Saturday, 28 January 2012

My thoughts: The positive side of depression?

Something that is very debatable, the question of if there is the positive side of depression.

Personally I am conflicted about any positive effect of me having depression, quite simply I hate it, I hate the fact it has blighted the majority of my life, I hate seeing the truly awful effects of it in other people, I hate the fact it exists.

That said the last two years I have thought about who I am, the experiences I’ve had and the type of person I will be in the future and have reluctantly questioned whether depression has been a solely negative presence in my life thus far.

Resilience, anyone who survives depression (especially those who survive alone, for whatever reason) needs plenty of this trait, I believe I have a lot of this and is in small part due to suffering from this illness for over a decade, it is difficult to do the 'normal' routines of life and takes a huge effort to do so especially when the depression is severe you struggle to simply get out of bed let alone do anything else like going to work or doing the shopping or the chores around the place.

Over time I slowly developed the resilience to do things I needed/wanted to do without realising it, although resilience alone isn't enough as (if nothing changes in your life for the better) you will reach the point when it all becomes too much to endure.

Empathy, although this is not apply to everyone, depression is unfortunately common I would say I have at times in my life been surrounded by people who also had depression, where I lived, where I worked and what few friends I had. So I learned I could often gauge through my own experience who was struggling, who was subdued, who had things on their minds, etc. a lot of these people did end up talking to me about how they felt, what was bothering them as I said to them I knew it was like to feel or think in a certain way (not for the same reasons usually) and they were relieved and/or shocked that someone else could relate to them and actually cared enough to do so.

My desire to be a mental health professional stems from my experiences of mental health, so the constant theme in my head is without depression I would not be who I am now and who I will be in the future, so maybe having depression can be a positive in some aspects although i would say the cost is very steep.

I haven't fully accepted it though, one of my fears is being defined by my mental health issues and what I have put above adds more weight to the definition, then again if it is the case what have I to fear exactly? Stigmatization? That has happened to me anyway and will probably happen again, perhaps I should simply dismiss the notion of definition whether it is from myself or others.

Saturday 28th January the journey continues. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

My thoughts: Suicide

A difficult and often a taboo subject, it is estimated around one million people a year commit suicide, or 19,000 a week, 2,700 a day, 112 a hour...2 every minute...

It is also estimated the number of people surviving suicide attempts is much higher, possibly as much as 20 to one in most countries.

I myself have attempted suicide once, when I was 18, I have had countless thoughts about it since the age of 12.

There was a couple of factors that led me to make the attempt. For one it was during the winter season (the month of February) and this when my depression is usually at its most severe, secondly, back then I was living in supported accommodation and my depression was well known to the support staff and with their encouragement I sought help for it. The GP prescribed me the anti-depressant medication fluoxetine (popularly known as prozac).

To say the medication failed to help would be a kind understatement as in actual fact it contributed to me going over the edge. The side effects was either I was so out of it I was incapable of performing simple tasks or I was so anxious I could not relax for one second as every little sound scared me shitless as I became convinced that someone or something was going to hurt me badly.

So one day at work (I chose to carry on working in a misguided attempt at trying to carry on as though I was perfectly fine) I was in the zombie state and I struggled to get anything done correctly, in fact I had to re-do a task five times to get it right and this task was simply scanning a barcode into a computer and entering the amount of products in question.

I was very calm when a thought came to me that I cannot go on like this, its not worth it and it never will be. I decided as soon as I finished my working day, I would go home and swallow all the anti-depressants I had. On the way back I walked past a friend of mine and we didn't say anything to each other (we had a falling out a couple of weeks back and we were both too stubborn to apologise for it).

So I got back and started swallowing the pills one by one, after taking so many, I don't know the exact number, it may have been around 30 or so, I suddenly thought I better do one last thing and apologise to this friend of mine and to tell him he's not to blame for whatever happens in the future. Evidently this tipped him off and he got me to the hospital.

This caused a fair amount of upset, although it was obvious I wasn't well, nobody had the slightest inkling of what I intended on that day. Quite a few people (especially my work colleagues) demanded to know why I did not say anything, quite simply I said I didn't want to try and get better anymore, it wasn't worth it.

I mentioned about hope being important in my first post, as I would say I had lost all hope that day and for a lot of people who commit suicide or attempt to have lost hope, the hope that things will get better somehow someday. Often though it can feel as though no matter how hard you try, how much you struggle to get through the day, it will never get better and what’s worse is the feeling that you have to face all of it on your own, because you don't feel as though anyone else understands, knows or cares about what you are going through, every single day, every single waking hour.

I have known a fair number of people who have made attempts over the years (I consider the fact I have known nobody actually succeed a minor miracle) including some I was very close to and finding out they tried to end their own life had the overwhelming feelings which followed;


What if they try again, the next time I leave them I may never see them alive again, what if I let them down, can I do anything to help them?

