This week’s blog post comes from blogger, super Mum and all-round stationery expert Donna Chan. You can find more from her here.
If you would like to be the next guest blogger on “The Girl On The Piccadilly Line” email firstname.lastname@example.org. Some guidelines:
– I don’t mind what your politics are. Whether you think Theresa May is the cat’s pyjamas or you’re eagerly awaiting the day Corbyn enters No. 10. Whether you’re a Brexiteer or a Remainer- it doesn’t matter. The readers of my blog know my views it’d be good to hear from someone else.*
-You can write about pretty much anything at all: politics (UK and international), feminism, education, gender, current affairs – name a subject.
– I’ll do the editing, source the images and the do the posting. You’ll just need to send your post to me in a word document.
– 500-1500 words is ideal
– You can write anonymously if you want
Clinical Depression – It’s a Physical Illness
Depression. An illness no one can see, but an illness that takes its toll on your body as well as your mind. It’s like fighting a war…you will either win, or you will die trying. This may sound extreme, likening the illness to a war, but sadly it’s the truth. Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced, and the hardest battle I have ever had to face.
Let me explain, how depression was for me. When you are in clinical depression, you are living with a number of symptoms which are debilitating; these symptoms completely hinder your ability to be part of ‘Life’ and they create a very painful existence.
It started with difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions. I was unable to concentrate on a task, simple actions like making a cup of tea, boiling a pan of water for dinner, taking out the rubbish: you feel completely disconnected to these activities and I struggled to remember how to do them. My short term memory was a problem, you could tell me something, and I would forget it instantly. I would forget how to get from A to B; the simplest route from home to the shops was a struggle to remember. I struggled to speak, the words I wanted to say would be on my mind, but I struggled to form these words on my lips. These symptoms mirror the symptoms present in dementia patients, and alone were difficult to live with on a daily basis.
But this was just for starters as things began to get a lot worse. I started to feel completely disconnected from life and the simplest pleasures of life gave me pleasure no more, such as a nice hot shower in the morning, that first cup of coffee of the day, a walk on a beautiful sunny day, the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of children laughing, a coffee and chat with your friend. Nothing gave me pleasure or satisfaction, I just felt numb and empty. Trust me when I tell you, that feeling like this is very cruel indeed. This led onto problems with sleep; of a night I couldn’t sleep as my mind would race with illogical thoughts and I would often lay wide awake feeling inadequate and useless – why couldn’t I function at a ‘normal’ level? I just couldn’t ‘switch off’, and so a lack of vital sleep created more health problems.
I couldn’t listen to music or read a book, two things I love to do dearly – they no longer gave me pleasure and just the act of trying to do these activities made me feel more worthless, why couldn’t I enjoy them anymore? And why did they not give me respite from the unpleasant symptoms that I was experiencing? I lost my appetite completely, I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t have the energy to eat. Logically I knew I had to eat to keep my energy levels up and so I made myself eat a breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. I kept these meals simple but it was an enormous task that left me exhausted each time. I had to keep my family fed at this time too; I can’t describe how difficult this was to do, three times a day, day after day, week after week!
All of this was combined with the constant feeling of dread, despair and hopelessness. My coping mechanisms to keep me ‘living’ each day were not working anymore. I experienced anxiety and panic attacks, I became more isolated and struggled to step foot out of the front door. I was constantly crying and sounded like an injured animal, wailing, and even these constant tears brought me no relief, no respite. I became very desperate and I got to a stage where I could see suicide as a welcome relief from the pain I was experiencing. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to live anymore and the pain felt unbearable.
These symptoms sound like an ‘internal hell’ don’t they? But there were physical ailments too. I had painful cramp in my legs, from where my muscles were constantly tensing up. I had gastrointestinal problems, created from not being able to eat well due to lack of appetite. This created chest pains, acid reflux, and caused me to burp incessantly. Due to the chest pains, the doctor had to rule out heart problems, and so I had to take a trip to the local hospital for an ECG, a difficult challenge for someone who is struggling to get out of the house! And as silly as this may sound, I constantly needed to pee! I would have to go to the toilet on average every 30 minutes and as soon as I emptied my bladder, I would have the urge to go again. This was physically painful too and my bladder felt constantly irritated.
By now you will have read all this, and you may say out loud ‘oh how depressing’, and you would be right. But the difference from finding something depressing, to being depressed, is very different. We may find a grey rainy commute to work depressing, but by the time we get to work, dry out and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a couple of biscuits, and have a casual natter with a colleague, our mood will have improved. With depression there is no quick fix, because it is a physical illness.
Our brain is a vital organ, along with our heart, our lungs, and our kidneys. All of these organs are ‘cloaked’ behind skin and blood, but they are there, just as physical as one another. If any of our vital organs experience problems, we may encounter a serious, life threatening illness. Our brain is the hard drive for our bodies. Our hearts cannot beat, cannot sustain life, if our brain doesn’t tell the heart how to do its job. Any illness within the brain is a serious one.
Depression is an illness within the brain, a chemical imbalance, of which affects the function of our limbic system. If our limbic system is ‘fractured’ we then live with symptoms of depression, a vile existence of which is extremely difficult, of which will only fade once the limbic system has mended.
But why, and how, do people develop depression? And what is a limbic system? If you are interested in finding out, I am happy to share my understanding of the illness to you in a separate blog. An education of this illness was vital for my recovery. I had to seek it out for myself, and I don’t know why this information isn’t better communicated through health or support services? I’ll save this rant for another blog!
Every cloud has a silver lining. We live in times where the positive work of vital research and medical advancement has allowed this illness to be treated, as compared to just 100 years ago where you would have been committed to an asylum and left to languish. It’s not an overnight fix (oh how I wish it was!) but depression is now a highly treatable illness. With the correct support, and time to mend, possibly the same sort of time period that may take a broken bone to mend, you will recover from this illness and your good health will return. My good health has returned, I feel well, and life is beautiful again J
PS: Our host, The Girl On The Piccadilly Line is a keen follower of politics, I have some personal views on the government vs. mental health that I’d like to share with you, but before I can do this I need to tell you about my personal experience, what it has taught me, how my lifestyle could be shaped for the better, how common sense is not common …which leads into how the government are not only failing people in mental health crisis, but instead through overthinking and overworking people, are fuelling it! In the words of Storybook International: I’m the storyteller.
The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life, when I wanted to die.
– Juliette Lewis.
Depression isn’t just being a bit sad. It’s feeling nothing. It’s not wanting to be alive anymore.
– J.K Rowling.
There is nothing, empty space. Whoever you were, who lived in your skin has left the building, vanished. This new me can’t read, isn’t funny, can’t really speak, get up, or take a walk.
– Ruby Wax.