Today is the World Health Organisation’s World Health Day 2017. The focus for this year’s World Health Day is depression. The WHO are running a year long campaign to raise awareness of depression and promote the slogan ‘good to talk’.
Close to 10% of the world’s population suffer with depression or anxiety. It’s an illness that can strike anyone, at any time. It is also very common in people with chronic illnesses.
I was first diagnosed with depression in October 2015. My marriage was in trouble but since my Crohns diagnosis three year previously, I had spiralled. I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since being a baby and could probably tell a doctor a thing or two about it. This disease was new, scary and I wasn’t really sure what it meant for me.
For a long while I tried to ignore the Crohns. I was basically told ‘you have Crohns Disease’ at my colonoscopy. I was asked if I had any questions but in my post sedation, shocked haze, I couldn’t think of any. I was told the biologic medication I was on would be switched to one that would hopefully treat both the Crohns and Arthritis and sent home.
During the next three years I tried to carry on as normal. It didn’t turn out so well! Aside from the problems in my marriage (I won’t go into everything now but he was very unsupportive of my health problems for one) I didn’t have a clue as to how my Crohns could affect me. One flare I had over Christmas 2014 was so bad I lost a stone in weight in 6 days. Looking back on how ill I was I should have been in hospital more than once but I thought it was just something to be coped with, as I had with my Arthritis for so long at home.
I started to avoid the hospital and missed alot of appointments in all my clinics. I lost my fighting spirit, my positive outlook and could barely drag myself out of bed. I felt like a terrible mum and had no motivation to do anything. I just wanted to be ‘normal’, not an ill person anymore.
At the end of September 2015 I decided I needed to learn more about my disease. That’s when I discovered online Crohns support groups. I can’t begin to tell you how much the help, support and information I got online helped me. Having people who had similar problems to me and understood exactly how I was feeling was amazing.
I decided things had to change and attended a hospital appointment for the first time in a while with my rheumatology nurse. After going through all the normal checks she asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. And that’s when I burst into tears and it all came out about how I was feeling.
I can’t tell you how good it was to finally open up and tell someone about how I felt. She was really lovely and understanding, telling me many of the patients she saw had similar issues at one time or another with being ill for such a long time. She asked if I had support at home and this was the only time I lied, I just wasn’t ready to address my marriage issues and talk about what was happening.
She advised I go and see my GP which I did and she was equally lovely. She reiterated that a lot of people with a chronic illness get depression and I had three of them, as well as a young family to deal with. She prescribed some anti depressants (which I didn’t end up taking as my husband didn’t like them but that’s another story) and helped me get back on track with my appointments at the hospital. She then arranged to see me monthly so we could see how things went.
In the last few months I have been struggling again with the depression but I have also been diagnosed with anxiety. This is much more to do with my personal life and things that have happened with my ex husband. I have been offered CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which I started and was finding really useful. Due to my physical health being bad and being back in hospital I have taken a break from it for now but will restart once I am physically well enough.
I can’t tell you the relief you get when you start opening up and telling someone what you are feeling. Whether it is a professional, family member or friend, it really is the first step to helping you feel better. Since my diagnosis I have been able to share more about my feelings with family and friends too which is great as they understand a lot more now and will help and support me too. It is treatable with medication and talking therapies (CBT, counselling etc) so although it may seem impossible, you will start to feel better once you have taken that first step to open up.
Mental health awareness and provision isn’t the best here. By discussing it and making people aware, we can start to overcome the stigma and hopefully get more people seeking the help they need. I’m hoping sharing some of my story helps support the ‘good to talk’ slogan of this campaign and will help people become aware of how depression and anxiety can take over your life, but opening up is the first step to starting to feel better.