Living with depression is a bit like being trapped inside Pandora’s box. You are in a dark place, surrounded by guilt, shame, anger and despair, by envy of those who are mentally healthy, by self-hatred despite your achievements, by loneliness and isolation despite the presence of loved ones. Encircled by so much misery, it’s no wonder that depressed people lose sight of hope, tucked away in the corner.

When my partner and I saw my psychiatrist a couple of days ago I was convinced there was no hope for me. I no longer believed that hope was just hidden from view at the moment, that I would get it back when I was less depressed. As far as I was concerned, it had gone for good. And so that’s what I told my Consultant: that I could not see any hope going forward. This period of depression had begun with the conviction that I could not go forward into middle and old age with bipolar, but during January those thoughts developed into the idea that I could not go forward – full stop. I could not see how I could be expected to continue living through mood shift after mood shift, never knowing how I would be from one week to the next. I had tried very hard to take responsibility for managing my bipolar, but this had metamorphosed into feeling that the disorder had become like a heavy weight I was compelled to carry around by myself, with no possibility of putting it to down to rest for a while. The result was that I was thinking a great deal about death. I didn’t have an active suicide plan, but I continually fantasised about not being around. I don’t have a belief in God as most people understand the term, but I had been obsessing over a 17th century poem by Francis Quarles I learned while singing Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light requiem:

Close now thine eyes and rest secure;

Thy soul is safe enough, thy body sure;

He that loves thee, He that keeps

And guards thee, never slumbers, never sleeps.

The smiling conscience in a sleeping breast

Has only peace, has only rest;

The music and the mirth of kings

all but very discords, when she sings;

Then close thine eyes and rest secure;

No sleep so sweet as thine, no rest so sure.

That was what I craved: giving over responsibility to someone else so that I could rest. If forever, so be it.

I was startled when my psychiatrist asked what I thought would be helpful. I had got to a point where I had almost forgotten why we were seeing him; I was so convinced there was nothing to be done for me. And yet here was my doctor asking calmly whether I would like to consider any of the crisis interventions we’d previously discussed. Home Treatment Team was there, he reminded me. I only had to say the word, and if I couldn’t make the call myself, my partner could do it. Admission was also an option, although not one I thought would be beneficial. In terms of medication, although there was little wriggle room in terms of dosage increases, he did suggest pushing my antipsychotic up to maximum. Had I been using PRN diazepam? No, I said, surprised. Despite having plenty in my med store and it being part of my self-management plan, I just hadn’t thought of it. My thinking was so warped I simply wasn’t able to come up with strategies I usually used.

Between us, as I sobbed, we thrashed out a plan. I am going to take the maximum dose of quetiapine for the next two weeks, and use diazepam once or twice a day if needed. If by the end of the week I am not feeling any better, or feel more actively suicidal, we will call on Home Treatment Team. I will see my Consultant again in two weeks and in the interim my partner will work from home as much as possible and try to be able to be on the end of a phone when at the office.

The meeting had an immediate effect on me (I’m crying just writing about it). I learned that I didn’t have to carry my burden around by myself. The professionals were willing to take some of the load, up to and including admitting me if I genuinely couldn’t keep myself safe. My partner was also ready to take on more of the burden than I had been allowing him to. I awoke the following day feeling a little better – but not great, not happy, certainly not “fixed”. I recognise it will take some time to recover from the depths of this low, but I can see that there is after all a safety net. Today for the first time I feel like I might actually be able to fight back against the depression. The weight can be passed around. I have seen hope.

About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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13 Responses to Hope

  1. I am crying too, for you. Hope is such a potent thing, isn’t it? Stay strong, keep fighting. 🙂

  2. Sue trainer says:

    Hi Charlotte so happy you have found some relief from your suffering and hope you can eventually ‘see some light at the end of the long dark tunnel’ you are in at the moment. Best wishes for your long struggle to find a balance in your life x

  3. Henry Dunn says:

    beautiful poem, I must listen to the Howard Goodall. Glad you are getting good support at the moment. Let’s hope the long, probably slow, ascent from the cave begins now.

  4. Great to hear this Charlotte. My thoughts go out as well to your partner, he sounds like a really good guy. My dad is like that too with my mum (who is bipolar as well) and they are married now for almost 50 years! If that doesn’t give hope too!!! 🙂

  5. electronicbaglady says:

    so glad you have all this support and can see ways if sharing the heavy burden [[[hugs]]]

  6. mindfulgirl7 says:

    Hope is my favorite word and I try to remind myself daily to have hope if nothing else. Thank you so much for sharing! I have a lot of the same feelings and everyone just walks by me like I’m fine. Unfortunately I have to keep a lot in and it’s very painful. But I just keep pushing on. Keep moving forward and stay strong!! ((hugs))

  7. Hi Charlotte, reread this and your post here https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/what-would-it-take/charlotte-walker
    It got me thinking about a recent visit to the gym after dealing with my back pains for the past 5 years, with such bad experiences with medical treatment it made me think I was the only expert on knowing how to deal with them. The trainer at the gym gave me some simple tips and it changed everything; I finally understand how at the moment I should deal with my body to ease and even at times make the pain disappear. This was no doctor, just a trainer at the gym who studied hard to be good at his job and was really listening and looking. My family, me and my employer spent a lot of time and money for years to have me examined by all kinds of doctors and specialists, but they seemed helpless and said it might be something mental even (with visible scars and a paralyzed leg I couldn’t believe my ears). As you stated it so clear, it’s all about patient-professional interaction.
    I do not want to push my blog, it merely is there for therapeutic reasons but I think I should give the guy at the gym credit by linking to the post about him 🙂

    big hug, your Twitter friend XXX

    • Karin, when I joined the Probation Service I was told that all the stuff about therapeutic relationships was old hat and what mattered was what we DID with clients during sessions – evidence-based, cognitive behavioural stuff. When I left almost a decade later, the prevailing view in Probation was swinging back around to – guess what, the idea that interaction between Probation Officer and client was as important as what we covered in sessions. Well, goodness me! It’s really not rocket science; having someone believe in us, believe we can better (or do better, in Probation clients’ case) really, really matters. When I hear about complex policy initiatives, I think they are like offering us the frosting when we don’t even have a cake yet! C xx

  8. Discover Your Recovery says:

    Reblogged this on A Mental Health Recovery Blog.

  9. rosiejbrown says:

    I am so pleased for you Charlotte. It sounds like you’re taking steps in a positive direction. I hope your journey keeps going onward and upward. x

  10. Pingback: Step by step and day by day: enter the Home Treatment Team | purplepersuasion

  11. Pingback: Happy | purplepersuasion

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