05 November 2012

A break in the clouds for the black dog

I can't believe over a month has gone by since I last blogged about depression.  It's probably no coincidence though, as this month coincided with a trip to the doctor's which resulted in me being signed off work for 4 weeks and given a prescription for anti-depressants.

Since starting my blog posts and opening up further about how depression has affected me, I've been incredibly touched by the number of people who have chosen to get in contact. Some messages have been through the blog itself, others have been direct messages on Twitter or private messages on Facebook and some have just been good old fashioned 'chats.'
Jasper, the greyhound, a real life black dog
My real black dog - Jasper

One of the things that has really struck me from all these messages is just how many people 'suffer in silence' and that, unfortunately, there is still a great degree of stigma surrounding depression and mental illness.  I've had people telling me that I'm 'brave' for blogging about my experiences as they fear that if they blogged about their experiences or opened up to employers that it would damage their careers.  This saddens me.  Depression or mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, however I am well aware that stigma does still surround it and none more so than in the workplace.

The brain is a complicated and, arguably, the most important organ in the body.  Without a brain we cannot function.  Unlike other organs though, when things go wrong with your brain people just don't know what to say or do. If I'd had a kidney infection, heart problem or broken a bone in my body I'm pretty sure I would have received cards and flowers...but mental illness seems to put people off these gestures. (There were two notable exceptions to this for me and those people know who they are and how much their gestures meant to me).

When I've been talking about depression to people and trying to help them understand how it impacts on me, I've gone back to likening the brain to a computer. Our brains are often referred to as the computers for our bodies and as most people use computers I use the following analogy to try and explain how depression affects me:
"When I think of the brain, I like to think of it as the operating system for my body - a bit like Windows on your PC.  If you get a bug on Windows (or whatever operating system your computer uses), it's likely that it will impact on all the other software. Excel might not add up numbers correctly, Word may be a bit slow, PowerPoint may just keep simply shutting down. You wouldn't just think 'oh, it will right itself, or snap out of it' - the chances are you'd install an anti virus programme to sort the bug out. 
"To me, depression and mental illness is that 'bug' in the operating system.  It wont' go away by itself.  Medication is what works for me - it rights the chemical imbalances and my operating system (gradually) returns to full functioning capacity."
Sun shines through the clouds
A break in the clouds of depression
Depression is often alluded to as a dark cloud that permanently blots out the sun, or a fog that envelops everything.  Certainly for me it is a combination of both.

However, thanks to the medication and time off work, there is now a chink in the clouds of my depression and the sun has shone through for me.

I can't pretend that I felt immediately better or that the medication kicked in super quickly - I didn't and it didn't.  In fact, for the first three weeks I felt pretty horrendous. My depression seemed to worsen along with increased bouts of anxiety and interrupted sleep - all side effects of fluoxetine (better known as Prozac).  My concentration levels were zero and only seemed to return, albeit slightly, around the three weeks' mark.

After returning to see my doctor, I was signed off for another week to allow the medication a chance to kick in.  I am so glad that I had this extra week, as suddenly the meds did seem to be working.  The black clouds and fog began to lift and I started to feel more like my 'old self.'

As the medication has now started to work, it has made me realise just how long my depression had been growing.  I can see clearly that I was probably suffering from mild depression for a good 12-18 months before it became more severe and prompted me to seek help.

I am now back at work and have been very open with colleagues about the reason for my absence.  Generally, the response has been one of understanding and kindness and even more people opening up to me that they too have had personal experience of depression.

I realise it's still early days and that medication may not be the answer for everyone however, it is the answer for me.  I'll probably be on the medication for a good 6-9 months. I've learned from (bitter) past experience that coming off anti-depressants too early can have disastrous consequences.

I'd like to finish this post with a reference to the great charity that is SANE.  I came across SANE through social media and have found their posts, website and service so helpful.  They tweeted for people to share their messages of hope for better mental health, so I decided to share my message of hope and was humbled to see that SANE had used it.

"Do not be ashamed of depression or seeking help. Acknowledging it is the first step to recovery."

SANE tweets and messages of hope for better mental health
SANE message of hope

When you are in the depths of despair and depression taking that first step is scary - I've been there - but once you take it, the future isn't so scary anymore.

Mental health 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/


  1. What a brilliant analogy, must start to think of it like that when mine comes back instead of being just this invisible illness I have to put up with!

    Glad to hear the medicine is bringing the black dog to heel a little too, onwards & upwards :) x

    1. Thanks Lisa, onwards & upwards indeed! I do find the computer analogy works well and most people can 'get' what I mean.

  2. Fantastic, its really nice to hear someone say that it is ok to say that medication helps

    1. Thanks Holly. I've had counselling in the past too (all different types) and whilst that helps, it's the medication that really redresses the balance for me. It's a shame - in my opinion - that many people see taking medication as a failure of some sort.

      As I say in the post, if your operating system had a bug - you wouldn't expect it to go away by itself!

      I've tried different types of meds too and not all agree with me - some are too sedative and make me pile on weight. I think it's a case of not being afraid to try it and also not being afraid to tell your GP if it's not working or the side effects are too bad.

  3. It is a good analogy because for me it really has been a chemical imbalance as well. When I was first diagnosed 15 years ago I had an extensive session of testing with a psychologist and he agreed that I didn't need therapy at that point, that focusing on getting my chemistry under control was the way to go. And it was. It does take some time, and sometimes it takes some trials, unfortunately medicine is often as much and art as it is a science, it's more like cooking than chemistry in some ways in that every person responds to meds differently just like every kitchen is different, so it can be hard to predict how you'll respond to each medicine. But the important thing to remember OS that you can feel better and that you deserve to feel better and that you should demand to feel better, don't let the depression and anxiety make you think that this is just how it is. It's so deceptive, sometimes you get so far into it without even realizing how bad it's gotten, then you finally realize and look back and it's just shocking how much time has passed with the darkness just hovering over you. But it can get better and it will get better if we can talk about it and help each other be aware of how we're feeling. Just the fact that this is something that we can talk about makes a huge difference. It's our health. We should be able to talk about it openly. And we need to, because awareness is part of the cure.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...