Category Archives: Mental Health

Chapter 4: It’s A Trip To Emergency

RECOGNIZING THE SEVERITY; THE NEED FOR SUPPORT…

It was January 3rd, 2016. I was in the middle of a particularly rough morning. Getting out of bed had been difficult. I’d cried a number of times. I was tired beyond tired (debilitating sleepiness was now a symptom during this stage of my depression – I felt like I could sleep away 23 hours of the day). I’d made my way to the living room couch. The magnet was working at full power and negative thoughts were screaming themselves at me as I attempted to hold things together.

“Your brain turns against you when you’re depressed and it’s a formidable foe.”

The tangible world felt as though it was going on in the distant background while I wrestled with my own mind. Your brain turns against you when you’re depressed and it’s a formidable foe.

When you go to see a doctor about depression, they will most likely ask you if you’ve had suicidal thoughts. If the answer is ‘yes’ then they will try to categorize your thinking into either, PASSIVE or ACTIVE. Passive means that dying wouldn’t be a bad alternative to the misery you’re living through, but you don’t really intend on doing it yourself. The thought of being in a car accident might be kind of appealing. If there were two buttons in front of you and one said ‘live’ and the other said ‘fall asleep peacefully and die’, you’d probably pick the latter. However, the reality is that suicide isn’t that easy. If your thoughts fall into the category of PASSIVE, then you are considered OK(ish). It’s thought of as unlikely that you will actually do anything to harm yourself. It seems to me that there a real challenge here for a doctor to get this right, as us depressed people often down-play our symptoms. If your thoughts fall into the category of ACTIVE, then you have a plan. You have a rope at home and know exactly where you intend to attach it. You’ve stocked up on painkillers and picked out a quiet spot in the basement. You know exactly what you intend to do and you’re just waiting for the right time. Hopefully your honest answer goes something like, “Oh dear, no. I’ve not had any thoughts of suicide, Doctor!” If your honest answer goes differently, then pay attention.

“…I’d had many thoughts of suicide…”

On January 3rd, 2016 I’d had many thoughts of suicide, all of them passive. I find it a bit shocking to admit to. I almost feel guilty that my family will read this and think that I felt this way with them around. I love them more than anything in this world, but depression defies all reasoning. It laughs in the face of logic and pays zero attention to sound thought. Never judge a depressed person for the way they are thinking. The thoughts had been around for a few days, but not this strong. Every time my brain threw a negative thought at me, I didn’t have the strength to bat it back. Instead, I would consider it factual and think about how these facts wouldn’t matter if something horribly fatal befell me. “Maybe I’ll get diagnosed with something that gives me only two weeks to live… that’d be great!” This thinking scared me. On some level, I feared it and knew deep inside that something was wrong. Thanks to my loving wife, I went to the emergency ward of my nearest hospital.

My advice, and that of many medical professionals that I’ve talked to since becoming depressed is “If you feel at all suicidal – GO TO EMERGENCY!” In my head, I felt that the Emergency Room was for car accidents, broken limbs, and ruptured organs. I wasn’t sick, I was depressed. Now, I realize that depression is a sickness. It can be invisible, but depression is still a life-threatening illness. Do not take it lightly. The doctors and nurses in the Emergency Ward are waiting for you and they have been trained for this moment. They will help you. Go!

Coming soon – Chapter 4; Part II

Chapter 3: Part III: Things That My Mind Told Me When I Was Depressed

THINGS THAT MY MIND TOLD ME WHEN I WAS DEPRESSED:

  1. That things were way worse than they actually were.
  2. All of my faults as an individual were insurmountable.
  3. This feeling would never pass and I would never be happy again.
  4. I was undeserving of anything in my life that was good.
  5. I deserved to feel this way.
  6. I should deal with this on my own.
  7. I was worthless.
  8. I was inadequate.
  9. Death would be a welcome release from this feeling. *
  10. Whatever my mind was telling me was the truth.

 

 

*for some reason, not everyone gets this thought. Some people can get into the greatest depths of depression and never consider taking their own life. Others can get milder depression and instantly turn to thoughts of suicide. A biological predisposition?

