Tuesday, 8 December 2009

the hardest words i may ever write

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist"

The next words may be the hardest I have ever written. However I hope that this process will be somewhat cathartic. These will be the most honest words I have ever uttered. So...

....I suffer from depression.

Sigh, I've said finally said it. Only my closest friends, family and important people at work know. I know that to some this is not momentous or noteworthy yet for me it has almost cost me my life.

I am never proud to say that out loud or even say it to myself. I feel like a "leper". I may be somewhat blunted in extrovert tendencies but I am still able to read peoples emotions and that second of pity before they “rally round” hurts so much. I know it is normal and kind reaction yet I have no need for sympathy or empathy, merely to have depression seen as another disease. For that is what it is.  It is only now I think I am finally beginning to accept that depression is a disease.  I find it incredulous that modern medicine/society still appears to view mental illness as taboo.

I will never be a depression survivor (nor will there every be a pretty little ribbon to show ones support) because “society” does not perceive my illness as real. I must be lazy, slow witted, not a team player, not willing to work. However I know I am none of these.

Cancer is a real disease. Cancer kills and cancer is overcome. Depression kills and depression is overcome. How is this any different?

People do not say you need to have cancer to understand cancer, so why is mental illness so hard to understand. It’s true that the brain is an unknown frontier. At each stage of analysis it simply befuddles us with its evil yet magical complexity. I liken it to chemistry. When you first learn about the atom things appear to be awfully simple. You just learn a few numbers and you understand. Then you are enticed to learn just that little bit more and things become a little more complicated, you hear talk of quarks and other subatomic structures.  I can only imagine how complicated chemistry must really be as I only really studied molecular chemistry until the end of school. At each stage there is a almost a forcefield which invites only the bravest to attempt to penetrate its lofty heights of knowledge. The neuroscience is forever evolving and becoming that little bit more complicated.  Thus causing us further problems in the struggle to find answers.

There is another way in which I can describe how I often feel. Can I ask you to close your eyes, close your eyes and think what it is like to be asleep. That warm feeling whilst you dream away and consolidate your recent exploits. As you will know there are different stages of sleep (I won't dwell upon the intricacies here and will be using a little artistic scientific licence but it helps illustrate my metaphor.)

I often watch my Bean fall asleep within minutes of his head touching the pillow. I fear I have lost the ability to "go to sleep." I can lie for hours ruminating over the day's events or thinking of ways to explain things to patients. I hope to remedy this by purchasing a pretty little leather notebook into which I can distil my thoughts.  This compartmentalisation will hopefully separate my bedroom from other parts of my life.

I digress, there are stages whilst which sleep which causes us to become transiently paralysed and depression really does feel as if some other power is stopping you from interacting with the world. The world appears to continue as normal, if not at a greater speed. Yet your words, actions are perilously difficult to perform. This lack of movement and dullness of thought envelops you completely until you are but a shell of your former self.

Sleep confuses people and this is no different from my real life.  I know so very much but there is always that one moment when I may develop a niggle of doubt.  I then question my knowledge, assume I am incorrect (obviously I am not always right but I have been taught well) and my self confidence disintegrates and I fear trying for I "know" I will fail.  This confusion also pervades me through the inability to hear anything save for the negatives.  I could win a Nobel prize (oh my how amazing) or an Oscar (I would love one in my bathroom!) but I would always assume that this was just by chance or mistake.

Dreams at any time can be confusing and contradictory but for most their dreams are vibrant and colourful.  Mine are not, occasionally I will see an important item in full colour (as one sees Schindler's list) but for the most part I have oft disturbing grey scale dreams.  This coincides fittingly with how one may view life or lack thereof.  I feel my subconscious was trying to overcome this by emphasising and pushing me to associate with magenta.  Oh magenta, my intoxicatingly favourite colour a way of trying to help me break free.

Now I am receiving treatment and I am "stable" and able to continue with my life. I am now able to see a future and in part this little adventure has helped me to do so.

