Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Janine's Story

The following blog post comes from guest blogger, Janine. More on Janine can be found at the Unfinished Project Project, "a blog about (eventually) getting things done."

I've had depressive episodes for more than thirty years now, on and off, although it took quite a while for me to realise what they were. The first episode came when I was in my final year of high school. I thought I was just burnt out and unmotivated, and did nothing about it. There was another bout in my final year at university, which I put down to similar reasons, but the crunch came about seven years ago, when I suddenly had a nervous breakdown; in the course of one evening I went from feeling reasonably normal, if a bit down (which is not unusual for me) to thinking of suicide. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I felt as though my personality had splintered and I had no real sense of who I was; I guess that's what is meant by disassociation.

I got help pretty quickly – drugs and therapy – but what did me as much good as anything was knitting. Although I was still going to work and seeing my friends, I didn't feel that I was functioning normally. For many weeks, I spent hours sitting on the floor knitting obsessively. While it didn't stop the distressing thoughts, it seemed to give me something else to focus on. I think the repetitive nature of knitting is soothing, and I found satisfaction in being able to make something. I'd stopped eating and doing other normal things, but I could still create, and that felt like a link to my old self.

It took several weeks before I began to resume any kind of normality, and a couple of years before I felt completely back to normal. I've had another couple of depressive episodes since then – work and family problems are definite triggers – but they haven't been as severe.

When I was diagnosed as clinically depressed it was almost a relief, as it helped explain what was wrong with me. From the start I decided to be pretty open about it – it's not as though it's easy to hide, after all. One thing that was heartening to me personally, but rather appalling on a wider level, was that many of my friends have had depressive episodes too, many of them recurring and severe. One of my friends has been sacked for having depression; if she'd had cancer or multiple sclerosis or any number of other illnesses, she'd have been offered help and sympathy. Instead, she was given the boot.

I'd like to see depression talked about more and not regarded as something shameful to be hidden. I think more people should know about depression, and how pervasive it is  – it's not something that sufferers can just 'snap out of'. If it were that easy, there would be not depressed people!

I think it's also important that people know that those who have depression, or have had it in the past, are not 'weird' or abnormal. It's just a disease – albeit a serious one – and people can recover from it. 

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