Part 7 – You are not alone and Community Support from Strangers

This is my diary and journal of recovery, tracking my progress as I take on the illness of depression and hopefully beat it! It tells my story of being in a long distance relationship with a man from another culture and all of the challenges that adds to a challenging situation and health condition.

While I have chosen to keep this blog anonymous I have shared it in a few online groups I am part of consisting of women who are also in intercultural relationships, many of them with Indian men.

It is a mix of emotions to discover – I am not alone in what I am going through! I’m happy as I have people who can truly empathise. I’m sad that there are others feeling as low as me. Whilst online groups will never give you unbiased opinions and balanced objective counselling like you will get from a health professional, sometimes all you want to hear is some true sympathy and no nonsense advice. There are only so many times you can play along with the therapist asking “so how does that make you feel?” when all you really want to hear is “that is such total bullshit and you should not have to put up with it!”

There is a beautiful sisterhood that women often form – united by common bonds and experiences, even if they are total strangers. If you are suffering from depression and anxiety it can sometimes be hard to reach out to those close to you for help. It can also be hard to reach out to health professionals, especially of you are scared of the consequences of having a mental health issue on your record. This could be because you have a fear of being sectioned (yep been there!) or having your children taken from you. I will talk about that further in a moment but first I would encourage you to join an online (or face to face) support group. Here you have a safe place to find empathy, sympathy and the distance to discount anything negative you don’t want to hear. You wouldn’t have this same distance if you were asking advice from a friend or family member. The voices that reach out to you however, giving you hope and love, will touch you deeply and can very much aid your recovery.

I have no idea if the same thing exists for guys – please let me know if it does! I don’t want any men reading this to feel left out!

Coming back to fear – I felt so sad recently hearing the story of a lady who was scared that her children may get taken from her if she went on medication for depression. I have included below some resources and links to inform anyone else with these worries. She asked if there were any natural remedies she could take as an alternative. I will talk about these in my next blog episode because yes! There are so many!

To quote a line from one of my favourite books- “fear is the mind killer.” If you are scared you will not get better. No one should be made to fear the medical system but it is a very real problem and indeed there are some terrible practices and doctors out there. Certainly in England there is a tendency to miss thyroid conditions, mis-diagnose and dish out prozac without treating the problem holistically. It is our responsibility to choose how we use western medicine and take control of our own treatment and not be scared of doctors and psychologists. A strong advocate of holistic and natural medicine myself, as well as having an actual real phobia of doctors, I have been pleasantly surprised at the help I have got from the good doctors – they do exist! You have a right to request a different one if you don’t like the one you have, so shop around until you have one you are comfortable with. Having a few friends who now work in mental health as nurses and councillors, I can vouch for the fact that there are some good ones who won’t judge and certainly don’t believe in separating families unnecessarily!

One very good reason to put fear aside is that depression can affect our children, especially the very young ones. It is our duty as parents to get treatment – whether natural or allopathic, for the sake of our children if not ourselves. Here is a medical article on the effects of depression in mothers on children:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724169/

To try and put things in perspective, many prostitutes, drug addicts, women in violent environments, homeless and jobless women in hostels and so on still have custody of their children. Depression, anxiety and post-natal depression are very common illnesses in women and extremely unlikely to even provoke so much as a single visit from the social services unless you express feelings of hurting yourself or your children. If you are seeking help for an illness then surely you are showing responsibility, as an adult and a parent who doesn’t want their illness to affect their child? This has been shown in many court cases where a spouse has tried to use their partner’s depression against them in a custody case and lost – if you are getting help then this shows you to be a responsible parent – the same as if you had help for a physical disability.
You choose what terms you seek help under and how much you want to say and reveal to health professionals. Just remember – you are the one in control and find strength in that.

http://www.iwanyshyn.com/resources/Custody-and-Depression.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carla-schiff-donnelly-/five-custody-myths-separa_b_5454592.html (see number two)

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/is-someone-holding-postpartum-depression-against-you

http://info.legalzoom.com/bipolar-illness-child-custody-26247.html

http://www.parents.com/baby/health/postpartum-depression/how-depression-affects-your-family/

Diary of a Depression Part Six – Slipping Up and Keeping at it

Over the past few instalments of this blog I’ve told my tale of suffering from depression and anxiety and how it has affected my long distance relationship. I’ve also talked about my experience taking SSRI antidepressants and their side effects.

