It's Good To Talk About Depression
John Parry explains how he copes with depression.
By John Parry
29 Nov 2011, 21:17
I’ve just read Iain Dale’s blog on Gary Speed and depression. Like Iain I was very affected on Sunday by the news of Gary Speed’s suicide. Like everyone else, I grieved for his family and friends. However, unlike many I did not struggle to comprehend how a man with such a blessed life could be driven to such a selfish act of despair. Instead, it bought back to me in what I can only describe as vivid memories of being in that place on several occasions myself, and thankfully turning back from the abyss.
I have struggled with depression for more than twenty years and on two occasions succumbed to total breakdowns. These manifest themselves in two main ways - total anxiety, coupled with fear and panic. It is almost impossible to breathe. You sweat, shake and shiver. You pray a lot. You are convinced you are going to die of a stroke or a heart attack. In lulls in the hysteria when only the darkness is left and a strange calm descends, you start to analyse the options. This was my situation last Christmas and I can remember vividly working out how many people would attend my funeral. I was convinced I was not going to survive this latest breakdown though I don’t think I ever worked out how I would die, I am pretty sure I didn’t actually contemplate killing myself.
I first suffered severe depression in 1988. I lost my job and was pressured into giving up the equity I owned in the business. With the benefit of medication I made a partial recovery and was well enough to find another job. However, I had a relapse and in fact became much worse, again overwhelmed by despair. My consultant suggested I may benefit from a stay in a psychiatric hospital and a course of electric shock treatment. Scared out of my life, I agreed and the results were very good. It was as if a large wet blanket had been lifted from my brain. However, again I relapsed. There was more ECT. I got better again. I relapsed. More treatment. The national grid was taking a pounding.
Finally my outlook became positive, and though still on medication I returned to normality. In 18 months I was drug free and for the next 20 years remained so, using this to draw strength.
I started to struggle again some two years ago and still persisted in my self-analysis method of positivity but during Nov/Dec last year I was overcome by the darkness. Eventually I sought help and was prescribed drugs. However, I’d left it too late. I totally destroyed the family Christmas and spent Christmas night talking to a psychiatrist via NHS Direct, who made sure this would not be my last Christmas. My wife and daughter drove to a local hospital to get more drugs to basically knock me out.
Five weeks later I went back to work. I’m still on medication albeit reduced and have no intention of coming it for a good while. It’s natural to ask ‘why me?’ But the same can be said of cancer, heart disease, MS, MND, and hundreds of other things that strike us down. They are all illnesses, and in most cases they are NOT OUR FAULT.
Though never diagnosed as such, I think I am prone to being bi-polar. Many great people have been such, Winston Churchill, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and now Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and thousands of bright articulate people, who for some unknown reason succumb to the darkness. If you know someone who suffers - family or friend, work colleague or neighbour – think about this. Just caring and listening are wonderful therapies.