We had a bit of a rubbish couple of years. My husband was made redundant and started looking for a job. We thought this ‘finding a job’ thing would be the work of weeks, it took over a year, and then we had to adjust to a very large change in routine*. There was also BREXIT and the Orange One becoming President of the USA. All of this – both personal and world events – was very crappy. It took its toll on both of us but I can really only speak for myself, we all cope in different ways after all.
I found myself going into work and not being able to concentrate on anything at all. I called it ‘the brain fog’. I kept starting things I thought would take my mind off how crappy I was feeling, but they didn’t (I have always found respite in feeding my brain, it was very alarming to find it didn’t work). All of me ached ALL THE TIME, Even after a good sleep I felt like I’d been in a fight. I didn’t feel depressed in the way I have felt depressed in the past, but I did not feel QUITE RIGHT. My lovely boss would say “Are you OK” and I’d reply “Actually [slightly manic laughter] I think I’m going crackers!” This went on for a while.
By the summer I was feeling too weird to cope with booking a hairdressers appointment, or the dentists, or anything fairly day-to-day, or to want to go anywhere at all. I am forced to go to places, of course, due to job, school run, drum lessons (not mine), drama lessons (also not mine) and pottery classes (mine! And thank god for them). I felt some non specific paranoia, and occasionally I also felt like there would be an actual end of days, probably before Christmas.
I went to see the GP. My GP is a very matter of fact, precise type of chap. You might call him ‘no nonsense’. I knew (even in the probably 10 minutes max I’d have for the appointment) we could probably work out between us what I needed to do about the situation, at least initially. The minute I sat down I started to cry and babble – it felt like babbling – about my constant feeling of DREAD about The World and Everything, how crappy a couple of years it had been, and how all of me ached to the bones all the time. We had the ‘history of depression’ (yes) and ‘suicidal thoughts’ (no) chats. I was totally expecting to be told I am nearly 50 and it’s probably the menopause, but I wasn’t.
He said (I paraphrase) ‘I’m not surprised you feel like you do, being this tense and anxious all the time is bound to make that happen. You’re basically on constant alert’. He sent me for tests for possible thyroid problems and said he said he could prescribe me some anti-depressants if I was happy with that, and to come back in two weeks for a check back. I was offered CBT too but as I’d had a quite dreadful experience with that in the past I didn’t go for it (but where we live you can call the service any time and refer yourself, so I still have the details).
Well, the drugs worked for me. I felt super strange and slightly other-worldly for the first week, and have never yawned so much in my life (except during that PowerPoint presentation at a conference 10 years ago). I thought I might not be able to keep up with taking them. However after that first week I felt the brain fog lift, I started to ache less. I could concentrate.
I didn’t feel intensely happy and filled with beans, but I did feel better. I went to the festivals we’d planned to go to (though I felt a bit removed from it all, I did have a good time). At some point I woke up in the morning and didn’t feel like I’d been run over by a train, which is nice. I stayed away from social media for weeks – this helped hugely, but I did miss some of it and made my cautious way back in the autumn. I binge read a lot of sci-fi and supernaturally themed fiction. I went outside as much as I could, I even started running (!).
Although my anxiety seems to me to be quite mild compared to what some people suffer, it did affect me quite horribly – to feel you’re actually losing your mind is unpleasant. I would say to anyone who’s feeling ‘off’, do seek some advice. We need to make dealing with our mental health and talking about it as ordinary as talking about physical illness.
*He does now have a job he really likes, it involves satellites going into space. Who wouldn’t enjoy that! He also has a Brompton so we have many opportunities to make W1A jokes, which makes us hoot with laughter, much to the puzzlement of our boy.