“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry
I never thought I would ever end up writing about living with depression. Even though I have worked in mental health services and know the signs and symptoms you never think it will hit you. How wrong I was.
If I am honest with myself I think I knew but chose to ignore the signs, perhaps because of my fear of the stigma and of how people may change their attitudes towards me or by then I was beyond caring.
My depression is perhaps many faceted but what has certainly drained my capacity to keep positive has been the fact I have been subjected to bullying for the past decade. Like all bullying it has had peaks and troughs, but it has been eating away at me and one day in February I just had nothing left. I guess some will wonder how I can be experiencing bullying, but if there is one thing that I have learnt from representing members, it is that anyone can be bullied. I have learnt as a social worker and trade union rep bullying can happen to all of us. Often bullying takes place and other work colleagues know it is taking place but don’t say anything for fear that the bullying will move to them. I do understand why others have stayed silent and I don’t blame them, but we all have our limits.
A good friend who shared their experience of depression best summed it up by saying “you are completely drained like a car battery, you can’t drive with a dead battery.” This resonated with me as I just woke up one day and something had happened. My colleagues in the UNISON office all say that they were not surprised, they were only wondering when it would happen.
It did take a lot of persuading to see my GP, my workload is always crazy and I do admit I take the attacks on my members personally. I am always thinking about what we are doing, how we can improve and what we do next. I am based in a Council which six years ago announced it was going for mass outsourcing, though they deny it; at least 22 Council Services have now been outsourced to another employer in the last four years and the last of us are now due to be outsourced by April next year. The stress and anxiety being experienced by our members is intolerable and therefore I am always trying to find different ways to support them.
On the day I decided to visit my GP, I can’t pretend it wasn’t very stressful because I feared just what he might say, I genuinely wondered if I was going to be sectioned as I knew I was in a bad way.
I am glad I saw my GP and whilst I was not keen on taking medication I recognised I had taken the first step by finally acknowledging I had a serious problem. I could no longer pretend it wasn’t there. By the second visit to the GP and I agreed a treatment plan with counselling and reluctantly medication.
Now after several months of treatment, I am glad to report that I am starting to feel better. I am still struggling with the side effects of the medication which sometimes impacts on the quality of my life. As someone who has never taken medication, this is still an area I am struggling with.
I must thank the NHS services for the services they have provided for me, because I know deep down they have probably saved my life. Just writing those words “saved my life”, is still quite sobering and there are times when I can’t believe how I got into such a state.
Since my condition has become known to some of my friends, some of them have shared their own experiences of depression. It is no surprise to me that each of us has a different experience of how it impacts our mental health. As a practitioner in mental health and now a service user I recognise much more the importance of seeking help. Sometimes first contact might not be a positive experience but don’t give up because the NHS hopefully won’t give up on you. I know that mental health services are being decimated and there is an increased need for services, which is why we must all actively campaign to stop the destruction of mental health services.
Many friends and comrades have wondered where I had gone and for those sending messages of support a big thanks, you don’t realise just how much messages do help. I have started going back to work gradually, I’ve had a few relapses as I have tried to take too much on, so I am going to try and slow down……………..honest!
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” – J.K. Rowling
I have left below a few links to a number of different mental health services. I just want to say, if you are experiencing depression or you have a friend with depression, just being there for them can be just as therapeutic as any of the other treatments.