Mentl

I’ve been moithering about whether to write this post for some time – the reasons for such moitherment will, I hope you’ll see, become clear – but the case has become erumpent for reasons of campaigns such as this and, notwithstanding inasmuch as which, this. Until now I have as you’ll no doubt imagine always found some excuse for not writing this post, but as the man said, one can’t prevaricate around the bush for ever, so I shall come out and say it, and, well, the alea having been iacta, it can’t be put back into the bottle. So here goes.

Hi. My name is Henry Gee and I suffer from depression.

No, don’t run away. I am not about to have fervid conversations with vegetables or pretend to be a chicken. Most of the time I am entirely … well … normal.
It's time to talk.  It's time to change - Watercooler comic-strip
A cartoon strip from the ‘It’s Time To Talk’ campaign, recently.

Me and depression go back a long way. We first met in my first year of graduate school, when, with almost nothing in the way of adequate supervision or pastoral care, and in a lab group of one (1), namely me, tout seul and, what’s more, all on my own, I became unhinged from my diurnal cycle, from most forms of normal personal interaction, and after an episode of self-harm, was advised (trans. ‘told’) by my college to write off my first year and come back when I felt better. I’d been an undergraduate at Leeds University, a place I loved and where people called a spade a fookin’ spade. I ended up, though, in the mannered atmosphere of Cambridge, without guide or phrase book, a place where nobody ever seemed to say what they meant, and which was girt round by innumerable rules and traditions of unfathomable purpose. My relationship with Cambridge has been, to this day, somewhat equivocal. Music became my anchor and I only survived by playing in rock bands of various sorts – almost all the friends I retain from Cambridge days I made through music.

Well, off I was packed to see a shrink who put me on a course of a drug called mianserin, which is, I am told, rarely used these days except perhaps to make those irritating polysterene peanuts they use to pack electrical items, or for tranquilizing rabid hippopotami. I then traveled, sowed a few oats, and joined a thoroughly dope-fuelled disreputable rock band made of thoroughly dope-fuelled disreputable southern Scots, the singer being so trenchantly Glaswegian that I could only ever understand him when he was singing. Not that I inhaled, mind you – the drugs I was on were as psychedelic as anything one might obtain – how shall one put it – off piste. Eventually I came off the drugs and went back to Cambridge, where the first thing I did was join a band, after which I finished my Ph.D. without extravagant distress and in the prescribed three years (not counting my enforced rustication.)

Q: What’s the difference between a Jewish mother depression and a rottweiler?
A: The rottweiler will let go of you eventually.

I should have known that once you have depression, it’s with you for life. Unaware of this fact, after many decades at Your Favourite Weekly Professional Science Magazine Beginning With N,
I found that life had lost its usual bounce. To be blunt, everything – everything – was an effort, like playing squash with a dead rat for the ball. It wasn’t that I was miserable, or bursting in to tears, or even just tired. I just couldn’t be arsed. The world had lost its colour. The antics of my fellow humans beings were to be despised. Nothing seemed to have much point. I wasn’t so much living as going through the motions, similar to the apocryphal work-to-rule enforced by the sewage workers’ union.

It was then that the Diplomatic Squad Mrs Crox reminded me gently of what an unpleasant person I was to be around, and it came to mind how many times I’d had run-ins with people to with whom polite interaction was inevitably the preferable course. In fact, I am sure I might have progressed further in my career had I not been – I admit it – a depressive.

So, two or three years ago I visited my GP, who put me on citalopram. As this is meant to be a science blog, I can tell you that citalopram is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that does things. Too much serotonin is presumably a Bad Thing, and the same is the case for not enough – I have the latter. Citalopram stops serotonin being reabsorbed too quickly, so there’s always some around to do whatever it does. It’s amazing to think that tiny variations in the concentration of this simple amino-acid derivative can have had such dramatic effects on the way I perceive the world. The doors of perception indeed. Anyway, I felt a lot better, but after a series of episodes when I’d forgotten to take my tablets for a week in which I became somewhat paranoid, I was put on a higher dose.

Only now the drugs don’t work.

