The D Word

Regulars will know about the attitude and emotional stuff working out – newbies can go and check the archives for details or just read this old post for the Cliff Notes (normally I would never endorse anything like that but, hell, you will thank me for the hours of your life I have saved by reading the summary … seriously, look how many words I’ve used unnecessarily in this paragraph … see, it should have only been a sentence and here I am rambling about rambling? I’m giving you years back that you would have wasted).

What I haven’t told you about is the physical change … More back story for you …

So as I mentioned briefly on Saturday, I have had a few brushes with depression. I was diagnosed at the start of 2001 around the time that my little cousin died of cancer … Mithoon’s passing wasn’t really a trigger – it was the final straw. As 2trees mentioned in his comment, in New Zealand, depression is not something a New Zealander would be happy to admit to. For some reason we seem to think that we should ‘harden up’ or worse still ‘get over it’ – the latter saying is even used as a marketing slogan by one of our leading Universities … I certainly subscribed to both beliefs. I know that I was suffering in 1995 – I remember reading Hamlet and what I can only describe as flood gates of pain opening as I read III i (To be or not to be). Until then I had been numb to most things since Bapuji died in 1992 … It took 8 1/2 years for me to finally concede that I needed help although I can’t remember how I managed to ask …

I went to a doctor recommended by Kathryn (the first doctor who had no history whatsoever with my family in any way, shape or form), she gave me a little multiple choice test – have you had thoughts of doing harm to yourself? “Yes”, “most of the time”, “some times”, “occasionally”. I lied on the form and still managed to come out as moderately depressed. She gave me some sleeping pills and offered either a counsellor or anti depressants … for some reason I took the counsellor, I lied to her in sessions too – but still took her advice and switched to camomile and peppermint teas, cut out the coffee and coca cola out of my diet, inhaled more lavender. I hated my counsellor, I hated every session I went to (I think I only did four in the end, if that), there was no way in hell that I was going to tell her everything because I was so scared of being judged as a silly little girl, with dumb problems, when other people in the world had bigger problems. I had a middle class disease and I was ashamed (that’s genuinely what I thought then).

I had a complete melt down in the production offices of Summer Shakespeare that year after one afternoon session. I think the lies to the counsellor, my crew, my dearest friends and more importantly, myself, became too much to bear. I cried like my heart had been broken … I don’t know how I stopped. Summer Shakespeare was hell on earth for me at that point and it only managed to get worse. I became stubborn and anal about the smallest detail, I would get into big arguments about nothing and god help you if I thought you were behaving unprofessionally … in the end, the only people I didn’t hate by the end of production were Robert, Kathryn, Emma, Tim and Ian (and the last two weren’t even in the crew) – everyone else was making my life difficult by merely existing (or being actors, sorry actors, you really couldn’t win with me).

By the time uni had started again, I made it very difficult for people to be close and compassionate to me (not that it stopped them). I channelled much of my aggression into a play that was (at the time) all about the battle going on in my head (not sure if I ever mentioned that to you, 2trees, that’s what A & B were, the left and right sides of my brain, I always knew who won in the end … I’ve changed sides since, but some how my new interpretation works out more sinister … go figure).

And then Bhai became very ill and that changed everything – I needed to function so that I could keep all of Mum’s affairs running and finish my studies while she was away supporting him. I learned to talk to my friends properly, I learned to ask them for help and company, they kindly let me chew their ear off about everything; I learned to cry without shame; I met 2trees; I repaired my relationships with many good friends (who had never abandoned me no matter what sort of assholery I threw at them). Soon Bhai was out of the woods and I fell in love with a guy who understood Hamlet the way I did …

I went to the doctor to sort out my acne, she put me on the pill and suddenly I was in control again. Aside from stress induced depression (for which I was developing tools to combat), it turns out that I also had severe PMS – which came in the form of … yup, depression. The worst sort. The I just cannot get out of bed, I’ve-not-lost-the-will-to-live-as-that-implies-there-was-a-will-to-start-with, sort. The magic little pills worked, it became easier to function, to formulate my thoughts. It certainly didn’t solve everything, but trust me, just being able to put thoughts in any sort of order when you haven’t been able to before, makes a huge difference.

