Depression: You can’t cure what you don’t know

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How do you cure an illness without first acknowledging it is there? You can’t tell someone to walk off a broken leg and you can’t expect someone to be cured of depression or other mental health conditions by thinking happy thoughts, or my personal pet peev of a phrase ‘don’t worry, it might never happen’ – what if it already has?!?

THE UNKNOWN

I didn’t know I had depression, I went to the GPs with sleeping problems. I had always had difficulty getting to sleep since I was a teenager, more recently I had started waking up at around 4am, so in total I was getting maybe 3-4 hours a night and I put everything I was feeling down to that. My wife and I had recently had our first child, a beautiful baby girl, and to an extent her sleepless nights had helped cure me of my sleep issues, but once she started to sleep through my old sleep problems came back with a vengeance. So I went to the GP.

I told him that I had always had difficulty sleeping and that I didn’t want to just return to my normal pattern of sleep and I didn’t want to become hooked on sleeping pills to get me through. So he said here are some sleeping pills to help you get back to your normal sleeping pattern. Listening was not his strong point.

Some nights the pills helped me get to sleep but they didn’t help me stay asleep so I was back where I had started.

DIAGNOSIS

I saw a different GP and straight away he started to ask a different set of questions and he very quickly wondered if my sleep issues were actually not the root problem but a symptom of depression.

In hindsight it was obvious that I had been suffering from something like depression, but our ability to self diagnose is notoriously poor, we either think we have every disease under the sun or refuse to believe we ever have anything. However this diagnosis and facing up up to what I was going through was the most important step as it was the beginning of my being able to move on with my life. I owe that GP a lot, I owe him for taking the time to understand and listen and being wise enough to point me in the right direction.

ROAD TO RECOVERY

With diagnosis, came medication, came counseling and came some level of improvement. Yes I still suffer, but generally my depressive episodes don’t last as long and are not as deep as before – when one starts, I know it is going to pass which is a huge comfort to me.

Medication, counseling, talking to those you trust etc do help, but the ability to stop hiding and stop running from it is the catalyst of all improvement. It is not a quick fix but it is the vital first step, as without facing up to it we re unable to move past it.

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