Beating the Beast


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I was 22 when I was diagnosed. I think the diagnosis was as much a shock to my system as the actual depression was. My doctor classified my depression as reactive and not genetic- in other words my illness has surfaced because of things that had happened to me and was not an acute part of who I was.

I remember it all came to a head about 6 months after the first symptoms appeared. During those first few months I had plenty going on in my life that I could blame my unhappiness on- my Mum was sick, I was doing my finals for my degree, my relationship was strained. But one day I realised that enough was enough. I was chronically unhappy. I knew there was something wrong and I wanted to do something about it.

I remember walking to the doctorís clinic and thinking to myself- I wonder will she diagnose me with depression? Nah, thereís no way this is that serious. But even if it is, maybe I can get some tablets and Iíll get better really soon.

And so the diagnosis was made. I donít think I really believed it at first, and certainly my parents didnít. I think they thought I was just Ďdowní, and were hoping the doc would slip me some valium and Iíd perk up in no time. None of us took it that seriously, and when the doctor said Iíd need to take medication long-term I decided against it- who wants to have to pop pills every day?

But a couple of weeks later it was worse, and the medication began. Describing the feelings behind depression is so hard. I remember trying to describe it to my Mum, and the only phrase I could come up with to come even remotely near what I was feeling was ĎI canít see the wood for the treesí. In other words, my whole body, my whole being, was consumed by the unhappiness I was feeling. It was a dull, aching sadness that crept over my body as soon as I woke up. Crying was all I could do. I couldnít give a reason for it, and found myself searching for excuses to be upset. My relationship faltered and eventually ended. I couldnít handle the effort of existing, let alone being with someone.

The very day I was diagnosed I sat with friends in a cafť. For some reason the topic of depression came up and I remember one of them saying Ďthat whole depression thing is such a load of nonsense- people should just pull themselves together and move oní. WowÖ talk about being hit in the head with a lump hammer. The thing was, I think I was a subscriber to a similar train of thought before my diagnosis. It took me a long time to understand that depression is a physiological condition- itís beyond our control, and is a physical thing. We feel sad because of whatís going on in our body chemistry. I think that was one of the hardest things to come to terms with.

Unfortunately the pain didnít stop there. After the initial diagnosis, I looked at the whole situation as a sort of novelty. Oooh, Iím depressed, Iíll take some tablets, get better and have something interesting to talk about at parties. But that was just it. Instead of getting better, I got worse. I didnít realise that to get to the root of my depression, I had to get to the root of the problems behind it. In the meantime, I think the novelty factor wore off for everyone around me too. They kind of stopped tip-toeing around me and life went on. Six months after the diagnosis I hit rock bottom. I couldnít physically take any more. I couldnít take the despair, the loneliness, the guilt, the whole, horrible, raw, tearing pain. I really didnít think it could ever get better. After spending a night in hospital, I went to see my doctor again. Thankfully I have an incredibly understanding, patient, caring doctor who has a good knowledge of mental health issues. She said something to me that will always stick with me, particularly because I now realise just how true it is- the darkest hour is the one just before dawn.

And thatís just how it was. Having hit the bottom I slowly began to climb back up. For me, that smash into the very bottom of the pit brought a lot of the problems to light, and with the help of a therapist, we talked through a lot of what brought it on in the first place.

Itís never been easy. So far itís taken three medication changes, visits to the doctor every two months, six months of therapy and an endless supply of love and understanding from my friends and family to get where I am. Iím still not 100%, but Iím well on my way. I still get down, I still have bad days, but at least now I understand them. I accept that Iím not doing so well and I move on. I know itíll pass. Being part of the BtB has been incredibly important to me. I think just talking to other people who could totally and completely understand where I was coming from was a big factor in accepting this condition. And so, the next step is to keep on moving. Itís a rocky road, and sometimes the path goes a little backward, but eventually Iíll get there. And actually, Iím kind of proud of myself for it!

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Revised: 04/02/05.

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