Mental illness is such a taboo subject, it is no wonder that so many suffer in silence. Too many people misunderstand depression, thinking it is just about feeling a bit down and you can snap yourself out of it. Or worse, people ask what you have to be depressed about when you have a good life, good job, good anything. Didn’t the recent loss of Robin Williams teach people anything?
Depression is not a choice. In my case it is a chemically triggered imbalance. It’s like I tried so hard to juggle so many balls of glass that the fear of dropping one resulted in a short circuit of kinds. And that was that; my brain said “enough is enough” and is now closed for normal service.
This week, however, I learned a valuable lesson. I decided to be open and honest about my feelings, to take a chance on people who I felt might be good enough people to just get it. With a massive project to deliver at work (in record time now that I have an unexpected bundle of, erm, joy to contend with) it was like I was standing at the foot of Everest with a broken leg. I talked to one of my work colleagues about the panic I was feeling and the fear that I wouldn’t be able deliver; that I’d end up being one great big disappointment. I explained that everytime I tried to concentrate on what I had to do I was plagued by anxiety that stepped in my path. Sounds of the workplace that I’ve been familiar with for 15 years were driving me crazy. Even in the refuge of a meeting room the air conditioning system mocked me from above. The music I put on to drown out the mocking just annoyed me and I wanted to scream! I told her I’ve been referred for cognitive behavioural therapy and I am taking anti-depressants. She asked me what plans I had for tomorrow (which was today) and I said I had a free day but was going to be busy trying to work through my plan of attack. Within minutes she had sent me an invitation for the whole day to help me get back on track. She said “you CAN do this, and I’m going to help you” and today she did just that. I achieved more today than I have in a while, and I am so grateful to her for her understanding, help and support. And I’m glad I took the risk – because it turns out I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I don’t underestimate how hard it can be to talk about your deepest, darkest thoughts. Christ, sometimes I play back the thoughts I’ve had in a day and wonder how I managed to escape being committed. I”ll share some of those thoughts with you over the coming weeks – I am not afraid of being judged anymore. I am a bit of a talker (I expect you’ve worked that out already), so I do benefit from talking things through with someone. When I suffered with post-natal depression a number of years ago, I couldn’t speak to anyone. That illness stole 3 years from my life, and 3 years of love from my daughter. I will not let this illness take any more of me.
I have my first CBT session tomorrow morning – wish me luck! Will tell you all about it tomorrow.