Depression: A Year On

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Last summer I made the decision to come off my anti-depressents.

I’d been taking citalopram in various strengths (40mg, 20mg and 10mg) for 18 months, and whilst my occupational health advisor had assured me that I could take them for as long as I needed, for the rest of my life if need be, the time just felt right.

She also, just FYI, said she knew of women who had conceived on citalopram and had gone on to breastfeed on it – albeit on a low dose, but it gave me hope, it made me realise that if depression was going to linger for way longer than it was welcome at the Hannah Gale party, then at least it wouldn’t ruin all of my life’s dreams and ambitions.

I’m pretty sure I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, but sadly, when I first approached my GP about it when I was 16 he dismissed it. In fact, and wait for it because it gets even more patronising and fucked up, he pulled a book from a shelf and opened it a few pages in and said ‘this is how much of your life you’ve written, now go and write the rest.’

I mean, it’s a cheery quote when you’re in a bad mood because you’ve had a shitty day at work and a boy you like hasn’t text you back, but when you just want help, any help, someone to take you seriously and make everything OK, it feels a bit like someone’s stuck burning hot needles and swords into your soul.

Cheers for that pal.

I was diagnosed a few weeks before Christmas 2013. I hadn’t met Chris, I hadn’t moved to London. I was sharing my best friend’s bed and spending 4 hours of every day on trains between Sussex and London. Life, despites what it sounds like, was really fucking good. I’d finally got my foot on the post-graduation career ladder with my job at LOOK.co.uk which I loved, my Dad had got the all-clear from cancer and I was surrounded by some of my favourite people day in and day out.

But something just wasn’t right.

At work I was Hannah, and then I’d come home and just feel this heavy emptiness take over my whole body.

In those few weeks leading up to booking my doctor’s appointment (this time with a new guy at the practice) I was erratic, withdrawn and unpredictable.

I invited all my friends over for a 1st December putting-up-the-decorations party and then proceeded to go to bed at 8pm and lie and stare at the wall in the dark whilst they swapped looks of WTF.

I dropped my phone at the station and cracked the screen in a minor way. My best friend then came home to find me sobbing on the lounge floor just staring at the wall an hour later, still with my shoes on, still with my bag over my shoulder.

I spent a lot of time just driving down to the sea at night and staring out at the waves. Anything that could calm me and help me breathe slowly and deeply, anything that would give me an excuse to sit in silence and do nothing but watch.

I think the difficult thing for depression, when suffering with it and as an onlooker, is the inability to snap out of it.

Once the dark clouds in your head have appeared it’s gameover. You lose all energy, all motivation, all desire for life. And, even if you stay in bed, the idea of reading or even watching TV is too overwhelming, your life becomes a vicious circle of staring and thinking every negative thought that your imagination can conjur up.

If you’re in bed and letting your mind take the respite from the world that it’s begging you to, then you’re crippled by thoughts of guilt of all the things you should be doing, thoughts of stupidity because you’re such a fucking idiot for not being able to get out of bed, and thoughts that maybe you’re making this whole thing up, that maybe no-one believes you anyway, that maybe they’re all laughing about how dramatic and attention-seeking you are.

Your brain becomes your own worst enemy, and it is the one thing that is impossible to remove.

When I had that doctor’s appointment and he prescribed me medication, he made me do a standard test in order to diagnose me – questions about my self worth and energy and thoughts of suicide.

Afterwards he told me that he believed I was suffering from a combination of depression, stress and anxiety. He also took a blood test to check for low iron and thyroid problems.

One of the weirdest symptoms from my neat little cluster of mental defects, and one which I sometimes forget ever happened, is the sweats and chills.

I’d wake up at 3am several times a week drenched. I’d have to change my pyjamas, they’d be soaked and I’d be shivering, even in the thick of winter. It was a weird thing to get used to, but in some sense it was nice to see a physical symptom, something someone else could see, something which I couldn’t have made up.

