Tag Archives: Depression

Trapped……

6 Jun

‘I can ramble on endlessly about politics, religion, science, inequality, war and a hundred other things but the subject I find hardest to express is my own struggle with chronic depression and anxiety, predominantly because I can’t find the words and believe that only another sufferer can really understand……’

Depression has the outward appearance of ‘normality’. It doesn’t come with a plaster cast, visible scars or crutches; it is an invisible, insidious disease. This does not diminish its impact which can be just as debilitating as any physical illness……

Head_04I cannot tell you when I first became depressed, or why, but I live in what feels like a pinball machine being bounced from one crisis to another, all having an accumulative effect over my entire life and illness. Therein lies one of the problems with chronic depression because from an observer’s point of view they usually ask the same questions; why are you so unhappy and what would make you happy; both of which I can’t answer. I can tell you how it manifests but I cannot emphasise enough that this is after suffering for over 30 years. One distressing event in your life is usually surmountable; it’s when years of seemingly endless distress continues that the problem reaches epic scales.

Head_03Days vary; some are better than others but always with an underlying presence. One of depression’s most cruel and insidious effects are on sleep, or the lack of it. No matter what I try I find it impossible to establish a reasonable sleep pattern (even with prescription sleeping tablets). Chronic Insomnia on its own is known to dramatically affect your mood and your ability to concentrate. Added to an already deeply engrained depression insomnia becomes a double edged sword. When all you would rather do is sleep to escape the misery, insomnia puts the dampers on. So, not only can you not sleep but the time drags along making five minutes feel like an hour. I also suffer from sleep paralysis; a situation which occurs both when you fall asleep and wake up. It may only last for seconds and is a state of semi-consciousness where you are aware of not being fully asleep but cannot move. If combined with a nightmare or post-traumatic stress disorder it is truly terrifying fighting to escape to consciousness.

I have become so ill I contemplate suicide almost daily. It seems like the only way to escape from the prison inside your head. It also has a profound effect on your ability to function ‘normally’. I don’t eat properly, I get no exercise, I rarely leave my room and fear of the outside world can be paralysing. It’s not a secret amongst people who know me that I self-medicate, which is not uncommon, and is usually partly as a result of the medical establishment failing to deal with problems quickly and with the right choice of treatment; which is woefully inadequate. The upshot of the inadequate treatment of mental health issues is years of torment as you scream for help which never comes……

Early and appropriate intervention is fundamental for curing any illness; however, your overworkedHead_Pills_01 GP will simply reach for the prescription pad. There are dozens of anti-depressants and finding the one which may help you can take months. More often than not, once you’ve tried them and they don’t work you either continue to take whichever ‘lucky dip’ pills you’ve ended up on (usually the cheapest, not the best), or just give up altogether. Someone suffering from serious chronic depression is unlikely to enthusiastically keep returning to their GP to ask to try something new. The second and probably most important thing someone with depression needs is therapy. But this is a major problem; first of all you will wait months for an assessment. Then, if you’re lucky, you may be offered counselling; in my case four sessions. Four sessions with somebody you may not be comfortable to disclose your innermost traumatic childhood experiences with, and four hours is not sufficient to scratch the surface of 30 years of dysfunctional living, addiction, obsessive compulsive behaviours and despair. All of the time that passes so slowly only makes your situation worse and it becomes incredibly difficult to ever recover……

Head_01Although friends try to help nothing they say has much effect. The most annoying thing I’ve heard a hundred times is, “If you’ve reached rock bottom things can only get better”. Meant in good faith and from non-medical people the sentiment is appreciated but things do continue to get worse. Maybe there is a ‘rock bottom’ but for me things just get worse.

From my point of view the future isn’t something I look forward too. I see my situation as unchanging and a future in which things only appear more bleak the further away I dare to contemplate. I’m isolated, stuck in a challenging domestic situation, I feel I have no prospects of ever reaching the ‘aspirational’ trappings of success and feel that nothing will change, and I will become old, poor and lonely. In truth this will not happen because I will exercise the only control I feel I have left and which is guaranteed to end my daily inner distress; suicide. This isn’t a threat or a ‘cry for help’, it is a simple solution and when my choice will not affect the person I love, I will proceed with a sense of relief……

If there is any possibility that I can be ‘cured’ or at least feel that things were to improve, then I may re-evaluate my future but in the absence of long term, specialist intervention, I cannot envisage that future……

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When a Conversation Isn’t Enough……

14 Mar

‘Mental Health can have a devastating affect on sufferers.  A recent advertising campaign by time-to-change.org encourages people to ‘start a conversation, today’.  Although, this campaign has a value, it is not always straight forward and does not address some of the complicated issues that people suffering from mental health problems encounter……’

Lumps, Bumps and Behaviour……Scream_01

Mental health covers a wide and diverse spectrum of illnesses with an equally diverse range of effects upon those who suffer from it.  The medical profession, charged with diagnosing mental health conditions, have an expanding book of identifiable conditions from which to choose.  However, whereas many physical conditions often have a clearly identifiable abnormality, causing symptoms and correctable with surgery or pharmaceuticals, mental health conditions are often more subtle and rely on a patient’s behaviour to diagnose, often as a result of the answers they give to questionnaires, not that an underlying physical abnormality is absent, albeit harder to find without the advanced techniques of CAT or MRI scanning, more often than not discovered at a later stage when the symptoms persist and clinicians have failed to find a pharmaceutical solution.

