April 26, 2012

Photo of Neil, a Time to Change bloggerMy counsellor first gave me the idea to write many years ago. I remember scoffing at the suggestion of starting a journal recalling my primary school days when I used to write awful banal nonsense about my summer holidays.

Me, write? I didn’t think I could and certainly not about the thoughts swirling around my head. Having given it a try though, I can honestly say writing is one of the best tools I have in my battle against depression.

The big thing I’ve found about depression is that I want to tell someone about it. The problem with this is that people respond, both verbally and non-verbally.

I appreciate people are only trying to help but I always felt that I was burdening them with my issue. Even professionals by their body language give off signals which, in my state of mind, I misinterpreted as disinterest in what I’m saying.

Paper doesn’t respond or react and so for me writing is the most pure way of getting my thoughts out of my head.

I was too scared to pick up the telephone

I first went to the doctors about my depression and anxiety 9 years ago. I had graduated the year before and was in my first proper job. And hating it. I didn’t even book the appointment myself, a friend had to do it because I was too scared to pick up the telephone.

I remember being incredibly nervous waiting and having half a mind to run away as I imagined the doctor would just laugh at me. The thought fought for space in my head with the knowledge that all was not well and that I had a problem which needed help.

I remember how self conscious I felt when I first tried writing an entry

My doctor was good as I explained what was wrong and was more than happy to put me in touch with an NHS counsellor. He also asked if I wanted some anti-depression medication. I turned them down as I was of the opinion that pills would be an easy way out and would camouflage rather than address the issues I was struggling with.

My counsellor was brilliant and we spent many sessions talking and coming up with coping strategies of which keeping a journal was one. I remember how self conscious I felt when I first tried writing an entry, how surprised I was at how vitriolic the thoughts were but pleased to know that I didn’t have to censor what I wrote unlike if I was talking with someone.

Again the purity of it all was amazing and a great release of the pent up frustrations that I had been carrying around.

it became something I looked forward to on a daily basis even if I had no idea what I would write

As a result I felt a sense of relief for keeping a journal. From that moment, it became something I looked forward to on a daily basis even if I had no idea what I would write.

There were times when the thoughts came so fast my hand could not write quick enough, times when I was crying so much I couldn’t see what I was writing. I even got worried that, once I’d started crying, I would not be able to stop. None of that mattered. What mattered was the poison was leaving my head, never to return.

I used to visit the counsellor on a Thursday mid-morning every couple of weeks. I’ve no idea what my employer thought I was doing, luckily he never asked me so I never told him. My own health was my number one priority.

 I have had episodes myself where writing didn’t seem to help.

During this time I also learned other coping mechanisms, I was able to go to the supermarket again rather than order online as I had been doing. I was able to go out socially and not worry that everyone was staring at me and judging me.

I’m not naive and I know that depression and anxiety cannot be fought using just one technique. Although I advocate writing I know it may not work for some people. Indeed I have had episodes myself where writing didn’t seem to help.

I had to use different methods, including anti-depressives

So I had to use different methods, including anti-depressives on some occasions. I firmly believe the best way to fight is with a toolkit of different strategies.

Almost 10 years later, I now lead a more ‘normal’ life. I have had more episodes since then and I still maintain that I battle with both depression and anxiety. But I’m much more confident now, safe in the knowledge that, should I need them, I have the coping tools to fight.

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