“PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!” :
“Everything is great. Well, on paper it is great. Love is all around, beautiful wife, gorgeous two year old son, doting parents, loving sister, terrific friends – but I feel all alone – great house, good job, cars, holidays…I’ve got it all, I guess. But I haven’t got it all…I haven’t got my health. I’ve got my physical health…or have I? I haven’t got my mental health and that does impact on my physical health. The symptoms, the physical symptoms, are nightmarish, nightmarish for me, more so for my family.
It’s the middle of the day, blue sky, the sun is shining but it’s getting darker, my own light, the candle’s flame that illuminates my world, that one is flickering….it’s getting quieter, people, cars, children on bikes, ringing their bells, the noise of life abounds but I hear it less and less….I’m in the thick of it, everyone can see me but I can’t really see them, I can’t really see anything, they are becoming faint, increasingly distant, I’m disconnected.
I’m in a graveyard, I’m jealous of the residents, they are out of it, away from it, sleeping….lucky them.
Physically, I’m not moving but in myself, I’m drifting further and further away…I’m not part of the whole any more, I’m separate, sleeping all day, awake only at night. My life is upside down.
I’ll go out today, get some air. I go to town, into the shopping centre. Not good. It’s starting, a panic attack. I’m heating up, I’m burning…oh no….I’m disorientated, disconnected, I’m drifting away….I’m dizzy, my heart is racing, I’m extremely light-headed, I’m burning up, I want to rip my clothes and the skin off, I’m sweating….it’s getting worse…I’ve got to get some air, I’ve got to get out of the shopping centre. I’m going to flip. I’m going to lose it. I go into a shop, they sit me down, I calm down, I don’t die.
The panic attacks, frightening, debilitating panic attacks, the mere anticipation of them, that horror has finally imprisoned me in my home. I’ve come to a stop. I want to talk but no words are coming out. I want to reach out, to comfort my loved ones, I want to tell them that it’ll be ok, even if I don’t believe that, but I can’t, I’m cold, I’m stone, I feel nothing any more, I’m completely numb….a friends tells me,
“Pull yourself together”.
Pills, pills, more pills….7.30am, 9am, 11.30am, 2pm, 4.30pm, 7.30pm, 10.00pm….I’ve either just taken a pill or I’m about to take a pill. A day in the hospital, a day spent sitting in a chair, looking, staring out of the window. Nothing.
I’m simply not there any more…rare these days, I’m walking in the street, there but not there, I collapse….a policeman, PC 148 Jones, Etal Lane, calls an ambulance. I’m in hospital, A & E, the docs tell my wife that I’ll be fine but I must have bashed my ear when I fell, it’s bleeding, they’ll keep me in overnight for observation, a decision which probably saves my life…..cut to midnight, all’s ok…suddenly, my heart stops, I die, my body has had enough. Into action, defibrillator, “CLEAR!!!”….I’m back again.
They call my wife, get to the hospital quick! She phones my parents. Panic!
In The General, the doctors tell my family that they don’t know if I’ll survive and that, if I do, they don’t know if I’ll fully recover.
I make it. I’m in a coma, I’m resting….finally.
Two or three days later, I come round, I’m wild, they put me out again….days pass, I come round yet again. Intensive care, unconnected to the outside world. A room, full of calm and yet, at the same time, full of busy, urgency. Surreal. Love, care, devotion magnified a thousand times. I’m hovering on the outskirts of life. I feel that I’m in good hands. I feel serene, secure, rested.
They put Humpty Dumpty back together again, not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, no, the thanks go to the nurses – angels – the doctors, long- suffering family and friends. Medication changes and a blind man can see. Now, it all makes sense. I was suffering from clinical depression. I had suffered from depression all my life though I didn’t know it. Sure, I had had good days, good weeks, I had laughed but all of those ‘highs’, they had been during a long-term low. You can smile, you can laugh, whilst deeply depressed.
The chronic lack of self-confidence,
the low self-esteem,
the intense self-doubt,
the sense of apprehension in the face of minor adversity,
the inability to keep going,
the difficulty in seeing projects through from start to finish,
all of those “I can’t do it”s,
suddenly it all makes sense.
Yes, I can see, I can make sense of it, I’m connected now, I can move, I can operate, I can interact. I’m part of the whole. The battle continues, the black dog is never far away…sometimes I can feel his hot breath engulf me, a warning sign…sometimes the walls on either side of my tracks close in on me….there are times when, without warning, a heaviness descends on me, tears cue up in my tear ducts, the earth’s gravitational pull can’t hold me down, I drift away, I’m separated, cut loose again, I drift, I’m lost, visibility drops but I’m still conscious, I’m still holding on….and then, as quick as it descended, it lifts, I’m back again….
I’m know the black dog, I know my demons, we’re all in the ring together but I’m ahead on points, I’m boxing clever. I won’t be caught off-guard again.
Got to be constantly aware, aware of the signs, watch out for the shadow of the black dog, keep him in his kennel. I’m the boss, I call the shots, I’m in control…
No shame, no shame at all.
Some people have heart disease, maybe they take statins. Statins lower the cholesterol in the blood. They can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. No shame there. It’s just how it is.
Some people have diabetes, they take insulin. Insulin helps to regulate the body’s blood sugar level. No shame there. It’s just how it is.
Asthmatics take Ventolin. Ventolin helps asthmatics breathe. No shame there. It’s just how it is.
I have an illness, it’s called clinical depression. I take an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor). SSRI medication prevents the serotonin ‘disappearing’ from my body, inhibits the reuptake of serotonin in the brains of clinical depression sufferers. Without serotonin, I’m in the darkness. No shame there. It’s just how it is.
Betablockers help to keep panic/anxiety attacks at bay. No shame there. It’s just how it is.
There is no magical panacea. Medication doesn’t make life perfect. The right medication makes it all possible. It wasn’t possible before. Depression ties your hands behind your back, it ties your feet together. It blindfolds you. It incapacitates you. Medication, the right medication, frees you up. Medication doesn’t live for you, it allows you to do the living.
I don’t believe that there is a magical cure for my depression. I will always have the condition, the illness called depression, but the medication keeps it at bay and puts me in the position to be able to fight it.
Remember, no shame!
Remember, you are not alone, millions – MILLIONS – of people have been there before, we empathise. We are walking in front of you, we can show you the way, we can illuminate your path. We can take you by the hand and lead you….YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You think you are alone, you feel lonely but we are here!!! There are millions of us, just like you!
You will be free, you’ll fly, you will soar….you will be happy!
We are all fighting the good fight.”