We all fight battles – some more than others, but all of us fight and struggle through.
Fending off the black dog… © Lisa Shambrook
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (a quote thought to have come from Ian Maclaren but now widely misattributed to Plato – don’t you love Pinterest and its mass of misattributes?!) This quote speaks volumes.
© Lisa Shambrook
Not one of us escapes these skirmishes, so we need to be well equipped.
Two things lead me to write this article: firstly I’m making weapons for Cosplay; just last week I made a quiver and arrows to go with my bow and this week I made an axe, so I have weapons on my mind. Secondly I read a post by a friend, who suffers depression, and she listed her ‘antidepressants’ over on her blog A Slice of Reality and it makes sense to know what yours and mine are too!
Back in 2013, The Guardian reported that ‘Nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.’ That’s one in every five people you know. Simply put, we all know people who suffer with depression and/or anxiety and a whole host of other mental health problems. Thankfully, we are now becoming not only more aware, but more able to talk about mental health issues.
So go and read my friend’s post and see what her antidepressants are…see what mine are and then go and work on yours.
© Lisa Shambrook
Medication is the first port of call when you go to your GP. In fact, in general, according to the British Medical Journal, antidepressants are being overprescribed. This is not to say they don’t have a place, but the most effective use of antidepressants is a short course that resets the chemical imbalance caused by depression until your body is ready to produce them again.
*Though everyone is different and Dr’s advice should be adhered to.
I’ve taken several courses of antidepressants during my life and each time they’ve helped me overcome the illness. If I need them these days I’ll take a six month course and work on lifting myself out at the same time. My family and I prefer me not to take them as I become a zombie – I want to feel alive not comatose. Antidepressants react differently with different people, but don’t expect to take them without the myriad side effects.
© Lisa Shambrook
The most important intervention a GP can offer is therapy. I’ve taken courses of therapy, but only privately. The waiting lists were always too long for me. In my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ Meg’s mother refuses her GP’s help. Her reaction is typical of someone suffering depression:
“I’m wasting money that could be spent on people who are really sick, and why? Because I’m sad!” She [mum] flung her arms in the air. “I’m sad, really sad, and not in the being upset terms either! Sad, weak and stupid. I’m stupid, therefore I do stupid things, therefore I should see a counsellor, but I can’t because I’m not stupid enough!”
Meg rolled her eyes.
“Maybe I should do something stupid…”
“Maybe we should get dinner, Mum. C’mon, let’s get dinner.” Meg moved towards the kitchen. “Mum? Did you put yourself on the list for counselling anyway?”
Mum shook her head. “What’s the point? I’ll be better after I take these [antidepressants]. I’ll be fine in less than a few years! The list is for people with serious problems, not bored housewives who feel sad.” She strode past her daughter. “C’mon, Meg, I’ll be fine in no time.”
If you think is that there’s always someone worse off, that it’s not so bad, that you don’t want to take up valuable NHS time, and you don’t put yourself on the list – that’s a vicious circle. You are worth it, and if you are ever offered therapy of any kind from your GP – take it!
© Lisa Shambrook
Exercise is, for me, the most effective antidepressant there is. Another friend once sent me an essay she’d written, for her thesis, about the effects of exercise on depression, it was an eye opener! Exercise is a natural way to increase serotonin, as is getting out in the sunshine, and it can help lift the depressive state. Almost seven years ago we got a dog, and daily walks have increased my capacity to avoid depression hugely. Then last year our family joined the local gym. A mixture of exercise and a much healthier diet have impacted greatly on our weight, which has significantly decreased, our general fitness and health, and my predisposition for depression and anxiety. I cannot recommend exercise more. If you can’t afford the gym, or a dog, then just get yourself outside, take a walk and appreciate the abundance of nature!
In her post, my friend talks about her faith and I share it. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, or aren’t, or what spiritual beliefs you have, there are good things in life to be appreciated. Things that increase your faith, whether in humanity or deity, and these are good. Lean on your faith like I can rely on words of comfort from scripture…let it carry you.
Being creative is what keeps me going. When the chips are down, when I’m stuck in a black hole, I can escape through writing. If you’re lucky enough to have a creative talent, use it. If not, search one out, cultivate one, or find a hobby that makes you happy. I write when I need to release the pressure of anxiety, when panic threatens to overwhelm me, and when the pit of depression attempts to bind and suffocate me. Words are my world, and they save me.
Anxiety © BekahShambrook
Some of us are also lucky to have families who, though they can’t always stop you from slipping into that pit, they can throw down the rope to haul us out. They may not understand, I know my self-harm is way beyond my husband’s comprehension, but he will always be there. They will make sure they’re there to hug you, reassure you and work out how to tug your little boat back into their harbour.
I know that for me these antidepressants work, most of the time. You may be reading this whilst you’re cowering in the darkness and these ideas may seem as far away as the sun is, but give yourself time, depression is not always curable, but it is liveable and survivable. I live with chronic depression, of the rapid cycling variety, (You can read more about mine here) and I know I will always live fending off the black dog, but I can – I can growl and he’ll back off… Learn how to tame yours.
How do you survive? What helps you through the tough times and what tips can you offer to tame the black dog?
To read more of Meg and her mum’s battles, ‘Beneath the Old Oak ‘ is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon and Etsy.
‘Turn those dreams of escape into hope…’ Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her Mum’s erratic behaviour, she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape, she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. A storm descends, and Meg needs to survive devastating losses.