59 Days and Counting

Discussion in 'Help Me! I Need to Talk to Someone.' started by Vaughan, Mar 24, 2015.

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  1. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    There are many people who post in the crisis forum, and most, if not all of them, are more worthy of concern and sympathy than my own. So why start a diary thread?

    Well, in my life this is a major event. It also speaks to my illness, and what illness drives you to, along with the fear of what triggers an episode of depression.

    First a little about myself. I was, supposedly, a normal functioning human being for 50 years. I'm married, and my wife is from foreign lands (non-Europe). I am in the UK.

    The relevance of my wife being from outside the UK is that she has "no recourse to public funds". Meaning she can get no assistance here. This is important a little later.

    I was working away, and doing okay. However, my drinking (alcohol) was gaining ground. So much so that it became a problem. This resulted in full blown depression, diagnosed as "Acute Depression". I couldn't work.

    My doctor has been terrific, and after 9 months or so he found a medication regimen which helped a lot. At times I was suicidal, and I don't want to hide that. I self-harmed, I planned my end. I continued to drink initially.

    Then something terrific happened. Once the doctor had hit upon a drug regimen that made me feel better - I lost my taste for alcohol. What I mean is, the desire to have a drink, to be drunk, just completely went away. So weird, but it feels like it was over night. I just wasn't interested, and it has been that way for coming on two years. Alcohol plays no part in my life now. The depression is permanent.

    I am on social assistance right now. Since my wife is non-EU, she is not entitled to any help. Therefore, we get by on single person's allowance (which is an impossibility and involves things getting left behind, but two people cannot live in one persons money without great sacrifice.)

    Our housing is a private rental. A flat (or apartment in US parlance). The social system here is such that the rent is mostly paid by the government. They have limits on how much they will pay for a person's rent, and since my claim is for a single person, the limit is how much they'd pay a single person. Still, we found this place, and it's been 7 years of living here.

    Yesterday we found out we had 60 days to get out, since the owner wants to sell.

    It goes without saying that we have no money in reserve. Zero. Nothing. Worse, we have dogs, and people hate to rent to dogs. There is some social housing, but we tried to get some before and were basically told that it all went to families with kids. We don't have any children. In effect, social housing is out.

    Normal rental procedure here is to pay 6 weeks rent up front, it'll likely be 8 weeks with the dogs. My health is such that it's unlikely I'll be able to move myself. Up until 6 months ago I couldn't walk more than 100 yards. I'm actually a bit healthier in that regard, but I'm not going to be able to move home.

    As I say, most people here have terrible problems, and mine seems minor in comparison. I know that.

    I have some great fears. Firstly, I'll be homeless. Secondly, my depression. I've learned over my years of treatment that you don't cure depression - you manage it. For me I call it "Dark clouds amassing on the horizon". I can feel it coming, almost see it. My extreme anxiety has never been addressed medically. This situation may trigger a depressive episode, and when I go down I really go down. As I said, suicidal thoughts became part of my life. I am NOT feeling that way now, I'm sort of preparing myself for the worst.

    I will try to keep this thread as a diary of the countdown of days. If I miss days and events, then I hope you understand - if a depressive episode kicks in, I won't be writing.

    I love life, I love my wife, and God knows I wish I had gotten treatment many moons ago. Now thrust into uncertainty, with no clear path to resolution, I have to find my way without a map. Maybe writing this thread will help.

    And maybe this thread is just too long, and too much to read. I understand that. But I'll use it, if for nothing else, for selfish reasons, and to leave a record of what happens to people all the time, all over the world, when some decision someone they don't know makes, directly impacts on the feelings and wellness of others.

    Today is day 59.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2015
  2. Jay19

    Jay19 Well-Known Member

    Apologies if you didnt want people to reply but after reading your post I just firstly wanted to say well done for combating your alcohol dependancy. Being in a family of alcohol dependants I know what a major thing it is to overcome. Its really unfortunate that you are being kicked out of your home, i'm not gonna say that something will come but you have overcome so much so far where I imagine you felt like there was no positive end. Hopefully something will work out for you, maybe social housing can find you a place even though you had little luck in the past. Is there any friends/relatives you can stay with for the time being? I dont know any off the top of my head but there must be housing charities/authorties that help people in situations like yourself.
  3. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    No, it's nice to get a reply. Dialog is good.

    I am estranged from my family. They do live in this country, and I suppose any normal family could come around and find solutions - however, that is most certainly not going to happen this time.

    On the drinking, I was never an alcoholic, imo. I was however, a heavy drinker. At the time that's a fine line that doesn't exist - a distinction without a difference. However, it became an important factor when I finally had what was, a breakdown. When looking at the roots of my illness, I had to talk about them for the first time. Once I'd done that, I guess I just didn't need the crutch. I feel for people with a physical dependency, that's got to be very very tough. But for me I could just stop one day. As I said, it's been a while for me now, and I never think to myself - I fancy a drink. I'm very very lucky.

