Shalom 2 Centers. Today we have a profile that is near and dear to my heart.
"David" is a clinical depressive who has been living with the illness for over 15 years. I have often talked about my experiences but thought a look at how someone else lives with it would continue my desire to provide a more comprehensive look at this.
Please welcome David to the blog.
(2CW) Firstly David, thank you so much for doing this. I know this could be a little uncomfortable for you.
No worries. Thanks for having me.
(2CW) How long since you were diagnosed as a clinical depressive?
My diagnosis was actually in 2004 - but my psychologist and I can trace depressive traits back to my early teens.
(2CW) Clinical Depression affects different people differently. How does it manifest itself in your life?
My depression - which I call the beast - comes out in a few different ways. The number one symptom is a fatigue that I can only describe as hell. Think of the one time that you have been the most physically tired - multiply that by say 2 - and that is how I feel on most days when I wake up.
Every now and then I will have a day or two where my moods get very dark and I am really down. I have a hair trigger temper on those days which scares me. I worry about what I could do on a bad day.
I also experience intermittent short term memory issues and anxiety. All of these aren't exactly helpful in the workplace.
(2CW) My primary symptom is also fatigue. Can you expand on that?
It's hard to explain. I wake up tired. I am tired all day. I go home tired. I go to sleep tired. But the sleep doesn't help the tired. It is so frustrating. I can sleep 10 or 12 hours and still be wrecked. It's pretty crappy. Then on those days when the beast is active, it is worse because then I get the mental fatigue as well. On those days it's really hard.
(2CW) Are you on a treatment regime?
Yeah. I take an anti-depressant, an anti-anxiety drug and pop sleeping pills most nights. I get headaches all the time coz of how my body reacts to stress so I usually add a couple of pain relievers into the mix of pills at night. I am a human rattle these days.
The non medication part of my treatment plan includes exercise which I was told is really good for helping the body even up hormone and chemical imbalances in the brain. I don't smoke or do recreational drugs. And I watch my alcohol intake - but I'll bust that one every now and then :) - gotta have some fun.
(2CW) Are you "out"?
LOLOL - yeah I am - first as a gay guy - which was as breeze compared to coming out as a crazy :) Mental illness makes people run a mile.
(2CW) Did you lose any friends when you revealed you had CD?
Most of my friends bailed on me - which kinda helped me sort out who was real and who was shit. But yeah, they wouldn't deal with it. Coz - you know - it was hard FOR THEM. Like it wasnt hard for the guy walking around wanting to take the whole bottle of sleeping pills at home.
(2CW) I am really sorry to hear that.
At the time I was completely pissed that these people did that. I was like "Hey - dude with a deathwish - a little help?!" and the people that "loved" me bolted in the opposite direction.
(2CW) What about at work?
I am out to my boss and a few select people. I'm probably the only person in the office that can actually say a mental health day is a REAL mental health day. Thankfully the meds keep me mostly functional so I dont have to worry about having too many of those.
(2CW) Are you in a relationship? How is that going?
Yeah I have a long term partner. He has experience with it so he is pretty understanding and really supportive. On my bad days he makes me laugh and when I need to cry he takes me by the hand and leads me to the couch and holds me. Also, I'm like Oprah and totally do the ugly cry - complete with screwed up face, snot drops and drool - so he must love me :)
(2CW) You mentioned what your friends did, is that a gay reaction or a normal reaction?
Definitely a gay one. My family has been supportive. My straight friends are supportive and understanding. My gay friends at the time bolted like I was a syringe loaded with HIV. It was really bad. We have a higher than normal count of depressives in the gay community but gay people deal with it really badly. They are either totally freaked out by it - or want to try to one up you - their depression is worse than yours and you can't understand how hard it is for them to battle through. Those people usually do not HAVE it - but they want the attention.
Others find it hard coz they have it themselves. It can be really difficult to deal with someone elses depression when yours is kicking you in the nuts at the same time.
(2CW) Do you think people just really don't understand how much it impacts you?
Absolutely! A lot of people seem to think that depression is a just a "bad day at the office" and you feel a bit down- might have a cry but get over it. They don't understand that the depression impacts everything. It kills your sex drive, gives you crazy dreams, you have bizarre and really weird thoughts just randomly pop into your head, you forget how to do stuff. It is really huge when it's a bad day for me. I'll forgot peoples names, how to do something at work - I'll even forget whole conversations with my partner and he will have to talk me through what we discussed coz I'll have 100% no recollection of it.
Crying at a movie is not depression. Crying at the coffee ad where the chick leads the store guy to her house with the empty coffee jars holding candles - THAT's depression.
One thing that happened to me early on was suddenly "coming to" in the middle of the main shopping district in my home town at the time not knowing how I got there and having "lost" about 3 hours. That is depression.
(2CW) Since starting medication - has your depression improved?
Definitely - and if people reading this refuse to go on meds - tell them to pull their head out of their arse. This is not like other illnesses - you can NOT do this one on your own.
(2CW) What do you fear about your depression?
(1) My temper. I haven't had a fight or hit someone since high school. I am seriously concerned about if I could stop myself if I had a brain-break with someone who was pissing me off. Seriously worries.
(2) My depression devolving from Clinical to Manic. Clinical Depression is a mental illness that is about memory, emotions and "processing". Manic Depression is sanity punctuated by periods of complete insanity. Enough said.
(2CW) I know this probably hasn't been the easiest thing but I want to thank you for putting yourself out there and letting me interview you. I wish you well and hope that you beat the Beast.
Thanks Damien and all the best with your Monster too mate.
....A different perspective on how one illnesses affects one person from another. Clearly, as a community we have a long way to go with this one.....