10 October 2014

Owning my depression - World Mental Health Day

A couple of months ago, I cried for almost five days straight.  I cried.  And cried. And cried.  In the morning, during the day as I sat at my computer, through the evening TV and into the night.  I cried.

On about day 2, I thought I'd try and talk to somebody when they happened to call one morning and after I tried to explain how I was feeling they said "Well if you're just sitting on the couch feeling miserable that's not going to help anything."


And that was it.  I didn't bring it up again.  Depression, or as I tend to refer to it "the blues" (because deep down I think I'm Elton John), isn't feeling fucking miserable.  It's not like I turn my face to the sun and oh look at that my soul destroying blanket of blah has lifted.  It's not like the crying for five days was the whole episode, just part of a particular shitty bout of depression where it was definitely winning for a while.

'The blues' come and go - yes.  Now that I know that I need to be more vigilant than some - I work hard at keeping myself in a good place - I keep positive company and avoid people that aren't good for me, I eat, I drink, I laugh, I talk about my feelings, I take anti-depressants and I have a hugely supportive partner who gets on with the business of being supportive.

Until I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and PTSD, well actually, when I accepted the diagnosis of post-natal depression and PTSD (the dates do not coincide because people like me don't get depression), I had had bouts of the blues all my life.  I just thought I was shit at life.  The self harm as a teenager, the tendency to self destructive behaviour in my mid 20s, the bits where life seemed all too much and I'd be better off gone, they were part and parcel of being me and because I couldn't articulate the darkness nor did I understand where it came from, it was better off ignored as far as I was concerned.  I sure as fuck didn't talk about it.

The great thing about post natal depression vs regular depression is that it's socially acceptable.  Once I started banging on about having PND, the amount of friends I found who had suffered depression even just as a once off was startling.  I wasn't shit at life - my brain was just a bit fucked up and took the whole life thing too seriously.  I was living in a state of high alert, raised emotions, naked sensation all the time.  So periodically, it's knickers got twisted.

It wasn't until I had PND and gave some serious thought to injuring myself badly enough that I could step out of life for a while, perhaps permanently, and I spent a fair bit of time in genuine distress one week because my daughter was about to grow up motherless that I went back to the doctor and said "perhaps there is something in this diagnosis of which you speak'.

Therapy my friends is the bomb.  You should all do it.  A good clinical psychologist will literally change your world.  I love mine so much I wrote a testimonial and told her to use both my first and second name and give my number out to people if they wanted a verbal reference.

She didn't heal me.  She doesn't conveniently give me somebody to blame.  She doesn't insist on my wearing black and spending my life hovered funereally in the corner.  She gets that depression for me is something I'd still rather ignore but I am keen to sort it out.  So I work with her, she works with me and I keep banging on about it so that people talk about it.  I might get better at managing my brain but I have to accept I live with depression.  Not always do we sleep together, but we're familiar.

There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in a mental illness - I get that now.  My extended family has an award winning collection of schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, brain injury, OCD and a healthy smattering of general arse-hats as well.  And the only ones that I try to avoid are the arse-hats.   My friendship circles full of people who 'have a mental illness' or 'have had a mental illness' or flat out lost the battle with 'mental illness'.  And that sucks most of all.

So, it's not a pretty subject.  It's not a sexy subject.  For some it's not ongoing. For some it's periodic and for some it's a battle they fight every single day.  So even if you don't get it - be kind.  Be there.

And if you can't be kind - get off the internet, got to bed and work on improving that tomorrow.

In the meantime - own that baby people.  My name is Alison and I am not Elton John.  But for some reason - I still call them 'the blues'.

And remember if you need to talk to somebody call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Because they are lovely and helpful and they do get it. They really do.

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