coming to terms with diagnosis

‘Hey look I’m really sorry, I couldn’t make it to yr party. I know it looks like I’m gonna cry, got this to do list behind my eyes. Go tell yr friends I’m still a feminist, but I won’t be coming to yr benefit. I give up, I’ll be at home today’
Le Tigre, Much Finer

I’ve been dealing with depression for most of my adult life: my black dog, my darkness: I use euphemisms to try and explain it, negate it, or transform it into something other people can understand.

It is not constant. It waxes and wanes. Re-emerges in different forms: from the initial eating disorder which sent lights flashing in the gps eyes but was probably just a stage I was going through, to the persistent crying in my final year of uni when I drank far too much, far too often and kept injuring myself on nights out, or the 6 week period of insomnia I went through as an adult which was the warning sign for the breakdown of the long term relationship I was in and a greater depression I’m still emerging from. Its triggered by stress, change and uncertainty. But after a while you come to realise: these are symptomatic mutations of an underlying condition. For me that condition is clinical depression.

It was a huge thing when I was told that now, because of the length and nature of my symptoms, under the DDA I am classed as having a disability. That’s a big thing to take in for someone who always laughed it off, never took such things seriously herself, never mind expecting others to do the same.

Because I am (and hopefully always will be) high functioning. What this basically means is despite the problems depression brings for the most part I can hold down a job, romantic relationships (er), and close friendships.

The diagnosis was a kick up the arse. On one hand I didn’t especially like it and on the other it was a kind of confirmation of a problem I know I have, but really have never understood or accepted.

It made me do what I should have done a long time ago: I started taking it seriously. Starting with indepth research of my condition and treatments. Like most people SSRI’s are a crutch (and a bloody vital one) which take the hard edge off of living a depressive episode. But they don’t really fix anything. Looking at patterns in my thoughts and behaviors and realizing that they fitted; pretty much point by point: into a text book case of depression, was actually really helpful. It started to shed light on some of the irrational thought patterns which fire off in my head which were previously never really conscious. Stuff like speaking to a friend who is in a bad mood and assuming its something you’ve done to them which is making them pissed off and then being racked with guilt about it, or not being able to articulate when someone does something to hurt you, because your so scared that it’ll make them reject you, because they probably never really liked you in the first place, because why would you, yr a waste of space right? Or dismissing any of yr achievements as worthless cuz of the one tiny thing you could have done better. It is *hard*. It is hard to own up to, it is hard to make any progress on.

It also made me realise there were some people I couldn’t have in my life any more. Who for whatever reason actually liked the insecure, self hating Rachel and actively encouraged me to be this way. Only a couple, but I don’t break friendships easy; and it was a massive step for me to move myself away from these damaging relationships.

And that’s kind of it. After the ‘revelation’: ‘yeah I probably do suffer from depression’, comes the hard work of owning then challenging harmful thoughts. Its like anything else worth fighting for: slow and hard work. And sometimes when it is a fucking achievement to get out of bed, its not something I have energy for. But then this just becomes something else I can beat myself up about and I’m trying to move away from that. So I’m slowly chipping away, like with my writing, trying not to judge, trying my best, not comparing myself to others. And just really: starting to learn that I’m ok. Really I am. I’m doing alright.

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About Rachel

zinester/diy-til-i-die/love hate relationship with arts admin/girlpunkfeminist/geek
This entry was posted in mental health, new stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to coming to terms with diagnosis

  1. Kerry says:

    Thanks for that brilliant post.
    Something that absolutely helped me was this book.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindful-Way-Through-Depression-Unhappiness/dp/1593851286

    It’s my desert island book and every time I return to it, it helps in some way. It sounds as if you’re doing a lot of similar work on your own so this book might support all the progress you’re making.

    Keep on keeping on! And thanks again for the great post.

    Cheers!

  2. Maria says:

    So much in here that, hideous as it is to deal with, is totally (statistically, maybe?) ‘normal’. Wonderful, honest, inspiring writing. Thank you.

  3. Mikey B says:

    A great post. It’s a brave thing to write openly about mental illness. It remains a much misundertsood condition and one of the few taboo subjects we have left in this wierd anything-goes society.

    Your description sounds similar to mine http://cabbagesandkings1.blogspot.com/2009/05/personal.html which shocked some friends and some of my family, Mum too. I found it wonderfully cathartic and marked a turning point for me.

    Go for it. Live, love laugh. It’s the only way. The best way.

  4. Dave J says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderfully honest piece of writing, which has prompted me to do something about my depression. The negative thought patterns you describe are so similar to mine that I had to recognise that I had a similar condition, and needed professional help..

    It wasn’t easy summoning up the courage to ask for help. I thought that I might have a hard time persuading my doctor that anything was really wrong, which was in itself probably the depression talking. In fact, he listened sympathetically, gave me the standard NHS questionnaire which confirmed moderate to severe depression, and then prescribed SSRs.

    As you rightly say, they’re only a crutch, but they might just help me to get moving again. I have named the problem and tried to do something about it, and thank you for helping me to do that. I shall keep taking the tablets. I’ll also keep rehearsing for the fabulously silly stage show I signed up for last night – doing stuff like that is definitely therapeutic too!

  5. anonymous says:

    these are times I wish I had a laptop having written a long reply to this only to find my credit had ran out on my mobile so could not post. I wanted to say I relate a lot to some of the things written above and its really made me feel something, im not sure what exactly but its made me feel and I spend most of my time trying not to feel. I have a serious depressive and anxiety disorder and I have never told anyone. One because I think they wont believe me as to how serious it is and second I think they will hate me for it. I sometimes feel im the only person going thru this and most days believe im a complete failure. The condition has left me not having a single friend and whilst I can talk to many people and pretend to be happy and bubbly on the outside some of the time I would say Im not close to anyone. Other days making a cup of tea can be like lifting weights. Im now in long term therapy which I think has made me cope around one percent better although my therapist says im being too harsh. I try to support others with mental illness as my mum and an old uni colleague are both sufferers but I know I have to go thru my own problems in secret and on my own. I told a work colleague I was lonely last week. The first time I was able to say it. They didnt believe me. They said there is no way that could be true as im such a chatty bubbly person. They dismissed it as nothing but maybe attention seeking. This is the first time ive been so honest outside of a hospital room.

    • Hey,

      Thank you so much for your honesty, I know how hard it can be.

      I kinda thought that I wouldn’t reply to comments on this post; just because outside the article I didn’t really feel qualified to be given people advice or whatever, other than just sharing my experience…ways of coping with and treating mental health issues are so diverse; as diverse as the individuals experiencing them; and sometimes I really do think gp’s have an unworkable job ahead of them. But I really wanted to respond to this somehow.

      I think, even if you don’t feel ready to talk to other people about what’s going on for you (and i’m not going to lie I’d love to be able to do this much more than I do; you’re really not alone in putting on a front) but actually admitting it to yourself is a really massive thing in itself (this also took me a while; not even sure i’m there yet!). The internet is actually pretty good for this; if yr on twitter @mindinflux @MarkOneinFour are good sources of info/community.

      I think ultimately honesty can be really good for lifting some of the weight, I wish I could promise you that everyone would understand, but I know in my heart that’s not totally true. But there are people out there who have experienced very similar things and do understand (I think about the whole ‘depression is more common than you think’ thing; that 1 in 4 suffer). And they are perhaps feeling as isolated and alone.

      I’m not sure if that’s comforting or not! but I think in these first wobbly steps we can begin to start challenging the silences and shame over this condition; not just for ourselves but for others too. And that’s really really important.

      x Rachel

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