Monday, November 20, 2006

The on-coming storm

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in the UK.

Everyone feels down in the dumps, sad or low at some time. That is a normal part of life, just as feeling excited, ecstatic, euphoric or generally happy. People sometimes describe themselves as depressed when what they mean is that they are feeling a bit down.

Depression is where these feelings are severe, or long lasting.

When symptoms go on for more than a couple of weeks, or if a person feels suicidal or has thoughts about suicide, medical help should be sought urgently.

Depression is increasingly common. Significant life events can trigger periods of depression…exam or work stress, family turmoil, or concerns around identity or sexual orientation are all types of thing that can be triggers.

Strangely, one catch 22 symptom/manifestation of depression occurs when one feels depressed without being able to pin-point why. Often, there is a reason, but the mind is in such turmoil or surrounded by such fog that one cannot see those reasons.

Anxiety and depression are strange things. I've often thought it's like lying asleep on the beach. I've woken up. Not only has the tide come in and swept over me, but am actually now in very deep water and about to drown. Another way I've described depression is like an on-coming storm. I'm looking ahead into a sunny, blue sky. Behind me, the sky is black. By the time the wind is howling about me and the rain is lashing down, it's too late to seek shelter and I'm drenched.

I've never been able to work out how to dry out. Ok, so sometimes, I've been drier than others, but I've always been a wee bit damp.

Stigma is depression's favourite bed-fellow. I find it very difficult to vocalise my sadness, depression or anxiety. I become embarrassed, sometimes squirm. I know by divulging such information, I'm making the listener feel uncomfortable. This discomfort only adds to my own and the whole thing snowballs - so it's best to say nothing at all. A problem shared is not necessarily a problem halved.

On a similar note, I'm sometimes aware that I'm surrounded by so many problems or tasks that in attempting to manage one, I'm not attending to the others. This causes me stress and dispair, so in order that I don't feel I'm leaving something out or not attending to some task or problem, I'll do nothing, instead. The taks and problems then pile up ever more.

Sometimes, I wish all the stuff would all go away. Not just all the bad, everything, including the good. Life would be so much easier to cope with if nothing actually happened.

What's the answer? A self induced coma?

All this, dear reader, of course, is not to say one can't smile, laugh and enjoy oneself during a bout of depression. I can sometimes be in the deepest of black holes yet laugh more heartily and loudly than ever before, smile more broadly and enjoy events and circumstances like I've never done before. Yes, I may have a short attention span, but getting through something from start to finish, like this blog entry for instance, makes me feel like I've really achieved something and gives me such a good feeling, better than if I was feeling in good spirits and had read War And Peace in a weekend, decorated the house from top to bottom and solved the political crisis in the Middle East.

I don't have a beginning, middle and end to this, but before I close, dear reader, please, if you know someone's depressed, have a wee chat with them and try to say and do things to encourage a wee bit of cheer. Please don't try and change the subject. And be frank. I'm sure it will be appreciated.


Brian said...

The most irritating thing I find about depression is how it's a fickle visitor. One day there's nothing wrong with the world and the next you're Captain Scowly Face with a massive bottom lip and a glare that would off a water buffalo at ten paces (and, of course, by "you" I mean the royal you). Depression might just be the perfect metaphor for life in that it's unpredictable, at bay some times and in the foreground others, and getting a handle on it is no small task.

This is why I find myself grateful for wonderful people like you who can shower the world with unbridled joy almost always when I need it.

Minge said...

Depression's best weapon is its element of surprise.

Thanks, Brian. You're a doll.

Anonymous said...

hiya darlin'.... Nicky has tickets for PSB in the gardens on Hogmanay and WE'RE GOIN'....... wanna come? I think Robbie Williams is joining them onstage.

Oh, I'm back online by the way. Just thought you'd wanna know.



Anonymous said...

The other end of the depression scale is the denial part. We lost Bethy and Jo went for help at the GP, but me, no, I was just "down in the dumps" or "just having a bad day" or my own personal favorite "not sleeping well". I refused to admit that A) I was suffering with clinical depression, or B) that I needed help for it.

Jo and a few family members (and it was a very few) tried to tell me to get help, and my friends (more than my actual family) told me I NEEDED help, and it was for the best. With Jo and my Best Friend talking to me, they managed to convince me to go to the doctors.

He was surprised it took so long for me to get help, and was worried about me. He suggested councilling - something I've never wanted - so has given me some pretty strong meds. In the two weeks that I've been on them, that storm cloud you mentioned has pulled back, and is slowly receeding.

Everyone is different, but the key - as you said - is talking to people and NOT saying "don't be stupid" as a lot of my family said. It took Jo and good friends to talk to me, explain the changes in my personality, and how they missed the original Dan.

I hope you manage a smile, Mr Minge, and if you want to chat, you know which rock to kick over :)

Lex Ham Rand said...

Depression is more than just sadness, or lack of enthusiasm. Members of my family have struggled with depression for years...and it's not just ennui brought about by our luxurious consumer economy. I lost a great-grandfather (whom I never knew) to suicide around the turn of the century (1900 AD), and his life was neither luxurious nor filled with consumer products.

