When I first started The Order Of the Dog, a few people commented on it that were friends of friends, people I didn’t know. It was interesting that they felt they could talk about what I had gone through to someone they’d never met but could empathise with what I was going through. It helped vindicate the fact being open and sharing about my anxiety and depression was the right course of action for me. On the back of that I created the closed Facebook group The Order Of The Dog so people could share and talk a bit further in a closed secure group. It became part of my healing and recovery process and it seems to help myself and others in so many ways.
A few weeks later I asked if anyone would like to share their story on the blog and this person became the first to volunteer. We’d already talked about her work as a Mental Health First Aider, which we’ll discuss more in the next post. However, I’d like to share her story now. It’s a difficult read from the very start but I’m pleased that they’ve allowed us to share it with you.
When did you first feel signs of anxiety or depression? How did everything manifest?
Wow.. that was soooooo long ago. I was maybe 13. I was assaulted and raped at a friend’s house by another guest. I miscarried awhile later. That was what tipped the scales. I think it would’ve happened anyway, but that particular shitastic event sparked the first bouts. I didn’t tell anyone for nearly a year. My family still don’t know that story. I became quite secretive and withdrawn. I think depression is a stupid name for it. I think of it as a trip to apathy-land: I don’t care, I don’t anything. I’m not present. My mom set me up with “family counselling” what a joke. I hope it helped her. All it did for me was enable me to get a bit more space and a diagnosis. I’m not sure that a diagnosis was shared with my family. I attempted suicide several times, failing spectacularly every time. Again, no one knew. I decided the universe wasn’t ready to let me go, and stopped trying. I saw my school counsellor a few times, and picked up some really good tips at recognizing my behaviour patterns, and breaking the habits that enable things to get worse. I was still struggling. I went from completely repressed to overtly sexual. A string of one-night stands, bad relationships, drugs, drinking, smoking, and so on; as well as being a workaholic. Every waking moment of my life had to be filled with distraction or mind-altering substances. Sobriety and quiet were painful. Around 17/18 I had a look around, and decided this wasn’t really helping anyone, and moved away for university. Here’s where I finally got some good therapy. I also started doing peer support for sexual abuse, and have truly closed that chapter. I was 21 the first time I was happy, care-free and in touch and in control of my emotions. I still go through bouts. It’s more anxiety than depression for the last decade or so. Anxiety is a different kettle of fish. It’s like the feeling you get before a test, or about to go on holiday. I don’t fret over every little thing, I’m just constantly expecting something to happen. I have erratic sleeping patterns, and eating as well.
Did you share with anyone about what you were going through and how did they react to you?
The family and friends that have been there give that look of knowing, and a ‘hang in there, it’s shit, but not forever’. The ones that haven’t have mostly been supportive, usually in the most useless ways humanly possible. Nothing seems worse to me than the hushed tones and constant “how are you?” You know they mean well, but in that state it’s just condescending twaddle. At least they do try, but they don’t really understand for the most part. Most of them just think I’m sad, or have blues, teenage strops, baby blues.. there are loads of names for the same general sadness, which is not what I’m dealing with.
Did you particularly find any one time worse than the others?
Probably 18.. that was god-awful. I was a teenager, which means more hormones than brain-cells, and was nauseous and achy at the thought of getting out of bed. I don’t even remember most of it… I worked, went to school, worked some more. If I had any free time I filled it with all the wrong people and habits. This was when I first started actually recognizing and confronting the feelings, so it was the worst to go through, but the most satisfying to get through.
How do you try to cope with your episodes? Do you find some things work better than others?
I find walking helps me. Writing is also good. I tend to write lists and emails that I never send. Talking and venting are good, but I have to be careful to contain it. It’s SO easy to fall into the victim mentality when venting. Instead of clarifying your thoughts by saying them, you can easily just be whining and looking for others to validate you are a victim, instead of taking responsibility for yourself, even when depressed. Yes, I can experience depression, or anxiety, but that’s my issue, and I shouldn’t get a free pass to be a selfish-bitch or shirk all responsibility.
For the anxiety I flip coins. I need *an* answer. It doesn’t have to be right, just something to hang my hat on until I learn more, so I flip coins for answers until I get the real ones. If that’s all it takes, I’m good. My anxiety is more low level and constant instead of panic attacks. Imagine constantly waiting for something, or feeling like someone’s just about to knock…. for months. The questions I need answers to aren’t even exciting. “Will it rain tomorrow?”
You’ve told me that you lived in the US previously. Have you noticed much difference between mental health issues and how they are treated in the States to over here?
Money money money! In the States it’s all about if you can afford care, here it’s more just how long you’ll wait. As far as public attitudes, I think the younger generations are pretty on par, but the older can be a bit more misunderstanding. In the States, mental health awareness has been more prevalent for longer, and it’s much more accepted as existing. Sadly that doesn’t extend to understanding the individual challenges. Since everyone is different, more people feel the need to defend the uniqueness of their battles, and can get quite defensive. For example: I am depressed – ‘Oh yeah, well, my life is hard too!’ or ‘My depression is more this that or the other’. In the UK, It’s getting more accepted rapidly, but it’s come with more accepting instead of comparing. There’s mostly the financial side of it. Here you can get paid time off, you can get free treatment, you can get affordable medications, and you can get free support. The access makes a huge difference.
Do you have anything to say here finally?
If I could go back and tell my younger self how to deal with this; I’d say to stop defining yourself by medical terms. You aren’t depression. Don’t wallow in self-pity, and the woe-is-me attitude, it will only make things ten times worse. Your brain is clearly fucking with you, so don’t trust it to choose wisely. Go out, do things, try stuff, have some alone time, but don’t listen to that dirty liar in your head that says it will all be crap. You are not psychic, stop pretending you know what the future holds. I wasted so much of my life uttering the phrase “because I’m depressed” and I will never get that time back. Having depression is like having arthritis; there are some things you are going to really struggle with, and some that will cause pain, but if you just sit in your corner and do nothing because of an illness you will waste away. Stop fulfilling the prophecy. Sadly, I would shout it at the top of my lungs, and my younger self wouldn’t have listened. Every single person will experience depression, anxiety, and psychosis in their life. It’s only an issue if it goes on too long, and can’t be controlled.
Thanks to Little Lost Sometimes for sharing their story. As usual if you want to talk to can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please feel free to join our closed Facebook group The Order Of The Dog (you can request to join by searching for it on FB). Only people who are in the group can see what gets posted there. Finally, please share the blogs wherever you wish, especially with people and groups where it would be of benefit.