but it helps.
I received a message from someone in my family today which has shaken me. As a lovely young woman , she has been dealing with the challenges of depression and anxiety , and recently has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. And I don’t know how to help. So I will tell her my story.
You see, when I was her age I was exhibiting symptoms of depression too, working in a pressured environment and wanting to perform like Adele on a good day ( albeit in the print packaging arena ). I set my standards high and I worked to reach them. A few years of having my foot hard on the pedal resulted in what my G.P. diagnosed as a ‘breakdown’. The world was different then and because my boss didn’t want me stigmatised at work by that diagnosis, he could only give me a week off. I needed more, but I needed the job too. I saw a counsellor weekly and worked on my thought processes. Eventually I caved in to the work pressure and resigned. I was lucky as I was newly married and ready to throw myself into raising a young family. It nearly broke me.
I wanted to be happy, and knew I had everything I could have asked for – a home, a loving family, two beautiful sons – and yet I could not function at a level I felt comfortable about. I was tired , not just mildly sleep deprived, but absolutely buggered. Every day was a huge effort to continue the daily requirements . Shopping and cooking were chores that felt like Sisyphus carrying the rock up the mountain.
I was prescribed Prozac for depression – I felt depressed but not worthy of having depression because what could I possibly be depressed about? Prozac didn’t suit me, or rather it suited me too well, but everyone else thought I had disappeared. Which I had, I felt like a lumbering cow, just grazing on life. Nothing touched me. I came off it.
A further visit to a new doctor and a new prescription – this time Venlafaxine. This suited me better, the symptoms of depression were alleviated, but this led to me discovering a deep well of unfulfilled need within my life. I ended up making a huge life change – leaving my then husband and making a new life with a new partner. ( It happened like a thunderbolt and shocked the family, but ultimately it was a necessary change – and everyone worked hard at making the family unit stay strong. I continued to co parent with their dad, and managed not to disrupt their schooling, staying half the week with their dad, and the other with me. My mum and my brother were brilliant at being there too. The boys flourished and are now 24 and 21 and I couldn’t be prouder)
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia by my G.P. helped me to understand that my coping strategies needed tweaking. I had for years battled a diagnosis of depression – now I understood I had a reactive depression to a condition which had been masked by the very medication I was taking. When I came off the drugs, my symptoms flared, and it was during a flare that the correct diagnosis was made. So knowing I had something which I could investigate, acknowledge and understand was part of me helped me to put into place the conditions by which I could most easily manage the condition.
It is becoming more accepted now in the same way that depression is less stigmatised, but unless it is experienced, or someone close to you has it the full impact is not easily acknowledged by others. My experience of having it was dealing with the knowledge of diagnosis itself – it sent me to investigate books written on it, blogs, forums – anywhere where I felt vindicated. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was not imagining it – it was real. That didn’t happen really. People don’t want a relationship with a bag of symptoms, they just want to relate to you. And I had to learn that some people got it , whilst others didn’t. Close people don’t always get it. I tried to shield my bad days from my sons – I wanted them to see me strong, and capable. In the end, as they got older I had to share with them that sometimes I couldn’t do what I wanted to for them, or with them. They were brilliant and loved me anyway. They didn’t understand, they just accepted me for who I was, and didn’t make me feel useless. Although I was pretty useless. They still say I am weird but that’s a different story. I found things to occupy myself with, that I could cope with, or put down and come back to. I managed to set my standards lower in certain aspects – housework suffered, decorating was off the menu, the garden became a self supporting area of interest.
One of the hardest aspects is still there – committing to social activities is difficult, because when it comes around, it may be impossible. Now I have managed to find a balance of not turning everything down, and knowing it will take me a couple of days to recover. I have limited my social life probably more than I have needed to, but part of that comes from having had a life spread over two counties for the past decade or so.
The reality is I cannot help my family member – I can’t take away her symptoms as much as I would want to. I only want her to know that it isn’t the thing that defines her. I came away from looking at the internet about Fibro, avoided the forums, refused the group sessions offered at the doctors, because I didn’t want my focus to be on my condition. I wanted to understand what it meant for me and then re focus my energies on the activities that meant something to me and to my family. I have learnt those things over years, and it is hard learnt sometimes. I have suffered in silence more times than I can remember, and sometimes not so silently! I constantly have to remind myself not to resent others for not being more considerate sometimes. I have to remember to tell them how I feel in the moment , that no matter how much I may want to so something, it is sadly unachievable for me. And sometimes I have to remember to challenge myself and test my limits. I have surprised myself on occasion.
I still feel a fraud. That is my problem. I feel a fraud at life. I challenge that thought because when I look at the reality, it isn’t true. I still have to have that conversation though. On a regular basis.