Hello darkness, my old friend ….. I’ve come to talk with you again

I have been listening to the Sound of Silence on repeat for about two hours now.  Probably not ideal.

I am a chronic depressive.  With a side order of general anxiety disorder, and social phobia.  I have a touch of something that cannot be defined but Ritalin takes care of it.

I have not slept “naturally” since 2008.

I take medication to go to sleep and another set to keep me asleep.

I realise you don’t need to know this, but here is the thing.  There are so many people around you that suffer with one or all of these maladies, that it is about as common as a fungal infection.

The difference is that someone will tell you they have a fungal infection.

There is so much embarrassment in telling someone that you are not coping and you need help — the result is a lot of people don’t seek help.  They quietly try, and try to get on by themselves.

They wake up each morning, take a deep breath and try to get through the day.

Some get through the day.  Others are not that lucky.

They are embarrassed they are not coping — so they hide it as long as they can —- until they can’t.

Some choose to end their lives.

This is what this post is about.

Suicide is not the easy way about.  Suicide is not because you are selfish or cannot do something.

Suicide is what happens when you get to the end of your rope.  When you need the pain to stop.  To just stop.

And it is the best option available to you at that moment in time.

The darkness that normally creeps around the edges of your existence, starts to bleed into the all of you.

Depression is an illness whose main function, each day, is to try to kill you.

I know it sounds ludicrous — unless you have been there.  Unless you have felt those cold unforgiving fingers wrapping themselves around your everything, you cannot imagine what it feels like – how your internal dialogue is so painful, so unforgiving, so intent on trying to make you hurt yourself.

Finding the right psychiatrist is part of the trick.  Being on medication that can stabilise you, goes a long way to keeping the demons at bay.  Or at least in check.

Having someone to talk to  – ideally a psychologist is also very helpful.

You need to speak to someone who understands your condition — who knows what your triggers are.  What sends you further into a spiral, what pulls you back from the edge.

I cannot explain my depression.  I cannot always identify what is going to set it off.  I will often be high functioning, catching balls, doing great and something will creep up on me. Kick my feet out from under me.

It isn’t always something big that floors me, sometimes it is something that is irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things.  A hurtful word.  A sense that something is happening to me.

Then the slow, or rapid, decline will occur.  The demons get louder and more insistent.  Egging you on.

Your ability to hold them back gets more and more exhausting.  Until one day, you just can’t. Anymore.

You function, because you must.  The depression brings the suicidal thoughts.  You start to map out a plan.  It’s usually not a big jump, as most depressives always have a suicide plan.  Always.

Mine is a pick ‘n pay bag of medication I have horded for years.

I believe that suicide via this route has a 2% success rate.  Not ideal.  Depressives have an unusual amount of knowledge on this subject.  Not because they have a pinterest board.

For a few moments each day their brain is telling them something about suicide.

If you suffer with depression — please believe that you are not alone.  There is nothing broken about you — you are just wired differently.

One of the worst feelings is when the demons isolate you.  They make you feel alone as you cry in the shower, or stand in the bathroom at 2am and sob, and you don’t even know why.

You. Are. Not. Alone — though your demons will constantly try to convince you that indeed you are.

They will work really hard to make you feel alone.  Isolated.  That no one cares about you.  That you are not worth anything. That you are not worthy.  That all those things that peoples say about you are true.  That all the horrid things you think about yourself are true.

You will only hear the negative things — and believe them.

You will not be able to hear the parts that you need to hear : You are worth it.  You are incredible.  You are loved.  You are needed. You are brilliant.  You are beautiful.  You are wanted. Every day you add value to someone’s life.  You are …. worth every moment.  Every breath.

The demons do not want to you to believe that.

Somehow you need to dig yourself out of this dark, damp and fetid pit — somehow.

Just get to the top.  Get to the part where you can see a bit of light —- where you can take a breath.  Regroup.  Find your strength to fight your demons.

I am not here to tell you it is easy.
I am not here to tell you that you will win.

I am here to tell you that if you can find oxygen, and look around, and see your children’s faces and the laughter of your friends, you will know that you can do this for another day.

