…and I’m not, but I’ve thought and prayed about this for a long time. The blog site has already timed me out once, so I’ve already written this once and lost it, so that hasn’t helped my confidence in my decision to do this, so I’m now going to write it in Word first, before posting! I obviously have more determination to post this than I thought, for some reason! I have seen in the last few days and weeks, the experiences expressed by Stephen Fry, Alistair Campbell and Katharine Welby. I have made the decision to add my experiences to this list, for what mine are worth. I was first diagnosed with clinical depression at 16, although I think I have been exhibiting symptoms since the age of 4 or 5. I have been bullied in all of my schools, and at college. University in Wolverhampton was great, but Nottingham was hard because I couldn’t cope with being away from home. Depression has blighted the whole of my life. I suffer from paranoia, confidence issues, self-hatred, hysteria, hyperventilation (when the panic attacks are bad enough). I am on a specific anti-depressant medication that is used for those whose condition has panic and anxiety at its root. At present I am existing. I am working, but I have very little energy left for anything else. Seeing friends on a weekday evening, other than Friday, for example, is impossible. I cannot travel to and from work without my dad. I panic. What I will do when he retires next year, I don’t know. I can sometimes shower without my mum being upstairs with me, but it’s rare. I was struggling with paranoia yesterday and so couldn’t do it. I cannot be left on my own for more than an hour, two tops. Once I become aware of being on my own, I panic. I absolutely detest myself. I think there is no one on this earth worse than me. I look in the mirror and see a monster (being overweight doesn’t help. I’ve had a lifelong fight with my weight, and now I don’t have enough energy to exercise always, it is a vicious circle). I also suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so I’ve had my first break in the last few days from the twice-daily sessions sitting by my light-box. The dark, horrid weather we’ve had for a while has definitely not helped me. Counselling gave me coping strategies, which I still use, but you do talk about the same things, going round in circles. In the end the only person that can help me, and get me out of this, is me. That’s where I fail, spectacularly. Cognitive Behaviour therapy (or CBT) is not to be discounted completely but it does not work for everyone. It gave me strategies, but has not been the miracle cure that the medical profession seemed at one point to think it would be. I would agree that a combination of medication and therapy is a good way to go.
Somebody who has a belief in God cannot be “sad”. The Pope has said that recently, and that has annoyed me slightly. You can easily question where God has gone, because you feel so low, but you do still know he’s there. My faith is just not as strong as I would like it to be, but you can still believe in God and have depression, and you can also wish that you were dead too. I also think I am not a good enough Christian as a result of my depression. I give very bad PR for God and the Church of England! I have been incredibly lucky at my church, because everyone is so supportive of me. I’ve heard stories from people at the Greenbelt Festival of complete ostracisation, for example, when they talked about their depression to people at their church. I have never heard of anything so not Christian in my life, and it’s made me realise just how lucky I am. I thank God for the congregation at my church! If you are a depressed Christian, put the name Jo Swinney into Amazon. Her book “Through the Dark Woods” is definitely worth reading! If you are depressed, don’t go for ordination, because they will reject you in no uncertain terms. Apparently this happened to Jo, and the person who told her this basically tore her apart. Certainly our previous curate succumbed to depression and after a period of sick leave, has left the priesthood completely. Considering what they deal with, this is hardly surprising. I have a very patient doctor (she has to be), supportive friends (how I don’t know), and am well supported at work (although colleagues who are having similar issues will not talk to senior staff, as they seem to expect criticism rather than support. If that is the case, I don’t see why they should be treated any different from how I am, although the treatment they expect is what I expect, rather than what I get!). I also have two AMAZING parents. I wouldn’t have survived as long as I have without them, but I hate the fact that I control their lives and what they can do themselves, as much as I do. That is unfair on them, and it makes my self-hatred and disgust turn in on me even more. My mother in particular is so patient, even when I’m curled up on the lounge floor screaming. My dad is now dealing with me telling him I know I’m an idiot because I didn’t save the original blog in Drafts before it timed me out, because I just didn’t think about it. There is an element of perfectionism here; if I don’t get things “right” in my estimation (I have a much emphasised sense of right and wrong) I feel I am a failure and a waste of space.
I have great respect for those who have been strong enough and brave enough to tell of their experiences of clinical depression and mania (also known as bi-polar disorder or manic depression). Stephen Fry did a couple of programmes for Comic Relief some years ago, and they were good, but not easy watching, as I related to some of the people that he talked to. He suffers from bi-polar disorder, which gives manic highs and desperate lows, as we know he hit recently. He wouldn’t be without his illness, as the highs aid him in his career. Many creative people also suffer from these conditions. Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) is the American poster girl for mania. My “highs” are not high. I am always down, so my lows can be chronic. I just have times that are more productive than others.
I would also like to express my admiration for Katharine Welby, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Miss Welby is in her late twenties, and recently, in conjunction with the mental health charities MIND and Rethink Mental Illness’ Time to Change campaign, talked about her experience with depression, on her blog, and in print and TV interviews. I’ve put the website for the campaign in the blog roll. Go on and add your pledge to the wall as I have done. MIND’s website is on the blogroll too. Miss Welby’s father Archbishop Justin (my spiritual leader, as an Anglican, although I confess I don’t agree with all he says, especially not gay marriage. Whatever Leviticus says, I don’t agree. I wholeheartedly agree with him on women bishops though. Rock on!) tweeted after her BBC Breakfast news interview of his pride, calling her “a great gift of a daughter”. I saw that interview and related a great deal, which possibly wasn’t helpful as I was getting ready to leave the house for work, and was blubbing! For someone so young (so not totally different to me), considering that the stigma we are trying to get rid of is still there, very much, in society, I thought it was a very brave thing to do. I can see Miss Welby as brave. I see myself as foolhardy! I am glad she is not scared of her condition. I am terrified of mine, especially the anger management issues I experience. I suppose it helps me to relate to some of the AEN learners at school, who have similar issues. Having said that, maybe I am then too sympathetic. One lad broke a door and pulled the top off one of my tables once. I take my anger out on other people verbally, especially my parents. I take it out on myself physically. I pull my hair out, or dig my fingers into my hands or my scalp. My scalp will bleed sometimes when I do this. I suffer from a combination of dermatitis and psoriasis on my scalp, so that adds to the discomfort that I seem to need to feel. I experience the same emotions as felt with self-harming. There are no blades involved though, so one of the other doctors at my surgery discounted it. Miss Welby says she knows her father loves her. I know mine loves me now, but when at the age of 8 he stopped showing me any affection at all, my immediate reaction was “my dad doesn’t love me any more”. Actually worse; I thought he hated me. Now I’m older, I understand better that due to his upbringing (my paternal grandparents were not affectionate at all. They are often described as “dead-pan”), he cannot show affection to anyone except my mother. It’s difficult, but I do understand better than I did as a child.
So there we are. I’ve done it. I will live to regret this, I’m sure. All I can say is that if you feel low, moody, angry, tearful, like a waste of space, as if you have no worth to anyone or anything (I relate so much to all of this), if you sleep a lot or not at all, if your appetite for food massively increases or decreases, and if this is out of character for you, and continues for at least two consecutive weeks, then speak to your doctor and get the help and support you deserve. You deserve to have the strategies in place to have a life that is easier to cope with, and to not have the sinister black cloud over you, or the bottomless black hole beneath your feet, blighting your existence. Everyone deserves better….but I’m trying desperately not to say “Except me”…