How drastically different my life is 8 weeks after seeking out treatment for my depression.

Two months ago I spent almost an entire weekend in bed, unable to get up to do something as simple as throwing in a load of washing a couple of steps from my bed. I had hit rock bottom, hiding my depression from my family, friends and colleagues and pretending that I was OK and coping with the pressures of modern life.

This morning my day started completely differently: I woke up and cleaned the apartment, went for a walk on the beach, grabbing a cappuccino at a local cafe, and yes, it’s 10:27 and I’ve managed to throw in my washing already. I’m giving myself major points for that one.

My life has changed drastically since I realised I needed to get help, and I wanted to share the things that feel different now compared to then, with hopes that it will encourage you to get some help if you feel like things are getting too heavy and you need a change in your life. I know we all have a different journey and that depression affects people in a variety of ways, but this has been a part of my journey, and perhaps you can draw some similarities in your experience too.

Firstly, therapy has completely changed my outlook on life. I’ve done 7 sessions so far, and I am at a point now where my therapist is challenging me on specifics that I need to deal with. It’s wildly uncomfortable and exciting at the same time, as I am gaining greater insight into myself and feeling like I am developing a strong set of mental heath coping mechanisms in the process. While it doesn’t work for everyone, CBT has always been a winner for me and I am lucky to have a therapist I have a strong connection with – she is able to put me in my place (very few people are) and it’s exactly what I’ve needed these past few weeks to change my attitude and to keep going on the recovery journey.

Since the SSRI’s kicked in about two weeks ago (week 6), I’ve started feeling spontaneously happy during the course of my day. I’ve started noticing the small treasures in life again, been able to show gratitude for creative pleasures like a flower blooming in the garden, found myself singing out loud for the first time in many years (sorry neighbours), and I love dancing; in fact, I do so much dancing these days I’m wondering if I shouldn’t join a class! Perhaps that’s something for once spring is here.

I’m closer than ever with my family. Having gone through two or three difficult years with them, opening up about my depression and reaching out has changed the entire dynamic between us. I’ve also learned that long term relationships (be it love, friendship or family) require a constant process of forgiveness. I’ve learned to let things go, appreciate my family for showing up for me during this dark time, and also am developing a genuine interest in their lives again. When I was at the peak of my depression, I couldn’t even be bothered to answer calls from any of them, let alone ask them about work and life and express just how important it is for me to see them happy too. My love and admiration for them grows daily, especially as I see them tackling the challenges in their lives too, and I am more able to provide support for them now than anytime during my twenties.

I have energy to do things again. A few weeks ago, if someone asked me to a spontaneous coffee, I would decline regardless of whether I was busy or not. Depression just doesn’t give you the option to get excited and do something on the fly. Yesterday, a friend messaged me out of the blue (perhaps it helped that she started the message with “Hey my sexy friend”), and I decided to take her up on an offer to get together an hour later, and we had a lovely time at a cafe next to the beach. We spoke about mental health and she shared part of her journey these past few months too. Once you open up and show vulnerability, you will connect with people in a way you never thought possible and it has been one of the biggest blessings of this journey so far.

I’m optimistic about my career and business again. In September, my company will be turning two years old, which is something I’d like to acknowledge and celebrate. There was a time I wondered if I would make it through even one year. I have a new drive to look at ways for it to continue and to grow in the years ahead. Before I started treatment, while I was in a really dark place, I deleted my expensive company website and told people I was going to close the business. I’ve changed my mind (something I have recently learned is ok!) and I am opening myself up to new opportunities. I’m also starting to plot my next move for the company, and explore additional business ideas – specifically, one where I would like to approach providing coaching services to other millennials (I’m calling the idea DDC: Delve Deeper Coaching for now). Everyone always says I am a good listener, easy to talk to, and easy to connect with, and I’d love for my journey with depression to be a catalyst to help others (hell, that’s why I started this blog in the first place)! Let’s see how the idea grows in the months ahead. One thing I know, is that it needs to be a natural progression, an obvious next step, and I don’t want to force an idea or make something happen that is going to derail my progress and add more strain to my life. It’s a daily process of exploration, which I am rather excited about.