Maybe it isn’t your children you see.  It might be the smell of lavender, or the feeling of someone who truly loves you wrapping their arms around you.  Holding the part of you that just needs to be held that day.

All you have to do today is get through today.

I don’t mean to make it sound like it is easy — it is a fight for survival.

There will be bullies who will hurt you.  Sometimes these bullies will be in the cloak of friends and family.

There will be people who will know where your soft spots are.  They will stab you for no other reason than to prove they can.  To show you that they are stronger than you.

Life will not be fair to you —- your demons will be stronger than you can believe.  Than even you could prepare for.

No one will be there for you when you need them — when your demons are winning.

Try to hold on — try to find the strength to take a breath.  Just one.  Then take another, and repeat.

My lowest has been the thought that my children will grow up without a mother.

Even though often I think it will be easier for them.  That I am the fek up.  I keep being told I am, that I am the failure.  That my life is a series of failures.  That I am the thousand other things that I have heard from sometimes my nearest and dearest ….. and sometimes just from my inside voice.

My best so far is being told that I am giving my ex a reason to take my children away from me, because I have tattoos.

Paranoid thinking is one of the horses of the apocalypse.

I think if it wasn’t for my children I would have exited this game a long time ago.

If I go ….

My concern is that they will grow up without me.  They will not know how much I love them.  They will not know how often I look at them when they are sleeping and my heart swells so much that bits of it leak out of my eyes.

They will not know how much I adore them — every little part of them.

I sit next to them and all I think is that “I did good here, these are great kids” — I broke the cycle.

My “hold me back” is that I do not want my children in therapy because they think they were not enough.

That somehow they were to blame.

That somehow they could have done something.  Else.  More.  Different.

I do not want THAT on them.

I don’t know the answers to this freaking curse that is depression.

I know what the blackest black looks like.

I survived today —- this year has been epic.  I have had so many situations where I have been whacked on my arse — stood up and been whacked again.  To the point where lying down and just taking shallow breaths seemed like the most apt way to get through the day.

I have been at my final hour this year — several times.

I have someone to talk to — someone who understands. Someone who understands how hard this year has been, someone who understands how hard I have fought for this breath, with every fiber of my being.

Thank goodness for her — and her wisdom.  Her continued support.  Her knowing I need help and reaching out to me actively.

If you are struggling with depression, do not use your embarrassment to keep you locked into this.

I can’t guarantee that the person you talk to is going to be the right person — sometimes people give you shitty advise and they have no idea of the damage it is doing to you.

But there are people you can talk to.  There is a person for you.  Someone who will hear your pain and listen to what you need.

There is a way to get out of the hole — or at the very least for someone to throw you a life line. A moment where you can catch your breath.

Depression is  a disease — it is trying to kill you.  Every day.

Get help —- in what ever form you need.  Today.

If you can’t —– for what ever reason, then, take a moment today to be kind.  To yourself.

Allow yourself to just be.  To think a good thought about yourself.  For a moment to really believe there is something good about you.  That you are enough.

Just one good thought can plant a seed that can start to help you heal.

Every day you heal is one more day you get to breath.  One more day you get stronger than your demons.

{Because I am a depressive, doesn’t mean I need to be treated with kid gloves.  I am a roaring strong individual that has overcome and continues to do so.  I would get annoyed if someone treated me like delicate china  — the catch with a depressive is that it is often is not the big stuff that breaks us, it is the small irrelevant stuff that shatters us…. be kind to someone today, you don’t know their journey or their battles}

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Depression and exit strategies …….. the holy grail of depression sufferers

black dog

I was speaking to another “depressive”(someone who suffers from depression – usually with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and possibly Stress thrown in for shits and giggles — I might have just made that word up, but it seems to work, so I am going to leave it there) a week or two ago and we were chatting about shit and things and really playing catch up.

We had not seen each other in quite some time, so it was a very nice catch up and we did spend a lot of the time laughing, and snorting.

The conversation took a turn and we started speaking about the fact that we both suffer from Depression — not the “here take one pill and call me in the morning kind” but the sort that takes you 13 years of therapy to really understand what it is you are working with.

