Ah, so it comes to this. It seems there has been confusion over my much maligned mental state, so here’s depression 101 to clear some of it up…
NHS Direct‘s entry on depression.
Clinical Depression is something very distinct to feeling pissed off for a few days, or being sad in reaction to something sad that’s happened to you. My boss and I had a discussion a few weeks ago about people being over-prescribed anti-depressants at the drop of a hat; personally, I think there are two types of people with depression – one group feels sad and down, the other group is in the grip of something that only intervention can help. Both are serious issues, but at the moment I’m concerned with the latter group cos that’s where I fall (oh look at me, I’m so ill and important. Yeah yeah).
My life is not fucked up; I do not have Depression because I am a total mess. I am still in the process of figuring out why I do have Depression but, as you can imagine from the nature of the problem, agreeing on the negatives is easier for me than agreeing on the postives 🙂 (Look! I made a joke about it!) My best guess is that the chemical composition of my brain is slightly off, and can perhaps be triggered by external events. Still working on the triggers… if indeed there are any…
So what is Depression? Here, lifted straight from NHS Direct, is the list of symptoms (with what happens to me at the crucial moments):
- continuous low / ‘blue’ mood or sadness – check
- feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – check
- low self-esteem – check
- tearfulness – check
- feelings of guilt – nope
- feeling irritable and intolerance of others – check, but would you really be able to tell the difference?
- lack of motivation, and little interest in and difficulty making decisions – check
- lack of enjoyment – check
- suicidal thoughts / thoughts of harming someone else – let’s come back to this one shall we?
- feeling anxious or worried – nope
- reduced sex drive – aren’t you getting a bit personal now?
- slowed movement / speech – check
- change in appetite / weight (usually decreased but sometimes increased) – nope
- constipation – nope, but why the hell would you want to know?
- unexplained aches and pains – nope
- lack of energy / lack of interest in sex – I’ll give you lack of energy
- changes to the menstrual cycle (in women) – hey! stop this!
- not performing well at work – I thought I was rubbish but nobody had noticed
- taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends – check
- reduced hobbies and interests, and difficulties in home and family life – meh, not really
There is actually a questionnare based on these symptoms (literally, ‘have you felt tearful in the last week? no/not much/sometimes/all the time’) that helps medical professionals make an assessment of your situation. If you check every single question you’re a basket case and need immediate help – most people have a mixture of these symptoms. I was assessed and came out with ‘mild to moderate’ depression – ie, I felt like shit but could still fake it as a normal functioning human being.
I can only give you my experience of what it feels like to be inside the head of a Depressive, but I’ve read a number of other descriptions and they all sound quite similar. It’s like this: there are two parts of my brain. One is ‘me’ and the other is ‘it’, the Depression. ‘It’ is not under my control, ‘it’ is separate to me, ‘it’ doesn’t like me very much. When I have a bad spell, ‘it’ makes like the Wehrmacht and launches a bid to annex the normal part of my brain. I am paralysed by Depression but underneath is this semblance of normality, the ‘normal’ bit that’s fighting to reassert control and that’s reminding me that this isn’t right, this isn’t real. It’s the bit that keeps me functioning.
The other effect of this war in my head is that I become desperate for peace, for quiet. I remember, after leaving work early (on the one of only two days I took off), walking on Primrose Hill trying to pull myself back together and it was so still, so quiet. It was February, the only other people around were walking their dogs, it was crisp and clear. I could hear the sound of my boots on the tarmac and nothing else. It was beautiful. Silence. Peace.
The pills kicked in soon after that, you’ll be pleased to hear.
"Suicidal thoughts"… this is the bit that tends to upset people. Not me – I’ve been there and done that and got the t-shirt, you know? But other people… it’s understandable. So, let’s keep it simple. The ‘other’ part of my brain, the bit that has nothing to do with ‘me’ starts to drop in suggestions that the only way I’ll ever find that elusive peace, the only way this will ever be over, is when I’m dead. And the ‘me’ part of my brain goes ‘oh no you don’t fucker, I’m going to the doctor’. (Yes, yes, I know that the ‘other’ part of the brain is ‘me’ as well, but it’s some fucked up parasitical part. On the other, non-psychological, hand the ‘other’ part of my brain may not be ‘me’ at all, it may simply be mis-firing neurons. Ha. Take that, psychologists!)
You now see why I went to the doctor a few months ago, at the first hint of a sign of a possibility of a return? I’m not going back down that road again, my friends.
Therefore. My life is good. My life is excellent. My life has its stresses and its messes, but whose doesn’t? My problem is hard-wired inside my brain but it’s currently locked inside its little box again. Do not rush to pre-judge or assume; there’s very little that annoys me more. *sigh* See what I have to do to spread the word…?