This is me in China in December 2016, having a classic night out with a Long Island Iced Tea in each hand. Apparently having a great time. Ten days later I was diagnosed with depression.
More accurately, I finally accepted depression, having known for years that I had it but not been ready to face it. I started taking medication the day I returned to the UK and now, two months later, I feel well enough to write about it.
So how did I know I had depression? Well, turns out the following are signs of depression:
1. Waking up crying and feeling sad for no reason. This happened a lot over Christmas when I had no work to distract me.
2. Fantasising about being dead. (Every time I had a bad headache I took comfort in the fact that maybe this would be the brain tumour that killed me. No joke. Even as I write this, my mind goes back longingly to that idea. Or the one about being on an airplane and crashing and everyone else surviving unhurt but somehow I die. I took a lot of airplanes for tours and I thought this a lot.)
3. Feeling numb to pleasure or anything enjoyable. Books? Coffee? Lie-ins? Nothing.
4. Small things making me feel hopeless and despairing. (NB This is not being a drama queen or making a mountain out of a molehill. This is like putting any weight on a completely crushed foot that simply cannot bear any load.)
Depression in my case came with a lot of anxiety as well, very closely related to living in London. Moving out of London was the best mental health decision I could have made. It's taken me six months to be able to enjoy having a drink at the pub without being anxious and on edge about the "waste" of time.
So if you have experienced any of this, you may be depressed and you should go and see your GP. Except that part of my brain thinks that if you feel this, it's probably 100% accurate and you should just go and end your life. And that is the part of me that is depressed.
I'm still learning about depression and there are lots of things I don't know:
- Will I be on medication forever? (That's totally fine, if so.)
- What is "me" and what is "depression" and to what extent does depression = me?
- Can I find another way of exercising besides running that gives me good endorphins?
- Will I ever be "normal"? What is "normal"?
- How much does depression decrease my (already low) tolerance for fools?
- Will anybody love me if I am depressed?
- Can I be in a long-term relationship and be depressed? (I know that intellectually the answer to both these questions is yes, but intellectual knowledge is kind of useless in this situation.)
- Will I ever not be depressed?
Things that have helped me so far:
- Medication!!!!! I cannot say it enough!!!!! I wish I had taken drugs years ago.
- Meditation. Not good for crises, but really good for long-term changing negative thought patterns and corrosive self-hatred (have I mentioned that lovely symptom?)
- Friends and family who are just awesome safe spaces
- Saying no. Recognising that I am ill, that I can't do things, has been really tough. I have let people down. But permission to fail, to be imperfect, is so important.
So there you have it. Look forward to more blogs on this as I try to figure it out, in between coding and violining.
And if you know a depressed person and can find a way of letting them know it's totally ok for them to be sad around you, that they don't have to pretend, do that. Pretending is hard. It takes energy we don't have so we run away just when we most need to be around people who love and accept us unconditionally.
I am an Irish-American violinist living in Cambridge, UK. I perform with the Philharmonia, the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, and many other top groups, and am also the Business Developer for Encore Music and am on the Makers Academy course for programming.