Author: Sarah B
If I’d Known Then What I Know Now…
When I first decided to start blogging about my experiences with depression over the summer last year I didn’t know just how many people had already had the exact same idea. There are literally thousands of people blogging about depression. Perhaps more. A Google search for ‘depression blogs’ turns up 85,600,000 results.
When I first noticed this I was a bit disheartened. I questioned whether there was any point in continuing to document my struggles when so many other people had put the same stories out there already. I was concerned that it would be difficult to find an audience for my writing with such a massive audience of already established ‘competition’.
This lasted for about an hour and half. Until I realised what a wonderful thing it was that there is such a proliferation of information, commentary, and writing about depression. You see, I’ve had depression for nearly twenty years now, and yet for about half that time I had no idea that there was a thing. I’d obviously familiar with the idea of being depressed, in the way that everybody is occasionally, but I had absolutely no idea that depression was the name of an illness as well.
Even when I did become aware of it took me about five years to really make to the connection between that and what I had.
Which seems completely ridiculous now.
It’s not normal for a person to spend days and weeks on end being unable to get out of bed, as I did at university. To lose all enthusiasm for working, or socialising, or even living. To spend months alternating between crying any time you’re alone, including alone on crowded buses, because your soul hurts so much that it feels like you’re dying, and feeling absolutely nothing at all, just pure unpunctuated emptiness. To be texting a suicide help line upwards of a dozen times a day because you just don’t feel like you’re coping with living.
Of course there had to be something wrong with me.
But when I mentioned that I thought I might have depression to my boyfriend he said that he didn’t believe it was really a thing. My housemates told me that I wasn’t depressed I just hated my life. And my GP just told me that the pill just makes some women really emotional and I perhaps should consider not taking it any more.
And I’d been this way for so long that I didn’t really have all that much to compare it to, so I thought maybe it was just me. Maybe I was just lazy, and anti-social, and unmotivated.
Except that in one of the much rarer periods when my brain felt clearer I’d worked hard enough to get a clean sweep of full marks in exams I’d only had two months to study for because of physical health problems. I’d taken off to five different continents on a whim because I’d got ideas in my head that I should go off and have some adventures. And while they may have been only brief I knew there had been periods when I’d been quite the social butterfly.
But I muddled on, all the while secretly nursing the hope that I might get lucky and die young.
The depression did lift for while, the year after I started working, but the cloud soon came back again.
Fast forward five years. The boyfriend and the housemates were long gone. A friend decides to sit me down and explain that I’m hard work, difficult to get to know and hardly ever happy. She thought that I should go and see somebody about it.
So I rang the employee assistance line counselling thing they were always advertising at work. Because it was free, and being over the phone it meant I didn’t have to look at the person I was talking to.
The lady on the other end was very matter of fact about telling me that I had major depressive disorder, amongst other things, and that she thought that this has started when I was about eight years old. She told me to make an appointment with my doctor as soon as possible and get them to sort me out some medication and some therapy.
So that’s what I did. The therapy was completely useless, but the medication has been nothing short of a miracle. I’m not ‘cured’ by any means but my quality of life is now immeasurably better. And the relief of knowing that there’s something wrong with me, rather then me being the thing that was wrong, is indescribable.
Now if only blogging had been a thing when I was fifteen, and I’d learned about depression sooner, how different things could have been.
It’s a manic world.