I don’t know if I am the only person that falls for this trap but I felt like talking about it so let me know if it happens to you too.
I’ve struggled with depression on and off since I was young and been on various doses of Citalopram over the years. I’ve had a few different attempts at counselling, some successful and some not so much.. in fact, some of them were pretty damaging now that I think about it.
Meds wise I’m currently on 30mg of Citalopram, 40mg is the max and I have been on that dosage (I feel like a zombie when on it) as well as 20mg in the past. As awful as this past year has been, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of managing my depression and anxiety. Not managing as in stopping it/fixing it but recognising when things were getting bad and being open with my doctor, my friends and my family about how I was feeling.
For the past couple years I’ve been trying to be super honest about everything, both online and in person.. not in a way to make people uncomfortable but just to make it a part of the everyday conversation.
I just didn’t want to pretend anymore, I did it for years and it’s never done anyone any good. Most people appreciate the honesty, they don’t necessarily understand it and having those conversations gives them some insight as to what myself or someone they know might be trying to deal with. My own family have said that the blogs and social media posts have been really helpful to them. They understand things a lot better now and appreciate the sort of in your face honesty I use, even if it’s hard for them to hear sometimes which makes sense – no one wants the people they love to be suffering.
A lot of people I work with and/or around have felt safer to open up about their own struggles. Whether it’s physical or mental, understanding that people have things going on and appreciating that they might need more time for some things helps us not only as a team but also takes the frustrations people were experiencing when multiple or long term sick absences were taken or working hours needed to be changed. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying you know what I’m having a bad time at the moment, and because you have vocalised it, you feel less alone, and the people around you can made adjustments as needed.
Since being a lot more open with people at work I’ve found myself participating in more groups and activities (all online this year obviously), and have even become an ambassador for various groups including one for managing mental health and invisible illnesses.
We do semi regular meetings that are sort of like an emotional support group where we can all have a chat and a moan with people that understand where we are coming from. But we’ve also gotten together and reviewed the training available, the support available, and had a really good discussion with HR about what we think we as employees and the company itself would benefit from.
Like I said at the beginning of the post, I’ve gotten pretty good at noticing the signs, I’ve let my partner know what the usual signs are for me to be falling into a bad patch so that he can check in with me if he sees it happening and I can do whatever I need to do. It might mean that there’s a change in med dosages, counselling, getting outside more even if it’s only half an hour with the dog and sometimes it’s simply just letting him know I need his help for a little while.
After a suicidal episode at the beginning of the year I was referred to occupational health through work and they suggested I put together a ‘Security Plan’ with my manager. This essentially is a secure document between the two of you, advising your manager of whatever you have going on, and what to look out for so they can get you whatever support you might need at that time.
So on the document I wrote things like: Coming in late, going home early, withdrawing from the team, keeping myself to myself, phoning in sick regularly. I don’t always realise at the time but I do notice the pattern after the fact or when someone points it out to me so I was happy to give her that list of things to be aware of.
Imagine my shock last week when I was scrolling through Instagram posts and saw one of the general *signs of depression to look out for* images. That bit wasn’t particularly shocking as I see a lot of things like that, I either share them if I think they could be helpful or I scroll past as I think with all the work I’ve done on myself I know what to look out for.
I was shocked because the top point caught my eye and I thought oh.. that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days, so then I looked at the rest of them, tick tick tick guys. I had them all covered, I sat and thought about it and I think where this year has been a blur of either nothingness, confusion and fear or bad things happening I just hadn’t allowed myself to recognise how I was actually coping.
I hadn’t gotten out of bed for three days, hadn’t showered or washed my hair. I was struggling to sleep at night and was seeing 4AM most days. I didn’t have the energy to cook or clean, I was either skipping meals entirely or ordering fast food online so I didn’t have to think about anything. I’ll be honest, I felt dumb. How can you hole up in your bedroom for that long, not taking care of yourself and not realise it. I’ve definitely been in worse situations, and I don’t magically feel better for noticing that I was struggling but I just felt like I should’ve had more awareness or control over it?
Anyway I guess I just wanted to get it out, and share how stupid I felt for not realising I was falling down that classic slide into depression even though I talk about it so much and have been through it so many times.
The Black Dog snuck up on me.
If you need help:
Call the CALM Helpline (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0800 58 58 58 – open 5pm to midnight 365 days a year (UK)
Samaritans – call any time from any phone for FREE. Call 116 123 (UK) Write an email: Sometimes writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you understand them better. Jo@Samaritans.org has a response time of 24 hours.
Mental Health America Hotline: Text MHA to 741741. Mental Health America is a nationwide organization that provides assistance through this text line. You will be linked to someone who can guide you through a crisis or just provide information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. (USA) Crisis intervention and free emotional support are available, which is helpful when you need confidential assistance during a time of emotional distress for you or a loved one. The helpline is open 24/7, and a live online chat is available as well.