Chapter 3: It’s A Trip

SADNESS VS THE SICKNESS THAT IS DEPRESSION…

My anxiety was bad, but in the grand scheme of things, for me, it was a roadside stop for lunch on the highway to depression. As horrible as it was, anxiety was just the precursor for what was to come. It was a scary clap of thunder before the full force of the storm. Anxiety attacks led me into health anxiety. Health Anxiety led me into Depression. Depression sucked more than I could ever have imagined.

I don’t exactly remember if it was the end of December or the beginning of January. Things are a bit of a blur. At some point, instead of waking up with the physiological sensation of anxiety, I awoke feeling overwhelmingly sad. Sad to the pit of my stomach. Don’t want to get out of bed type sad. Curled-up in fetal-position under the duvet crying type sad.

At first, I thought the feeling would pass. Perhaps I could talk my way out of it? Maybe talking it through with my wife would help? Nope. My depression was powerful and mean. At this stage, I was not ready to accept that I was depressed. I was sad and this would go away. I was not one of ‘those’ people – the ones who get depressed! I was a happy person who didn’t let himself get stressed about things. Don’t call me depressed!

“The truth is that I was depressed and depression was like a magnet for negative thoughts.”

The truth is that I was depressed and depression was like a magnet for negative thoughts. At first I would awake with just the feeling of intense sadness, no thoughts attached. Everything on paper was great. I had a beautiful, caring wife. My two children were more precious and rewarding than I could have ever dreamed of. My career in teaching was going well. I had a lovely home and lots of hobbies that I enjoyed. I’d grown up with a wonderful family and married into another equally wonderful family in Canada. Why should I feel sad? But the magnet was powerful. It repelled all the good stuff and attracted negativity. Past mistakes were dragged from the depths of long-term memory and brought into the present day, loud and clear. Everything that I’d ever disliked about myself was being screamed back at me in a way that was both convincing and real. I was feeling the most intense misery of my life.

Chapter 2: Part IV: Things That I Believed

THINGS THAT I BELIEVED WHEN I WAS SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY:

  1. Something terrible was about to happen.
  2. Even in the absence of any symptoms, I was ill and going to die.
  3. I was going to die and it was somehow my own fault.
  4. I was not hungry and did not need food, because my body did not have long left.
  5. These were not merely anxiety attacks – they were messages from my own body as it tried to tell me that something was wrong.
  6. I needed to know what was wrong with – the uncertainty was excruciating.
  7. Physicians and medical tests are hugely flawed and rarely right when they say you are healthy. However, I would have totally believed them if they told me that I had bubonic plague and was about to die.
  8. The slightest small twinge in my body meant a severe underlying ailment.

Why I’m Here

I’ve had Depression. It has recurred several times. The first couple of times, I didn’t know what was happening. The next few times, I didn’t want to admit what was happening. The last time felt like it was going to be the end of me… but it wasn’t.

This last experience was a major turning point. Somehow, I was able to start talking about my mental health and, for some reason, once I had started talking about it, I couldn’t stop. The more I talked, the more I learned about depression and other related mental health issues. I learned how little us humans know about the functioning of our brains and how common it is for us to have problems with its health. I learned that many of my friends and relatives had suffered similar experiences but, for a multitude of reasons, had never told me about them.

My learning lead me to thinking – thinking about how I became embarrassed of mental illness, but not of other ailments. Was this learned during my childhood? If so, how? Why? From whom? If I learned it as a child, then are other children still learning this today? Even worse, are there children experiencing depression and other mental health issues, with no idea of what is happening to them because adults never talk to them about it? Are they hiding their symptoms the way adults often do?

Depression is awful for anyone, but think of a child going through it alone. What can we do? We can start by talking. We are not all ready to do this. Mental health is a deeply personal issue, but for those of us who are able, we have already started to open up about it. Twitter is alive with mental health advocates and people ‘talking’ about their personal experiences. There is an abundance of both anecdotal and scientific information there for the taking… and take it we must. We must take it and use it to educate society both young and old. We must spread the word, learn from each other, and teach children about it. This way, perhaps we can eradicate stigma and ensure that adults and children get the help that they need, when they need it.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It can and does affect anyone. It is the result of sickness, not weakness. I am here to add my voice to the growing number of voices that are already shouting this message loud and clear. I am here to help to teach youth the truth and not stigma. Let’s help future generations to be better prepared. Let’s help our own children so that they can be better than us and act through a lens of caring, not judgement.

I hope that my voice helps.