I thought I knew depression pretty well before I was diagnosed. To say I was pretty unaware would be an understatement. I knew people who’d suffered with various forms of depression so I thought I knew what it would be like if I was ever depression. With each aspect of depression I had vague thoughts and ideas of how they worked and how they would pan out. Things always work out differently to how you picture they will though, this is how depression affected me differently to how I pictured panning out.
Understanding – Before I was depressed I was certain I knew if I was depressed I’d know I was. I thought I’d recognise the symptoms straight away and know I was depressed. It’s taken me many many ups and downs to know exactly how I feel when I’m feeling depressed. Recognising the symptoms sounds easy. Anger, paranoia and overwhelming sadness should make you think straight away “of course I’m depressed”; it doesn’t work like that though. Depression will persuade you it’s anything but depression, your brain tells you “it’s just anger” “I’m just sad” “I’m just tired” anything but actually admitting the truth.
Diagnosis – Admitting there’s a problem is one of the hardest things to do. The idea of telling a stranger there might be something going wrong with my brain seemed incredibly strange to me. I expected it to be tough, full of hard questions, maybe even revelatory. Of course there are tough questions but all of them came with, what felt to me, like incredibly obvious answers. The toughest for me “have you had any suicidal thoughts” came with, what seemed to me, the easiest answer “of course I have”, I’m feeling the lowest I ever have of course I’ve had these thoughts. Once it was all over though, when the questions were all asked I felt better for it.
Physical – “I’m just tired” is an understatement when you’re depressed. The now familiar feeling of not being able to lift myself up off the sofa feels much different in my body then how I picture it in my mind. My body feels like it’s stuck to the sofa, like I’ve sat down and been handed a weight to sit on my chest for the evening. When I do move everything aches. All my muscles feel like they’re aching and moving at anything more than a crawl is impossible.
Drugs – The first time I was diagnosed I decided not to take any medication. I’d had a long standing ear condition which was treated with strong medication. When I came, slowly, off this medication it hit me hard. The thought of eventually having to come off strong medication again made me anxious and feeling anxious about my depression probably wasn’t the best thing for my anxiety. When I eventually started taking medication it shouldn’t have surprised me there’d be side effects but it did. Medication affects everyone differently but for me it gave me awful short term memory loss, made me tired, confused and also gave me awful short term memory loss. My notepad at work for that first week read like a very admin heavy version of memento. Eventually though these side effects wore off and the medication started working on my body like they were meant to.
Recovery – I’ve had my fair share of broken bones, ruptured ligaments and various frustrating diseases to have an idea of what happens with any medical problem. You go to the Dr’s, you get a diagnosis and then you get treated. Even with a particularly hard to diagnose ear condition once I got diagnosed things started getting better. When I walked out the Dr’s, feeling good for having admitted I had a problem, I felt satisfied with myself. The worst was now over, I’d got a diagnosis, and I was on the way to recovery. Diagnosis was actually just the beginning, everything got worse before It started getting better again. Looking back at it admitting I had a problem was just the first step. This first step equates to telling depression to fuck off. Depression is a bastard though and like the unwanted drunk at a party is not going to leave quietly. I’ve told him to fuck off and it’s made me feel better, but oh look now he’s smashing your plates and trying to piss the sink. So you move him out of the kitchen but now he’s got into your whisky and is waving your favourite bottle around and shouting at your guests. Depression post diagnosis often feels like you’re rushing around after the drunk, tidying up the mess they’ve created. Eventually though, often without you noticing, the drunk just leaves and everything is quiet and peaceful again. Now you can enjoy that whisky you’ve been saving, go on, you deserve it.
Tomas GW Shore (@M0by_Duck)