“I’m still accepting that depression is something I have”

I’m in a strange sort of place now….. Looking back and doing that hated thing known as reflecting I’ve realised how much of a low I’ve been in since last August! I only really became aware of it once my year exams were up in May! I know exactly why I dipped so low. My family are facing a future with deep uncertainty, my dad, my beloved, talented and awesome dad has been diagnosed with very early onset dementia in an atypical presentation. We cannot predict or know how and what he will lose and when, right now it’s his words that are messed up….. The old dad is still there but I don’t know if he will see me graduate, walk me down the aisle or ever hold a grandchild… What not a lot of people realise is the diagnosis is only the bullseye, the butterfly effect has entirely upset the family dynamic. We’ve all felt the burden but my default of pragmatic stoicism meant I’ve taken a lot of the emotional burden of everyone in our little family being overwhelmed and upset, compounded by the physical and mental burden med school brings… It’s not a great place to begin the long slog of second year!

It’s amazing or throughout the year my chorus of I’m fine has fooled and gone unchallenged by friends and colleagues.. Except a few very close confidants who patiently observed and listened and were there with weekends away, distracting visits and general banter! Looking back my coping mechanisms probably kept me on the right side of crashing…. I was at the gym like a woman possessed, studying as a distraction a lot and keeping my finger in so many pies to avoid the default duvet dive I’d take! Weekends with no plans were generally spent moping and not doing much but sleep and hide from the world…

Another thing I struggled with this year was the praise I’d get for doing lots of things, I’m not convinced I deserved the positive feedback as to me I was simply procrastinating my feelings and thoughts instead of dealing with them. I can’t even be proud of my exam results yet because I consider them a distraction from not dealing with things…. Enviously I’ve watched my year grow socially and friendships form whilst I’ve been hitting the self destruct/over busy/cannot cope button repeatedly.

I have sought help within Uni, I’ve been seeing the academic supervisor who’s helped tremendously by making Uni work for me and meeting for a chat before things got too much. I’ve also spoken to the Uni counsellor who’s helped a lot by making me realise I’m not to blame, the self inflicted guilt is not helpful and how and what way the family dynamic is impacting on me. It’s been great to have services on hand as and when I need it, but with hindsight I probably should have seen my GP and probably should still go but I’m still accepting that depression is something I have/had. At least I know how and what I can do to help the situation if it happens again and that in itself is a lesson I needed to learn.

UPDATE 2 weeks later: Since writing this I’ve plucked up the courage to get the help I deserve, a long conversation with my best friend, a sympathetic GP and a script for sertraline I’m over ‘the first step’. So far I’ve been feeling physically a bit crap because the meds will take time to kick in but I’m starting to get back to my old self, whether this is because I’m temporarily out of the family home for a summer internship or the medication or talking about it I’m not sure, but something’s helping. My parents won’t get to know about what’s going on, they’ve got their own mountain to climb, I can now be there with a genuine smile on my face instead of a scowl and a sigh. Things won’t change overnight, each day brings a little more relief and improvement, and this will probably be a journey that lasts a lifetime but it’s a start and the only way is up.

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