Diaries Magazine

A Tentative Toe Dipped in the Water...

Posted on the 02 February 2012 by Lauradavis87 @lauradavis87
Phew, right, where to start?

I've been motivated by Mind's recent advertising campaign, "Time to Change", to start sharing my own experiences of mental health issues.  This is something I've never really been comfortable talking about, except with a select circle of family and friends, and I've been thinking about why this is, as recently I've found reading and hearing about others' problems has been a great help to me - the old cliche springs to mind, knowing that "you are not alone".  I think it's partially because I didn't always find this to be the case.  When I first started experiencing problems with depression, in my mid-teens, I was deeply suspicious of anyone trying to tell me they knew "what I was going through".  How could anyone possibly know EXACTLY what I was feeling at that time?  Quite frankly, I found it incredibly patronising.  I am an individual, and I (perhaps arrogantly) believed that my brain was special and no-one else could really identify with the thoughts I was having.  I blamed my problems on "excess intelligence" and resented that my inquisitive nature had exposed me to the ugly injustices of the world, which I was just too damned sensitive a person to deal with.  I think, initially, I felt exasperated that I was being held back by having to go to school and finish my exams, when I felt I was past any help formal education could give me, and that I could be doing so much more with my life.  This then turned into hopelessness driven by the thought that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't anything all that special, and striving to be was pointless, so I may as well give up trying altogether.  I envied my classmates of more average academic ability, and my real mantra of the time was "ignorance is bliss".  I honestly believed that if I were more in line with what was deemed to be "normal", I'd be happier.

Looking back, I was a bit of a self-absorbed, precocious little prick back then!  But, as I've got older, I've found the silly little differences in my experiences are nothing compared to the big, stupid similarities.  And I've slowly started to come round to accepting my intelligence and empathy as gifts rather than curses, as they give me the ability both to look at things from a cold, analytical point of view and from an emotional point of view.  I think my biggest battle is to try and reconcile what I see as these two entirely disparate sides of my personality, and listen to both.  I tend to try and push aside my emotions as I seem them as irrational, having less validity than interpretation of hard facts.  To use a more geeky reference point (which you will probably come to see that I use a lot), I often wish I was Vulcan.  Adherence to pure logic and the purging of emotion appeals to me, as a sort of self-insulating technique to protect myself from psychological harm.
 I want to use this first post as a bit of a general overview, so forgive me for not going into masses of detail just yet.  If I did, I'd end up typing for days on end and not even scratch the surface of why I'm here.  I got over that first bout of depression with the help of my family and a bit of support from anti-depressants, but most of all with the help of a chap I met through friends, who, for reasons I could not understand back then, and still don't fully understand to this day, thought I was attractive and brilliant enough to pursue for months, until I felt stable and secure enough to open myself up to a relationship with him.  That turned out to be just what I needed, and with his gentle encouragement, I felt strong enough to wean myself off of the crutch of medication.  I've had a few more low points since then, but he has always been incredibly patient in helping me through it.  Although he'd had no prior experience of anyone with depression or any other mental health issues, he's always listened to what I'm saying, tried to understand what I am feeling, and learned to watch for slight changes in my general mood and behaviour, to the extent that he often knows I'm feeling down even before I realize it myself.  I've had a few smaller relapses since then, but we've managed them between us.  I've managed to function normally enough to hold down a good job for the last few years (despite having left school with pretty much no qualifications to my name, and with the added difficulty of my history of health problems, I am incredibly grateful to those who saw my potential and were willing to overlook these... well, black marks, against my name).  I've learnt to drive, bought a house, got married, and all sorts of things I never would have believed were possible in those dark early days.  I've generally been pretty happy.However, a few months ago, I started having problems again.  At first, I didn't think they were in any way connected to my mental health - yes, I'd lost my previous job a few months before that, through no fault of my own (in common with many peoples' experience in the last few years, it was company restructuring/downsizing), but I'd managed to walk straight into another job, thanks to a colleague from my previous job's recommendation, where I felt comfortable.  I started having horrendous stomach cramps, vomiting frequently, and when not vomiting, constantly dry retching.  I'd had similar problems for a couple of months about two years previously, which no cause was ever found for, although I'd undergone plenty of medical examination (an endoscopy being the highlight of this - already having a pretty strong gag reflex, I had to be sedated for it, and I'd count it as one of the more traumatic experiences of my life!).  This cleared up after a few months of antacid and anti-emetic tablets.  I went to my GP and started treatment for acid reflux again, as it seemed to be much the same thing.  However, this didn't really seem to help, and after a few more visits to my GP she noted that I didn't really seem my usual perky self, and referred back to my old records which highlighted I'd previously had treatment for depression.  I'd not really considered it until this point, but I started crying right there in the doctors office.  It all made sense all of a sudden.  Now, this was just before Christmas, so I feel it's a bit too soon to say for certain whether my stomach problems were caused by poor mental health, or whether the stomach problems have led me to become depressed.  I've been on Fluoxetine (more commonly known as prozac) since then, and, to be honest, I've seen little improvement on either the psychological or physical fronts.  I started seeing a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapist) specialist earlier this week, and am hopeful this will be just the push I need to better understand myself and start towards more healthy thought processes.Well, I think this is a good start.  I want to try a post to this blog about once a week - I know from past experience that trying to commit to anything more than that is overambitious!

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