I am starting to get some of the symptoms I associate with coming off citalopram – generalised tiredness, occasional anxiety but most of all amazingly vivid dreams. The dreams are not frightening or scary – just very, very busy and so photorealistic that I wake up disoriented, and often exhausted. The apotheosis of this particular zenith came the night before I visited my GP in which I was treated to a wide-screen whodunit set on an ocean liner in the 1930s. I have also had an action adventure set on yachts in the Scottish islands, and an emotionally charged episode of a popular TV soap opera set in a hospital in which the villainous protagonist was having plastic surgery to hide his identity.

My GP has given me a prescription for something called mirtazapine. This looks like mianserin juiced up for the 21st century, and, like mianserin, should help me get a decent night’s sleep.

But there’s a catch. I am now in a period of cold chicken, which is like cold turkey only not as severe. I have to halve my dose of citalopram for two weeks before starting the mirtazapine. I am nearly a week into this, and, as the man said as he plummeted past the eleventh floor window, it’s all right so far.

What irritates me the most is that there are some people, whom I won’t name, who don’t seem to take any of this seriously. ‘You look all right’, they say, as if by my not conspicuously assaulting policemen or walking around disguised as an aubergine or at least not dissolving into a gibbering wreck I am somehow making all of this up. The fact is that I have learned by main force to keep myself together, most of the time, with the support of my family – and because after several years of medication, my body is loaded with serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It’s just that they need a tune-up, that’s all. And once again, music is helping me to get through it.

I am still not sure whether it will be wise to post this. Will my colleagues and the world at large think less well of me because of this? Even though seven out of every four people suffer from some kind of mental illness in their lives, it’s still somewhat taboo.

Perhaps I should sleep on it.

If I can get a good night’s sleep, that is.

Update 12 Feb – I am now 9 days into the Cold Chicken process. It is ghastly. Truly, beyond words. I wouldn’t recommend it. I spent some hours earlier today curled up into a ball sobbing. After that I fell asleep. Now I am a bit better but feel completely wasted.

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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38 Responses to Mentl

  1. Anita says:

    Thank you very much for writing this – I bet many readers of this blog could write similar stories.
    When teaching people about depression, I find Lewis Wolpert’s experience of changing from thinking ‘pull yourself together’ to being hit with his own ‘malignant Sadness’ to be very useful.
    Good luck with the new drug.

  2. Benoit says:

    I sympathize and commiserate, as I have a close (very close) friend with long-term issues of blah. This chap’s malaise is a slight variant, which includes an intensified feeling that accompanies submissions to journals beginning with the letter N or awaiting grant review results. Apparently, intense exercise 20 minutes a day is all one needs as prescription (actual prescription; no animals were harmed). It works fairly well to elevate the mood baseline, and no coming down with Walter Mitty dreams.

  3. Brave post, Henry. I am slightly acquainted with some of the types of drugs you mention, having administered a few of them to nematodes while working in the research institute of a nearby psychiatric hospital.

    This also reminds me of this post by rpg, which I’m glad to see didn’t disappear in the Nature Network fiasco.

    • Cromercrox says:

      Thanks for reminding me of rpg’s post. I’d forgotten all about it, as I should not have done.

    • Frank says:

      Agreed, Richard. This is another noble post in the same vein.

      Henry, I hope you find better understanding from those ‘some people’. The current advertising campaign seems well-aimed to make people think. Fingers crossed that your brain chemistry finds some equilibrium soon.

  4. Alejandro says:

    “Will my colleagues and the world at large think less well of me because of this?”

    Do not worry Henry, do not worry I never have thought something bad of you, maybe once maybe something very microscopic, maybe fragment of quark top of DNAt.

  5. susan saville says:

    Well said, Henry and thank you for this post. I can identify with a lot of what you say as for several years I have also been a sufferer.I agree with you in that people really don’t believe or understand because you manage to keep a normal facade- I’ve had people say to me ” but you’re so cheerful and positive!” Yes-I do manage to stay positive, but the darkness can creep up unexpectantly and is really never too far away. Good luck with the change in meds-Citalopram so far keeps me on an even keel, although I do worry about being on it long-term-I think it’s about7 years now.

