Tuesday, 5 May 2015
Help, I Need Somebody, Help, Not Just Anybody...Or Any Drug...I Just Need Help...
I've said it before and I am sure I’ll say it again, after I say it here: recognising that you need help when you have depression, and trying to understand to what extent you need help, is incredibly hard.
I wake up most days and sort of mentally poke at myself: “How do you feel today?” “What’s you mood?” “Do you feel depressed?” “Do you feel okay?” “How do you feel about the day ahead?” “What’s your anxiety level?” As I lie there for those first couple of minutes after waking there are usually two different general responses to this: either I feel totally anxious and un-rested after (another) eight hours or more of nightmares, usually connected to the traumas I've recently experienced, or experienced in the past, or I feel okay.
For two minutes. And then after those two minutes are up, I get to know exactly how I feel, really. My heart can start to sink; my stomach can curdle and recoil inside me with fear or unrest; my head can feel empty or too full, or both. My limbs feel sluggish and exhausted. My heart might start to race and I might start to feel sick at the thought of the day ahead, even if it’s just thinking about having a shower or eating breakfast.
If only it were that simple!
Mondays are the hardest because there are five whole days to get through before the weekend. And it’s not even as if I like the weekend, or find it easier to cope with. Sometimes the thought of seeing friends and putting on makeup and a happy (or vaguely happy) (or just not crying my eyes out and scaring everyone!) is too much to take, and the anxiety that I experience at the thought of this is almost enough for me not to go.
But as always, with all of the above, in 99% of cases I make myself go through with it. I know that I’m supposed to be brave and I’m supposed to get on with things, using all of the cognitive behavioural strategies that I've learned to support myself with. And I have my medication too (even though the anti depressants make my legs shake so badly that even with a sedative I can find it hard to sleep because they won’t stop moving).
Today I’m at hospital about to get help because I realised a couple of weeks ago that I was struggling again and that issues I was facing were escalating and bringing out the worst (or the best, if I look at this from the perspective of my fabulous type A personality) in me. I am going to go to groups that will help me look at my anxiety and depression and try to reinforce all those practical strategies I know I can apply when times are tough.
The day begins with group support, where we all have to name the emotions that we are feeling. Today I feel sad, angry – both at being here and needing to be here - and at the external issues that have helped bring me here again. We all speak our feelings. Usually it’s hard for some people because depression can leave you totally numb, so that the ability to experience any feeling seems untouchable, and incomprehensible. To be able to feel – it’s some cloudy far away concept – it doesn't mean anything.
Sometimes hope feels just like 'tomorrow'...something that never comes.
The best thing about support group is that it’s a free flowing conversation about our struggles, rather than a strategic almost-lecture on how to make ourselves or keep ourselves well. The rest of the day is much more tiring because of the things we need to learn – ways to control our anger, anxieties, how to adopt healthier coping strategies, how to use drama or music to articulate our difficulties.
I don’t know how I’ll feel at the end of the day, but I suspect I’ll feel very, very tired. Being ill is hard; getting the treatment is draining, and instead of the beautiful picture or essay or solved maths puzzle one might take home after a hard day’s work at school, I go home with the raw feelings unearthed by a day of delving into my past difficulties and disappointments, my demons and tormentors alive and well and brought into my consciousness from which ever compartment in my brain’s filing system I had buried them away.
But I have to go to hospital. I have to get help. The alternative is to stop living at all, or to continue with all the terrible symptoms of depression that make me want to stop living. So I go. I’m lucky to have the treatment and support. And I've recognised that I need help. So here I am. I'm getting help. It's another first step.