I’ve hinted at the fact that I have been depressed in my blogs for a while but since I’ve taken up the matter head-on I thought I should spill out what has been happening to me on my blog, particularly as it is all good news and might help others.
Whether I have ‘Depression’ or not, whatever that might be, there has definately been somethng ‘wrong’ with me for a while and by while I mean for years. I haven’t been operating to my full potential and definately not as ‘happy’ or contented as I should be considering all my blessings. I have everything I ever dreamed of in a perfect wife (still can’t understand how I got so lucky) 2 gorgeous healthy children and loving friends & family close by. I am probably close to the best physical shape of my life, no money worries and plenty of interesting things going on in my life.
I have thought for a while that I have suffered from SAD and maybe if the last 2 summers were seen as extentions of the miserable winter/spring/autumns then I could attribute my Blues to being purely a meteorological condition., I had wondered if I was stressed but looking more closely at my symptoms they better matched depression.
Since treating my condition as depression I feel I have changed myself significantly. After watching the wonderfully named BBC programme ‘How Mad Are You?’ I realised that mental health issues were more common than I thought (1 in 4 people have significant mental health issues during their life) and the whole mental health thing is a sliding scale of degrees of health rather than being black or white. So last October I saw my GP about it, I was having a fairly good week and had listed in a very rational way (almost anal) all my issues which together suggested to me I had depression. I wasn’t frightened about talking about it to him (although I didn’t know him at all) but was more concerned with what others who cared about me might think. For instance I expected people to say ‘just pull yourself together’ but knowing damned well that if it was as simple as that I would have done it years ago. Nobody has said this to me, though I still haven’t told everyone about it.
The GP asked me what he wanted me to do about it – I thought he might say this – I didn’t want prescription medication, I wanted to see someone about it. Firstly he told me that St John’s Wort might help me and this news instantly gave me a lift. I had tried it for about 2 weeks last summer and gave up feeling no different. Now given medical endorsement I have taken it most days since but with the intention of giving it up in the spring as you are supposed to avoid exposure to excessive sunshine whilst on it (chance would be a fine thing!). This may have made a difference but there are so many other changes I have made to myself it is hard to assess its efficacy (oooooh get you Mr Posh Words!).
I was referred to a group depression workshop which initially wetted my appetite for group therapy but I’ve decided not to pursue this route further for now. If I continue to improve, and time allows, I would like to become part of a local support network, talking to people definately helps. The workshop placed me amongst people who had had significant life changing moments that had triggered their condition and others who had been surrounded by depressives and kind of caught it. I didn’t fall into either of those camps but there was a good range of people there that made me see the condition affected people for a number of reasons. Our symptoms were remarkably similar and we shared ideas about addressing our situations.
Before attending the workshop I had already read a couple of books that really helped me. The first was almost a message from God (a sign?) as Rev Debbie Plummer, a guest preacher from a neighbouring parish, talked about a book called Finding Happiness by Abbot Christopher Jamison during her sermon. I was fighting back the tears as I heard this as I’d had a bad week and was running out of fresh ideas and the book sounded like just what I needed. It examined happiness, what it was and what it wasn’t and then through the 8 thoughts (7 of which tie to the well known deadly sins) directed you towards a path to true happiness. This certainly helped me, though I found some of the later thoughts harder to relate to. His earlier book, Finding Sanctuary had been inspired by the phenomenal response to his TV series The Monastry where 5 men left their busy stress filled lives to live as Monks. I haven’t seen the programme but the book is probably the most significant one I have read in my life. I will re-read it at least once a year and go through an iterative process of improving myself through the learning of some monastic principles.
I know that my mental well being is closely linked to my physical well being. I am fortunate to be so fit and healthy although I do give keeping fit a high priority in my life, but I’ve noticed that a minor cold or ache causes me to moan more than I should because it stops me being so active. I have mentioned previously Ronnie O’Sullivan and his running which has helped keep his demons at bay, so with all my regular cycling why was I still feeling low? Well almost all my riding was commuting which I was not doing for pleasure and also this left me lacking energy in the evenings to jog for fun or play with the kids. To resolve this I took the tram through December to recharge my batteries and then started anew in the New Year.
I am embarking upon a Coast to Cost ride in June to raise money for Cancer Research with colleagues from Manchester and Newcastle. Not only has this given me justification for weekend ‘joy rides’ (although they mostly begin at a less than joyful 6am) but my short commuting runs have an extra purpose to them as well as becoming much easier. I have relished the challenge of climbing Holcombe Hill (without putting a foot down for the first time in my life) to see the wonder of the dawn light (definately a sign from above) and battling inclines and stiff headwinds to ride around Winter Hill. Along the way my soul has been lifted by the sound of Stevie Wonder, Billy Bragg and even AC/DC and I have passed so many places around Greater Manchester that have bought back happy memories of my youth and early 20s. Yesterday I did 36 miles in 3 hours fueled by nothing but Vimto! Although I know I need more substantial forms of fuel to sustain longer rides it has shown me that with inner strength and belief you can achive much more than you could ever imagine.