  6. At least you have done the sensible thing and had it treated. My lifelong depression has been untreated, largely because I can’t afford the medical costs. However I doubt my black dog has been as bad as yours.

    I gather neurochemistry adapts to long term medication, which is why people need to constantly tweak it.

  7. Ian Collier says:

    As someone else on Citalopram I found this a brave, informative, and humourous post about depression, thank you for that.

  8. Jackie Potter says:

    I’m (strangely) really pleased that you said “once you have depression, it’s with you for life” because that was something that has not been mentioned to me at any time since my own diagnosis. I have been working towards getting back to feeling “normal” when really I should be working towards getting better able to cope.
    Reading those words gave me a sense of relief. I am getting better at managing the bad times, but felt like I was failing on the many occasions where the dark place encroached again. I kept trying to rationalise it so I could find someone or something to blame, when there really is no blame to lay anywhere. It’s simply a case of my emotional resources not matching my circumstances.
    At present citalopram is my friend. I can still feel everything, but the feelings are not overwhelming me the way they did before. They’re just there.
    Thanks for writing this Henry. I hope we both find a level of contentment (whether chemically induced or not).

  9. Heather says:

    I only ever think the better of you with each piece of your writing, for what it’s worth. Am I a colleague or a world at large? I rather hope the latter just for form’s sake.
    Also called to mind RPG’s post and I’m so glad I didn’t have to look for the link. Between you fellows and Virginia Woolf, I think I needn’t add personal testimony. But I believe in better living through chemistry, characterized or not. We only do ever experiment on ourselves, and regulations have made it a lot safer than it once was. Anyhow, I hope you feel comforted to know yourself still accepted, one iota closer to who you really are.

  10. Bravo, Henry

    Perhaps I should get around to writing a post about my panic attacks… I’ve learned enough coping techniques that it’s not a major day-to-day issue for me any more, but at one time in a former job it was bad enough to affect my work. The amazing thing though was after I summoned the courage to tell a couple of colleagues what was going on, many of them said they’d had very similar experiences. It really helped to hear their stories, just as I’m sure this post (and Richard’s) is helping others already.

  11. Jin Shei says:

    A very brave post. In my experience, colleagues who grasp mental health don’t look at you any differently and the conversation opens the way to teach the others that depression is as real as diabetes.

  12. Marcel says:

    Thank you very much for speaking up on this – not to misquote Michael Jackson or any other musician, ‘you are not alone.’ Unfortunately, for a lot of people it is next to impossible to coherently put a few words together on what is, in its very essence, an illness demanding nothing but perserverance for all of one’s life – or else. The best you can hope for is medication that will support you in your efforts and friends and family who don’t take things too seriously when you are not yourself (which is, in fact, yourself, but not the nice part.) Oh – and yes, it is next to impossible to explain this to anyone who does not, in fact, suffer from it, too.

  13. Its hard being a human, no? I think empathy, real empathy, is knowing that something that causes someone else pain may not bother you at all, but that this doesn’t mean their pain (or whatever) isn’t valid, it absolutely is!

    Personally, I think you should be damn proud of yourself for getting out of bed everyday and seeming like you ‘ look alright’ that must take you something not short of a Herculean effort with depression. Well done!

    Take care of yourself and if anyone gives you crap – screw ‘em… it ain’t about them…

  14. John the Plumber says:

    Dear Henry – I’m worried. – The only thing which has kept my depression at bay recently is your awesome humour. – Now I find you’re as fucin depressed as me. – That’s a great help.

    It gets worse – I clicked on RPG’s link only to find that half the world’s top academics are depressed. – What are you trying to do to me? – A few days ago I was an innocent plumber going round fixing leaks for folk, confident that the world and its problems were being properly looked after by you lot. – Now I find you’re all as far up the wall as I am. – I can feel a panic attack coming on.

    And nobody says fookin in Leeds.

