I know you can’t concentrate for long at the moment and that your mind is elsewhere, so if you only remember one thing from this letter, make it this – the future is brighter than it looks.
How do I know this? Well, I have the luxury of writing this from nearly three years into your future. Trust me, it’s a better place. Physically, it’s the same place, so don’t worry, there’s no major upheaval. Mentally, though, it’s a different world.
You know how you just don’t look forward to anything at the moment? That will change.
You know those headaches you’re getting every day? They won’t last forever – nor will the blotchy skin or the other ailments.
You know those ferociously black moods and the bursts of anger and irritability that gnaw away at you? They will get fewer and farther between.
And you know that complete lack of energy or enthusiasm? Fear not, you will get your mojo back.
The insomnia will fade too.
So what advice can I give you? Quite a lot, when I think about it, but you have to be ready to take it so wait for a day when you are feeling more alert and receptive.
You’ve made the first step. You’ve realised you have a problem with stress and that you are completely frazzled. The doctor has told you that you have depression and has given you some medication.
So here is my first piece of advice. I know you want to get off that medication as quickly as possible, but don’t set any targets and don’t rush. I am still taking that medication and it doesn’t bother me now. OK, so no alcohol for three years doesn’t sound great, but you can’t hold your drink anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference. When you’re truly ready to come off the tablets, take your time and get it right.
Next get yourself some counselling. The doctor can refer you. The tablets can manage your mood to some extent, but on their own they only deal with symptoms. You need to get to grips with what is causing your depression so that you can get better. It can be gruelling, but it is worth it.
You should also read a book called Depressive Illness: The Curse Of The Strong, by Dr Tim Cantopher. He knows you can’t concentrate for long and explains depression in a way you can understand in short bursts.
Two more things, then try and get some sleep, or maybe go out for some fresh air. Just try not to think too much, unless it’s about things you enjoy doing. You need to do more of those things.
So, my final pearls of wisdom.
The road to recovery is long and bumpy. It goes up and down like a rollercoaster. But remember this – you are getting better. It’s slow and it can feel like you are getting nowhere, but keep a diary of good things that happen, of positive feelings, of praise people give you, however small. On bad days, it will remind you that you are not a failure and that it’s worth existing. Learn from it and believe it.
Finally, don’t keep depression to yourself. It is not a dirty secret. The sooner you open up about it – maybe write a blog? – the sooner you’ll find the many other people who have gone through the same thing or who are going through it right now.
I won’t say ‘Chin up’. I certainly won’t say ‘Man up’. All I will say is look after yourself and be as patient as you can. You’re worth it.
Here is a link to Paul's blog