I know there are a lot of blogs on here giving advice about mental health and a lot of those Facebook posts with saying ‘the kettle is always on for you!’ but I just wanted to write about my depression and anxiety and what I’ve been doing to keep the black dog at bay. I have been encouraged to write this and hopefully it will help at least one person reading this.
I won’t bore you with my background but it’s been officially thirteen years that I have been dealing with both anxiety and depression, where is first began a couple of years after my Father passed away in front of me one Saturday afternoon. But like everyone else, when you look back on everything you can see that you had it a lot longer than that.
Now there is one piece of advice in this blog (before I carry on with my story) that I want you to take. Tell your friends and ask for help. Remember your friends all love you and they will understand and will help you through it all. Speak to them when you are down it’s surprising how even a simple text message conversion can ‘pick you up’. I better move on with this before I start singing You’ve Got A Friend by Carole King.
Right, I will skip forward a few years. My journey to changing my attitude towards my depression was when I worked with a friend. We would chat at the end of the day about how I was coping and using very dark humour which helped a lot. Laughing at it made it less scary, it was then we decided that I would start having ‘Ego lessons’ to help me believe that I could do whatever I set my mind on doing and that whatever the state of my mental health was at the time it would not stop me doing what I wanted to do. One of the things I did was to set myself a lot of small and achievable goals. By making that list of goals, it give me something to work towards and because they were achievable it helped build my confidence. It started with going to a gig in Cardiff on my own. Not wanting to miss the band because my normal gig going friend couldn’t make it. I decided that I would give it a go and if I couldn’t cope then I could always come home early and I would have at least tried. With encouraging messages that night I made it through the entire gig! Well, that one gig on my own lead to another and another. It might not sound like much to some but its a massive achievement to others including myself and I proved to myself that if I put my mind to it I could overcome my depression and anxiety.
Having made this big step I decided to challenge myself even more. One night I was browsing through the gig listings and noticed that a band that I recently gotten into from America was going to tour the UK with the dates announced later that evening. The excitement soon ended when the closest gig to Wales was London, England over 150 miles away. That’s when the ‘Ego Lessons’ kicked in and I decided I was going to make this bold move to take the trip on my own and stay overnight. After a conversion about “could I actually do it?” and being told that I was really brave in trying and it would be a life changing moment for me not letting this illness dictate to me what I could or couldn’t do, it wouldn’t beat me.
The reason I’m telling you about this is that the day we set the little goals for me to complete to help give me confidence snowballed into this. Setting goals to get you through a morning will soon turn into having a good day. Once you get a couple of days under your belt its then a week before you know it. Soon the bad days will get further and further apart.
I got through that trip on my own with no panic attacks, even though I went on the packed London Underground. I say that I was on my own but I was in constant contact with friends helping me take my mind off what I was doing and stopping me from having that moment where I would be calling my friend screaming to them ‘Oh my gosh! I’m in London on my own! What the hell was I thinking?!’ Now I’m not suggesting people go off travelling to the other side of Great Britain to see a band on their own to beat their anxiety, that was my particular hill to climb. Whatever challenge you set yourself, you will have so much pride in yourself for completing it and one thing anxiety and depression doesn’t like is you feeling good about yourself.
The last thing I will tell you about is my greatest achievement in all this. Way down at the bottom of my list was to lower the dosage of my antidepressants. Something I never even dreamed of being possible. You’re almost dependent, believing you can only feel good if you take these tablets. The medication has helped me a lot, massively even, but it’s not something you want to rely on for the rest of your life. Around March 2019 I decided after speaking to my doctor and friends that I would lower my dosage down from 30mg a day to 25mg, I would try it for a month to see how it went and if it didn’t go well at least I tried. This is a truncated version of events to keep this to around 1200 words and not to bore the life out of you. Luckily for me this went well with no side effects and down days only what was sort of expected, you know it will never go away completely you just have to stop it controlling you.
The next part of the plan was to drop down another 5mg the following Easter, but 2020 had other plans and along came Covid-19, the reason we have been walking around with our glasses all steamed up for the last 18 months! After talking it over we decided to wait until a vaccine was found for this horrible disease, as we had no idea how long we would be in lockdown and how being shut indoors was taking away our escape route of going out and about when we needed to just leave the house or go to live events and as I have perviously written about in another blog, going to the football (or to any other sporting event).
Thankfully with restrictions being lifted in Wales this July (2021) and with my long summer break coming up I decided to give the second drop a go. It’s now September and thankfully no side effects (touch wood).
I wrote this as I mentioned at the start, that I was encouraged to with the hope that someone will read this and think they can do something similar and not let this illness rule their life, it won’t beat us. I’ve been very lucky having really good friends who have help me through this. Hope you have some one who can help you, don’t be afraid to talk to people.
Take care/Cymerwch ofal.