    One of the things I'll carry forever is that I'll never be able to fully deal with my issues with the people who caused them. My father was abusive in every way. In the entire time on this planet I have NEVER had a proper conversation with him. He just lectures you the whole time, about any topic. He never gained the ability to LISTEN. He has never shown EMPATHY. Instead he acts as an instant judge and jury, and can't understand why others might disagree. If you do disagree, he's quick to a temper. We took some beatings as kids, and more. He'll never ever face that, nor discuss it, nor acknowledge it. It'll also destroy the rest of my family. So you can see, there is no going back for me.

    I do miss my mother, but I don't know how much she knew - she certainly knew about the beatings. However, there's no way to contact her without everyone else getting involved. The tension in the house is there 24/7, it's far far better to just remove myself and cope. Is there a point in confronting someone asking them to admit to what they did, when you know it'll just start the usual war? Not for me - I'm too fragile mentally, as it is.

    My wife has family she can go live with - back in the US. Of course, she'd need the air fare. But since I can only go there are a tourist, it's not a solution for me. I can apply for a green card to the US, but that takes several thousand dollars and a LONG waiting time. Still, there is comfort in knowing that in the end there is a solution for her.

    Thanks for replying. As I said, I'd encourage people to respond when they've been in similar circumstances, or have had similar battles. Alcohol can be so evil. I was once told by an acquaintance who attended AA that the real problem was: Once you give up drinking, you have to face the reasons why you're doing it. In other words, once the symptoms are dealt with (the symptom), you have to deal with the real problem (the root cause/s). While I don't consider myself an alcoholic (I was an abuser), the same holds true for me. I'm no longer self-medicating, so must face the truth and horrors of my childhood. Nothing new to the people here, of course. But it can tear at the very fibers of your being.

    One final thing I'll add. I see a lot, read a lot, and hear a lot of people talking about family, and how important family is. Well, there are people - and I am one - where that is not the case. My family (with one exception) are a bunch of haters. They hate on everything, they judge everyone and everything, and you can't question them. I grew up to be just like them - why wouldn't I? And now it's taking me years to unlearn who I was, and to release the real me. I've a lot to be ashamed of. I've been weak. But I'll be damned if I'm going back there - in my remaining time on this planet I'm going to be the man I always should of been, and not the construct of a family rotten at its core.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2015
  4. ChestnutMay

    ChestnutMay Antiquities Friend

    I think you describe your situation really well and it sounds extremely serious. The threat of homelessness is one of my suicide triggers for sure - I came very close to both last year. It was utterly terrifying - the thought of living on the streets. I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life, so I have tremendous empathy for what you are going through. I too had pets and had to give them away, a real heartbreak. Do you have somewhere lined up for your dogs yet, just in case the worst happens?

    There are so many things going on with you, I am not sure where to start. Are there places in the UK with a lower cost of living than where you are now? Where rents might be lower and housing easier to find? I'm very familiar with having to put a lot of money up front and the difficulty in finding a place that will rent to pets, especially dogs. And I know exactly what it is like to have health issues that make it hard to move, so realize a long distance move might be extremely difficult for you, but it still might be a solution. I'm gong to have to move again in July so these things are definitely on my mind and you have my greatest sympathy for what you are going through.

    It is a real shame you can't turn to your family right now for help. I'm really sorry your family is so toxic - good for you for turning your back on the hate they raised you with. It's really to your credit that you have gone your own way and are reworking all those internal messages they saddled you with as a kid.

    I think you are absolutely right to worry about a looming depression. Right now you really need your wits about you and need to be able to function - the last thing you need is depression sucking away at your energy, motivation and self worth. Is there any chance of a preemptive strike? By that I mean meds. Since you haven't had your anxiety addressed yet, and since this is an extremely anxiety provoking situation, you might benefit from something that will tamp down the anxiety and enable you to do what needs to be done. Also, an antidepressant might help raise your baseline enough to help you rebound from some of the things coming your way and since it takes awhile for those to kick in, this might be the time to start one.

    Please keep posting here and let us know what is going on. Be gentle with yourself right now. This is a really tough time.
  5. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Day 58

    Today we (my wife and I) went to see my doctor. Ever since my diagnosis of depression I have suffered from extreme anxiety. All these years later, it's never been addressed. This is partly due to my own inertia, and partly due to the sad state of mental health services in my part of the UK.

    Still, with this huge challenge coming at me, I really need to do something. The anxiety manifests itself as a huge weight in my chest, even to the point of physical pain - which is no doubt psychosomatic. It's distinct from the depression, but goes hand in hand. It is during the worst anxiety - which strikes multiple times per week - that the very worst thoughts come into my head. Self-harm, suicide, horrid things - but anything to lift this concrete from my chest.

