The Story So Far
In my last post I wrote about where I currently am on my journey and promised a return to the start of everything, so this is that. The direction this blog will now take is an almost episodic view of my experiences and the things I have found helpful along the way. I plan to publish a new post every week so feel free to keep me accountable for that! I have my timeline laid out now and so no excuses.
In summary, I have battled depression on and off since around 2001. This was a secret and lonely battle which in hindsight I could see that I wasn’t going to win under those circumstances. This time around I had been on medication (Citalopram and then Mirtazapine) for around 18 months via my GP and had gotten to the point where I felt the need to tell my boss at work. This was a tough call as I didn’t know how he would react but I could feel myself slipping slowly deeper in to the pit, in spite of the medication.
For me this felt like I was literally clinging by my fingertips to the edge of stability and looking down in to the whirling, dark maelstrom of the pit and my grip was steadily slipping. I was losing this round and the rate I was losing was increasing day by day. At home I was shut down and uncommunicative, every ounce of energy I had was burned up day by day keeping my mask in place. I was struggling with my hours at work, shaving some time off here and there when I could get away with it, longing for off days when I could do nothing. On these days I was just trying to recover enough for the next round which would start on Monday.
In my heart I knew that I was flirting with some monumental collapse, I was either going to lose it at work or just turn in to a gibbering wreck. Something big was coming and it scared the shit out of me.
The Tipping Point
The event that saved me was totally unexpected. A colleague of mine who I got on with personally asked me to go for a coffee. I really didn’t want to go though as we have very different views on certain things in a work capacity and had been clashing a lot in recent weeks, but I didn’t feel I could say no.
Over that coffee he said he was concerned about me and wanted to know what he had done to upset me as he had found me to be increasingly aggressive and intimidating to work with. This took me by surprise a bit as I thought we had just been having some “constructive conflict” which is something corporations tend to get all excited about as it leads to “dynamic improvement” or some such nonsense. I immediately realised what had happened, my mask had slipped. The cracks were beginning to show and I wasn’t in control any more.
Last Chance Saloon
A couple of weeks prior to this meeting, I had spoken to my manager about my frustrations of just getting changes of meds and no real help from the GP. He suggested I book my BUPA medical through work and see if the doctor there could help. Luckily my appointment was just a few days after the incident with my colleague so my mind was made up, this was the last chance I had to act before I went past the point of no return.
I tolerated the poking and prodding and tests that you have to go through and couldn’t care less what the results were as I just wanted to get to the appointment with the doctor and beg for help. I think she was a bit taken aback by the outpouring of emotion she was confronted with after asking, “How are you?” but I couldn’t hold it in any more and needed someone to hear my cry for help.
It may be an indication of how hamstrung our GP’s in the NHS are over mental health funding or a lack of understanding on the part of my GP specifically but the options at the disposal of a BUPA doctor is pretty breathtaking at times. I was expecting to have to wait months for an appointment with a specialist but I was told to phone and book with a psychiatrist directly and she even recommended one for me to call. In less than a week I was in his office for an hour and a half.
Hindsight is 20/20
The psychiatrist, it turned out, I had seen some years before. I had a hazy memory of this as I was in a bad way at the time and pretty much refused his help. I just wanted him to authorise some one to one sessions that I could have in secret and still hide my illness from everyone else. Looking back, I can’t help but feel slightly embarrassed about what a dick I was not to start this process way back then. Still, can’t be helped!
He was great. I was rushing through everything assuming we had a 10 minute appointment like with a GP and I was amazed when he seemed to be in no hurry and just let me waffle on for an hour and a half. This was very new territory for me and I couldn’t believe that anyone would take my insignificant problems seriously. I assumed that he would think I was just a bit weak and a bit of a flake. This is what I believed about myself so why would he think any differently? He, after all, was a professional who saw people with “real” illnesses all the time and I was just some pathetic whining guy who just needed to man the F up.
He told me I was very seriously depressed, had generalised anxiety disorder, body dis-morphia and an eating disorder. This shut me up quite abruptly. He wrote me a letter instructing my doctor to sign me off, booked me in for half day therapy sessions, wrote me a private prescription for Fluoxetine and told me to stop taking Mirtazapine immediately as the dose I was on was pretty much ineffective anyway. This I was pleased about as they had made me feel like crap from day 1, something I was unable to communicate effectively to my doctor.
So I left his office and went to the car to call my manager and give him the news. I was in a state of shock and felt equally relieved and ashamed. On the one had I could stop battling through every day, I could just stop. On the other hand it meant that everyone at work would know how weak I was, how I just couldn’t cope and would think “what a pussy”.
My manager was OK about this and we had talked about this possible outcome. Fortunately there was someone who could slot in to my role fairly seamlessly so that was a load off my mind. Making that phone call and admitting this though was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Once done, I started the car and began my journey.