Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a really bad headache or a pain in your chest? The sudden awakening combined with the ache for a moment convince you that you're dying and you experience what could be called night terror. Then you shake yourself, take some paracetamol/indigestion pills, quickly fall asleep, and feel fine when you wake up next morning.
Now imagine feeling that terror for 95% of the time.
It started when I was in my teens and peaked in my late forties. That's a long time to be living a part-life and at its worst a barely-life where, for example, I was too scared to go to the cinema just in case, and I had to psyche myself up to go to Sainsburys for the weekly shop. I was prayed for - and felt guilty when it made no difference - and I saw a number of doctors. I had counselling - she gave up on me - and tried therapy. That helped me understand myself better and see things differently but it didn't cure me.
The thing was that I didn't think of myself as having depression. Depression was a proper illness; I just worried too much. The slightest thing and I'd worry. Not just worry now and again but all the time. Thoughts would go round and around in my head repeating themselves incessantly. Until the next insignificant thing happened to give me something new to worry about. I carried out all the normal everyday tasks but my mind would be buzzing. It wasn't illness particularly or even death that scared me - unless it was one of my children that preoccupied my thoughts - but fear itself. The what-if fear.
There was nothing logical about it and knowing that, as I did, made it even worse.
But, no, I wasn't depressed, just anxious. I was simply stupid; I couldn't stop worrying and I was an idiot. I couldn't control my thoughts; my life and, more importantly, family life were adversely affected. I couldn't concentrate or enjoy the good times. And it was down to my stupidity. That's what I thought. It wasn't until I finally convinced the doctor that I couldn't go on living this caricature of a life that she prescribed anti-depressants. Little white pills containing serotonin. Magic pills that changed my life.
Yes, they do have side effects: my emotions are, well, drugged I suppose. I don't feel the highs and lows that others seem to experience but I can live with that. But having said that, for the last few months I've been halving the dose. I was doing really well so I thought I'd give it a go. (Doctors tend to encourage you to get off drugs if you can.) But recently I've noticed that my lows seem to be happening more frequently. I may start taking the prescribed dose again or I may go and chat to the doctor. One thing is certain, I'm not going back to that place of misery again.
The reason I'm writing this now is two-fold. Elder Son posted a link to an article written by a journalist 'coming out' about his mental health problems. It's quite long but a very good article if you're interested. In it he says that when he eventually saw an expert he was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
Now when I think of OCD I think of people who have to keep washing their hands or checking they've turned off lights but in his case it's his thoughts that are obsessive and compulsive. And I see that his symptoms are very like mine. And that's a great relief. Not particularly to have a title or a name for my problem but to hear of someone else with similar experiences. Knowing I'm not alone. And allowing me to believe that maybe I'm not just stupid and incapable of controlling my own thoughts and mind.
The other reason for this long and probably boring to most people post is that recently it's been suggested to me or implied in conversations that I should give up my medication. 'What you need is God/fresh air/exercise.'
I would like to suggest that I have plenty of all of those - probably more than most - and they don't help.
If I were on blood thinning medication would you suggest that I stop taking it and run around more? If I were diabetic would you tell me to stop injecting myself and improve my diet? No, of course not.
I have a chemical imbalance that the drugs correct. It's no different from any other condition. Just because it's in my head and the symptoms aren't obvious to you don't make it any less real. Or life diminishing if untreated.
That's it. Rant over.
If you've got this far, thank you for reading.