Regular readers of my blog may know that I suffer from depression, and I haven’t really talked about my mental health on my blog for a while. With that in mind, this weeks’ post will be an update on my mental health. It’s going to be very frank, because I believe the best way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health is to talk openly about it.
Since being formally diagnosed with depression in August 2016, I have been regularly taking sertraline. I started on 50 micrograms and at my one month review my dosage was increased to 100 micrograms because the initial treatment was not very effective. The higher dose worked well for me, and my mood was stablished. I found that I still had bad days and patches where my depression would come back but the bad days were less disruptive to my life and less frequent.
Overall, I thought treatment had therefore been going well. After all, more days’ symptom free and a high level of overall mental health was surely the aim of being on sertraline. During my first semester of University I was able to regularly attend Quidditch training and had busy social life in addition to working two jobs and keeping up with my degree.
However, since returning to university after the Christmas break I have noticed another dip in my mental health. Initially, I run out of sertraline because of prescriptions issues over Christmas and a desire to stop taking them because I thought I’d been ‘cured’. I wrongly assumed that the reduction of my symptoms meant I no longer had depression, and didn’t consider that it is a chronic condition which cannot be treated with a simple short course of medication like a minor infection. I
quit Quidditch, withdrew from some of my other responsibilities, and found that I had lost the drive and focus necessary to complete my university work. Although I am back on 100 micrograms of sertraline, the benefits are starting to wear off and I visited the GP to discuss further treatment options. My doctor was reluctant to change my medication, and to be frank was not any help. I’m currently on the waiting list for counselling with the NHS and the University wellbeing service so hopefully things can improve in the next few months.
I continue to work two jobs, eat lots of fruit and vegetables because of my vegan diet, and go to the gym at least twice every week. I also make sure I get at least seven hours sleep every night and try and stick to a sleep schedule, I only sleep in when I really need it. I try not to isolate myself in my bedroom, and spend time laughing and joking with my housemates. I’m doing everything people tell me I should be going to manage my condition myself but I still find focusing on anything for more than a few minutes is difficult.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a very happy post, and in condition with peaks and troughs I’m definitely in a trough at the moment. My grades are down from where I’d expect and like them to be and my weight is fluctuating as a result of periods of overeating combined with other periods of eating healthier food and working harder at the gym. However, I’ve got out of troughs before so I know I can do it again.
Depression is more than just sadness. It means you either sleep too little or too much. It can make you overeat and under eat. Having depression means you do recklessly impulsive things and struggle to manage your money. If you’re depressed, there are probably piles of dirty laundry on your floor that you are ashamed of but are too exhausted to do anything about. Being depressed results in missed cleaning rota slots and piles of empty dishes. Everything is affected by it including sleep, diet, exercise, relationships, and personal hygiene. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get out of bed in the morning and face the day like nothing is wrong.
Thank you for reading this, if you’d like to talk about your mental health I’d love to read your blog posts or comments in response to mine.
LeicsTalk is the University of Leicester mental health and wellbeing signposting service and they can point you in direction of the help you need.