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This is long, please don't read it unless you have time to! And please try not to say that this is a brave review, as it isn't - it's just my life and where I've been. Thank you - reading this does mean a lot to me.
It's difficult knowing where to start this review. The subject itself "Member advice on depression" is not particularly helpful. I cannot give advice about depression, as I am not a medical professional. I cannot diagnose, I cannot treat, and I cannot tell you what to do (although I will give some general information about depression at the end). All I can do is share my personal experiences with you, and hope that if you are a person affected by depression that you will get the help that you need and deserve in order to find happiness. I strongly believe that happiness is waiting for each and every one of us who has not yet found it, or has temporarily misplaced it.
I have already reviewed my experiences of self-injury (www.ciao.co.uk/Member_Advice_on_Self_harm__Review_5614015), and there will be elements from there that are repeated here - for me self-injury is a symptom of my depression. While it has become an issue in its own right, I can't talk about my personal experiences without also talking about self-injury, and my experiences of alcohol abuse (which is a big part of it).
If you want to stop reading here (I am warning you, this will be VERY long! You might like to print it out and sit down with a bottle of plonk!) I would just like to share with you one important point. Depression is a very individual illness. It will affect no two people in exactly the same way. For some people depression is a short-lived illness, and for others it can be a lifelong condition. No one's experience is more or less valid than anyone else's. I do not want any sympathy or pity. I do not want people to say this is a brave review (although I'm sure that some of you might) I do not 'suffer' with depression (although I'll admit that at hard times I can be known to wallow in it), I am merely a person affected by depression. I am part of my depression, and my depression is part of me. This is my story, and while there may be parts that some of you can relate to, this is how it is for me, and only me.
Please note, this review might be upsetting to those who are affected by depression, or know someone who is. Please do not read this if you are feeling in a vulnerable state of mind.
My Life Story
Part 1 - Happy Childhood
I had an ideal home-life, parents happily married (dad a doctor, mum a housewife), an older brother and sister, a nice 4-bedroomed detached house in Essex. I had everything material I could possibly wish for, although I don't think I was really spoiled like some are (although that's debateable!). I had a very happy childhood, lots of friends, piano lessons, Brownies, birthday parties, holidays to various countries in our motor caravan, I loved school and always did very well, and yeah, it was great :o)
Looking back on it and trying to find where things went wrong I do see that there was a total lack of physical affection in my family. Please note, I am NOT blaming anyone for anything - this is just the way it was. While I know that my parents love me dearly, they aren't ones for hugs and kisses, to say the least, and we certainly don't tell each other that we love each other. And I know that isn't their fault as they probably weren't given affection as children. I do remember as a child I used to dream about having someone who would hold me and cuddle me - but there wasn't anyone, and if anyone did come near me I pushed them away. Maybe I should have said something at the time, I don't know. I remember if I was upset about something I'd go and cry on my own in my bedroom. I did have a great relationship with my brother (11 years older), and that was good - but things changed (of course) when he met his wife, and that was quite hard for me.
My parents were fairly strict (depending upon what the issue was), and although they were only 10 years or so older than my friends parents they were a generation different with old-fashioned ways. My parents are pretty religious (grace at every meal, church at least once on Sunday, that sort of thing), and so was I as a child. I only ever had two grandparents, and they died when I was 7, but to be honest (and this sounds terrible) I wasn't particularly bothered at the time as I was a bit scared of my grandfather who had a wooden leg, and narcolepsy.
Saying that though it was a happy childhood, and in a way that is what made me feel so bad when the depression came. There isn't an exact day when I started to be depressed as it was a gradual thing. But certainly up until the age of 11 and secondary school there was no sign of it, and things were pretty damn fantastic!
Part 2: Adolescence, and depression emerging perhaps?
I think that secondary school was a big culture shock for me in many ways. At primary school I had always been friends with everyone - boys and girls, although I did always have my best friend. Starting at the new school I did quickly made friends with a group of girls, and my best friend (who was one of the few people from my primary school to come to my secondary school) and I drifted apart as she wasn't in the same class as me, although we always remained friends to an extent. Me and the girl group were what you would class as 'swots'. We were not particularly nice people, we were very snobbish (myself and one girl in particular), and to be honest I cringe when I look back on what I was like.
