This is a longish post. Get some tea.
I haven’t posted anything for about six weeks month. There’s a bunch of reasons for this. I haven’t purchased any clothes recently due to budgetary constraints. I’m not skint, but I’m going to have to cut back on my extra-curricular activities until my overdraft gets back into the black. I’ve also had a side project that handily chewed up a good chunk of my spare time. I intend to post some details of that some time later.
I’ve been seeing a Psychologist for clinical depression.
Murphy being the kind of guy that he is, after a few sessions, I discovered that via completely unrelated means that I may have some variation of gluten intolerance or celiacs disease. After a few days of religiously reading labels and getting completely sick of rice and asking cafe staff if they had any gluten free food, I was pleasantly surprised as the weird digestive issues I’d been having for the last two years almost totally subsided.
The other two notable differences were only directly apparent to me. For far too long, focus, and staying on task had been incredibly difficult. No matter how many cups of coffee I drank – about six a day at that point – or how much I isolated myself from distractions, getting anything done was pure drudgery. A few days after purging gluten from my diet, I sat down with a list of tasks at work, and powered through it by lunch time. After lunch, I pulled up a list of features to be implemented for a project I was on, and worked solidly with minimal breaks till just after five, where I pushed 300 lines of new code into the repository, and happily ticked off the feature as Ready for QA.
The next day, I did this again. And then every day after for the next two weeks. Work felt worthwhile, even enjoyable. I started relishing the balancing act of working with multiple projects, and difficulties started looking more like challenges to overcome, rather than insurmountable obstacles and drudgery.
Secondly, I stopped spiralling. I don’t know if there’s a technical term for this, but it’s my way of describing how one small thing would go wrong, and that would put me into a depressive episode. This isn’t a day of being in a bit of a funk, but a slow inexorable crash over a matter of weeks. The worst part was the rational part of my brain jumping up and down saying “This thing doesn’t matter, everybody else has already forgotten. Tomorrow is another day!” and knowing that this was true, and yet still waking up feeling rubbish. I called these events triggers. I would wake up after hitting a trigger the previous day, and instead of feeling better for having slept on it, I would feel worse.
One evening, less than a week after I ate my last piece of bread, there was a triggering event. There was a girl, and… it didn’t go well. I went to sleep stewing over events, desperately wishing for it to all go away. The next morning – I was fine. I didn’t care.
I didn’t care the day after either. In fact, I laughed about it, and put the whole incident down as a “learning experience”.
It’s almost impossible to describe how liberating this feels. Imagine that every time you tripped, someone started kicking you. And the more they kicked you, the harder it was to get up. And then one day, you tripped over – and nothing happened. You picked yourself up, looked around sheepishly and limped away, wondering how you had escaped this time. Later, you trip over again, but not so quickly, and not so painfully, because you didn’t have a someone beating the snot out of you last time – and you get up, and walk away with a hopeful grin. Much later, when you finally trip due to your own silly fault, you jump up, laugh it off, and run down the street, knowing that this menace no longer haunts you. That’s how I feel now.
So, I was lucky. The cause of my depression was entirely dietary, and keeping myself of that spiral is fairly easy. However, it’s not so easy for other people.
And this is why I’m putting this online. Not long after I started seeing the psychologist, but before I diagnosed the problem with gluten, I started telling people what was going on, and that I was getting help. The number of people who told me that they, or someone close to them, had, or was currently dealing with depression was astounding. It’s not a few people in a mental ward, or someone who just needs to get over themselves. It’s your brother or your sister. It’s the person in the cubicle next to you, or your flatmate, or your neighbour.
It’s not a case of telling that person to cheer up, it’s not that simple. Maybe they have something in their past that they need to work through, or maybe something in their body doesn’t work properly, and they are chemically incapable of feeling happy. If you know one of these people, start by making time for them and being there for them to talk to when they need it.
If you are depressed;
Sooner, not later.
You are not alone. Ask a friend, and if they fob you off, ask someone else. There’s tonnes of stuff on the web. If you are in New Zealand, there’s a www.depression.org.nz, and Lifeline both of which have free help lines (0800 111 757 and 0800 543 354 respectively). Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to help you find a local counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist as you may need. Other countries have similar resources. Finally, if you really have no one else to talk to, email me. I’m not sure what good I’ll be able to do from however far away I might be, but I can least provide some sympathetic eyes.
But please get help. You are not alone.