‘What if this is as good as it gets?’
Unbelievably or not, as of next month it will be a year since I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Looking back, to those close to me I must seem unrecognisable to the state I was in this time last year. When I look back to how I was feeling this time last year, it seems very strange. The way I was acting and what I was feeling almost seem ridiculous to me. It is very strange as even though I was most certainly feeling that way at the time, a year on I now find it hard to identify with. When I try to think back to what I was going through, it almost feels like it was another person going through it. I like to think this is a sign of the progress I have made in the last 12 months, that how I was feeling last November is so far removed from how I am feeling now it is almost unrecognisable.
This time last year I was down, I mean really down. Getting out of bed on a morning was a massive struggle. Working up the minimum level of motivation required just to go to work was a draining task. I dreaded going to work to the point it was making me physically as well as mentally ill. I was suffering with IBS, sleeplessness, chronic headaches as well as irritability, paranoia, restlessness, lethargy, constantly being angry, rollercoaster emotions and sometimes just feeling so numb and detached I couldn’t even hold a conversation.
At the time it didn’t seem obvious to me that there was anything wrong with me. I just thought I was having a bit of a tough time at work and was a bit fed-up. In reality I was so anxious I was becoming (or had become) paranoid and as a result so depressed I wasn’t enjoying life and it was interfering with fundamental things like spending time with my family or going to work.
At the urging of my wife and parents I went to the GP who signed me off work for two weeks and asked me to keep a mood diary. From there I was signed off again and put on anti-depressants and referred for counselling. I spent most of the first month or so off work worrying about being off work and getting anxious about being anxious. Getting better was going to take longer than I had hoped.
Anyway, long story short I eventually got some decent counselling (the first guy was rubbish, the second much more helpful) and through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) managed to start to bring myself around. I think a combination of this, drugs and a massively understanding wife and group of friends, I began to function something like normal again. Foolishly I went back to work much sooner than I should have and after about 5 weeks I shut down again. Without going into too many details, I acted completely unreasonably and nearly tore my family apart. Luckily my wife was able to see this was depression and stuck by me. I have no idea how hard this must have been for her, but thankfully she supported me on the condition I went back to the doctors. I did and had my prescription increased, was signed off work again and started taking my counselling much more seriously. After another six weeks or so I managed to get back to normal, to the point my wife commented one day the ‘old Gareth’ was back. This coincided perfectly with birth of our second beautiful son. I hate to think how it would have been if I was still in a pit of depression when my boy arrived. Thankfully I was able to enjoy this amazing time as I should of.
So since then, things have been pretty good. I have good days and bad days but many more good than bad. I still get a bit down and anxious at times, but I now have some skills to deal with these periods. I enjoy my life and even though there are something’s that aren’t perfect (work!) but isn’t everyone’s life like that? Its amazing what a difference a year has made. Going from one of the toughest times of my life to one of the best. Its been a challenge at times and not always easy but I feel I’ve made so much progress and managed to maintain a good level of mental health. My anxieties and depression still exist, but most of the time I can manage them. I realise depression and anxiety isn’t necessarily something that will go away like a cold or a virus, it may be something I have to live with for a long time if not the rest of my life. However, as long as I can keep on top of it, nip it in the bud best I can before it happens and strive to become stronger and better equipped for life’s challenges, I think I’ll be okay. If this is as good as it gets, then that’s fine by me.