Friday, 17 January 2014

So, What Makes Me Different?

Hi folks


Before I go on (literally!) I just want to say a big thank you for the huge response I have had from this. Not just the well wishes on my Facebook page, but also from the number of hits on the blog I have had; 209 yesterday alone! I am astounded with the response. This was never an exercise in 'hey, look at me give me attention'; like I've said primarily it's to help me and to educate others. So, thank you it means a lot to me!
OK before I start. I'm awake at 4am, but that's no big deal; I was in bed at 10. I always used to stress about being awake really early, but no more; an excuse to put pen to paper, as it were. I'll have a power nap later. 
My mood is good and I feel on the level, I've had my porridge and have a water bottle stuffed in my dressing gown because it's bloody freezing before the heating clicks on! Oh yes, and the most important part for a Yorkshire man, my cup of tea :)

Well, I've given you a run down and a potted history, so I thought I'd expand in a logical way and explain the reasons that I may be different, but first, what is depression?

Basically, it's a chemical imbalance in the brain. People without this imbalance can function 'normally' and us depressed folk need a little help in addressing this imbalance. This is in the form of SSRIs, which translates to Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors. Anti-depressants. This means my serotonin (a chemical neuro-transmitter) does not work so well, because it can't pass messages between nerve cells in my brain in the normal way.
If there's a deficit in the amount of serotonin fired from one cell to another (so, in the synapses), the next message cannot be passed along, or taken back up again. Normally , this is OK, but because I don't get enough serotonin released, the drugs prevent the re-uptake of it into the cells. So like I've said up there, they keep me 'on the level' (at least, most of the time).
My particular sauce at the moment is Sertraline and I have to take 100mg a day. This is the largest dose I've had in 17 years; you'd think I'd be decreasing the dosage, but life has a way of screwing us over sometimes, doesn't it? Exacerbating things.
I hope I made that easy to understand. Believe me, I understand it perfectly! In fact, I understand my illness so acutely, I could write a book about it or even be my own shrink. My therapists over the years have always said how in tune I am with everything I feel. But that's no bloody use if you feel powerless to do anything about it!

You may ask, well OK, if you're taking these drugs then why are you not OK? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. It's very difficult when you have had such a difficult childhood and adulthood, in fact. You desperately want to change how you live your life, but your emotions and feelings get in the way, often making you (me) behave a little differently to others. These emotions can become so intense, they literally disable you as they can happen all at the same time. This explains why a lot of the time, I don't appear social (going on my local cycling club group rides, for example) and I withdraw into myself and just want to be alone, as it's often better that way.
Sometimes, I'm so anxious I can't leave the house. And that's the problem with this illness, it totally messes up all your other emotions and I often over-react to many things, making me hyper-sensitive. In fact, here's a non-exhaustive list of the emotions I can feel, often all at once:

Sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, anxiety/panicking, irrationality, jealousy, irritability, hopelessness/helplessness, worthlessness and making this all much worse, frustration.
This has an effect on my life in a big way. So I lose interest in doing the things I love (cycling, for example). It is one of the biggest de-motivators a person can have in their life; which is why a lot of the time, especially to my local friends, you don't see me. But weirdly, it is always a pleasure when I do bump in to you!

I have lost jobs because of it as I've struggled to control it or I've felt so crap, I've had to resign. It's not about being weak, because take it from me, you need to be strong to live with this, just most of the time it doesn't feel like you are. It's not something you can just turn off or 'snap out of'. It's there 24/7.
That's not to say that I'm always sad, far from it. And that's one of the difficulties with depression as outwardly, you may smile and laugh with friends, but inside, you could be screaming and be full of fear.
I have difficulties seeing things through and this has been a cycle over the years. I put 110% into something initially, and then I lose interest.
For example, last September I started college. But I rapidly lost interest and I became very frustrated at how things were taught (it was like being back at school). 
Thing is, the subject matter I'm actually quite into. I love the outdoors, nature and everything in it, yet I've come to the conclusion that yes, I do love it, but I don't want a career in it, I want to have an 'average' job, that I "don't mind doing" (to quote my wife) and I can get out in the mountains or on my bike to unwind outside of work. So consequently, I will be leaving college, to pursue my love of computers.
Only this time, I've sat down and wrote everything down; the pros and cons of leaving college, what I want to do, what I don't want to do. And I think I'm there.

But this has been no easy decision. Far from it. As I feel as though I'm letting those close to me down. But all they want is to see me happy. Yet even simple decisions I struggle with and often make the wrong choices, because the wrong choice is usually the easy option and has often led me into trouble.
I am quick to anger, even with the most insignificant things. Or everything just pisses me off! Or I'm never happy and always want more. I am a very complex individual.

Often times, after I've experienced a very intense emotion my brain goes into over-drive; just imagine over-revving your car but keeping your foot on the accelerator in first gear. You know full well it'll break your gear box. That's what I experience. Knowing it's wrong, but still carrying on. (Heeey, I'm a poet and I didn't know it!) 
The intense emotion really unbalances my head and for days afterwards, I suffer incredibly. Usually with incredible feelings of anxiety and guilt. My mood is constantly manic (from highs to deep lows) and I just cry all the time. It is the most awful, gut wrenching feeling and all you want to do is curl up into a ball and die. This happened recently, last week in fact (not the dying, the emotion :-P ). 
I experienced intense anger over something and I made myself so ill, I could not face life. Sound pathetic? Well, it feels like it, especially when you are panicking because your wife is upstairs and you are downstairs. Sheer, over-the-top irrationality. But it is not something you can control so easily, and I've never been taught or taught myself to develop coping strategies, which is what I'll be doing from now, as I cannot bear to feel like that ever again or worse, to see my wife so upset and feel so powerless to help me. 
That was the real game-changer for me this time. I can't imagine how I looked to her, but it must have been incredibly upsetting; she had to hold me up at one point as I was sobbing uncontrollably and I was just inconsolable. She is stronger than both of us put together.

For the first time in years, I've had some CLARITY. I've been able to go through everything and look at how I can get more help with my illness and how I can learn to change my rigid, black and white, all or nothing thinking.
I've managed to get to the point where I'm starting to feel OK about my future, despite it not being fantastic at the moment, but it will be, as long as I work hard for it.

So, there you have it. I've probably missed some stuff. But if you ever see me about, don't be afraid to say hello or engage me in conversation because it's what I need. If I'm a bit standoff-ish, it's not you honestly. Because actually, I can be quite good in social situations (I impressed myself at the recent Energy Cycles club meeting). 
And despite what I think, writing this diary has proved to me that I really do have friends out there, friends that actually care.

Whatever you're up to today, enjoy it. 

Diolch yn fawr am darllen i fi ffrindiau Cymraeg. (Sorry if that's wrong!)

Yay, the heating has come on! :D

Elton 

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