Years of enduring shitty therapists to eventually find the good one who was able to really guide you and assist you.

Years of the wrong medication, in the wrong dosages to eventually find a fantastic psychiatrist who understood you. Who saw you at your worst, and built you up from a shivering shaking rambling idiot to someone who could almost pass for normal.  And not spill tea on his rug.

Years of guilt of what you were exposing your family to.  Years of feeling that you were a burden – you are a burden, nothing you do will change the fact that you are such a burden.

Hiding your depressive episodes because you feel your family and friends are so “sick of your shit” — when in reality you cannot hide a depressive episode for all the Zoloft in the world.

We had different journeys but they were similar in many respects.

Then strangely the conversation moved onto “suicide plans” and we almost in unison agreed we each had our own plan.

A plan we had been harbouring for years.

I am not going to speak for all Depressives here, but I think it is often something that most people do not realise about people with Major/Chronic Depression.

We have a suicide plan.  Or most of us do at any rate.

Most of us think about our plan once a day or maybe once a week.

I think about my plan in the same way I would think about whether I need new toothpaste.  Just something to tick off the shopping list.

In some cases “the plan” is quite elaborate and in others it is beautiful in it’s simplicity.

Suicide – contrary to popular belief does not need “a reason” or even “a really bad spate of depression” and is in most cases not a “cry for help.”

I think people with chronic depression do not see it as a way to get help, they see it as a way to leave because the blackness has just become too much.  And they cannot see any light at the end of the famous tunnel.

Depression is a life long illness.

It drags you into a black sinking hole where you no longer can see anything, there is no hope of small spark of light.  It is just this heavy blackness where no light or hope can pass.  You eventually start to accept that in fact there is not any light.

The blackness creeps over you like a shadow, and before you have realised it, you are enfolded in it’s robe of cold darkness and a sense of being alone – bitterly alone.

Nothing anyone says or does changes that darkness.

You feel alone.  You feel desperate.

You feel like that darkness will last forever.

You can not imagine a time when you were not being swallowed by that darkness, you cannot imagine a time when that darkness will recede.

You just cannot.

And sooner or later you cannot live in the bleak and desperate darkness any more.

blackness

Breathing is a challenge.  Faking it through the day is exhausting.

Faking it through your life eventually becomes unrealistic.

You also want to round house kick the next person who tells you to “just wake up happy….”

You do not believe you will ever get out of the hole.  So you start to think of how to just stop.  Everything.

You can be thankful and rejoice that you have the right medication, the right dose, and if you are in an emergency you just need to phone your Dr Psychiatrist and mention to the secretary that you are having a “self harm” kind of day, and an appointment will open for you almost immediately.

{Everyone do a huge clap for a great Medical Aid…..}

I have only phoned my Psychiatrist once with a “I need to speak to him” sort of day. And he magically opened a time slot in his already crammed diary because he knew that I really needed to speak to him.

My friend and I compared notes on the sort of things that we think about.

What worries us about committing suicide, what we factor in as a possibly route, time of day that would work, location and so on, and it was quite amazing how much of it was the same for both of us.

We actually laughed in a “this is really fucked up….” sort of way.

Then just to add strange, we both agreed we were technically in really happy places at this exact moment, but that did not stop the thought of an exit strategy being foremost in our minds.

Depression does not go away.

In my case, and I am thankful daily, my depression has really been under control for more than two years now, if not three.  I am on a good set of medication that I do not fuck with.

I stick to my medication.  No matter how good I am feeling, I do not tweak it, change it or think I can just miss a few.

My medication keeps me on track.  My medication keeps the black dog at bay.  For the most part.

Where I am in my head is generally a good place.

The only issue I am experiencing at the moment, is a very high state of anxiety, and stress that is influencing my sleep patterns.  And a lack of sleep or a shift in my sleep is a huge red flag of concern — I do not function well without sleep.

I realise that last blog post might not have echoed that sentiment, but I am amazed at what I have coped with in the last two years, and how much I have risen above all this shit to be more of who I have wanted to be for a very long time.