These days, I laugh and joke a lot more. Not only at home, but at work and with friends too. Someone once told my that my sense of humour was priceless and beautiful; something I took for granted back then and definitely lost as my depression hit its peak. I’ve always portrayed a very serious image to the world, but like all of us, I love a good laugh, and better yet, love making people laugh. I have been in far better spirits now that I am dealing with my issues, and even went as far as to attend a comedy show on Friday night: something I would have avoided earlier in the year (and likely gone to, been offended by, and moaned that the show was boring). I laughed so much my face hurt the next day. My attitude has changed tremendously and I am very proud of myself for that. Here’s to more laughing in the months ahead.

Lastly, the most drastic change for me, is that I haven’t had a single drop to drink in the last two months. This has been difficult, especially in a culture of drinking and because there is temptation all around us and almost daily. While I haven’t given up drinking indefinitely (and still want to drink a glass of champagne when there is a celebration of sorts), I have noticed a dramatic improvement in my energy levels, mood and general outlook on the world since I got sober. I often tell people that I wouldn’t get depressed on the day I had a hangover, but I would get cripplingly depressed the day after, almost like my body was returning to “normal”, though I always felt way worse than I did before I took the first drink. All of that has since gone away. I now wake up early without an alarm, I sleep a normal amount of hours, I’m able to prioritise self care activities (like cleaning, washing dishes, listening to music, engaging with friends) and just feel like a different person. I have only been tempted to have a drink once, when my best friend was visiting and we had had a tough day of work, but I opted for a Rooibos and I am proud of myself for maintaining my boundaries in lieu of my recovery journey.

Cutting out the alcohol has had a dramatic effect on my weight. In February, I was around 95kg’s, feeling bloated, tired and out of sorts. Yesterday, I weighed myself and astonishingly, I’m down to just under 85kg’s (-10kg’s). My confidence levels are up dramatically, so much so and to the point that I decided to get a haircut yesterday to celebrate and I am feeling so much more comfortable in my skin again. After the haircut, I was feeling particularly fresh and decided I should use that energy to put myself back out there, and am now exploring casual dating once again. I am moving to a new house in October, and am excited to host a few dinner parties and to show off my wannabe Masterchef Australia skills to friends, family and perhaps a potential romantic interest, should the cards fall that way. Baby steps, and not in a way that derails my progress. All in the name of fun and starting to enjoy my life again.

I can honestly say that my life has done a complete 180 since I started opening up about my struggles with anxiety and depression, and each of the steps I took – therapy, coaching, consulting a GP, getting an anti-depressant prescription, taking some time off, starting to do weekend walks on the beach, listening to music, connecting with family, dancing etc. has all played a part in me feeling exponentially better.

I’d like to take a second to acknowledge the progress and appreciate that things have turned for the better. As fellow depression sufferers know, it remains a daily tussle, but these baby steps really do provide you with the momentum needed to keep going and to keep pushing yourself. I’m living my life one day at a time: I almost see each day as a point in a tennis match. Monday may be bad, but that only means the score is 0-15. Tuesday things could turn around, and we’re back at 15-15. It’s all about riding the wave. I’m starting to tell people that turning 30 has really been the best thing to happen to me and I am proud to be writing this post with a smile on my face. Let’s hope I can carry on and keep going to maintain this level of clarity. I’m thankful that the fog has started to lift.

Conrad was here.

 

 

“Maybe you’re depressed because you’re not drinking”

Yep, that’s what a colleague said to me yesterday. To be fair, it was said in jest and after I turned down an offer to go for a drink after work, but still, it’s a good opportunity for us to talk about alcohol. In fact, we need to talk about alcohol and how it affects and perhaps even accelerates the symptoms of depression.

I haven’t had a drop to drink since I started my treatment in June, and it has truly changed my life. It wasn’t that I was a heavy drinker to begin with, but it was all in the how and that I was essentially self-medicating and not really putting boundaries in place when I was feeling low. I was happy to have a glass of wine or three if I was feeling low. Wine became a part of my grocery shopping. While I can handle a hangover, I can’t handle the crippling depression that follows two days after a bender, which is usually when my mind catches up with my body and which really does send me into a spiral that is very difficult to get out of. Things balance out and to be frank, you feel worse than you did before.

