Sunday, 2 September 2012

Things I Have Learned About Chronic Depression.

1.        Understanding the theory doesn’t make it feel any better.  It ought to, but it doesn’t.  It just makes conversing with therapists a bit more interesting (I suspect most of that is on their side, rather than mine).  It’s also a great means of avoiding the subject (which is probably as annoying to therapists as it is to me…but showing off my hard won knowledge is irresistible).

2.       It’s okay to believe that the whole thing is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and accordingly, take medication.  But it’s also a damn good thing to work out whether there’s a root cause, and deal with it.  The chemical imbalance might or might not go away, but the root cause won’t unless you address it.

3.       The root cause may well look as if it’s more than one thing…but in the end, they are all related.  It’s a bit like working on a net; move one bit, and the rest of it shifts accordingly.

4.       It’s a long road, without a map.  As a result, you may find yourself endlessly looping round the same cul de sac, but with subtle differences in syntax and vocabulary.

5.       None of the ‘experts’ seem to want to write about chronic depression.  I suspect this is because short episodes are much easier to treat, they have happy endings, usually, and they don’t make ‘experts’ feel challenged (or helpless).

6.       Your GP’s surgery will not have a clinic to monitor your progress annually, though they have them for other chronic illnesses (like diabetes or asthma).  

7.       It takes time to process stuff.  It has taken me thirty years and four ‘breakdowns’ at least to get to where I am now, and even although I’m on an even keel, it doesn’t take much for me to disappear down a black hole.

8.       You don’t tend to notice you’re depressed until you’re coming out the other side (though those around you will probably have spotted it the day before it starts).

9.       If you’re not at risk of harming self and/or others, the NHS isn’t interested in chronic mental health issues, and provides no assistance other than scraping the suicidal off the floor and putting them together again well enough to function.  Better, if you can, to find a really good private therapist and stick with him/her.  Of course, that is probably not an option for most people, if only for cost reasons.  

       A few people just don’t understand, at all.  Most people don’t want to understand.  So cherish the people who do; they will be your greatest allies. The same, incidentally, can be said of doctors, up to and including psychiatrists.  Just because they’re trained for it, doesn’t mean they either like or enjoy the job, which inevitably impacts on the service they provide. 

      Try not to get overly paranoid.  Everything that comes out of your mouth may well be considered as just another symptom, but that doesn't make talking less important; if anything, it makes it more so.

      Doctors and psychiatrists don't always get it right.  Sometimes a second opinion is essential, albeit difficult to achieve.  

      Above all, keep believing.  It will get better.  It does get better.  Honest.