My overwhelming emotion whilst watching that doctor write that prescription was joy. Someone had believed me, someone had given a name to what I was feeling, it was real and it wasn’t in my head. It was somthing that could be fixed. And it felt like a little beam of light was suddenly visible in my brain, it was good.

Over the next year or so I had stable periods, I saw a doctor every month or two for new prescriptions, I saw an occupational health therapist at work who sent me 57864587 emails if I missed or cancelled an appointment so that I couldn’t avoid her, and I had some less-than-stable periods.

I was signed off work for a week with stress. A week that was entirely fuelled by pop tarts and crumpets because cooking? Nah ta.

A little while later I met Chris, I moved out to Leytonstone on my own and I bought Rudey. And then, a short year after that, I came off the meds, moved to Ipswich and set up business.

I am not cured. I am recovering. That, is something I am very sure of and something that I feel like I need to remind myself and naive strangers all the time.

Stressful situations and change bring some of my old emotions rushing back to me like a giant tidal wave and they make me feel weak and engulfed and like a sad little lost teenager again.

But I am stronger now. I am more aware of myself and my moods and I know my triggers and I can recognise the signs that suggest I am not OK in my head.

Growing up, my friends would joke that I was bipolar because I would either be talking 100mph, singing to Rihanna and suggesting that we buy a litre of vodka and had a spontaneous night out, or I’d be sobbing in my car, unable to function. But I’m not that person anymore, not the way I was before.

Social media and lack of human interation makes me anxious, and sometimes I have to remind myself to step away, to take time for Hannah, to stop worrying about how people perceive me.

And sometimes, mostly when I’m tired or I’ve been travelling too much and feel out of control, the feelings of depression come creeping back. This little fog that says you can’t do anything, you’re an idiot, you don’t deserve any of this, you’re worthless.

But now I know these little demons are there, waiting in the shadows for me to fall, and I can keep an eye on them. I can keep them at bay.

But more than anything, whenever one of those moods possess me and threaten to make me a hyperventilating shell of myself, I remember that I’ve tackled it before, I’ve come up from way worse and I can do it again.

It is the belief in myself and all that I can achieve and all that I can battle, that keeps me sane, keeps me mentally healthy and keeps me feeling like me.

We are all so much greater than we realise.

 

 

  • Eve

    I’m so happy for you, Hannah that you’re feeling, even the slightest bit, better. Your posts are amazing & I love how personal they are to you.

    Great post.
    Eve xo
    http://anorganisedscatterbrain.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

  • I wish more people were able to speak out about depression like this, I think when you are a teenager it gets fobbed off as ‘hormones’ when it’s actually so much more, good thing your second doctor was on the ball and you were able to get help, that’s the first step. Xx

  • Evangeline

    Reading this has helped me with my own mental health issues. Thank you Hannah, it’s lovely to see you are doing better.

  • I love this. I’m a sufferer, but was also someone who didn’t want to do anything about it despite being diagnosed at 15. I did alright by myself, but not great. I’m better than I was though, I can feel myself getting closer to being honest when I say ‘I’m feeling good’ every day. I know it’ll longer, but I have to prove to myself that I can do anything

    x
    http://www.siobhanlrothwell.wordpress.com

  • Amy

    I really needed to read this. Thank you Hannah. πŸ™‚ x

  • We are all so much greater than we realise – I love this Hannah, thank you for that huge reminder!
    Gem x

  • Hey Hannah, thanks for this.
    I was also diagnosed with acute stress, anxiety and depression, in October last year but it had been going on for so much longer than that. I am still taking citalopram 10 months later. I’m not ready to come off it yet because major life things are still uncertain but I feel so much better than I did and I’m so grateful antidepressants exist.
    Keep writing, you’re an inspiration.
    Xoxox

  • Grace

    Thank you for this; I didn’t realise I needed to read it. My husband suffers from depression and anxiety and was diagnosed last September and signed off work. It’s been a long journey for us, getting used to a new kind of normal and understanding how important conversation and talking things through actually is. He tries to explain what is going through his head but struggles to put it in to words for someone who has never suffered from mental health issues and who has come from a family where the idea has always been that you pick yourself up and get on with it. I know it doesn’t work that way with depression but thank you for putting it in to words I can contemplate and get a glimpse at what must be going on in his head. It reminds me to try harder to be understanding and encouragaing.

