Depression – What to expect when you seek help

Depression has come to the forefront recently, mainly due to the publicity of celebrity deaths who were linked to suffering severely with it, with Robin Williams being the most recent celebrity to take his life. Due to his death, it opened my eyes that I had been depressed for a long time, around 5 years to be precise, for reasons I won’t bore you with and that his passing made me think that I didn’t want to get to the stage that he ended up at where the only way out is to end it all. Yes, my problems were not as huge as his, but that’s not how you measure depression, that’s a school playground mentality (“My Dad is bigger than your Dad” ). Each person has a unique way of thinking. What may seem like a problem to some people, others won’t even see it as a problem at all and vice versa. If it affects you, then that’s what matters, regardless of other people’s perceptions.

I felt like I was coping for most of the time I was depressed until the birth of my second child. Not because of my daughter herself, but the extra stress and a lack of sleep heightened my emotions to a point where I was crying over nothing, felt a failure at life etc. As soon as the news came out about Robin Williams, I immediately started looking up on the internet for the first time on how to get myself out of depression and there was plenty of information about depression itself, but felt there wasn’t much information on what happens and the experiences people have or had leading up to treatment and also during treatment itself.

This is why I am writing this blog, for anybody who is depressed and is anxious on what happens at the Doctors, what happens during counselling, this is what I experienced. This is for you.

The first thing that I did was I went to the walk-in clinic at my local Doctors rather than making an appointment as I would get seen that day. I thought it would be best to go see the Doctor straight away at my worst rather than wait a week or more for an appointment, which by that point I could have talked myself out of it and it also would be playing on your mind more with all the waiting. If your Surgery doesn’t do a walk-in clinic, then try the Out-of-hours at the Hospital. Whilst walking to the Doctors, I nearly turned back. I felt daft as I was going to the Doctors because I was just down in the dumps and crying, I wasn’t physically ill. Even to the point of being called in to the Doctor’s room, I felt embarrassed and silly, but as soon as I started telling the Doctor what was wrong, I just burst out crying and told her everything that was making me feel down. The Doctor was brilliant. She didn’t judge me, she didn’t brush me to one side and tell me that “that’s life” and to get over it. She talked to me about my problems and asked me how I wanted to be helped. If a Doctor does judge you, or tells you to get on with it, ask for another Doctor at reception and report the Doctor who has just seen you. The options my Doctor gave me were:

*Anti-depressant tablets

*Counselling

The Doctor also got me to fill out a questionnaire which is rough measurement on how depressed you are. The score is from 0 to 30 with 0 being not depressed whatsoever and 30 being severely depressed that you’d consider the worst. The score of 5 is considered to be the lowest level to offer treatment. I scored 19.

The tablets change the chemicals in your brain to make you feel more at ease and and feel happier, I’m sure there is a better, more detailed explanation on anti-depressants out on the internet if this wasn’t understandable/ correct. They do, however, take up to 2-3 weeks to kick in and also make you feel worse before you feel better, so is best to keep taking them for at the very least 3 weeks. I personally asked for Counselling as I felt that tablets would only mask the problem and that talking to someone who can advise me correctly on how to overcome my mental issues would be more beneficial. It’s all optional and if you feel like you will benefit being on anti-depressants, great, not a problem. I chose not to. My Doctor prescribed me the anti-depressants just in case and also rang the NHS Psychological Health department, who would get in touch with me to make an appointment to see which treatment would be best for me. This process depends on the availability of Counsellors. It can take a few days or can take a few weeks because of this.

The first appointment is basically talking to the Counsellor and telling them everything that’s bothering you and they’ll decide which is the best course of action. If you feel that your Counsellor isn’t listening to you and is saying things you don’t agree with e.g. saying something is wrong with your marriage when you know there isn’t, ask for another Counsellor at reception. This didn’t happen to me, but have known it to happen.

This is the part of my experience where procedures may vary due to the options available. After I told my Counsellor everything, the Counsellor suggested the two options of: Counselling for bereavement and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and allowed me to choose what I think would be beneficial to me. I chose Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is basically changing the way you think at points in life, to a more positive outcome, rather than thinking negatively. For example if your friend blanks you when crossing paths in the street, instead of thinking “Do they hate me?”, you’ll think “They probably didn’t see me”. The counsellor will also suggest to carry out small tasks in between your appointments to improve your mental well-being.

I couldn’t tell you really what happens in a counselling bereavement session, along with other sessions that exist, but the layout would be similar of sitting in a room with a counsellor and just talking and helping you improve your mental health. After every session you will fill out a questionnaire like the one at the Doctors to see roughly how you’re doing score-wise.

I’ve now finished my CBT as I managed to get my depression score down from 19 to a 4. I’m feeling better now. Don’t be disheartened if you find that the choice of CBT or Counselling Bereavement or whatever, doesn’t work, as it doesn’t work for everybody. If it doesn’t work then ask your Counsellor to try something different. You need to bear in mind that sessions don’t make you feel better overnight, it can take weeks. You also want to be as open as you can to your Counsellor, they are there to help you. Take that opportunity, don’t hold anything back, tell them everything, do the tasks that they ask you to try out of session. Going to the sessions alone may be enough for some, but do the tasks they ask of you, it’ll get you back on track quicker (it did for me).

I hope this has eased people’s minds of what to expect when seeking help for depression. I know it can be scary with depression still considered as taboo in some areas, so knowledge and experiences are lacking in this category. But now you know roughly what to expect from me sharing my experience, there is a less fear of the unknown throughout the treatment process for you. In fact, there is nothing to be scared of at all.

If you are depressed, the daft/ silliness feeling of going to the Doctors is temporary and minute compared to the better, depression-free feeling at the end of the treatment. Don’t wait for 5 years and for a well known celebrity to die to get the ball rolling like I did.

I hope this helps.

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