Some days I do feel like I am drowning.

But those days are few, and they usually are limited to days.  They do not start to turn into weeks and months, like before.

I am far happier than I used to be — again I realise that based on the last blog post that sounds like a whopper of a lie —- but my job is not to convince you of it.

I feel happier in the inside part that really matters.

I have a clearer idea of who I am.  I do somehow even when the days are tough, I do still feel happier with who I am.  Now. Than who I was before.

Sure I have an exit strategy ….. and I realise how insane that sounds.

How can I be happy if I think about suicide?

It is actually possible.

depression comix

{…… thanks fuck all dopamine or serotonin or what ever else my brain cannot manufacture or absorb ….. }

Depression and Medication …. its a fun game of tag you are it …

1302_crows

I have been patting myself on the back lately as I seem to be on a good level emotional keel.

2011 was a year with a slow slide downwards, and then an eventual bottom out, that left me weeping and clinging to the edge of sanity with torn and bloodied fingernails.  I’d love to regale you with tales of how I conquered that shit, but that bitch kicked my arse and then came back to poke me in the eye!!!

In 2011, I built a close and totally dependent relationship with a psychiatrist who seemed to understand how to help me.  We worked through a few options of medication until we found the “most right for today” option.

I arrived in his office when I was shaking and jibbering, so he did have rather broken person to fix. I was convinced that there was not enough medication in the universe that would possibly help me.  But I was wrong.  Not the first time, not the last time.

The right medication is pretty unbelievable.  I was in an absolute state, and many of my symptoms had stopped being psychological, and had become physical symptoms.  I had neck and back pain that felt like spasms. I had also been clenching my jaw so hard for so long that my face ached.  I had clenched my jaw so tightly that I had cracked one of my molars.

Depression and medication is a bit of a challenge.

Medication, at some point, makes you feel like you have got a handle on life and that you might try to nurture a pot plant.  At least for some part of the day.

The problem with this buoyant feeling and the twinkle in your eye, is that it makes you feel like you are “alright” and just might be coping.  So the first thing that you do is toss your meds – ‘cos who needs those when you are feeling so damn good!!

Once you are feeling good, with such a good handle on not having an emotional vomit every time you go out for dinner, well then the nest step is to cancel those Dr Psychologist appointments.

First, they are not free.  Secondly, it is an hour of you sitting on a couch talking about shit that you really would rather not think about,  And thirdly, at some point your medical aid runs out and you are coughing up a few thousand, to chat to someone, about shit you don’t want to think about any more, because you feel so damn even keeled!!

So you cancel the crap out of those weekly appointments.  Because now you have the coping mechanisms that only drugs and therapy can make you think you have.

Flush with the extra hours available in your week, and the chance of maybe a few rand saved, you face your new life with a whole new outlook.

Depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder is no picnic.  I know “depression” is a term that gets bandied around fairly freely – and I am definitely not the one to judge whether someone is having a bad day or is diagnosed with depression.

So here I sit.  Feeling not so bad.

I have cut back on some of my medication. I take a slow release SEROQUEL XR, and an IVEDAL sleeping tablet at night.  I used to take another set of medication during the day, but as time went by I realised I could cope without it, and cut back, as I felt the Seroquel was working well for me on it’s own.

I could probably sleep by myself.   I could probably.  But right now I am reasoning “why take the risk when what I am taking have little to no side effects, and what I am taking works?”

I have cancelled my Dr CBT, and I am feeling all pretty “hey check at me, nearly got this LIFE shit sorted…”

But around the edges, I start to realise that cracks are starting to reveal themselves.  Not big hulking sink-the-titanic cracks, but hair-line fractures.

It’s time I book another “just checking in” session with my psychiatrist and more importantly make an appointment with DR CBT.

And such is the “always there” black dog …… even when you think he has gone away.

On a non-related note, do you know the collective noun for a group of cats, is a pounce of cats?  I love that – my favourite collective noun is a “Murder of Crows” more … I do love collective nouns.  This last paragraph has no relation at all to the last post, but this is sort of how my brain works.