Posted Wednesday 21 April 2010
I cannot put a specific date to the start of my ‘depression’ but can clearly recognise a time when I felt ‘better’ and more able to face life again.
A combination of medication and a break from the stressful environment of work was all that I needed. It is only looking back now with full insight that I can appreciate how ill I had become. I didn’t realise that at the time. If I dwell too much on that period now it scares me. So I cope by blocking all the painful feelings out. It feels a bit dishonest but if this prevents me from ever reaching the depths of despair I had reached before so be it. I am answerable to nobody but myself.
To mark depression awareness week, four Mind volunteers have agreed to share some of their experiences of depression.
The feelings must still be raw. I know that ‘recovery’ does not mean all of a sudden all the stress and pain will have gone, I am not that naive. If you break your leg you can assume that over a period of time it will completely heal, but the mind is more complex and positive mental health is dependant on circumstances often beyond your own control. Recovery is not waking up every morning and screaming “isn’t the world a wonderful place?!” If only. Recovery for me is recognising the signs or triggers to becoming unwell and doing what I need to do to stay ‘well’. As the cliché goes, living one day at a time. Being prepared.
My slide into deep depression was gradual over a period of a year. I often liken it to being trapped in a seat on an emotional roller coaster ride. This was compounded by the nature of my work as a qualified mental health nurse. I saw my clients daily and listened to their concerns whilst struggling silently to deal with my own. In many ways I was a hypocrite, stressing to others the need to talk whilst ignoring the symptoms myself. I stigmatised myself. In many ways it became a very public breakdown in the end.
I persevered in the hope that others would not see my emotional meltdown. I would go into my office and shut the world out. The phone rang with a deafening ring and I hesitated to answer knowing I would have to compose myself and mask the symptoms. My confidence had all but deserted me when I needed it the most. I can recognise now these are the classic symptoms of depression, but insight had all but gone. My reality was so different to the reality of others. Being a manager, I needed to be strong for everyone, all things to all people, or so I thought, wrongly.
Other symptoms started to creep in such as panic attacks and anxiety. I sat in a meeting with about six other people and felt like I was dying. I could feel my heart beat so fast and so hard that it hurt. My chest became tight and my mouth dry. My thoughts were to escape out of the room without explanation and yet I couldn’t. I was frozen to the spot. I had to stay and mask what was happening. So I did that, I sat and tried to converse as if nothing was wrong. I often wonder now with the benefit of hindsight did the others present realise what was happening? I wonder if anyone noticed these panic attack symptoms? If they had, they never said then, or since.
The next day my manager advised I seek help and I did. I couldn’t mask the symptoms anymore, the game was up. Walking away from work that day I felt the emotional roller coaster ride was finally coming to an end.
Lol, Mind volunteer
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