Depression is hideous and must be accepted as an illness. I will never be normal (whatever normal is?) and while I do relish the darker parts of my personality I must learn to stop them from overshadowing the light. I simply want to be the person I know I should be able to be. So thank you for listening and thank you for all playing just a little part in my recovery. Truly thank you.


  1. oh, anna, thank you so much for sharing. i'm so glad you did, because truly it helps to let it all out. i suffer from anxiety (and am currently medicated for it) and know how hard it is to live a "normal" life when our disorders can't be alleviated naturally or by telling ourselves to block out the anxious, depressed thoughts. it just doesn't work that way. it's not our fault, it's the chemistry in our brains - and you're right, society doesn't always view depression and anxiety in that light unfortunately. which is probably the reason why it took me FOREVER to go see a doc about my anxiety - i felt like you, a leper of sorts, afraid of being judged by others. but finally, after years and years of living with anxiety, i went to go see a psychiatrist and have never felt better in my whole entire life. it's been a processto find the right balance though -- it's taken over a year to find the right drug that works with my body. but it's been the most worth-it struggle of my life. i feel like a whole new person. so i'm so so glad you got some help, and that you are on your way to feeling like yourself again. the sleep will come back. and it will feel oh so good when it does. hang in there, lady. i think you're tops ;)

  2. Depression actually runs in my family. While I have never experienced it myself, I have had to cope with it in other ways. So, in some ways I feel your pain. Know that you're loved and that people are rooting for you!

  3. I too suffer from depression (it's been almost crippling lately) and have been on and off medicine for years, last time being about three years ago. I see now, after a very tough past month, that I need the medicine and I shouldn't feel ashamed about that. I also pretty much admitted in a blog post that I have been suffering lately, and it felt so good to put it out there. It was an cathartic experience I guess. Putting it out there was very brave of you, and I wish you all the best in your journey in dealing with the disease.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. It is very brave. I don't think anyone is really "normal". We're just all trying to do the best we can in this crazy life. Hugs x

  5. Thanks for sharing, it's a powerful and healing thing to walk with others knowing they are really seeing you.

    I too have suffered depression and I too almost died from it. One thing that helped me a bit was to accept this as part of me. I now look at my depressive personality as not only the cause of those painful things, but also the source of my empathy, my love for others. I doubt it's a cooincidence you've ended up in a career aimed at helping others.

  6. anna, thank you for courageously sharing your story. sending my positive thoughts and care to you!

  7. anna, i missed the first post but caught up, thank you for sharing your story with us. i know it's hard to be so open and honest about yourself to the whole world, let alone to yourself.

    my darling boy suffered from depression as well and i know it took him a lot to pull himself out of it and that it's never completely over. i know i don't know you besides what i read on your blog, but i just want to give you a hug and say that i'm touched that you included us as part of your recovery. i wish you nothing but the best!

  8. *virtual hugs* from someone who understands completely what you are going thru. My family is extremely torn up about it. My dad is supportive, my mother thinks I have to will power. Thank you for sharing. It is nice to know you are not alone in this journey because sometimes the loneliness is palpable.

  9. Anna, I can't find the words to match the beautiful ones you have written. So instead I will express thanks and gratitude; that you are brave enough to write these words, that you are brave enough to seek help, that Bean is the loving supportive soul he seems to be - and he sees you for the amazing person you truly are even though you can't see it yourself, that you have supportive friends, family and colleagues who you can turn to and finally that you are currently stable.

  10. Anna, it's obviously taken a lot for you to put your words about this out here, so thank you. I suffered from severe depression during my first year of university - so severe that some days I literally could not move my head up from my pillow. At the time, people would say to me "chin up" and "pull yourself together", which was not just really unhelpful but felt really unthoughtful. I think part of the trouble with depression is definitely the stigma attached to mental illness. But another part is that depression is a word that gets bandied around so easily - how many times have you heard people say "God, I feel depressed" and "I'm so depressed right now"? It has come to refer to a general down mood, rather than the serious affliction that people like you and I associate it with. And I do think that unless you have suffered it yourself, it's hard to grasp just how serious it is, just how paralysing and all-consuming it is, just how hard it is to "snap out of it" and "cheer up". I don't know what the answer is, I really don't - apart from treating it like the proper, medical illness that it is, and making sure that people are informed about it.

