An intruder called depression

Five years ago, depression broke into my life.

Its partners in crime – stress, worry and exhaustion – distracted me at the front door, while depression sneaked round the back.

Once inside, he made himself at home, feeding off my anxiety and insecurity, and using up all my energy. He took me hostage and made my life his own. I wasn’t looking forward to anything – everything we did seemed to be on his terms.

After a while, I got some help. Citalopram, an antidepressant, gradually offered me some protection against the tension and headaches, but it was counselling that really started to make a difference. Talking through my problems and how I was feeling helped me come to terms with it and think about what I could do to cope better with my enemy.

After a while, things seemed to be getting better, and I didn’t feel my intruder’s crushing presence as strongly. Had he gone?

Well, if he had, he hadn’t gone far.

Stress came beating on the door again, and this time depression’s attack was far less subtle. He flattened the front door, broke all the windows and beat me up. He cruelly brought insomnia with him. Sleep deprivation and dark moods are a destructive cycle. I had time off work, upped the dose of my Citalopram again, and returned to the counsellor a few months later.

I did find a new weapon against my enemy during that difficult time, though. I’d started a blog a couple of months earlier. It wasn’t about depression – it was about fun stuff like birds, Elvis and the seaside. But once I started to blog about my experiences of depression, I found loads of other people going through it too, or who had some experience of it – friends and strangers alike. Someone recommended a book called ‘Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong’ by Dr Tim Cantopher, and I found it was the only book on the subject that I could read and understand.

Along with these new allies, family and friends gave me invaluable support, and with further help from the counsellor and GP I started to fight back against depression. Eventually I was able to try reducing the dose of my antidepressants. It took a long time, but I stopped taking them last October.

So, does that mean depression has gone away for good? No, he doesn’t give up that easily. He keeps trying. He’s stubborn. Perhaps he gets that from me. There are times when it feels like he has gone far away, and other times when he’s got his nose pressed against the window, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

The crucial thing is that I know about him. I have exposed him and learned his tricksy ways. I know what he is up to. It is hard to keep an eye on him all the time, and it feels like I constantly have to outwit him, but now my intruder alarm is set to ring BEFORE he gets in.

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21 Comments on “An intruder called depression”

  1. tammys250 says:

    Reblogged this on Manippy Dippy Tactics and commented:
    what a wonderful article

  2. tammys250 says:

    What a wonderful article

  3. Ailidh says:

    Another great article, one that really resonates. Thank you.
    I’ve had to take early retirement because of the depression, anxiety, insomnia combo. Only about 6 weeks to go. I’m sleeping splendidly, don’t often feel anxiety (most of it was work-related, so knowing it’s ending makes it much easier to cope) and depression has been driven far away, over the palisades; but you’re right, he’s always on the look-out for a way back in. At the moment he’s history, because I’m so focussed on the retirement, move, new house etc – but I know I will need to be vigilant, once the hoopla has died down. Thanks for reminding me of that – and all good wishes to you.

  4. janinep76 says:

    Always able to relate to your blogs. After 4yrs of severe depression I’ve felt the last couple of months I’ve been doing ok but I think maybe I’m just in denial. I’m back on form with a positive exterior & humour aplenty but the coping mechanisms are still present. Over eating for comfort, taking every opportunity to leave work early, avoiding social interaction apart from at work & hibernating at home. Don’t ever see things changing.

  5. Evelyn Cook says:

    Great article and you are right: setting the alarm to warn you is the key: the risk never leaves you, but recognising it, and learning to deal with it, is empowering beyond belief.

  6. Excellent blog as ever. I read the same book when i was trying to get my head around what i was going through. Starting the blog was one of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me as was trying to talk about how i felt. I never found talking about it all that easy but writing it down gave me an outlet. I just wish the person who gave me the advice was still here. Hopefully by everyone talking about it and raising awareness we can stop that happening again.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hi Paul – thanks for writing this. Like for others posting here, it really resonates and anything that helps combat the feeling of isolation – hey – I’m just the same as lots of others! – gives strength. I’m well at the moment, but I’ll be looking for the book you mentioned to help shore up the fortifications.

  8. Jan Wolfe says:

    I read this a few days ago, but it was only this morning that the truth of it hit home as to how sneaky depression can be. On the whole, I am on better form than I have been for a long while, but lying in bed this morning, not wanting to get up, I suddenly remembered your words and they made me realise that the dark of winter has got to me despite my insistence that it hasn’t. Sleep has become my favourite past-time – what happened to leaping out of bed in the morning?! So, thanks for that reminder, even though I didn’t heed it immediately. The light therapy has begun in earnest (I have the lamp, just couldn’t be bothered putting it on – bad sign that, eh?) and I have just invested in a wake-up lamp to see if that will help as well. Thanks Paul ! Keep well.

  9. katejones73 says:

    I have just discovered your blog on Storying Sheffield and wanted to say that this post of a description of depression is very moving and thoughtful. It is important for others’ to understand how people with mental health actually feel, as I think there’s a lot of ‘oh everyone has a bad day’. Thank you for sharing.

  10. […] an unwelcome appearance in my life. Recovery is a slow and bumpy process, and I always have to be on my guard against my old enemy. To stay well, I need to look after myself, and I’ve gradually built up a […]


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