Depression, Covid and the search for happiness

I’ve deliberated over the past week about whether to write this post and still am not sure if I’ll actually post it.

Depression is something that I have had to deal with in my family since I was old enough to remember, and something that I have personally suffered from since I was 20. For many years, I fought it, hid it and didn’t really talk to anyone apart from Nick about it. Now it is something I possibly share too readily, but I make no excuses for that as mental health can literally be life or death for some people.

When I was 20 and at University I hit a real low. I still to this day don’t know why, but I spent days and days going to lectures and work, and then getting home and hiding away in my room, refusing to talk to any of my housemates. It took Nick, on the eve of my 21st birthday to begin to pull me out of it. We weren’t together at the time, but he was the only person I was able to talk to….and he is still amazing at getting me to open up when I don’t really want to. It didn’t go away overnight, and it wasn’t the happiest 21st, but I didn’t feel alone. The black void had turned slightly greyer and felt like it was something I could start to manage.

Photo by Eduardo Vázquez on Unsplash

My next major depression was after I went back to work for the bank after I’d had Sam. I tried to go back 3 days, but Sam was quite poorly on a regular basis and if I’m honest the bank wasn’t good at dealing with that. On top of that, they were quite untrusting that I’d make up work, even though I always did. I fell into another depressive period then, and ended up, at the time, much to my disgust, on antidepressants and signed off work for 2 weeks. I felt like a total failure. I can’t believe it now, but I think I’d been brought up to think that depression was an attention seeking behaviour and that drugs were just a cop out. And people who went off sick, (good god I was working in an HR department), well that really was just taking the mick out of the company and couldn’t truly be real….could it?

To this day, I think that the way I was handled over that period may have been the factor that kicked my myeloma into play (I eventually handed in my notice when they said they couldn’t give me 2 days…although they found a way to get me back on 2 days on an auxilliary contract straight after…without the life insurance that might have helped me with my myeloma diagnoisis).

Since my diagnosis of multiple myeloma back in 2009, I have struggled quite a lot with depression, on and off. Not often with really black holes, but definitely lots of grey ones. I’ve had counselling on and off which has helped although my best counsellor is often Nick. I’m permanently on antidepressants, and whilst I occasionally try to reduce them, to feed that ingrained fear of failure, I know in reality that I am on them for life. I think that all my hormonal changes from early menopause from myeloma treatment probably impact on that and so in reality I know it doesn’t matter that I’m on them. They help me so much, to the point Nick always knows when I try to reduce them as he can tell, literally within a couple of days, that my mood has changed.

So, what about this moment? I said that this post was about depression and covid. I’m definitely struggling at the moment and finding it very hard to be positive about most things at the moment. I know that I have it very easy in comparison to many, but this is my journey and my feelings. And I’m hoping that by writing this it helps me to validate my feelings. So what is it that is getting me down? There’s a few things I think:

