Depression, First Attempt
OK, so here goes, the inevitable depression post. My thoughts and experiences, feel free to disagree and if you take offence then that's OK, drop me a line and I hope that we can still be friends.
I've been a depressive for 15 years now. That's quite a big thing to admit to. Still. In this day and age. With soooo many people suffering, and yes I mean suffering, with the condition. It's still a taboo, not something you'd own up to on a job application if you didn't have to and very much one of those tricky little "hidden" conditions. Like arthritis, MS, or actually liking Love Actually.
I am not a medical specialist. I do a lot of people watching. I have come to the conclusion that depression, largely speaking comes in 3 flavours.
1 - Something bad happens in your life, you move away to Uni and don't fit in, feel lonely etc, break up with a significant other, something crap at work, that sort of stuff. You are probably put on anti depressants because that's what tends to be suggested by GPs, you eventually fix the thing that is making you feel down, change Uni/ make friends, meet someone that makes you happy, crap thing at work changes, life is good again, no 1 depression fixed.
2 - You are genetically a dormant depressive, waiting for an event/ string of events to trigger that dormant gene. Not something as suggested above but a bigger, more life changing event or events. Family member death is a good one.
3 - You and depression are completely symbiotic and you have lived with it since you were born, it will be as much a part of you as which hand you write with, the colour of your eyes or the sound of your voice. You'll spend your whole life under going various treatments, electro shock therapy or what ever they call it these days being one of them.
With a terrifying 70% of creative people suffering from depression and at least 90% of my friends being creative brain people it comes as no surprise that I know all 3 types of depressive. I've had a few ex students fall into 1, I've been able to offer some advice and my own experiences, hopefully it's helped a bit and they generally get themselves sorted out before too long. A friend is a no 3. I don't know how she gets through her week, it genuinely baffles me. I don't see her often, she's the other half of an old friend and I've never really talked about depression with her. I probably should. Maybe she doesn't want to. I should probably ask.
I am firmly a no 2, so to speak. I had 26 and a bit years of always being the one with the dark sense of humour, a quip or a come back slightly more barbed than most, was described as a dark horse once or twice, didn't always feel like I had to say much, tended to listen and observe in situations with new people rather than rabbit on to fill space. I now know that this was me being a dormant depressive and it shaped my personality hugely. I have a short but sweet description of depression to those that don't live with the condition, and believe me if you don't suffer with depression you can't really know what it's about. So here it is, Papa Bear's amazing description of being a depressive.
"Depression is not about being sad, it's about not being able to be happy."
I'll let that sink in for a second. That's quite a massive difference if you think about.
In the summer of my 26th year my dad boarded the loft in the family home. Directly after this he was getting terrible pain in his neck and headaches, his GP said that it was a trapped nerve from the manual work that he'd just done, take over the counter headache tablets until it clears up. 6 weeks later, with him still in lots of pain he had a fit, was rushed into hospital and it became clear pretty quickly that "trapped nerve" was cancer and he had been told to treat a head full of tumours with Neurofen. The biggest tumour had grown to a size where it was pushing against the inside of his skull, causing the pain and over that 6 week period had grown significantly enough to push into the brain, causing the fit. These were all secondary tumours, the main cause was lung cancer and he had secondary cancers in everything major between his brain and his liver. They gave him 6 months, he lasted 4 and died shortly before Christmas. Unsurprisingly this was my trigger and I have been dealing with my depression ever since.
Your suffering as a depressive is very real and can consume you. I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing the no 1s as some sort of tourist depression because I know that for that person at the time it will feel like the most difficult thing in the world. No 1s take their own lives. That isn't something done lightly.
So my experiences with depression, what can I tell you about it? It's with me every day. Even on the best of days it's still there. It's often referred to as "The Black Dog", "Dark Passenger, that sort of thing. I don't think I've ever needed to label it as such but it's always there. On a good day you get along together pretty well, Papa Bear does the driving and Depression comes along for the ride. It often wants an ice cream, I tend to keep it happy. And there are days where the sheer physical weight of feeling so low, worthless, completely without purpose or aim, a burden on those that love you etc etc makes you not want to get off the sofa all day. And then there's the darker stuff. We'll talk about that another time.
I have never liked the term "mental health". I don't consider myself to have a mental condition and can't imagine a time when I will. Depression is as much physical as it is in side your head. My pain levels are noticeably worse when my mood is low. My energy levels drop massively, I look even worse than usual etc etc. That's as much a physical thing as it is a mental issue.
I don't really feel like this post has done what I set out to do, it's taken two sittings, a day apart to not be happy with what's on the page so I'll put it out there and hopefully I'll come back to this subject. Depression, no 2 if you will.......