Depression; a postscript

Wow. I didn’t expect anything like the responses I had to my last post. I want to explain some things.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in late 2000-early 2001. I didn’t go to the doctor looking for a diagnosis, the doctor just started asking questions. I’d had a breakdown a couple of years earlier, and never “dealt” with it. I was put on anti-depressants, and went off them six months later, against doctor’s orders.

I had another breakdown in the middle of 2006. I was in a high-stress job, and eventually came apart at the seams. I was put on anti-depressants again, which I ceased taking on Good Friday this year. While they helped me get sorted out again, for me the side effects were ultimately worse than the cure.

One of the comments claimed that depression is a ‘modern invention’. There’s an element of truth to what he’s saying, but it’s wrapped in a attitude that’s the kind of response (in my experience) that causes many mentally ill people keep their mouths shut and “deal with it” in silence. 

I don’t shirk my responsibilities. I’ve been employed since I left high school. I’m raising a family, mindful that my attitudes and response to this illness have had an effect, and will have an effect on my children. Mindful of a family history of depression.

My grandfather drank himself to death. My grandmother was on lithium for part of her life. My cousin blew his brains out. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic who dried out in his seventies. I had a shrink once describe it to me as “you lost the genetic lotto”.

Please understand why I wrote that post. I’m don’t want your pity, and I’m not a hero. I’m just a guy, trying to live my life and raise my family. My younger brother is extremely visually impaired; to me he’s a hero for just living through what he’s had to live through, and still keeping a cheesy grin on his face.

I wrote that post because I was finally able to put into words what has been rolling around inside my head for ages, trying to come out. I wanted something to be able to point people to if they ask what it’s like to live with depression, to explain what it’s like from the inside.

I’m not sitting on my couch waiting to die, crying into my cornflakes “woe is me”. I’m trying to live. To appreciate my life, and the blessings I have. I have an illness that won’t go away through wishful thinking, or just “deciding to stop”. However, there are things I can do to deal with the blackest days and that is what I choose to do. Some days I succeed, some days I fail.

But please, please, PLEASE – don’t use my post as an excuse to sit on your couch, crying into YOUR cornflakes. If you’re in a situation to read these posts, you’re likely to be financially in the top 20% of the world population. You ARE blessed. Live life. Don’t let it just wash over you.

It’s hard; I understand just how hard it can be. Maybe you’re like me and “lost the genetic lotto”. Maybe you suffered through experiences that have caused your brain to break. Maybe you’ve been pushed (or pushed yourself) to the edge, and then went over.

In 2008, you don’t have an excuse to suffer in silence, or feel sorry for yourself over your illness. Get help. Talk to people. Look after yourself, and take responsibility for dealing with your illness. In my experience, people are a lot more likely to be willing to look out for you if you’re being proactive about dealing with it.

Be gentle with yourself, allow for the fact that you’ll have black days. But remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and however briefly you pass into that light, and you may enter a tunnel again, that light is unlikely to be an oncoming train.

pps. 23rd Sept.

One more thing. Get out there and start creating. Write, paint, sing, just start something. I can only speak from my experience, but of the people I’ve met who suffer depression, there seems to be a much higher percentage of them that have incredible creative talents. Almost like the other side of the coin. I don’t know, I only have circumstantial evidence, and it might even warrant another post.

It seems to me that creating stuff (particularly stuff that’s not focussed on depression) seems to provide an outlet for something buried inside. Maybe I do need to write another post 🙂

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