Health risks aside, drinking heavily and extensively will have major effects on your body and mind in the long term, including affecting how you age, and your general levels of productivity. In the short term you may feel better by grabbing a drink when you’re stressed or anxious, but over time it becomes detrimental in many ways, all of which are detailed in a host of Youtube documentaries you can check out, but which I am only more aware of now, having been a regular party drinker in my 20’s. Thankfully I haven’t carried that habit over into my 30’s and I’d like a celebratory glass of champagne to become just that – something to enjoy for the right moment and the right reason, rather than just because or because it is the weekend.

If we’re talking about depression, we need to talk about alcohol, as the two go hand-in-hand for me. I have seen a drastic change in my mood since I stopped drinking, and generally, in conjunction with the anti-depressants of course, my mood has lifted tremendously in recent weeks. I wake up with more energy, not only to make my bed, do some chores and get to activities like walking on the beach, going grocery shopping or seeing friends for a coffee, but my attitude shift seems fairly substantial and I have a renewed capacity to be able to manage my tasks and the emotions that go along with them. It has also had quite a drastic impact on my weight: as things stand, I’m down to 87kg again, having started this journey in the 92/3kg range.

So how long am I going to be off’ alcohol? If you’ve been following the blog since the start of my journey, you’ll know that I’ve committed to six months as a minimum, for two reasons. The first, is that I don’t want to mix medication with alcohol, and I am on a six month script for my anti-depressants, which is non-negotiable. The second reason relates to it taking six months for your liver to “self repair” so to speak, especially if you have been drinking for an extensive period of time and there may be considerable damage. We’re lucky that our livers are able to repair themselves over time, though it is only possible if you catch it in the early stages, when there are symptoms of liver damage.

As I said, I drank socially all through my 20’s, so would like to allocate this time not only to improve my mental health, but to reverse some of that damage if possible, while also seeing the longer term effects and benefits to my general health and mood (if any). I’m planning on getting a checkup at the doctor’s at the end of the year and will be able to get a better sense of how my health has improved over time and hopefully this part of my journey can become another tool to help combat my depression.

Conrad was here.

Maintaining personal boundaries for the sake of my depression recovery, regardless of surprise retrenchments at work last week.

On Friday, ten people at the company I work for got called in and told that their positions had become redundant. While I’m relieved that my position was not one of those, it obviously sent shockwaves throughout the entire office and anxiety levels across the board increased tenfold. As I’m typing this I have very sweaty palms, and am still trying to make sense of the decision and all the implications it has to the team as a whole.

While my reaction to the news was shock and disbelief, I knew that my response and how I would go about dealing with the news, especially as we approached a weekend, would be crucial and important to my recovery journey. The first instinct for a lot of people was to hand beers around at the office. I politely declined, and found myself turning my attention inward, boiling the kettle and making some Rooibos tea. This might not sound like something spectacular, but it was a big win for me in the moment.

When I got home, I was still in disbelief and shock, especially as two of my close friends had effectively been told they had just lost their jobs and they now needed to start making alternative plans. I knew that while I would need to support them through this process, I would need to make sure not to derail any progress I had made regarding my depression recovery in the process of doing so. This is very tough for me, as my natural reaction is to try and support and assist, and to put my own needs aside. I knew that self-medicating would not be the option at any stage during this process. On Friday night, while I only managed to put a bowl of cereal together for myself (at least I ate something), I decided to call it a night relatively early, ignoring any impulses to reach for a glass of wine or beer.

I did a lot of writing on Saturday, mapping out what this change means in the greater scope of my career, and also reminding myself that I should reprioritise my own business, which I’ve been working on for almost two years, but which hasn’t taken centre stage (and has been part-time) for a while. It got me to ask a lot of questions right now as I explore my next move and consider what I would have done had I been one of the unlucky people losing their permanent employment. Explore being the key term here – as I’ve been told by my therapist we’re in an exploration phase, not in a decision-making one, which is vital to remember. It’s nice to dream a little again, and to see where my thoughts will take me in the weeks ahead, but I’m not meant to make myself anxious and to pull my usual stunt, which is to react quickly, set some serious new goals, and then struggle to live up to them in the long run. Short and sweet is the only way to go.

