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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

My Bout With Depression


Well, it really seems as though this disorder knows no bounds and it does not discriminate when it comes to choosing it's victims.

People in the public eye are becoming more open about their experiences and journey through depression. I choose to use the word journey as thankfully it does not have to be a destination. 



In the wake of the recent news of actor Robin Williams taking his own life whilst in a depression and Fifi Geldolf, daughter of rock star and humanitarian Bob Geldof, opening up about her twenty years of depression, about which she had told no one, I wanted to use this blog to share my thoughts on this subject. For many reasons its something people don't like to talk about. It seems to carry a stigma that can lock its victims into a silent world.

I recall some years ago when I was very listless and lack-luster about life with very low energy and little enthusiasm for most things. I remember thinking that I must be low in some vitamin requirement and that I just needed some "tonic" from the doctor and all would be well.

At the time I had 4 young children between 1 yr and 9 yrs of age. My parents were living in the Caribbean having recently retired there. It felt strange having them so far away when I was used to seeing them on a weekly basis. My mother's health wasn't so good and she had in fact had 2 heart attacks since going to live abroad. My concern for her was never far from my thoughts.

My children were great, no problems there and my husband was supportive and totally engaged with his young family.

Of course life was demanding with such a young and robust family and like most mothers and wives I put their needs first, after that there was my husband and then next there was the house. Me......, well I tended to find time rather than make time.

Anyhow on visiting my doctor to obtain the required elixir, he quietly listened to me describe my symptoms after which he proceeded to explain to me that I didn't have a vitamin deficiency, but I was in fact depressed.

I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. Depressed. That wasn't a word that I associated with myself . And no thank you, I did not need the prescription he kindly wrote out for me. No way!

I decided I didn't want to be depressed and I wasn't going to be anymore. I wasn't going to take the ante-depressants he recommended at all. I got home and sat myself down. I confronted the diagnosis and thought well if I am depressed what is it that I am depressed about? Two things came to mind after some contemplation.

I was desperately worried about my mum. I didn't want her to die. She couldn't die. She was my mum. She was the centre of our family. Life would never be the same again. I remember being told that the third heart attack is always fatal and that sentence had lodged itself in my mind and spirit. I was so far away. What on earth could I do? My father was elderly also and what would happen if she became ill again and there was no one around. Would an ambulance get there in time? Would anyone be there to even call the ambulance? That plus a myriad of thoughts filled my mind daily. I felt so powerless. So far away. So helpless.

I didn't like the feeling of helplessness. That got to me more than anything. I always believe something can be done. I do not like playing the role of victim. I recognised I needed to change my perspective.

I realized I was also discouraged within myself as I had had no time to do any form of exercise as I normally did for several months and I was feeling the effects of that. I knew I had to change things. Instead of trying to find time to exercise I had to make time; make myself a priority and create the time. I needed to recognise that I mattered too. That I was "somebody" too. And life would still go on if I wasn't always at the beck and call of my family, the world would still keep turning. Things needed to change. I needed to change. Both my thoughts and my behaviour.

So I decided to take a proactive role when it came to my parents and to my mother in particular. We had a family meeting with my siblings and we came up with a care arrangement that satisfied everyone, including my mother who guarded her independence quite fiercely.

Then I joined the local gym and got myself there by hook or by crook 3 days per week, no mean feat with my family still needing my time and attention.

Two very simple steps but with outstanding results for me. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Slowly but surely, in a matter of days and weeks I felt better. I even looked better. I didn't carry a pertually pensive look on my face and I wasnt so absorbed in my thoughts as before. In fact, I began making plans for a holiday break, thought about changing my hair colour, all simple things but things that meant I was feeling positive, again. I also felt back in control. After all, I had done all in my ability to address the situation regarding my parents and I now had that essential "peace of mind" about my mum and my dad. Things were coming together. Life was moving onwards and upwards again. Seemingly miraculously the depression was gone. I hadn't even noticed it leave. It was a day by day thing. I just realized one day that I was actually feeling hopeful and excited about everything and was experiencing joy in my daily life and as I went about things generally.

I recognise and accept that I did not have severe or clinical depression. I understand my depression was mild to moderate and would be classed as situational depression.

I talk about this because someone reading may relate. You may not have gone to the doctor as I did and may not even realise you have depression. I didn't realise and would never have thought of myself as being depressed at the time.

One other thing I could have done was just talk. I am quite a private person and if I don't have something positive to say I would rather keep things to myself. This can work in a lot of other areas of life but in this area it didn't help.

It is good to talk. It's also good to write. To journal. To express through poetry. To write a diary. To get your thoughts out. A good friend at these times is invaluable. If you like a group approach speaking in a forum where it is confidential is also great. Sharing in your church women's groups or men's group can be good too. It can be particularly hard to open up about depression if you are a church member as you are supposed to be full of the joy of the Lord and aren't you rather letting the side down if you are full of sorrow and unexplained sadness instead?

Depression can be isolating at the very time you need companionship. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. The old cliche A Trouble Shared Is A Trouble Halved is true.

What does the song say, "Lean on me, when you're not strong, I'll be a friend, I'll help you carry on, For it wont be long til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on." 



If you are a person of faith and your faith is tested you can lean on someone. Two are better than one because when one falls down one can help the other up, says the book of Proverbs. Life is fluid. It doesn't stay static. Christians can be subject to sadness, anxiety or depression and its important that instead of denying it we address it and get the help we need. If you don't feel strong enough to do it by yourself, get help. Do what Fifi Geldof did and open up. Lighten the load. Help someone else by sharing your story. Talk to someone who is patient and has time. You can even comment on this blog post. You can email me (askpatricia@me.com). You will find, you are not alone going through this but many others can and will relate.

On this week's Real Love Show regular team member, Janet McNish was with me in her capacity as professional therapist and I know she can provide you with further help you should require. Find her at www.JanetMcNish.com