I am so very tired. I have had a wake up call, and know that I have to find new ways of being. Five years ago, after a particularly bad bout of depression, I went to a counsellor and made some progress. I learned both to recognise the beginning signs of a downwards slide, and to take action to halt its progress. I came to a better understanding of the reasons for the way I felt about many things, and to come to terms with most of them. I thought I had things under control.
Then came Tuesday 15 June 2010. I knew I was low, with winter SADness, but I thought I had things under control. However, one phone call, and I discovered that I was wrong. I had things under control just as long as nothing sudden took me unawares. I can't let that happen again without making a serious attempt at preventing it. I decided that almost immediately.
What usually happens to me when the shit hits the fan, is that I withdraw, crumple up, and stay low until gradually I uncurl again, slowly feeling better, until I can once more function and even start to enjoy life again. But really, nothing changes. I still 'know' deep down that I am ugly, stupid, mean, clumsy, useless........ you name a badness and that's how part of me feels deep down. Another part of me 'knows' that these things aren't (entirely) true. The thing is, although I'm glad I've done the work to understand the influences that led me to believe so many negative things about myself, all these years I've been navel gazing to get those answers, I have, at the same time, been developing and reinforcing those same things, and also behaviour patterns which really don't work well for me any more. I've reached a point where I can't blame anyone else for my problems, and nor can I blame myself for 'causing' other people's problems - not even those of my sons. I need to take responsibility for learning new behaviour patterns, and learn to have a more appropriate and realistic self image.
So.... the last four weeks have been such hard work. Mac took the day off work the day after the panic attack, and 'bullied' me into going for a walk on the beach. In the past when I felt this bad, I would be curled up under the blankets at home. I was exhausted. Walking was such hard work that I found I couldn't walk unless I concentrated on the process, consciously moving one foot at a time. If Mac spoke to me, I had to stop walking to answer - I couldn't do both at once. But this episode had left me so weak that walking, even like this, was easier than trying to refuse to walk. And by the time we had walked the length of the beach (about 2 - 2.5km) I was actually feeling a smidgeon better - and I could talk a little while walking back.
Mac had to go to work the next day, and with two of our vehicles booked in for WOF checks, I forced myself to go into Raglan with one car, and Heidi (my daughter-in-law and good friend) took the other. We walked on the beach a little while the cars were at the garage, and she looked after me just by being there - which is all anyone can do really. I am so lucky to have her in my life.
The next day Mac had already organised to have off so that we could go to the Fieldays: the last thing I felt like doing, but I went anyway, and it was good to spend the day with Mac, looking at things and thinking about our future plans for our land. It is very hard to think about the future when you are feeling so dead inside, but I pushed myself onward.
After that traumatic visit to a local Raglan GP coming on top of the original depression / phone call / panic attack, I was left wondering where the hell to turn next. I started with a visit to an osteopath. This probably seems like an odd choice, but this is a man I have known for about 25 years, and one I trust implicitly. Trust seemed more important than the type of therapy, and as always, I felt a bit better afterwards: not a lot, but a small first step. I also booked an appointment for the following week with the herbalist in Raglan, another person I felt I could trust. Two weeks after that appointment, I finally saw another GP, the man I used to go to before we moved to Raglan, and finally got a proper examination, along with a huge battery of blood tests; so many I felt faint after the blood was taken. I am looking forward to getting the results next week. He also referred me to Webhealth who in turn gave me a list of psychologists whom they judged to be the most likely to be able to help me. I'm still working on that.
Both the visits and the phone calls organising them were terrifying: I was so scared of getting another metaphorical slap in the face, and the sense of panic that still sits in the bottom of my stomach, threatens to overwhelm me each time.
Interspersed amongst these were visits to friends and family. I even went to my bee-buddy's 60th birthday party for a little while, though after a couple of hours among mainly strangers, I had to go find Mac and tell him, "I need to go home now," as I could feel myself starting to panic once more, with my breathing getting lighter and faster, and my heart starting to race. But the times spent with people who are good friends have been my saviour: Mac, Steve, Heidi, Jeff, Cate, Chantal, Eileen, Margaret. Cups of coffee with Simon the three times I have visited the doctor helped me get through my fear. (He works next door to the medical centre.) The other friends who have been supportive via phone and internet. There have been some who have not been supportive, but I have managed not to take that personally, but rather as an indication either of their ignorance of depression, or of their own inability to face it - just like I struggle to help someone who is bleeding.
I have never tried before. I have always just crawled under the blankets, literally and figuratively. Trying is really really hard work! It leaves me exhausted. It's hard even to remember to try, so I've taken to wearing weird nail polish left over from fancy dress parties: every time I see it I get a shock, and that reminds me that I've got to keep trying to behave and think differently. I can only manage one challenge a day: a phone call, a visit, half an hour on the treadmill, shopping. One's sufficient to exhaust me, any more and I start to shake, the fear starts swirling in the depths of my stomach, and increases the nausea that has accompanied me for the past four weeks. (Although the last couple of days I've been free of the nausea - since Bronwyn added ginger to my herbal remedy.)
I still find myself feeling weepy over the smallest thing on tv or radio. I am so lacking in self confidence that I had to get Mac to stand next to me while I laid a few tiles in a straight line in the bathroom because I was so scared of doing it wrong - yet I am the person who made this. Some days I feel unable to cook a meal out of fear of stuffing up. The effort of pushing myself to do very ordinary things leaves me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Still, the tiredness combined with Bronwyn's herbs are ensuring I'm sleeping well for the first time for about three months.
So it's been four and a half weeks since I descended into the depths, and I've been shaken to the core of my being - but I am slowly rising to the surface again. Tomorrow Mac and I are going to the Mount for a couple of days of beach walks and hot pools, and then it will be back to the grind of getting well. As the depression lifts, and the days get longer and sunnier, it is going to get harder to persevere, but I am determined to keep trying: the next step is to start working with a cognitive behaviour therapist to reprogramme my internal voices and behaviours.
I didn't chose to be susceptible to depression, but I am choosing to work on finding ways to reduce it. I'm 'okay' at the moment, but I'm determined to be OKAY!