Over the past week, I have received two unrelated emails which remind me how easy it is to accept unconfirmed but accepted ‘truths’ and how easily we can confuse cause and effect. The first email asked for my view as a former theatrical ‘lovie’ on whether a strong amateur operatic group would be wise to perform Gershwin’s …
It has been some time since I last posted something to my blog. Hopefully, this addition will explain the reason for the absence and the difficulty I have found when trying to put finger to typewriter. This update has been brewing for some time but – assuming it does reach the light of day, I hope normal(ish) service will be returned shortly thereafter.
I have always counted myself lucky that I have never suffered from anxiety, major stress or depression. I also thought I was fairly insightful and had a reasonable understanding of the challenges these conditions bring to the individual concerned. That was before my recent experiences that changed my outlook and understanding.
Recent events have brought a perfect storm of pressures which seem to have joined forces specifically to trap me in a combined pincer movement which at the time seemed specifically designed to defeat me.
Firstly I found myself facing a higher than usual level of background stress. The possibility of having to resort to litigation to resolve what I consider to be appalling treatment towards me by a public body set a tone of anxiety and a considerable sense of isolation.
Add to this the fact that my local circle of friends is fairly small and my partner is around 80 miles away much of the week and that sense of isolation grew silently and progressively. Most of my friends and those with shared interest seem to have moved towards London – or perhaps my interests and focus has just shifted there. In any event I was aware of a background sense of running on empty and wasn’t really certain of the reason why.
Over a week of so including some time during a visit to Berlin with my partner I felt a range of feelings I was entirely unused to experiencing. My emotional state really was something of a rollercoaster with one or two occasions bringing unexplained, sudden and for me extreme changes of mood.
At a time when I was having a great time with a meal for two or spending time looking at sights, I would suddenly be hit by an overwhelming sense of sadness. No particular cause or focus, but it was almost overwhelming and although I knew I was experiencing it, I just couldn’t shake it.
Luckily, my partner recognised these and thankfully gave me his full support. Although like me he recognised this wasn’t my normal emotional state – not typical of my moods at all. Interestingly, looking back at this period, I was aware of the mood swings and the associated low. However, knowledge in this case was not power. I simply could not raise the interest in digging myself out of the low – there seemed to be no reason to do so.
What strikes me now is that sense was so strong when (in the greater scheme of things) I had so much going for me. I would usually be able to cope with one or two stress-causing issues but these suddenly seemed so very much more overwhelming. I can only imagine the impact this would have had if I had real issues of significance to handle as well. I’m relatively lucky with reasonable insight – how those feelings would have been amplified with real issues to fuel them.
The other insight this period gave me was my unwillingness to discuss how I felt with anyone. I felt quite ashamed that I could feel so down. Certainly I was sure that nobody really wanted to know the honest answer to ‘are you ok?’. Ironically a sense of isolation and loneliness meant that I was more likely to retreat into myself and feed the very isolation I felt so painfully.
Thankfully, after an initial visit to the doctors the reason for my low mood was tracked down to a combination of an infection causing malabsorbtion and a resultant interaction with existing medication. As treatment settled, so did the symptoms and mental stability returned as fragility of mood disappeared.
So what did this episode teach me? Well, firstly that there is still so much around the causes of anxiety and depression that we don’t understand. Also, that even those of us with no previous history can be hit by this condition without warning.
It was certainly the case that many struggled to understand my feelings. Anything to do with mental heath is hidden when compared to the more obvious physical ailments. My experience reminded me that these conditions address just as real as any physical ailment. Just because you can’t see the injury doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
Whilst I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased to see the back of this event, I’m also very glad I experienced it. My approach to anyone suffering from a similar episode would certainly be different with the benefit of some insight into the power of this potentially crippling condition.
I’m pleased to say I appear to have cleared the fog and lethargy this produced and looking back it appears as though it happened to someone else. I have regained the objectivity to see events for what they were. It was certainly an unnerving and unwelcome event but one from which I learned a great deal. So to that extent not a completely wasted experience.