I spent the rest of the weekend focusing on positive coping activities like walking on the beach with my sister, listening to a lot of music, cleaning the apartment (man, I gave it a great scrub) and cooking a really nice meal last night. I tried my best to maintain and keep working with some of the systems I have put in place, which are there for the very reason they need to be, to make sure the depression recovery ship doesn’t veer off course now. I went to visit two of my colleagues on Sunday, provided an ear where possible, but also forced myself not to take their struggle onto myself or my own shoulders, but rather just to be there for them and to show up for them as they had showed up for me in the past. It’s a fine balance and it remains a challenge to maintain the boundaries you set for yourself.

This was the lesson and the true test, in my opinion. Life is always going to throw curveballs, and this is a big one, but there will be more, and things continue in their usual ebb and flow. It would have been an easy reason for me to pick up a drink, or take my anxiety medicine, which I had been taken off’ from my GP visit last week, but I still have a few tablets left. For me, self-medicating is not the option, and I managed to remain rather level-headed throughout the whole weekend. It set me up well to be able to support the people coming in today for their retrenchment consultations and this was also a big victory in a way. I’m able to be level-headed today and clear about spotting where I need to help others cope with this.

While I’m definitely upset, I’m choosing to redirect those thoughts to a formal place (a therapy session tomorrow afternoon) and to simply take things a day at a time as we navigate through the week. It’s somewhat of a blessing that my best friend is visiting this week (see my previous post for more details about that) and I’m going to work through this time to the best of my ability, as we look towards the 6 week depression recovery milestone, which I’d like to celebrate in some productive way too. Baby steps.

Conrad was here.

Returning to the doctor’s office for a 30 day follow-up consultation.

The first 30 days of taking medication for my depression has certainly had its ups & downs, but I can definitely say that I’m happy to be this far into the recovery process and I’m glad it isn’t the 18th of June anymore. A lot has changed and there are many things to be thankful for since that fateful weekend where I realised everything needed to change.

Tomorrow I’m going back to my GP for a one month check-up, to discuss the medication and to see if any adjustments need to be made. I’m also going to be picking up a new script, as I completed the first one, and I’m proud of myself because I didn’t miss any doses this month.

A couple of things I’d like to bring up with her:

  • My appetite is still greatly reduced, even after four weeks of taking the medication. I’m barely eating 1000 calories a day, which is resulting in rapid weight loss, which I know isn’t uncommon. Perhaps she will have some tips to help increase my appetite. I have noticed that my appetite comes and goes and can change pretty quickly.
  • The anxiety medication, in combination with the anti-depressant, has been rather debilitating at times. You really feel like you’re in a haze when you take it. I’ve greatly reduced when I take the anxiety medication, and have felt I can cope better at work and in general by not combining the two, unless I absolutely have to. Thankfully the anxiety medication is not meant to be taken each day, only when necessary, so I’m trying not to make it a crutch. There is no point in “self medicating” with an anxiety tablet, similarly to how I would have done with sugar or alcohol in the past. Solve the problem, don’t change the means to an end only.
  • I’d like to discuss if she believes the medication has kicked in yet. I’m told it takes between 4 and 6 weeks and while I do feel better, I’ve also made some drastic lifestyle changes, like only eating takeaways once in the last month, and cutting alcohol out of my diet. Do I feel visibly better? I definitely feel better than a month ago. Am I able to cope a little better? Definitely. Is it a drastic change that would have happened without the medication? Doubtful, but I’m not feeling amazingly better, just incrementally so. Perhaps that’s how it works, I don’t know.

I’m definitely more relaxed about the appointment than I was going for the first time, and a part of me can’t believe that it’s already been a month since my breakdown. Things can only look up from here, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in a short space of time. I am still committed to seeing the medication through for at least six months and would be interested to hear if she feels I should be changing medication or not. I don’t think the dosage is incorrect, but perhaps I’m not on the right kind of medication and she has something that will help to increase my appetite. I have to be honest, that I’m not too keen to experiment that much and may ask to just carry on with the current meds for at least one more month, before looking at adjustments. I’m making strides in the right direction. Let’s see how it goes!

Conrad was here.

