From Michael

Dear You,

Depression is tricky. My latest depression came on very slowly but relentlessly after a series of traumatic events, my father having a serious accident, my mother also being unwell and a succession of failed dates. It crept up on me and I woke up one morning, my first thought being “I don't want to get out of bed”, quickly followed by the familiar horrible blackness. 

I became a shadow. I urged myself to get up to have a bath, to dress smartly, to go to work to see my patients. It was a huge struggle and when it became unbearable I went to see my psychiatrist who I have seen on and off for nearly 20 years and as ever he was kind and attentive. Even at the worst times I know theoretically that it would get better but that's not much consolation when you're in the blackness.

One of the most frightening aspects of depression is of obsessional morbid thoughts relating to death. I dutifully fill out the various depression scores daily and grimly observe the line on the graph telling me that I'm severely depressed. Eventually, you wake up one morning and it feels like the sun is shining a bit and there is a feeling of grace in the air. You don't tell anybody but a small wave of serenity is palpable. You want to go down on your knees and thank the gods that you didn't believe in last week. You have shaky days but that trend is upward and finally you start to emerge from the fog.

Depression always gets better. That has to be your mantra. Find the best doctor possible. What worked for me was to take the medication, have some counselling and staying in contact with the people I loved. I tried to do what my mind was telling me not to do and that is engage with people; that is the most vital part of the treatment. Loneliness is one of the disguises of depression. 

The illness may turn up again sometime in the future like a deeply unpleasant uninvited guest but you will cope with it again.