Attempting to get better.

I’ve started to realize that there are some things you can’t change, but many things you can. Yes I can change my outlook on life (however hard it might be it is possible), my attitudes, my willingness to try things, but I can’t change the fact that my brain doesn’t have enough serotonin. Ever since I was diagnosed with depression my boyfriend has seen it as a physical illness, everything is due to an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. However I’m not sure it’s as straightforward as that. I’m not advocating the other extreme either, that it is all ‘in the mind’ and if you sit quietly and think about things eventually you will emerge all better. It’s not something you can ‘just get over’ as some ignorant people appear to believe. It seems to be more a mixture of all three of these positions, at least that’s what I’m finding. Partly it is about getting up off the sofa and actively trying to make myself and my life better. However just that alone is not only extremely challenging, but also doesn’t completely solve the problem. Similarly, just taking antidepressants, which essentially increase serotonin levels in the brain, isn’t enough to help. It is more complex than someone with diabetes injecting themselves with insulin. To recover from a mental illness like depression it requires a physical level of effort, taking medication to improve the production and uptake of serotonin in the brain, it requires effort and willingness to get better and get yourself out of the rut you’re stuck in, and a psychological level of understanding of what is causing the problems and how you can overcome them and think more positively.

So what can I do? Well firstly I can do more than sit here writing about it, although I want to increase awareness I need to help myself too! Of course visiting the doctor. But they tend to palm one off with a course of antidepressants and maybe an offer of a place on a waiting list that is 6 months long for some counseling. And when they don’t work what happens? You get offered a different type of antidepressant and told to come back in three months. So it seems one needs to take it into our own hands, and actively try to help ourselves. Like anything, it helps to start with baby steps. Try just cooking dinner one day, or walking to the shop rather than driving. Then gradually bring they up to saying yes to social events, however much you might not want to. Depression is often a lonely illness. It makes you feel entirely isolated from everyone and everything. It makes you want to crawl under your duvet and never get out. But the trouble is, if you stop doing things with your friends eventually they will stop asking you, and you will feel more lonely. That’s one of the problems with depression, it throws you into a vicious cycle which is extremely difficult to break free from. But it is possible to do so. Even if it’s just going out for coffee or a quick walk with the dog, every step matters. This is why I don’t see it solely as a physical illness as my boyfriend does, because there are so many things that I can do to help myself, and yes, I have days where I don’t want to do anything, but on the days where I can manage a short run or a coffee with a friend, it reminds me that I can get better. I can’t help that I don’t have enough serotonin in my brain, but I can choose how I act and what I choose to do to help myself. I’m not saying that it’s anyone’s fault that they get a mental health problem, however much it may feel like it when you’re in the depths of anxiety and depression, but there are ways we can help ourselves. It’s not a ‘just get over it’ response, but a mixture solution, using medication, talking therapies and our own minds, which are more powerful than we might think. And I’m going to be honest, it’s nowhere near as easy as writing this, believe me, but baby steps is the best way forward.

Writing a blog

Hi there,
I blogged a couple of times before but didn’t really get into it. I’m going to give it another try, and thought that today, being World Mental Health Day, would be a good time to start.
I don’t really get blogging, it’s a bit like writing a diary but everyone can see. I’m not sure whether that is just because I am quite a private person, or whether I just don’t think other people care about my life! Most humans are ultimately pretty selfish and engrossed in their own lives so it seems strange that even in our modern world people are still fundamentally nosey and want to know what everyone else is doing.
So to me, the idea of blogging seems rather strange, but for some reason I am determined to give it a go. I’m not really sure why this is (there are many things in my life that I’m not sure of) whether it is because it seems that some other people who also suffer with mental health problems have helped themselves by blogging or because I just fancy a bit of writing, who knows.
So today is World Mental Health Day. In our western culture it is very much stigmatized and the mental health charities present in our society are doing all they can to reduce that. But what is it that has made it be thought of as such a negative thing? If someone tells you that they have diabetes, that doesn’t put you off being friends with them, but if someone said that they had depression or schizophrenia it might. This seems so strange, considering that 1 in 4 of the population of our country are suffering from a mental health problem. That statistic shows that virtually everyone will know someone affected by this, although they may be suffering in silence. So many people don’t feel brave enough to even tell their partner or close family, let alone visit a doctor for a diagnosis or have it openly known in their community that they have a problem. This, quite frankly, is absurd. Why is it okay to break your leg and tell everyone about it, but not okay to have anxiety? What makes obsessive compulsive disorder so different from asthma?
It seems many people (including those suffering!) are scared of mental health problems, but this is often ignorance. There is that stupid saying ‘ignorance is bliss’. Only in reference to your bank balance. It isn’t bliss in terms of mental health. It is only making the situation worse for those of us who are suffering. People need to face mental health problems just as they do physical ones. We all talk about cancer, why not about depression? They both impact one’s whole life and can ultimately kill. It’s time our society sorted itself out and that can only come from those in it. We have to start the conversations, we have to get talking. Make mental health an everyday subject. Make those suffering with a mental illness feel accepted and welcome, just as those with physical illnesses do. Eventually we can make change, we can remove the stigma. But the change has to come from within.