  • Lauren

    You’ve done so well and come such a long way, you should be really proud x

    http://www.wonkylauren.com

  • Colette

    I really love your honesty. Your battle with depression sounds quite similar to my own. Thank you for posting this.

  • I am so pleased you have come such a long way. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety back in 2011 an still feel, even now, that I’m in recovery. Not all days are good but not all days are bad anymore.

    The honesty in this post gives me the strength to know I can get through – we are all so much greater than we realise!

    xo

  • Hi Hannah, This was a such a true and honest piece. I felt like I was seeing into your soul a little bit. While I do suffer from anxiety and stress, it is interesting to read about it from another persons perspective. When I was first diagnosed I was petrified but there was nothing out there about how people actually felt and what it was like getting past it. Everything I read made it seem like I was doomed for life. I love the courage you have to write about something so scary, so openly. I always feel as if I would be judged for being honest about my anxiety.

  • Rebecca

    Your writing is perfect and you seem to be able to express everything I was never really able to express to my family, friends or my (ex) boyfriend. I had counselling for a month or so at university, which really helped but I never sought help from a doctor because I wanted to try to tackle things on my own and without the need for medication. Now, three years later i’m still struggling on and life is a challenge, but your post gives me hope and is a perfect reminder that actually we are all amazing in our own way πŸ™‚ Thank you! xx

  • I feel for you babes, so many people suffer in silence, it’s great that you can be so open about it. Depression is one of those silent illnesses like Endometriosis which I suffer from. There are rarely any obvious, physical signs that we are ill and nobody, not even docs understand.

    I have been miss-diagnosed with Depression before when actually it was my contraception that I was on to help with my monthly pain. I’ve been this way since I was mid-teens and still I have not been fully diagnosed because Docs just push me from pillar to post as there’s no real cure for what I have/might have.

    I hold out my virtual hand to you and squeeze because I feel your pain.

    Wendy xx

    http://www.bumpkinbroke.com

    • GP’s are meant to warn you that the pill can cause depression and even prescribe you anti-d’s to go with the pill. I was never warned and I nearly killed myself. You couldn’t pay me to ever go on contraception again. x

      • Miranda

        I came off my contraceptive as I’m sure it was bringing me down mentally! I wasn’t warned either but I’m feeling much better for it.

        Great post Hannah, keep on fighting x

  • You described everything I’ve been through and everything I’m coming out of the other side of. It’s such a relief to know that someone else has understood how you feel, the way that others who haven’t suffered couldn’t.
    I took myself off my medication earlier this year and still feel that I’m working to become me again, but reading things like this show me that I can do it, it may take a while, but I can (and will) become completely me again.
    Thank you so much for your honesty, it’s so refreshing.
    Xxx

  • Hannah

    Your blog is the only one I actually read on a regular basis/ enjoy reading. It’s great to read about someone else in their twenties that for a least a little bit of time had no idea what they were doing with their life, (like me now at 22!) It makes me feel like a little bit less of a failure, and I think you’re awesome!

  • Becks

    My actual life right here. Thank you for this, I needed it today πŸ™‚

  • Hannah I always appreciate your honesty when writing your posts, depression and mental health is something that needs to be talked about a lot more in the open.

    Well done on coming so far!

    Lauren xxx

  • Laura

    It will be OK, it just might take a while. It’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with depression as a teen (after finding a doctor who would listen, I had a similar shut up and get on with it response). There have been ups and downs but in the last few years I’ve really felt in control! It’s a hard road and one I suspect I’ll always travel but I refuse to let it define me.

  • What a brilliantly honest post, and one that I can relate to a lot. I have been depressed since…well, probably forever…and I could see myself in a lot of what you wrote. I think you sound like you have a good handle on it – being aware that dips can come, that certain situations can send you way down low, that is a powerful tool to keep yourself alert and it also helps you get through the fogs that you can’t ward off.

