As you will probably guess this is my first blog, so I would be grateful for any comments on ways to improve my blogging (that sounds strange doesn’t it) but you know what I mean. I have had clinical depression for more years than I care to remember, and find that writing is a useful coping tool for me.
Clinical depression is the malignant all-pervading vinegar, which sours mind, body and soul, it knows no barriers and does not distinguish between race, creed, colour or class. Therefore, no matter what they may think no one is immune from this, or any other form of mental distress.
Those looking in ask, “What’s wrong?” Unless they are here or have been here, I cannot explain. It is not like a sore throat for which you suck a lozenge, or a broken bone, which you repair with a plaster cast, I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, there are no lozenges or plaster casts for the mind, though there are anti-depressants. Without them, I would be a damn sight worse or dead!
To lie in bed at night with every muscle, bone and sinew aching for sleep with a mind which is fully awake and racing with thoughts that do not allow sleep, is at times, almost insufferable. Hamlet in his soliloquy “To be or not to be” says, “To sleep: perchance to dream:” a more apt version would be “To sleep: perchance to rest:” Real sleep is nothing but an elusive daydream, if it were not dark at night I would know every inch of my ceiling and every cobweb and spider that lurks there! The nearest I get to sleeping is the short period of deep uneasy “sleep” towards the end of the night, from which I wake exhausted.
Moods swing from high to low, low to high within hours with no apparent reason; it is as though mood is a separate being in total control of one’s mind and essence. The highs do not last very long perhaps five or six hours at most, whereas the lows can last anything from a few hours to several weeks. Over the years, I have developed ways and means to hide or mask my moods from friends, relatives and work colleagues. Only two or three of my very close friends can see through the mask.
Clinical depression is not only about mood swings it also creates or heightens the following:
Fear of losing friends
This is a very real, continuing, and probably selfish fear of losing my close friends by saying or doing something to offend or upset them. These friends give me support and invaluable friendship. I hope I support them and return their friendship. The support, which they give, is support that a family never can give because we have had, and are sharing experiences, which a family cannot imagine. I should say that although the support from my family is not from shared experiences it is however, essential support, which helps to keep me going.
Fear of letting people down, not being good enough
Although linked to the fear of losing friends this fear has a much wider significance in that it applies to virtually everything said or done. It is a constant striving for perfectionism, which is unachievable and therefore leads to feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and under achievement.
Fear of the next episode
This may sound dramatic to those who have no experience of clinical depression. It is not so much a fear of the depression, although that is frightening enough, it is the fear of what will be contemplated or done, to escape the desperation which comes with the depression. This desperation is caused by feeling that I am at the bottom of a deep dark pit with glass walls, from which there is no escape.
Brought about by the desire to run, to escape from everything to find total peace and quiet and be totally alone. Finding the isolation seems to help the recovery process, albeit a temporary recovery. There is often a desire to just curl up in a corner, hide and never come out.
The need to talk
Odd though it may seem as well as desiring isolation there can also be a need to talk. This need not be about depression the subject is immaterial; the need is to have a face-to-face conversation.
Deliberately avoiding people especially social events, not answering the telephone or door, going short rather than go shopping, not opening the post, all of these occasioned by the fear of ridicule, rejection or bad news.
Confusion and lack of concentration
Racing and erratic thoughts do not allow the mind to process incoming information immediately, whether it is visual, verbal or tactile, it becomes part of a large tangle of thoughts and this can give the impression of not listening or paying attention. This is not the case, the information is taken in and eventually processed and an answer or opinion, if required, given later. The same racing thought can make it difficult to concentrate and easy to become distracted, particularly by sounds or movement.
This is a perplexing phenomenon. Where events, conversations and even school lessons from forty or fifty years ago are remembered as if they happened yesterday, yet it is impossible to remember something from just one minute ago.
Low or no self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness, shame and guilt brought on by the inability to interact at an acceptable everyday level, loss of energy and will power, feeling incapable of simple everyday tasks, so that something like changing the bed becomes comparable with climbing Mount Everest.
Those on the outside have a false impression that depression is just feeling low, they are so wrong.
Of course I am not always high or low usually I am somewhere in between, what I call nermal (nearly normal). In this state of nermality, I have all or some of the above; but I am better able to manage my life and mind. Nermality can be a very fragile and vulnerable state to be in, where it is very easy for the mind to go tumbling back into depression.
One of the most powerful setbacks is encountering stigma, prejudice, discrimination, call it what you will. Discrimination, especially verbal, is one of those things which you cannot dodge, cannot see coming, and it is directed right at you. It instigates anger, low self-esteem, and avoidance, the fear of not being good enough, confusion and lack of concentration, and the need for isolation. This leads to low morale, which can, and very often does lead to another episode of depression.
The fears and feelings mentioned in this meandering of words are just a few of those experienced in clinical depression, some such as early waking and fatigue have been deliberately omitted because they are much written and talked about. Whereas the feelings mentioned here are often ignored, or even skipped over.
Discrimination in the workplace (where, at times it is almost actively encouraged) is widespread and many managers seem to have little or no control over it, often because they do not see it , choose to ignore it or in fact encourage it.
Finally, clinical depression is treatable and manageable; it takes a lot of time, patience, hard work and will power (because of the nature of the beast; will power is the most elusive) to get there. Nevertheless, please be assured that it CAN be done!