Through Year 7 and most of Year 8/9 things were on the whole pretty good (well, it seemed that they were to me). There was a lot of competition for academic success between us, and I thrived on that. But when competition turned towards being on other things such as boys, looks, clothes…then things weren't so good anymore, and things did turn nasty - there was a lot of backstabbing. I didn't have the first clue about anything like clothes, make-up, anything like that - I never really had anyone to ask about it - you might think having an older sister might help, but she didn't even wear make-up on her wedding day, and used to make dresses out of curtains - bless her!
I don't really want to dwell too much on this…..partly because I'm not sure it is particularly relevant to my experiences of depression, and partly because otherwise this will turn into a novel - and I still have my autobiography to write! But there are a few things which stand out in my mind from that time, the taunts from boys about being ugly, and in particular flat-chested. In fact the whole puberty thing raised various issues for me, but not that I really want to be published to the world - at least not under my real name! I remember once my 'friend' reading me any extract from her diary….this was the sort of thing we did. She made a big fuss out of saying "oh, I don't want to read you that bit", but of course then I pestered her to read it to me, and it said something along the lines of 'Mary is too ugly to get a boyfriend anyway" (it was more complex than that, but that was the gist of it) - that really hurt. On the whole though, although there were problems, we did have a laugh, and there were some very good times, and I don't want to forget that. However, it certainly did contribute towards my low self-esteem.
At the beginning of Year 10 I arrived at school to find that my friends did not want to know me anymore. It was more complicated that that, but I hadn't actually done anything wrong . I read a book for teenagers a while back, called 'Red Tears', which is about self-injury (part of my self-harm charity work), and it brought a lot of things back to me as I could relate so much to the main character. How bad it made me feel when after 3 years of friendship, it was suddenly over with no reason, no explanation. It felt like someone had stabbed me through the heart, and like the past 3 years had been a waste. Reading that book brought back to me just how painful that felt at the time. I realise that this is really trivial compared to what some people go through at school. But after always having people to sit with it was upsetting getting to our GCSE classes, finding that everyone else was in pairs, and having no one to sit next to or talk to. In one class there wasn't even a seat for me, I had to perch on the edge of a desk where my ex-friends gave me dirty looks and comments through the lessons for a year. Luckily for me my best friend allowed me into her circle of friends, so at least for lunch, some lessons, and outside of school I had friends. I will always be so grateful for that, especially as I had been a really shitty friend to her over the past 3 years.
After changing circles of friends things were different and academic success no longer seemed so important anymore. The competition wasn't there, and I didn't care so much about anything. At the end of the day at GCSE I did get 5 As and 5Bs which is good, but I could have done a lot better if I'd pushed myself as I did in the lower school. To be honest though I was lucky to get what I did, especially a double B for Science when I turned up drunk to the exam - luckily I learnt my lesson and that was the last time I would sit an exam drunk.
So, that moves me nicely onto the drinking…..I have always liked my drink. My parents say that at my Christening (aged 4 months) I was after my Dad's champagne! Being the youngest by 9 years, I always wanted to be allowed to drink with the grown-ups although I always hated the taste. I remember having a glass of my Dad's homemade blackberry wine (it's potent stuff!) when I was about 4 or 5. It gave me such a bad stomach cramp, but I couldn't tell anyone, otherwise I thought they wouldn't let me drink again. The same happened when we had guests on a Sunday and I was allowed a sherry. The first time I remember getting
properly tipsy was at a family friend's party when I was 9, after finishing off my second helping of sparkling wine I went around drinking everyone else's. I knew back then that I wanted to drink.
The first time I got properly drunk wasn't until I was 14, at my brother's wedding. It was a lovely day, I had a gorgeous bridesmaid dress (which I walked through the rosebushes wearing), and a good time was had by all, although I did feel that it symbolised a change in my life and moving apart from my brother. By the end of it I'd had a whole bottle of sherry (on top of the wine), and there is video footage of me on the sofa swigging water (my mum's friend had refilled the bottle with water for me as I wanted to carry on drinking) out of the sherry bottle, saying "I think I'm called Alan!" - of course I don't remember it! The next day I went to church as usual, but somehow things had changed. I left the Church shortly afterwards as I felt that now I had alcohol I had no need for God anymore - my parents believed (and still do) that it was a phase I was going through.