A little more than one month on and most of the side effects of the meds have subsided. Feeling so much better and things have improved in my relationship also.
I’m certainly not ready to stop taking the medication – a little fearful of the prospect if the truth be known. However, I feel positive that my life is moving in the right direction and there will be a day some day soon where I will stop.
I started smoking again (like an idiot) when I started taking the meds – damn they really made me want to smoke! I’ve now given up again. I couldn’t go out and socialise a while back – now I’ve been out a few times and while it felt odd and vaguely panicky, it was fine. I have regained my focus at work and have a couple of personal creative projects on the go as well as extra work for my partner’s company in the evenings. I know I am taking on too much even, but keeping occupied leaves no time for racing thoughts and unhealthy social media habits.

Then yesterday I slipped up. My partner was going away for a work project. I had a small episode of anxiety at the thought that there was a possibility his young female friend who had given him some pretty unpleasant advice about our relationship, might be accompanying him (in a work capacity). I knew that unless I asked him the worry and panic and delusional thoughts would get worse. I knew that asking him would cause an argument. I asked him. We argued. She wasn’t going. Sigh of relief.

I knew even if she was going away on his work trip I had no right to be angry – she is a work colleague after all. I guess I still feel massive resentment and hurt over him discussing our relationship with her and the horrible way she had tried to break my relationship. I hate the thought of him being around her listening to her poison words. When a girl tells another woman’s man to sleep around and not care about his partner’s feelings it is like that girl has broken the unwritten code of the sisterhood of women! I feel like she owes me some kind of apology even though she does not know me – that if I allow her to get away with this cheap and vindictive behaviour she will hurt me again – or other women. I feel wronged. I feel disgusted that my man would keep such company – for work or for pleasure. Still I know I have no right to tell him who he can work with or be friends with. How do I get this chip off my shoulder and get over this?

Conveying all this to my partner did absolutely nothing for our relationship. What did I expect? He wants me to trust him and to be better and free from anxiety and paranoia. He, like me, just wants a normal relationship and a peaceful depression-free future. Still I could not resist giving in to my negative thought patterns and airing them out in the open even though I knew it would do no good. I had slipped up. All I could do is apologise and move on.

If I take a step back however, this argument was small compared to the major one we had before. This small attack of anxiety was nothing compared to the crippling break down I had before. All in all I am doing better and this is what I have to focus on, otherwise I will fall spiralling backwards with guilt and self-loathing. The best thing to do after a slip up is to pick yourself back up and carry on as if it had never happened. Don’t look back and ask the other person(s) involved to do the same -unless it is for us to see how far forward I have come.

I know I still have a fair way to go and I know I may slip up again. With reassurance and understanding from my partner and my own self-determination I am sure I will make it.
Maybe I need to speak to the doctor about upping the dosage on my meds. I wish the waiting list for counselling wasn’t so long.

Here are some links about recovering from depression:

http://www.mentalhealth.com/story/p52-dps8.html

http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=wellness_recovery_steps

https://bbrfoundation.org/stories-of-recovery

http://www.dbsalliance.org/pdfs/FamilyBookFinal.pdf

Strategies for Overcoming Depression

Diary of a Depression Part Five – High on the Meds

This has been my story of dealing with depression and anxiety disorder whilst in a long distance relationship UK-India. So far I’ve written about cultural differences in attitudes towards depression, impact of social media on depression and relationships and the turning point where I asked for help.

