Saturday, 22 April 2017

Depression - Then and now.

I had a chest infection last Christmas. Absolutely nothing in itself. Rather like having a very unpleasant cold. Under normal circumstances, I'd just get on with it, maybe visit the doctor in case I needed antibiotics. Again, I don't like taking those damn things unless it is imperative I do.

Oddly, and for reasons way beyond my grasp, the chest infection led to a series of anxiety attacks that lasted well into March/April. Okay, again I struggled on but found I was doing off-the-wall stuff. Really fruit loopy, crazy stuff and even though I was well aware of what I was doing I couldn't prevent myself from doing them. No need to elaborate, too embarrassing for me and too dull and boring for you.

I saw a doctor who said I needed therapy. Really? Isn't that something Hollywood stars go for when things get too much? Why would I need therapy? Surely, I just need a pick-me-up? He insisted I attend a six-week therapy course which I did.

As it happens they proved to be of value. Patsy, the woman I saw, was very kind, compassionate, and attentive. Yet, the more I talked, with Patsy interjecting the occasional comment, the more I came to realise that the methods as used by psychologists, all this mindfulness, and much else, was in fact what I had been applying to the panic attacks I had been having for the past thirteen years. It was, even though I am not one, Buddhist. That is to say, and check this out for yourselves on YouTube, that Buddhism and psychology are brothers with one, the big B, far, far older. 

So what was the root cause of these mental health issues? I know for talking to my dear friend Cara that mine were nothing like hers or many others, mine were far less bad. Even so, one cry for help, I think that is what it was, took me close to a very dark edge. Not a thing I'd want to repeat again. Mental institutions, no matter how compassionate they try to be are horrid places to be confined to. Filled with unfortunates far worse than yourself with furniture so heavy to prevent any inmate heaving a chair from hitting a fellow patient with. The only good thing to come out of the experience was meeting a young Canadian woman, a musician, with whom I had pleasant conversations with.

Seventeen years ago, mid-2000, I won an American bank as a client. Providian mailed in the states 60 million items a month. The USA is way bigger than Britain so no big surprises there. My UK based client mailed 60 million a year. Still, sufficient revenue to excite a company finance director. The contract was worth to my company £6 million per year. Suddenly I was Johnny big nuts. Paraded as being the company superstar. Utter crap of course. I am just an ordinary bloke. This turn of events, bearing in mind I had had other,  smaller successes mostly half a million a year accounts, proved to be a personal negative rather than the polar opposite. No sooner had I won Providian then another, smaller win arrived in the form of Transnational Financial Services. These guys were worth only £1 million a year. This meant in one month I hit £750,000 with an annual target of £500,000. I not only matched my target, I smashed it. Just as a glittering future appeared I lost the plot.

I became absolutely terrified that all those past triumphs and all my current ones I could never repeat. I lost all confidence fearing that the mountain I'd climbed was far bigger than my abilities, that the likelihood of my cracking any further clients, big or small, was so remote as to be nigh on impossible. So the anxiety attacks began. Not that I recognised them as such as I dismissed any thoughts of mental health issues as being nonsense. I'd had seizures and a heart attack and they hadn't stopped me so why even consider my mind was unwell. I just had to repeat what I had always done and get on with it.

For three years I ignored what plagued me although I did ask for help in 2002 from someone near and dear to me. They were unable to help. By winter 2004 leading into 2005 things got really bad. My son took me to a doctor who prescribed Diazepam. I threw them away. Another doctor prescribed some unpronounceable drug which I flushed down the lavatory. I don't do medication unless it is vital. Trouble was it was vital and I was too stupid, too determined not to concede defeat to recognise that fact.

So, depending on your maths, on when the depression really started, I fought the damn thing unsuccessfully for something like 13 to maybe 15 years. I am loving and compassionate by nature. I don't judge sufferers of mental health issues unkindly so why was I do dumb when it came to accepting I had problems, problems which, incidentally, led to my marriage breakdown? Male ego maybe. Arrogance perhaps or possibly fear of accepting the truth.

The knock-on effect of the problem I faced and my inability to deal with it has meant my career going from good to bad,  my earnings along with it. I was never a 'big hitter' but earned above average. I now have a part-time that allows me to care for others which in itself is gratifying if a little dull. My marriage is over. It took a long time for me to accept that fact but now I do.

