So, for many a year I’ve been hobbled with depression (battle isn’t the right word as it suggests progress), sometimes mild, sometimes with wild swings downwards (and rarer swings upward, although not to the extent where it would be mania, AKA bipolar disorder), and almost always combined with anxiety, and what I suppose could be considered a mild form of OCD – I’m not at the stage where I have to switch the light switch on and off four times lest I feel sick, but I am very, very much a creature of habit, and don’t like my routines being broken; I can modify routines (working at the office, and working from home, for example) but I don’t like it when things get changed unexpectedly. Makes me anxious.
Anyway, earlier in the year I started noticing the signs of a major downward spiral – I was obsessing over rationally irrelevant issues, often at the cost of more real world problems, and I was having difficulty sleeping, or more realistically, waking up. My anxiety was getting noticeably worse, to the extent where I was working from home quite a lot – which sounds alright, till you realise that I’m not yet experienced enough at work to be able to do a fair few tasks without it being explained in Dum Dum Raith Language. This is to be expected given my career change, but it’s a hindrance to working by myself from my own flat.
So, back to the doctors for the first time in a few years, since I stopped having talking therapy to get past some issues that caused me to leave London; suggestion was made that I try Setraline.
Some background is needed here; my experience of antidepressants, to be blunt, is pretty poor; I’ve been on SSRIs (citalopram), tricyclics (amitriptyline), and SNRIs (venlafaxine) and I’ve had…interesting experiences. None of them affected my (at the time, often suicidal) mood swings, and all I got were the side effects of ramping up, and withdrawal effects of coming off them. Venlafaxine was by far the worst for withdrawal symptoms, causing ‘zaps’ down the spinal cord that would cause me to lose footing/balance.
You know that feeling you get when you climb stairs in the dark and try to take an extra step that isn’t there, and your whole sense of balance goes askew? Try that, at random points in the day. Suffice to say I rapidly learned not to stand on the edge of the platforms of the train stations I was commuting from. But I digress…
Eventually, the London thing collapsed with me attempting suicide, then having a pretty vicious breakdown – I didn’t renew my contract at my job (which was a good job, paying well, good people), and had to bail out. I did so entirely by accident; my father called (as he is wont to do on occasion) to see how I was, and I happened to be having a rare lucid period, so I explained to him that I was about a fortnight away from being homeless (and at that point was resigned to it – this is how maddeningly irrational depression can make you, in hindsight, and why I have sympathy for the homeless; I can see how it can happen without you even trying). As parental units are also wont to do, he helped out and got me Oop North to Scarbados, Metropolis of the North, where my bro (whom I lived with in Scotland before moving to London) had a flat there with a spare room. So I contacted the sort of cleaners you call when someone dies in your flat and you need to clear it out (as the place was a bombsite), collected my goods, and managed to fit all my worldly possessions into a single Citroen Berlingo van and headed to ‘T Grim North.
So, at this point, no antidepressants, but no huge stress and lessened anxiety problems, although still present. Got me a local job some nine months later (along with some talking therapy courtesy of the NHS – something I was never offered down south) and generally started picking up the pieces.
So, five years later or so, I get the new job, my current one. It’s a 45 mile trip to the office, and that means getting up at 6am, and getting home normally no earlier than 7pm – IE London Commuter Land hours. This, I realise now, had started taking it’s toll, and the old habits started sneaking back in – difficulty sleeping, obsessing over trivialities, becoming insular, etc.
Thankfully having been through this before, I saw the warning signs and this time I started doing something about it. I worked from home when I could to reduce the commute times (Getting up at 8am and actually stopping work around 5pm is so much better…), backed off the caffeine and booze (although I don’t drink a huge amount anyway, and very rarely during the week), but it still wasn’t quite enough. So back to the docs.
I have been prescribed Setraline; this is something I didn’t expect to have any effect given my previous experience, but it’s clear that my most recent depressive spell is either not as bad as previously, or I’m simply better at preventing myself from going properly down the spiral of depressive thinking.
Initially it was a very trying time – I was extremely confused, feeling foggy, dizzy, nauseous and generally like I was hungover without the headache. This made work pretty tricky.
However, then I started noticing…..things. I was less nervous about talking to people – asking questions, etc. I didn’t feel like I would get into trouble or be mocked for asking what must have, to those with experience, seemed like silly questions about SSL, Apache, SQL etc. And I should point out for the record, no-one at work has *ever* mocked me for asking questions, but as noted, irrational thinking will cause this sort of anxiety.
The anxiety started to get more muted. I was talking more about my problems so that work were aware of them. I also noticed that my vision has changed; it’s almost like I have HDR eyesight, or at least, a change in perceptions of contrast. Car headlights are zingier, uplighting on brick walls looks sharper and more colourful; visual disturbances can be a side effect, but it doesn’t affect my ability to work or drive so it’s more interesting than annoying. The lower levels of anxiety meant my guts weren’t constantly turning over, so less nausea caused by grumbling guts.
Something was actually happening.
Cut to yesterday – I had managed to think that I was past needing to avoid caffeine on Monday, so had a couple of cups of the good stuff in the office. Get home, no sleep at all – setraline can make caffeine stay in the system much, much longer, and can cause restlessness in and of itself anyway. I didn’t get much sleep on the Sunday night either, so cue me being late up. Rather late indeed, actually. Normally, this would result in a full panic session/attack as I scramble to get sorted out. Instead, I woke up, rolled my eyes at myself, signed into work remotely, apologised for my rampant imbecility, pinged my boss to apologise properly and explain the situation, and then started smashing through my workload for the day. Work have been pretty understanding of my shenanigans of late, thankfully…
It’s only tonight I’m realising what a change this is – I’m less anxious, a bit more chatty, and not so fussed by the concept of change.
I’m quite pleased with this. Interestingly, it’s not affecting my mood directly – I’m still fairly depressed. However, the anxiety not being there means I’m not over-analysing things, and then getting sucked down into circular depressive thinking route quite as much. It’s taken a month and a half to get here, but it’s pretty refreshing to feel like control is slowly, but surely, returning to my life. I’ve made some new friends, am planning to hook up with some old ones, and generally, I’m less fucked in the head as a result, I can concentrate on work more, and find it less difficult to deal with (the learning curve is starting to get more vertical these days, but that’s fine).
So there we go. A summation of the last couple of months of my life.
As for other things? The soundtrack to Miami Hotline is excellent. The car is in for MOT and I’m generally thinking it shouldn’t be too painful. It’s nicely tail-happy on winter tyres, which is tremendously entertaining. I might even tidy the flat up a bit.
In short, another interesting page in the dog-eared book of my life.
Never a dull moment, eh?