    I once went to a posh do in Cheltenham – a six course meal with all the trimmings. – The waitress put my pint of bitter down amongst the assorted silverware and with a kind of withering look said from somewhere behind her elevated nose, “O K Yah.” – I’ll bet she says fookin – bat with a G on the end.

    Just take three months off from the N magazine/journal (sorry can’t find score through) -in which many years ago, probably when you were still an undergraduate in Leeds (where nobody says fookin) I read an N piece on research into depression. It concluded that people who feel on occasion that all is black and cannot see the point and all that familiar stuff, probably have a more realistic view of the world than the subliminally cheery rest. – That cheered me up no end.

    It all boils down to what’s real. – What’s real is that little video you shared of Crox Minor playing the horn, accompanied by some woolly brained pianist. – Feel the determination she shows, stressing to get every note perfect – check out Crox Minima doing his best to keep the camera steady – then soak in the relief and freedom as Crox Minor arrives successfully at the concluding bars – the phrasing and feel she gets in those notes – beautiful. – That’s for real.

    The other thing for real is that it’s obvious that everybody on this site loves you.

    You will survive it – mid life crisis and all. – You will get to the days when you stand in school playgrounds waiting for grandcroxminimums – wondering what happened to straightforward anglo-saxon expletives.

    For those who need a reality check, click on this. http://youtu.be/2Y0_RKYM7Qk

    Yours and all that crap – John Somerwill.

  15. Steve Downes says:

    Henry, you have just gone even further up in my estimation (Though as it’s only an estimation, it might be inaccurate). As a fellow depressive, I’d had you marked down as one of the wibblers some time back. Maybe there’s a family resemblance that we all share? It’s also something that is magnetically drawn to those of us who are touched by genius ;-)
    I’m not going to call you brave or courageous, as you probably know what that meant in Yes, Prime Minister…..instead I’ll just stumble temporarily from my highpoint of Christian holiness by saying “well bloody done and well feckin said”. I outed myself as a depressive in the EDP two years ago. One of the best things I ever did. I got – in modern teenage speak – literally no hassle from, like, anyone, and that. And I got, like waaay more understanding and support. But of course nothing has slain the demon, which promises to keep me company through thin and thinner.
    Dr Gee, you are a man who I admire greatly. If I can be of any help or support, let me know. Let’s have a pint now and again and pour forth irrational bile against people who (probably) deserve better.
    Oh, and pull yourself together.

  16. Laurence Cox says:

    I can only echo the comments already posted, but I would like to add one suggestion:

    read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning”. In his case, he was a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp, but through his experiences there he realised that there was one freedom that they could not take from him; the freedom to choose how to react to events. This eventually developed into his approach to psychotherapy that became known as logotherapy, Thinking in the way that Frankl did may prove useful as an adjunct to your medication.

  17. Cornelia says:

    Bravo! We all have to fight to kill the stigma around these issues.

  18. Steve Caplan says:

    Great post!

    The mental health of scientists is a major theme of my 2nd novel, “Welcome Home, Sir” http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Home-Sir-Steve-Caplan/dp/1937536092/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2
    (also on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Home-Sir-ebook/dp/B006S505SI/ref=ntt_at_ep_edition_2_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2)

    The featured scientist suffers from hypochondria, which has been classified as a specific form (or subclass) of depression. The hero agonizes over the issue of medication and the Citalopram prescription given to him by a psychiatrist friend. I suspect that anyone with an interest in depression and mental health (not to mention science) will find this of interest.

  19. dnaliea says:

    Thanks, that was an interesting read. It also added ‘anectdotal evidence’ to an impression that I have since a while: The depression rates among graduate students and early-career scientists seem to be high, scarily high. Every scientists knows somebody with mental health issues. The statistics are a bit sparse (I found very few publications, but I didn’t look very intensly. Yet.): But from the numbers it seems that depression rates among PhD students are 6x as high as in the average population. There’s no statistical information about mental health for Post-Docs and PIs anywhere.
    And yes, we’re not the only people with problems, I can see that. There are quite a many aspects to whole issue – It might be that people just talk more about their mental problems. Or they’re more pressing because the environment became more competitive due to the ever increasing number of PhD students, and the hence rather ugly job prospects. Or the system is just horrifically organised, no carrer structure, generally bad mentoring, high risk, low pay. Anyway, my point is that there seems to be a major and systematic problem in the academic working environment. Given that your day-job is at NPG – is there any chance to have some more coverage on this one in the Carreers Section of Nature? I’d be highly interested, and I know a hell lot of people who would be, too.

