How are you?’ is a very common question asked of you, when you meet someone you know, especially in the current Covid Lockdown. More often than not, my answer is ‘I’m fine thanks’.
However, if you asked me that recently, I probably replied along the lines of, ‘Well not bad”. That actually means:- ‘I’ve been suffering from depression, which makes life a bit difficult at the moment’. Of course, it’s not always appropriate to say that, unless speaking to a close relation or friend.
Since reaching the age of about 40, over 25 years ago, I have suffered 4 or 5 times with bouts of depression, lasting 1 or 2 months at a time, and more recently my depression has lasted a number of years.
Depression is different from sadness. Being sad is a natural result of difficult times in your life, and can sometimes last a week or two, and can recur on and off. However, if sadness continues for weeks, and you cannot get out of bed in the morning and feel tired with no energy or enthusiasm for life, then you may be clinically depressed. My recommendation is that, in addition to talking about the situation with a relative or close friend, you discuss it with your doctor.
Although medication may not be the complete answer, it is well worth considering. Just like taking pills for a heart or blood pressure condition, modern drugs can make a big difference to low mood. Personally, I am well beyond my previous thoughts that I wanted to get off anti-depressants as soon as possible. Staying mentally well, was my priority.
Exercise is also recommended to help with low mood. I ride my bike 2 or 3 times a week, and I walked my dog 2 or 3 times a day, but unfortunately, my dog ‘Sparky’ had to be put to sleep a few weeks ago, after 14 very happy years. I still walk as much as possible, but my routine of walking first thing in the morning has stopped, with the result that I stay in bed for longer in the morning.
I also recommend talking and other therapies. During my recent bout of depression, before the pandemic, I visited a local private Counsellor over a period of 6 months which helped. I also did Yoga at a local class. Of course, these are now virtual classes over Zoom, which is better than nothing but certainly not as good as a face-to-face class. Also, my local GP prescribed a different anti-depressant which helped but we discussed the options and he referred me to a private psychiatrist. I have had 3 appointments before the pandemic, and 2 video sessions during the pandemic. The psychiatrist asked my GP to prescribe different anti-depressants. Whether it is the medication, or visiting the counsellor that helped my depression, or both, I am not sure, the important thing is that I feel better, and more in control of my mood.
During my periods of depressions, I would say I function, rather than live, and normal activities are a big effort. Thanks to the great support from my wife, and the support of people who know me, I am coming through it. I’m not sure why I was depressed, it was probably a number of factors. Certainly, the current pandemic, with the associated lockdowns, has had an adverse effect. Not seeing family or friends except over Zoom or WhatsApp, has been detrimental to my mental health.
During a depressive period, although sometimes very difficult to do, I remind myself that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.