Part 3: Getting depressed
At the time I think people found it amusing (and I used to hide when they showed people the wedding video!), but as after this I got drunk on absolutely every occasion possible after that, I think the amusement soon wore off, especially as I was never a happy drunk. I don't think my parents realised there was a problem though for a long time. In fact it was my best friend who first said to me at the age of 15 that she thought I had a drinking problem. Of course I dismissed the idea as absurd, as surely no one can have a drinking problem at 15, especially not a girl? That's what I thought anyway, no one had told me otherwise.
I felt ugly. Ok, I wasn't ever ugly, but then I was never particularly pretty either. I had never had a boyfriend, had no breasts, and no-one was interested in me. I started to develop an unhealthy obsession for someone - an older and unobtainable person. It was unhealthy for me in that it tore me apart inside. This person was the centre of my thoughts every waking minute. The relationship was never going to be possible, and I knew that. I can't really even talk about it now, as I still have thoughts about this person even now whilst being happily married, and years later after not even seeing them since leaving school. I know it was all a fantasy and not ever real. I did tell a friend about it when I was drunk, but never ever revealed the extent of my feelings, and I'm not sure they really believed me. I don't think I could even explain it now. But yeah, I don't really want to speak about it, so I won't.
Anyway, drinking became a way to deal with both the feelings of being physically unattractive, and also for trying to forget about this obsession. There was a void in me since leaving the Church…without religion I was suddenly absolutely petrified of death, and this started to consume me. I have always had a constant commentary going on in my head - I assumed that everyone does, although my husband tells me that he isn't constantly thinking, and he can just clear his mind and not think of anything. But regardless of whether or not everyone does have a constant commentary in their head, I found that the voices in my head were getting repetitive and nasty, telling me what a pile of shit I was, and how I deserved to die. These voices are only my own voice (I find it hard to explain without sounding mad!)…..drinking was a way to calm down these voices (and it still is for me now) Of course drinking made things worse, and it still does!
Forgive me as I write this. I realise that it is very disjointed at times. It's not a case of saying "when I was 13 this happened, when I was 14 this happened etc". I do have to keep going backwards and forwards to try and explain. By no means can I ever manage to get everything into this review, but I am trying to record what was important. Perhaps after reading this some of you will be able to make more sense of me and my depression than I can - I do hope so!
It was when I was 15 that I really consider myself to have started getting depressed, particularly towards the end of the year - a school ski-ing trip in February 1997 was the first time I really felt I wanted to die (again, for various reasons). My diaries from that time were so repetitive and depressing. I have since destroyed them (to avoid further upsetting myself at thinking about how unhappy I was then), but entries went along the lines of "I hate myself, I want to die. I am such an ungrateful little bitch for feeling like this when I have no reason to be depressed."
And that is how I felt. With knowing that the person I was obsessed with would never be a part of my real-life I felt devastated. But there was no one I could talk to about it. There was no one to give me a hug and tell me it would be ok. At that time, and for several years I felt that nothing was ever going to get better.
I know I will sounds like some stupid spoilt teenager with a silly little crush. But it wasn't like that at all. Argh, I said I didn't want to speak about it, and I've found that I am, and it's giving me that uneasy feeling inside, and I don't know. Think I need a break from writing about it.
……Ok, calm Mary! I'm finding this hard to write. On the one hand I don't want to come across as the ungrateful little bitch who had no reason to be depressed, as I've worked so hard trying to believe that it doesn't matter whether I had a reason or not, that it just happened. But it's hard when reading back what I've written as I just sound like I'm whinging. I suppose the fact that I didn't tell anyone how I was feeling made things harder as no one knew there was a problem. No one knew that I would spend an hour or more in bed crying every night - and that was before I started drinking regularly.
