Social Leper

I am not a great believer in coincidence but in the last 3 days I have found myself talking to very different people who have suffered mental breakdowns, something I know I can write about as I have been there. I was living in Plymouth and Teressa well she was about 4yrs old I would say. I had by that time already had 4 separate investigations by different departments as to why I was ill and all four came back as nothing wrong with me. I have mentioned this in bits’ here and there throughout my blog and went into shaded detail about trying to commit suicide, before being committed into a psychiatric hospital where I displayed clear symptoms of MS, even then I still had a problem of writing the total 100% truth, I still held back and for one reason only, the stigma attached to admitting that you lost it. I didn’t just try to kill myself once, I tried several times over a period of about 25 or so years ago, all of them came down to one statement that I used and told the doctors I was a nutter, ‘I can’t cope’. As I said in my previous post, you try coping with an energetic 4yr old by yourself whilst in a full blown relapse, I would guess anyone who has been there or is right now ‘I can’t cope’ would sum it up well.

Talking about something that was so long ago is easy as there is a perception in life that as you get older you become more sensible and you should understand the world better and be able to deal with all that life throws at you without question, well like a lot of these assumptions they are complete rubbish, I am no more able to deal with things now than I was them, the difference is I have the words now, I have the experience and I have my diagnosis. As I said the other day depression for me vanished then as I at last knew what was happening to me. What I missed out was a huge area in the middle and areas which in many ways were harder as I was according to the doctors cured. In that time I labeled myself as being ‘of a depressive nature’ and I would go to the doctor for help and they put me on a new course of antidepressants as it had helped before, it really does help with pain I know that.

Talking this week though made me realise that depression is still seen as something that still has to be hidden, I don’t think I hide it, I just don’t talk about it unless it is relevant at the time, I realised this week though it is always relevant. If you arrived at work tomorrow looking tired and not at you best and when asked if you were OK, they expect you to say that you have had a bad night or you are a bit off colour, if you turned round saying you had spent the night getting drunk and looking a box of tablets, they would immediately run to the boss and get what they think is the help needed. There a millions out there right at this second who did just that last night, it doesn’t always mean they are even really thinking about killing themselves at that second, it just means that last night was a bad night and there will be many more like them without a single pill being swallowed. They need help, yes most definitely, but not to be labeled as a nutter, not to loose their job or be judged by all the non medical people around them, or avoided because people don’t know what to say.

I sat for many nights and days in that exact position, on three occasions I actually did take the tablets, the doctors didn’t understand exactly how I survived the last one other than I was lucky as I through-up and most of what I took came out, but they thought I had destroyed my liver, it clearly recovered. On the times I did try it, no one could have stopped me, I was always in a bad relapse and at the point where I couldn’t manage to deal with the pain, the numbness, my eyesight and all the other MS joys I wasn’t depressed, I was desperate, but that is splitting straws.

I wen through it and I am here, it never stopped me functioning as well as I could, it never caused me to harm anyone other than myself and it made me just as disabled as MS and all it’s friends have done to me now. That is the point though, all that has changed for me is the name and personal understanding, huge changes and although not the facts that fit everyone, some of those out there right now looking a the bottle or box may well be similar. MS hasn’t made me a leper, why should depression make them one?

8 thoughts on “Social Leper

  1. What a great post and what a journey you have had. I think it’s amazing and positive that you are sharing your story and I always find it helped me to write things even if random poems! You are so right about discrimination and for so many things. There are some thoughtless people out there but fortunately there are some fantastic ones like you 🙂

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  2. Thank you Rachel for your kind words. People are only thoughtless as they think they have no reason to understand. It isn’t until it touches their lives do they understand just how it feels to be on the other side, no ones fault, it is about education not recrimination.

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  3. Hi Pamela.
    I can identify with your story so much in a lot of ways. In my case a different illness CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). Not even sure how long I have had it all in. Finally diagnosed late 2002 – but that was after maybe 12-14 yrs feeling ill. And struggling & back and forwards to doctors just to be told nothing wrong with me. And just to get on with it etc. Always made to feel a time-waster or lazy. When diagnosed I thought – Great now I will get treated and get better. How wrong I was. My experience has been that you are in effect just written off by GPs with CFS or ME as a no-hoper. And they push anti-depressants onto you. Though you are not depressed maybe then – after a few years you will be ! In my case I did finally need them by 2004 as everything seemed rubbish. The combo of no treatment, no help of any kind (medical, practical, emotional, financial, etc). Plus people, and most friends do not understand and get bored.
    Anyway – I didn’t mean to turn this into a story about me (sorry). But because of, not really the illness/condition itself, but all the bad things that go with it – I have been taking these anti-deps more or less constant since 2004. (Happy Pills as my hubby calls them). But for me they don’t solve the problem at all. Yes I need them now -otherwise I would prob be busrting into tears of anger and frustration regularly at so many things. And they do stop me doing this. But I feel they have also surpressed a lot of anger in me that needs to get out. Around March last year I felt I was on the verge of a total breakdown. Didn’t feel suicidal – but felt I could no longer cope with everything involved in my day to day life : ie. the struggles trying to work for myself but doing it very badly (losing money right, left and centre), no help in any way, no financial help from the state and financially we were getting into dire straits despite my husband working very hard (and watching things like Benefit Cheats on TV didn’t help my mood at all !),lack of interest from most people and friends – therefore increased feeling of isolation, husband’s health also suffering and our marriage starting to crumble. I am a Landlady and I recall one of my flats was empty as a tenant had left. It was unfurnished but I badly wanted to take off there with just a duvet & pillow and curl up away from everyone and all the pressures – and hide away from the world for a month. And just sleep. My body was exhausted but my brain even more so with trying to cope with it all.
    But I didn’t do this. Went to to doc – and she just doubled my dose of the tablets. Which I am still taking now.
    Phew – I’m sorry this is such a long story Pamela. But your story triggered it off ! People just don’t understand about chronic illnesses and the day to day limitations. And often don’t want to be bothered, sometimes even when they are friends.
    It is very hard indeed.
    I think some of these so-called invisible illnesses are hard on the people who have them.
    Best Wishes to you meantime – and take good care of yourself. Anne (AnneDean10 on twitter)

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  4. I understand where you are! I REALLY do! It is so hard to handle and the more others give you that look of ‘pull yourself together’ the more it eats you away as you don’t need their disappointment as well as your own.

    The medical reaction to depression on many levels is just wrong but what can they really do, other than throw tablets at us. None have the time or the finances to do otherwise, so they pat you on the head and send you away with a slip of paper. No matter how bad you feel they actually make it worse as the ones you expect to help, have just reinforced the opinion that you are wasting their time.

    Increasingly I have found that writing is the only way of dealing whit all those feelings we hope other see but they don’t. Writing is my way of getting rid of it from my head, once written it is done, there is no way of withdrawing it as you have admitted it. My therapist is my PC and now all the wonderful people who read what is inside me and how it effects me. The bonus that I am somehow helping others, is just amazing.

    You clearly can write so try it. Even if you don’t publish it to the world it will still help trust me on that one!

    Stop being invisible to yourself, not just the rest of the world! Take care and if you want to leave comments at anytime please do 🙂

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story Pamela. One more facet of the diamond you clearly are, forged under pressure… My journey through schizophrenia has taught me a lot, but perhaps what’s best is I now feel I have something to teach people who are struggling with mental illness – or any illness really – about hope and real achievement. About what the real delusions in life are and how many so-called sane people are afflicted, by selfishness, greed, uncaring etc. Your blog shows me that you have a special calling too. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

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  6. Pingback: Staying sain | Two Rooms Plus Utilities

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