Subtleties……

One of the problems with many of the common and, some no so common, mental health problems is the big variation in symptoms.  These can be attributed to other causes that are not exclusively the preserve of a mental health problem.  Even when several symptoms are taken in conjunction they do not necessarily indicate a mental health problem.  Therefore, diagnosis can take a long time, during which the sufferer may get worse.

Once a Cause is Identified……

The experience of each individual differs widely.   If you have an excellent GP who takes the time to listen to you, it doesn’t necessarily follow that further help will be available.  In the main your GP isn’t a specialist in mental health, so even if they correctly identify your problem their options are limited.  Depression is the most common diagnosis, although depression can be the result of suffering from other mental health conditions.  It invariably comes with some degree of anxiety attached.  If your GP chooses to address the problem themselves, you can be prescribed one of many different Anti-Depressants.  These come in many forms and often have the unhelpful side affect of increasing anxiety and, in the early stages have been shown to increase thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide and have many unpleasant side effects.  Any form of therapy is usually not offered even though most professional mental health advocates and practitioners would consider an element of therapy essential when dealing with depression and anxiety.

What is Depression……

And how can it affect sufferers?  ‘Depression’ is a widely used term and can cover a whole range of problems.  At the milder end of the spectrum it can be applied to somebody who may be under a lot of pressure from work, may have difficulty in sleeping and, for want of a better description, is feeling a little down.  At the other end of the spectrum it can be applied to somebody who idealises suicide, struggles to perform everyday tasks and experiences such chronic anxiety that they have overwhelming feelings of impending doom accompanied by the feeling that they are about to have a heart attack.  Two very different sets of experience with two very different outcomes for the patient.  Only a specialist in mental health is able to quantify the difference.  The problem can come from whether the patient is referred to the appropriate service.  With GPs time limited and the pressures placed on Community Mental Health Services, referrals can be subject to a ‘post-code’ lottery.

A Downward Spiral……

Scream_02If you suffer from depression everyday tasks become extremely difficult.  When faced with several things which need sorting out, sufferers can easily be overwhelmed and shut down under pressure.  This sort of situation is compounded by having to deal with the bureaucracy of government departments upon whom you are completely reliant for your income if you are unable to work due to your health.  The obstacles put in your way under the ever changing rules would challenge even the most intelligent and organised of people.  For someone suffering from mental ill health these can seem insurmountable, further compounding an already difficult situation.

Outcomes……

Feeling isolated, unable to cope with everyday life and perceiving the future only becoming worse, you can be driven to want it all to stop.  If this leads you to take the ultimate course of action and end your life all of the confusion, pain and inner turmoil will end.  If this was to happen and you end up laying on the coroner’s slab doubtless the cause of death will be registered as suicide.  There will be no mention of the circumstances that led to you being there; no mention of the fact that you have knocked on ever available door to tell someone just how bad things have become.  No mention of the pressure you have been put under by the bureaucracy who made your life a misery, jumping through hoops just to survive and no blame apportioned to the agencies who failed to recognise the seriousness of your situation.  Simply, suicide; an act carried out by you upon yourself by choice.  Choice that you feel you were denied whilst you were alive.

‘Start your conversation today’ is what the latest campaign tells you.  I started my conversation 20 years ago and, for the moment, I’m still talking although nobody seems to be listening……

Irony (and Quantum Theory)……

22 Jun

6.40am……

The irony of depression is that when all you want to do is sleep, you can’t.  Only for a couple of hours each night, max……

For me this is, like most of my life, an ironic contradiction.  I spend many long hours reading books or watching documentaries about Quantum Theory, Cosmology and big science stuff.  That, in turn, leads me to think very, very deeply about the nature of our existence, how and why it all works and other brain twisting stuff……

Thing is; the more you know, the less you understand.  As the world famous physics giant Richard Feyman, the father of Quantum Electro Dynamics once said; “Don’t try to understand it.  My Phd students don’t understand it.  I don’t understand it, nobody does”.  It doesn’t stop the questions from coming none the less.  Hurry up CERN, I need answers!  Something tells me I’ll only end up with more questions though?

If you’re a regular to the Dripping Tap you’ll no doubt know my feelings on life, death and the fine line between them.  It would be nice to have some reconciliation before crossing the line.  Strange how a lot of scientific geniusiz ended up in mental institutions of taking their own lives……

Happy Solstice for yesterday by the way (sorry I forgot).  Which in my world basically means it’s all down hill from here……

Chin up……