    This might be a good time to tell a little more about myself and my illness. Firstly, despite what you're reading here - I'm not a talker when it comes to my illness. For example, my wife always attends my doctor's appointments and does the talking. I don't know what to say to the doctor at all. In "real life" I'm actually very social, and operate normally. But with my illness I find myself mute.

    Perhaps worst is that I can't express my feelings about my illness with my wife. So for example, if I'm up in the early hours of the morning with crushing anxiety, I won't wake her. I can't. She's sleeping, and I like to see her resting. Why disturb her hard earned fatigue?

    Finally, I've yet to cry. In effect, I can't cry. Even when thinking back to the very worst times, I cannot cry. I'd love to. I think it would be a good release, but the tears don't come. It's uncomfortable, but I think I've buried my pain so deep that it's way, way, down there. I can be sad, but cry? Never.

    So today was doctor's day. He has adjusted my medication (I'll post what he's done later) and given me a new drug to try and help with the anxiety. Time will tell. I'll take my first pill tonight. Here's hoping.

    Finally - triggers. Since acknowledging my depression I have had to open some doors in my mind that I had closed off. The proverbial Pandora's Box. Now I have concentration issues. Horrid things from my past will intrude in every day life. I can be sitting watching a movie, and I'll be 20% in the movie, and 80% having to swat down those horrible things from my past. When I become conscious of it, I can beat them back down, but then the cycle starts again and they slowly emerge. Those voices, the young me - the small boy I once was - is still sitting there inside me, and he wants to be healed. So he keeps trying to come to the surface. The adult me can't take it, and so I get anxiety. I now know that for a long time - years - my solution was to drink alcohol to drown that little boy, to deaden his voice. Perhaps I'll write more on this some other time.

    I have a whole other topic for today, but I'm going to make that in the next post.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2015
  6. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    58 Days

    I'm an older gentleman, 50-ish. My wife and I have been together for almost 25 years.

    From the perspective of today, I have a lot of guilt and regrets. This is associated, largely, with my family.

    I repeat something I wrote earlier - there is a common mantra that family is everything, that blood is thicker than water, etc. However, with one exception, my family has done nothing by punish and damage me. I grew up in that house, and was conditioned by that house. Kids grow up taking attributes from their parents. If those attributes are kind and caring, you can be a whole human being. If those attributes are based mostly on anger, hate, racism, and violence - then you get that whether you want it or not.

    I've spent a good number of years not being a very good person. In my teens I was pretty much my father, the worst role model. I had friends and girlfriends, but I wasn't loving and kind to them. I tried, but the me that had been nurtured in that cesspit just didn't have a chance.

    My saving grace was that I left home when I was relatively young, aged 17. A lot of the bad traits continued in my relationships with others, but I also began to become my own person. Year by year I've shed various horrible attributes, until now, when the doors are fully open and I can look into myself and see who I was, and who I am. Now it' a flood of swirling, dirty water.

    It's kind of like living in a house with a locked door that leads up to the attic. You can't go into the attic until one day, quite by accident, you find the key. So up you go, only to find all your past up there - toys, books, pictures, ideas, people, jobs, things said and done. beatings, molestations, fights, raised voices, senseless arguments.

    It's not a pretty sight. If only I could reach back in time and take things back. If only I could extricate myself from the path I chose. Although to an extent, you don't choose a path - you're wound up, and set off on a road based on who you've been nurtured to become. In Computer Science there is an acronym of GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. That was me.

    This weighs on me. What can I do about the past? What can I do to the people I hurt (the hurt was emotional in nature, not physical)? What horrible paths did I send them on? What hurt did I cause? What nastiness is in the world because I caused some angst all that time ago?

    Somehow - and I can only say by divine intervention - it hasn't been all bad. Some things have been great. I've had copious amounts of opportunity, and I'm the kind of guy who believes I'll get even more in the future. This broken me isn't a permanent feature, it's a transformation from one state to another. I've already changed greatly. This must be a bit strange for my wife, who thought she'd married one guy, and is now getting another.

    [I have told my wife about this thread, and she has signed up on the board. She may, or may not, respond in the thread - whatever she feels inclined to do. I am, for her, an open book. I have yet to ask her what her username is, but I'll put it in the thread once I know.]

    My main point here is that the whole Family message I often read really needs to be redefined. A lot of problems come directly from the family, or from choices our parents make. Sometimes going back to the family is going back into the pit of snakes. Some times the caring and love of the family is based on the values and dynamics that damaged me in the first place.

    Sometimes there is no going back. Either because you can't as people die, or because doing so would be to restart the cycle that led you to this place. In my entire life I've never had one single conversation with my father. My father is very good at maintaining a public face, but behind the curtains it's pretty dark. He is very quick to anger, even to the point of physical violence. He talks, but never ever listens. In other words, he lectures and is, frankly, a bore.

