I remember it all so clearly. That morning, as I walked down that long corridor to the office where I worked, I could feel the tension and anxiety building up in me. I was physically unstable, my heart was pounding, I was short of breath and I knew my blood pressure was sky high, but I also knew something was desperately wrong.
By the time I sat at my desk, I felt exhausted, I couldn’t think straight, and at that point I knew I had to see my doctor. So, I told to my team leader, that I wasn’t feeling too good and needed to go to the doctors. I got an appointment for an hour later. However, as soon as I put the phone down, the panic attack kicked in. I found myself gasping for air, burning up, with shooting pains in my chest. I was terrified of what was happening to me.
But my team leader, didn’t get me an first aider, didn’t take me to my doctors, or call an ambulance, she drove me home! It was then down to my husband to take me to the doctors.
I was in such a bad state, so as soon as we arrived at my surgery, I was wired up and attached to various machines, which thankfully confirmed that I wasn’t suffering from a heart attack. But it did show that my blood pressure was a dangerous level.
After about an hour, I finally calmed down enough to see my doctor, who diagnosed depression, gave me some strong tranquilisers and signed me off for 2 weeks.
During that time, I got to know my sofa very well. I hardly spoke to anyone or did anything else for that matter. I never did get back to work.
That one day changed the rest of my life, and even now when I think about it, it still hurts. It was a very scary & painful event, but I also have to admit that it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me. As it made me slow right down and take a good long hard look at my life. For the moment, I was no longer that strong, confident, straight talking woman instead I was a delicate and very fragile being.
After a few weeks of being off, the local authority that I worked for referred me to Occupational Health and also appointed a Counsellor for me to see. Now, I have completed a Counselling course, and I know the rules about the client/Counsellor relationship. But my God, that woman they sent me to see broke every single one of them. She didn’t listen to me, but instead talked too much, she was opinionated and tried to offer advice. She opened up a whole can of worms and had no idea how to deal with the contents. I was so glad when the six weeks were finally up and that I hadn’t fully opened up with her.
It took me a couple of years before I before I really started to talk again, I had become so quiet and withdrawn, I hardly recognised myself. I gave into the idea that if no one actually listened to me, then I had nothing to say. And the so called do-gooders, who always thought they knew the answer to my illness, was one by one struck off the list of people I cared for or cared for me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but later learned that depression makes you lose your confidence, and restricts the ability to do simple things like food shopping, driving a car, getting on a train, feeling comfortable with lots of people just to name a few things. It can also stay with a person for years, can affect anyone young or old, can be caused by a variety of issues, and most importantly takes away your joy and desire to do anything or enjoy anything.
It is like walking around with your own personal black cloud constantly over your head, everything loses its colour and just turns grey.
I hope that maybe some of my fellow sufferers, who may be reading this, will agree with this description, because the list is extensive and this is just a brief overview. I have often described it as being at the top of a series of steps. Most people will suffer from some sort of depression at some time in their life, and will only fall down to the first step; so it’s pretty easy to get back up to the top.
When you are clinically depressed, you fall down many steps, maybe even down to the very bottom. Then it’s a real struggle to get back up, yet alone climb up the first step. Again, I can really only comment on my experience, but somehow, I believe that others like me are nodding their heads.
Chronic depression is a real illness caused by a chemical imbalance, and so it is important to understand, that when you are suffering, you cannot get over it on your own. You need to have medical intervention, you need all the help you can get.
Depression is too common for there still to be stigma attached to it.
And if you do find yourself on medication, don’t be deterred by non-believers, or those who don’t want you popping pills but at the same time have no viable alternatives to offer.
Depression is very much a personal story, so treat yourself like an individual.
(Updated Friday 9thNovember 2018)