Friday, November 8, 2013

Life is complicated and then you get depressed

The title of this post is not meant to be facetious or sarcastic. Nor is it a cry for help. It is a statement of fact for many. Including me. 

Depression is really, really common. If you have not experienced it yourself, you know someone who has. 

Not many people talk about it. This could be because of the stigma attached with mood problems. I think it is decreasing, but it is still there. Comments like "you're just tired" "snap out of it" "why are you down in the dumps? your life is not that bad" "just think of all the things you have to be grateful for" and so on are still pretty commonplace. 

Or in my case.... "well, it's no wonder you are so tired and stressed, you have 6 kids".

While well meaning, those types of comments are not really very helpful! 

There is a difference between being tired (exhausted, even) and being depressed. Over the years I have learned how to distinguish quite well between the two, and these days I don't have to get really sick before I know to do something about it. 

The first time I experienced depression was when our third baby was about 1 1/2 I think. It probably started well before that, but I didn't realise something was not right until I noticed I'd been staying in bed almost all day letting the kids watch heaps of TV, and then getting up an hour before Hubby was due home from work to straighten up the house so he wouldn't know how badly I was feeling. My mind was in a fog, and I couldn't easily make decisions. I was snappy with the kids. I was not just tired. I was unwell. Over time I managed to pull myself out of it, not realising that I could actually go and get some help. In hindsight, and after discussing with my doctor, it seems likely I had a case of undiagnosed post natal depression. By the time he was 2 I was pretty much OK again. 

The next time was after baby five was born. Around the same time we made a 100km move, Hubby was diagnosed Bipolar. MasterL was experiencing huge anxiety issues and was finally diagnosed Aspergers. I had very little support in a new town, Hubby was studying and working, and I slipped into depression quite hard. This time though we were seeing a great psychologist for MasterL and she noticed what was happening. Hubby noticed too this time, and between them they talked me in to trying some medication. I am so glad they did. I went from being anxious, stressed, angry, disorganised, unable to enjoy things I usually loved and just plain miserable back to my normal content, slightly organised, mostly relaxed and tolerant self in the space of a few weeks. Over about 18 months I learned some new coping strategies and slowly reduced the medication under the supervision of a doctor, until I didn't need it. I've been off it and coping well for about 3 years now. 

Until about 2 months ago. When I first noticed some of my tell tale signs appearing I put it down to stress from Uni work load. Of course I should be stressed... I had assignments due and a baby to watch. Of course I was a bit snappy.... the baby was teething and so I wasn't sleeping.  Of course I was tired.... I have a lot to do every day and a lot on my mind. Overtiredness leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to sleeplessness, sleeplessness leads to grumpiness..... it all made sense.

Then Uni finished for the semester. And I am feeling no better really! 

For those of you who know me for real, please don't worry. And please don't make a big deal. I am OK right now. My mood is low, yes, and I am struggling a bit. But I know what to do. I have had tests to make sure it's not just my thyroid playing up again (it does that!), and I am off to the doctor next week to have a chat. I am exercising when I can. I am eating well. I am not lying in bed all day. I am OK. I just know myself well enough now to know that the way I feel at the moment is not my usual, and I need to look after myself a bit now before it gets worse. I'm not worried about it. I'll go talk to the doctor and see what she thinks. If she recommends some meds again, I'll take them. 

Depression is not the end of the world. It is a common condition, often a reaction to stressful circumstances, and is very treatable. 

If you, like me, struggle with depression, please get some help before you get really sick. Maybe you can just start by talking to a friend you trust and and asking them to help you think through what would be smart to do about it. If you don't want to talk to someone you know there are places you can seek help. Beyond Blue is a good place to start. If you are already in a pretty bad way, please don't wait. Call your doctor and make an appointment. Tell them how you are feeling and ask for help. Please remember that depression is just part of the normal range of human experience. Don't be embarrassed. Get some support and get well.