One of my favourite memories of childhood was when we used to get together at Christmas. One of the key traditions is to share some bread with one another and grant one another well wishes before the meal for the New Year. It’s times like these that you really appreciate what you have. You are grateful for family, life. You know full well that others may not have the same blessings and you don’t take it for granted.
About a month ago, I can honestly say that I was a different person to the one I am today. People change daily; they decide they don’t want to be in a relationship anymore, they want to change their job, they move to a new house. We are illusioned to believe that just our circumstances change but often we change with them.
I have recently had a change in circumstances but not one that I would consider to be of the positive kind. I realised I was suffering from depression.
Perhaps it sounds overly-dramatic when I say that it felt like someone had just flicked a switch in my head and BAM! There it was: Depression. But that is how it felt.
When I think about the qualities I had I would have described myself as someone that was sassy, fun, a bit of handful with her opinions but nevertheless I worked hard and I played hard with friends and family.
Weekends were spent hiking, walking the dog, going shopping, cooking and spending evenings with friends enjoying perhaps one glass of wine too many. Days were spent working hard at my high pressure job in the City. Earning money to go on exciting holidays, city breaks, booking that cottage for New Years Eve with my girlfriends.
Fast forward to the present day and I am an irrational, anxious, dangeous person to myself and to others around me. I’ve turned off my phone. I’ve cancelled any plans that I had. An upcoming holiday that I had been looking forward to now seemed like an actual nightmare of an idea. I am fearful and vulnerable.
Unfortunately I’ve never been a patient person. Perhaps that is why I fit in so seemingly nicely into the job I have in the City. I worked hard, harder than I probably should have at times. “Get this sorted now!” No problem. “Has the Client got back from the email you sent an hour ago?” I’ll chase them. “Sorry but you are going to have to stay late again tonight to sort this” I’ll cancel my plans. “I’m struggling I need help” I’ll fix it.
Yes yes yes yes yes. This is reality. We need to be flexible and eager to please to succeed. That goody- goody attitude I had a school; careful not to tread on any egg shells; has transferred itself over to my work life. I struggle to say no but more importantly I don’t want to say no. There is no such thing as boundaries. You just get on with it.
Depression overrides your ability to function in every day life. Critics might argue you are choosing to not get out of bed in the morning.; you are choosing to be ignorant and not talk to anyone and communicate effectively. But what happens when still do feel able to communicate just in relation to your illness?
Every day for the past couple of weeks I have called the Samaritans free phone line to speak to someone. Some days I have called twice a day and spent consecutively an hour per conversation pouring out my heart to a volunteer. I am in awe of their ability to listen, to prompt me to continue in my story, to encourage me to call back despite taking up an hour of their time. These people are like gold dust. They have good kind hearts, they are not selfish. The are listeners and listeners alone but they seem to be the most effective and relative source of support above anything else.
When I walked into my doctor’s surgery a week ago in the walk in, I felt uncomfortable. Not only did I make it clear how low I was feeling, in no short space of time they jumped on the opportunity to provide me with medication- something that I have tried before and am strongly against. I had the most adverse reactions, but also the dangerous thought of having access to these subscriptions pills in their numbers whilst I was so low was damaging to my self control. I was capable of doing harm to myself. “Unfortunately there is really nothing else we can suggest at this point other than the contact number for local counselling service.
I haven’t named the counselling service as my aim is not to come onto a blog and rant about a service that does inevitably help people with depression- I am simple outlining my personal experience. How it works is that you call a number and state you would like to access the service. You are then given an appointment time and date for one of the counselors to call you back and carry out an assessment. This can take up to two weeks and is often provided during the lunchtime period (or so this is the time that was allocated to me on two occasions- assuming this is when counselors break from sessions).
After an assessment has been carried out this then puts you on the waiting list. The first time I reached out to the service I received my first appointment within a month and half. The problem with this is that the appointments are often carried out during the day time. Earliest 08:00am and latest approximately 17:00pm. My point is- the process is lengthly and exhausting.
For someone who knows that they can benefit from speaking with someone and wants to reach out to get help- this is frustrating and a waiting game. Moreover when you receive confirmation of an appointment- you find yourself in the predicament that it conflicts with work commitments and the whole saga of having to explain a weekly appointment to your superior/HR. Quite frankly “Sorry, I’m actually verging on the edge of having a complete mental breakdown- I need an hour off every week from work to make my appointment” doesn’t really make for an appetizing discussion. This in itself makes me anxious.
After the last time I came back to my doctor’s for a follow up appointment- I spoke to her about this. “Yes” she agreed. “I will admit that the service is not necessarily user friendly when it comes to people that work full time.” This stuck with me for a long time afterwards. Ultimately it felt like you had to borderline decide if you wanted to work or if you wanted to receive treatment for free and this is something I still struggle to understand. It brought me back to think of all the kind Samaritans I had spoken to recently and how it was possible that they were available to speak with on a rolling basis and yet when it came to providing treatment this was a whole different kettle of fish.
Perhaps I am naive in my approach- of course I understand that treatment costs and accompanying that, the number of individuals that suffer from depression is constantly increasing. Despite this, I still feel silent fury and despair for other sufferers and indeed for myself when I think that this is the reality of what we have to contend with when trying to combat our inner demons.
I’d love to one day be in a healthy state of mind and somehow provide a service similar to Samaritans whereby people can come in for a cup of tea and a chat when they are feeling really down, just to be able to speak with like minded people that have suffered themselves and can relate to the daily struggles that prevent them from living fulfilled lives- in the meantime perhaps starting and writing this blog will help me concentrate on moving forward.