The path to diagnosis

Posted: September 7, 2013 in Depression Blog
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So I’ve set the scene, at a high level at least, on how I got to where I am now, and the various life factors that would explain why I could understandably feel fairly down on life. To me that’s just being upset, stressed & bitter about where one’s ended up, it’s not a reason to believe that I have Depression. However I guess it was about 2 months ago when I was sat at home, as usual, and realising that if I didn’t do something I’d still be the person sat at home alone in 10 years time.  I was out of shape, I had no financial prospects, I was drinking more and more, I had no chance of finding anyone new romantically that could live up to Simone, my sleep was shot, my motivation level was zero and most importantly I knew all of this was impacting my abilities as a father. In hindsight I realise now that that was the moment I admitted I had Depression to myself. I didn’t use that word, but I had admitted it. My light bulb moment.

It’s worth noting that I have an illogical problem with Depression. I was brought up in a family that’s never been very open about feelings, so the idea of Depression has always felt like a nonsense label for those that can’t suck it up and get on with things. I feel the same way about disorders like Dyslexia, it’s a label to appease parents who don’t want to just admit their kid is simply stupid (and interestingly there’s a lot of evidence to support that point of view). But I digress. I know logically Depression is a real illness, and I’ve read enough about it to know that, however in my gut I can’t help but feel it’s simply a label for failures.

Which is why when I had my light bulb moment I didn’t use the ‘D’ word, as I wasn’t ready for that.  Despite that I did read up a lot on how to handle anxiety & stress, a lot of which included suggestions on to handle mild cases of Depression.  And it was these suggestions that I started following. So I started to regularly exercise, halved the amount I smoked, drastically cut down my drinking (I was previously having at least one drink a night) and started eating significantly healthier. Maybe they help some folks, certainly I feel better about myself physically, but for me even after a couple of months, none of these things changed my frame of mind at all, I still felt trapped, alone and…depressed.

I should also mention sleeping here. My sleep quality & quantity has been crap for years, but it’s been getting worse in the last year. To the point that I don’t think I’ve fallen asleep before midnight in the last six months, with that regularly being two or three in the morning. And in the morning I either can’t motivate myself to get out of bed at all or I’ll wake up at five or six (or occasionally earlier) and not be able to get back to sleep. I’ve tried every off the shelf product going, none of which seems to help.

So here I was, a complete emotional wreck with no one to turn to. Cue my ex wife who knows me better then almost anyone, but isn’t someone to tread lightly about things, calls me up, and out of almost nowhere chews my ear off and strong arms me into booking a doctors appointment as I’ve clearly got Depression. Now remember at this point that’s not a word I’d ever associated with myself, not in a clinical sense. Plus one thing I’m exceptionally good at is masking my emotions, so the idea that someone has not only seen through that, but seen through it enough to call me out on Depression was a serious shock.

I don’t remember much about the conversation after that, but the realisation that she was almost certainly right, and that someone else cared enough about me to basically force me to the doctors was powerful stuff. I remember stuttering a quiet thank you on the phone before going to sit down to reorder my thinking around this revelation. Of course in typical style I had the children at the time so I only had a few moments peace, but I did book a doctor’s appointment for the very next day.

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So onto the second catalyst in recent months, romance.

I’ve not been involved romantically with anyone since before my Ex, which is roughly eight and half  years. Considering I rarely meet anyone new and certainly not anyone that I’m interested in beyond just friendship I’d pretty much given up on it, and resigned myself to life as a bachelor. And then came along Simone. That’s not her real name and there’s a lot more to this then I’m going to share here as it’s not my place to share personal details about her life as well as my own.

Simone was a single mum at my children’s school, and things started off with just chatting at pick up time, followed by a few play dates with the kids. During which the conversation started to get fairly suggestive, until I finally thought screw it and asked her on a date. Which to my delighted surprise she said yes. I say surprised as frankly she is way out of my ‘league’. I don’t believe I’m modest or a boastful man, I know I’m not the ugliest person in the world, but neither am I a stud by any means, whereas Simone is an ex Model & Dancer and is frankly gorgeous by anyone’s definition. So the fact that she said yes was definitely a surprise.

