I am inspired to write this after replying to a post by Josh over at 700poundsisasbadasitsounds.blogspot.com There he points out how he reached a low place and stopped blogging.
Depression. And it reminded me of my experience with depression, about 7 years ago.
*By the way, I am going to offer a trigger warning here for depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other thought/behaviour patterns of that nature. Please don't proceed if this is a trigger for you*
Depression sucks. It affects people in so many different ways.
I was really critical and hard on myself. I was forgetful and so confused <i>all the time</i>. I couldn't keep a thought straight in my head. I hurt so much inside. I lost my social skills and didn't know how to interact with people. Everywhere I went I never seemed to feel right. When I was at home I wanted to be out. When I was out I wanted to be by myself. I was either crying for 4 hours non-stop, hating myself violently or not feeling anything at all.
I hurt myself in different ways.
I bit down hard on my arm one night. To stop myself from screaming from the hurt I felt inside. Ended up with a whopper bruise that lasted over 2 1/2 weeks. I scratched my arm til it bled. I still have the scar from that. I started smoking around this time and I used to give myself smileys from the lighter. On my feet, so no-one would see them, but I would feel them everytime I walked, their presence a reminder of what I was not feeling. Oddly enough cutting never appealed to me. Tried it, I couldn't even break the skin.
I ended up on Zoloft as my anti-depressant. We started on the lowest dosage and then bumped it up one when the low dosage wasn't doing anything for me. I felt nauseous (nauseated?) for the first two-three weeks which was an expected side affect. I had the most god-awful twisted dreams, I remember being really unsettled by them when I woke up. They could also be linked to the depression I suppose. For a while, it seemed like I was still getting lower, which my doctor warned me about, but we kept on at it.
I have a really clear memory of an absolute horrid night, where I didn't think I was going to make it through the night, because I couldn't take it anymore. I honestly didn't think I'd make it. I was lucky enough that one of my housemates sat with me as I drank and he took away my car keys. And in the morning when I woke up, I was so happy to be alive, so relieved. I don't think I will ever <i>ever</i> forget that feeling of sheer relief I felt, when I realised I made it through the night. It was my turning point, two months or so after starting the meds. I have such a clear memory of that night. I can even tell you it was a Thursday night. That is how much it is cemented into my brain. Along with the overwhelming relief. I can still bring up that feeling now, if I'm ever incredibly wound up and anxious about something. I use it to remind myself how good unstressed and relaxed/relieved feels like.
I took antidepressants along with counselling/therapy (at my request) and meditation for anxiety. I actually went to a psychologist first, who referred me back to a GP. My doctor also prescribed 30 min of exercise daily - some kind of activity that was enough to get the heart rate up. It took me about 6 months of the combined treatments to be off the meds. I haven't been on meds since then, although there are times when I possibly could have been. Or should have been. There are times when I've felt bad, or low and it's taken a few weeks to swing back. I often wonder if I would have recovered better those times if I was on medication.
Now, I just focus on getting enough rest, enough time to chillout and I try to keep exercising. This is probably my other big push for why I focus on exercise more than my diet. I try to keep reminding myself that I need to exercise so my brain works better.
Truly, things can get better. They don't need to stay bleak. I put off going to see anyone for a long time, until I broke down crying at work. Completely no idea what started it, but I was crying for three hours, just couldn't stop it. Even when I somewhat pulled myself together, I still had tears leaking constantly from my eyes. Had all these circular thoughts going around and around in my head. I was crying for me, for my boyfriend, for my friends. Just crying. It was my call to action.
As I said, I went to a psychologist first, to see if I could do this without medication. After a few sessions, we decided to get the GP on board who did a whole range of blood tests. After ruling out anything hormonal or nutrient or vitamin deficient, we chose to medicate. I don't regret that decision at all, because for me, it was a necessary step to pull myself up before I didn't need them any more. I continued to see the counsellor twice a week until the worst of it eased off, then once a week, once a fortnight.
I still have the meditation CD now and it's always one of the first mp3 files I upload to a new computer/device. I just realised I can put it on my new smart phone. Will get on that. I will set aside the time to mediate when I feel myself getting too stressed, although I could probably do with meditating more often.
Overall, I would say it took me 6 months to get back to how I was before. And I'm still not exactly the same. I'm a lot more anxious now. A lot more reserved. I went from being carefree and pretty out there and extroverted to being an introvert and a homebody. I still find it really hard to be in public and in crowds. But I am no where near what I was like when I was depressed, and I feel I can live with this change of personality, if it means I'm not depressed. Besides, I'm okay with who I am now and I reckon it ties in with growing up and growing older too.
But this is what worked for me. I can't say what will work for you. BUT if you are feel low and depressed you need to seek out professional help for this. Your friends and family can support you, but a doctor/medical team will be the ones who can best help you, whether that's by counselling, hormone or vitamin therapy, or by prescribing anti-depressants.
Take care everyone,