Helplessness and powerlessness

If somebody is determined to end their own life, short of being around someone for 24 hours a day consistently (I tried that with one young woman, trust me it isn't possible as at some point you'll be a emotional wreck no matter how strong or resilient you are or how much you love that person), they will try or succeed in doing so and of course you can't wave a magic wand to make everything better.


Knowing that someone is in such pain, suffering, torment etc. is very sad and this may well increase in intensity if you have been there or are actually there yourself, you know the feelings of despair, the hopelessness, the worthlessness, the fact someone you care about is going through this and beyond being there for them, there is little you can do.


I should have known something was wrong, I should have said something or I didn't say the right things or I should have been with them when they tried/did it, I let them down, I wasn't a good enough friend, I didn't do enough for them.


How could they do this? Way didn't they talk to me? Why didn't they get help? How could I not have seen this? How could I have been so stupid? Because of how they were treated by certain people they felt so bad they wanted to die, its all their fault.

Those are the feelings and thoughts I've had, of course given that I attempted suicide and some people would have felt what I put above about what I did probably makes me a hypocrite especially where the angry bit is concerned.

Now when I hear or read some people stating that “suicide is the easy/cowards way out” or “suicide is wrong as God granted life only he can take it away” my blood pressure sky rockets as I find such things to be ridiculously simplistic, ignorant and dismissive of the very people who need help and support not condemnation.

On the surface it well appear it is a simple matter but in fact it is anything but. What some people don't realise is it is a matter of perception, to those of the 'suicide is wrong' crowd while it may seem like that the person who is suicidal should simply take steps to seek help and make their lives better (as some do manage to do this, there is no reason why everyone can't do it according to some), this ignores three important things, the circumstances and the experiences of the individual in question and the fact that every single one of them unique in their own right.

It needs to be understood that our experiences shape who are we, how we think, how we perceive the world, our hopes and fears. The experience of being afflicted with a mental health issue (such as depression) for example can and usually does have a negative impact on one's own perception of life.

Thus having a mental health problem like depression may well make the future seem bleak in the respect that from past experiences nothing will change for the better and if you truly feel that way you may ask yourself what is the point of going on like this for another 20,30,40 years? Life is too short some say but it is not when a lot of the life you have lived has feelings of worthlessness, that your insignificant or your a burden to your family and/or friends or that you are a complete failure at whatever it is you tried to do and you'd be doing the world a favour by killing yourself.

So what people need to help overcome their daily struggles is a good experience, like accomplishing something or something going right for once, maybe figuring out what you would like to do in the future (if you can't do it immediately) or realizing that someone does care about you.

For myself as I continue on this road to recovery I know at some point I come across suicidal thoughts and feelings again from time to time and have doubts that my life will get any better.

21st January, the journey continues.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My first thoughts.

Welcome to my blog, hopefully you may like or identify with i write here about my struggle with mental health and the issues with surviving/existing/coping with such a thing as well contemplating on having known so many who also suffer from mental health.

Where to start? I'll start with why i decided to blog about myself, while i do not regard myself as interesting in anyway, i have doubts as to why anyone would even want to bother reading anything i put but alas here i am in the vain hope somebody will actually relate to what i put here.

Currently i am trying to get back into full time employment after somewhat successfully completing 16 months of group psychotherapy and i have been trying for over a year now, as time passes by it is getting more and more difficult to maintain the motivation to carry on, especially when a jobcentre plus adviser talks to you as though you are a skiver who is happy to collect benefit and not seek work (last time i checked such people were supposed to help you in your quest to be a productive member of society but i guess in their own perverse way they think they actually are).

I find it is very easy to fall into the trap of self-stigmatization after job application is rejected or ignored, consistently a recurring thought in my mind pops up "the only time you managed to get employment was by concealing the fact you have depression but now having been out of work for a few years you have no choice but state to every potential employer this was the reason you have been unemployed for so long (and not because you don't want to work) and hope they don't hold it against you, although they most likely will" 

Such thoughts are of course negative and unhelpful even though it is not unreasonable, what i do find distasteful is the feeling of having to put a positive slant on having mental health issues "well i believe i'll handle the stress of working for your company perfectly fine, having mental health issues makes you very resilient"  That is the gist of i have said in a couple of interviews (as well attempting to reassure the interviewer you are over the worst and it isn't likely to happen again anytime soon).

While the short term on that front appears bleak i will take comfort in the fact i am working towards a long term aim, namely becoming a counseling psychologist and for this i am enrolled with the Open University taking a degree in philosophy and psychological studies to help achieve this ambition.

What i have come to learn throughout my battle with my own existence is while survival is enough under some circumstances if like me its all you end up doing ultimately it will undermine what potential you have, whether it is career, education, spirituality etc. Hope is important, my hope is one day i will be a mental health professional and i will be able help people who feel like all they can hope for is to survive their existence.

Well that is all i have for my first post, thanks for reading. 14th January 2012, the journey goes on.