  • Great post Hannah and you’re brave to open up about this. I’m on Citalopram at the moment too but I’m not feeling the effects. I hope to be in your place very soon.

    Natalie Ann xo // Petal Poppet Blogs β™₯

  • Fani Gunawan

    Hai hannah i came from Indonesia, i love your blog and seriously i capture sentence from your post and made it my quotes. Sorry my english is not good.. But you go girl.. Btw i love your style..

  • I’m so glad you chose to wrote this. I could identify with a lot of this, and a few months back this might have really helped. One of the worst things about depression is the feeling that you’re being pathetic for not being able to deal with life, so it’s always good when big bloggers share their experience (I feel like writers are more prone to depression because we overthink things).

    I’ll probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, but I’d rather that than feeling like I did. I’m not one for taking medication, but I really would encourage anyone feeling this way to see their doctor. My best friend used to joke I was bipolar too. I almost quit my amazing graduate job because I couldn’t cope, but fluoxetine has lifted me again. There’s a difference between suffering from, and living with depression – and that’s what we have to find.

  • I also decided to come of my meds for depression, it has now been 5 years and though like you I am not miraculously cured, I have learned many of my triggers and am better at managing my emotions. The medication gave me enough space from my own brain to put things into perspective and find myself again, I am glad things are going well for you and that you continue down such a positive path.

    http://www.emmainks.com/

  • Thankyou for blogging so openly and honestly about your struggles. I suffered in my late teens and early twenties and I know that now it still lingers. I was given meds in my twenties but refused to take them, purely as I had seen them have a bad effect on a friend of mine and I didn’t want to be that way. I have had counselling which had majorly helped me, I also meditate when things are feeling a bit too much to cope with. Mindfulness therapy has helped me in recent months.
    I am so glad that you have managed to cope without the anti depressants and that things are going well, but like you honestly stated it’s likely it will always be something you be in recovery from. I know that you can win the battle lady you’re strong and that fog can be defeated. X

  • I was just at the Mental Health Service today to be assessed. I have depression, anxiety and adult ADD. I’m waiting to hear about what treatment I am to be given. I never wanted to go back onto Citalopram (been off it since 2011) but I am just not coping with life anymore. I’m hoping I will get treatment for the ADD this time too.

    Youve built an amazing life despite this condition, be proud of that. Im glad youve learned what your triggers are and to keep an eye on them and to rise above them. Good luck hun πŸ™‚

  • It’s so great to hear that you felt good enough to come off meds, it must have felt amazing! Doctors can be real idiots sometimes, my mum has had years of trouble because they wouldn’t listen and the ripples it’s caused on us is beyond stressful and life changing.

    That last line is something I really needed to hear today, thank you Hannah and sending you all the positive vibes <3

    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Lifestyle Food Beauty

  • ornela

    i was so in need to read this….thank you

  • Annie

    I commented a couple of months ago on something you wrote about how being a blogger is hard – less than favourably, admittedly, though more about the subject matter than the writing – but I just wanted to say that I’m genuinely impressed by this post. It’s good writing about a difficult experience, in a way that’s relatable. I work in mental health and you definitely seem to have the right attitude; I really hope you continue to feel well and in control. Keep going, and keep reminding yourself of your progress.

  • HJ

    This has my life written all over it. I’m currently taking Citolpram after a good year of being over looked and told I’m social phobic (I’m not). Anxiety and stress are a constant battle with me at the moment and work being my main trigger. I receive barley any support & am often told I use my anxiety as a excuse. (Nice ah) maybe my job isn’t suited to me but with the threat of not being able to get a new job because lets face it, too many people out there going for the same jobs and the fact my anxiety makes the possibility of an interview seem like the worst thing ever – I’m kinda stuck in a what do I do situation. wouldn’t It be nice just to be understood and not judged.

