Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been curating my blog, which basically means removing some random posts reviewing various diets, and restaurants in Salisbury, from when I worked there a good few years ago.
In the course of that process, I’ve been back to the start of my blog and read the posts from the beginning, in 2011. At the time, blogging was reasonably new (well new to me!), so I started with some random posts about whatever was going on in my life at the time. In October 2011 I hit a nasty bout of depression, and I found it impossible to talk to my loved ones about it face to face, so I decided to blog about my experiences instead. Since then, I’ve found writing blog posts about my mental health to be a useful tool, both for clarifying my thoughts and recording how I’m doing.
I’ve suffered from depression since I was 14. It hasn’t been constant but I have had many fairly serious bouts of depression, most of them requiring medication – I was prescribed my first set of antidepressants at the age of 16. I’ve had three children, and had post-natal depression after each of the births, and had several other, bouts? epsiodes? in between times, to the extent that I’ve actually lost count.
Reading back over my blog, I found that I started on antidepressants again in October 2011, tried and failed to stop taking them in 2013, and eventually came off them early in 2016. In 2015 we had begun to realise that our youngest son might possibly be autistic – and in 2016 it started to dawn on myself and The Husband that both of us and our other two children were also autistic.
Getting my formal diagnosis in October 2017 more or less coincided with a traumatic period of my life – my mother became very ill, and never really recovered fully from her first bout in hospital. During this time we were also dealing with getting diagnoses for our middlest and The Husband (eldest son is still on the waiting list), and getting appropriate measures in place for the two younger boys at school. The stress did take its toll, but rather than going back onto alopathic medication, I decided to try various St John’s Wort extracts.
St John’s Wort is the plant (actually it’s a weed also known as Rose of Sharon!) from which Prozac was originally extracted. In lower doses, it has a mild antidepressant effect with fewer and milder side-effects. I’m a great fan of the teabags, but sadly there appears to be a world shortage of them at the moment. I survived extremely well and quite happily on the teabags and low dose tablets for a while, and eventually, I came off them altogether.
So now, and probably since last August I think, I’ve been taking nothing for my depression, and it hasn’t come back. That’s six months, and despite being, at times, very unhappy about some of the stresses and strains in my life, and obviously, a close bereavement, I have not been depressed.
I believe that my diagnoses of autism, the process of coming to terms with it, learning more about who I am and why, accepting it, at times celebrating it, and taking my first tiny, tentative steps toward being an autistic advocate and activist, have mitigated my lifelong depression.
I am under no illusions – this might seem like a simple answer but I’m sure it’s not. It’s true that I’m happier, more content, more self-accepting, and more stable now than I can remember being ever before. But this is now. It may be that life throws a curve ball, and I become depressed again in future. And if that happens, I’ll try not to be stubborn about it. I’ll try all of my trusted coping mechanisms, and if necessary I will go back to the doctor.
And I’m by no means saying that this could or should be a solution to anyone else’s mental health problems – your mileage may vary. I know that autistic people suffer from disproportionate levels of mental health issues, and much higher levels of suicide rates than the general population. As far as I can see, for autistic people, getting a diagnosis can be the start of a mental shift in either direction.
Just – for me, right now, this feels different. I feel as if I finally know and accept who I am, for all my flaws and my triumphs. I’ve never felt that before. Today I am me – and that’s good enough.