This weekend marked a huge moment for me in the last few years. The day went by unmarked, it wasn’t celebrated or talked about – because no-one else knew that this weekend was exactly one year since I stopped taking Fluoxitine. My history with depression isn’t one I talk about online very often, in fact I’ve never blogged about it. It’s not the sort of thing I hide, I think the stigma surrounding depression needs to be banished forever, but I also prefer to play those cards a little closer to my chest for practical reasons. Mostly being that one day my son will be able to read the things I write online. But my depression battle is one that will likely continue for the rest of my life.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 17. Different to Reactive Depression – which happens as your way of reacting to a trauma or awful event, Clinical Depression is a more severe form of depression that makes everything about life hopeless. Combined with all the usual and painfully soul destroying symptoms of depression, Clinical Depression makes work, eating, sleeping and all parts of everyday life even harder. It’s the overwhelming feeling of pure hopelessness that separates Depression from Clinical Depression. It’s unshakeable, unmissable and completely encompassing. It’s the most hideous feeling I’ve ever experienced. When I was diagnosed I was told I’d likely suffer with depression my whole life (on and off) and to this day it’s proved true.
I tend to have bouts of depression (not all of which are classed as Clinical) every few years. Some last six months, and some last much longer – sometimes years. I like to think that no-one except my friends and family would know, but in some cases it’s been so extreme that you couldn’t miss it. My longest most intense periods have seen me off work for months at a time because my brain physically can’t focus. Because when I have depression, I can’t watch TV, read a book or even a short article. I can’t follow the plot of a film or focus my brain enough to take it what’s being said in programs, meetings or even brief conversations. At best I can make do, at worst – watching TV is exhausting because I literally can’t understand and follow things – despite wanting to. It’s these times that have seen me have to hold my hands up, and admit temporary defeat and take time off work, and retreat to the safety of a higher dose of anti-depressant.
Which gets me nicely back to the point of this post – which by the way has had me up half of the night wondering if I should even post it? I blog mostly about beauty these days – which I love. Does a highly sensitive post about depression stand out like a sore thumb? Well, I prefer to think of it as a post about inner-beauty, which to me is poignant. Plus I saw something on Twitter yesterday – a comment from a friend which was completely directed at me – without naming me. It really rocked me, because on top of this weekend being a depression mile-stone, this weekend also saw my ex get married and my son gain a step-mum. A wonderful time in the life of my little man, and my ex – I’m happy for them all. But for me, it bought back terribly painful memories and stories I would rather stay in the past.
I guess I’m writing this post to say – I don’t have it all together! This weekend was a year since I came off Fluoxetine – the anti-depressant that I have turned to as a crutch multiple times in my life. I celebrated with a toast (by myself) and marked the occasion with nothing other than an inward feeling of pride. I am proud I’ve gone a year without letting life, or depression beat me once again. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has battled depression for over ten years, and likely will for more to come, I have moments, seasons even, where I feel like I want to retreat back to the safety of those little pills. Moments when I actually want to dull my senses enough so the pain and distraction of my overworking brain is quiet enough for me to sleep a full night and wake feeling rested instead of so exhausted. But in the last year, I haven’t. I haven’t retreated – in fact, like an army marching forward, I’ve taken more ground – gone forward and advanced. This year has seen a lot of change physically but mentally too. I feel strong right now. I’m proud of myself.
I still have Fluoxetine in my house. I know I can go back whenever I want to. But like an ex boyfriend who’s not right for you, I am better without them. Life is vibrant, colourful, bold and striking without Fluoxetine – despite how much he’s been a trusty shoulder to get me through moments in the past I otherwise wouldn’t have. Life is full of things to spark your senses without Fluoxetine – and I will never forget finally coming off them last time and feeling gradually more awake to life again. It was a moment I’ve never experienced before, and one I’ll never forget. Life is good – even when bad things happen.
So in the midst of a weekend I found hard – I’m not married, I’ve been judged and slagged off, I yet accomplished something huge for me. I celebrated quietly and I’m choosing to share this with you because all those other people quietly suffering with depression, they need to know: I don’t have it together. That person you work with who you think has a brilliant life: they’ve not got it all together. Depression works silently, and it’s easy to cover up most of the time. But I want you to know that I see you – the blogger working hard, busting a gut to make a success. You deserve it darling, don’t let haters take it away. I see you – the Mum who’s struggling to keep her family together after infidelity, I see you – the man who’s torn apart at seeing his children only once every two weeks. I see you – the person who thinks they don’t stand out. I see you. If you’re battling depression, if you ever have: I see you. This moment won’t last forever and if I can do a year without help, without needing or wanting it – then eventually you can too.