    If you get into a mess - as I am now, he likes to get in touch and say: "Well, if you need me I'm always here." Sounds good, right? But no, it's part of a syndrome. He loves to be the knight in shining armor, riding over the horizon to save the day. However, this version of saving the day means being judgmental, making rules, telling you how things will be - everything but listen. I don't think empathy is something he feels or would recognize.

    I know very little about his childhood - but I'd be willing to bet he's just repeating his own experience. Is it fair to be angry at him if he's just doing what I did? Well, yes. If I can face up to all this, then he could too.

    I have a sister, and a brother. I have been estranged from them for many years. During my recovery, in more recent times, I made contact with my sister. Sadly, and unbelievable, I did so at the worst possible time in her life. She had suffered a horrible bereavement, and so had many issues herself. So I don't talk much about what's going on with me, but we do exchange emails. I may one day be able to speak to her on the phone. However, I need to be fixed a lot better than I am now to do that. The thing is, when you have depression and anxiety, you can't gaurantee the person you'll be tomorrow. With her grief, I can't pile on my own nightmares by being unreliable, or for talking about terrible things from our family.

    My brother is, in many ways, the worse case. My brother is my father. They are exactly alike. He has grown to absorb everything bad and horrid from my father, and lives it to this day. Since listening isn't something he does, I don't know if he can ever change. I don't know if he has the self-awareness to even attempt it. Being around him is like walking on broken glass, you take gentle steps, and there's an energy in the air that let's you know anger and/or violence could break out at any moment, without warning.

    One of the last times I saw he and my father together, my brother mentioned something about China - some news story. My father disagreed, and the argument got heated to the point of a fist fight. I broke the fight up. My mother was crying, my wife aghast. During a contemporary email conversation with my father, I mentioned this incident as an example of how poisonous things are. He flat out denied it ever happened. You see what I'm dealing with here. In the incident mentioned it got even better when that evening he threw my wife and I out of the house (we were visiting from another country and sleeping in a spare room).

    Before I write off the family mantra completely, there IS a family that works. During some periods I have run into money problems. Times when I'd not be able to eat, or to pay rent. Two friends, without much questioning, sent me the money I needed once they learned of my plight. One is an old schoolfriend I've known since I was 5 years old or so - the other was an ex-work colleague. I will pay them back, but can't say when. However, the priority was to offer aid first, and to sort out details later. Sometimes £20 is the difference between living and dying. These friends are more than I deserve. I can't thank them enough, but I'll find a way.

    So it's not all doom and gloom. I'm trying to navigate this ocean. I have found some islands in this ocean where food and sustenance have been provided out of pure kindness, and one day I'm going to see the outline of a coastline where I can set up my new home, for the new me, and start to plan for my remaining days on Earth.

    My message is simple - the things we do, the things we say, the things we think and imagine - have tangible ripples in the real world. We can damage people, we can define their futures, we can set them up to fail in life, in effect putting them into a straightjacket which limits their potential whether they know it or not. You, and I, in turn are a result of the same process. So think about that. Personal pain is rarely truly personal.

    Finally I will say that I'll never have justice. The legal system won't work. This is because I'm not strong enough to go there, to fight the inevitable denials, the damage to others learning these things would cause. That's something else I have to deal with, I guess.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2015
  7. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Re: 58 Days

    New Med: Pregabalin (Lyrica) 50mg per day for one week, then 100mg per day.

    Wifes username: Souris Grise

    I'm coming off: Quetiapine (Down from 200mg a day, to 100mg per day).
  8. ChestnutMay

    ChestnutMay Antiquities Friend

    Re: 58 Days

    Hi Vaughn, You taught me something today! I didn't know pregabalin was used for anxiety but in looking it up I see a lot of people swear by it. I hope it works for you - looks like it has a good track record. Makes me wonder if I should give it another shot - I once tried it briefly for nerve pain but it didn't help that much. Maybe the wrong dose or something. Anyway, a new thing to consider....

    I was struck by two things you wrote earlier. You mention that your wife talks to the doctor for you about your anxiety because you find it so hard to talk about, but you also mention you have a hard time talking to her about it. Would it help you to write down what you're going through and communicate with your doctor that way? You describe the sensations very well, here.

    It's really great that you and your wife have each other. Twenty five years is a long time and it sounds like you're still going strong. Congratulations on this: it is not easy! When it works, there is nothing else like it and it sounds like your wife is very much there for you.

    It is so difficult to reprogram all the negative messages we get from families of origins and it sounds like you had a doozy. It's really unfortunate your brother wasn't able to break the mold as it's so helpful for siblings to be able to discuss these things. And I'm sorry to hear things are a bit rough with your sister right now, too. Maybe some day that will change - I hope so. At least you have been able to break free, though I can appreciate you are still wounded from it. Also, like you point out, family comes in different forms and you've got some good friends. This is very good news.

