“Never tell anyone that you’re depressed, especially the doctor. It will go on your record, you’ll never get a job & it will be used against you.”
The antiquated unwise words of my mother years ago when I was in my teens.
A generation of stiff upper lipped misinformants has created a generation of people who just do not talk about the really hard stuff. It is as if they truly believe that sweeping it under the carpet actually works! Thankfully a new, enlightened & courageous generation is making this mental illness/ well-being/ depression thing a very hot topic right now.
I reckon she would undoubtedly deny it but I am fairly certain that my mother was depressed; she may well still be but as things stand today I have no idea whether my mother is alive or dead (or my father for that matter). I also have absolutely no anxiety or sadness about a single bit of that situation, although I did once.
In my blog post “Timshel”, I wrote about a few things in my past that I found extremely difficult to deal with but I now feel reconciled with those situations. I sought & found effective ways of dealing with them.
A bit like cancer, depression can strike anyone anywhere & at anytime. It is a serious medical condition; it is not a weakness. If I broke my leg I would seek medical help to get it fixed. If I tried to ignore the break then my leg would get worse or perhaps heal in the wrong way. The same applies to my mind. I know that it is not the case for everyone & I know that it is all relative.
This is my take on how depression affects me; why I have it (that might already be fairly obvious) & what I am trying to do to deal with it.
Six years ago after a lot of the proverbial hit the fan I went to get some help from my GP. I was referred to see a counsellor for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I was thirty-nine. I cannot paint the entire background here but much of the thirty something years prior to me taking this step had been fairly eventful & it took a long time for me to realise that I just could not do it anymore.
The CBT helped but I was also affected by anxiety & no matter what I tried, it was taking over. I think I am fairly mindful (some may disagree), this is my fifteenth blog post so if you don’t already know me personally then I guess you can make up your own minds. I tried pretty much everything to deal with the anxiety & was eventually prescribed a very low dose of the antidepressant Citalopram. Initially I felt disappointed with myself, I felt that I should have been stronger & that I had always managed to deal with difficult situations without needing medication. Almost as soon as I had that thought I realised that the opposite was true. I was doing something to help myself & in turn I was also helping my family & friends; I felt that I had become difficult to know.
I look back on that time in my life but I do not see that I was depressed; I see that I had to deal with my own challenging thought processes & therefore work my way around the situation in a way that suited me. Talking about it made life so much more real & brought about so much perspective. We each carry our own set of demons but not all of us face them; we do not always know how.
Almost fifteen months ago we heard the words “Dylan has cancer” & as you will have realised life ceased as we knew it & became a living nightmare.
In past experiences I have been able to make choices about how to respond or deal with difficult situations but this feels different. I know that I am choosing to try to deal with this in a certain way but in reality I can do nothing, I can change nothing & I feel so incredibly helpless.
I know that my perspective has changed, I know that I try to see positives come from such an horrific situation but the truth is that there is not one good thing about your child having cancer. I talk about how this experience has humbled me & it genuinely has. But honestly? It is utterly, heartbreakingly depressing.
It has altered everything.
It was not until Dylan started his maintenance treatment in July last year that I realised that the wheels were falling off. Having valiantly steered our way through the most horrendous six months of our lives I suddenly just felt as though I was losing it. Dylan’s intensive treatment slowed down a bit & he was in hospital less which meant that I was at home with him on my own for most of the time as he was too ill to go to school.
My mind would not stop. I did not want to see my closest friends; I chose not to go to my best friend’s birthday party because I knew I could not talk without crying, I could not look anyone in the eye. I just thought about losing Dylan all of the time. My mind was pitch black, there was quite literally only darkness & it was petrifying.
So much has changed within me because of Dylan’s cancer diagnosis & there are now bits of me that I do not recognise; it is just that I am so altered I often find it difficult to identify who I am. I make such an effort to take the attitude that I have; the energy required to stay present & not drift into my thoughts or to not get lost in another world thinking about another life is mentally exhausting. Memories of what once was are so hard but they do not disappear; if anything they are more vivid.
I realised very quickly that I was struggling & simultaneously went to see the doctor & to see a counsellor. The doctor increased my dose of Citalopram & the first counsellor I went to see was a very nice lady but I had taken her a fairly large problem & I felt that she may not have had that many discussions with the mother of a child with cancer. Luckily I was then able to get an appointment with the children’s oncology clinical psychologist; it is her job to talk to the parents & families of children with cancer (can you imagine doing that job?). It did help but as I was numbly & matter-of-factly recounting the history of Dylan’s cancer all I could think was “Siobhan, this is not going to work”.
I believe that it has to be me that mends my mind but I cannot mend my mind without that little white tablet. It is so surreal, on the very rare occasion that I have forgotten to take that tablet I can feel a change.
I am concerned about some side effects; I basically just do not cry & I genuinely have no idea if I can cry anymore or not. I feel blunted in some respects but I am learning to get to know myself again. Sometimes I do not know if they help me be who I am or stop me from being who I am but I know that when I take them it is slightly easier to see in the indefinite darkness. I just cannot quite work out whether I am pretending to be me or if this is actually me, such is the uneasy feeling of complete detachment.
I am concerned that I do not always believe what I am saying. I have written about trying to be mindful & now I am writing about depression. It feels like such a juxtaposition in my head because most of the time all I really want to do is tell everyone where to go but I cannot because despite that being how I feel, it is not actually how I wish to behave. Can you see the problem? It’s that “tightrope” thing again.
Just writing about it is confusing but also not confusing. It feels like it takes so much effort for me to be me.
I cannot put into words the sorrow that is in my heart & in my head…it is so heavy, it never lifts & there is not one person or one single thing that will ever make it change.
This life, this altered state; I am just not ready. It is depressing.
“Depression” is a word that is often banded about too easily. It is in fact a terrible & often debilitating illness.
Do not use the word “depression” lightly but please I beg you, do not sweep it under the carpet.