The Illness That’s Still Taboo

This is an article from the Guardian, a first-person piece by Mark Rice-Oxley. It’s unusual in that it contains an unusually clear description of how depression can start. It also continues, heartbreakingly, to describe his descent into the worst parts of the illness:

Christmas was the lowest ebb. All that snow, all the lovely children with faces shiny like apples. I couldn’t be near them, but couldn’t be alone. I trailed around the house after my poor wife like a small dog with internal bleeding. I slept eight hours in four nights. On 23 December, I went for an emergency meeting with my psychiatrist who shook his head and said, “I’m sorry it’s turned out this way.” Afterwards, in the thickening twilight and with the first vapours of sedation gathering, I felt my wretchedness in the joy of others: the shoppers and their gift bags; the lovers giggling; the young man on the tube engrossed in a book. I wish I was him, I thought. I wish I was engrossed in a book on the tube.

And also what worked for him, and the struggles. It’s all so well described.

The four things that really helped: meditation, love, time and therapy. I discovered the first through a colleague who sent me some CDs. At first, meditation feels hard and slightly odd. In time, it’s a valuable technique. Love – in a child’s Halloween face, or a friend’s casual invitation to lunch, boosted morale. Time worked away on the broken bits. Therapy taught me that I’m not who I think I am, that some of my reflexes and instincts are unhealthy.

But it wasn’t a smooth ride. Some days, exercise would help. Some days, it was too much and I’d suffer for two or three days. Some days, odd jobs felt wholesome, sometimes they felt depleting. Some days, just making dinner would be too much. Other days, I would feel like doing nothing, but know that doing nothing was the worst thing I could do. Some days, most painfully of all, being with the children was just too much. At other times, just to sit and watch them climb or paint was a blessed relief. I could still parent, after all.

I’ve not just taken out the good parts. There’s a lot more to the piece. It’s a terrific article. I think if you’ve ever had major depression, it will be all too familiar. The piece is here.

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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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