November 20, 2013

AimeeDepression is a word I hear thrown around day-in and day-out nowadays, how is it possible for a word to be so overly used, yet still hold so much stigma and discrimination for its sufferers?

My experience of depression started over 10 years ago when I was 13 years old, I believe that is was my parents’ divorce that triggered an illness that I haven't been able to completely shake ever since.

Any efforts to discuss my mental health (with family, friends and GPs) were greeted with disbelief, shock, horror, shouting, screaming, being told that I should 'snap out of it' and that I was 'attention seeking'.

I'm sure that other people who have suffered from a mental illness will sadly have heard these and many other equally cutting and unhelpful comments at some point in their life.

When I was 18 my mental health once again took a turn for the worse, I could feel myself being dragged deeper into the bleak, cold, black hole that is depression. What followed was undoubtedly the worst experience of my life and I hit my lowest low.

I didn't eat, I barely slept, I struggled to keep up with my college work, I became distant from my friends and family, I was harming myself regularly, I was experiencing extreme anxiety and having heart palpitations and panic attacks and I was thinking about suicide. However, I was still trying to put a brave face on as I was terrified of anyone finding out and telling me what everyone else had done before: that I was stupid, attention seeking and that there was nothing wrong with me.

I eventually plucked up the courage to go and speak to a GP

I eventually plucked up the courage to go and speak to a GP, this turned out to be a huge mistake. The questionnaire he administered stated that I was suffering from severe depression. I was not surprised by this diagnosis and even began to feel relieved that my problem eventually had a name. However, the GP had other ideas. 'I don't believe you have severe depression' he said, 'if you did, you wouldn't have been able to smile at me when I greeted you, you wouldn't have been able to get yourself here and you would have lost large amounts of weight'.

I sat there in absolute disbelief. My reply was to say that greeting him with a smile was simply because I was well mannered and had become very good at hiding my deep despair from others, that it has literally taken me years to bring myself to the GP and, finally, that I had in fact lost a lot of weight in the past four months. To this he replied 'well I’m not sure what you've come here for, I'm not going to just give you pills. I don't believe in prescribing anti-depressants to children (I was 19 at the time) and a lot of people come claiming to have depression just to get some time off work or college'.

I nearly burst into tears. I calmly replied that all I wanted was for someone to understand what I was going through and to tell me that there was something wrong with me and give me some advice on how to deal with it. He basically just told me to visit a website about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and sent me on my way. I couldn't believe that a health professional had treated me in such a callous and frankly cruel way.

It took another three years before I got up the courage to try the GP again

It took another three years before I got up the courage to try the GP again (a different GP this time, obviously!). Finally I found someone who understood, he quickly diagnosed me as having recurrent depressive disorder with anxiety. He prescribed me anti-depressants, which I refused at first but, after some gentle cajoling and logical discussion, I agreed to try. Currently I have never felt better, my illness is being well managed by the correct medication, a healthy lifestyle, an in-depth understanding of my illness and a wonderful support network of my boyfriend, family and friends who are non-judgmental and accept me as I am, even during my bad periods.

Ending the discrimination, stigma and misunderstanding of mental health is so incredibly vital as it is exactly this stigma that prevented me from receiving the right help, support and treatment long ago. I can't help but feel annoyed that I suffered needlessly for so many years and it pains me to think that others are also going through this. It's time to end the stigma and discrimination and to educate people, it's time to talk, it’s time to change.

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Comments

Disgusting

Your depression started quite some time ago but there are GP's who still think like the first one you saw, which is disgusting and doesn't help. After a bit of a false start with one GP (who wasn't unsympathetic but sent me to the wrong place for help) I have been lucky being treated and looked after by two really lovely GP's. who I feel I can talk to and have been there for me when I have needed them. That makes such a huge difference when struggling with depression!

Thank you Aimee

I wanted you to know that you are helping people. I read this this morning and rang my GP. I have needed to for a while but have avoided and put it off. Your blog has given me whatever it was I needed to make that call. Thank you.

