The first social commitment after my depression diagnosis was unexpectedly difficult.

It wasn’t because I was in bad company, that’s for sure.

A friend of mind had travelled over an hour to come see me. See, she had been away for a week, and in fact wanted to meet up at my place and bring some food. Proud as always, I decided to rather schedule a breakfast for us at a nearby coffee shop, not really thinking it would be too difficult to sit through a meal and a nice chat about everything that had gone down in the last week. I also wanted an excuse to get out of the house early in the morning, and to prove to myself I could do it with minimal fuss.

Little did I know my body wasn’t going to be playing along. Firstly, she was running a bit late, so I ordered a cappuccino while waiting. Without even thinking about it, I ordered a refill, which definitely meant the experience was made a little bit harder than it should have been. Caffeine, coupled with the meds, and a loud, crowded environment, was not a good combination and I felt instantly overwhelmed. I’ve felt this in the past, and now know that I need to be careful with caffeine, really just limiting myself to one cup whenever I am in a social setting. I’ve completely given up on instant coffee which is a good thing.

I was so happy to see her when she arrived, but honestly speaking, I couldn’t hear a word she was saying over the coffee grinder, something that wouldn’t usually be a problem, but I was not able to zone out of it and found myself particularly sensitive to all the noises around us. I’m told this is part of what the medication does and is something I’ll need to get used to. It got to a point where I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, so I asked if we could rather move to an outside table where it was seemingly more quiet.

Little did I know that it would be worse outside, with bustling shopping trolleys coming through the doors every few seconds (there is a big supermarket next to this coffee shop) and generally people were streaming in and out, considering it is the weekend and everyone is doing their weekly shopping. I struggled so much to concentrate and had to work very hard to stay with the conversation – a first for me. For someone who is usually a champion listener, this was a first and a very surreal experience. It was another reminder that there will be a readjustment period and that life is and will continue to be a lot different now that I’m taking medication for my depression and anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, it was absolutely through the roof, and I’m sure the caffeine didn’t help. I could hardly sit still and my palms were continuously sweaty. I’m not sure what I was so worried about, but I had in fact taken some anti-anxiety medication before I left, and thought that it would help. I had no apprehension about meeting up with this friend – in fact, she is someone I’ve opened up to a lot in the last nine months – so it was more about the general environment and having to be back in a social setting, with a lot of unpredictable elements.

While the bad service from the restaurant didn’t help the situation, I was most surprised by the fact that by the time my breakfast arrived, I had completely lost my appetite, and ate only a slice of toast and a bit of scrambled eggs. I felt immediately nauseous and didn’t really know what to make of this, as I had only eaten a banana first thing in the morning and in normal circumstances would be quite ravenous at 11am. When the waiter asked if I wanted to take my leftovers home, I told him that I was feeling ill and not up to eating, possibly more to spare the feelings of the chef, I don’t know. The bottom line was I was going to be sick if I ate it, now or later.

All-in-all it was wonderful to catch up with my friend, but I realised that things are going to start being different now following my diagnosis. It’s not as straightforward for me to make plans with people, as I’ll always need to be managing what the medication may do to me on a given day, and also be mindful of my anxiety levels, which, at times, feel high just for the sake of it, with little or no explanation why. The doctor did warn me that this would happen in the first few weeks, so hopefully it’s not a long term side effect.

Today was a good lesson about new limitations and how I need to become more mindful of the fact that some things need to be approached with a bit more caution. I am however really glad I got out today. One day at a time, we will get there.

Conrad was here.

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