A short poem I wrote from around that time - it sounds very childish I'm afraid:
"I used to be blind, I could not see Happiness was there, waiting for me. Now I've opened my eyes happiness has hidden, Behind a locked door, for me that's forbidden. I should be happy now I can see, But when life is so dark, how can I be?"
I started self-injuring at the time I hit 16 (May 1997) as I felt I needed to punish myself for being depressed. You might want to read my review about self-injury, but be warned, that might be a bit like reading a novel within a novel!
At this time it was becoming easier and easier to drink as well (parties, and then regular pub trips even though I wasn't 18 and didn't look 18), and this exacerbated the depression, and made me less inhibited to self-injure.
At around the same time (end of GCSE exams) I went on a camp with Venture Scouts (which became an important part of my life over the next couple of years). I lost my virginity to someone I'd known for an hour, in a tent, after 10 cans of lager. How degrading - and only 2 years before I had been against sex before marriage, like my parents. This wasn't the last time I did things like that, by any means. I didn't want to do it, I just felt like I might as well (to be honest I was too drunk to say no), in the hope it might make me feel better about myself. Of course it didn't, it made me feel cheap, dirty and disgusting.
And over the next few years I put myself in some very stupid and very dangerous positions, and I'm not proud of myself at all. It's only recently that I realise that I don't need to keep punishing myself for what I did when I was young, drunk, and stupid. However, my early sexual experiences have affected me quite significantly, and this is still an issue I have yet to resolve.
When in the sixth form at school my drinking started really getting out of control. Many weeknights were a trip to the pub, most weekends were parties and pub trips. I know this was normal - everyone did it. But for me I always drank as much as I possibly could…it wasn't abnormal for me to drink other people's drinks when they went to the toilet, or even to steal random people's drinks off their tables (in busier pubs). I have so many tales I could tell about this time, more that my friends could tell better since a lot of it I have no recollection of. Although a double vodka on the rocks was generally my drink of choice, I would drink anything. I was never happy when I was drunk.
Evenings generally ended with me crying on some poor random bloke I'd just met (no wonder no one wanted a relationship with me!), or on one of my long-suffering friends. When I think what I put them through…….cleaning up my vomit, making sure I got home ok and didn't disappear with some random bloke, even if I insisted I wanted to walk home on my own…….I will never forget the time I was rolling around in a car park drunk, with a broken bottle threatening to cut myself, and reciting the scene of King Lear's madness (that was one of my A level texts). My poor friend was scared out of his mind. The next morning I always had to be told the next day what I'd done, who I needed to apologise to…..I used to get violent sometimes - one night I slapped a bloke and his glasses went flying across the room - he had to pay £150 for a new pair. He hadn't even done anything wrong - well, he had told me (as he was a responsible adult) that I shouldn't have another drink. The same night I also slapped the bar manager as he refused to serve me anymore, and I was barred. Just one tale of many….
Now, my friends and I talk about the past and we laugh about what happened. It's good that we can laugh about it, but a lot of things were not funny in the slightest. And if my parents had known half of what was going on…..
This is becoming more about my drinking, and less about the depression, but I can't separate them. It's the whole chicken and egg scenario. The depression led to the drinking, the drinking led to the depression. And thus the cycle continues.
I used to work in a shop at the weekends…..now that was an interesting experience. For quite a long time I worked Saturday afternoons, and Sunday mornings (starting at 8am). I was always still drunk at 8am on a Sunday (my mum used to comment on my breath smelling of drink), the hangover came towards the end of my shift. Then I would go home, have Sunday lunch and a nice glass of wine or two, and fall asleep for the afternoon ready to go to the pub in the evening. Everyone knew I was drunk of course, but since some of the workers in the shop were on speed or coke whilst at work, I was a bit of a saint! But anyway, the shop is another chapter of my story. I remember once I tried to tell my parents I was depressed. Their response was "don't be ridiculous, you're not depressed', and that really hurt. Of course I did hide it well, apart from when drunk I only cried in private. I muddled through my work at school, and did well as usual.
