Mental illness is not set in stone.

A while back I wrote a blog post about my journey with mental illness.  I talked about my struggles with anxiety and depression and how I had sought help to get through these issues after trying to help myself and not quite succeeding.

Last year I had some troubles again.  Around October/November I had another bout of depression which really knocked me back.  But what surprised me was not that I had another bout of depression - that's happened before and I have dealt with it - what surprised me about it was the completely different feelings that were associated with it this time around.

If you'll indulge me, let's take a step back and I'll explain how we got to this point.

In February 2018 I ruptured my Achilles while sparring with a couple of mates, I knew as soon as it happened that I'd done my Achilles, I just felt it go.  It was annoying but I worked my way through it and got back to training.  Way too early as it happens.  I went back to training in July and my first training session back I ruptured it again.  This time I needed surgery to repair it.

I managed my mental health well over this period of time, I had a few frustrating moments when I looked too far ahead in terms of my recovery time (I am still recovering and not back to full training 7 months down the track), but overall I managed it pretty well.

Until October/November last year.  

Now traditionally, my symptoms of depression have been pretty similar each time I have had a little struggle.  Lack of motivation, sleep disruption, bad diet, lack of energy, usually a little anxiety mixed in for good measure.  These symptoms have remained pretty stable since my first depressive episode.

But this time it was different.  Sure there was some sleep disruption and a steady stream of bad food choices but there was something else.  There was an overwhelming sense of worthlessness that came with these other symptoms.  I felt that I was a worthless human being, that I was of no help to my family, my friends, my clients, that the world wouldn't miss me if I just up and vanished.

This was new to me, I had never felt this way before.  I was never suicidal and didn't have any thoughts of self-harm, but I just felt like I was taking up space that had better uses than to hold me in it.  My wife Sarah had never seen me this way before either.

She had been telling me to go back and see my psychologist that I'd seen last time, but for 6 weeks I kept sliding backwards into depression and thinking that it would pass.  

Eventually when I was couch-ridden one day, I called my GP and went to see him, he basically told me that I could take anti-depressants but I would have to be on them for a year or more and that he didn't think that this was the right course for me.  He sent me to see my psychologist and asked her for her thoughts about medication and for us to all discuss it after I'd seen her.

Long story short, I saw her and we talked.  We all decided that all I needed were to start implementing some strategies that I'd previously been doing but had lapsed over time.  Medication wasn't needed as she believed (really my GP and I also thought this) that it was really Achilles based - I had kept positive for so long through multiple setbacks but eventually it was all just too much.

Though it's been tough, I have worked on getting better over the last few months and am feeling good again.  There are still bad days but they are lessening and I am on the way towards a good mental health space again.  Thanks to my family, friends and my health support system I am feeling more and more like myself every day.

But one thing that still takes me by surprise is that my symptoms were so different than my previous depressive episodes.  I guess it should be obvious that these sorts of conditions can change and evolve, but to me it wasn't.  Another thing that surprised not just myself but also some other people when I mentioned that I'd been having troubles again, was that they hadn't even noticed.  I obviously had managed to hide it pretty well among other people outside my family.

So I guess here is what to take away from this.  Mental health conditions can morph and change, so what worked before for you may not always work in the future.  Going back to "square one" with your treatment or strategies is not something to be ashamed of.  Check in on your mates, those that seem strong may not always be feeling the same way.

Lastly I would like to thank my friends and family who have helped me through this last rocky patch.  It means the world to me to have mates and family who can deal with me at my lowest when I didn't even feel like dealing with me.  You guys are amazing and I will always be grateful.


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