 

Reaching out to one of my colleagues about depression and realising we’re going through exactly the same thing.

I’ve talked extensively about how the support group I attended wasn’t 100% a right fit, for a variety of reasons, and how I wanted to find a group, or even just someone else, who could relate to what I was going through and who I could talk to about what I’m going through. To be clear, I’ve had major support from the team at work in general, and have spoken to a bunch of people (mostly women) about what I’m going through, but what I’m talking about here is finding another male who is willing to talk about depression and to share tips for how he’s doing and coping, given the various day-to-day pressures at work.

In passing, I heard that a guy in one of the other departments was recently booked off following a depression diagnosis, but I wasn’t 100% sure as he hadn’t said anything outright and for all I knew this was just a rumour and he had simply been off with the flu. I decided to reach out to him over Skype two weeks ago, sharing what I had been through, and mentioning what I heard, not really knowing if he would come back denying it, or how he would approach it. There is definitely an even stronger stigma around a male talking about their feelings, or even admitting ‘weakness’ so to speak, so it was a bit of a roll of the dice. I have overcome these thoughts but I had no idea where he was at and whether he even wanted to have a conversation about things.

What transpired was a message from him thanking me for reaching out, and sharing his journey so far, which was shockingly similar to what I was going through. We planned to get together that week to chat about it all and rather spontaneously found ourselves sitting next to each other in the rec room the following day over lunch, starting the conversation about it, in front of some other colleagues, in fact. We weren’t shouting about it really, but another guy at the office heard us talking, and mentioned to me later how great it was to see two men connecting over depression and treatment and talking about their experiences. Baby steps. It’s not something that’s going to happen naturally or too easily (so to speak), so I’m trying to be proactive and to check in with him where I can, especially if I see he may be a bit more down than usual, with the hopes that the support helps him generate some momentum, but also because I’d love to share tips around how we can both cope a bit better with the pressures we have to tackle each day. I checked in with him again this morning and we agreed to go for a walk tomorrow over lunch, which will be nice, so we can trade some stories and see if there are other ways in which we can continue to support each other through recovery.

The biggest learning from all of this was that reaching out really helps, and the worst that could happen is the person could deny your request, and you will know where you stand with them. Even just asking someone how they are really doing (not just “how are you?” like a robot, when you get in in the morning) can make all the difference. Reach out if you see a change in behaviour with someone, if you happen to hear something, and the process could be very rewarding to your own recovery as well.

Conrad was here.

Recommitting to my mental health and pondering the future 28 days into my depression treatment.

The doctor did say that I would be tempted to go off the meds after a month. She said everyone goes through this, as they assume that feeling better means they can kick the medication and cope on their own. I’ve learned that overcoming depression is not something that happens overnight and I’m not really up to taking that chance at this stage.

Things have changed quite a bit in the four weeks since I saw my GP and received the depression diagnosis. I can certainly say that I’m starting to feel better and looking at the future with optimism once again, but it certainly hasn’t been solely because of the medication. I can now understand more than ever that your medication is meant to be one of the tools that assists you in recovery, and helps to make the process more manageable in general if you are on the correct dosage and able to continue with day to day functions. It gives you the extra push to keep going and to start setting new goals, however small they may be. This morning I celebrated four weeks of treatment with a walk on the beach, which I have to be honest, was absolutely exhausting, but I’m glad I did it, and glad I took the time to do something for myself. A month ago this wasn’t even an option as it felt like I was paralysed or glued to the bed, with no real hope or enthusiasm about anything, so it’s a welcome change and I am starting to look at my mental health getting better in increments, slowly but surely and with each passing good decision.

I’ve got at least five more months of taking the anti-depressants, which is something I have told myself is non-negotiable, regardless of the improvements in my mood. I made a commitment to my own mental health recovery when I told the doctor I would stick it out for at least six months, and I owe myself that. I’m taking a second today to recommit to that for my own future and general wellbeing. I’m continuing with weekly therapy until at least October, having monthly coaching sessions lined up too, and will soon start to actively look for more ways to keep having conversations with people about depression and anxiety. While the support group I went to initially didn’t quite pan out, I’d like to get to a point where I’m actively looking for a new group to go to, especially for the second half of the six months and for when my free therapy sessions run out. Looking ahead, I’d like to slowly start working in more activity into my week – as exhausting as the walk was this morning, I know that the endorphins from the activity are really good for my mental health and I haven’t had that release from activity in quite a while now. We’re not talking about running a marathon here, we’re just talking about working in two activities a week and taking things from there.

