A year ago I was sat in a treatment room with my GP. We were having a conversation which I don’t really remember, maybe something like this:
The GP’s word seemed to echo around the room. I looked up from the floor. A cow stood staring at me through the window just behind the doctor.
“Really…I mean…I’ve been busy at work…been a bit stressful…feel a bit tired….” my voice trailed off.
The cow nodded.
“Yes, depression.” He handed me a sick-note, with the text ‘Depression. NOS.’ on it. I sat staring at it. NOS – he just said depression, what is NOS? Not Only Stress? I mean depression is just being sad, right….must be something else. Not Ordinary Sickness – oh, great, probably some additional thing….the S must be a syndrome, will google it when get home….
“It means No Other Symptom. In case you are wondering.”
“Ah. Right. Good.”
The cow nodded again.
“You understand what depression is?”
I nodded. Of course I knew…being down…a bit more than being fed up.
“Let’s talk about treatment. There are three things – time off work, talking therapy and medication.”
“Medication? I don’t really think that I…I mean it’s not that bad is it…you can get addicted right? I am not sure….” my voice trailed off again.
“You need help. Medication will help – but before I prescribe it, I have to ask this. You will not use it to overdose will you?”
The cow stared intently at me and reality hit me. This was actually serious…
Now I doubt the conversation went that way, I wasn’t capable of thinking nor being that coherent. Pretty certain the cow was there though, there is a small herd in the field next to the medical centre. I like to think her name is Betsy.
I do remember walking home feeling numb and terrified, yet strangely relieved. And so started a slow acceptance to where I am today, learning to live with the rat in my head. Many up’s and down’s along the way. Lots of changes during that time and I would not be here today without my support network, consisting of people I’ve known all my life through to people I’ve connected with this year, a lot virtually.
Several people have told me I am brave for writing about my depression, for sharing it publically via this blog and talking about it on social media. I understand why that is said, but actually I feel lucky, not brave when I am writing. Lucky that I had the support around me and that after seeing the GP was fortunate to get treatment quickly. Not everyone is so lucky and too many lives are challenged for too long before that same intervention is received. Too many lives are lost.
What is brave are the children, women and men who get up each day, even though their mind is screaming at them not to. That carry on, as best they can, through each day, often hiding it, not understanding it and thinking it’s just them. It’s not.
What is brave is the person sat right now in a GP room, having the same conversation. Brave as you have just taken, even if you don’t think it, the first step towards recovery and management of the rat that is depression.
Depression is so often invisible, yet statistically out of every four people you meet today, at least one may be suffering. And you won’t know. It could be a family member, a friend, a work colleague. And you won’t know. The barista behind the coffee bar, the ticket collector on your train, the parent waiting at the school gate. And you won’t know. It could be the person sat next to you right now. And you won’t know. Just think – if you interact with a 100 people today at least 25 of them might benefit from asking them if they are okay and really listening to their answer.
So why not treat everyone with a kindness, a compassion … you don’t know what may be behind their smile.
And for those reading this who are suffering , let me offer these thoughts.
If you had said to me a year ago that I would look back and say, while absolutely acknowledging the pain and despair that depression takes, that it also has given me several gifts I would have laughed amongst the tears.
The opportunity to explore a creative side. To create new relationships and deepen existing ones. To learn so many new things, simple things like pausing and breathing. To see the beauty in a cloud. To see the awe in the pigeon that sits in the tree outside the window in the morning. To accept that emotions and thoughts are not permanent nor have to be acted upon. That often my mind is trying to help me based on years of evolution which don’t really help in today’s world. That actually all my flaws, fears, hopes and expectations make me well, me. And that includes depression. Part of me but not defining me.
Would I wish depression upon anyone else to learn those things ? Of course not.
And that is why seeking help is okay and the right thing to do. That it’s okay to talk about your mental health, it’s critical in fact. It’s okay to say “You know what, I am not okay”. That it’s okay to just listen to someone who is struggling, without always trying to solve their pain. To be there.
2018 holds challenges for me. To work again I hope. Coming off anti-depressant medication. Continuing to manage the depression through that and beyond. I could wonder what the blog entry for the 2nd anniversary in December 2018 might say. The simple truth is, I don’t know and I don’t mind not knowing. What I do know is that today I am in a better place to handle whatever the year or indeed the rat, brings than at the same time in 2016.
I’m still me, it’s just I’ve been put back together in a slightly different way.
One year on I wonder if Betsy would recognise me ?
Dedicated to my wife, children and dog who understood me when I didn’t.