I am not proud nor ashamed to say that I have and still do suffer with depression and anxiety. However I did used to believe that only ‘mad’ or ‘attention seeking’ people suffered with these characteristics…wow…how wrong was I?!
I grew up in what seemed a tight knit family. My father was a hard working self employed gardener and my mother was an equally hard working employee. My grandparents, from my mothers side of the family, whom I spent a lot of time with were very well off. They owned a Wet Fish and Poultry shop in town and a large house with a Rolls Royce in the driveway. There was nothing I didn’t need nor missed out on. Money was always plentiful and everyone seemed really happy. To be ‘depressed’ or have ‘anxiety’ was not even a term used within our family.
Some years later during my teenage years I vaguely remember my mother ‘not being well’, she was negative, moody and heavily smoking. I remember she started to take medication each day but I never really knew or was told much about what was wrong with her. I remember that the medication she was taking was St John’s Wort which I know now is a herbal remedy for depression and anxiety. Twenty years on and we’ve still never talked about it.
I was first diagnosed with depression in 2013. At the start of the year my husband and I spiraled into a 5-figure debt which almost bankrupted us. Part of it was just pure bad luck and part of it was carelessness on our part with our finances.
At the time I was studying for a Business Management degree so going bankrupt was not a sensible option for my future career prospects. My husband was amazing. He researched the best possible options and came up with a plan. We were to be financially managed for five years by a debt management charity (called Step Change) who would broker with the companies we had debt with and helped us get onto a monthly budget.
This was when all luxuries and unnecessary payments had to stop. We compared the market for gas, electricity, mobile phones, broadband and even groceries for a better monthly price. We swapped our shopping habits from Tesco and Asda to Lidl and Aldi. We stopped having take away meals and a bottle of wine at the weekends, we stopped the children’s hobbies and extra curricular activities at school that needed payment but the worst part for me was having to give up my horse and pony. I had owned my horse for three years and the pony just 12 months. They were part of the family, they were part of our daily life, they were what we shared as a family. They were a luxury and so to enable us to eat I had to let them go as I couldn’t afford to look after them anymore. I will explain more about them in a separate post another day but for now this is when my depression really started.
Having to give up my boys was the hardest thing I’ve had to do since losing my dad to cancer. Hearing them neigh in the trailer as they pulled off with unfamiliar people was heart wrenching. I shall never forget the days they left me for good.
It was a few months later that depression really took hold of me but the months prior to my ‘crash’ in the kitchen my attitude started to change. I became angry quicker; I started to resent my children; I was negative all the time; I stopped horse riding; I stopped socialising; I stopped being me!
I eventually broke down in the kitchen one December day and that was it. That was when my husband said enough was enough and I was going to the doctors. I was later diagnosed with ‘reactive depression’ due to an event or a collection of events that happened in such a short space of time. I started on medication and went for counseling.
Last year my life was going really well and although I lost my Nan at the start of the year I decided with the doctors advise to reduce my medication with the view to eventually wean off it completely. I successfully did this in July 2016. However, it started to highlight other issues such as chronic insomnia and anxiety. Something as simple as driving somewhere unaccompanied would make me nauseous and give me the shakes. It was a horrible feeling. The insomnia changed my body clock. I was often awake till 2.00/3.00am in the morning and when I’d wake up in the morning for work at 7.00am I was dead on my feet. Often I would come home and crash out around 5.00pm until 9pm when I’d be wide awake again.
By December I was back to a low mood again, maybe it was because of the festive season and the fact my Nan’s birthday was in December too and would be the first one she will miss or maybe it was the strain of work where there have been some major changes, whatever it was that set me off again I decided, with my husbands support, to go back to the doctors again and go back onto medication and seek counselling again or if necessary Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT as it is well known as.
I know this time round I am well equipped and have much more knowledge than I did before and I want to be more proactive in my recovery. I hopefully will be able to come off the medication again in the future but if this isn’t a possibility then that’s ok too. After all, plenty of people have to take medication for their illnesses and this is just as important so it is what it is.
If you think you are suffering from depression or anxiety then here are my five tips to getting well again:
1) Admit There Is A Problem – This is the first stage to recovery. I now know that I am never alone in my thoughts. Someone somewhere will be feeling just as low as me. Surprisingly I found out after I was diagnosed that some of my closest friends had all been treated for depression at some stage in their life. Sometimes just talking or messaging a friend or loved one is all you need to get some advise or just get things off your chest. I was really lucky that my husband knew about depression through his work and a good friend of mine had been through it in her lifetime so I feel I can talk to them as and when. If this isn’t the case for you then there is always someone available in a professional position, such as your doctor or a nurse. Don’t be afraid, they see people with depression every day. It’s totally confidential, you just book an appointment and you don’t even have to tell the receptionist why you need the appointment either.
2) Get Help – Whether it is professional help or an honest chat with a friend or loved one. You must get some help and advice. I didn’t know it until I started taking medication that it really would help, and it does honestly. Some people are not ok with taking medication and a more herbal treatment such as St John’s Wort maybe an alternative answer but definitely don’t dismiss it all together unless you are totally sure. I find counseling helps. It’s a bit weird to start off with but they are trained in such a way that talking to them is relatively easy. Getting yourself to the appointment is the tricky part. I had so many battles with my mind the first time I did it. I’ve not had Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) yet but this is something I may look into as you are taught ways to manage your problems by changing the way you think and act.
3) Be Proactive – We are in an era where we have the internet available at our fingertips. Use it wisely. Read up on how your feeling and relate to others. Don’t get bogged down in other’s misery but use their experiences to help yourself. There is always help and advise available.
4) Take Time Out – This is one of the first things I neglect when I’m feeling low. I stop horse riding, I don’t read, I don’t go out, I don’t want to do anything BUT make yourself do it. Go out for that walk with the kids/dog or pick up that book you brought and haven’t got round to reading yet. Start a hobby if you don’t have one already. Even if it’s knitting, chess or simply going to the gym, just do it!
5) Look After Your Diet – I’m an eater when I’m low. I have the previous weight gain to prove it. I have however decided to pay a little more attention to my needs and not my wants when it comes to food and drink. I’m not a big drinker anyway and we don’t buy sugary pop and juice so I make the effort to drink cordial in water as that tastes better to me than plain water. I’m not a big drinker of tea and coffee too so I tend to drink hot squash instead but some herbal tea’s are just as nice. We are still not able to afford fast food and take away meals so a lot of what we eat is homemade, not a microwave meal in sight (have you seen the contents of those things…yuk…). I’ve also taken a fancy more to vegetarian food. I like meat but just a bit bored of it so we have started to eat a lot more vegetable curries or stews which are cheap to make and make enough for two days worth of meals. I like a glass of wine but we don’t drink regularly and at the moment with having to work at a budget we don’t often get the extra pennies to pay for alcohol so that’s not a problem for me. What I have stopped buying though is crisps and large chocolates. I tend to buy the small chocolates for the children’s lunch box and just enough for them each day and that means then I can’t dip into them as they will go without so it keeps me on the straight and narrow.
Whatever your thoughts I hope this has been useful to you. It certainly helps me get it off my chest because if I am to become even a half decent blogger I feel I need to be honest and this is just one of those things that no one likes to talk about, so I wanted to make sure that you all know I don’t have a problem with being depressed and I don’t mind talking about it either, It’s life; It happens; We deal with it! 🙂 Take care x