Depression is an Illness Not a State of Mind

Sometimes sleep isn't enough

Sometimes sleep isn’t enough

I finally had my doctor’s appointment today to talk about getting some chemical support to help me climb out of the pit of despair I have tumbled into over the last two or three years. I nearly didn’t go. The sun is shining, I had a day off this week (to be ill, but a day off is a day off), the school run went well, I felt in control. I felt great.

I’m not depressed, I decided. Why do I need to go to the doctor, I’m just wasting their time. Then I checked my blog. My low periods have been coming every two to four weeks since I last went to see a GP at the beginning of September last year (when the woman told me to get more sleep ‘for the sake of my family’ grrr) and they’re always followed by a period of revelation when I decide I’m better and as long as I read a certain book, implement a change, recite a mantra every day, I’ll be fine. Hmmm.

So I went.

And as the lovely lady (an understanding GP I saw two years ago, not the one from September) asked me about my life, my routine, why I found the school run so stressful, why I couldn’t just re-organise things, get some help, put my kids in after school club, ignore the dishes, I thought here we go again. And as she picked through all my weaknesses and stress points the carefully constructed bubble I’d put around myself burst and the blackness flowed back in.

I sobbed.

I felt so inadequate giving her all the answers I’ve given myself, as I’ve called myself a failure: I shouldn’t need help; my husband does what he can but he works hard too; my mother has earned her stripes and deserves her retirement; I don’t want a cleaner they create mores stress; I gave up work to do the school run, not to pay someone else to do it.

I cried because nothing was going to change. I was still a failure, and there was no help coming. I would still get angry and yell at the kids, I would still neglect my husband and ignore the dog. I would still feel that I prioritise my writing over being a good parent. My mess was all my fault. My chest tightened, the tears fell and the darkness closed around me.

Flowers from my daughter

Flowers from my daughter

Then the GP said, “I agree, you do need medication,” and everything changed. A light shone bright at the end of the tunnel. It isn’t just me. I’m not a failure just because I can’t manage to look after two small children, even with them in childcare or school half the week. I might actually be ill, not crap. And then she talked about different medication options, including the one she prescribed two years ago (I should have taken it then! Ah hindsight, you bitch) and I felt she might actually be able to help.

I was talking last night about the first GP that diagnosed me with depression, fourteen years ago. The man – and I don’t even remember his name – saved my life. He might not have realised it, I certainly didn’t, but that’s what he did. He didn’t suggest I just needed to get a different job or organise my time better or get more sleep. He sat and drew a diagram of the brain on a scrap of paper, he explained about chemical imbalance and the importance of serotonin. He treated me as ill rather than inadequate, poorly not pathetic. He gave me half an hour of his time and my life back.

I accept that depression is hard to diagnose, and that the world is over medicated. I accept that therapy is brilliant and necessary for some people, just as some diabetes can be managed through diet rather than drugs. But Doctors who suggest a few nights sleeping at your mum’s house might fix everything could be doing untold harm.

So I’m glad I went today, I’m grateful for the advice on the blog two weeks ago, encouraging me to go. I might get to the end of six months and nothing will have changed. I’ll still be overwhelmed, angry, a horrible parent teaching my children that shouting is the only form of conflict resolution. I hope not.

As with everything, I’ll keep you posted!

27 thoughts on “Depression is an Illness Not a State of Mind

  1. Firstly I want to say well done you for going. That first step can be the hardest and takes a great deal of courage. Secondly, please don’t despair if the tablets don’t work immediately, we were told up to six weeks for Paul. Thirdly, if the first don’t work, there are more options, the first didn’t work for Paul, but a combo of two did.
    So, there’s always something else – fingers tightly crossed the first works for you and you start to see some happy times. And again, bravo for going and seeking help. I’m at the end of the keyboard if you need a chat xx

  2. YOU rock! The first and most difficult step is the one you’ve just taken.
    You are not a failure. You’re amazing. I have soooo much respect for those who suffer with depression and grab it by the horns and DEAL with it. The help is out there. The worst thing we can do is refuse it. Turn a blind eye. All that does is continue the stigma that was once associated with it

    I am not saying we should all pop happy pills. But I am saying that IF we need to then there’s no harm getting help.
    None at all. And we are not failures for doing so.
    God forbid!
    We are awesome for having the guts to DO SOMETHING about it


  3. A big part of dealing with these kind of issues is finding a doc who understands and CARES, and you’re very lucky to have done that. Personally, my doc is a bit of a wild card, and when he prescribed antidepressants for my sleeping problems and mood swings I was very skeptical. And as it turned out I was RIGHT to be. My problem turned out to be hormonal, an effect of my birth control pills, suggested to me by my OB-GYN. You just need one doc to really LOOK at the big picture and see all the possibilities.

    I really hope that you start to feel a change, sooner rather than later. It’s an amazing feeling when you do. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracey, it has taken a few attempts to find a decent doctor for this issue. Unfortunately, great as it is, the UK NHS doesn’t really go for a one-doctor buck-stops-here approach (for example, we don’t have OB-GYN at all, unless you’re pregnant and under midwife care, which isn’t the same, so that’s pretty hit and miss GP based care too!)

  4. I think it’s wonderful that you were able to see yourself and your life as it is. That takes a lot of courage. And I’m glad you were able to find a GP that was really willing to look at your life with you instead of just diagnosing the first thing that came to mind.


  5. Top job. Now you know what’s going on you can start moving forward. Glad you went and even gladder that you are feeling better and more in control. I think it’s the feeling of helplessness that is the worst thing. Good luck and god bless.



  6. Pingback: Finding the Answer to the Problem | No Page Left Blank

  7. Pingback: Reasons to Smile | writermummy

  8. Pingback: Food And Filling Prevention: My Latest Sources of Mummy Guilt | writermummy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s