Friday, March 10, 2017

You Be You

Last year, around September I got quite ill... my symptoms got worse for a few weeks until I was bed bound for a week or so and so I went to the doctor who put me on some medication that would get me back on my feet. I started taking the medication and slowly got better and now I feel cool again.

This isn't a particularly interesting story and I wouldn't normally tell it. Except that recently I met someone who mentioned to me they'd had the same illness and been prescribed the same pills and hadn't wanted to take them just in case they didn't feel themselves any more on them.

When they told me, they didn't know I was on them; because I haven't told anyone. I haven't told anyone because I'm scared what it will make people think of me. But by not telling anyone and not making the anecdotal information available to those who need it; I'm part of the problem.

This is my attempt at doing what I can, and if one person reads this and gets help then it's totally worth it for me. First, a few warnings:

1. I'm fine, so please don't think I need sympathy. I don't want it and I'm not asking for it. But thanks anyway, guys, you're THE BEST.

2. If I know you personally and I haven't told you about this; I'm sorry you're knowing this way but I didn't really want to make it a huge thing that I would have to talk about with everyone I knew all the time. I was afraid it would make me one dimensional and I wanted as many friendships and relationships as possible to continue without this looming on it.

The illness/issue whatever you want to call it I'd had was depression. Quite severe depression that left me completely unable to live my life and looking for a way out. I fell down a rabbit hole or whatever beautiful imagery you want to use, and I couldn't carry on with my life. I felt numb, empty, despairing, panicked and hopeless and all I was really sure of was that I didn't want to drag anyone down with me.

I've lived with anxiety and panic attacks for my whole adult life but this was something new. This wasn't the manic tantrums followed by complete ecstasy; this was weeks and weeks and weeks of utter desolation and my only respite being sleep. So I wanted to sleep all the time.

Anyway, the symptoms of my body's deficiency are not really the bit I want to focus on because it isn't the same for everyone so that bit is kind of irrelevant. I got help. Let's talk about help, baby.

Luckily for me my sister came a-visiting during my extended visit to mental Mordor... she spent a day with me and then, with that tact that all older siblings have said... "You are not well. You need help. What's going on?"

I cried for... oh, a few days. Maybe half a life time? Dunno really. A long time anyway. At least an episode of something long.

A pincer action of my husband, my sister and a very close friend, got me to call a doctor, who had me in within about 6 hours and had me in a queue for some therapy and on anti-depressants.

They didn't automatically give me anti-depressants; they asked if I wanted them. I said no. They said, Ok, great; we'll go with therapy and said I was on a waiting list and it would be a few months.

I didn't think I could make it to that first meeting without immediate help. Knock me out with a mallet, put me in a box, freeze me; do whatever, I couldn't have carried on living 24 hours a day in my brain without help for months.

I asked for the anti-depressants. I'm really only adding this detail because I know some people will be of the opinion that doctors want to shove drugs down people's throats to fuel big pharma... I don't know enough to argue with you, and also I don't want to argue because arguing is awful, but I'm just saying; my anecdotal evidence/experience did not support that conclusion.

The pills made me really, really nauseous for about a week. About 5-6 days of feeling very sick for about 8 hours after I'd taken them. But I didn't really care; a physical issue was sort of a relief after the panicked abyss of emotional bleugh.

I've been on them since October, I think, and I feel fine again.

My work has not suffered; in fact, no one in my industry knows about it and I've been nominated for an award and picked up some incredible work whilst medicated. I've still been able to write jokes; my creativity hasn't suffered and neither has my mental agility on stage when I'm improvising and dealing with an audience.

My friends with children haven't stopped asking me to look after them... I'm embarrassed to say I was terrified that they wouldn't trust me with their babies if they knew. I underestimated them but they didn't do the same to me.

I still laugh at things until my stomach hurts. I still want to have sex. I still have the drive to do a gig that's four hours away and then sit at a computer looking for new gigs for hours when I get home. It's all still there now the help I got has brushed the concrete off the top of it.

I still have panic attacks and sometimes I still have the odd shitty, depressed day where I cry and have to sit there looking at my husband wondering what he can do to make me smile while I wish I didn't put him through this. I'm sort of glad for those days (when they're over) for showing me that, while these drugs are changing the deep, life ending depression I was in, they're not changing me.

My personality; the good bits and the bad are still there even with the help.

So that's it. Do with it what you will. As I say, this was entirely sparked by meeting someone who had the help they needed and wouldn't take it, so I just wanted to put my hand up and say; the help is good if you want it and please don't be scared that your personality won't exist once you've helped with the depression. It won't be the same for everyone but this is how it was for me; just in case it helps.

Always. Ask. For. Help.

Draft a text asking for help and send it before your brain can stop your thumb. Ask a stranger so it's easier and won't fog friendships you're not ready to change yet. Ask me. Ask a doctor.

Just say any words that get the ball rolling.