But inside I felt that I'd be better off dead. I was never suicidal - having experienced suicidal thoughts since, I now know that, although at the time I might have thought I was suicidal. On the one hand I wanted to die. But on the other hand I was (still am) scared of death, and this is what kept me from it. I can't really explain why I felt so bad. I really did hate myself though - I felt that I was living a life sentence with someone I hated, and that person was myself, so I couldn't even escape. Drink was a way for me to escape from myself, so was self-injury. But no matter what I always kept coming back. And I hated myself for coming back.
People might be wondering how I could afford all of this….well, I had my money from my job. There was also my bank account - when my grandparents died, I had been given some money. And while I'd always had access to it, now I started to spend it. Then of course there was money from my parents, who didn't seem to realise that they were funding my drinking and smoking. But if I hadn't had money, then who knows, no doubt I'd have managed another way and that could have landed me up in far more trouble.
It was March 1999 when everything reached a bit of a climax. To cut a long story short, I got drunk (on my own) at school. I got caught, and everything came out - the drinking, my self-injury. Oh, and not forgetting the fact that I smoked….of all the things I've ever done, smoking has always been looked down on the most by my parents (luckily I don't smoke now!!!) The whole tale is a story in itself, but on the whole the school dealt with it ok, and it was kept off record. They could see that it was a cry for help….although at the time I wasn't ready to accept help.
Part 4: Getting Help
As a result I was taken to the doctors that evening, and that was the start of it all. I remember in the car on the way to the doctors, my dad trying to tell me he understood, but I wasn't having any of it. It's only recently that I'm starting to see how much like my dad I am, and starting to appreciate that my depressive nature might be something I inherited from him - we are similar in so many ways.
Anyway, the doctor was very nice. She said I was suffering from depression, and also suggested that I was an alcoholic (well, I wasn't exactly going to agree with that was I?!) which is on my medical records at the age of 17. She prescribed me anti-depressants, tested my liver function, and suggested that I see a psychiatrist, and of course to stop drinking.
Well, at that age I thought that you actually had to be mad to see a psychiatrist, so of course I refused. I also believed that depression was a sign of personal failure - no one had told me otherwise. To be honest I knew absolutely nothing about depression at the time…..I had never looked for it on the Internet or anything (only had the Internet at school anyway and was only starting to get to grips with the World Wide Web). I had known for a long time that I was depressed, but I thought that only older people could officially be depressed. With a dad as a doctor that only made it more awkward for me, as I wasn't going to talk to him about it.
For a good week or so I actually didn't drink. Of course this didn't last, and then I was back to drinking more than ever. Of course this meant that taking the anti-depressants was pretty pointless, although I took them for while. One night I was at a party, and a close friend had said that I could drink (he was driving me home), but only 5 singles. I felt so clever when I ordered my 6th triple vodka….of course my friend wasn't impressed by my 'cleverness' when he had to carry me to the car.
My drinking got worse really, there was a friend's 18th birthday party when I passed out drunk on the bouncy castle. My parents had to collect me, and then they removed the lock off my bedroom door - I felt violated. Then there was the time they searched my room - they found my empty bottle stash (not to mention a tin of fag butts). And there was a lot - empty vodka bottles and wine bottles mainly….and these were just the ones I hadn't disposed of. The worst thing was that there were a load of bottles of wine I had stolen from my parents' garage, and drunk. I couldn't explain myself, there was no excuse, but that didn't stop me from doing it again and again - sometimes it was just easier to nick my parents wine than to go to the shop and buy my own, besides I was still underage at the time.
It was awful. There was this family 'conference' which was just weird, with my parents, brother, and my friend. Oh, it was cringe-worthy. My brother saying "We love you Mary, we want you" - this was not my family at all, this was just weird.
My 18th birthday party was nearly cancelled, but it went ahead and surprisingly it was ok and I didn't embarrass them.
After the A levels me and 35 friends (yes, 35!) from school went to Gran Canaria (July 1999)……and this was a bit of a disaster. There was a point when the men in white coats did actually come for me (sorry, I know it isn't funny, but it does make me chuckle - not many people can say that the men in white coats came for them!). Ok, so it was a man and a woman in white coats (rather than men), but yes, they were really psychiatrists wearing white coats, and they did want to take me away. I had never been so scared in my life. Although they didn't take me away in the end, I was nearly deported, but saved by my friend who at 18 had to become my legal guardian for the rest of the holiday - he was not impressed. It doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened if I had been sectioned in Gran Canaria - I might well still be there today!