    It does sound like you've got a lot of strengths in your life - your own good character and a good support network in the form of your wife, friends and medical care. And us of course! :shake:This gives me a lot of hope that you'll be able to get through this housing crisis you're facing, which is extremely serious and very stressful. Any progress on that front? Let us know!
  9. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Re: 58 Days

    Strange, but the doctor did make me smile inside. When he suggested the Pregabalin he said: "It was originally designed for epilepsy, but it was no good for that at all." Which when you think about it, is a funny way of introducing a new med. :D

    I've just taken my second pill. Far too early to say whether they are working or not, but last night I was fine.

    My wife and I have talked, and agreed that what we need is money. There is only one way to get that - by working. So we're putting together a resume/CV, and when that's done I'll see what work is out there for me.

    Thanks for continuing to follow this thread.

    I don't have a long ramlbing post for today. I guess that's a good sign.
  10. Petal

    Petal SF dreamer Staff Alumni SF Supporter

    Re: 58 Days

    Lyrica is a great drug. It really eases my anxiety. I have been on it about 3 years, one of the best meds I've tried. I hope this medication works well for you too vaughan. I'm on 600mg per day.
  11. DrownedFishOnFire

    DrownedFishOnFire Quieta non movere

    Re: 58 Days

    Just wondering why if been together for 25 years your wife can't be a citizen of your country? Is there a way to get her to qualify if you're already married?

    Plus I like your positivity
  12. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Re: 58 Days

    Thank you. ;)

    I try to stay positive - I know I can beat this depression.

    Not to be controversial or anything...... but I think my wife would rather eat dirt than become a citizen of the UK.

    Let me give you some background. I'm a Brit. I moved to the US for work, and was there for 18 years. Loved it. Then I was offered a job in Germany, and I took that. Was there 3 years. Then I took a job in the UK, and we've come full circle.

    My wife does not like the UK. She does not want to stay here, and neither do I. This is a temporary space where we're stuck because I'm sick. I have to find a way out, and when I do I want to return to the US. :)
  13. DrownedFishOnFire

    DrownedFishOnFire Quieta non movere

    Re: 58 Days

    Cool background info. Makes sense now why she's not a citizen, having my fingers crossed for both of you and your furkids to find your way back to the states.

    I do truly cringe on our immigration issues. It's so embarrassing that too many people have to wait so long when other people become citizens crossing our borders illegally, it's so messed up.
  14. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    So another day is counting down. Progress has been.... poor. Mainly due to lethargy and I suppose a dose of fear. Fear can be paralyzing.

    I did want to write a longer update today though, and the subject is hope.

    Depression, and the myriad mental illnesses out there that I am blessed to not suffer from, are illnesses of the mind. There is a defined "normal", and we somehow deviate from that. Some deviations are okay, it would be a pretty boring planet if we were all the same. But when those deviations become self-destructive or prohibitive, you have a problem. That, for me, is what delineates us from them. That's what marks us as different from the guy who collects McDonald's Cutlery (yes, there is one, he has a huge collection). For me, he's eccentric, but not ill - he's causing no harm to himself or others by collecting plastic cutlery.

    I was diagnosed some years ago, but less than ten years. I'm 50. Isn't it odd that I would suddenly get depression? Well, while depression can indeed strike anyone at any time, for me though, I realize I was ill for some time. Years. I self-medicated (a term I'm beginning to dislike) with alcohol. I tried to carry on. I slowly unraveled, and then at some point that pace of unraveling accelerated.

    You hear things like "my world collapsed", or "I fell off the cliff", but for me - at least until the very end - it was more of a weathering pattern. My world did indeed collapse, but it wasn't as though everything was hunky dory and then suddenly BOOM. Signs were there for any professional to see, but of course, I wasn't seeing a professional. I was also a happy drunk. That doesn't help much either, because my behaviour didn't bother people, I was actually a fun guy to be around! It's all a bit painful now when I think about it, because I let some people down. That was my path to destruction.

    It was my wife that finally took me to the doctor. I don't recall the reason she did, or what event triggered that first visit, but she did and I was diagnosed. I know some people might think a diagnosis isn't really important, and that it's the treatment that counts - but personally I don't agree with that. The first step in dealing with a problem is the define what the problem is. Once it's defined, you can move on to tackling how best to treat the diagnosis. That definition is your diagnosis.

    My diagnosis is both specific and nondescript - Acute Depression. I guess that basically means - really really really depressed. Brilliant. But it did allow the doctor to begin introducing medications to see if he could balance me out.

    How bad did I get? Well, let me say in simple terms - I've been right to the edge. I'm still here on this Earth, but at another time and another place, I wouldn't be. Things worked out for me, where it doesn't for others. I don't know if it's a lottery or divine intervention or what, but I'm one of the lucky ones. I got a second chance. I got to fight another day. I didn't always feel lucky, quite the opposite - it felt like I was cursed! But I don't think that now.

