Thursday, 18 November 2010

My Little Black Rain Cloud

The best way I can think of to describe depression is that it's kind of like a fluffy cloud that surrounds your entire being.  No one can see it or feel it, but it's always there.  Sometimes it's as thick as molasses and no one can reach through it.  Other times it's like a thin mist and even you forget it's there.  But it is there, just on the edge of your peripheral vision, waiting to make its presence know when you least expect it.  A bit like Jaws.

I was first diagnosed with depression about ten years ago and with Bi Polar a few years later (I prefer the Americanism of Bi Polar to the English translation of Manic Depression.  "Manic" conjures up too many images straight jackets and padded cells for my liking.)  After a series of unfortunate events, I realized that I just wasn't coping as well with life as I should be and took myself to the doctors.  After a long chat which consisted of many tears as I poured my heart out to him, he ended up prescribing me some sleeping tablets.  But I wasn't having trouble sleeping.  Sleeping was one thing I was brilliant at.  I could have turned sleeping into an Olympic event I was that damn good at it (and the irony that I am now an insomniac isn't lost on me).  Whenever things got on top of me, my body would just shout, "Alert!  Alert! Time to shutdown", and I'd sleep for many, many hours.  The problems came when I was awake.  Little things that most people may just have found irritating had me almost hysterical.  For example, I once threw a plate of dinner against a wall because I couldn't find the television remote control.  That's not right.  After a few more appointments with the doctor, I was eventually put on what I affectionately call Happy Pills.  Overnight my life changed, and I became a happy, fulfilled person and lived happily ever after...

Okay, so that last bit is a complete and utter lie.  Although being on medication definitely helped, there was still no light at the end of the tunnel.  I hated myself for having this affliction.  I hate the term "normal" as there's no such thing as a "normal" person, but I wanted to be "normal-er".  So, I started on the merry-go-round of mental health treatment fairground.  Numerous appointments with psychiatrists, psychologists and various other people with "psych" in their titles ensued, discussing my deep, dark fears and getting over emotional about stupid memories like falling over in the playground as a kid and the death of the cat that tried to kill me.  (That last bit's true by the way.  My mum had a cat that hated me as soon as I was born, so got in my pram in an attempt to smother me.  She was a psychocat.)  At one point I even saw a hypnotherapist, which was just too surreal for words.  I don't know if I really saw things of if I'd fallen asleep and dreamed it, but whatever it was, it was a pretty intense experience.
No matter who I saw or what deep and meaningful words tumbled out from my subconscious, I was no nearer to finding out why I was like this.  After all, I'd had a good upbringing, a typical childhood, no great traumas there.  True, my mum died when I was seventeen and this understandably screwed me up royally for a long time.  But I was in my mid-twenties by now, and plenty of other people who had lost loved ones seemed to function relatively normally after that amount of time.  It was only after several years of treatment that I finally got a conclusive diagnosis.  I, your faithful blogger and liker of all things shiny, had a hole in her bucket.

Bizarre diagnosis, I know, but I'll endeavor to explain.  Imagine in your brain you have two buckets.  One is the happy bucket, and one is the sad bucket.  And over each bucket is a tap.  With me so far?  Good.  Now, when you're happy, the happy bucket fills up, and vise versa when your sad.  In a typical brain, they balance each other out, with more happy in the happy bucket when your happy, and... well, you get where I'm going with this.  My problem is there's a hole in my happy bucket.  No matter how much happy pours into it, it all pours out of the hole in the bottom.  Or sometimes the tap over the happy bucket tries to over compensate and there's too much happy being produced.  The best way to block the hole in the bucket (dear Liza, dear Liza) is to bung it up with antidepressants and therapy.  It's a simple yet incredibly confusing analogy, but it kind of works.

The long and the short of it is, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain.  It doesn't make enough serotonin, the happy chemical, or it makes too much and I go loopy.  Not exactly a diagnosis you want to hear, but at least I knew what was wrong with me.  So many people had tried to tell me that I was making it up, that I was lazy and just didn't want to work, or that I was (my personal favourite) an attention seeker, and comments like that did more damage than they will ever understand.  On more than one occasion I've been in a very dark place and saw a razor or a packet of pills and and bottle of vodka as the only escape, and mostly because I was too scared to reach out and get help for fear of being ignored or belittled.  At one point I actually started to believe them.  They managed to convince me that I was a faker and I was so good at it I'd even managed to fool myself.  I'm pleased to say that a vast majority of these people are now out of my life, but when a professional doctor (with certificates and everything) sat me down and said, "Yes, there's something wrong with you, and no, we know you're not making it up", it was so tempting just to call up everyone who'd ever doubted me and say, "Ha!  I told you so!  I'm not a liar, so up yours!"  But people like that are always going to believe what they want to believe.  All I can hope is that they never have to go through the same thing.

I have often said in my circle of friends that when I'm queen of the world (and I do mean "when" and not "if", evil laugh!), I would invent an anti-depressant that turns your skin blue.  Why?  Because then everyone would know there is something wrong with you.  This may sound strange, but I've encountered so many people who are of the "Can't see it so it's not there" brigade, maybe if they could actually see there was something wrong with you, they would finally start having a little more respect and understanding.  Plus, it could be cool to look like a smurf.

But there is definitely a good side to having B.P.  They don't out do the bad things (mood swings, unpredictability, paranoia, panic attacks, etc) but hey, you have to look on the bright side occasionally or you really would go insane.  Firstly, I don't suffer from P.M.S.  The tablets take care of that.  Secondly, I get a lot of hugs.  If I tell a friend I'm having a bad episode, they know a good cuddle will perk me up.  And thirdly, I can get away with having a bad day.  If I lose my rag with someone or something, people may just put it down to my B.P, not to that fact that I can just be a bitch sometimes.

As for the future, what will be will be.  Will I ever "normal"?  Who knows.  Will I always be on medication?  Possibly.  But as long as I take one day at a time and don't worry about the future too much, I'll be alright.  Yes, it would be nice to not stress out about anxiety attacks, to not be paranoid when someone's in a bad mood and I instantly assume it's because of something I did, to not have to worry about taking the medication at the right time or risk becoming a drugged up zombie, and to not have to be concerned about what my mood will be like when I wake up in the morning, but for the time being I am what I am and people can either accept it or just go away.   My life isn't great, but it's my life.  I have enough money to make sure I'm warm and fed, a boyfriend who accepts me for what I am and I only allow myself to be around positive people.  My goal is to be a fully active member of society who isn't afraid of her own shadow, with full time employment and maybe a little cat named Paul.  Until then, I'll keep fighting my own personal fight and look forward to the day when I can be just as "un-normal" as everyone else.

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