02 October 2012

D-day for the black dog

When you have depression, telling someone (or anyone) how you feel can be daunting. It can be a difficult step to take as there is still a fair degree of stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness.

Shrouded in fog
(Photo by: Simon Lawrence at Dreamstime.com)
Friday of the week before last marked D-day for me.  The D in question could stand for so many things... Depression itself, Daunting, Diagnosis, Doubt, Doctor's appointment and even Disappointment.  In my previous post - Chasing down the black dog - I blogged about my decision to go and see the doctor.  I've recognised that my symptoms are at the stage that needs help; if I ignored them any further I would most certainly allow the fog of depression to envelop me completely and this is something I want to avoid.

Whilst I've blogged openly about my own experiences of depression and shared my views through social media, I hadn't spoken to my family (with the exception of my husband), friends, employer or colleagues about its recurrence...until the week before last.  Over the years I've had varying responses when I've told my family, friends, colleagues and employers about my depression.  Mostly, they have been supportive, and only occasionally have I had to counter some of the ignorance and stigma that surrounds mental illness.

A few days prior to my doctor's appointment, I told my CEO about the reason for my appointment.  My CEO was amazingly supportive and understanding, expressing concern and reassuring me that I should listen to the doctor's advice - even if it meant time off work. I told my colleagues too and although they may not have been 100% sure how to react, they too were supportive.

I found telling my employer meant that a huge weight felt like it had been lifted from my shoulders.  All I needed to do next was to turn up for my doctor's appointment.  My usual doctor has left the practice so I was seeing a doctor that I have only seen a few times in the past.

My doctor was very understanding and a her view, thankfully, coincided with mine - my depression is purely down to an imbalance of the chemicals in my brain and medication will help restore and stabilise the correct balance.

On top of prescribing medication, she also signed me off work for a few weeks. This is something I had wanted to avoid but in order to recover and to allow the medication to work, this period of rest is necessary.  My employer, husband, family and friends have all been very understanding and having taken the step of telling people and seeking help, I do feel that the fog which surrounds will begin to lift.

It's still early days with the medication as they take several weeks to become effective.  During the first week I did suffer with a number of side effects - the only one of which is welcome is the dulling of my appetite! However, as this may lead to losing some weight, so it's something I can easily live with...every cloud, eh?  I still struggle with some things and realise that the medication needs time to work - there is no magic wand that simply make my depression vanish.

So, as much as it's a cliché, I'm taking each day as it comes. Some days I'm fine and want to engage in 'normal' activities such as walking the dogs and speaking to friends; other days I'm not.  These are the days when I watch favourite films and snuggle up with the hounds. I struggle with the guilt I feel on these days for generally feeling useless but am lucky that my husband is very supportive (which at times makes me feel even more guilty).

At least by letting people know, it does mean I don't have to hide behind a mask everyday.  It doesn't, however, mean I need to be treated with kid gloves either - just some understanding that I may not be to up my 'usual self'. You can't catch depression by talking to me but you may gain some understanding as to what it means to live with it.

If you're reading this blog and think (or know) that you have depression, please don't think you're alone. It does affect 1 in 4 of us and there are so many organisations which can help.  Taking the first step of telling someone can be scary but once that step is taken, it is (albeit another cliché) a step on the road to recovery.

Organisations that can help:

SANE, Mental Health Charity - http://www.sane.org.uk/
MIND - http://www.mind.org.uk/
The Blurt Foundation - http://blurtitout.org/
The Black Dog Tribe - http://www.blackdogtribe.com/

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