chimichanga: (Default)
chimichanga ([personal profile] chimichanga) wrote2013-06-29 06:47 pm
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an open letter

hello! my name is sara and i've got clinical depression.

i was diagnosed in march 2012 after a lengthy battle. for a long time before that, upwards of six months, whenever i would feel isolated or despondent or anxious, whenever i would stay up all night crying because i felt so rotten and alienated that all i wanted to do was rip the bones out of my skin, i would always wake up the next day and think that maybe i was overreacting, that things looked better in the morning, that i had coped so far so i could continue to cope, that there were so many people who had it worse than i did, that i wasn't that bad, blah, blah. in all honesty, i'm not sure what triggered it. i have a few ideas, but i'm not entirely convinced about any of them. i think that further dissuaded me from getting help; i had no reason to be depressed. which was silly. nobody needs a reason to fall ill. truthfully, it was only after i found myself sitting on a bench on the last day of winter term staring into the pond at the bottom of royal fort gardens thinking how easy it would be to throw myself in that i thought maybe i could do with some help after all.

that thought was only compounded after i went home for the holidays. i had a massive fight with my mother a few days before christmas where i felt like something inside of me broke. it culminated in me screaming for about five minutes straight because i literally couldn't stop myself. and then when i went back to uni, the morning of one of my exams i had a massive mental breakdown where i was sobbing outside of the exam hall right up until i had to go inside. (i failed that exam. i actually failed every single exam i sat that year, except for one, but i'll talk about that later.) i still hadn't twigged that it wasn't normal, though, and i was scared of getting help, but i eventually found myself going to a GP towards the end of february/beginning of march and after a deep struggle (which is an entirely different saga) decided that taking medication would be the best move forwards.

honestly, it probably wasn't the right time for it. i had crucial exams and coursework coming up and going on antidepressants had really bad side-effects that took months to get used to. but having said that, it couldn't have waited any longer. things had gotten really bad. i don't think i was ever at the point where i was seriously contemplating suicide, but suicidal ideation had become a very regular phenomenon for me. i have vivid memories of walking home from uni, looking at every passing car and thinking how easy it would be to jump in front of one. it was a daily occurrence and it was very unnerving. it didn't stop at cars. my project involved working on the roof of the physics building, and i remember thinking about what a long way down it would be if i happened to fall (jump) off.

so i had to do it. the right time for it had passed at least six months prior, but if i didn't do it then i was genuinely worried i wouldn't live long enough to do it later. i wasn't consciously thinking of ending my life, but i knew that the longer i left it, the worse it would get. so towards the end of march, i took my first dose of citalopram.

the way antidepressants work is they taper you onto them and taper you off. i started with 10mg a day for, if i remember correctly, ten days, then up to 20mg. i had been told that things would get worse before they got better, so i should ask my support network to keep an eye on me. i told two of my friends who were on my degree course and whom i spent a lot of the day with (who had witnessed my gradual deterioration; by the time easter exams rolled around, i was averaging about one and a half crying fits in public places a day, never mind at home) and another two friends whom i trusted a lot. aside from my doctor, my tutor (in front of whom i cried every time i saw him that year), my mother, father and a handful of internet friends, i told nobody else. in retrospect that was probably not the best of ideas.

it wasn't that i was ashamed. i knew i was sick and quite frankly my daily crying fits had already immunised me to public humiliation. i just didn't want to focus on it because it was being sorted and i didn't see the worth in spending too much time making a big deal about it because i had other things to worry about. i think that was the healthiest approach i could have taken at the time, but the side-effects of my medication made it harder than i had anticipated. i (thankfully) don't think i had an increase in suicidal feelings, which is common in young people on medication, but all of a sudden i did find it very, very difficult to stay awake. in my three years of university i very rarely missed lectures, but all of a sudden i found myself sleeping through my alarm quite a bit, and if i managed to make it up to the physics building, i would fall asleep in my lectures. my friends found it amusing, but for me, it was frustrating. i wanted to learn, but it had suddenly become impossible.

when i was awake, i had lots of difficulty in concentration. and my mood kept swinging until all of a sudden i was really, really calm. it wasn't that i was no longer worried about my exams; i was, somewhere, deep down. but most of me didn't care. the medication had made my mind empty of most feeling, in a way. i described it as feeling flat at the time. blank. empty. i was still incredibly anxious, and my dose got upped to 30mg before the end of term, but i largely didn't care about sitting my exams any more. i couldn't concentrate on revision anyway. if my friends hadn't made me go to the library with them i probably wouldn't have done it at all. all in, it didn't make that much of a difference because, as i said, i failed every single exam i sat that year apart from one. i'm still amazed that i passed my degree at all, never mind with honours.

i don't have any regrets about going on medication save for one: i should have told my housemates, because i'm sure i was impossible to live with for a very long time. i found it hard to work up the energy to get out of bed on most days, never mind help with chores around the house, etc. packing up my room at the end of the year was one of the worst experiences ever and i'm sure i lost a lot of respect for it. we weren't super close and i didn't feel comfortable telling them but it affected them so i should have. and i'm really, really sorry for not doing so. it's one of those things i still have awful anxiety-ridden flashbacks about. nevertheless, it all got sorted out in the end.

and the worst was definitely over after those few months. i still struggle with apathy, but i don't have any more suicidal thoughts (unless i forget to take my medication for a couple of days in a row). the next step for me is getting some regular therapy, but i am finding it hard to work up the motivation to sort that out. i'll do it soon, though. i have learnt some coping tactics which have proved helpful. somewhere along the line my dose got increased by another 40mg, but when i am feeling brave enough and in a more stable situation i am going to consider getting it reduced. the past few years have been a very difficult trial, and i still have a lot of ups and downs, and lately it's been more down than up, but overall i'm doing ok.

i'm writing this not to make anyone uncomfortable, but because i am tired of hiding it. it's not exactly a secret; i decided at the outset that i would be open and honest if anyone asked, but as it came up with people i think the majority of them were surprised. i know some people were a bit hurt that i didn't tell them sooner, but it's a difficult topic to broach. i'm not ashamed for being ill; i refuse to be ashamed for something that's not my fault. and i'm tired of feeling like i can't talk about it. i'm tired of feeling like i'd just be attention-seeking if i brought it up. i want to talk about it. i think talking about it will help me. and i think telling my friends and family will help them if i ever, god forbid, regress back into a state where i actually timetabled fifteen minutes out of my day to cry in a public toilet.

thank you for reading! i really appreciate it. love and peace to all of you. xoxox