I’d like to continue having conversations with people about depression, anxiety and their mental health and wellbeing, not only to learn more for my own recovery, but to hopefully help others seek treatment if they are at the same state I was in last month. There are so many of us struggling with the same thing, but not open to speaking about it we fear we will be ostracised for it. It’s time to be brave and to prioritise our mental health. Own the disease, own that it is something you have to learn to live with. Talk to friends and family, I guarantee you it will bring you closer to at least one other person. I am reaping many new rewards just from talking to my family about it. I want to keep the conversation going and also continue to share my journey, with hopes that others will be able to draw parallels and actively start tackling those small increments I mentioned, just one day a day at a time.

 Conrad was here.

Preparing for the first night out since my depression diagnosis a month ago.

Two of my friends at work have been dying to go to a dinner experience in Cape Town, that includes some world renowned burgers as well as a regularly scheduled Friday night drag show.

I haven’t been to this restaurant since 2013, so it has been a while, and I’ve been wanting to go back but haven’t really prioritised doing so in recent months. Little did I know that these friends would want to surprise me with this in celebration of my 30th birthday, so tonight we’re heading there and I’m looking forward to an interesting experience. Initially the plan was to do it closer to my birthday but as I was booked off, things were put on hold until I had enough strength to commit to a social commitment and I was partially back on my feet again.

So how are things different now, than when I used to plan to go out previously? Firstly, as I’m not drinking alcohol for at least 6 months while I’m on medication, we don’t have to worry about organising lifts and I’m more than happy to drive. In the past the biggest consideration used to be figuring out who could lift, whether we would Uber, and how we would go about it, but I’m happy that I could confidently agree that I would drive if they wanted to enjoy a few drinks, plus it also keeps me accountable to my mental health goals, which include going cold turkey with alcohol while I’m on anti-depressants. It might seem like a small decision to commit to drive, but it is in fact a victory in terms of me starting to set some important personal boundaries too.

The biggest consideration for me at this stage is managing my anxiety levels building up to this evening, when I will find myself back in a noisy, social place. I haven’t been out since the Friday night before my diagnosis (which was increasingly messy), and the only way I could cope with the noise back then was to drink, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it goes tonight. I’m focusing on the task at hand: my friends are doing something nice for me, so I should embrace and enjoy that, and it also doesn’t mean that we have to stay for 10 hours. We can go, have our burgers, enjoy some laughs and the show and then head home at a decent hour. This is a far cry from my twenties but quite frankly, it is a welcome relief and it’s something that works for me now. This is the new normal for me, and quite frankly I am pretty excited about adopting a new attitude towards my social life.

The other consideration for me today centres around when and what I’ve been eating. The meds have been reducing my appetite (which I’ve discussed at length before) and frankly, the thought of a burger & chips meal doesn’t quite get me as excited as it used to and I worry that I won’t be able to finish it. The office has also arranged for a birthday cake for me today (now that I’m back at work) so I’m just very mindful of what I’m putting into my body, especially ahead of doing something new tonight. I don’t need an upset system, or worse yet, a sugar high and a subsequent crash. It’s almost like depression requires you to give an extra ounce or layer of consideration to everything you do, and recovery truly does require a lifestyle change in all senses. Things just aren’t the same, and won’t be the same, and perhaps that’s OK. No, not perhaps, it really is alright. I’m happy to be moving in what feels like a better direction. Wish me luck.

Conrad was here.

Why I left my depression support group in the first month of recovery.

No, it wasn’t because I’ve started feeling better and I thought I didn’t need to go.

On the contrary, I’m committed to finding a support group that works for me, but unfortunately this wasn’t as automatically a good fit as I had hoped. I liken the situation to going to a therapist for the first time, and just not clicking as much as you had hoped, and deciding that you need to look for an alternative.

