I used to hide the fact that I suffer from depression because, quite simply, I was ashamed. I thought my loved ones would see me as broken or different or worse still, mad. I became quite the expert at hiding it because I feared the GP would force me to go on medication that I would become dependent on.
I used all sorts of methods to keep people from finding out the truth; misdirection, feigned illness and at times even subterfuge. It was utterly exhausting and once in a while, when life felt a little fractured and I’d had a few too many drinks, I’d let my guard down and some of the darkness would seep out. When that happened my poor unsuspecting friends would have to peel me off the floor and help me home while I sobbed about something or another. The next day I would frantically make excuses for the episode – stress at work or love life issues. Whatever. Anything but the admit the truth.
Over the years I’ve come to realise that depression really isn’t a dirty word. It’s an illness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. These days I talk to my friends and family about it more openly and honestly and I’ve managed so far, with the help of my GP and an excellent counsellor, to keep the black dog at bay without needing to go on medication. This is a personal choice because I know myself well enough to know that, for me, it would be a bad idea. For some people it is a necessity and only you and your GP can decide what the best course of treatment is for you and your situation.
But this year has been particularly tough for me for various reasons and I’ve felt myself slipping again. I feel as though I’ve had more instances of depression this year than any other time, but despite knowing I needed help I kept putting it off and trying to hide it mostly because we’ve moved and I have a new GP and I was scared. But when I looked at my boys’ faces I realised that I didn’t want their lasting memories of me to be that I was always sad. And I certainly didn’t want them to think that they had anything to do with that. So I bit the bullet and to my happy surprise my new GP listened and reassured and I feel much better for talking to him.
I now have a bit of a plan of how to get myself back on track. I’m going to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and although I’ve always relied on writing as a therapy, I’ve decided to also try mindfulness and gratitude. Now trying to get ten, quiet minutes to myself in the morning with two boys under the age of six haring around the house is nigh on impossible, but I have high hopes! I’ve also started yoga again…baby steps, it’s all about the baby steps!
As for the gratitude I’ve realised that it really is a powerful thing. It can help to kick start a positive frame of mind and that is something I need help with at times. Last week on Pause for Thought on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show I heard a wonderful quote, ‘wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life’, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
So, every day I’m going to try and note one thing I’m grateful for. And so to start; I’m really grateful for friends. I’m always grateful for my old friends but right now I’m particularly grateful for new friends who listen to you, drink copious amounts of coffee (and sometimes wine!) with you and who make you feel like less of a plonker at the school gates!
Do you keep a gratitude journal? Do you do it every day? Do you find it helps you and if so how?