The date went very well, and led to a month or so of relations between us. However this fun was always tempered by the fact that she would regularly decide that it had to stop between us because of complexities in her life making her not ready for another relationship. Despite this things continued on and off for a couple of months before she finally said enough is enough I just want to be friends. She’s said the sex was amazing (and I’ve heard that she’s said as such from mutual friends) and she loves me as a friend, but she doesn’t want anything else.

By now I’ve fallen head over heels in love with this woman. Without trying to get soppy, she has more life and positivity in her then anyone I’ve ever met, she’s amazingly good looking and yes the sex was amazing. So now I have to make a decision, can I handle just being friends with her or should I try to cut her out of my life so I don’t have that constant reminder of all that could have been. Against some people’s judgement, I went for option one, and remained friends. And generally I think that was the right choice, although being her friend while watching her start dating another man and clearly seeing how much she was falling for him was like having a food processor in my stomach. Ultimately things didn’t work out with said other man, but it wasn’t pleasant from my perspective. Although I do honestly want her to be happy, even if that’s not with me.

So to bring this tale up to date, Simone & I continued, strictly as friends, to text chat most days, and see each other a couple of times a week.  And then last weekend I popped over on my way past, and unbeknown to me her ex, the father of her son, had just left. However he saw me there, and got very upset.  Again, without going into details, her relationship with her ex had been on rocky ground in recent months and was just getting back to a good place, which for the sake of their child is obviously very important. Now logically there’s no reason for him to be angry, however logic rarely has anything to do with this kind of thing.  The following few days she’s not a happy bunny, and although we briefly chatted a couple of times, it’s not clear to me at this stage whether she’s just upset about the devolved situation with her ex, or whether she subconsciously blames me for it.

This is also the week that my ex wife, who I remain friends with, confronts me about depression and needing to go to the doctor (more on that in a later post) to which I reluctantly agree to do. The idea of this fairly shook me up and I needed to confide discuss this with my friend Simone. I text her and tell her what’s happened and although she’s supportive she’s not her usual self and her responses seem somewhat…perfunctory. And then after I get the diagnosis from the doctor I tell her that I’ve been prescribed Antidepressants & referred me to a counsellor and she doesn’t even reply until I ask her why the lack of reply a couple of hours later.

And when, the next day I ask if I can swing by for a coffee (bearing in mind that the next day I was about to go on a business trip for seven days and I’ve seen her 2+ times a week for the past 4 months) she says no as she needs a bit of space for a while. Now obviously she’s more then entitled to that, but it’s not clear to me what’s caused this change of heart. Is it because she blames me for the change of situation with her ex, is it because she had a general issue with depression, is it because she realises how much I’ve come to depend on her and she doesn’t need that in her life, or is it simply me reading way too much into this.

Anyway, the point of all of this is, I’ve rapidly gone from someone who didn’t think he’d ever find love again to finding that person and come SO close to things working out only for it to become ultimately unrequited and then with the diagnosis of Depression what feels like an extra kick while I’m down.

Recent History (Part 1)

Posted: September 7, 2013 in Depression Blog
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So there I was, plodding along when two things happened, catalysts if you will.

The first was that there was another round of lay-offs at work. This isn’t that unusual, the difference this year is that the percentage they were looking to get rid of was significantly higher then in past years, and that for the first time there’s some uncertainty around whether my role will be about in 12 months time. Now I always volunteer for redundancy, not because I’d necessarily accept it if offered, but it means if I am offered I get the option of a slightly better package. It’s a fairly ballsy thing to do if you don’t want to go but, the point is, it gives you options. Now because of uncertainty around whether my role will exist in 12 months and because of my current financial challenges it put me in an interesting place. As due to the kick back I get currently from the ‘bonus’ standby money I get every month, it means I can’t change role within the company (which I could do very easily) as I’d lose that, and I really can’t afford to do that.  So if I were to get this package it would mean I’d have time to find something externally, and hopefully with a significant amount left over to help elsewhere with my finances.

Now not including pub work, I’ve basically worked at this same company for fifteen years, I’m good at my job, I’m respected and I know how things work. I say this because making the decision to seriously look externally (over the past few years I’ve applied to the occasional external role, so I’ve kept an eye on the job market) is a big deal to me emotionally. This is the one area in my life where I feel I’ve totally succeeded and am respected for my successes. So making the decision that I have to move on is a big deal to me and frankly terrifying. It would also mean I’d lose the flexibility I do now around working hours which allows me to have the boys during the week and do school runs.