When I got home I totally disgraced myself at a family party (drunk again) - luckily I have never had to face those relatives again as I ruined the party. I decided that the time had come to see the psychiatrist. I was so scared, and had no one to come with me - I hadn't told anyone. The psychiatrist was a fairly old man (about 65). Some of his first words were "I hear you've been scratching yourself" (referring to my self-injury). How patronising! I wanted to shout and scream, and say "do these two year old scars look like 'scratches' to you?". But I felt so small and stupid. He didn't listen to me, he kept asking about what would happen when I went to Harlow College - I was going to Hull University, NOT Harlow College. I asked him where the copious notes he was taking would go, and his reply was "Warley". Now, Warley was what as kids we used to refer to as "Warley Mental Home". I made my excuses and left - the thought of having my notes in Warley didn't bear thinking about.
No one told me that mental health problems do not mean you are 'mental'. No one told me that it was ok. No one seemed to be listening. I left the appointment in tears. What I wanted to hear more than anything was that everything was going to be ok. I always say now that if I could meet any person dead or alive, I would go back in time just to see myself at that age (well, any time between 15 and 18), give myself a big hug, and tell me that everything was going to be ok. Everyone was surprised that I got As in my A levels. My parents took me to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. This was good, aside from a couple of glasses of wine with meals (and the litre of vodka in my suitcase), I was good, and I was sensible, and it was a good holiday for the three of us. I think my parents might have thought that now I'd passed my exams that things would be good again.
Part 5: A new start?
More than anything I just wanted to get away to University, start a new life, and get away from my worrying parents. But anyone who knows anything about student-life will know that it's probably not the best environment for someone who already has a drinking problem! The first couple of weeks were great (although my dad was taken ill back at home), I threw myself into a relationship and told myself that he was the one, and that we'd get married, have babies and live happily ever after. Think I got a bit ahead of myself there. When he dumped me I was devastated, and took an overdose - not as a suicide attempt. That does sound very melodramatic I know - and beyond the realms of patheticnesss. But you have to understand, I didn't care if I was alive or dead. One little things and I was back to thinking that I would never be happy, that no-one would ever want me. Blah blah blah blah. Off to see a new doctor, who couldn't speak English, and some psychiatrist who snorted every time he spoke - at least that made me giggle! To be honest though the taxi driver on the way home was more use though!
I would like to say that when I met my husband in January 2000 that things would suddenly be hunky-dory. In a way they were at first (I cancelled the appointment with the new psychologist I was meant to see, and threw away the anti-depressants), although I did set myself up for a fall when things went wrong when I thought that they couldn't go wrong. And what happened (basically he had still been sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, and told me a lot of lies about his life) made me feel that my heart had been literally ripped out and squeezed repeatedly. Ouch! This in time led to a more serious overdose, of Prozac (oh, the irony!), which scared the shit out of everyone - myself included.
I had quite a reputation for my drinking (moreso than most students even!)…..especially in the 2nd year where I remained drunk pretty much constantly. I remember the time there was a bottle of gin in the living room. It wasn't mine, but I drank it because it was there. Because I can't stomach gin, every hour or so I had to go and throw up. But eventually I got to the end of the bottle, and was very proud of myself. That was just the sort of thing which happened. I don't know how I managed to pass my exams and essays.
At this time I changed doctors to one who could speak English. He seemed nice at first, but then it seemed that he only wanted to talk about himself. I always left his surgery crying. When I tried to register somewhere else I wasn't allowed to because they didn't want to 'poach' my doctor's patients. So I just didn't go back anymore. I saw several psychologists and counsellors over the years. It was all a bit limited and unhelpful, such as the psychologist who could only see me for 6 sessions, and I was only informed on the 5th session that the 6th would be the last.