Today is day four of taking Sertraline. I feel completely off my face like I’m at some nineties rave on ecstasy. I’m getting huge waves of euphoria accompanied by dizziness, teeth grinding and the urge to tell my work mates I love them. Thankfully it only lasts fifteen minutes or so at a time.

The doctor told me the side effects will pass after two weeks and during this time I may feel worse before I get better. It’s certainly true – aside from the moments of intoxicating bliss I am getting insomnia, more anxiety, tremors and shakes, total loss of appetite and nausea and some proper banging headaches.

I’m going to stick with it – somehow these side effects are made bearable by the fact that I know they are down to a chemical. They are not something that is real and broken inside me – that part is now being fixed – not by medication on its own, but by me. Some of my friends advised against the anti-depressants saying they only mask the problem. However, I feel in control again. I am choosing to change the chemistry in my brain so it can function again and I don’t intend to be on the forever. I am choosing to deal with my problems and get better. I’m not giving in to depression. I’m not giving in to the challenges life throws at me. The people I love are standing by me. I’m holding down my job and doing my best to be a good mother. I am in charge!

Here are some links about side effects when taking anti-depressants:

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/coping-with-side-effects-of-depression-treatment

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20049305

Antidepressant Side Effects

http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what_are_the_real_risks_of_antidepressants

Diary of a Depression Part Four – Turning point: Seeking help and helping myself

In my last few articles I described my journey through depression whilst being in a long distance relationship and how it developed into anxiety attacks often triggered by social media. As a grown woman in her thirties it feels like a very strange thing to admit happening!

In the crescendo of my paranoia, about to foolishly end my relationship, my boyfriend went missing. It might not sound too major to you dear readers, as he had simply gone out late night jogging, leaving his phone at home, accidentally locking his sister out of his house where she was staying. However, for the worst half an hour of my life I truly thought he was dead – injured in some terrible accident or worse and that it was my fault because of the pressure I had put him under with my depression and anxiety. I prayed to every single god and goddess I could think of and probably a few made up ones that he would be safe. Half an hour later he was home.

I realised then how much I loved him, how ridiculous this whole social media paranoia thing was, how I could not depend on another person to cure my illness and how I had to do this on my own if I was ever to save myself and my relationship.

I decided to give him space for a few days and not message him and to deactivate my fb account. I had to break the cycle. I made the decision to see a doctor and get professional help.

The next day my boyfriend told me how he had confided in a young female friend and she had advised him that she had split up with her boyfriend when she was attracted to other men, did what she wanted and then got back together with him afterwards. She also said that if her man was worried she was cheating and was having trouble believing her then it would be his problem and she wouldn’t care.
Instead of being angry or insecure that he had gone out with this girl I felt huge relief. I now knew I had nothing to worry about with these young girls on his fb. I would never behave in such a selfish and insensitive way with the person I love like this girl was foolishly recommending, especially if I knew they were suffering from a mental illness.
To be fair to her she is very young and I’m sure as she grows older she will develop a more mature attitude towards relationships and mental illness or she will gain an unfortunate reputation.

I felt good about myself that while I may not be as young or physically attractive as these girls, I know I am worth a 100 times more and that makes me 100 times more sexy. I am a more kind, sensitive and loving person, selfless in my love, honest, loyal and caring. My relationships will be meaningful and fulfilling and any man who is lucky enough to have me will be the most loved in the world because I LOVE MYSELF FIRST AND I‘M PROUD OF BEING THE GOOD PERSON THAT I AM AND I WILL ALWAYS STRIVE TO BE A BETTER PERSON.

I also have a new insight into the male psyche. Men need attention from women other than their spouses, be it a glance on the bus or a ‘like’ on facebook. It boosts their ego and makes them feel young and good about themselves and why not? Women do it also. It’s not the worst thing in the world and doesn’t mean they will be unfaithful. They need to have the freedom to have platonic female friends and to go out in groups that include younger single people as well as hanging around with other couples. Most importantly they need a partner who can recognise this and not get jealous and try to control or own them. To be this person I need to lose my insecurities and put my trust and faith in my partner.

