The J Word NZ

My Companion, depression. Part 3.

Fast forward a few years and you’ll find me in a loving relationship. Owning our own sweet home which we love and take care of. My daughter is doing well and our relationship is blossoming. I quit working for “the man” and pursued self-employment once again. Everything was going swimmingly… until it wasn’t. Cue the return of my depression.

Depression

Cue 2020. It started off with a hiss and a roar and then Covid arrived in our lives. The novelty of lockdown was a little exciting for me, something globally crazy was going on but we were happy in our little home, getting on with our bits and pieces. We certainly weren’t experiencing huge stress. We did experience an influx of work, but for a new business that was more exciting than daunting.

The first few weeks were heaven. No visitors are great when you have social anxiety, not having to be anywhere, leave the house, not really having to do anything. Temporarily, it was brilliant, the halt in time that everyone had always dreamed of, the time the back of the pantry would finally get cleaned and organized.

I didn’t fear getting sick myself, nor did I feel like this sickness was going to infiltrate our wee country down at the bottom of the world. I wasn’t scared, but the unknowns made me feel uneasy.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my mental health started to slide but it was somewhere in the weeks of level 3, post lockdown. I started to feel very strongly that something wasn’t right in my mind. That familiar cloud had drifted over me again and settled itself in. Soon came the tears, sadness and the knowing that I was in a bit of trouble and needed to seek help.

Covid-19 sparking new depression

The day we were told Level 2 was coming up I quickly booked an appointment with my GP – the first one I could get. I think it was a week or so after level 2 commenced that I could finally get in to see her and I remember sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office holding back tears, waiting for my turn. When I walked in my doctor looked at me kindly and asked the usual “how are you” the tears flowed like a waterfall … they didn’t stop for quite some time. She was very patient with me and gave me a little time, despite the full waiting room.

I have a history of depression therefore we went through some basic testing and sure enough, it had returned. I was at a loss. I was doing all of the right things. Removed stress, eating well, exercising, maintaining a good weight and had completed a few years of therapy. I couldn’t believe this was happening again.

I couldn’t head back to my original therapist as she had moved out of town 6 months prior. Back at square one and having to go over it all again, with someone new, that felt depressing in itself. Anyone who has been through long term therapy will know that it’s quite the process, opening up and unpacking all your crap. Having to do it AGAIN and start from scratch with someone new seemed like torture.

My GP and I discussed the options and we discussed the most suitable plan for me. Armed with a list I was going to find a new therapist, but I was also going to try something new. Medication. Specifically, Fluoxetine aka Prozac. I was absolutely terrified about the latter. I expected to take one pill and then slump in my chair, dribble, wet myself and never be able to hold a conversation ever again. I thought my life as a regular functioning human was over.

Anti-depression medication

I was terrified of being judged. Judged by friends, family, acquaintances, people in the community. What would people think? Would they be able to immediately tell when they met me? Like is there a smell you give off if you are taking antidepressants or maybe you have to wear a shirt that identifies you? I had no idea how this was going to play out. But I knew I was unwell and I was in desperate need to try something new. My doctor is amazing, I trust her, and she assured me that everything would be A-ok.

So off I went to the chemist, filled my script and took my very first pill. There were some side effects which lasted about a month for me (this is different for everyone) and I haven’t looked back. There is a lot of negativity circulating around pharmaceuticals, prescription medication in general and antidepressants in particular. A LOT of people in my life are quite anti-medication and therefore I was naturally sceptical of it myself.

I can tell you now that those tiny little capsules have changed my life. I’ve never felt so balanced or level headed. No line of dribble hanging from my face, no chair slump and no wet pants, I function a lot more optimally and the feeling of positive change was very quick. It’s not a euphoric feeling, it’s a feeling of calm.

Since starting to take this medication I have been very open with my friends and family about it. The more I have talked the more I found other people who also take antidepressants. Very regular people, people like me, people like you.

I really thought I would be the only person I knew taking anti-depressants but I had friends, family members, ex-colleagues, so many people came out of the woodwork that were either taking them, had in the past, or knew someone that did. I was shocked. It wasn’t just me, depression was rife. So many different types of medications and so many different humans but all in all, what I was hearing about their effectiveness in treatment, was positive.

No longer did I feel depressed, no longer did I feel like a broken mess, the only one that existed feeling this way. No longer was I some type of freak who had to be medicated in order to function. Now I felt balanced, I felt free from the cloud. I wasn’t dopey or high. It was me again and it felt wonderful.

Sure it would be easy enough to not write about this part of my journey, it would be easier to keep the “embarrassing” bits of depression to myself but that’s not the point of this blog. I am sharing so that other people can seek the help that they need when they need to. Maybe they can relate and not feel embarrassed or like the only one, maybe they can hear a point of view/perspective from someone who may have had a similar experience to them, someone they know, someone like me. Just a regular person who is doing life the best way she knows how. Someone managing their depression in an open and fearless way.

The great news is, that I found a wonderful new therapist who I have been working with and she has been wonderful. A real breath of fresh air. It’s been amazing to work with a psychologist who is very relatable and who has taught me so much already. She can challenge my thinking and make useful suggestions which have sent me on a great path of finding myself and my creativity. I thought I had already opened my mind a few years back but it turns out I was just scraping around the edges and a new level has cracked wide open.

I continue to read and research constantly, this keeps me curious and my mind open. I absolutely love hearing other peoples stories about their journey with life and mental health. Not every day is roses and sunshine. Some days are crap and I stay under my blanket, only to emerge for food. Other days are very manageable. Far more manageable than they used to be. I recommend using an app called Mentemia, you can also check them out on their website here where you will find loads of helpful information and tools about mental health. I have also created a 7-day journaling challenge that might help you to get on track with your journaling, you can find that here.

Not everyone suffers from depression but I think everyone lives through the ebb and flow of mood and energy. I think of depression now as getting “stuck”. For me, it comes and goes through different periods in my life.

I have come to learn that we are never “fixed”, it’s not like some of us are OK and have it all figured out, and others don’t, we are all a work in progress. You, me, the doctor, the pharmacist and the therapist. We all have stuff going on. We are all susceptible to depression. There is no day that comes when you are finished learning and you are now ready to do life in the correct way.

We are always being tested by life. Living and learning.
I’m not waiting for the finish line anymore, I am buckled in for the journey.

J

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