I have always just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to get better, but they never did. All they ever wanted to concentrate on is the alcohol. Alcohol Concern was the biggest waste of time…after telling my life story once on the phone, then again at an hour-long consultation, I was expected to tell it again to someone new. I just couldn't be arsed and stormed out (in fact I have done this on quite a few occasions - perhaps I just don't like hearing the truth?)
Basically I think what I always wanted was a quick fix solution, but gradually I have realised that there is no quick fix solution. Yes, I can stop drinking - I did once for 4 months (although I have to say that was extremely difficult). But that doesn't make the underlying depression go away. And then that just makes me want to drink. I think many of you who read this will want to say - "Mary, just STOP drinking, then the depression won't be there." My personal view is that the depression and the alcohol abuse are both separate things, but which are intrinsically linked.
Part 6: After University
I spent 4 years at University, got a 2:1 Sociology degree and an MSc in Applied Social Research. Everyone was very proud. For the last year of Uni my drinking and depression had been a lot better.
Things were not easy though when I moved back home what with living part from my hubby (then fiancé) - I'm not going into that now. Also there were difficulties in finding a job. Anyway, I arrived at the doctors in October 2003 just so depressed, and at that time I wasn't drinking as I just couldn't even be bothered. Back on the anti-depressants for the first time in ages. A month later back at the doctors crying again, dosage doubled. Then a few days later (after some terrible suicidal thoughts which were just awful, and terrifying) the fog suddenly cleared, and things finally started to be good again. OK, that wasn't the end of my story. Over the next year (despite the anti-depressants) I did struggle a lot. I think the ADs were a big factor in helping me through it. Funnily enough the Church was the other thing which got me through it. No, I didn't get back into religion, but I got a job for the Church of England in Westminster, and my colleagues were just fantastic.
There was a time I nearly had a breakdown back in 2004. I was as close to a breakdown as possible without actually breaking down. My husband nearly cancelled our wedding, my doctor referred me as an emergency to the mental health team (I got paranoid they were following me), although my parents were still pretty oblivious to it all (I put up a good front) There were times I thought the end was coming. And in a funny way I actually quite enjoyed the feeling of going out of control. And it scares me that it could so easily happen again, but this time I might actually breakdown.
Since then things are very different, a new start in Cumbria with my husband, a house, a new job, my work as a charity trustee for LifeSIGNS.
Part 7: March 2007
Just over a week ago I was feeling generally quite down, as a result I was drinking quite a bit - yes, after all this time I still haven't learnt. I went to the doctors, just because it was my 6-monthly visit to get a repeat prescription for the anti-depressants - still on them and the doctor sees it as a long-term thing (I'm on 100mg Sertraline if anyone is interested or knows anything about ADs). My doctor was away, and I saw a different one, a woman this time. I do like my normal doctor, he is very nice. But I don't know, seeing someone knew made me want to talk a bit more than normal.
My last dealings with the mental health services were 2 years ago when I was referred by a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) to see a psycho-therapist. She suggested that I was on the border of Borderline Personality Disorder. I'm not denying that I can see aspects of that in myself, but think I prefer to stick with the 'Depression' label for now anyway! The psycho-therapist was nice, but I found that I just clammed up, and didn't know what to say. I find it so much easier to write things down than to speak about them (as you will see).
I agreed for the doctor to try and arrange some counselling for me, and who knows, maybe this time I will be able to speak. Maybe I could give him/her this to read? In general I am now the happiest I have ever been since before I got depressed (although saying that I maintain that I am the happiest depressed person you'll ever meet anyway!). But there are still some issues which I really want to address before I start thinking of having kids - the alcohol issue is top of the list as obviously I would need to stop drinking.
I told my hubby, who is very supportive, although he can't really understand - this is my fault as I find it so hard to talk about it. He asked me why have counselling now when I'm already mad? Of course he was joking! But, we'll see - and maybe this time something will come of it. I don't particularly want to be on anti-depressants forever - they cause me to have night sweats, I have trouble crying, and a lot of the time feel less emotion. On the other hand though I feel much calmer, and more able to think clearly.