I got officially diagnosed and prescribed medication for anxiety, PTSD and unipolar depression and have signed up for counselling. I apologised to my man for ever doubting him and promised I would get well and give him all the freedom and space he needs. He was wonderfully sweet and said I didn’t need to apologise as it was an illness. I was very happy that we both finally understood. I still feel physically and mentally depressed but as each day passes it lessens and I now have hope for the future and am a stronger person.

Diary of a Depression Part Three – Social Media Meltdown.

In my previous posts I spoke about experiencing the onset of depression. I wrote about sharing my fears with my Indian partner who I am in a long distance relationship with and how it didn’t go so great.

The thing with depression and anxiety disorders is that they work in a downward spiral. I felt guilty that my illness had affected my partner in a negative way, which in turn made me worry about our relationship, which in turn made my depression worse, which in turn…. You get the picture. This highlighted all my insecurities and I constantly looked for reassurance. One place I looked was social media – the worst decision I could have made (see the articles below on social media and depression).

When you are in a long distance relationship a lot, if not all of your communication is online, through facebook, whatsapp and skype. Much has been written about the addictive nature of social media – the dopamine rush you get when someone ‘likes’ your selfie (I hate that word so much!) or you hear the ping of a private message arriving in your inbox. Now, couple that with feeling insecure in a relationship and the very public nature of fb and it can become a one-way ticket to disaster.

As much as I tried not to, I questioned all the girls who appeared on his page with flirty comments and ‘likes’ and became obsessed with the fact he would not change his status to ‘in a relationship’ (with me specifically) to the point where I nearly ended the relationship. If I could see him online messaging someone late at night I immediately assumed it was one of these girls. If he changed his profile pic I jumped to the conclusion that he was doing it to get attention from girls. I felt like I needed to put some claim on my man in the digital space to protect myself from having him stolen by someone, younger, more beautiful and richer than me, who didn’t have depression and who was in India and available for sex.

I couldn’t sleep. I cried all the time. I found the depression worsening and began having anxiety attacks – very physical things where your heart beats very fast and your vision goes blurry and you feel like you will pass out. I was scared to talk to my partner but knew I couldn’t go on, so I decided to follow the advice of the top article below and confront my fears by telling him about them.

He took it rather well and reassured me that nothing was going on, that he loved me and was with me in this. I didn’t listen – I was too far-gone to control the anxiety attacks any more. I pushed him away saying I could not trust him, which made him angry and hurt. Reality had gone out the window and I honestly thought nothing other than a nonsense social media relationship status update would be able to drag me back.

Then something big happened which changed everything.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/103105-how-social-media-can-affect-relationships-plus-6-red-flags-to-look-out-for

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-spira/does-social-media-ruin-re_b_5903900.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/facebook-depression-study/

Facebook Is The Most Popular Dating Site In India

Facebook, Shaadi.com and Twitter are Top 3 Most Popular Online Dating Websites in India, Used by 77% of Indians

Diary of a Depression Part Two – Cultural differences and depression in India.

In my previous post I spoke about my situation and how it had led to the beginnings of a serious case of depression and how I had decided to speak to my partner about it – on the phone as he is in India – thousands of miles away from the UK where I am currently.

I warned him that I could feel I was slipping into depression and asked for his help and support in advance and warned him that I may not be my usual self over the coming weeks and to bear with me.
His reaction was mixed. He was understanding and sweet and supportive on one hand but in the other dismissed the seriousness of the illness. I read an article on ‘Things not to say to a depressed person’ http://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/ and he managed about half of them – all with the best of intentions bless him, but he couldn’t have got it more wildly wrong what to say.

