From Carolyn

Dear You,

If you’re reading this, you are doing well to seek support during dark periods; rather than trying to struggle on alone.

For me it started some years ago; 6 months of feeling absolutely great then 6 months of feeling quite the opposite. That feeling of absolutely uselessness, no focus, fighting to get up each morning, no energy, horrendous memory, no joy, no laughter, no interest in anything, wondering what is the point, dragging through each day.

The world felt bleak; enveloped by a fog through which there was no sight; worrying about everything from getting in the car, decisions about what to do that day, prioritising, what do people think of me, I am not worthy, let me shut myself away and never surface.

Initially I was in denial about depression saying it was purely work related. Despite that close friends and my GP confirmed the symptoms; comparing it to a major disease which required medication and this was no different. As far as I was concerned, it related back to a major relationship split at the end of 2005, the link to work which I had wanted to give up for some years; and a life out of balance.

However, if I think about my character, even from a young age, I had been subject to extreme highs – and a few lows. My career from late 20s had been in the highly driven area of recruitment sales which in itself creates highs and lows. Always driven to succeed and be independent; unable to have children which I eventually squared with myself and hence my career was ever more important to me.

I had eventually tried citalopram in 2014 which helped but also removed my stop button and created issues with my relationship; by late 2015 I was feeling so good I decided to come off them, along with easing back HRT after 10 years, in consultation with my GP. I was back in control and no longer needed medication and had got my life sorted; fabulous relationships, successful business and pretty amazing life; why would I be depressed?

It was in March 2016 when I was doing jury service, and felt myself begin to seriously dip, for absolutely no reason, that I realised enough was enough. I had been trying for so many years to sort this myself; why did I not just acknowledge that I had a mental condition that required support? So I went back to my GP and she organised for me to meet a psychiatrist who confirm I had a minor form of bi-polar called cyclothymia which was biological i.e I can do nothing about it. Medication – sertraline – and CBT were recommended to cover the blend of talking therapies and drugs and take me on my road to recovery.

It took 7 weeks – August 16 - for the drugs to take effect; and a series of sessions with the talented Claire a CBT therapist really sorted me out. I now acknowledge that I will remain on medication for ever; I even mention my condition to friends and family who do not know.

So now I am back in control of my life – with support; I accept I have an illness which will never go away but which I can treat and live my life to the full. What my illness makes me appreciate is the importance of leading each day to the full; making the most of experiences and friendships. I have always enjoyed giving back since I feel I have been very privileged.

I have learnt to be more flexible about my weekly structure; whilst acknowledging that exercise, work, voluntary work, social activities, learning another language are all possible.

I have put a stop to my self-destructive behaviour; am kinder to myself and have stopped beating myself up when I decide not to do something rather than seeing it as a failure; I don’t need to be perfect since no-one is. My enjoyment of alcohol is now more measured and I want it less. Deriving enjoyment from small things like the colour of the autumn trees, the sunrise over the beach, watching the birds dib about the garden; planting some bulbs; catching up with friends and supporting them through medical difficulties which sadly are increasing as we get older.

I must keep well to make the most of my life and support those that need my help. I can do that since I now understand more about the journey of mental derailment and know what I need to do to stay on the track.

When I next read this, I will remember that if I am having a dip to be kinder to myself; not to have the same expectations as when I am feeling good. There can be two parts to my life and each needs to be handled differently in order to get through it.

Please remember that ‘this too will pass’, you will come through the other side.