Part 8 - May 2008
I have to say that the past year hasn't been particularly easy. My dad has had a lot of health problems, my husband has been quite stressed at work, and I have been pretty demoralised in my own job (which doesn't really stretch me). There have also been serious problems in the self-harm charity I'm a trustee of (incidentally I have also become a trustee of a local self-injury charity as well) which have upset me a great deal and are currently involving stress with dealing with lawyers.
A month ago my GP halved my anti-depressants which didn't help (well, it wasn't ever going to be likely to was it?!), and now I'm back on the normal dose. After waiting for over a year I have started to see a therapist for an 8 session course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I intend to make the most of it, but am starting to think more and more about looking for more long term help privately. While the NHS has many good points, help for long-term mental health problems seems to be somewhat limited.
But yes, time will tell. For me depression isn't something which is just going to go away, it is a part of my personality, and I am part of it, and it always will be. This is me, take me or leave me :o)
I have put my heart and soul into this review, and it has been the hardest I have written, at times it has even made me cry - but it has been a therapeutic experience for me, and I hope that at least someone will have read the whole thing! I have been amazed by the wonderful comments I have received and look forward to even more. I plan to sit down and start writing my autobiography at some point, so look out for it - "27 and happily depressed", which will be followed by a sequel (thanks to Torr for the title) "72 and depressingly happy"!
Information about Depression
Right, now onto the depression information! I will keep this fairly brief - as I have said, I am not an expert. And there is a plethora of information available on the Internet (see links at the end) written by experts.
What is depression?
Depression is not just feeling sad. It is a clinical illness. It has been said to affect about 1 in 5 people in the UK at some point in their life, although statistics do vary. As some say, it is the common cold of psychiatry. However, this should not trivialise depression. Depression can be an extremely debilitating illness, and can lead to suicide. Depression can range from mild to severe.
Thankfully for most people it can be treated relatively easily. I am not a medical expert, so this is just some general information - more detailed information can be found from the websites at the end of my review. For some people depression occurs as a result of a traumatic event….for some people it just happens (and there are possible biological and genetic reasons). For some people it is a short-term illness, for some people it is recurring, and for others it is a long-term condition.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression involves general feelings of being unhappy, in addition to the following (this list is not comprehensive) :
Persistent low mood
Crying for no reason
Sleep problems - too little or too much.
Persistent tiredness and exhaustion
Loss of identity
Sexual problems, and lack of interest
Weight loss or weight gain
Low self-esteem and self-worth
Lack of concentration
Avoiding people, and social activities
Lack of enjoyment
Anger and irritability
Feelings of blame and failure
Self-injuring - please visit www.scar-tissue.net for further information
Negative thoughts about the future, and feelings of hopelessness
Thoughts of suicide - please note, you MUST get help immediately if you are having suicidal thoughts - please visit www.samaritans.org.uk or get to the doctors or A & E as soon as possible.
Please note, only a doctor can diagnose depression. Self-diagnosis is not generally a good idea. My review did go on to talk about treatment for depression, but it seems to have disappeared - will come back and update in time!
What is there honestly left to say? A remarkable and candid review - best of luck for the future : ) Eleanor x
christina44 22.02.2009 18:44
I have just stumbled upon and read your review. Well done. Fantastic. I think (without wanting to sound patronising) you have come a long, long way. My husband is a bi-polar (and i have written 2 reviews aswell about it) so I totally understand and can relate to a lot of what you have written. You know what? You;re an awful lot more resilient than you think you are. And, You are right about the varying frustrating erratic levels of competence within the health service providers.
You have to fight a lot don't you, and be persistent with your treatment and care plan,as the average GP simply hasn't a clue, and the general mentality of many mental health providers can be woefully inadequate and limited. What else is new hun? You keep going 'cos we have to, and what doesn't work one day will be better the next.
Give yourself a huge warm hug from me- and a pat on the back,for getting all this written down so logically and comprehensively. Draw strength from thise mearest to you who don;t put you down and surround yourself with positive uplifting experiences to hekp you cope. Have peace and strength from your honesty and complete self de-appreciation. I think you're a very intelligent remarkable young lady. I wanted to mark this an 'e' but for some reason, it wont let me. Keep going girl. I wish you nothing but happiness and peace. And good things in your life. You deserve it. love chrissie x