The thing that stuck in my mind was that he considered depression ‘a first world problem.’ It is no surprise – he walks past people in the street in utter poverty sleeping on the road, missing limbs, including little children on an everyday basis. How could his girlfriend possibly be as unhappy as them? He tried to make me feel better but it made me feel worse. He reacted naturally and to the best of his ability but I found myself feeling resentful that he didn’t understand what I was going through. I could sense him becoming angry and frustrated and it made me fear for how my illness would affect our relationship.

I got to thinking that this attitude towards depression could be more than just a lack of experience or insight into the subject, but a cultural issue. I did some research and it turns out that depression is indeed a taboo subject in Indian society. India has one of the fastest rising rates of depression in the world, yet there is a shocking lack of healthcare professionals who are equipped to treat the problem. Mental issues are widely attributed to being ‘madness’ or ‘psycho’ and not considered ‘illnesses.’ This is especially true in the lower middle and working classes.

I made a promise to myself that when I am better and have returned to India, I will volunteer as a mentor to give help to people there suffering from depression and anxiety and to write more on the subject to help raise awareness.

Here are some articles on the subject of depression in India:

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-depression-and-counseling-taboo-topics-in-India

Bollywood Star Talks About Overcoming Depression: A Taboo Topic Among the Elite in India

http://www.dailyo.in/lifestyle/world-mental-health-day-psychology-psychiatry-depression-yoga-mental-illness/story/1/6705.html

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Youths-sinking-into-abyss-of-depression-but-its-a-taboo/articleshow/47366030.cms

http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report-finally-a-national-survey-on-mental-health-disorders-in-india-1848694

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2734998/To-help-cure-depression-India-cure-attitude.html

Diary of a Depression part One

I have to admit I was apprehensive about posting this as I don’t generally post much personal stuff on my personal blog. It is more about culture and my observations on it as well as general musings. I wanted to share this however, so it may help others going through a similar thing and also their loved ones so I created a new anonymous blog. So here goes…. My very serious post! Please see links at the end of the article for anyone affected by this issue.

I’m in a long distance relationship with a wonderful Indian man and am currently stuck in the UK waiting to move back to India. In the UK we have miserable dark winters and many people including myself suffer from a condition called SAD- seasonal affective disorder often affectionately known as ‘the winter blues.’ I can tell you it is beyond feeling blue. It’s beyond ‘feeling’ – it is very physical as well as emotional and it can take over your life.

SAD is very much treatable with light and I have a medical ‘sunshine’ lamp on my desk at work much to the amusement of my colleagues. It doesn’t give me a sun tan but it does help trick my body into thinking its summer and everything is great and I will be going home to a BBQ and glass of Pimms instead of hiding in bed with a hot water bottle and a hot toddy.

The problem was however, that everything was not great. The distance and pressure to move was putting a strain on both me and my partner. I wanted action. Every bone in my body was screaming at me to escape this dreary cold country and the loneliness and pain of being apart from the person you love. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion regarding the emigration and new job opportunities and a hopeless feeling began to grow inside me.

Now I have suffered from depression before brought on by PTSD and SAD. Just weeks previously whilst in India, I had found myself giving advice to a young family member about how to beat it. It was a dark place I never imagined I would ever go back to (depression that is – India is fantastic!)

I was on anti-antidepressant drugs. They had previously made me worse, gave me convulsions and hallucinations. They stopped me from dealing with the cause. I had beaten depression through CBT, support from family and friends, counselling and yoga, but mostly from changing my situation – getting the hell out of where I was living and working. Sounds drastic and a bit like running away? Who cares, it worked for me and most likely saved my life.

Now ten years later I found myself back at square one. I could feel the symptoms creeping in. I knew all the signs. I did everything I could to look after myself – exercise, eating well, herbal and vitamin supplements. I tried not to let is show to anyone, especially my daughter but it got to the point where I had to tell someone so I took the plunge and decided to tell my partner…..

https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/depressive-disorders

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression.htm

http://www.freedomfromfear.org/AboutAnxietyandDepression.en.html