A lot has happened since October and the worst race of my life so far, and yet paradoxically, nothing has happened at all. Several times over the past month I have started this post and deleted the words. You see, no matter what goes on in my life, nothing so important occurs, or ever will, to change the lives of other people. No one is interested in what brand of shampoo I am using or whether the raw milk I spent my life savings on is covered with a film of mould because I failed to blag a new fridge from Zanussi, despite my claims to be the ultimate ice maiden.
For the past few months my days and weeks seemed to all be merged into one long grey, never ending void. People told me with confidence that I had post race blues — uncannily they had come on two months before my race! People told me I was tired…… slight understatement there to be honest. I knew I was not my usual self but I didn’t know why I felt so flat. Then I was diagnosed with a gut issue — nothing to worry about, easily sorted with a change in diet, rest and antibiotics and I was told that this could be affecting my mood. The gut: brain connection.
Feeling depressed was and is not nice. At my best I felt numb, injected all over with lignocaine whilst sleeping and pumped with diazepam. My brain did not want to work. The fog was thick and heavy and the sky, well it was always cloudy. Some days were so dark that I fought to hold it together when the man in the petrol station said hello. I was wrapped in a bubble that would not allow me to feel or interact properly with anyone in my world. I was simply going through the motions and observing. At times I felt as though the bubble was imploding, I couldn’t breathe. Most of all I was fatigued beyond belief. The sheer effort of smiling and trying to be happy, normal was exhausting. I would fall onto the sofa after a day at work, unable to even climb the stairs without feeling that I was 205 years old. I wanted to feel better, normal, I missed who I used to be and I was not sure that this feeling would end.
And all the while I was berating myself for being miserable. I had no reason. This in a sense made it worse. It was a vicious cycle. I knew why I was feeling down, but still I failed to fully accept that this could be down to my gut health. I made bad decisions because I was so emotionally unstable I couldn’t think properly.
People told me to rest, but exercise, no matter how gentle was the thing that kept me afloat. It lifted me just enough to keep my head above water. Running is mostly what saved me, that and the strong arms of my lovely husband, who would hold me as I sobbed time after time. sometimes I would run and notice that I was appreciating the surroundings — I was being lifted by nature Other times the tears would stream down my face and my thoughts would turn to the decisions and choices I had recently made and at times my heart would truly feel as though it were breaking. It sounds so melodramatic, It wasn’t. There is nothing dramatic or romantic about depression. It is a cruel, tiring, ball and chain which is clamped without permission to an unsuspecting leg.
One of the things that has been shown to help people cope with problems/depression is social buffering. This is the ability to talk about the situation/issues with friends and family, to unload. The irony is that when I was feeling low I didn’t want to talk about it. Firstly I wasn’t interested so why would anyone else be? Secondly, I didn’t have any specific problems and so talking about how I was feeling felt self indulgent and I was far from deserving of anyones attention. No one wants to listen to someone who is unhappy, right? It pulls everyone else down too. I simply had to log into face book or twitter to see hundreds of positive comments about ‘smashing it” ‘making it count’ ‘living for the moment’. There were no comments telling me it was ok to feel crap, that being tired and flat are part of reality. Some days I couldn’t read them, I felt inferior and I hated myself. On other occasions it would make me feel angry — with myself, with life, with the falseness of hundreds of strangers on a social network site all pretending that life was a bowl of cherries. All of my reactions were over the top, out of context and had no foundation. I realised this and yet I remained trapped.
And then about a month ago as I was driving to an appointment, I looked at the sky and realised that the clouds looked beautiful. I must be feeling better I thought. And I was. Gradually the fog has lifted along with my mood. The good days are more and the bad less. I feel optimistic about life once more.
I am amazed that something as superficial as a digestive/gut health issue can have such a strong and profound affect on mood. It’s certainly been a lesson, in many ways. Mostly I have learned that when someone is depressed they just need patience and hope. Kind words help, sympathy definitely does not — but a pragmatic friend is invaluable.