I am fairly confident if I were to speak to my GP, tell him how I have been feeling, he would be writing the prescription before I finished saying the first few sentences. Is it the easy answer? The right answer? Is it a quick fix, like putting a plaster over it? I refuse to see my GP. I may well benefit from taking antidepressants, but do I want to? In a word NO! I have taken them in the past, some twenty years ago for approximately eight years and I swore to myself not again. I’m unsure if it’s really the drugs I oppose or the label that will be placed against my name. I recently needed my GP to refer me for my heart condition.
The referral contained Significant past history:
22 Jan 2019, Mild depression.
05 Feb 2010, Mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.
5 Jun 1990, Single major depressive episode – not that I would class it as single and no mention of the REALLY bad episode that had me hospitalised for months in the mid 90’s. Unless this single major episode lasted for 5 – 6 years?
Depression/ Depressive, Anxiety
Maybe it is just me, but somehow when you are given this label, the medical professionals have the authority to treat you like a fool. Whatever you go to the doctors for, it is dismissed as depression. From stomach-ache, headache, fatigue whatever it is, is must be depression, it’s all in your head. This angers me. I’m depressed not a moron; I know how I feel. Also, despite there being a lot of media attention on mental health these days, it isn’t easy to admit to yourself or anyone else, that you have a “mental illness”.
It feels like a dirty secret and I believe there is still stigma around the subject.
There are also many levels to depression, I had depression for years where I could still function and then there is a deep dark depression that is incredibly difficult to claw your way out of. My deep depression resulted in me being suicidal and sectioned.
When to ask for help
The counsellor I was seeing earlier this year, suggested in April I should see my GP. She felt I was depressed, and medical intervention would be beneficial. My current counsellor has suggested the same on a couple of occasions. The difference is with my current counsellor, she listens. She hears my reasons for not wanting to take medication. We have had in-depth conversations where we have discussed how she will know if I really need help. She rightly pointed out, how bad I let the situation get in the past, before I sought help. However, I was seeing my GP and taking medication when I was sectioned, I maybe just didn’t have the capacity to be honest or to articulate how I really felt. Whilst I can’t deny that the past year has been a real struggle and antidepressants may well have helped, I would suggest for most, life is a struggle. This would result in most of the population requiring antidepressants.
I also think at times in our lives we go through real emotional battles, this year for me, it has been losing my brother and coming to terms with having a heart condition and the guilt this entails.
I think taking antidepressants is fine, if you are given the correct level of help and support at the same time. If the depression is caused by a reason, then the reason needs to be addressed. You need to be able to talk about your feelings, your hopes and your fears. Tablets alone, may not be enough to resolve the issue.
I prefer to face the demons with my counsellor. I have seen many counsellors over the years, without much success really. By that I mean they wasn’t really able to help. Firstly, I was told I needed to see them; it wasn’t my choice. Then there are the lengthy waiting lists. Then the questionnaires that grade how depressed you are, to help fit you into the correct label. Problem is, the questions are numbered from one to ten and the answers are not always so straight forward, so black and white. These questionnaires cannot facilitate an exact measurement of a person, the answers could change day by day or even hour by hour. I always found myself second guessing the answer I should give.
The worst part for me is on the NHS you get six sessions, that doesn’t allow enough time to even scratch the surface.
The right counsellor
The most important thing for me is finding the right counsellor. I have the right counsellor for me at this moment in time. I didn’t find her. My good friend found her after my previous counsellors let me down in a really bad way.
Now, how I view my counsellors may sound a bit strange, and maybe I am unique in how I would assess them. I have to like they way they look, this is hard to explain but I suppose they have to have a kind face. I will spend many an hour looking at them and I don’t want a strict or harsh face staring back at me. My counsellor has a warm smiley face.
Then it is about how they talk to you, the tone of voice, the questions they ask and general interaction during the sessions. Many ask what I would consider to be stupid questions. The question I have always hated the most in a high-pitched whining voice “and how did that make you feel?” I have great interaction with my counsellor, even during really upsetting sessions we always manage to find something to laugh about – this is so important to me. She makes me feel like she knows me, understands me. She challenges me and makes me look at things from a different perspective.
Lastly, I suppose I want to feel like they are really going through the process with me. I think I am incredibly lucky that I have finally found someone that I believe is on the journey with me. If I sit on the floor, she sits on the floor with me. If I want to dance, she would not hesitate in dancing with me, others may just sit and watch, make you feel awkward, but mine just joins in, like it’s perfectly normal to dance around the counselling room.
I am not alone
The strangest and yet really important thing that my counsellor gives me, is a hug. When I first told her, I had a strong desire for someone to hug me, I didn’t expect her to offer me a hug. She made it clear it wasn’t her usual practice and I declined the offer. But I really needed a hug, so we had a hug. We have hugged several times, each having real meaning for me. When I feel really lost and alone, or when we have a breakthrough moment. It is another reason, that I feel like she is really with me on my journey. I am no longer doing this on my own.
You definitely get out, what you put in. When I was younger, I didn’t really buy in to counselling, didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to speak. Wasn’t really able to articulate what it was that I though and felt. This is probably why I found the whole process pointless. Counselling is not the easy option; it is incredibly difficult. It emotionally drains you.
I wouldn’t rule antidepressants out
That took me by surprise! I cannot believe after everything, that I would consider taking antidepressants! But, I am at the stage where I trust my counsellor far more than I imagined possible. Whilst I doubt, I will ever fully trust her, I trust her enough. I like her, I believe she wants to and can help me. So, if she ever suggests again that I may need medical intervention, then I may well have to listen to her.
It just means, we will have to work together in combatting the negative emotions this would invariably entail. Because I have spent so many years convincing myself, I am not depressed. I have worked so hard to prove that depression does not define me.
What it comes down to in the end I suppose, is individual choice at different stages of our journey. Nobody knows you, like you do, therefore do what is right for you.