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Depression

 

My first SSRI for aaages. Like it says, I’ve just finished 20 weeks of therapy at Strathclyde, for social anxiety, but dealing with broader issues too. And it’s been a real uphill journey – each time I’ve thought I was getting somewhere, along would come some family issue or another to throw a spanner in the works.

But generally, my anxiety’s improved. The only thing is that right at the end of the course, I realised that underneath it all, I have bad depression. I’ve had it pretty much unbroken since I was 14, but I think in my mid-20s I found a way to just ignore it, and pretend it wasn’t an issue. But it is an issue – it leaves me without motivation, willpower, and makes small problems seem big, it encourages prevarication, and when it’s at its worst, I basically become comatose and can’t really do anything.

But all that said, I’m glad I know. I think the anxiety is the sort of outward manifestation of it – it’s the part of me that gets nervous that people will know underneath that I’m depressed. The part of me that is depressed, and wants to stay at home, screaming inside my head that the world is a bad, fearful place. It’s all inextricably linked. And now that the screaming has died down, I’ve had an opportunity to look this place inside me head on, and recognised it as something I’ve had for twenty (TWENTY!) years, and never dealt with…

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4 - The Black Dog Barks

 

…but thankfully it’s still not as bad as it’s been in the past. Self awareness is a hard journey, but it helps you put things in perspective when the black dog does return. For instance, while I’m feeling this shitty way, I know it’s temporary, and that I can ride it out if I just have patience. In the past, it felt all-consuming, and like it would never end.

Some links if this is something you experience yourself:

Breathing Space

The Samaritans

Living Life to the Full

The single best thing you can do if you’re feeling shitty is to get it dealt with. Go see your GP, contact a local counselling service, or even just talk to a friend or family member. The worst thing you can do with depression is to bottle it up – it will get worse. Feelings of isolation are worsened by depression, but talking about it does help.

Person Centred Counselling tends to be more suited to depression and anxiety, while CBT is best for short term anxiety problems, although it also depends on your own personality type, so talk it over with a GP or free counselling telephone service.

Feel free to comment too or send a message if you want to share.

 

 

So I’m back after a fairly long break, and I thought it’d be nice to come back with something positive. I’m still anxious, I’m still avoiding some things, but over the last three or four weeks of going to therapy I’ve been using CBT to stop rumination and I’ve practised being mindful – stopping and using my senses – listening, smelling, seeing the things around me, to bring me out of my head.

I’ve also been kind of re-patterning – hence the strip today. One of the biggest vicious circles with my anxiety has been putting things off then struggling to get them done. Basically, one of my biggest enemies has been disorganisation. You could say that anxiety is the product of a disorganised mind, but I’m not a psychologist, so I can talk about my own experiences with any certainty.

Realising that, I’ve transformed the space in the house I use as a studio, and have everything mapped out in calendars and planners, giving myself realistic deadlines and always re-checking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling with deadlines and things, it’ll take a while; but I’ve been ten times more productive because I’m spending far less time worrying about not getting stuff done.

I’ve also set myself a routine of relaxing, meditating and exercising, as well as, believe it or not, cooking. Rather than waiting till the last minute to decide what I’m eating, which usually resulted in me realising I didn’t have the proper ingredients for a particular meal or whatever and relying on fast carbs instead, I’m planning my meals, and the result is that I’m cooking much more.

All of this is stuff I’ve tried before, but at different times and without properly planning for it. This time I’m doing it gradually, but as one massive big lifestyle change.

I gave up coffee, dudes… COFFEE.

Caffeine, sugar, all that stuff that causes more anxiety, and all that stuff I rely on for comfort, which has helped me get fat, is getting cut out. I figure that if I remove the majority of anxiety-causing influences from my environment then all I’m left with is me. I can work on that. But only when it doesn’t feel over whelming. So I’m hoping that as all this stuff becomes habit, I can focus even more on the therapy and CBT and try to bed in some of this stuff.

It’s precarious – I’m aware that if something “bad” happens I could go back a few steps, but I’m hoping the routine thing will help me to get back on track if that happens.

Also, I’ve given up the citalopram… So in one sense, this strip is now wrongly named! I never wanted to stay on anti-depressants – they were a means to an end for me, and that end was getting to therapy and starting to make the changes in my life I needed. But I was left with a residual physical anxiety by the tallys, and it was affecting my libido too. I was getting to that stage of mediocrity a lot of people report on anti-D’s, where you’re neither up nor down, but in some middle place.

It was a bitch coming off them – I had a rollercoaster week last week, major highs and really, really deep lows, the worst I’ve had for a while. But luckily I could talk it over with Mitch, which meant I never felt like I was on my own.

If you’re going through something like this, I can’t stress how important it is to be able to communicate it. Even if you don’t have people close to you who you can talk to, find a therapist, or at the very least, find someone else who’s gone through it and talk to them. A lot of the difficult stuff you go through is a necessary part of the process, I think, but it can be enough to put you off track if you don’t know how to cope, or even if it’s normal.

If you’re out there on your own reading this and need to talk, feel free to drop me a PM – there’s not just me here, but all the other people I know who’ve experienced it too, and we can all offer our advice and encouragement.

So I’m left with “brain zaps”, or head spangs as a mate calls it, which I love. It’s a side effect of withdrawal from SSRIs, little brain rushes when you turn your head or eyes too quickly. But my libido seems to be returning, and the constant anxious stomach has gone – now I just get it when I am anxious. I also feel a lot more clear headed.

So I’m not there yet – there’s loads of stuff still to do, and I have no idea if any of it will be permanent. It could be that I’ll be anxious for the rest of my life and I’ll just need to manage it. Or maybe that some years of this routine will be enough to get rid of it – I just don’t know. But this time round I’m determined not to slip, to just keep going.

So I’m NOT a psychic – how depressing is that? I want at least one mutant power. Mind you, I think I’d prefer telekinesis to telepathy, but I wouldn’t turn it down…

Anyway, this is what’s known as a cognitive distortion – exaggerated or irrational thoughts perpetuated by some psychological disorders, including depression and chronic anxiety. It’s when you spend your time “making up” what others are thinking about you in their own heads, with no evidence, no proof, that they’re thinking anything of the sort.

It’s seriously damaging and debilitating for a number of reasons – for one, it’s hard enough juggling your own thoughts, but juggling everyone’s in a room? That’s a recipe for disaster (see also fatigue o_O).

For another, it’s totally meaningless. We spend our time judging ourselves in the voices and thoughts of others, which prevents us fully being who we want to be, and it unfairly lays the responsibility for that at the feet others, most of whom are unlikely to be thinking anything like the thoughts we ascribe to them.

So yes, The Great Mentalist is rather shit. Sorry about that…

In other news, I had my first check up appointment at the Doc’s yesterday, which was a kind of strange one this time round. Not much to report, not much change, so it’s a holding pattern and more pills until I start CBT therapy on 6th August…