  • Oh gosh. I wish I could be as brave as you. I am currently going through exactly the same as what you’re describing. Everyday seems a struggle at the moment! I’m glad you managed to fight through it.

    Jenna xx

  • This is such a wonderful post. Talking about mental health so candidly is so important, especially when sometimes everything can be going right in your life and you can still be depressed. Well done for being so open and thank you.

    Rachel | http://www.currentlyrachel.com

  • I’m glad you’re on the road to recovery, you’re a very strong and brave woman I really respect you for that x

    Lucy | http://www.foreverseptemberr.blogspot.com

  • “thoughts that maybe you’re making this whole thing up, that maybe no-one believes you anyway, that maybe they’re all laughing about how dramatic and attention-seeking you are.”

    God, that hits it right on the nail, doesn’t it?

    I’m so glad to hear you’re still feeling that it’s manageable, one year off the meds. And thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

    Like you, my first doctor dismissed my symptoms. It wasn’t until I repeatedly found myself crying in a corner of my flat, staring at the wall, that I convinced myself to seek help. And when the doctor confirmed that I wasn’t making it up, I was so relieved!

    I’m one year into the meds – waiting until life calms down a bit to experiment with lower/no dose.

    It’s good to hear from someone who has lived through it and come off them successfully, though. Makes me hopeful that it might be possible to manage this on my own someday.

    Thanks x

  • sam

    hi, i went to my counseling meeting that was set up for me yesterday evening im 25 suffer from depression and am a shadow of myself. this story explains how i feel very well.. uv come so far never give up!. inspiration to others reading this.. when i feel alone discovering letters like this gives me comfort – im not alone!

  • This is such an inspirational post, I’ve found myself wondering recently about whether I should see a doctor but I’ve been putting it off for fear they’ll say that they can do nothing. I’m so happy that you are feeling better and more positive and I hope that this only continues for you.

  • Trine

    I just want to send you a little love from someone, who knows exactly how it all feels.

    After 9 years, 4 therapists and 18 months on anti-depressants; i’ve been off meds, out of therapi and feeling generally happy for 3 years. But depression for me is like alcoholism, i’ll always be a part of me, I’ll have to control.

    Anyways lots of love and respect here from Denmark for talking openly about your experience with depression! Wish more would do that!

  • I think you were very brave to ask for help, especially when you were 16, and I have to agree on a lot of professionals not being good enough or at all for that matter in what they do.

  • A hearty high five to you for sharing your story. We need more stories like this! Thank you!

  • I recognize so much of how I feel in this. When even watching tv or reading is exhausting, how can you possibly even think about doing any work/research done? I feel guilty, all the time, and I know I’m not alone in this, that a lot of people in grad school feel this way too, but I feel like I should be able to do more, that I HAVE to do more. It’s always good to read about other people’s experiences though. Thank you.

  • Beth

    Thanks for a very honest and relatable post, Hannah. I too without a doubt suffered from depression in my teens but was also told it was down to hormones or just needing to have a “more positive attitude”. When I got to my early twenties, with the added pressure of work and money concerns, the depression came to a head- I wish I had gotten on top of it when it first became a life-affecting issue in my teenage years before it got to the stage it did.

    Hope your post gives someone who needs it the push to do the first scary doc’s appointment to get things on the road to improvement.

  • I am so pleased I discovered your blog! You are so right about having someone else see that there is something wrong, that it isn’t just in your head… I was badly bullied, by a guy who decided to totally warp my perception of people. People would be nice to my face, then he would take me to one side and tell me how much they hated me. It’s taken years of counseling and I am still not yet dealt with it. But, I am slowly learning to accept that he messed me up, and finally I am finding my feet again!

  • Kelly

    I’m so happy you’re getting through it. Everyday is battle and everyday you manage to make it through is a victory!

