I was referred by our welfare officer to a psychiatrist and she fairly quickly assessed depression as the culprit in my enduring and debilitating fatigue. Although she didn’t say it (I did), I’ve been using the rheumatoid arthritis as an excuse and failing to acknowledge the other things causing me grief. Literally.
We talked about the death of my sister, although we were unable to come up with a term for grief you don’t feel entitled to be feeling because you didn’t like the person who died. [I’m sure there is a language somewhere in the world that has a word for this.] Then there’s the anger about what that relationship took from me, in all sorts of ways. There’s a lot I’m reluctant to lift the lid on there.
Curiously, recognising this as depression is a relief. It’s not RA that’s ruining my life after all! Depression I know about: I’ve had it before, lived with it, come out the other side. I pretty much know what I have to do from here. It’s tough, don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy thing to get control of and it’s a long hard road back to health. But it’s not the same fear of the unknown that RA is. With depression, even with its mind-numbing hopelessness and insistence on the futility of everything, there’s a part of my brain that knows it’s lying about all that and that things can, and do, get better.
With RA, I’ve got no idea what comes next. As anyone with it will tell you, past activity is no predictor and it’s infuriatingly random. That in itself can be really trying because it seems like nothing you do makes any sensible difference.
At least with depression I know what works:
- Eat properly. Fruit and veg, 5-9 servings a day. Minimal refined carbs, no alcohol, restrict caffeine
- Exercise. Get out every day. Walk, run, whatever, just move.
- Do things I enjoy. At least one thing every day.
I know from past experience to start doing these in order beginning with eating because that more than anything affects my brain. I’ve been doing okay on food, so I don’t need to cut out bad things (alcohol, sugar, caffeine) so much as add in the good (veg & fruit, and lots of it).
Once I’ve got good food in me, exercise becomes a more thinkable and doable proposition. While I’m keen to get back to running I need to be very careful about easing back in with walking first because the last thing I need is a setback from injury.
The one I find hardest is 3, finding things that give me joy because of course one of the hallmarks of depression is the absence of joy. So starting very, very small is my plan – like using the ‘fancy’ shower gel instead of saving it for best, (whatever the hell “best” means in the context of shower gels.)
So we’ll see how I go. There are times when I think living alone poses particular challenges and this is one of those times. Because it’s all down to me. There’s no one there to force me to eat my veg or make me go for a walk.
The only person who is going to make this happen is me. And I can’t be relied on because I’m depressed and can’t be bothered.