Monday, December 01, 2008


If you are depressed, and if you are also able to express your thoughts in words, then I would thoroughly recommend blogging. Writers since the dawn of time have used their emotions, moods and anguish to create great prose and poetry. I’m not suggesting for a moment that I’m in their league, but it seems to me that it as much about being READ as the quality of the writing and that is what blogging gives us.

This week has been the worst for me for some time in terms of the depth of depression and the week in which professional help seems finally to have arrived. The story is not how I got here, but of the dealing with it. I have been prescribed anti-depressants in the past – just the one in fact, Citalopram. My doctor ‘forgot’ to mention that a) they might make me suicidal before I got any better, and b) I really shouldn’t be drinking alcohol or taking more than the stated dose. I did both, but fortunately not in sufficient amounts to be dangerous.

Some time after that, I did make an effort to take them ‘properly’ according to the instructions but noticed absolutely no effect at all. Chocolate is better, and having seen the health benefits that the very best chocolate might bring along with a new business interest, I am seriously wondering why the National Health don’t prescribe it as medicine.

At the same time, I checked the internet for known side-effects of Citalopram and was absolutely horrified by what I found. I checked the notes in the box with the tablets and found that it said exactly the same as the internet in that suicidal feelings was a known side-effect.

When I went back to my GP recently he said that he could ‘recommend me for counselling’ as an alternative to taking anti-depressants, but it was absolutely clear he would much rather hand out the pills and hope I didn’t come back any time soon. So I accepted that I might have to wait 4-5 weeks for an appointment, but expected at the end of it, there would be a really helpful outcome. I genuinely expected that the counselling would be psychiatric not just a talking shop. Now, I’m not totally dissing counsellors. They have their place. But having waited nearly 6 weeks for my assessment appointment, it became clear in less than 5 minutes talking to the counsellor that it was not what I expected and certainly not what I needed.

I left the counsellor upset, angry and desperate and really wondering yet again if my life was even worth living. I went back to see my GP later in the day and once again he tried to push the anti-depressants. I asked about side effects and he said ‘drowsiness’. I asked should I or shouldn’t I be driving and he would not commit himself – clearly I couldn’t take the risk. I pointed out what meagre income I now get was heavily dependent on being able to drive and taking that away would cause me even more severe stress. This particular bad episode has been brought on by financial difficulties - see previous post and this.

I also asked him what would happen if I took too many or took them with alcohol. What I was told does not seem the best solution for someone who had admitted 5 minutes earlier having suicidal feelings. I’m not saying what the alternative drug I was offered. I’m not going to risk someone else reading this and hurting themselves.

Later in the evening he must have had at least some crisis of conscience because he called to say that someone from the ‘crisis team’ would be calling me. They did, and what has happened since has been hugely helpful and encouraging and I am now going to get the professional psychiatric help that I know that I need. Thank you Sam, Jane and Clare and your colleague who called me yesterday evening.

People with depression and related illnesses in the UK do not get nearly the help and support that more obvious physical illnesses and disabilities enjoy. We are widely regarded as being self-pitying, weak malingerers, even if our depression, as mine was, arose partly from a physical hormonal condition that is already being treated, and/or factors altogether outside our control.

In the meantime, till I go to my next formal appointment, I have regular phone calls from the crisis team and an emergency number if I need it. I feel like at least some of the weight has been lifted, as if I am not carrying an elephant around all the time.

Depression in itself makes you tired. If you then can’t get to sleep because of the stress, life winds itself into a tight coiled knot. I have invented a new visualisation exercise.

As dawn comes I watch a tightly knotted towel or scarf gradually unwinding itself. As the sun rises over a gently waving field of grain, gifts are placed at my feet, that I know I can use and help myself to prosper, but the greatest gift of all, given of my Mother Goddess is life itself.