Torn at the shoulder

The first time I went to the doctors with symptoms of depression, I was 19. My parents dragged me from my bed during the summer holidays and made me go. “We wondered when this would happen” they said, glumly. The doctor prescribed me a book. When I went back to see him two weeks later, he asked “How did you find the book?”
“I was too depressed to read it” I replied.
He put me on Prozac.
Many of my friends, when I returned for my third year at University, were happy to see how much better I seemed. I got a routine together. Having ham sandwiches everyday at midday made me feel as if I had suddenly found the meaning of life. I was overjoyed to finally be working like a ‘normal person’ again. Others were worried; the pills gave me such enthusiasm for life, I found myself in complicated and compromising situations. Before long, things didn’t seem quite so rosey anymore. I don’t remember when I stopped taking the medication, only that I didn’t check first with any doctor and just didn’t top up my prescription one day.
Since then, I have been on anti-depressants several times. People who have never experienced real depression before, won’t be able to begin to understand how lonely and frightening it can be. Here is not the time or place for me to explain it, suffice it to say when someone who is depressed is at their lowest points, even getting out of bed can seem like the most terrifying ordeal they can imagine. I am not a weak person. I am not useless, or stupid, or mentally impaired in any way other than the world sometimes seems to want more from me than I can give, and that is when I retreat into the comfortable darkness of this illness. It is all I have known for more years than I can remember.
This time, the darkness has taken a different form. It isn’t that I am miserable, per se, simply that everything seems a little too difficult for me and I am suffering levels of anxiety that are higher even than my normal levels. The idea of doing my day job, a job I have loved and excelled at for many years, is just too horrible. It is a scary place to be. The anxiety I feel about doing anything at all, brings with it some very real physical symptoms, which in turn, make me worry more. If you have never had a panic attack, you won’t understand how life-threatening they can seem.
Luckily I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family and understanding colleagues. I have a group of different professionals helping me out, and I have a plan to get back on my feet. It won’t be an easy journey, but it will be made a great deal more difficult by people who refuse to understand this illness – a disease that is probably more physical (i.e. in my brain) than emotional (in my head) – is anything more than an affliction suffered by people who are a bit spoiled and wet. Hopefully, I won’t meet any of them along the way.
This is a very public place to share this, and that is quite deliberate. If I had cancer, had broken my leg, or was suffering any other kind of illness I would probably not feel in the least embarrassed to write about it here. The fact that I thought twice about writing about depression is because of the stigma it has attached to it. But I refuse to be ashamed of this illness because it is as real and debilitating as any other sickness and, more than that, it could affect anyone, and nobody brings it upon themselves.


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