Warning Signs: Red Alert

Its strange when you can feel yourself getting ill.  Frequently people will post up on social networking sites that they can feel a cold starting, they take precautions of drinking Lemsip and getting cosy.  When they know they’re sinking in health they can just, well, feel it.  Even before they are in the full grips of an illness.

The same is true, for me at least, of depression.

Since the start of the year I’ve been pretty well.  Not as well as those without a mental health condition, but well enough that my depression has been pushed back.  I’ve made it into Uni with more regularity than previous semesters, got on with work I need to do and taken on a couple of extra activities- though nothing taxing.  I’ve been sensible.  There have been opportunities for me to do more, to get involved in other projects but I’ve turned them down knowing full well if I take them on I will ultimately end up having to pull out of them.  So I made the wise decision to limit my activities.  And that’s helped.

But the thing is, even taking precautions, making decisions not to do too much, doesn’t mean an episode won’t occur.  I’m pretty sure this is a life long condition, that’s not pessimism, its realism.  And accepting that means that when episodes flare up I am not taken by- too much- surprise.  Of course people may argue that if you expect to get ill you are more likely to, but its not so much I expect to get ill but realise that it’s a real possibility and take actions to lessen its impact.

So, I’ve been pretty good.  Feeling better, in no small part likely due to my abstaining from alcohol- bar one evening when I had a few bevies as it was my birthday.  So nearly four months and alcohol has only passed my lips once.  Its fairly safe to say that the alcohol related episodes of my depression are a thing of the past.  But not the illness itself.  And in my clearer mind I can see the early signs of an episode.

For the past few months, being well, has meant I’ve had a calmer disposition and I’ve been more selfless and accommodating.  My patience is no longer wearing thin and on several occasions I’ve even felt “happy”.  But now, I can see it starting to take hold again.  I’ve lived with this illness long enough to know the warning signs.  Like when you see the warning signs of a cold, I can see the warning signs of a depressive episode.

Its been creeping up, slowly, but it has been there.  I first started to notice problems within the past few weeks- my ability to travel much farther than Uni has all but disappeared.  I had to go a little further recently to buy pet food and it took me three days to psych myself up to do it.  I knew then there was a problem.  In fact, even making it into Uni now is a hit or miss situation.  The thought of going further- all the way of the 9 miles into town – is almost impossible to imagine.

For me, the warning signs tend to consist of the following:

A feeling of unease at having to travel too far from the safety of my room.
An inability to focus on tasks, like essays.
Anxiety- just generally feeling anxious and jittery.
A creeping low mood- the idea that people are pissed off at me for no real reason.

And all of those have come in to play.  Also, a slight bit of paranoia is there, but not too strong.  But none the less, the signs are all there.  I AM about to have an episode.  In fact, I’m in all likelihood in one.

I’m looking forward to the early hours of the morning- the country is asleep and I can carry on uninterrupted and for a few hours the worries become manageable.  But how do I handle this?  That’s the stumper.  I’m heading into an episode, like it or not, but how best to deal with it, to try and drag myself out of it?  One way is to try and meet up with friends, I don’t think I can manage a full jaunt into town but the local area could be good. Baby steps.  Another is to immerse myself in a TV show.  Currently I’m watching Star Trek Enterprise and I think a few weeks of just lying back and watching it will help.

The trouble is, when you’re in this state there isn’t much you can really do.  Like when you have a cold, you can take Lemsip and pills to feel a bit better but you’re still ill, and you still struggle to do everything you need to.  And it’s the same with depression.  I’m not really going to feel a great deal better, but like when you relax in bed with your lemony drink feeling crap, I’ll be doing the same.  I can at least manage my condition.  This week I’m going to go out if I feel up to it, try and arrange to meet friends and generally take it easy.  Try not to stress about things outside of my control or invent reasons why my friends hate me.

This is something I wanted to try and get out there- that like with any illness, depression can be recognised before its fully in control.  And like with any illness I’m going to need a few days (or weeks) of nothing too strenuous or complicated.  In that regard it is no different to any physical illness.  The difference between your cold and my depression is that mine is invisible. And if there is one message people should take away from this, it is that illness is illness.  It doesn’t matter if its mental or physical.  You deal with it in much the same way.

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