I was the kind of kid who would get down and out for no reason. Now many years later I still can’t tell you why. As I became a teenager I developed anxiety with the pressure of finishing high school and needing the good grades as well as the added pressure of thinking I needed to choose a career when I simply had no idea. I went to uni and got my Bachelor of Arts really for the purpose that uni was an expected transition and I literally did the only course I could get into due to my marks. I finished the course and was desperate to just earn some money so took up full time job. I was passionate about bettering myself and sought every opportunity there. I did experience a lot of half truths however and opportunities that were promised were taken away to only be given to someone else. Because I was still lost and becoming increasingly unhappy, I went to a counselor. Her version of helping me was to hand me a pile of printed handouts on various coping methods but never really helped, never really tried to get to the root of the problem.
We moved from Albury to Melbourne and I got a transfer through work. I again sought various role opportunities but never found my fit. I was becoming increasingly down and I went to the GP to get another referral, this time to a psychologist. She was ok but I didn’t feel a great connection with her but I was too polite to say so. I kept going until my 10 sessions were up but didn’t really feel better. I then had a really bad experience with work (a story for another day) and we decided to do something we were thinking about doing for several months, move from 1 side of Melbourne to the other. This in conjunction with this bad work experience turned my world upside down. The move itself was great but it wasn’t the best timing (again another story.) I could no longer cope, I was having panic attacks and I didn’t sleep properly. Then came the formal diagnosis of depression. Even though I knew it was coming it still was very upsetting to hear. I was put on medication first and foremost to help me sleep which it only kinda sorta did.
I then saw yet another psychologist with 1 clear goal in mind, to get off the meds. He was fine at first but then 1 year with him turned to 2 and I started to question if he really wanted to help or was dragging this out as he liked having me as a patient. By the 3rd year and him stuffing me around 3 times I had the courage to move on. I was still struggling though mentally, the panic attacks were getting worse and sometimes I would only get a couple of hours sleep a night. This was largely due to my work situations and never really feeling like I fitted in and I often still feel like that as I find my place in the working world.
I am now seeing a great psychologist (4th time’s a charm!) who has my best interests at heart. Even though I am off the meds I was doing well for awhile but I am back to struggling. I am working my way through that though and am determined not to go back on them. I don’t think they helped me anyway and am taking steps to help my mental health through other means like my own positive encouragement, reaching out when I need to, essential oils and exercise.
As I travel on this journey though I can see those around me who can genuinely relate and those who want to help but don’t know how. I feel I have become more receptive to this lately. I can see those who relate well who have had first hand experience with anxiety and depression, it’s actually fairly obvious even if they have never formally disclosed this. There are others who try but I recognise they just still don’t quite get it and try a little too hard or do the metaphorical pat on the back, you’ll be right kind of attitude. It’s ok to not know. This demon is hard to deal with if you have experienced it, even more so if you haven’t. It’s more than the person having a bad day or feeling sad. There is a cartoon I saw awhile ago and it sticks in my mind. A person is sitting under a blanket looking down, another person comes along and asks if they are ok, they say no. The second person simply gets under the blanket with them without saying anything. It’s just the 2 of them under the blanket for a few frames then the second person asks if they are feeling any better, the first person says yes. To those who aren’t sure what to say, sometimes saying nothing is the best thing. Those in a depressive state don’t want to hear “chin up”, “you’ll be fine” or even “life’s not that bad”, this does not help, especially the last one. Knowing they have love and support does. They may push you away for a bit but that’s the depression talking, not their true feelings. Have patience.
Depression never really goes away, you’ll feel great for a bit but anything can trigger it again even if the trigger isn’t obvious. Learning to deal with it though so when it does rear its ugly head again you feel stronger and with any luck the episodes won’t be as long. With experience comes wisdom. Fortunately or unfortunately dealing with depression for awhile also gives you a certain wisdom.