My expectations going into support group meetings were to have an open platform to share, to be able to talk to other people about coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression, and to celebrate small victories, like opening up to others about your depression and breaking down stigma barriers. This wasn’t quite true for what went down and it meant that I had to think long and hard (and talk to friends and family) about whether I was going back or not.

My first red flag was – to no fault of the group itself – that I was the only male at the session. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but I found that a lot of the discussion in the group was centred around female issues and that built up a rapport of support for each other quite closely related primarily to these specific issues. I’m more than open about talking about these things (I grew up with two sisters who I am close with and have always gravitated to female friends), but it was really just the realisation that I felt quite othered while sitting there, now so much more aware that there is a bigger stigma around talking about depression among men, but also acutely aware that I didn’t quite fit in with the group. I cracked a joke about being the “odd one out” but I could also tell that having a male around made a few other people quite uncomfortable to share, which is not something I wanted to be contributing to, especially as these ladies had taken a big step towards their recovery by showing up to the group in the first place.

The second thing that threw me off a bit, was that many people decided to use the group as a pseudo-therapy session. My expectations were clear – I don’t necessarily want to carry what I’m dealing with in therapy through to a broader group of strangers, but I also don’t think it’s fair to just offload your baggage in the meeting and to make the session about yourself only. I wanted to have engaging conversations with others about what they had tried, what had worked for them, and what hadn’t. I wanted group to be a tool that would help me generate positive momentum, rather than being a space where it’s just about talking and venting. I understand that sharing can be a big deal for some people, and it can be an important factor of recovery, but my type A personality possibly just isn’t comfortable with not feeling like we’re actively doing something to get from where we’re at now, to where we’d like to go.

I think the key to finding a good support network around you is to make sure that you feel 100% comfortable, supported and that you can connect with the group. It wasn’t just about being the only male in the group, but also because the group mainly had people that were a lot older than me. I understand that dealing with depression and anxiety is a lifelong battle, and I take nothing away from the group being set up the way it is, but simply put, I need to be able to talk to people who are still working full-time, possibly those who have experience being an entrepreneur and running a business, and also those who have a better idea about millennial struggles in 2018.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, perhaps I had other ideas for what group will be, but I also think it’s important to be firm with myself about what will help my recovery, and what won’t. I could attend these meetings and take on a lot of the baggage of the other members, which is something I’ve always struggled with, but I’m doing my best to set some healthy new boundaries in my life in order to prioritise my recovery. It remains a work in progress, but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction at least. I wish the group I left well and hope to find one that suits me a bit better soon.

Conrad was here.

Why it’s a big deal that I got up and cleaned the apartment today.

I may have needed some encouragement from Sam Smith (I literally played “Burning” on repeat while cleaning) but I managed to get myself up this morning to clean the apartment, not because I had to, but because I actually wanted to.

This is an important revelation, as when you’re suffering from depression, everything in your life feels like a have to. I have to show up to the family gathering. I have to go to the party. I have to put on a brave face at work. You literally lose touch with the things that you actually want to do. The big deal and the victory for me was that for the first time in a very long time, I actually wanted to clean as part of a self care promise I had made to myself yesterday.

I got up with quite a debilitating headache, and I figured I was in for a low day, but around 9am I decided it was time to spring into action. This is clearly a departure from three weeks ago, where I couldn’t even get up from out of bed to throw in a load of washing. It was therapeutic in a way, being focused on a single task, and knowing that I was doing something that would bring happiness to my day. I feel really good having achieved something, having taken a proactive step to clean my living space, and giving myself room (physically and emotionally) to carry on with the good momentum I’ve been generating as part of my recovery and treatment.

I’m learning to appreciate the small things and to remember to acknowledge my victories, no matter how small they may be. One foot in front of the other.

Conrad was here.

 

Summarising the changes in my life since starting with treatment for my depression 20 days ago.

I’m almost three weeks into starting treatment for my depression, which has included consulting with a GP, being put on an anti-depressant and anxiety medication, telling my colleagues, friends and family, as well as attending two therapy sessions and joining a local support group in my area. This morning I woke up feeling better than before, like a weight had been lifted in a way, and I wonder if it means the medication is starting to yield some positive effects at long last. I was told it would take four to six weeks, but everybody is different and I’d like to believe that the lifestyle changes I have made (in terms of eating healthily and cutting out alcohol completely) have also contributed to me feeling a lot better than I did a few weeks ago.

