Depression take on a different form for all of us and because of that it can be hard to recognize, until it’s too late.
It is a cliché that writers get depressed, but in my experience many do.
Spending so much time indoors, stuck in our own minds, can affect our mental health.
For me, those symptoms include fatigue and loss of interest in the things I love. I can feel too tired to write, or do much of anything.
The only place I want to be is in bed.
I force myself up but the tiredness makes writing a very slow process and for a fast writer like me it can be unbearable.
It’s not just the slowing of my creative mind that is disturbing, my perceptions can change quite radically.
I can become convinced that not only is my current idea not good, but that all my other ideas are probably crap as well.
There’s usually something specific that has triggered depression but it’s not always easy to identify it.
This time round I had a clear ideas why the symptoms of depression were beginning to rear their ugly head again.
The last twelve months have been challenging for me. I underwent foot surgery and this took three months to recover from.
Just when I was back walking again another bone in my foot broke. My surgeon called it a spontaneous fracture. I called it a curse.
I had been prepared for the earlier surgery and had been looking forward to recovering and getting out and about in the hills and in the garden.
The subsequent fracture was devastating. I was not prepared in any way and fought against it mentally and physically.
I refused to go back into plaster of Paris, or to use crutches and agreed only to use a surgical boot.
My surgeon made me promise not to go walking around and to allow the bone time to heal. I did this reluctantly, although to be honest the pain gave me little choice.
After three months I was back walking again and was trying to pick up the pieces and catch up with my work when another health problem emerged very suddenly.
I found myself suddenly collapsing to the ground and losing consciousness for a second – just long enough to fall – face down.
I was admitted to hospital after two of these attacks and underwent five days of extensive tests.
My heart and brain were sound and the diagnosis was ‘drop attacks’ for which there appears to be no treatment.
I was told that it may never happen again, or it may happen a few times a year.
I have to admit I feel very unsafe now. When I am out walking I can no longer enjoy that lovely feeling of freedom.
I am a stubborn soul and go out walking anyway, reasoning that I could just as easy have an attack at home.
But somewhere in my mind there was a deep feeling of unease and I began to experience the symptoms of depression.
I was having to drag myself out of bed, writing was impossible and I generally felt overwhelmed.
How could I catch up on the work I had missed and what was the point anyway?
When I find myself asking the ‘what’s the point’ question I know I am becoming ill.
It was time to take action. One thing that has always helped me has been to garden and to walk outdoors.
I dragged myself out for walks. Two miles as fast as I could go.
Luckily for me the sun shone (a rare thing in Galway) and I also forced myself into the garden.
It was slow at first but then I began to enjoy it and in place of the weeds I planted flowers.
The weather was great for a couple of weeks so I put myself on gardening leave and began every day with a walk and spent the rest of each day working on my various garden projects until I was physically exhausted.
This worked for me and as the weather stayed sunny I began to feel better. I began writing again.
Achieving a few goals has helped me feel more like me again. I feel I will be okay – as long as I mind my head and take plenty of outdoor time.
I have written about depression before and many people contacted me to say that my article on ‘confessing to depression’ helped them.
Every experience of depression and recovery is different so I decided to write about it again, in the hope that others may be helped.
This time it was being out in the sunshine gardening that helped pull me back. However, it isn’t always possible for people with the symptoms of depression to garden.
If you are reading this because you too are struggling with symptoms of depression and you don’t have a garden, don’t despair.
- If you live in an apartment – have a go at making a mini garden on your balcony with a few pots.
- Try and get an allotment, or volunteer to help an elderly person in their garden.
- Even growing plants on a window ledge can help.
- Above all, get out and about – visit gardens – whether they are public gardens or parks or gardens belonging to a friend.
- Stand by a tree, feel the bark and leaves. Sit on the grass, smell the flowers and put your hands in the soil.
I don’t know how it works, but there is something about making a connection with the earth. It helps, honestly. Try it and see.
So if you are sinking, drowning in fog – please get help. See your doctor.
Medication may be appropriate for severe depression and has helped many people. So don’t be afraid to try.
Severe depression can be fatal – so look after yourself.
There is hope and there is help. So don’t risk your life.
None of us know how our future will unfold but what we can know is that everything changes and it just might be better. A whole lot better.