    I'm not an expert on medications, but I've picked up bits and pieces along the way. For example, I now know that unlike an Aspirin where the benefits of taking it can be felt within half an hour, medications for depression can take weeks to have their desired effect. I remember my first medication advised it would be 6 weeks before they reached their full power. When you're down, suicidal, right at that cliff edge - 6 weeks might as well be a hundred years. So what do you do to get over that hump? You just keep going day by day by day. If the doctor can get you counseling that may help, but that wasn't an option for me. I just had to survive, and I did.

    And guess what - that first medication didn't do much of anything. After 6 weeks I was, to be generous, marginally better. However, I was still in a deep deep depression. Those dark thoughts were still with me. I went back to the doctor and got some additional help - sleeping pills, Valium. I also got another medication for the depression and had to start the whole process again.

    Sleeping pills did their job - but for me they were not good. Firstly, I abused them in the vain hope I might actually not wake up - combining them with alcohol. Secondly, my experience was not actual sleep. With sleep you get tired, sleep, and awake refreshed. With sleeping pills it was more like the lights suddenly going out and then I awoke as depressed as when I went to sleep. Worse, I was still tired! The Valium did even less for me. I abused them too with alcohol. I found that I could take ten times the prescribed dosage, with absolutely no effect whatsoever. Valium is the only medication I actually told the doctor to stop prescribing because they did nothing. Sleeping pills I also stopped getting, but only because they just weren't what I needed.

    Now - let me introduce an interlude. All this time after diagnosis until this point, I was still drinking. Drinking was my coping mechanism, and while I wanted the medications to "cure" me, my tried and trusted friend was a glass of beer. I knew that worked, I'd been using it for decades. This is a very bad attitude. I now know for sure that I never had a dependency on alcohol. I was not an alcoholic. I can take alcohol, or not take it. However, I did rely on it to numb the depression enough for me to muddle through. Once the medications I needed started to work, I lost the taste for alcohol entirely. I do not drink any more. It's not out of a fear that if I started I might not be able to stop, but is rather a simple matter that I don't want it. I have no need for it. Regardless, an effort is needed to stop destructive behaviors that were symptoms of my depression. From self-harm (been there, done that), to drinking, and abusing street drugs (although I am the one and only person on this planet who has never, ever, tried even a joint. I even avoided tobacco for my entire life too!)

    Okay, interlude over. The time came when the meds began to have an effect. It was not a night and day thing, but I did finally get to see some shades of gray in the day, if not a full blown sunny day. I'm obviously skipping a lot of detail, but what worked for me - and I believe works for a lot of people with this illness - is a combination of drugs. This is somewhat problematic in that it takes long enough to find one drug and dosage that works, let alone a combination of drugs and dosages. For me it took more than a year. For those of you still mired in the discovery phase of your treatment, the trying of this and that, keep in mind that it's normal for it to take time. That's just how it is. It's painful, difficult, emotionally wrenching, and just plain horrid. But it takes time. I repeat - this isn't like Aspirin.

    Getting that right combination of drugs, with the correct dosage, is as much art as science.

    Even after the many years of my diagnosis and treatment, I am still trying to find a medication that can deal with my anxiety. Valium, Klonopin, and others have come and gone. I'm on a new drug (for me) now (mentioned in an earlier post), but since it's only been two nights of taking it, I can't say whether it works or not. I'm still trying.

    Then there is the issue of side-effects. You see, fixing the chemicals in your brain in one area, can cause another area to go awry. I have some side effects, some not so bad, others really bad. The not so bad was the introduction of extremely vivid dreams. Mostly they were just fun, other times full-blown nightmares. In movies, when you see someone having a nightmare, they suddenly shoot upright with a sharp intake of breath. Well, yes, I actually did that! The bad side effects have been some weight issues (increase) to the very worst for me - the lack of an ability to swallow. You've no idea how much you swallow all the time during the day until the reflex has gone. It's a nightmare side effect, and I'm easing off the medication that causes it now. The thing is though, your side effects might well be different. It's a balancing act, but I doubt you can be side-effect free. I'd rather struggle to swallow than feel depressed.

    So, I joined this forum. I like it here, except the name. (Sorry guys!) The name is somewhat descriptive of what some people might be thinking about, but it's also a negative message. I don't feel I can tell people I know to come and read these messages - just because I don't want to have the conversation: "Check out my posts on the Suicide forum!" Ouch.

    I see a lot of posts on here from people at various places along the continuum of treatment. Some are at the beginning, some have reached a conclusion and are getting the help they need.

