So, I went to the doctor. Thing is, I already had an appointment booked about something totally different. Part of me had been thinking 'you should just tell the doctor up what you really want help with' but I was pretty sure I was going to chicken out. But then, but then I got so many thoughtful, kind, wise words from so many people in comments and emails I thought I'm going to ask for help.
I should probably back up a little bit and say that, over here, we don't really have therapists like the US. Antidepressants are prescribed by GPs (family doctors) and they are also the people who refer to psychologists if necessary - as a totally separate thing. It's not a great system, because a GP's appointment is only ten minutes long and they are usually in a rush. It's not really enough time for - well, anything. What can I say. I love free healthcare, obviously, but there are lots of things about the NHS that aren't great. This is one of them. Anyway.
I went to the doctor. And the sooner I forget about that appointment, the happier I will be. First of all - I cried. Immediately. As in, I opened my mouth to say 'I need to ask you for some help' and I bawled like a child. And then everything I said after that was sort of incoherent. He asked me about what was making life feel difficult, and I told him about the children, and stress at work, and the fact that I always struggle with Winter but this year I have felt like February came in October and won't leave. I've seen this guy a few times before and he's been really good, and I guess that maybe, if I heard myself say those things I would probably think that those actual things were the problem. So, anyway, he said that I should go to 'talking therapies' and believe me, I am in favour of evidence-based psychological counselling, but the leaflet he gave me just looked like ... nothing. An advice service, sort of. I said I'm not sure that this is what I really need. And I said how will this service help me? and he said well, they might be able to give you tips for coping with stressful situations at work. And he also said well, I don't really like prescribing medication for depression. Medication won't make your problems go away..
And for a moment, I just sat there. My worst fear about seeing a doctor was actually that I would screw up all my courage to do it, and then nothing would change. I feared that he would say you know what, Claudia, your life actually is pretty stressful and I guess you're just going to have to suck it up. And I couldn't believe that I was sitting there and that was actually happening. Not in so many words, but I knew that I needed more help than just tips for coping with stressful situations at work. But I nearly just said okay and walked out, because, well, what else was I going to do? And then, I suddenly realised NO FREAKING WAY AM I LEAVING THIS BUILDING WITHOUT ANY DRUGS.
It was odd, but it wasn't until that moment that I realised that was what I really wanted. I knew, deep down, that something wasn't functioning properly. I always get Seasonal Affective Disorder through Winter, so I'm familiar with that feeling of a chemical lowness that feels absolutely real until April suddenly comes and suddenly, everything looks different. And I knew it felt the same (but much worse), like my brain wasn't processing enough of something, or too much of something, and that it wasn't anything that I could really fix on my own. I should have realised earlier, but I didn't.
So, empowered by all your support, and support from friends through email and a few conversations, I shook my head at him and said No. That's not the problem. I could quit my job tomorrow and I would still feel like this. It's not really the situations in my life that are the problem, it's that I'm not coping properly with those situations. Something is wrong in my head. And I decided that I was going to sit on that chair until he would either write me a prescription or at least agree to discuss it further.
He wrote me the prescription.
It's a super-low dose of antidepressant, and who knows, it might not be The Answer for me, but I feel a hundred times better for having done something concrete to help myself, and not just accepting that I feel awful because I am awful. And also, at the risk of pre-empting myself, I have to admit that I already feel fantastic. I can't quite explain it. I can't quite describe it, except to say that about four hours after taking the first dose, I felt like the sun came out from behind a cloud. I would think that I'm imagining it, except that a friend said that this particular drug helped her immediately, too. Most likely, it's just the placebo effect, but if that is the case I think everybody should be taking placebos All! The! Time!
Placebo Day Brain is a fantastic companion. I took her shopping, and she did a great job of finishing off my Christmas gifts. Then we played happily with the children. Then we bought a pair of running shoes (more on that, perhaps, another day). Then, after the children were in bed, we went and got Christmas groceries and we didn't get stressed or unhappy about any of it. When we got home at 10pm, rather than just unpacking as quickly as possible, the two of us saw the pantry and said 'who can stand having such a messy pantry? Let's clean this thing, stat!, and we did.
And then the next day (today) I cooked two huge meals and was patient with the kids and I looked at all the twinkling lights and listened to some carols and thought oh, isn't this the most wonderful time of year?
In short, Placebo Day Brain can kick Bad Day Brain's butt.
I know it's Christmas eve. I should really be wrapping my presents (in the grey paper, heh) but I wanted to write this and say a huge, words-fail-me thank you for all the support that you gave me about this. (I haven't replied to emails yet, I will get to it, I promise!) I really hope that I won't be the only person who benefits from all the wisdom you left in the comments section- I can't tell you what a huge help it was to me. You made me feel like I wasn't crazy. You made me feel like I should reach out and ask for help, and if I hadn't read what everyone wrote, I think I would have just taken that stupid leaflet and spent most of Christmas crying. I don't think that the help I asked for is what everyone would need, but I know there are others of you who are feeling like I am and I want to tell you that it's possible, it's okay, it's worth it to do whatever you need to do to say HELP. Please. If you need it, do it. Go back and read what everyone else wrote and I hope it will give you courage like it did for me.
And for the rest of you, I this time I actually want to say:
Oh, and I just had another look at the wrapping paper, and I've decided it's fine. Grey? Meh, no. I'm pretty sure it's silver.