In 2003, while visiting in the UK, I stopped taking them on my doctor’s recommendation to see what happened. What happened can be seen from a blank page in my diary. I did nothing. I couldn’t see the point of getting out of bed. I vowed never to go off the pill again unless I was planning on having children.

This year (sorry, last year, 2007), stuck in an apartment I didn’t like, with no job and a healing heart, I found that my prescription was running out … I had two choices: find a family planning clinic or wrestle with the NHS or stop taking them and see what happens …

Nothing.

Nothing happened.

I was having a pretty average time, but the mental numbness I feel when I’m depressed didn’t show. In fact my whole menstrual cycle has become normal – I’ve never had normal … still not on them, six months have passed and no signs of PMS so far … getting older seems to have sorted these things out for me.

As for the depression that’s not PMS related? Well, if you’ve been following this blog you’ll notice that I talk about everything. At the moment, this is how I stop anything becoming a trigger. I may tell you my deepest darkest thoughts, but I don’t care what you think of me any more because this is what I need to do to keep functioning. I haven’t had an episode for well over a year now, and I got myself through that by being honest to anyone who asked me how I was – “not ok” was the usual answer – it may not have been the right thing to say, but it was how I felt, and I had to remind myself out loud so that I knew it was ok to be not-ok.

If you’re one of the folk who have found it awkward or a bit full on when I’ve talked about myself or my emotions, my apologies, but this is what I need to do to make sure I don’t get depressed again – once you’re under that veil, it’s very hard to find your way out … I don’t want to go back there again.

Long and rambly, sorry … The short part is this – I’m doing very well, thank you. I am not currently suffering from depression and I don’t know if I’ll have it again. I’m trying to be aware of any signs or triggers to try and make sure it doesn’t come back – I will promise to email, call, blog about it if I think it is … yes I could have said that at the beginning of the post and saved you the long read … oh well. 🙂

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6 Responses to “The D Word”

  1. Good post.

    Kia kaha, and much love.

  2. This is interesting. I am thinking about many of these things.

    I’m curious about which BC you used. In college I tried the tri-cyclic kind and ended up facing that can’t-get-out-of-bed kind of depression. I have been off the pill ever since, because I’m too nervous. And I never trusted it anyway because I’m so bad about taking it at the same time every day. I’ll probably change my mind if I’m ever in a serious relationship again, but I’m considering the ring, or the shot (scary!).

    Anyway.

  3. I started out on one called Diane 35, but I had quite a bit of bloating so I was switched to a lower dose pill called Microgynon 20ED – the manufacturers seem to change the names depending on the country, so I don’t know if that helps. I still ended up putting on about 15kgs over the five years I was taking it, but I understand that there’s a new generation of pill that doesn’t have weight gain as a side effect (I don’t know, Mum also put on weight when she went on the pill many years ago and when she had HRT, so it may be a hereditary response to hormones).

    As for taking it every day, I only roughly took it at the same time – in the morning as I was getting dressed and the actual hour varied wildly, it worked fine. I know of a lot of friends who have changed pills over and over until they found one that suited them – worth a try (and, you know, a lot less painful then a shot!).

    As I said, everything seemed to come right this year and I really think it may be because I’m 29 and my body has settled down.

  4. Yay that the big D stayed away!

    PS I find it awkward and full-on when people DON’T honestly speak about how they are 😉

  5. My favourite part about of this post is that you admit to lying to the counsellor. Isn’t it crazy that we’re even scared of being judged by the people PAID not to judge us?

    I went to see a spiritual director for a while at the start of 2006 – I used it as practice and talking about my feelings (in the context of a ‘safe’ stranger) and stopped going when I actually started being more open with my mates. She was a very nice lady but I still withheld stuff that I knew I needed to talk about because I was scared of how she would respond. Seems so silly in retrospect.

  6. Yeah, it is a bit crazy, but in all honesty and I know this is a terrible thing to say … when presented with a counsellor, I’d probably lie to them again.

    I don’t know why … ok, I do know why … it’s still a fear of being judged by a professional who doesn’t know the background story or perhaps is going to interrupt or ask me questions that I don’t want to answer … and there’s the whole sitting in silence while realising that I’m paying to sit in silence … it’s irrational, I know!

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