I went to work one day and didn’t go back for over 3 months.
23 April 2016
I came home from work nearly 6 weeks ago and I haven’t been back.
I have been in a stable relationship with my partner for 18 years and we have two thriving children. Anyone who reads my blog would be aware of this.
I have had a successful career for 27 years, I work in senior leadership roles and will continue to do so.
I want to share my story so far. Why in my blog that is focused on LGBTIQ topics am I covering my depression and anxiety? I want to share it because I believe each time this story is shared it might just help someone who is suffering. Each time this story is shared it might just help someone to understand. Each time this story is shared it might just help someone consider the high levels of mental health issues in the LGBTIQ community and try to do something about that.
At the age of 44 I have had 2 major depressive episodes in my life. I have though, spent what I consider to be in excess of 30 years living with a chronic illness and that illness is depression and anxiety.
When the shroud of depression starts to envelope me it is with stealth and barely noticeable. It takes away the easy smiles and my laughter. It shortens my fuse and I may be that little harder on my children or more easily provoked. This stage may last for years and life goes on. The shroud is not felt across my shoulders.
As it falls to gently cover the upper part of my body I can feel the light constriction of it. My tension and anxiety levels are increasing but I still don’t really notice what is happening. As this stage progresses I start to recognise familiar behaviours, as do my close family and friends. Yet we avoid talking about the shroud or occasionally touch on the subject briefly with a few ideas of improving self care and perhaps a medication adjustment being required.
Now the shroud is at my knees and I know I am no longer well but I refuse to take action. My perceptions of situations are skewed and influenced by the disease now. I am anxious about many things as my mind races to make sure I keep going. Life stress is no longer something I can cope with because I am consumed with getting through work, social activities/volunteering and family life. Disturbing moments happen where I consider self harm or suicide and these moments become more frequent. I am exhausted; compelled to sleep at any opportunity. Sleep is the time when my mind stops it is the only real relaxation.
Then one day the shroud is dragging on the floor and I can no longer walk, I stumble and can’t move forward. I didn’t see it coming so devastatingly quickly, some saw it coming and others didn’t notice. For 12 months my psychiatrist has been asking if I could take a break from what I was doing; make no big decisions and just take care. I didn’t heed his advice and I break.
Surrendering to the shroud is both liberating and terrifying. Help is finally here but at what cost and what has become of my life. I then collapse into the safety of my home and try to accept how unwell I am. I try to push away the feelings of guilt and by doing so add more guilt. Talking is hard, moving is hard, leaving the house borders on impossible. I am now a shell merely existing. I scare myself with dark thoughts of what value I am to my family and friends.
A switch is flicked in my brain one day. The right combination of medications, the time it’s taken for them to work, the weeks of nearly complete rest and the love and support from my family and friends is starting to work. It is obvious to me there has been a change. The shroud is back up to my waist. Just like that. I talk to my psychiatrist about how quickly this seems to occur and he shares that many people have similar experiences.
I walk outside and for the first time since I stumbled I can feel the air gently brushing against my skin. I hear better and I see better. My mind is no longer a constant fog. Both my mind and my environment seem clearer. I can laugh and smile. I can look forward to comfortable time with friends. Am I cured? No I don’t believe this illness has a cure. Am I all better for now? No this is a critical time of ensuring I don’t let the shroud slip. I can do it, I can make sure the shroud doesn’t slip. It takes work and energy. Everyday activities are draining. I need your help now too.
This is where the story ends for me this time. The shroud will continue to lift and I will go back to living instead of merely existing. I will try to avoid provoking symptoms of my chronic illness. Just as a diabetic medicates and manages their health I will need to do these activities or the shroud may return. Although I will always be aware of what I can do; I also accept that as with all diseases I am not 100% in control of it and therefore it may return despite my best efforts and this is not my fault.
The two significant episodes of depression and anxiety that I have had have followed a similar path as I have written about above. The piece that surprises me is that day recently when I walked outside and the world was clearer and I could feel the air on my skin. Why does this surprise me so? It does because I recall the exact same feeling 18 years ago at the exact same stage of my illness.
Please share or comment with your experience or words. We must reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and address causes of mental illness. We can only do this by talking about it.
I will finish with a semicolon, as my story is not over ;
Copyright Adele Fisher 2016