wrote to me saying it would be weeks for an appointment, and to get in touch with counsellors at my university. I still haven’t seen anyone, and had to actually ask for some information on where I could go for support (I feel this is something they should do as a matter of course – it’s not difficult). Was told that giving up drinking and going to the gym were excellent ways of alleviating the symptoms, and that I am ‘on the right path’.

On the whole, the doctors have been a waste of time.

Yes, I joined a gym, but when I’m not sleeping (or sleeping too much) it’s another tremendous effort to get there after a day at work. Does that sound like an excuse? It’s just a fact – unfortunately apathy, lethargy and lack of motivation are all part of the condition.

I gave up drinking for all of 3 days. I accept, I drink too much (not to the point of being paralytic , as my friends will attest to), but I enjoy having a glass of wine, or a beer in the evening.

I have been reading a book about Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about ‘living in the moment’. It’s similar to CBT in that you have to train your brain to work in a different way to how it has (in my case anyway) been working for the past X amount of years. A very long and very hard process. It is likened to meditation as the idea is that you ‘live in the moment’ by taking notice of the things we usually miss (i.e. the feeling of breathing, the birds singing, the feeling of the ground beneath your feet etc). The book has been a great help, along with some online CBT, in that it has made me aware of my thought processes, and how much my brain actually hates me. At good points, I can deconstruct those thoughts, and realise they are meaningless (an idea at the heart of using mindfulness to treat depression & anxiety).

The online CBT I found of little help (except for what is mentioned above – I’d rather try face to face CBT in all honesty – it all makes perfect sense but that’s just not how my brain works! I understand that this can work for many people, but everyone is different, and it’s just not that great for me. If it was so easy to rewire one’s brain, we’d all be happy, wouldn’t we?

I have spent the last week or so investigating the use of light therapy to help alleviate my symptoms, something that I would really like to try as I suffer from terrible tiredness and have extreme trouble getting out of bed in the morning (seriously, how many times can you hit snooze on the alarm clock? Turns out it’s 8). Unfortunately, SAD lamps, as they are known are way out of my price range for the foreseeable future, and not available on prescription. I am considering trying out a ‘bodyclock’ alarm for the time being. They are a little less expensive, but I am at a point where I will try anything I can to stop feeling like I do (if Lumie wanted to send me one to try & review, I wouldn’t argue ;) )

So am I failing to take responsibility? What more can I do? I know that my condition is not anyone else’s fault. Hell, it’s not even my fault. I don’t take my troubles to anyone else, and I sure as hell don’t expect anyone else to make me better – only I can do that. I have never used my depression as an excuse, but it does make things very difficult – university is particularly troublesome at the moment, particularly with all the form filling and red tape you have to go through to get anywhere. It can be confusing for someone who’s brain isn’t functioning as it should. And we all know that added stress only exacerbates the problem.

What needs to change is people’s perceptions of mental illness. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not disabling. More awareness needs to be raised about mental illness and specifically depression (which, incidentally, affects 1 in 5 people in the UK – so good luck finding a ‘sane’ person). This is something I feel very passionate about, and part of the reason I write about it here.

It’s a very lonely place to be, the black dog is shit company.

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