I have been diagnosed as having Major depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. It’s the same diagnosis I was given shortly after I was attacked in my own home almost two years ago. I believe I also suffer from paranoia although I have not been diagnosed with that and it is, I guess, debatable. I don’t think I am being persecuted or spied on by government agencies but I do think I am being spied on.
These illnesses are not something I need to feel ashamed of – not one little bit!
Everyone knows bones break when subjected to hard enough blows. Nobody would say to a man who just broke both his legs: “Pull yourself together man – just get up and walk! Stop thinking about your legs and get on with your life”.
The brain is flesh and blood. It is a part of the human body and it can “break” when subjected to blows too.
My mind has been subjected to trauma after trauma starting with childhood emotional and sexual abuse, rape in my teens, grief when I lost my step-son to suicide, my sister to an aneurysm and my husband to divorce and that’s just a few of the main highlights. If all that wasn’t enough to cope with, two years ago I went through a fifty minute nightmare holding my broken back door closed while five unknown people threw themselves against it trying to get inside my house. I had no idea who they were or what they were going to do to me if I fell over and they got through that door.
My mind has been attacked and damage has been done to it but that’s not the only way to get these illnesses. Depression can strike people down even if they have never had a single bad moment in life. Anxiety can affect people who have nothing at all to worry about and post traumatic stress disorder can happen to people even if they just see someone else get attacked.
I’ll never forget one client I had, many years ago, who coped quite well with her stressful job. It took her to scenes of carnage and crime most of us would never want to try and cope with but she loved her job. Until the day she gave birth to a child and thought about all the horrid things she KNEW, for a fact, could happen to it.
She went from laid-back and easy-going to paranoid, depressed, anxious and panic stricken within seconds of becoming a mother. Every child she had ever seen dead, dying, violated or injured came to her in her dreams wearing the face of her own baby and she fell apart at the seams. Therapy helped her come to terms with her fears, put them into perspective, and return to her job. Without therapy she may not have been able to go back to work because of her fears about what would happen to her child if she was not with it.
Chemical changes in the brain can cause depression, anxiety and so on too and that can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time in their life. It can happen suddenly or it can be gradual but, for no obvious reason, the person changes.
When someone is suffering from one of these illnesses they can’t just “get on with life” or “pull themselves together”. Thousands of people try. They ignore the pain and carry on and, like ignoring a broken leg, things stay out of whack and do not function properly.
I’m suffering from several mental illnesses but I am not ashamed of that.
I am ashamed of doing what so many people do when they get these illnesses – try to fix it myself. I’m a psychologist – I should know better. I should have gotten treatment years and years ago instead of falling victim to the thought patterns of depression!
I cannot believe I have been so silly for so long. I cannot believe I did not see the flaws in my reasoning or recognise the thoughts I had are common to depression sufferers. I made the exact same mistakes so many people I have treated made.
All these years I have been telling myself there is no point getting therapy as it won’t help me. It can’t help me. I already know what the therapist is going to say – I have the same training so there is nothing they can offer me. I’d go into therapy knowing what the therapist was going to say and, sure enough, they would say it and I would go away thinking how right I was.
It never occurred to me to look at the fact that, each time, I did go away feeling a little better and maybe THAT was where the help could come from!
I’d go onto anti-depressants for a few weeks and go off them because of the side effects. Oh yes – I listened to my own advice – I always gave the medication the four to six weeks I told my clients to give them. I know it can take that long to get any benefit from anti-depressants so I always gave them that much time.
Then I would get sick of the side-effects or sick of the visits to the doctor and I would be feeling better anyway so I would just stop treatment.
I know one of the goals of medication is to “reset” the brain. Research has shown that depression can actually “rewire” the brain making it “preset” for depression and medication aims to change that. You can’t undo YEARS of depressive “wiring” with just a couple of months of medication! How come I didn’t see that before?
How is it that I could have sat with so many clients, listened to their excuses for not taking anti-depressants, been so certain they were doing the wrong thing in not taking them and then failed to apply the same reasoning to myself?
Compliance is the official term and it is a known predictor of how successful any type of treatment will be. Compliant patients and clients are much more likely to get better than non-compliant ones. I have felt the frustration a non-compliant client inflicts on his or her therapist. I have thought, time and time again, if only they would do what they are told they would not have to go on suffering and here I am – being a source of frustration myself!
I shall be much less frustrated by such clients in future. I realise, now, it just is not that easy to see past the thinking that comes with these illnesses.
This time I intend to be a compliant patient. I will not go off my medication until the doctor says I can and I will not stop seeing my therapist until I am given the all clear to do so!
I suspect, this time, I might actually get well and stay well and I can’t believe I didn’t do this years ago! Oh well – better late than never I suppose.