Depression – a Survivor’s Guide

Depression- a survivor’s story (trigger warning-contains uncomfortable themes)

Is it a bit dramatic to say ‘A survivor’s story?’ I don’t think it is, because depression is awful. And this is my story.

I had depression in 1998, 21 years ago. It was the full-blown sort, not low mood, not anxiety, not too much worry, but the whole shooting match.

You see, when you have it, you can’t rationalise your way out of it, because your mind isn’t working properly. With some therapies, you can step outside of yourself, look at the bigger picture, and try to re-examine your beliefs. That’s because your problem is just a part of you, it’s not all of who you are.

But with depression it is like your brain has been filled with black ink that has seeped into every part of you. It’s like a contamination or pollution of your mind. The most awful thing is what it does to your future.

You see, most of us when we look back at the past and into the future, we can see things in the future we are going to do, things to look forward to, goals we are trying to achieve and so on. Depression removes that. There is no future. Just a big black hole where it used to be.

And then when we look to the past for comfort, depression clouds that too, it twists events around, hides some, magnifies others.

So if you wonder why people who are depressed commit suicide, it’s because they see no future. Nothing.

Now add to that the medication you are given. Medication is pretty much essential, but it has side-effects. For a lucky few those side effects are minimal, but for some they are horrible. So instead of feeling better, for a time you will feel worse.

At the time I remember going to see the nurse at my surgery once a week. She would chat to me and reassure me that in time all would be well. She was right, but at the time I didn’t believe her. I can remember the day I thought I would find a comedy video and watch that to cheer myself up. I cried. All I could see were people being horrible to each other, people who were unhappy. I didn’t know why the audience was laughing.

But over time, thanks to the support of my wife and family and thanks to the nurse and the pills, I started to feel a little better, so I decided to watch a Billy Connolly video. I cried again, but with laughter this time, and I knew then that all would be well.

Now the short-term causes were simply pressures of work. I was working 70+ hours a week for a boss who didn’t care and who refused to offer any support when I asked for it. He didn’t believe in sickness absence, to him, anyone on the sick was deliberately doing it to upset him.

I remember the weeks before I went sick, I was driving up the motorway every day and trying to work out how I could have an accident without hurting myself too much, so that I could get away from work. The tipping point came one day when my wife told me I was sleep walking. I went to the doctor who took my blood pressure and told me to stop working immediately or I was going to drop dead. And that’s when the whole thing hit me like a steam train.

Depression is serious. It can kill you. It can’t be cured by thinking positive thoughts or going for a walk in the country. You need a lot of support. But you come out the other side. And my experience fuelled my career into working in HR and Training, and led me into my work as a therapist.

I survived, so can you.

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