Depression is a treatable medical condition, but one's loved ones must know the signs and encourage treatment.

It's easy to de-personalize the pain of a pulled muscle or the fever of a bad cold. You have a problem, and you treat it.

Depression is insidious - it makes one doubt oneself, and one's worth. As both a physical and mental condition, it is strongly affected by both environmental and emotional stressors.

When I feel my demons descending I know it's time to drink less, sleep more, make lists and tend to tasks (I do love a good blog post started and FINISHED). I also get strength from reflecting on some of the things that I might be doing right (instead of dwelling on all that is wrong). It is pretty hard to do that part by oneself, however.

In that spirit, let me help remind you of what an incredibly valuable and wonderful person you are (and if the 10% I know of you is matched by the 90% I don't then you are truly an amazing human being.)

Mr. Minge, from what I can see here you have had an amazing impact on the lives of many people. The glimmers and sparks of your life and how you choose to share your joie de vivreon your blog by writing of your travels, posting your photographs, and documenting your life with lovely Phyllis, in Japan, in London, is fabulous.

You are kind to your Mum, a gracious host to Brian, a tour guide for your niece Kath and metrosexual George, and not too proud to pick up dog poo on the beach. (Those are spectacular dogs!)

You are an aficionado of fine food, international travel, dear cats and the Pet Shop Boys. You read and comment upon scores of blogs, and bring to your blog an amazing array of celebrity gossip, international political affairs, wretched pop music and Victoria Beckham.

It is abundantly clear to me that you are a kind and generous person, truly interested in the lives of others, and for that fact alone you must take great care of yourself so that we can all enjoy your continued presence in our lives.

Anonymous said...

Don't offer quick fixes.
Bring chocolate.

Cuddle the dogs, cuddle Phyllis and know there are people round the world who think you are pretty great.

Moncrief Speaks said...

Darling, you are uber-fabulous!

Enda P said...

Chiming in all of the above.

Acknowledge it (as you are doing) and say 'this too will pass' then seek refuge in cuddles as quite rightly pointed out above.

I like to smear on some facial mask stuff, lie back and listen to some drifty music and allow husband to indulge me.


Anonymous said...

Minge, I could spend some time on this one, but wont blah on. You are never as alone and isolated in your thoughts as you think you might be. Somtimes, thinking of the past times (happy or sad) just makes the current sad times less bearable (if that makes sense ?). Make use of the hugs and those around you, the now and the future. Take care of you.

Your Buckstone Shaw neighbour

RIC said...

I couldn't ever say in English what I'm thinking now, but LHR did it just perfectly. I totally agree with him as far as the description of your person, dear Minge/Roy is concerned.
I'm sure I could have written myself some parts of your post... I believe noe we're more similar than I thought we would. I'm glad, for both of us.
As to helping some people, I've been trying to do so at least as far as two blogger friends are concerned.
«I can sometimes be in the deepest of black holes yet laugh more heartily and loudly than ever before, smile more broadly and enjoy events and circumstances like I've never done before.» I've written this somewhere in Portuguese...
The German say «ich stehe bei dir zur Seite». Sorry, I cannot say exactly that in English, but I'm standing... Count on me! Without knowing it, you have already helped me these last few months.

Andrew said...

I've only just begun to read your blog and get to know you, but already you're an essential part of my day. This might sound odd, but one thing that has helped me with my own bouts with depression is breathing...mindful breathing.

The trick is to breathe naturally, but count your breaths - up to 10. It's odd how being able to focus on just breathing can free the mind from so much noise, and sometimes gives me a strange boost of wellbeing even in the blackest hour. It might be worth a try, sweet Minge. We're thinking about you!

Anonymous said...

You tackled exactly what some take years to describe and understand!

THAT'S why I LOVE reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Minge reading the above posts you must feel a little better, I have suffered with it for 2 years now, alas my doctor does not like drugs so he just says do more exercise. Hmm well 2 years on doing more exercise than ever and nope still have it... One day just one day I may get out of this black hole. Although not being nasty it's nice to know I'm not the only one, as you are aware you feel like it's only you who is suffering.

Andrea said...

You darling wee man.

Many have said what needs to be said. Your responsibilty is to believe them. A hard task but not unattainable.

Bright, yellow love. Thats what you are. My brother-friend.

graham said...

Oh Fabulous Minge, how frank and honest you are. My favourite charity here in Ireland is 'Aware', which is focused on helping those suffering with depression.
A good deal of my research concerns depression and you're dead right, the biggest problem with depression is silence. Not telling people how you are feeling. It is crucial that anyone having any feelings of despair tell someone, preferably a doctor. The old 'snap out of it' piece of advice does so much harm and the public in general are not nearly educated enough when it comes to depression.

The vast majority of people will at some point experience some despair, but when this develops into true depression, thats when things can get very bad. I think when people have never experienced despair they can't really understand how tough it is. For me it's like I've fallen overboard on a yacht, into the middle of the ocean. I could swim, but it's so far to land, so all I do is try to keep my head above water, not moving anywhere, not knowing how long I can maintain it.

Minge said...

Thank you all, so much, for your kind words, thoughtfulness and suggestions. I'll get through this.

Anonymous said...

Yes you will

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