We Need to Talk About Depression- Part 1, Where it All Began

September 17, 2017



Allow me to start from the very beginning...

On a Thursday November morning, I sleepily swatted the alarm on my phone to snooze whilst glancing at the screen, one eye probably still closed. 7.00am. My alarm rang as it habitually would on a work day. It was winter and my flat was bitterly cold so the urge to burrow myself inside my duvet and hide from the outside world wasn't foreign. What followed five minutes later were puddles meandering from my lashes to my lips and panic washing over my body like the tide beating the shore. I looked around the walls of my bedroom- the colour of storm clouds, threatening and angry and I felt alone in the world. Tucked away in a tiny apartment in an unknown street of Ourense, the worth of my existence hit me...

I was a loner. Nobody loved me. I was a burden. I was stupid. People pitied me.

My chest tightened and I struggled to find air. I was choking on my own breath and panic flooded my system. Self-depreciating thoughts fuelled my tears and the taste of salt stung my lips. Minutes passed, each becoming more bearable than the last, and finally, after what felt like a lifetime, I summoned the courage to leave my duvet haven and get ready for the day. Duty called and I hoped my students would distract me. The next two hours were a blur and when my colleague asked if I was okay, I broke down again.

Days like that became the norm over the next four months. I spent December in Australia calling home and crying, feeling cast away on an asteroid. In my heart, I knew I had everything anybody could want and more. In fact, when my friend Emily came to visit me in April, I recounted my struggles to her. They left her dumbfounded... "But you have the perfect life... I see it on your Instagram." she stumbled. I was living the life I had always dreamed of but I felt as if I were frozen in a block of ice; I knew people were trying to chisel away at the prison I was encased in but to no avail. I felt cold and alone. My heart longed to feel the embraces from the people around me but I'd been trapped and nothing could penetrate that distance between the world and I. Slowly, I start backing away from society- I stop accepting invitations to social engagements, I burrow myself away at home and days pass when I only speak when spoken to. Let's remember that I'm living away from my family- the people who know me inside out. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m still alive. A mould has grown and made my soul home and I’m hopeless to fight it.


Let's skip forward three months... It's February and I have to go to England due to a family emergency. Here, I visit a doctor and he prescribes me with a daily dose of Sertraline. 50mg. An alarm rings through my head as I recall stories of feeling akin to a zombie, the stigma surrounding antidepressants and the supposed addiction. Am I crazy? Aren't antidepressants for depressed people? Like, seriously depressed people? It was my Mum who reassured me that it was fine, "a low dosage, nothing to worry about" are her soothing words. Mother knows best. I swallowed my first pill.

There are a few misunderstandings/ misconceptions about antidepressants-

1. They’re only for the desperate.

A huge percentage of people are on them. In 2016, 64.7 million antidepressants were prescribed on the NHS according to NHS Digital. A decade ago, it was half that amount. They are the medicinal area with the largest increase in prescriptions of 2016. I say that this speaks volumes about the mental state of the UK and how we are tackling this problem as a nation.

2. Taking anti-depressants is a sign of weakness.

There’s this horribly judgemental idea that antidepressants are the easy way out. “Keep your pills, you just need fresh air and exercise” I see incessantly on supposedly inspirational Facebook posts. I know these people mean well but seriously, fuck off. Believe me when I tell you that they are not a quick fix (see next paragraph). Of course lying in my bed all day is going to do nothing for me, but trivialising my illness by suggesting that I'm just in need of a few laps around the park is insulting.


Don't be That person.
If there was a way to just flick that small switch off in my brain with a tiny pill, damn right I’d do it... You're committing yourself to a treatment that could last a month, a year or even a decade whereupon chemicals are pumped into your brain on a daily basis... and let's not even think about the side effects! And by the way, it's not even a hundred percent certain that they will help.

3. You’re instantly going to feel better.

I remember seeing an episode of The Simpsons when Lisa was prescribed some anti-depressants and she just started seeing smiley faces and rainbows. Whilst sometimes, our favourite fictional family can indeed teach us some life lessons, this isn’t one of them. On my particular drug, Sertraline, things have to get worse before they can get better. And boy, did they get worse...

I was already having up to eight panic attacks a day. I had to completely cut out caffeine and chocolate (as if life wasn’t already hard enough!) for fear of a sudden attack in the street. Sertraline made me feel suicidal. I’d wake up some mornings wondering if I had any type of medicine in my cupboard that could end it all. I feel so ashamed to type those words which I suppose is a sure sign that I’ve come a long way.

Two weeks later and those thoughts were gone, but I felt devoid of emotion still. I’d still find myself crying for no reason but less frequently, my panic attacks were just an ugly memory now and I no longer woke up wondering why I was still here. Yet, life was floating past me, like a boat on the current, but I was just grateful that I no longer felt like I wanted to end it all.

There’s this nasty and unwelcome opinion fluttering around society that suicide is the coward’s option. Depression is a parasite that hides itself in your brain, feeding on your happiness until there’s no more left to absorb and before you even can realise, you’ve been consumed by it. It’s a parasite that can make anybody’s soul habitable- I believe it’s imperative to understand, as a society, that suicide is not selfish. It’s not the easy way out; it’s the last resort when you’ve no hope left. It’s nobody’s fault and certainly nobody’s first choice- but I seriously believe that society needs to form a far more understanding and educated view towards not only suicide but depression in general. You never know who is suffering.


I felt compelled to write this account- and any future diaries that I write- in order to try and tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. I want you to know that recovery is an arduous process and that a mental heath problem is every bit as important as a physical problem. Maybe us sufferers are crazy or maybe we do have a screw-loose- call it what you like- yet this is a path that so many people are walking along and one day, it could be you. 
1 comment on "We Need to Talk About Depression- Part 1, Where it All Began"
  1. OMG. NO WORDS. I was there ALL THE TINE!!!
    Feel very sorry for not having noticed it and help in some way...
    Love U. Remember that anytime anywhere!!!
    Manuela

    ReplyDelete