I also lost some good friends along the way, one in particular who's absence at first hurt me. Forgiveness is a two-way process, you have to forgive yourself as well as others for all humans are guilty of something and as the Christian Messiah said - 'You without sin cast the first stone.'. I no longer sulk. I used to for days, sometimes weeks. Sulking is nothing but passive aggressive. It is of itself a form of bullying. I don't want to be remembered as a bully.

Buddhist prayer of forgiveness.:

Currently, I am not medicated. As I said earlier, the doctor sent me to therapy which reaffirmed the Buddhist approach to the mind - it belongs to the individual. Body and mind are part and parcel of me. That is not to say all mental health issues are controllable by disciplining the mind. My mood swings are the gift of my diabetes, they are chemical, they can only be controlled efficiently with medication. What I need to do is be aware of the fact that my mind - MY MIND - is mine to control and not it controlling me. So I meditate. 

Early this year I had an argument with one of my daughters who slagged off my Zen Buddhist bullshit. I am not Zen Buddhist. There is no convenient label for what I am. Perhaps an amalgam of the three Chinese faiths merged with Jiddu Krishnamurti's teachings. All I know is that this is right for me. I am not spiritual in the accepted sense, nothing supernatural for me. That said, I accept that it works for others. and I would rather work in kinship with them than not.

Today I woke at 3.30. I got up, put on some clothes and went for a walk. Just a short walk around the block. When I returned I watered plants in the dark before sitting down to meditate. Mind, body and mother nature one and the same thing, a shared experience. As I sat silent and still so a fox crept into my garden midway through meditation. I heard the animal climb my fence. I opened my eyes and watched it explore my garden. It was a blissful moment.

Meditation, not medication.

 As I said, it works for me.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Cara H said...

Many a person, both licensed and unlicensed, has told me that my mental health issues require me to be medicated and that I am a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad crazy person for refusing to be so.
I'm not saying that medications never help anybody. However, for many people, the cure is worse than the problem.
I can't, for instance, take SSRIs, which are the darlings of modern psychiatry. They fuck with my perception, big time. I normally am not psychotic. I have rapid cycling type 2 bipolar disorder, and my biggest issues are depression alternating with an elevated mood although not full mania, where before being properly diagnosed I would often do things such as take on a second job and/or party a lot. There can also be mixed states, which feature irritability and paranoia, but not psychosis.
If I take SSRIs, I become psychotic. Not like axe-murdering psychotic, which is what most people think of when they hear the word. I'm far more likely to hurt myself than anyone else, however, my thoughts are not grounded in Earthly reality. For instance, Zoloft gave me the perception that my brain had grown tiny hands and was trying to pick its way out of my skull. With Effexor, I jumped up on a counter and was preaching. Prozac made me flat and had me staring at my arm, contemplating cutting it, not for the usual self-harm reasons but because I wondered if I could still feel.
The only thing I take is a form of Lithium which is available without prescription. I take a much lower dose than I would have to if I were to take Lithium Carbonate, because Lithium Orotate is far more bioavailable.
The therapeutic dose of Lithium, as it happens, is just slightly below toxic levels. Since much lower doses of Lithium Orotate have the desired effect of minimizing the irritability, paranoia and impulsiveness of my disorder, why the hell would I want to ingest nearly toxic amounts of Lithium?
Although psychiatry has come a long way since the early days when those deemed "insane" were locked away in torture chambers, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. I think there is still a tendency to try to make everybody fit the definition of textbook "normal," and that is not realistic or compassionate.

Russell Duffy said...

Your depression is very different to mine. As I understand it depression, and in that broad spectrum I include paranoia, anxiety attacks, schizophrenia, psychosis etc, there are largely two ways of dealing with it. One is chemical, the other therapy. I cannot stress now, having suffered a little myself, that depression is not glamorous as some folks seem to think. It is about as glamorous as wearing faecal matter for a hat. Both of these courses are a minefield, especially, as you illustrate in your response, chemical. So many ripples in the pool of the mind if you take the wrong medication. As for normal, well, you are right, who the hell is 'normal'and what on earth is 'normal' anyway. It's just another projection. Thanks for the great response.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog