Saturday, 18 July 2015

Opening Up to Life OR Getting the Better of the Worst


As regular readers know only too well, I have suffered with depression all my life and still take 25mg of a (fairly) mild anti-depressant. Prozac helped me through a very bad time once, but (like another strong anti-depressant I tried) left me feeling exhausted all the time so I switched to the (far milder) one I take now.

It is important to find an anti-depressant that suits you and always read the information leaflet for possible side-effects. Even so, never rely on anti-depressants to see you through. A positive attitude and any form of creative therapy you enjoy remain a must-have and must-do. (Creative therapy can be anything from gardening, walking, writing, pottery... anything in which success is measured by the enjoyment achieved by simply doing it, not results.) Creative therapy is no quick fix and requires a huge effort if always an effort worth making. Always easier said than done, never try and do it all on your own. 

I suffered from depression even as a child although depression in children was not recognized in those days. For years, I would go on anti-depressants until I started to feel better and then come off them. This, I now realize was a mistake. I was scared of becoming dependent on them so it was music to my ears when a GP suggested that patients prone to depression should stay on an appropriate anti-depressant and dosage all the time. I suspect my life would have taken a hugely significant turn for the better had I been given this advice a long, long, time ago. 

A friend who suffers from depression has paid a lot to visit counsellors but they don’t help everyone and it all depends who you see and how good (or bad) they are. I think it is important to get feedback from a counsellor; too many just sit back and let you talk, which is not a bad thing, but I personally would need positive feedback to feel it was worth parting with my money.

My friend says she hasn’t the self-confidence to do anything new whether it's meeting new people, studying a subject in which she is genuinely interested etc. She says she 'cannot' do anything new until she gets her self-confidence back. I sympathize, but take the opposite view. I believe we only get our self-confidence back by doing things, setting ourselves realistic targets etc. These need not be too ambitious to start with, and if they don’t work out quite as we hoped we should not see it as a failure but give ourselves a pat on the back for giving it a go…and try something else.

Many people think I am a strong person because (most of the time) I manage to beat depression. Believe me, though, when I say I am not strong. It is (very) heavy going. I make the effort because the alternative is even worse to contemplate. 

True, it isn’t always easy to find someone to listen; certain family members and friends won’t recognize the danger signs and will fail to appreciate a depressed person’s depths of personal crisis, handing out well-meaning platitudes like a plate of biscuits to make matters (much) worse. Even so, never give up; there is invariably someone who can help if we let them and are honest with them about how we feel. Talking to a pet can help, too, if only because the worst seems so much less bad once we give it a voice.

There is no shame in feeling less able to cope. Putting on a brave face is never a good idea. (No one can read minds.)

OPENING UP TO LIFE or GETTING THE BETTER OF THE WORST

Envelopes unopened;
scared to look, acknowledge even;
feelings like flowers left
at a grave if only to give the dead
a raison d’ĂȘtre

Profiles of the Great
interrogating me wherever I go
about my response to the cost
of living, voices chanting dark spells
at every checkout

Fear, clammy hands
on matchstick arms, humanity
strutting its hour on stage
(art of least resistance) chalking up
mock victories

Words, like mandarins
in white coats supervising a trainee
working from a manual
on staying bottom of the class without
really trying 

Envelopes, daring me…
Fingertips fumbling with terror
(Can I really do this?)
No stigma in old wounds ruling out
perfection

Now, OPENING UP...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem – under the title ‘Prozac Nation’ - appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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