Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Running from depression

I don't think I've ever had a depression. But I know I have been depressed.

Life has never collapsed on me and left me weeping on the floor. But I have had periods of immense sadness and I've experienced anger and despair directed towards almost all elements in my life.

I was about 17. I was in high school, I had a boyfriend and a few close female friends. I was busy at school, playing handball, working. My life was generally OK. And when I came home from school, I cried for an hour. Every day. My boyfriend and my best friend told me to see my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist. My best friend, also 17 and always very wise, was convinced I was depressed because of the way my father was bringing me up. Now this seems ridiculous, but 17 was the age of teenage showdown for me, and for some odd reason, I targeted my father. Neither my showdown or the psychiatrist (who was told by the patient that the reason was the patients father) had any effect on my moods. They did however fade after a while.

I was 24. I lived in South Africa, studying at the university. I had a boyfriend and a very close friend that I lived with. I had a student job at the university. A couple dramatic life events caused me to be depressed. I was so sad. I didn't cry much, I was just dark inside. I felt hollow and useless. I went to a social worker at the hospital and talked to her. She was nice but it had no effect. Of course we blamed the life events for my mood.

I was 39. Lived with my children. Had a partner, a demanding job and a large social circle (and the usual few close friends). Every Saturday, I cried. There was no energy left. I went to see my GP but I told him I was depressed because my son was showing signs of Asperger and that stressed me. So my GP told me what to do about my son and not what to do about me.

In between there are countless episodes of sadness, social anxiety, insomnia. Generally, my life has been as described at those three points in time: busy in the successful way. But the depression has always been there, lurking in the background, and striking when I was too busy to notice.

What also happens is that if my mind is idle, I start looping. Something somebody said or did keeps coming back to me and bothers me. Something my husband says makes me angry, though with a considerable time delay. So he says something without thinking and the next day I write him a spluttering e-mail. The more prone to depression I am, the more frequently this happens.

I once got anti-depressants. Not for depression but for insomnia. They made me gain weight and I also became cynical. So I stopped.

I self-medicate: I excercise. I run. I run from depression. Some days I go to the gym, but I need to have cardiovascular excercise for at least 20-25 minutes, at least four times per week. Yes I still loop. And sometimes I can't sleep. But I am much more stable mood-wise now. And the episodes mentioned above taught me at least one thing: depression comes from inside. It's nobody elses fault. Not my fathers fault, not the life events, not my son. In fact it is not even my mothers fault. I take responsibility; and I run!

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