A GP you can trust

I am sorry you had such a terrible experience with your original GP. I was in the totally opposite position that mine could not have been more supportive. He'd been my GP since I was very young and knew my medical history very well. I too did not want to go on to tablets, but we went through all the options and he explained that if they didn't work we could try a different one or change the dosage. He also discussed counselling and CBT. It turns out that counselling didn't suit me, or maybe it was just the counsellor that I clashed with. I was on tablets for two years and came off them a couple of months ago. It's still early days, but I seem to have a better perspective on things and can deal with the bad days much better now. I wish you all the best for the future. :-)

anxiety depression social agoraphobia

I have sufferd since 2010 and if it wasnt for the help and support I received I know I wouldnt be here now its hard no one can fully understand the loneliness the emptyness the isolation I found that the first tow years I had 110% support but the ladt year and half it feels like are you not better yet why you not better then the feelings off judgement and failure slip in take 1 day at a time believe in yourself

my answer

well done young lady I 2 had or should I say maybe always will have depression I refused antidepressants but did go on them and felt so much better that was 3 years ago I I had them reduced im off them now but I do get some bad days I do feel I can manage though so u keep taking them u need them and one day you may feel u 2 can be okay and manage lovely story I think a lot could learn from u xx

Thanks so much for posting

Thanks so much for posting this. The first time I visited a GP about my anxiety and depression I was told to grow up and sort myself out. They were exactly the words used. It had taken me months to pluck up the courage to go their and it took for me to get to a total crisis point for me to go back. Always go for a second opinion if you aren't happy, it will be worth it.

I just wanted to say that I

I just wanted to say that I completely relate to your post. I feel very strongly that more needs to be done to challenge the attitudes of those who work in health care towards those with depression and other mental health problems. I too have recurrent depression and anxiety and in the past I have been shouted at by a GP for calling my parents and telling them I was thinking about killing myself because I was "scaring them shitless" Actually GP I think I was more scared than they were at the time....he treated me as if I was making things up to scare my parents...which is something I would never do...and what that GP said to me was completely unacceptable. I wish I had put in a complaint about him at the time....4 years later it's probably a bit late!!!

There are better GP's!

Well done on getting the courage to go back, I can't believe the attitude of your first GP! Mine was fortunately much more helpful on my first visit, he gave me a questionnaire as he recognised I was finding it really awkward to say out loud at the time how I felt inside (I had originally mentioned on a telephone appointment about something else that I just was not happy anymore). I remember being shocked at the 'severe' tag as on the outside it looked like I was functioning quite well but inside I think was just rapidly falling apart. I had hidden it so well I don't think I knew how I felt anymore. He prescribed anti-depressants and I went back after two weeks then 4 weekly until had long awaited CBT which was a pivotal turning point in my thought processes. Now I can talk quite openly, maybe too much sometimes as afraid will worry family members but *touch wood*, my black clouds have gone and I finally feel happy after several years of denial / anxiety/ self harm/ medication and alcohol issues and suicidal tendencies. I am surprised often now that I made it this far and actually *almost* look on it positively, I really had to melt down to become the person I am now free my past! A lot of my worries were from pre-conceptions of how others see me - don't ever be afraid to be yourself, if you lose people in the process then they really do have no place in your life.

G.P attitudes

Well done and thank you. Through time to change and brave people like you sharing your experiences hopefully family friends and G.P s will have greater compasion and understanding. My own G.P was brilliant from the start and her care and understanding saved my life. Not all the mental health "proffesionals" I came into contact with were supportive or helpful but I know that it is their ignorance and not anything to do with me. As one in four of us Is likely to be affected by mental illness I know that at least some of those who dissmissed me may at some point in their own lives feel as I once did.

Thank you

This was a great help to read, i have an appointment with my GP on the 20th and am terrified of not been taken seriously. Keep fighting the good fight!

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