Wednesday, November 23 2011

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We were all having up and downs. But my downs seemed to be lasting longer than most.

Hi and welcome to a new series of blogs on depression and anxiety. My name is Bethwyn – you may recognise that name from another series of blogs that I worked on all about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This new series will follow a similar style – I will be talking about my own experiences with depression and anxiety, signs and symptoms, causes, and treatments.

My own experiences with depression span a number of years – going all the way back to when I was about fourteen years old. I noticed that the people around me were going through tough times – our bodies were changing, we were confronted with new (and often harder) study, and our decisions seemed to affect everything in our life one way or another. But I noticed that, while everyone was having both low and high experiences, I tended to have lower lows than other people. I would often feel like doing anything was pointless – in any situation. During these times, my usual hobbies and enjoyments seemed dull and worthless. I didn’t want to do anything.

I must mention that during this time I was beginning to get sick, and my depression really hit me hard about a year before I started getting some decent diagnoses from my doctors. However, while this indicates that my depression was in conjunction with other conditions, I don’t feel that it made my experience any less real, or terrifying.

Let me also mention that I still have depression and anxiety issues. I am not depressed all the time, however. I now notice when the empty feelings are coming along, and I do my best to find ways of reaching out and getting help so that I don’t fall into that bottomless pit once more. My anxiety issues are slightly more complex, but I’m working on them every day and beginning to make some good progress.

With depression, I have hit some of the lowest lows I could ever imagine. I have contemplated suicide, but would never carry it out (I have had others in my life – not close, but close enough – that have committed suicide. I, personally, couldn’t do it. Having studied depression, I know that it mostly stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain. And suicide just seems like a pointless waste of life to me. My apologies if this upsets anyone). I have contemplated and occasionally carried out self harm– something that I will talk more about later on in the series. And I have taken anti-depressants, and gotten myself to stop taking them, for fear of addiction. Through this depression, I have also written more than ever, I have made closer and more meaningful friendships in an attempt to show myself that I am not alone. And I have formed deeper connections with people inside and outside of my family through sharing of experiences.

Depression, for some people, is an excuse. They believe that we can just ‘get up and move’ if we put ‘enough effort into it’. This is a frustrating trivialisation of the experiences of those with depression – where it can be the most frightening and horrible thing they have ever experienced. It takes away your will to do anything. Dreams no longer matter. And finding that one thing that is worth holding on to can become an impossible task.

Depression is becoming much more prevalent in our society – people have begun to worry about the amount of anti-depressants that are being prescribed and distributed. Personally, I believe it’s about finding whatever works. When I was first diagnosed, the anti-depressants were the best option. I was quite lost within my own dark world, and could no longer leave the house without experiencing a panic attack. The anti-depressants helped me to find myself again and to ever-so-slowly bring myself back out into the light. After that, I knew I no longer wanted to be on anti-depressants. I’m still quite young, and the risk of addiction (and possibly having to take the same pills for the rest of my life) seemed like too great a risk for me. For some people, it’s the only option – and I respect that. Find what works. I’m lucky enough that I was able to wean myself off of the anti-depressants and commence tackling my depression under my own steam. Check out this page here on TINO for information about different treatment options.

Working out what needs to be in your own coping tool box can be a great help. So it is there to call upon when needed.

I have found a number of things to be extremely helpful – physical activity (I personally love yoga and taking my puppy for walks), wonderful friends (especially ones that understand what you’re going through and, while they may not be able to make it better, will be there for you regardless – this also applies to family members!), mental activity (reading books has been a saving thing for me, as has studying what I love), and spending time outside (just getting a bit of sunlight and fresh air actually gets me out of my own head a little bit). Having said that, though, different people will need different things. I was lucky in that I was able to see a counsellor at my uni for a few months while I was at my darkest point. She helped me to set up some basic calming techniques, and also allowed me to talk about my fears and experiences in a safe space.

The basic message throughout this series will be one that you may have seen from different companies like beyondblue that support people with depression – you are not alone. Your experience may be similar or very different to mine, but I hope that by writing this series, you will find some comfort in the fact that, when you need help, you will be able to find it.

To finish this post, I’d just liked to put a link to a blog that I love reading. The blogger has recently had her own experience of depression and, while she paints it in a humorous light, what she has written (and drawn) rings very true to what I went through to start with. Here’s the link – http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Thanks for reading, and see you in the next blog post which will be talking about signs and symptoms! J

For further information please refer to our depression and Anxiety section or our finding help section.

Check back next week for the next installment of Bethwyn’s inspiring story.

A bit abut Bethwyn: My name is Bethwyn, I am 21 years old, currently in my fourth year of study at University.

 

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Image Acknowledgment

Art Box bytjstaab under creative commons licence
Ferris Wheel by alessiodisalvounder creative commons licence

Thank you to Student Edge for supporting the development of this blog through the provision on a rather fantastic Goodie Bag.

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