    Given what I've written here it should be clear that the time line from diagnosis to getting adequate treatment varies from person to person. For some it's a matter of months, for others it's ten years or more. Drugs may work, and then suddenly stop, dosages may need changing. Some drugs are addictive and that affects things. Some have yet to find a drug combination that works.

    I sit in a third group, - I need a Psychiatrist to complete my recovery, a person along with the drugs. I am now getting good results with medication overall, but that's only half the journey. There is a reason why I was depressed. This is not true of everyone. Some people just have wonky brain chemicals. I'm not one of those, I know exactly where my depression is coming from. The drugs cannot help with that, and they don't claim to. At the moment the state of mental health treatment where I am is appalling. I am not getting appointments with a Psychiatrist, and I'm not likely too. Being able to identify the root cause helps somewhat, but not being able to release it is very frustrating, and damaging. As it stands I'm having to live with it. To shoulder the burden. The medications, apparently, are helping me do that.

    So what of hope? Well, I'm only speaking for myself, but here's the deal. I'd been a functionally operating depressed person for years without treatment, getting by through the abuse of alcohol and denial. I've been down into the depths of my soul, and didn't like what I saw there. I've seen the dark storm clouds forming on the horizon, blacking out all hope, dreams, and ambitions. I've walked to the cliff edge and teetered on the brink of taking that final step. I've committed suicide only to wake up the very next day. And now, my fellow forum members, I'm writing this message about hope.

    I'm not cured. But I am treated. I am once again becoming the me I always was. I'm coming back. The storm clouds rarely figure into the weather patterns, and I've moved home several mile away from that cliff edge. I have my doctor to thank for that - I sincerely know for a fact that he saved my life. I have my wife to thank for being there and getting me to the doctor in the first place. I thank those evil pharmaceutical companies for producing the drugs that have fixed me up.

    And a bouquet of barbed wire to every and any one who points their fingers at people like me and assign a stigma to this illness. And another bouquet of barbed wire to the powers that be that let me and others down by not offering a full range of essential mental health services that can save lives. If this disease was a cancer, they'd be right on it!

    And one final bouquet - of roses this time - to everyone here. I've been through my pain, but I am coming out the other side. I know you can too. The journey is long, hard, and fraught with letdowns and disappointments. These are doubly problematic because you're at your weakest moment. But you can do it. Even if you have to crawl across broken glass. You can. You must. Because somewhere in my experience, somewhere in my illness, is a message to others. Help for others. I've a debt to people who find themselves as I did. Society brushes us under the carpet, and we must not help them do that by staying quiet and cowering in the corner.

    Have hope.
  15. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Another day. It has started late, since I was up until 5:30am having fun. Listening to music.

    I have looked at a few threads today. I try to chip in some thoughts every now and again, to offer some comfort or advice. We all try, even though we're broken. Everyone here has either been through the hell of what is called "Mental Illness", and yet we log on to a web site in order to comfort others.

    Some might say it's the blind leading the blind, and perhaps that's true. However, I have a slightly different take. Here we have people who are hurting, people who are suffering, people at their wits end. Yet they're posting encouraging others, trying to help. How amazing is that?!?!?

    It seems, even at the depths of our worst moments, we don't want others to suffer. We are giving the most precious thing we own - time - to helping strangers. Goodness me, that's quite something.

    I'm also going to suggest that words, and their associated meaning, might well become an additional, unnecessary, burden. Take the term "mental illness". Couldn't we do better?

    I know a young woman who was in a car wreck, a bad one. Her life was put on hold for years as she recovered (she is fully-recovered now). What she had was physical, which no doubt led to psychological issues. How can it not when you're in physical pain and have broken bones everywhere? But she overcame.

    What she suffered, at the end of the day, was a "life experience". A bad life experience, from which came a lot good (she married, had children).

    So how about we try to look at our "mental illness" as a "life experience", instead? How would that change things?

    When I think of "Mental illness" I see a full-stop put on my life, a aberration that is damaging, from which nothing good can come. But if I look at it as a "life experience", then I can view it as part of a life continuum. This illness is just that, an illness, and I will eventually find ways to meld this into my every day life and move on. Life experiences are both good and bad, abstract and functional. I may never be entirely free of it, it might just be a constant part of my continuum. However, it's not everything.

    No-one leads an entirely fault-less existence. No-one avoids pain, both physical and mental. No-one is constantly happy. No-one knows everything. No-one avoids hurt to their ego, pride, and self-image. No-one gets to decide exactly how their life will play out. No-one gets to decide how the lives of others play out. And no-one goes through life without illness.

    Our bodies and minds are in many ways extraordinary things. They're so fantastical that a large number of people can't imagine it could ever have happened without some celestial being of some kind to make it happen. But in other ways we're ridiculously fragile. You bump your leg on the side of a table, and the next day you've got a nice bruise. You prick yourself with a pin and your life-blood oozes out. And you have a slight chemical imbalance in your head, or psychological trauma, and you get ill.

