So OK, then, I’m depressed.Depression is not just feeling fed up, or unhappy with your lot – it can be life-threatening.
I suffer from frequent, almost suicidal depression, and the drugs don’t work. SSRI’s*** make me cough so uncontrollably my lungs bleed, and tricyclics shut my brain down – can’t be doing with that.
**SSRIs do actually work, and kick in very quickly, but the side-effects are too severe to tolerate. Ditto tricyclics. Received wisdom is that both these drugs can take three weeks or so to kick in – in my experience it’s more like days.
Depression – serious to the point of suicide depression – is an all too common side effect of chronic illness (in my case, that’s all but the first 2 years of my life, but catastrophically for the last 26 years), in which case it’s classed as secondary depression (secondary, obviously, to your physical illness/disability), which the average person is usually totally unaware of. The aim of the Be Frank campaign, currently running on Twitter, is to encourage people to speak out about their mental illness, to encourage others, and this is an expanded version of my contribution posted yesterday on Twitter
This was my most recent serious run-in with depression since the early nineties http://bit.ly/g0UQKd I know I’ve tweeted this link, but it’s relevant, as it was very nearly end-game**. The three previous posts are closely related. While depression doesn’t ever really go away, most days it’s barely there, or, at least at a level which I can deal with relatively easily (for a given value of easily, anyway). Only occasionally, now, does it rise up, roll me under and take me down.
**The reason I’ve not killed myself is a belief that tomorrow might be better. One day, who knows, it might be.
I know exactly why I’m depressed. Some shrinks believe that such knowledge is helpful. No, it’s not, in the way that knowing why your leg is to be amputated is unhelpful. It doesn’t change anything.
So, people, next time your disabled friend, or neighbour, or that bloke down the street, seems to be seriously pissed off, or uncommunicative, don’t bloody well write them off as miserable sods – they probably have very good reason for being the way they are. Be very grateful that it’s not you.
People with depression might well drink too much, too. While alcohol is, in itself, a depressant, it does, for some reason, provide a powerful barrier to the almost intolerable mental pain of depression (eases physical pain too, briefly) – a paradoxical effect that William Styron refers to in his excellent book Darkness Visible. You can get a free digital copy here, in a variety of formats. If you are depressed, or know somebody who is, I strongly recommend that you do so – and read it.
One final thought – the first step in dealing with depression is to admit to yourself that you are depressed, and seek help – far too many people remain in denial because they think mental illness carries a stigma. That might once have been the case, but not any longer – if you need help, get help!