  • I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to read this Hannah. I’m currently taking Citalopram and have been for just over 6 months, but I’m worried about lowering my dose and ultimately stopping taking it altogether. I take it for severe anxiety and depression and it’s made such a difference so I’m worried that as soon as I stop taking it, I’ll go back to how things were and since I’m currently in my last year at uni and at a pivotal point in my life I just can’t let that happen just yet. I’m glad to see you are recovering well and this gives me hope that I too can be better. xx

  • Such a poignant and brave (as ever!) post Hannah. The only way we can quash the stigma surrounding mental health is by talking about it, and it means a lot that you are willing to use this platform to do so. Keep being awesome!

    Sophie Cliff

  • Emily

    It was a real help to read this and realise there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that people do eventually feel okay to come off them. I’ve been on citalopram for almost 3 years and I keep wanting to lower my dose and come off it but i am scared and this post helps a lot. thank you for posting such relevant, useful posts. I always read them

  • Thank you so much for this post Hannah, I’m about to move house and am struggling daily with panic attacks and can feel myself getting worse. Then I’m getting into that ridiculous spiral of I’m supposed to be better, everyone thinks I’m a dick etc!

    But reading this reminded me it’s totally okay to have off days, it’s always going to be a part of me, sometimes a very little part and other time a big part!

    Much love xx

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  • Nikki

    theres so much I want to say but all I can manage right now is – THANK YOU!!! Thank you so much for this post xx

  • Writing about mental health can be so difficult (I’ve spent two months trying to write one piece about my own) and you’ve just written so beautifully and so eloquently about depression and your experiences. It was a real pleasure to read this πŸ™‚

  • Kerrie

    Hannah, I am not sure if you will read this as there are like 10 gazillion comments and this is a little of an old post (sorry just trying to catch up on everything!!) But i just have to ask- why do you feel you need to come off citalopram? I am on it currently, have been for about a year, and lord knows there is no way i am coming off this magic potion unless i absolutely have to! I feel like i dont want to go back to who or how i was and I dont want any negative emotions in my life like there used to be. I am so happy, and so grateful for where i am in life- there is so much clarity now and i am able to decipher situations so much better than before. Honestly, it is like the fog has lifted and i can see clearly. I can make better decisions, i can understand situations better etc. Anyway i am sure you know what i am getting at, so again i ask…why are you going to come off the medication, if it makes you feel better?

    Someone once explained depression to me as a simple imbalance of chemicals in our brains. Much the same way someone who is diabetic needs a little bit of medicine to help them out, we need a little bit of medicine to help our brains out and guide our little neurons into the correct places.

  • Going through my Bloglovin and only saw this entry now. I know it’s been posted a while back but I had the urge to comment anyway.

    I was diagnosed with depression when I was about 14, but I honestly can’t remember a time when I haven’t felt like this. At around 18 I was subscribed with antidepressants and I tried two different ones during a period of 2-3 years but I never felt like any of them really worked and that maybe this was just my permanent state. I went to therapy from 14-year-old onwards all the way until I decided to move to London in 2013. I feel like talking to someone was the only thing really keeping me sane, even if it didn’t necessarily “cure me”.

    I stand by my decision about moving to London, I even think that it was probably the best thing I could’ve done, but there’s really no fairytale ending. Like you said – I’m not cured, I’m recovering. I’m not sure if I’ll ever recover fully but I’ve realized that it’s okay to have those bad days.

    I used beat myself up for “failing in recovery” if I suddenly had a bad spell after several good days. It’s important to let yourself have those days, be sad and cry (or stare to nothingness etc.), but still to remember that it’s not gonna be like that forever. I saw this quote once and it really helped me: “don’t let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life”. I know it’s really simple but it helped. πŸ™‚ This one helped me at really tough time too, I remember reading it in between sobs: http://likegrass.tumblr.com/post/43439314148 x

    Sorry for rambling! I just don’t really get to talk about this too often and this post really hit home, so thank you for writing this and I really hope you will just continue to feel better over time. πŸ™‚

    Laura / Middle of Adventure

  • Thank you for writing about something that so many of us struggle with. Depression has such a stigma still attached to it, so talking about it almost feels taboo. Thankfully the brave ones like you make the quiet struggles easier.

  • Hillary

    This is the best thing I have ever read.


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