The Ups and Downs of Fighting Depression
Today at work I cracked some jokes. Made people laugh. It was like the old me had returned. I’ve been in this job almost a year, but in all that time I’ve been struggling with my mental health. It’s been a tough year, so were the two before that. They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. As I stood there laughing, I realised something I’d always taken for granted was returning. My old friend confidence was on her way back. I was talking without being paranoid that people would think I was stupid, annoying, and any other negative adjective I could think of. There are no words that can explain quite how debilitating it is to feel every comment is a criticism, every message a slight at your personality. Thinking about it now whilst the fog is not so dense I wonder how I have any friends left.
The big change in the last few months is the medication Iâ€™ve been taking. Iâ€™d avoided it for a long time, didnâ€™t want something that wasnâ€™t â€˜realâ€™, still donâ€™t if Iâ€™m honest. But the reality is my life was spiralling downwards, out of control and the medication has put a halt to that. Iâ€™m doing other things to try and improve my reality too – CBT, counselling, homeopathy, speed dating (Iâ€™m a single mum). This medication isnâ€™t a magic solution though. My sleep is a mess. Last night I managed three hours between my racing thoughts and an upset toddler. I spent nine hours at work (plus the commute). It leaves so very little time for me, and my mind is struggling to cope.
This morning as I dozed in and out of sleep I dreamt about walking to the corner shop with my son. We saw our neighbour, smiled at him as a car door opened opposite.Â A man got out and started shooting at us. I awoke with a jolt. I can’t stop these negative thoughts coming in. I know what the CBT counsellor would say, write it down, think about why you had that thought, think about why that might not be the most logical thought process. Only the thing is, it’s not that illogical either. I’ve had guns pointed at my head before. The neighbours are involved in gangs. There are shootings on the estate. These life experiences make my illogical fear of a shoot out at the corner shop seem not quite so farfetched after all. When depression and reality are intertwined it’s hard to know what’s real anymore.
My depression has been triggered from a series of traumatic and deeply upsetting events. There are a lot of things I need to work through, a lot of feelings I need to release, it will take time. For now though Iâ€™m enjoying having days where I donâ€™t cry, even if there are still many where I do. Iâ€™m making the most of feeling like myself and Iâ€™m trying to work out what I can do in the life I have. Instead of craving me time where Iâ€™m alone, Iâ€™m trying to build it into other times. Like laughing at work and joking with colleagues. I was someone who just came in, put her head down and worked none stop till the end of the day. A big part of that is because the work is stressful and never ending. But itâ€™s more than that too. I felt unwanted. I felt like a hindrance and an imposter. I felt unwelcome and I couldnâ€™t break through the barriers. Now, with the help of the medication Iâ€™m managing to get through those walls Iâ€™ve created. With some people itâ€™s hard. They have already decided who I am without knowing a thing about me.
Over the past few years Iâ€™ve slowly shut down. If you didnâ€™t ask, I didnâ€™t tell. Some friends have disappeared. With others a distance has grown, a distance that I donâ€™t know how to traverse. Anger has welled in me. Anger at the injustice of all that has happened, anger at the lack of support Iâ€™ve been offered to get through. The medication canâ€™t get rid of that anger. The medication canâ€™t close those gaps. Iâ€™m not sure I can. How do you explain to people that while they think youâ€™ve just been getting on with it the last couple of years, actually youâ€™ve been torturing yourself. I donâ€™t know how to work a way through this, but I know I must. Perhaps like all good Brits I should just avoid the topic. Say everything is fine. But it isnâ€™t.
For so long the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished, sometimes now I can see a faint glimmer. I canâ€™t work out how far away it is and I know itâ€™s going to be a long hard slog to reach it, but Iâ€™m starting to believe I might just make it.