Living openly with anxiety and depression is hard. I know that sounds really strange but it is the truth. Part of me wishes it was all still hidden away and that I was living in quiet oblivion. I know that it needed to come out but it is hard to know what to say sometimes.
I have honestly lived with a heavy deep sadness for such a long time (not just weeks and not just since life unravelled spectacularly) I am talking probably even decades. I almost don’t know what it feels like to not be depressed or anxious on some level. I also think that there is a big difference between having depression (and still being able to enjoy the normal ups and downs in life) and being depressed or having an acute episode of depression whereby life feels pointless and the pain of depression (and its ever present side kick) anxiety just gets too much to cope with. Sometimes the acute episodes last days sometimes they linger for much longer. When I am lucky after an acute episode I can feel quite energetic about life and productive but lately it seems that the set point is 0 where for most people set point would be or even more!
I have been trying to think why I might be feeling quite low but can’t put a finger on a trigger. It has been a pretty busy week for me, lots of interaction with people, physio appointment for me and my eldest. Mine was really just trying to release some of the tension that I hold in my neck, shoulders, back and hips which causes constant throbbing headaches and for my big boy because he had a suspected small break in his hand from the last game of football. Given that I am still not driving (though I hope to be able to rectify this soon!) my only option to get to these appointments was to walk. Not really a big deal so in two days I walked 8kms. I know that exercise is supposed to help with depression so I am really trying to get a little bit everyday. For two reasons one to hopefully help lift my mood and two to hopefully shift the weight that I collected in the three week trial of a new medication! It seems that it is significantly easier to collect 10kgs in three weeks than it is to loose it again even once you are off the medication!
Things didn’t really start well this morning. No idea why really, all I know is that when I woke this morning there was an incredible sadness settling in, something more than the usual. There are no particular anniversaries coming up that usually trigger these kinds of feelings so I am a little bit lost. After everyone left for school and work I thought I would head out for a walk to see if that would help lift the sadness I was feeling. On my walk I was trying to take a photo of the beautiful coastline where we live (1.5km from the beach!) All I managed to succeed at doing was taking the world’s most out of focus photo with an autofocus iPhone! There is a talent in achieving that.
As I turned for home it was quickly evident that the walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine wasn’t actually going to help. My eyes started leaking, you know like you have something in them it was like I was crying but not. It doesn’t really make sense, and the constant stream also hasn’t really stopped.
This has been sitting in my drafts since last week so it tells me, which is kind of great because I don’t remember writing it at all. I know I have a lot of silly worries going through my mind at the moment that rationally I know aren’t real and I have no control over so I shouldn’t worry about them. Equally history tells me that perhaps there is a reason to worry. With that in mind it might explain my reaction to a picture I saw on Facebook this morning that hit a raw nerve. Though I can’t be sure sometimes my mind goes places without any help at all. It could of course also have been some of the comments that went with this picture and really I should know better than to read comments but it seems I will never learn that lesson!
I struggle with this photo because it implies to me that fresh air and exercise is far more beneficial for you than medication for depression. There is absolutely no doubt that fresh air and exercise should form a part of any management for any mental illness. The reality for everyone whether you have mental illness battles or not fresh air and exercise should form a part of your life.
Exercise and fresh air are beneficial for general mood, brain health, physical health. They aid recovery after surgery, can assist in prolonging good cognitive function, there are even suggestions that 30mins a day of exercise can assist in warding off Alzheimers.
I guess my real bug bear with this image is that to me it says don’t take medication and if you do you are taking the easy way out. Equally when I read many of the comments on the original image on the Organic Lifestyle Magazine facebook page. There is a real sense that if you take medication you are not trying hard enough. In fact if you can kick your medication habit it is seen as a real badge of honour.
In truth for so many battling with mental illness medication is an absolutely integral part of their management of their illness. For some reason there is an incredible stigma around taking medication for mental health issues but we would never dream of telling a diabetic to not take their insulin and just eat better, or tell an asthmatic to not take their preventers or ventolin if they are having an attack. So why do we tell people to look for alternatives when it comes to mental health medications.
Sure there are side effects of mental health medications and it may take a long period of medication trials to find the right one for you. As I said earlier I had to come off a new one that I was trialling for lots of reasons but the lingering effect from that was the 10kg weight gain (that I am now trying to do as much exercise to shift that 10kgs!) If you can get through the side effects and find one that works for you, medication can make a big difference in your life and that should not come with any stigma attached. Without a doubt there is a small % of people that medication simply doesn’t work for. What I am absolutely certain of is that there would be a far greater failure rate of fresh air and exercise as the first line treatment for mental illness.
There is absolutely no shame in taking medication and there should be no stigma attached to it. Equally you are not a better person if you can manage your illness with fresh air and exercise. Thanks for reading my ramble maybe it will give you cause to re-think your thoughts on medication for mental health and that for many they are life saving in the same way insulin is for a diabetic.