  20. I am sorry that the Cambridge atmosphere was so alien, but it does seem an extreme version of academia. One of the things I have had cause to discuss, in my role as one of the ‘equality champions’ in Cambridge, is how to make it safer for people to admit to having ‘weaknesses’: the case of depression clearly flits into that category. Something quasi-hidden that people don’t want to admit to but would be much better off if they could come clean (eipilepsy was another example discussed because, unlike being in a wheelchair or something more visible, it is relatively easy to hide). I am afraid currently in Cambridge a lot of people in would not feel confident to stand up and admit to it because of the fear of what that would do to their career (I suspect the non-medical impostor syndrome I wrote about recently is just a very pale imitation, but the fear is still real) . I wish we could make it otherwise, but an ultra-competitive place like my university is a hard culture to change. Maybe Lewis Wiolpert’s wonderful book should be compulsory reading. The more people realise that depression is a frequent companion but not a defect due to a fault in character which cold showers can wash away, the more the stigma is removed of ‘admitting’ to it, the better for everyone. Bravo and good luck to you! I hope the new medication works swiftly and your sunny side returns.

  21. Spamlet47 says:

    Though my brain power and, perhaps, confidence, were never up to finishing an ordinary degree, let alone aspiring to the heights of accademe general here, I am none the less still cursed with an interest in science, so here I am reading this blog among the intelligentcia. You are all very interesting, but it is, I assure you, more depressing to suffer without a talent or any job prospects, especially when your interests make people assume you are clever when you know you aren’t up to the mark.

    [Incidentally, Athene Donald writes that many of you suffer from an 'impostor syndrome': I would coin a similar 'Cassandra syndrome', where people keep telling you you are clever, but then never take any notice of your carefully thought out advice. At least with the former syndrome you can still make progress!]

    But that’s all by the bye: I have ME/CFS, which is even less believed than depression. Hence I was traduced as a hypochondriac – in the manner described by Steve Caplan, above – by a psychiatric profession that seems to enjoy power that is way above anything that any real scientific discipline ever gets, goes by opinion rather than evidence, and simply will not listen to reason.

    Once so ‘diagnosed’ – no tests necessary, just opinion! – I was given no option of proper measures to discover the cause of my real illness, but was made to take the above mentioned Mirtazapine or be sectioned YES sectioned.

    Nobody has to measure your serotonin, or other neurotransmitter, levels before prescribing drugs that alter them. It is all ‘suck it and see’: what other branch of medicine or science would proceed like that? In my case SSRIs have always led to me getting into hallucinatory states after a few weeks, so I am inclined to conclude that my personal serotonin levels may be too high, but the ‘experts’ never take any notice of the patient’s experience and just carry on with more of the same. Mirtazapine proved to be even worse than the earlier SSRIs – though it is supposed to work a different way (lots on this in Wikipedia). I ended up very scarily on an ‘acid trip’ while out to dinner in a crowded pub. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, so I sincerely hope the drug does not have that effect on the author.

    When the pain from my ME/CFS got truly too much to bear I was, indeed, sectioned, so that I could be forced to take antipsychotic injections, because the psychiatrist was daft enough and powerful enough to imagine he could cure me that way though there is nothing at all in the literature to back up such an approach.

    Result? I couldn’t read or hardly think while on the ‘medication’ and developed wild swings in blood pressure that didn’t resolve until months after the section ran out and I was able to stop taking the drugs. I was moved to a ‘recovery unit’ and have now been in ‘hospital’ for 14months, in which time nothing has been done to address the real physical illness of my ‘ME/CFS’ (whatever that really is). My prospects look pretty grim, but I count myself lucky that at least I have a Blackberry, and can find my way to many interesting blogs and discussions like this by following the links from tweets. So thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences like this. It is the one thing that stops me going completely to despair.

