Updated: Nov 18, 2020
I am part of the problem of the stigma around mental health. I haven't written about my experience of depression before but have worked in mental health for twenty years. At times I have sat tight while patients and colleagues disclosed. This secrecy and feeling of shame has contributed to the exposure and scrutiny of people braver than me. For that omission I apologise.
I have had emotions through writing the article. Anxiety about how it may change how people see me and know my vulnerability. Sadness at the reality of having a long history of strong experiences that so often felt largely outside my control. Happiness at thinking about an experience that, at the moment, is in the past and at using my experience hopefully for other peoples’ benefit.
So from now on I want to change to become less a part of the problem by writing about my experience. Making it available in public as another account of depression. Not that my experience is special but it is real. Validating the commonalities between my and others people's experiences of depression. People like us. Here we go:
As a child and young adult I had a fear of losing my mind. Coping through avoidant and anxious agitation. This may have predisposed me. I first experienced depression in 1997. A blanket of despair that made my insides hurt. A cramping in my stomach forcing me to look away from the world. A burning desire to not to want to be in the world. My mistakes become unbearable. The idea of harming someone else through my actions became unforgivable.
I began to take fluoxetine and gradually the desire to end my life lessened. I received cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and counselling. Helping me to reduce the ways I would attack myself for feeling this way. Little did I know that this was to be the beginning of fifteen years of six monthly bouts of depression. I would be sad on a sunny day. Becoming down in the summer yet OK in the winter. Eventually I asked for stronger medication starting a ten year relationship with lithium therapy. It was effective in stopping me wanting to end my life. A significant improvement. The side effects of the lithium when I became dehydrated were dramatic. Hours of vomiting until my stomach was empty from the experience of lithium poisoning. However it did not stop me becoming depressed for six months of the year.
Luckily for me and my family, over the years the bouts of depression have become progressively less frequent and allowed me to come off lithium. My last bout ended in March 2018. I remained on an antidepressants until November 2020 as an insurance policy against becoming depressed again. In the same vein I also talk with a health professional once a month. I am grateful for the health I can now enjoy.