Anyway, cue me applying for various external roles as well as the voluntary redundancy at work. First kick in the balls was I didn’t get the redundancy. My boss actually said to me, “Andrew I couldn’t offer it to you, if I did who would do my job for me?” Talk about a backhanded compliment.  As far as job applications go, as of today I’m up to 32 applications (I have a spreadsheet!), with zero responses. However I did have an agency approach me about a job very similar to what I’m doing now but with a salary increase of almost a third. This job was ideal on every level, location, salary, benefits everything. This would sort out my financial issues in one go. So yes, of course I was interested, please put me forward. Various application forms later I have an interview. I prepare like I’ve never prepared before. The interview goes really well, and I’m confident that I’ve done everything I could have done.

Two weeks later I get told I hadn’t got the job.  And after the amount of mental preparation it took me to get to that point that was a serious downer and I could feel the tendrils of despair and hopelessness wrapping themselves around my insides.  If even after all that preparation and work I couldn’t get a job, what could I do.

In the beginning

Posted: September 7, 2013 in Depression Blog
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So before I can write about the now, I should write about the past and how this all started.

Three years ago my then wife and I separated. In hindsight I think we’d both agree that we should never have got married in the first place. Basically we were two good friends that ended up together and she became pregnant within three months of that. One thing led to another without either of us ever stopping and saying is this right. And we both did what we felt we should be doing, and what was expected of us. Needless to say, things didn’t work out. In the meantime however we have had two beautiful children, both boys and now aged five and seven.

Before we separated things weren’t right between us for a long time, while we both tried to make the relationship work. And honestly, I think my fight with depression starts there. I was in a loveless relationship and a sense of no options to escape it without hurting my children. And then three years ago my ex took the decision out of my hands and ended things.

After several months of sleeping on the sofa I moved back to my old flat (which we had been renting out), at which point there was a short honeymoon period while I relished my rediscovered freedom, not in a romantic sense but in being able to do what I want, and when i want. But then the financial realities set in. My time with my Ex had left me financially screwed, mortgaged up to the hilt on both properties, I no longer had the rental income from the flat and in addition I was now paying for my living expenses and maintenance for the boys.

Now I don’t get paid badly in my job, however I don’t get paid enough for what I do, and for what I need to cover my outgoings. My boss at the time recognised that I should be getting more, but wasn’t able to get me the pay rise she wanted for me. Instead she told me to start claiming standby money as if I were on call. Which arguably I was because I do work all hours and get called on occasion over the weekend and in the evenings. This was a big help and means that my books just about balance. Although I regularly get screwed by unexpected and unplanned costs, which leads to charges for going over my overdraft, cue vicious circle.

Lack of funds and the fact that most of my friends are now married/having kids/growing up meant that social events have dried up. Mainly being for formal events (weddings, children’s birthdays & dinner parties etc). And no longer the spontaneous ‘fancy a pint tonight’ it was before I was married.

So there I was in a holding pattern, existing, not really living.  And slowly giving up, accepting my lot and wondering what to do with myself. At this point I’d never have considered clinical Depression, I did think that I was suffering badly with stress though. But with the knowledge that I couldn’t do anything about it, as all the doctor can do for stress is sign you off for a few weeks. But that would mean I’d lose the ‘bonus’ standby money I was getting for that period, which I couldn’t afford to do.

My name is Andrew and I have clinical depression. AKA Major Depression Disorder and yes typing that feels like I’m speaking at an AA meeting.

Two days ago I was diagnosed and,  although at the time of writing this I’m yet to start any kind of treatment, it’s affected me considerably. Being able to think it’s not my fault is both a blessing and a curse. My intention with this blog is to keep a candid and honest record of my mindset as I go through the treatment and hopefully out the other side.  It’s primarily for me to help me get my thoughts in order, but if along the way I pick up any fellow sufferers and it can help them in some way, then all the better. Right now I’ve no idea how frequently I’ll update, or if this will simply fall by the way side and become redundant. Right now though I feel I need to get the thoughts & demons bouncing around my head out.

A little bit about me, I’m 34 I have two children (boys, aged 5 & 7). I’m divorced, single, and live in a flat in the south of England. I have a full time job as a manager for a multinational IT company and I’m a self confessed geek with a love of technology in all forms.