    There are hundreds of thousands of people, millions actually, who are concentrating their efforts in making things right. They may not have answers today, but they're working on having one tomorrow. In the mean time we have treatments, workarounds, coping mechanisms, and just plain hope. The wheels are turning - and we need to make sure we last until they find out how to fix these things and make them less painful. They will you know, one day.

    What I'm saying is - if I look at my life as a continuum - my current predicament does not, and will not, define me. I won't let it. What I am is not what I was, and is not who I will be. It'll take hard work, I'll make mistakes, let people down, maybe break down again. These are things all people have in common. The young lady I mentioned earlier? If you asked her today about her life, I doubt her accident would figure in the top 5 events - whereas for years it was number one. What was important then isn't important, or even relevant, now.

    It's also worth noting that life's continuum isn't a straight line. It's a jagged horizon, like viewing a mountain range from a distance. Again - this is true for everyone on the planet.

    The truth is, when I was operating at my best I didn't come onto forums such as this. I didn't try to help others, however feebly. Yet now I have, what could be more rewarding? We tend to create little bubbles around ourselves, a sheen of "happiness" and contentment - however that is defined. It's not a bad practice to burst that bubble every now and again. When you do, you see things anew, and you find things that were lost, or missing. Reinvention of the self is a good thing.

    When I was a teenager I had ideas and certainties. When I was in my 20's I had ideas and knew my certainties from the teens were wrong or outdated. When I was in my 30's I worked hard and knew my certainties from the 20's were a bit pie-in-the-sky and unrealistic. When I was in my 40's I began to crash and burn, and all certainties seemed like impossibilities. Now I'm in my 50's I hope I'm coming out the other side, and know that there are no certainties. Some things are random. Some things are invisibly tattooed onto us through the mysteries of genetics and DNA. Who knew?

    Jagged lines. Ups and downs. When you're at the top of an up, nothing seems impossible, and nothing could get better. When you're down life has no value and there's no end to the suffering. Yet time itself is a constant.

    It's hard to have perspective when all seems dark. It's difficult to see a bigger picture. We live in the moment because we must. We can hope, plan, and project a bright future, but we have to travel every inch of the road to get there. So we hit every pot hole and wait at every intersection. Ultimately though, we'll arrive.

    We are - normal.
  16. ChestnutMay

    ChestnutMay Antiquities Friend

    I understand your point about the benefit of thinking of our conditions more as "life experiences" and less as "mental illness" but partially disagree with you (most respectfully). First, I agree that thinking of our conditions as "life experience" has certain benefits to it, which you describe - this is true of physical ailments as well as mental ones. Our point of departure comes over the use of the term "mental illness".

    The fact is: depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia etc are illnesses, a matter of biochemical imbalances, misfiring synapses, skewed hormones and habitual pathological thought patterns, etc. To not recognize these conditions as biologically based is to leave sufferers open to a range of abuse ranging from "you're possessed by a demon" to " you're making it up for attention". Anyway, these things are obviously illnesses: they respond to medical treatment, e.g. anti-depressants, anti-psychotics,etc.

    It took a very long time to get mental illness accepted as just one more biological disease and we can never go backwards. Just imagine if we did: health insurance companies would be able to stop covering mental illness all together, something they would dearly love to be able to do.

    Your post deserves more comment than I am giving it and hopefully later I'll be up for adding more. Have a brain full of cement today for some reason. I don't want to be negative about viewing illness as part of life's continuum. I think you're absolutely right about that. Just let us keep the word "illness"!
  17. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    I don't mind criticism, ChestnutMay. I really don't. I'm writing these little braindumps as they occur to me, and it could well be I'm missing significant things. Or I might be just flat out plain WRONG. There's nothing wrong in saying so.

    I take your point about the use of the term illness. I wrote the above from the perspective of the individual, and how we as victims of this hideous disease might be able to see a way to put it in context.

    From a world view - and I think that's what you're talking about - my words may indeed be used against us. Imagine a society that saw someone with a mental illness being told: "Shut up, it's all part of life's continuum, get over it!" Yikes!

    So your point is well taken, and completely valid.

    I hope people can read this thread and get something from it. I'll have ups and downs, but lately I've been on an up. I don't know about tomorrow, I guess we'll see.
  18. ChestnutMay

    ChestnutMay Antiquities Friend

    Hi Vaughn, Just thought I'd check in and see how you're doing? Hadn't heard from you for awhile so hope it's good news...
  19. Vaughan

    Vaughan Well-Known Member

    Hey, CM.

    No good news really. A change of meds started off positively, but then a side effect caused me problems - very bad headaches that would last all day and night. I did this for four days thinking it would wear off, but it didn't.

    Everything else is making a slow step sideways, rather than forward. But at least it's not backwards, right?
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