Summer days turn into winter nights and Happy Holly turns into an old miser. So I take anti-depressants in winter.
I have suffered on and off with my mental health my whole life. I have seen 10 different doctors who have given me 10 different diagnoses. From Borderline Personality Disorder to “you just need to cheer up a bit”, I have been told so many conflicting things that I’ve given up asking doctors. Pretty much every year, I end up taking anti-depressants in winter.
I don’t ask them what’s wrong with me anymore – I now tell them. I go to whatever GP it is that day and tell them. “I feel blue. I haven’t been to the gym in weeks. My skin has turned to crap. I don’t want to socialise.This week I haven’t eaten more than two vegetables. No, I don’t want to harm myself. I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to go outside though.”
I think diagnosing mental health illnesses is one of the toughest jobs GPs have to do. With a 5 minute window to see each patient, and every single person’s symptoms so different, they almost never get it right. However, in the last 3 years I’ve seen a significant improvement in doctors’ responses. Especially young doctors. It seems like people under 40 just get it so much more.
My birthday is at the beginning of November.
Right after the clocks go back and it’s dark when we all get home from work, I start to withdraw from the world. I can’t remember a birthday where I haven’t had a bad period.
Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family are always amazing at making sure I have a great birthday. Not just presents or parties, but at making sure I know I’m loved and supported. I only have good people in my life.
It’s just that no matter how many people call me or text met o tell me they’re happy I made it another year, I can’t help but feel worthless and insignificant. Maybe not on my actual birthday but between bonfire night and Christmas, I generally have at least one meltdown. Lying in my bed, sobbing heaving tears until I’m almost physically sick.
I’m smart. I know I have a good life.
I may not be rich financially but I am in other ways. I have an amazing family, a wonderful girlfriend, and some of the greatest friends a girl could ever want. I have a nephew who thinks the sun shines out of me and now I have a puppy who thinks I’m one of the two best things on the planet.
When the black cloud creeps in, all that disappears
All the logic melts away with the tears. I turn off my phone and shut out anyone who might try to help me.
Usually after a few hours, the cloud runs out of rain and starts to dissipate. The tears start to dry. I go to the bathroom to get tissue and think how ridiculous I look, face puffy. Why have I been crying for 2 hours in my beautiful big bed? I have a roof over my head. I have more than some people could ever dream of. Get a grip, Holly.
I give myself some time to recover and either eat or sleep.These are my only comforts in winter. I just need to hide from the world andfeel nothing.
The next day will be brand new. I live life normally but every day, I take a little weight on in my soul until eventually the scales tip and I find myself in bed again. Each day / week / month / year is different.Sometimes it can be months between The Bed Day; sometimes it’s only days.
I have tried
Every natural remedy, yoga, walking, talking, everything. The only thing that works for me is the drugs. Having been on medication for my Asthma since I was a small child, I try to avoid talking more drugs. I have weaned myself off my asthma medication;luckily my symptoms have lessened as the years have gone by. I refuse to take any contraceptive pill anymore, no matter how bad my periods are.
This though, this is the one I have to give in to. According to the doctors, I can take up to 6 weeks for symptoms to alleviate once you start taking anti-depressants. I usually notice within a week. Not a huge difference – I’m not bounding out of bed singing musicals at the top of my voice. Just the little things. I actually go to the supermarket and buy myself a nice dinner. And actually manage to cook it. I might even enjoy it.
Within two weeks, I’ll be back in the gym. Within 3, I’ll b edoing 6am sessions and revelling in the beauty of the sunrise. By the time Christmas comes around, I’ll actually be excited for the office Christmas Party.
Though my depression is cyclical and linked in with events in my life, it is still clinical depression. What a lot of people don’t realise is that clinical depression is a physical illness, which manifests in the mind.
At its most simple,depression can be considered a chemical imbalance in the brain.
It is well documented, however, that the illnesses are most commonly triggered by a variety or combination of factors including genetics, environmental or social triggers,trauma, stress and so on.
There are arguments that depression is caused / worsened by low serotonin levels. There are also strong arguments for the reverse. The medical profession is still so early in the research stages & I’m no expert. So let’s just say depression and low levels of serotonin go hand in hand.
In the same scope of anti-biotics being able to treat a chest infection, serotonin can be very successful in treating the clinical aspect of depression. Depending on an individual’s symptoms, triggers and levels of imbalance, prescriptions of serotonin can be a great kick-start to getting back to “normal”.
For me, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) just work. They alter how my body absorbs serotonin and re-balance my chemicals. The wires start to slowly untangle and I find myself laughing more often. I don’t have to force myself into the shower. I enjoy the sunshine or want to stop and take in the beauty of the autumn leaves.
There’s a couple of brands that don’t agree with me.
As with any drug, there are side effects and a couple of the types don’t work for me. Just like certain types of contraceptive pills don’t work for everyone. It’s been trial and error but I’ve found what works. I won’t say which ones trigger me and which ones work because everyone is different; your choice of drug should be an educated decision between you and your doctor, not from me!
Come springtime (usually before Easter), I consult my doctor and start weaning off the medication. I could continue to take it year round but I like to give my body a chance to do things nature’s way if I can. There’s been a few years where I haven’t come off them due to events in my life at that time. But if I can come off them and not slip down the dark slope again, then I do.
“Small Talks Save Lives”
I’ve been so impressed over the last couple of years with the traction of open conversations about mental health. From social media campaigns to celebrities admitting their struggles, to programmes being implemented in schools, the face of mental health is changing.
We all know people struggle and we’re starting to talk about it. The phrase “it’s okay not to be okay” is becoming commonplace and employers are understanding the importance of being supportive. It’s hard for people who haven’t had any mental health illnesses to be empathetic but if we keep talking, tweeting and writing about our individual issues, we will help. Someone might read my symptoms and realise their colleague is struggling. Another person might watch Professor Green’s stories and finally find the courage to go to their doctor and ask for help.
If you’re struggling, the help is there. You just have to ask for it.
If you urgently need to speak to someone, the Samaritans are available 24/7 and it’s completely free. You can call them from the UK on “116123” and the Samaritan you need will be waiting at the end of the phone.
If it’s non-emergency and you’re feeling like you need help,please make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Remember, you won’t hit it off with every doctor you meet, the same as you won’t like every person you have to work with. So if the first one isn’t the right one, please do ask for a second. Or third. Or however many it takes to find The One. You have every right to do so and you deserve the doctor that will help you change your life.
MIND are a wonderful charity whose website is full of resources to help, along with details of your local MIND centre and the services they offer.
CALM is a mental health charity catering specifically to men. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women, yet much less likely to ever discuss their problems or ask for help. The Campaign Against Living Miserably is there to help you gents turn your worst hours into your finest.
Friends, family, co-workers, online – you never know where support can be found until you ask for it. You deserve to be happy.