Content Warning: depression, anti-depressants, suicidal thoughts, self harm.
I recently started a course of citalopram, with diazepam when needed. It’s the first time I’ve been on antidepressants since I was younger, and had a very difficult time on fluoxetine. They make me anxious. However, after three weeks of being on them they are working really quite well. When I’m worried about my progress, I think about how far I’ve come and how I’ve changed some of the habits when I was suffering badly with my depression. When speaking to a friend recently, they asked me what it was like before I started to feel slightly clearer. I told them I’d write it down, and then I can refer to it whenever I feel like I’m making no progress.
Next week I shall be writing a follow up piece to this, on my adjustment to taking anti-depressants specifically citalopram. I shall be sharing the small mechanisms and routines I’ve put into place to keep me broadly on track.
It’s important that depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses manifest themselves very differently in each individual. If you are a parent, sibling, relative, friend, colleague of anyone you know is suffering from a mental illness you can find a lot of information on Mind’s page on Helping Someone Else
My alarm goes off at 7:00. If I’m working in the field, this gives me the motivation to get up, get ready and make my way to work. This is likely due to my anxiety which bubbles inside me over the very thought of letting people down, or appearing weak. But today I’m in the office, and I press snooze. I press it again and again, and it’s now 8:30. If I know my manager is in I begin to panic, as they arrive at 7:30 and I have to walk directly past their office to get to a desk, whichever desk is free. I wonder whether I could call in sick, yet my worry over letting others down and anxiety over having to potentially inconvenience someone helps me decide to go to work. That decision it itself has taken 30mins to make.
I leave myself no time to shower or eat breakfast. Sometimes I put makeup on to give the impression I’m happy and healthy, and I try to wear something bright, something I’d usually wear. I don’t own comfy trousers or joggers that I could wear, because I’m worried if I do I will never wear anything else.
I arrive at work, and make a point of saying hello to everyone. I’m surprised everyday that it comes out melodic and cheerful, and people say hello back, which is nice. I ask people if they had a good evening or weekend, and they’ll ask me in return. I’ll reply ‘it was great!‘ Or ‘I just had a relaxing evening to myself’. I fail to tell them I was so exhausted that I crawled straight into my bed, ate a packet of crisps that was left over from my lunch earlier and by the time I got hungry it took everything to muster the energy to eat. When I went downstairs to my fridge, I was confronted with mostly empty shelves, and decide to opt for a tin of beans and slice of bread from the freezer.
I have cereal in the office, which is my justification for not eating as I left. I prepare it when I arrive, as I’m starting to worry about the mountain of work I have to do with I feel unqualified and unskilled enough to complete at any acceptable standard. However, the adrenaline hits when I open my emails and my work plan and the panic escalates, and it takes me over an hour to finish my cereal alongside work.
The morning passes by, and I worry about showing anyone what I’ve produced, as I’ve convinced myself it’s of such low quality my colleagues will talk about me, and my management will laugh behind my back. This upsets me, as my colleagues are great and make my job so much more enjoyable. I try to calm myself by diminishing that automatic thought that they will think my work is rubbish, as that is a projection of my own feelings towards myself as opposed to a judgement of their character (occasionally the CBT I completed last year shines through).
I glance at the clock: it’s 14:30 and I’ve been so engrossed in what I’m doing I’ve forgotten to stop for a lunch break. It’s okay, I have brought food for lunch so I eat it at my desk. I usually bring in a supply of crisps, yoghurt and other lunchy things if I know I’m going to be in the office for an extended period of time, and keep it in my drawer.
I know as soon as I eat it’s likely I’ll experience some sort of brain burn out. I’m staring at a computer screen, and my mind is almost blank. I notice myself yawning every minute and my concentration and attention span has vanished. I start to wonder when I can go home, because this is when I truly feel like an imposter at my job.
I walk home and put my bag down, get straight into my pjs and hop into bed. I relish in the feeling of the cool covers and wrap myself up. I close my eyes and drift off, to awaken three hours later with the familiar sense of paralysis. I can’t move, there seems to be a block between the instructions from my brain to my body. Even if the signals got through, I doubt I’d be able to as my body feels so heavy. My mind is blank and I stare at the walls for one, maybe two hours.
I begin to think. I think about how I try and pack my weekends full of plans. I think about how much I don’t see my widespread friends enough, and I’m a bad person. I think about how I never make time to see my family, and that makes me an even worse person. But similarly I’m upset at the few days I have for myself at the weekends. I know soon I’ll be away on a project, and when I return I’m on a project with weekend work. I have my phone so I scroll through social media and get jealous at everyone’s life. All of the positive, incredible things they do, their holidays, their jobs, the successes they’ve made and even the clothes they wear. How together they all look, when I see pictures of friends holding keys to their first home and I can’t help but compare it to myself, and in my current state I’m utterly convinced I’m one of the worlds biggest failures.
I start to spiral. I think about running away (which is ironic as I can’t even move let alone run). I think about turning off my phone and disappearing. Thoughts of suicide cross my mind and it’s mostly the logistics such as how I could do it, who would I inform and who would be the first to find me. Fleeting thoughts of the world being a better place without me cross my mind, and certain people’s lives being free of me as a burden. But I never make actual plans, I’m mostly pondering a hypothetical situation. Every day, at least once.
The only thing that snaps me out of the despair is digging my nails into my arm. It’s a dull pain at first. I don’t scratch, I just let them sink in. The pain distracts me from the spiral. I have that heaviness behind the front of my skull which is similar to impeding tears. I rarely leave marks as I don’t want the world to see and ask questions.
Once I’ve snapped out of it, I cry. I sob and sob into my pillow. I want social interaction so I text someone, just to get a response. Nothing out of the ordinary, but just to stimulate a conversation to keep my brain functioning so I don’t become that numb paralysed being again. When they ask me what I’m up to, I’ll tell them I’ve read books, or cooked a delicious tea, or tidied my room. None are true; my bookshelf is full of books I’ve bought with the best intention to read one day, my tea consisted of crisps and whatever else is lying around and my room is a complete and utter state.
I eventually fall asleep.
My alarm goes off at 7:00. I press snooze. I press it again and again, and it’s now 8:30.
When deciding to make the step to begin a course of anti-depressants, my first port of call was my GP who also signposted me to other support services in my community.
If you feel you pose a threat to your health, take yourself to A&E if you can.