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31 Aug 2017

Depression: Calling it by its proper name

This blog is written by Doris Murphy. She is 28 and lives in Wexford. Here is her account of her experience with discovering that she was living with depression. Thank – you Doris for sharing this with us and our readers.

I have depression.

It has taken some 11 years to admit that. I’ve “had low mood”, “not felt great”, “not been myself”, “been low energy”, “been a bit allergic” many times. But this year, when I felt low for longer than usual, I finally took my own advice, and asked for help. I had spoken with Mum and my sisters about my mood, and had texted one friend about it.

This episode was not precipitated by anything in particular, which is often the case for me. The day after my birthday night out, I cried for a full meal out with my sister. She asked what it felt like, so I explained as best I could. “I need milk, but if I go to the shop I should do my weekly shop and I don’t know what I want to cook, and I might meet people, and maybe I’ll just go home”. So I go home, and have no milk for breakfast, and no food to prepare my lunch, and I’m beating myself up, as I could have just gone to the shop. It’s that, multiplied by a 1000.

The Little Things.

They are small things, but they weigh on me constantly. My sister was distraught that I had to deal with this every day. “It’s not fair Dor, nobody deserves that”. She suggested I take a sick day and visit the doctor. I’ve worked myself up to tell my doctor on previous occasions, but have wimped out when I’m sitting in front of him, despite the fact that he is kind and compassionate, and exceptionally easy to talk to. I explained this, so she suggested that I write down what I had told her, and just give it to him. I agreed, and went back home with no intention of visiting my GP.

The next morning, my alarm went off. I struggled to find the motivation to get out of my bed and into the shower. I failed. “It’s never going to change” I suddenly thought. I texted my senior in work, and told her I needed to go to the doctor as I was finding it hard to cope. She was supportive as always, and told me to take the time I needed, as we are “finely tuned individuals, who need to mind our mental health just as much as our physical health”. I’m blessed to work with her, she is the most compassionate woman you could hope to deal with. I made an appointment with my GP, and then dozed off. I wrote a few pages about the situation over  breakfast, and drove to my appointment.

So, how are you?

As I went into my GP’s office, he casually asked how I was. I said “not great”, and thrust the pages at him. “It’s about my mental health” I choked out, before descending into silent tears. He read it silently, nodding all the time, before saying “Well the first thing I’ll say is you’re going to be fine. Anyone who has the courage to knock on my door, and the insight to write so clearly about their emotions is always fine”. I cried even harder, this time out of pure relief.

I cried for the rest of the day. We went through treatment options, and I decided to attack my depression from all sides, so agreed to try a low dosage anti-depressant and also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This was a massive step for me. I had always resisted medication, for fear that it would turn me into a zombie. It hasn’t done that, it just adds a welcome level of balance to my mind.

Therapy

I booked into CBT that week, and attended for a course of six sessions with a wonderfully warm and empathetic psychotherapist. She told me that CBT is often misconstrued as being cold, as it focuses on the problem rather than the relationship between the therapist and the client. I did not find this to be the case. I received helpful tips, lovely do-at-home activities (act like you’re on holidays; do lots of little kind things for yourself; be as nice to yourself as you would be to your best friends), and a much-needed sense of control over my thoughts.

It is a practical approach to dealing with depressive or anxious thoughts. It took practice, and was exhausting at times trying to pinpoint the thoughts before they snowballed. But after just four sessions, I repeated a self-rating scale, and my depression and anxiety levels were within normal limits. Just a month earlier they were in the moderate range. This therapy works if you work on making small changes to your thinking and behavior outside of the clinic. A therapy journal helped to keep me focused, and my gorgeous family, friends, and colleagues provided all of the moral support and fun I needed.

My team

So I have clinical depression. It will likely recur. It has done for 11 years. But I have a plan in place now. I have a team of wonderful people who are on my side, and are familiar with early warning signs of my depressive episodes, and have been given permission to tell me if they spot anything. I am going to meet my psychotherapist once every three months to check in. I plan to stay on the anti-depressants for a year, and then come off them if I feel stable.

I have depression. And that’s alright.

 

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