    Thankyou,

    Steve Hawkins

    • John the Plumber says:

      There is still a mediaeval belief that mental illness is down to mysterious thinking rather than physical cause – rife in the general public, fortunately less so in the medical profession.

      In the case of ME/CFS this can go one further – to the concept of a physical condition being the result of mysterious thinking. – Of course suffering from physical debilitation can result in clinical depression, a second physical condition.

      What this boils down to, is that ‘thinking straight’ is a physical thing not a mental thing. – Get the physics straight and straight thinking follows – if only if it was that easy.

      Clearly Spamiet47, you have your thinking straight. – I sincerely hope you maintain your equilibrium in such trying circumstances. – Quite clearly ME/CFS is little understood – you of course are in a better position than any scientist to study its effects – you have a scientific project to hand – with first hand knowledge.

      I suffer a form of dyslexia. One of this country’s leading authorities on the subject was himself a chronic dyslexic. Having read his work, I am able to pen this response.

      You are coping with your problem it would appear. – Get writing the book on how you have managed that, so as to help other sufferers achieve your level of attainment. You clearly have the talent and scientific application to do that. – (Not forgetting the book on the cure when you find that.)

      On a more general note, – “Suck it and see.” – In solving the physical problem of mental illness, prescription does seem to rely on that principle – yet this is not explained to the patient.

      At best, prescribing is an educated guess – at worst it is ‘give the patient the cheapest first’ – or one that the drug sales literature impressed the G.P most on the morning the patient saw the G.P in the afternoon. – It is vital that the patient gives feedback if the results are not an improvement. – As to whether the doctor treats the feed-back as constructive or the ravings of a lunatic – that is a different matter.

      The worst medication for depression is undoubtedly marijuana – forcing the body to release hard won seratonin – giving short term relief at the expense of the body’s attempts to rebuild stocks. – Marijuana takes, not gives.

      I watch friends, clearly suffering from depression, spiral into decline, refusing advice, adamant that marijuana is their best cure because it is ‘natural’.

      Back on the subject of ME/CFS. – I note from the ME association website – http://www.meassociation.org.uk/?page_id=1666 – the symptoms are:

      “Severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, poor memory and concentration are commonplace. In many cases, onset is linked to a viral infection. Other triggers may include an operation or an accident, although some people experience a slow, insidious onset.”

      When you get to my age, or should that be dotage, when generally speaking you’ve been there, done it and got all the tea-shirts, the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome begin to sound very familiar.

      Maybe somewhere in the balance of the atoms of proteins sugars amino acids hormones and neurotransmitters which we call life, is a connection between the two. – Though I have to admit that all my symptoms are down to burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.

      In conclusion, all I can say is give me a nice happy bout of my good old depression any day of the week, rather than the old age I now suffer.

      My sympathies go out to you my friend – may the best of luck go with you.

      • John the Plumber says:

        From Cromecrox – “No, don’t run away. I am not about to have fervid conversations with vegetables or pretend to be a chicken.”

        I’m not a vegetable yet quite – but on occassion I do pretend to be a chicken. – Should I worry about about this?

      • Spamlet47 says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful feedback John. Sadly though, I won’t be up for writing any helpful guides to coping or back to health. This is one experiment that requires national and international research efforts to fix, but with the NHS we have rigid separation/segregation of disciplines that makes the necessary multidisciplinary diagnostic and research approach impossible. The ‘expert patient’ sadly, has nowhere to turn to make use of his expertise, and just has to give up in the end. Even now I am about to be hauled before the consultant psychiatrist to be castigated for not having been well enough to get up today. No physical illness is allowed if you are in a psych place, but there is nowhere else to go in the NHS!

        • John the Plumber says:

          Sorry – As a farmer I’ve been kicked in the head by cows horses etc. to the extent that I am now mean and numb. – I won’t let you off the hook that easily. You obviously have an astute mind. – I repeat. – ‘Quite clearly ME/CFS is little understood – you of course are in a better position than any scientist to study its effects’.

