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My Depression Update

I’m not sure how long I have been on antidepressants but I know it is over a year as the original “My Depression” entry was written on February 25 last year.  In that entry I said I was determined to stay on the medication until the doctor said I could go off it.

My doctor said we can try taking me off the medication after the last lot of tablets but I got another script instead of reminding her about that.  I am a bit nervous about the idea of coming off them.  I have gotten used to life outside the dungeon of despair and I don’t want to go back there!

Antidepressants have not been a miracle cure for my depression but they have been a key weapon in my fight against the illness.

The medication had the effect of unlocking, and opening, the door to my dungeon of despair and I got a glimpse of daylight.

No medication can make a person walk through the door, however, it was unlocked by medication but I needed therapy to help me walk out of the dungeon!

The counselling I received for my post traumatic shock disorder was something that helped me leave the dungeon.  It helped me to feel safe enough to make changes.  Leaving the dungeon was not easy to do because it was a familiar, well known, place and entering new territory was scary!  My therapist gave me the support and optimism I needed to take chances and have a go at doing things differently.

With her support I opened up and took some chances at work.  I let people know when I needed help and I trusted them with my inner self.

I’ve never been able to do that before.  I’ve always assumed things would go from bad to worse if I revealed my weaknesses to others and they would go from bad to sacked if I revealed them to people in authority at work!

This is where the depressive thinking comes in.  I learned to think this way from my mother and life experiences confirmed the truth of it over the years.

With the help of my therapist I learned how to reveal my weaknesses in a socially, and professionally, acceptable way.  This would not, however, have been successful if God had not placed me in a work environment that was committed to supporting employees!

My therapist was wise enough to assess the likelihood of my efforts being successful via careful questioning about the work environment I was in.  She was the one who recognised it would probably be safe for me to trust them and who encouraged me to take the risk.

I took the risk and my workplace responded better than anything I could have hoped for!  From the top of the ladder all the way down they made it clear they were behind me and would do anything they could to help me through this!

They gave me permission to use my supervision counsellor to help me work through personal problems as well as work ones during crisis periods.  They asked me to tell them what I needed to hear so they could say it.  This was not just one person, this was the team leader, the supervision counsellor, several of the counselling managers and even the big boss!

The big boss actually told me to poke my head in his office any time my fears and pessimistic thoughts were troubling me so he could assure me they were not realistic!  He said he was prepared to tell me, a dozen times a day if needed, that he was not considering sacking me if that would help!

Just having him SAY that helped as you can imagine.  I never needed to actually do it because hearing him commit to that was all the reassurance I needed!

For the first time in my entire life I feel safe!  That may not seem like a big deal but, for someone like me, it’s huge!

I feel safe because I have two children who have proven they will drop everything, including their jobs, and come running if they even think I need them!

When I was attacked in 2005 they told their bosses they were taking time off.  They didn’t ask and they were prepared to lose their jobs if necessary but, contrary to my world view, their bosses understood!  They then drove non-stop for three days to get to me just so their presence would allow me to feel safe enough to sleep!

I feel safe because I have confided my deepest, darkest, ugliest secrets to another human being and she (my PTSD therapist) did not turn away from me in disgust.  She listened, she heard, and she told me positive things about myself that had never occurred to me before but which I could see were true.

I feel safe because I have revealed my weaknesses and failings to people in authority and they have NOT punished me.  They have done the exact opposite!  They have said they value me so much they are willing to go out of their way to help me reach the potential they see in me!

My world has changed.  It is no longer filled with people just waiting for a chance to harm me!  It is no longer a dangerous place where one wrong move or one wrong word will result in disaster.  It is no longer a place where I have to “get it right” all the time or be savaged.  It is no longer a place where, if I stuff up, all hell breaks loose.

I’m not Pollyanna.  I know the world still contains people who ARE just waiting for a chance to harm me.  I know there will be times when one wrong move or one wrong word WILL result in disaster and there will be times when I will be savaged or all hell will break lose if I stuff up or get it wrong.

The difference is I no longer believe those things will happen all the time – just occasionally.  I can handle occasionally.

The difference is society, in the form of my kids, my counsellor and my workmates, has said I am a valuable, worthwhile human being and that has convinced me I am.

I’ve been doing therapy on myself for many years and that got me a long way towards being mentally healthy but it couldn’t get me all the way.

I realise that now.  I was never going to be mentally healthy as long as I felt isolated, alone and under threat from the rest of humanity.  You can’t ever feel really good about yourself if you don’t feel connected to other human beings.

Ask any mental health worker what is vital for sustainable mental health and they will say “support”.  People need other people to provide support.  Support allows us to feel OK about ourselves as we take on board the message from other people that THEY think we are OK.

Telling yourself you are OK is good but you will never believe it 100 percent until other people confirm it is true in their opinion too.  Without that you will always be saying “I’m OK and it doesn’t matter what other people say.”

As long as I thought other people would NOT think I was OK it was impossible for me to really believe in myself 100 percent.  There was always an underlying fear I was wrong and that I really was as worthless as my abusive childhood had convinced me I was.

As long as I was not willing to give other people the chance to know enough about me to convince me they thought I was OK, warts and all, I was never going to be able to change the belief that people would not think I was OK if they really knew me.

Antidepressants opened the door to my dungeon of despair but it was not until I reached out and grasped the hands of the people waiting outside to help me that I was able to walk out.

I’m outside now and I’m OK.  That’s not just MY opinion either!  I have a lot of other people who know me well and THEY think I am OK too!  There will always be people who don’t think I am OK but, as long as I have others who do, I can feel OK.

There is just one final step to take before I can say my depression is really a thing of the past.  I have to come off the medication but I’m in no rush.  I think it makes sense to stay on it until I no longer fear I will return to the dungeon of despair without it!

I don’t think I would but, well, I don’t want to risk it.  I like it out here in the big wide world where anything can happen and, sometimes, what happens will actually be good!

There will always be battles to fight, problems to overcome, issues to face.  I’m currently still trying to overcome gambling, excess weight, and a shortage of money but I no longer feel overwhelmed by these things.  I have the energy and interest to fight on.  That’s the difference.  Depression saps your energy, kills your interest, and makes you just want to give up and die.

I’ve recovered from that.  I never thought I’d say it but I am even contemplating making a change to my smoking habit – maybe start by cutting down.  I’ve come a long way since I wrote this entry about my depression and smoking!

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