A fair few people found Malc‘s last blogpost about depression pretty helpful. Here’s a wee followup. Thanks Malc!
Five weeks ago I decided to write about my battle with depression in this article. Five weeks later, I thought I’d write an update, hoping that I’d be in a better place. In truth, that was probably a failure in expectation – a fairly common experience in this journey I think.
The slight increase in medication didn’t really do anything for me for the first three weeks. I had a couple of pretty bad episodes.
The first, I was away at a conference in Berlin. At times I felt really good – I’m contributing a book chapter to an edited volume and we were discussing the theoretical framework, methodological issues and themes which would tie the chapters together. Oftentimes this feels a bit out of reach for me, but I genuinely felt like I belonged in the discussion, which is progress. On the other hand – the lack of familiarity, the vulnerability of not being able to speak the language and the distance from home comforts took their toll. I opted out of the conference dinner to go for a walk then head to bed early, feeling better in my own company and not trusting myself to hold interesting conversations with the other participants. The following morning it took me 40 minutes to get myself roused and out of bed – and I was presenting during the morning session that day.
The second, I was at home. And I just couldn’t get out of bed. Trying to explain this to someone who doesn’t have depression is pretty difficult. I guess it’s like if you break a vertebrae or something – you physically can’t get out of bed. Depression is (I suppose) like a chemical imbalance which has the same effect – part of your brain is screaming its desire to move, your body reacts to the other part of your brain which just says “no”. There was no specific trigger, no reason that I was more “depressed” this day than others – I just couldn’t get out of bed.
That was around 2 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve had some pretty tight deadlines for work, as well as a bout of the winter vomiting bug to contend with, which didn’t really help matters, but when those things were out of the way, I did feel that my shoulders were just a little lighter. That said, I’ve had some “down” time – needing to sleep more than I should, feeling pretty run down and irritable – with good times that I have enjoyed being followed by pretty low lows.
There is no overnight cure for depression, I realise that. Medication is part of it, and it’s a long-term treatment. Support – from family, friends and fellow-sufferers is also a big help. I can’t begin to thank those around me – and those who are not even that close to me, but who got in touch to say “me too”; to offer advice on how to deal with it; to set up a private support network of open ears.
So, again, this isn’t about my writing to help myself – though it does a bit of that. It’s about helping others to identify a problem within, and to seek help. Writing works for me, and so too does personal reflection: I’ve recently realised that I put too much pressure on myself, and have incredibly high expectations both for myself and events around me which are difficult to meet – with the result that when I don’t always succeed, my mood shifts downwards. This is not something that I can fix quickly either, but it is something I need to be aware of, and try to deal with better.
Getting a bit philosophical now, but perhaps that’s the biggest thing for depression sufferers: the self-awareness to recognise a problem, and to take action to deal with it. So yes: that’s what this is about – identifying issues and taking steps to address them. I’m more hopeful of progress on some days than others, but I think the fact I’m thinking about this and I’m aware of the problem is a reflection that some form of fixing is happening. So, I guess that’s something.