I wanted to utilise this positive momentum this morning, by reflecting on some of the changes in my life since I came to terms with my depression, got a formal diagnosis and started what I know will be a long road to recovery. There have been a few interesting changes in these last few weeks, which I’d like to summarise for you quickly.

  • The first major change has been a change in appetite and subsequent weight loss. The medication has really hit my system hard in a way, and the nausea doesn’t allow for you to be hungry too much, which means sometimes eating half a meal, or cooking something and putting it back in the fridge for the next day. I have been making an effort to include more fruit and vegetables in my diet and as I mentioned I’ve cut alcohol out of my diet completely for the six months that I have committed to the anti-depressants. What has resulted, is more than one person mentioning that I’ve lost some weight, which I double checked on the scale, and interestingly enough I am down about 3.5kg’s already. I have been a little bit overweight for a while as a result of self medication (unhealthy eating and binge drinking) and while I want to manage how quickly the weight is coming off, I also am happy that my body is returning back to a level where I am confident and will soon feel like my ‘old’ (renewed) self.
  • This week was my first week back at work, and there have been some real struggles with concentration and motivation to get to work tasks. I showed up for four out of five workdays this week, which is a victory in itself, and found that the medication not only makes it difficult to concentrate, but also causes blurry vision at times. This doesn’t help when your work requires you to stare at a computer screen most of the day. I tried to cut myself some slack and the focus was really just on getting through the first week. Next week, I will try and add more tasks to my to do list, and go from there. Thankfully my employer is happy for me to take it a day at a time.
  • One of the interesting changes that I had very little control over was a definite increase in support from colleagues, friends and family. After playing open cards about my diagnosis, my inner circle has really stepped it up, checking in and opening up to me about some of the struggles they have been going through too. For me, this has been major not only because it’s brought me closer to people I had isolated for so long, but because it also helps my recovery and to bring back that feeling that I can connect with people again. This has always been one of the core gifts of my personality and is something I am making an active effort to start nurturing again, even if that means a quick heart emoji to my best friend at the start of the day. Less can truly be more in certain situations.
  • I’ve started a new phase of exploring, rather than active decision making. This is in part due to advice from my therapist and working through some professional hurdles in my life, but it is worth mentioning nevertheless. I’m usually someone who makes decisions quite quickly, or is able to change course in life rather spontaneously and based on a hunch or an impulse. Usually it means I write a lot of notes and in essence make myself more anxious in the process. The beauty of the recovery journey with depression is that you can start exploring again. What do I like to do? Is this job offering me what I want? Am I someone who attracts selfish energy? Am I too harsh with my family? and other questions have started to come up, and it’s given me a chance to really “dream” a little about the things I like and dislike in my life. I don’t need to make any decisions about my career, or any big plans at this stage, I simply have to take time to explore and continue on what is a new chapter in my journey of self discovery.
  • The biggest change so far, has been truly starting to live life day-by-day. It’s an old cliche for a reason, because it’s true. I’ve mentioned previously that depression recovery does not happen in a straight line. While today might be a good day, tomorrow I could be stuck in bed again until noon. You learn to appreciate the small and simple tasks in your day, and to acknowledge when you’ve had a victory in your day. This morning, my plan was simply to go buy banana’s at the grocery store when I got up. I ended up buying a bunch of groceries, and in fact spending a little less than I anticipated, so I decided to treat myself to a cappuccino at the local coffee shop nearby. When I sat down, I felt an urge to call my mom, and we “had coffee” so to speak (the power of modern technology), reflecting a bit on the week and on the latest happenings at Wimbledon. On the way home, I decided to take a detour and go for a walk on the beach, something I have been avoiding for weeks and something I haven’t had the energy to do. When I got home, my landlady was reading the newspaper on the verandah and we had a nice fifteen minute chat. What started out as a morning of just buying banana’s, turned into one where I had so many great blessings and ultimately built up the strength to sit down and share this post. If you give over control and start to live in the moment, things slowly start to move in another direction. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I will deal with it when I get there. For now, I am happy to have had a wonderful morning.

Conrad was here.