  11. I have suffered one bout of depression. I can't imagine having to suffer it again or to suffer it continuously and hope that I don't have to. It's always a worry hanging over me that it may return and I hate how it makes me ashamed (for example when it came up in a new job medical etc) and the stigma of it. Putting it into words here is very brave of you and also I hope it helps you. I think people struggle to see and understand illnesses that have very little physicality. Same with MS. That and like Em says the word is used lightly by people who don't understand it. And I must admit before I felt it, I myself used it lightly and didn't understand it fully. Having supportive partners and friends is so important and my husband helping me through it was one of the moments I realised he was the one as I'm sure Bean is to you, lots of love x

  12. What can I say that hasn't already been said? You are so right to be outraged that depression is seen differently than cancer. It's terrifying enough to suffer from this illness - add to that the fact that so many people don't see it as a disease, and you wind up feeling even more isolated and lonely than you already were. If sharing your story with us has helped to alleviate that loneliness even a little, I am so glad. I am happy to hear that you are stable, and that Bean is such a pillar for you. And hooray for catharsis!!
    But you should also know that it is a true pleasure to read your funny, smart, clever words. So thank YOU for this blog. Keep writing, and know you have a big old support system out here.
    with love, love. x

  13. It takes a lot of courage to write this stuff all out, and I hope that feeling validated by your readers helps a bit. I think that breaking the silence is important. Take care of yourself.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It was very brave thing for you to do. I have very close family members who suffer from depression and I can only hope that people start to realize that this is a disease and it should be treated as such.

    i'm glad that you're getting treated and are feeling stable. normal's overrated anyway :)


  15. You put your thoughts into words so beautifully and articulately. Do not despair...there is always hope. I do not have the perfect words to offer but hope that you know that you are in mine and so many other's thoughts and well wishes!

  16. As so many others have said, this post, nay, this blog is brave. I commend you for seeking help and sharing your experience. I hope that writing about it will aid in your recovery and influence people that depression is not a superficial problem. Coming to terms with my own affliction and being able to speak about it freely took a lot of time, but I think has assisted my own recovery.

  17. Hi Anna - Stopping by a bit late but this is so timely and I wish we could exchange more than virtual hugs about this. I took a girlfriend to the hospital last night after her anxiety and depression dropped her over the ledge, and I only wish more people talked openly about what these issues really mean.

    You're so brave and genuinely strong for putting yourself out here like this. The more people who talk about depression the sooner society learns that it's a real, chemical, medical issue. Many of the most amazing people I know have faced down afflictions like yours and become stronger, BETTER, people because of it, though it does take hard work and a strong personal and medical support system. You have an amazing partner in Bean, you've crafted a meaningful life and life's work, and you're facing your demons head on. That's all any of us can ask for.

  18. Anna, thank you for being brave enough to talk about this. Depression is a very real disease and one that can be far more devastating than many physical ones. (I don't think I've commented before, but I quite enjoy reading your blog!)

  19. I could have written what Em said myself.

    Thinking of you Anna.

  20. Have emailed you. What a beautifully written article Anna. Big, big virtual hugs to you.
    Much love,
    Annabel xXx

  21. Thank you, for this and for "whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right". You have managed to put into words, so eloquently, feelings which are so painful and near impossible to describe. Thank you for your courage in sharing your thoughts. Huge hugs from someone who understands all too well but hasnt found the courage herself x

  22. I am so late stopping by. It is so brave of you to share this part of yourself, and more importantly for facing your issue head on. Dreadful and scary as it is, your life, and your life with bean, will be a bajillion times better for it. I am glad you are feeling better, and here's to a much better 2010!

  23. Dear anon - I wish I knew what you meant!


So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.


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