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When is a good time to see a doctor? And what do I say?
I know the obvious answer is “Now!” But at what point in a depressive cycle would it be most beneficial to see a doctor for the first time? In the midst of depression I can barely string a sentence together, but when my mood lifts a little it feels like the depressed me is a different person. A stranger. I can talk about that other person but I feel a fraud. I’ve never sought help. I’m not on medication, have never been hospitalised, don’t hear voices or self-harm. I function. Just.
Also, I’m not sure I would know where to start or what to say. It feels like I’ve suffered pretty constantly from anxiety and depression all my life, even as a child, punctuated with highs and lows, sometimes due to outside influences, sometimes for no apparent reason. But over the last six months or so my highs and lows seem to be getting fewer, and my norm appears to be at a much lower level, and pretty much constant. My depression is so innate, so ingrained that I can’t pinpoint when it began, or even when it comes and goes. I just feel like this all the time. Without these points of reference, highs, lows and obvious triggers, how can it be treated as an illness? It is so deep rooted that it is my personality. It is me.
How can there possibly be a long-term cure for this kind of depression? Medication scares me, and I worry that therapy will open a can of worms. If this mist is lifted and my eyes opened, will I like what I see even less than now? Will I see and feel things that will have a negative effect on me, cancelling out any benefits from the treatment? If treatment can change how you feel, can it also change your personality?
I have always been quiet and shy, sensitive, introspective, artistic, but also sad, anxious and socially uncomfortable. My mind is constantly active, but my general state is of feeling numb and disconnected, never quite able to grab life by the balls or look people in the eye, constantly fearing the worst and avoiding potentially anxious situations. Unfortunately this has meant that I have spent most of my life inside my head. I’m suddenly now aware of this waste and of my own mortality. It is also affecting my home and work life as my young son and work colleagues are starting to notice that I am always down. My four year old will sometimes ask me if I’m sad. He once brought me his favourite toy because he thought it would make me happy. It broke my heart. I also fear that my kids have inherited my depressive, anxious nature, or will learn it from me.
I struggle to find joy in anything. I’ve lost friends, abandoned hobbies, care little for my appearance and the state of the house, struggle to function at work, and am increasingly irritable and short tempered. I try to avoid any social commitments and don’t make plans anymore. I even hide when we have company. I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in years. I pretty much just go through the motions every day.
After all this time, with all this weight, I’m struggling to hide it any longer. There is no energy, no fight left. It feels like now is make or break. It’s time to start looking forward not back, outwards not in.
How can I have gotten into my forties having never been ALIVE? I’ve somehow managed to gain a degree, job, mortgage, wife and kids, but it feels like my life has happened TO me, AROUND me, rather than because of any personal input or desire. And this “life” is now given up to my family. I’m not complaining, that’s just how it is. I would gladly die for my kids. But I need to function for them, and be capable, reliable and fun. My wife tries to understand, but I will eventually drag her down or drive her away. It can’t be much fun having a child for a husband. I can suck the joy out of anything.
Because I still function, I fear barely scratching the surface at the doctors, and then being fobbed off after five minutes with “Well, basically you’re just tired and miserable with a hint of anxiety thrown in. There’s nothing really wrong with you. Goodbye”. And so I will spend another forty years in this fog. I function because I have to, because I have a wife, kids and bills to pay. I live in a walking, talking, smiling depression. But I feel physically sick, dead inside, and am so tired that I just want to curl up and die. Suicidal thoughts have been a constant companion for a long time, my default setting and my get-out-of-jail-free card. A friendly comfort. But I don’t want to die, I don’t think. I just don’t want to live. Not like this.
Ultimately, it feels like I’m fighting a losing battle against the genetic template created by my parents, and the damage inflicted through childhood and adolescence - on confidence, self esteem and self image. My very personality and outlook on life. Then of course follows the missed opportunities and regret that fuel the depression further. It’s a vicious, debilitating circle.
I just wonder what happened to the six year old me. Full of wonder and enthusiasm, hope and potential. Surely it was never meant to be like this. Anxiety and depression have stolen half my life. What hope is there for the rest?
Sorry for rambling. This was meant to be a simple question, not the selfish, self-indulgent “woe-is-me” that it has become. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.
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