          Document the effects. – If you are capable of swopping posts with me on here, you can keep a diary. – Make your oservations – take notes – write the book one day – It may be invaluable.

          You have my sympathy – but I am mean – I expect results. – Best of luck my friend.

          • Spamlet47 says:

            Disastr BB kyboard packing up! No lttr aftr D and control buttons going too. Not much mor writing for m at th mo I’m afraid. Can’t vn log in without cut and past :-(

  22. Kerry says:

    Your post is like a breath of fresh air. Being honest about depression is the only way to break the taboo, which definitely still exists. You are very brave! I decided to set up my blog because it’s the only place on the internet where I can be completely honest about this (rather big) part of my life but I’m still writing under a pseudonym. Hopefully one day I won’t have to hide behind it!

  23. Pingback: On Geeks and Humanity | Athene Donald's Blog

  24. chall says:

    Brave post Henry. An important subject and yet a touch of the humour when writing it.

    “To be blunt, everything – everything – was an effort, ” <– this to me hits home. It's very hard to explain to someone who has never had a depression or a depressed person in their life that it is so hard to do things. For an outsider it can be enormously frustrating; "why just no DO it?"

    I hadn't seen the ad for Time to Talk, but it seems like a very good thing. I'm in favor of tossing the trolls out in the sunlight so they go poof.

    Good luck with the next couple of weeks with decreasing and then increasing the new pills. Hope you can get some well deserved sleep, because without it it sucks (I wrote about that a year back, and was told "it is used as a torture method you know…." [lack of sleep that is])

  25. Lilypopcat says:

    Dear Henry,

    If I say my name begins with K and I’m closely associated with your family, you will I hope realise who I am, beyond this would risk revealing my own long and as u know painful struggle with this dreadful illness and in my experience, my profession, indeed the profession of therapists and mental health practitioners do not take kindly to one of their own being so afflicted, it somehow crosses that boundary, into the patients world and woe betide that should happen.
    I’m sorry u are suffering as you are but glad that you share it, and of course much of what you say has so much resonance with my own experience.

    I too have lived in the Mianserin induced no mans land and am now on what are considered more modern mood altering substances, I only wish mine did what they said on the label. They say
    antidepressants are not like tranquillisers that withdrawal is not such a problem. But sadly that is not the case and I know how desperately unwell I’ve felt myself when they (the all knowing mind reading doctors) decide upon a switch!

    I was until recently on a combo of mirtazapine and venlafaxine, the latter works in a very similar way to citalopram… I was taken off the mirtazapine at my own request due mainly to a side affect that was only really affecting my vanity, but I hope to encourage you by saying that it is probably one of the best antidepressants recently invented. I’m confident that you will find it helpful.

    My own view is that depressive episodes have a life cycle and need to be got through with as much pain medication, professional help, and tender loving care our loved ones can muster. They do however always come to an end and it’s a matter of hanging on in there knowing that they never last for ever, a ‘this too will pass’ mantra… I say this as I’m hopefully entering a recovery phase myself although today it has felt like wading through treacle with the treacle having somehow solidified!

    I’m here if at the end of the phone if you need to talk, you will know how to make contact as by now hopefully you will realise who this is from.

    One other thing that has really helped me recently is the Black Dog tribe social network that Ruby wax is in the process of setting up. It’s in it’s beta stages at present but lots of really helpful info, tweeting, Facebook and anti stigma stuff.

    This illness cruelly isolates us by it’s very nature, and I’ve realised the importance of trying to fight against this by sharing and talking as much as possible. Sometimes only those that have been in this hole can truly understand.

    Anyway hold on my friend and know that many people travel this boggy journey with you.

    Xxx

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  28. Wesley Parish says:

    Well, I can see just where you’re coming from, having been somewhere near there myself. Though my own prolonged bout of clinical depression was organic in origin – the stresses of surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury …

    I’ve never taken anti-depressants myself, so I’ve never experienced your problems with them. But I can assure you that having supportive friends/family/environment makes all the difference – so you’re right there.

    Hang in there, mate.

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