Josie sees her GP for depression
Josie's experience with depression changed when she started a conversation with her GP about what she was going through.
Time to read: 5 minutes
Josie, 29 years old, recently got back from her first deployment
Winston Churchill called his depression 'The Black Dog'.
I think it’s more like a heavy black cloud that settles all around you. It feels like a lead sheet over your head and you can’t see through it. All you can see is blackness. I didn’t know what it was until a few months ago.
I reckon I was a pretty normal kid. I had ups and downs, but generally I was OK. When I was 23, I was working in a dead end job and one day my boyfriend of two years walked out on me. No explanation, just up and left. I was devastated. For the week after that I barely got out of bed, I just couldn’t find the energy or the motivation to get up or do anything.
Luckily I had some good friends who looked after me and got me back on my feet. I left my job, joined the army, and things really looked up for a while.
But after I got back from the Middle East I started feeling horribly depressed. I don’t even know why – the deployment wasn’t difficult. I wasn’t really in danger and I didn’t see anything too awful or upsetting, but the adjustment coming home was harder than I expected. I just felt worse and worse, and all the things I used to enjoy seemed stupid and pointless.
I couldn’t be bothered doing anything, not even eating. I didn’t have any energy but I couldn’t sleep either. I managed to talk the doc on the base into giving me a few weeks off sick, but that didn’t do any good. I just stayed in bed and cried. Once I even thought about killing myself, but then I thought about what it would do to Mum and Dad.
While I was off sick, I saw an article about depression in a magazine. 'Beating the Blues', it was called. It was like they were writing about me – they described exactly what I was going through.
Except for the bit where they talked about treatment and getting over depression, because I hadn’t done anything about that.
Although part of me didn’t believe it, another part of me wanted to give it a try. One thing was for sure – I didn’t want to feel like this any longer.
So I went back to the doc and asked if I could see the psych. He wasn’t enthusiastic. I think he thought I just wanted to get out of work. He then got me to fill out a questionnaire and my responses seemed to change his mind.
He gave me a prescription for an antidepressant and referred me to a civilian psychologist in town. The psychologist was good and the ADF paid all the bills. It was scary going into the psychologist’s office the first time; I didn’t know what to expect. But the psychologist was really nice. We talked about the problems I’d been having.
He said that depression can happen for lots of reasons: maybe some biological things, maybe some bad habits, maybe some life stress. But he said there were effective treatments. I remember leaving his office that first day with more hope than I’d felt for ages.
We had about 15 sessions and I go back for regular 'check ups'.. From my perspective, I reckon I’m travelling well.
The GP said I could wean off the antidepressants next month. I also saw a mental health social worker who worked with the psychologist. She helped me sort out some practical things, like my accommodation and my relationship with my family … things that were getting in the way of me feeling better. But the most important thing for me was getting back into doing the things I used to love.
I realised that if I sat around until I felt motivated it would never happen. So I forced myself to do things and the motivation gradually came back. I actually started enjoying myself. And with the psych’s help, I started to keep a diary of my thoughts. When I start to think negatively, I write down what I’m thinking, challenge it and come up with something more helpful.
It might sound simple, but it really helps. Now I’m looking forward to the future. I feel like the cloud has blown away.
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Depression is a distressing and disabling condition that can reduce your quality of life. Treatments are available that can change your life for the better. The first step is to start a conversation.