  • Coronavirus – obviously everything that is going on at the moment is impossibly hard for lots of people at the moment. Especially those with no support, those who are extremely vulnerable like me, those in cramped spaces or those who are losing their livelihoods. We’ve been shielding (and at times isolating) and it’s been hard. Hard not to pop to shops, not to see people until recently, and even now, not being able to see larger groups yet. With some people criticising us for even going out for walks (before the recent change in guidance) that has played on my mind and I constantly find myself trying to justify our behaviour, our ‘flouting’ of guidance (hmm, yes having more than one person socially distancing in our garden!) and when we allow the children to have one friend over at a distance. But I think the fear of how long this will go on for, and how long we will have to shield for, is the biggest concern.
  • Link between Coronavirus & Treatment As much as I trust my consultant implicitly, I am finding the fact that my treatment is on hold really hard. I am worried about so many aspects of that. Whether it will mean that my numbers start to rise (bad), whether that might mean I need a new, challenging form of treatment, whether I might relapse altogether, whether I might not be allowed my Stem Cell Transplant and when any or all of this treatment is going to actually happen. Should I try and go for it all now while things are so difficult anyway, and take that risk that I’ll be more at risk of coronavirus when I come out of the hospital? Or should I wait and risk all the things I mentioned before? I have written to my consultant and he’s looking at timelines for me to try and remove a little of the uncertainty but I’m not sure how much of it is in his hands.
  • Impact on Children – This is one of the areas that I find the hardest to get my head around. I am so proud of both of our children. They have lived with my myeloma in such an amazing and proactive way. Despite the fact that they are often, understandably worried about me, they are such independent and strong minded kids. They don’t moan about what life with myeloma means for them or the limitations it imposes on them…and I can promise you now that there are many. Even now, having shielded for 13 weeks, being taken out of school early, and now, Rebecca not being able to go back despite being in Year 10…they haven’t complained once and are really matter of fact about it all. I worry though about what September looks like as they can’t be kept off past then. So how we keep safe with them back at school is beyond me. I don’t feel that they will be going back to school anything like it was before either. What about clubs? Do we stop them from those too? And then not only will they be behind in their social and educational progress, (something I know I can’t do anything about), but there is then the chance that I’ll disappear off for a transplant causing even more disruption in their life. In the meantime, are they really meant to go 6 months without really seeing their friends.
  • Impact on Nick – I mention Nick after the kids but I probably should put him first. But he is so practical that whilst I have no doubt that he struggles in his own ways with everything he is trying to hold together in the family, he somehow manages to deal with things (most of the time!). But I do worry about how it impacts his decisions on his work, and how he spends his own time. He often ends up having to pick up the pieces that I leave behind when I am ill/ tired/ depressed. He does it without complaint but it must have an impact on him. I so love him for it but wish it could be different
  • Injuries/ Pains/ Side Effects – I think at the moment things are even harder because of all the injuries and issues I’m trying to manage. One broken foot, one painful foot (possibly hairline fracture – self diagnosed!), a knee that keeps clicking out of place and stopping me moving for half an hour, painful wrists, regular bowel issues, eyes with cysts on them and a fat body!!! And that’s all I can remember for now!
  • Work – I don’t know whether I should get back to working or not….if my transplant is months away, perhaps I should – I hate not contributing financially. But then if it might be sooner, there is no point and I’d only let clients down. I keep wondering about doing online training but training big groups isn’t my strength and I’m scared of failing – another historical scar!!
  • House DIY – This is the least of my worries, but is still there. We started lots of work on Rebecca’s room and Nick’s study before lockdown and it all came to a standstill, unsurprisingly. We’ve moved on with work outside which is great, but the work on this house is never ending and one job seems to lead to another. There is so much outside painting to get on with, and with my boot I can’t even get up to reach many areas! And I’m also worried about the indoor work being outstanding – I won’t be surprised if we end up in another lockdown and then will it ever get finished? Finishing it would also give us an isolation room for the kids if needed.
  • Bloody politics – I don’t trust any of the politicians at the moment to be doing what is best for us as a country. They’re all in it for themselves and that is super scary.

So now that I’ve written that all out, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m finding life quite difficult. I’m not quite in that rut that I’ve been in at my most depressed, but I’m certainly not in a happy place. I can only imagine how many other people out there are having similar feelings too. That lack of control, worry about the future and concern about what life is going to look like after 2020. Part of me now thinks we should give up trying…what is the worst that can happen? I probably shouldn’t admit this feeling, but part of me genuinely wonders whether if I did end up in that ‘not to be talked about’ position, that wouldn’t it allow everyone in my family to lead a more normal life moving forwards. No more trying to wrap me up in a bubble.

I think it is that thought in particular that makes me realise that I have a real issue at the moment. I think I might look at increasing my antidepressants. I hate having depression. I hate feeling that I shouldn’t have it. I’m lucky – I have an amazing family, and great friends. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from having it.

So, if you’re struggling, I understand. I’m not sure right now I can help, but I’ll always try. And even if I can’t now, I promise I’ll remember when I’m feeling better. Be kind, support friends and try to understand even if you don’t fully know how to.

And for those of my friends I haven’t been there for recently, I truly am sorry. I just don’t think I’d be much company. Please don’t feel the need to message after this post. This isn’t attention seeking….I just wanted to share that depression is real….and that it’s really difficult.