I was diagnosed with depression a couple of weeks ago. It’s a strange illness that affects my perception and judgment.
The relationship problems that I’ve mentioned in previous posts took their toll on me mentally. I’m prone to feeling low in any case, which is related to my poor self-esteem, and the added stresses pushed me further down into a moderate depression.
In terms of symptoms, I have been experiencing most of common ones associated with depression:
- Persistent low mood. In my case I have had several episodes where I have broken down in tears or come very close.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities. I found I had little interest in programming — my special interest! — or crosswords, something I am usually very keen on.
- Disturbed sleep. I have had trouble with insomnia and my sleep patterns have become significantly disturbed.
- Change in appetite. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks and I am still slowly losing weight. My appetite is considerably reduced.
- Poor concentration. This made it nearly impossible for me to work: my job as a programmer requires mental effort and focus, which I had been unable to achieve. It also means it becomes very difficult to make rational decisions.
- Fatigue. I have been feeling physically tired a lot, almost exhausted with little energy to get up and do things.
- Agitation. I have been feeling unsettled a lot and have been a little snappish at times, losing patience much more easily than usual.
My doctor and I discussed the range of treatments available which fall into two categories: psychological (talking) and medication. My initial reaction was almost to reject the medication options out of hand because I have a strong reluctance to take any medicines, even paracetamol for a headache.
I have two reasons: first, I have always found it difficult to swallow pills. Second, I have a fear that there may be some side-effect that will affect the way I think and feel: that it will change who I am.
Having expressed this to the doctor, we began by considering the psychological treatments. These are forms of counseling and therapy including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which I had some success with as a treatment for anxiety. The down side is that where I live the resources are limited and there are long waiting lists: it might take three or four months before I could begin treatment.
This encouraged me to be open-minded about medication, specifically a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). The thing about depression is that the brain’s chemistry is out of balance, and in my case the difficulties I am having with sleep patterns and concentration in particular point at serotonin levels being a large factor.
I asked numerous questions about side-effects, withdrawal, whether it would still allow me drive safely, whether it would affect my thinking. Obviously with the last one there I hadn’t really considered the point of the medication: it’s supposed to affect how you think and feel over time, easing the low mood, improving concentration and sleep. And where I am right now isn’t somewhere I’d like to be for any longer than necessary.
After satisfying myself that there were unlikely to be any serious effects of starting a course of a SSRI, and being reassured that it would be safe to stop taking it at any point in the first few weeks should I suffer any adverse reaction, I agreed that I felt it to be the best treatment for me.
I am now five days into the course on a low dosage and apart from some mild nausea, which is not uncommon, I have yet to notice any effects: this is perfectly normal as it can take up to three or four weeks for the drug’s effect to build up to a noticeable level. I still have my low mood, my concentration has not improved, nor has my sleeping. My appetite is still suppressed.
But this is to be expected at this early stage, and I must be patient. I hope that I will continue to avoid any serious side-effects and that my mood will begin to improve over the coming weeks. Only time will tell.