Today I'm going to be Frank. Libraries are not always places of peace and retreat. And librarians don't have all the answers. God, I wish we did.
Some children have imaginary friends, but many adults have imaginary enemies. I've suffered from chronic depression since my teens. I got through the years of being bullied OK, knowing that at least things were going to get better after I left school. Then, when my external tormentors left me, the inner demons showed up. I was worthless, I wasn't living up to my potential, I had no idea where I was going, I wasn't normal. I woke up one morning with a feeling of impending doom, and it stayed for 18 months. Unfortunately this was around the time when everyone asks "So what are you going to do once you graduate from university?" What I did was burst into tears.
I went to my doctor, convinced I was suffering minor heart attacks. He told me to give church a go and "get out more". I never went back. Eventually I worked out on my own that I was sitting in a protective hunch, which made my chest muscles contract and go into painful spasms. That first bout finally lifted, and I thought I was cured. I wasn't. Three years later, the depression came back, even worse. This time I would be at work, going about my daily routine, and suddenly I'd break out in uncontrollable sobbing. As I worked in a shop, this wasn't exactly a private matter. I'd have to dash for the stockroom and finish wailing in my own time. It was scary and horrible and I decided it was time for a second opinion.
I was prescribed antidepressants, which thankfully worked. Psychologists cost money, and I was grateful for something that took away my pain without being hit in the pocket as well. I was finally cured - wasn't I?
This year, my old friend came back. He's still with me, and now I realise he always will be. There's no cure for chronic depression, only means to cope for a while. There's no real cause, either. There's a lot of restructuring and change going on around here, which makes things stressful. I had a former colleague ask me recently: "So you've given up on your writing, then? You haven't had anything published in ages". Which made me furious and even more depressed. I'm single and can't afford a house in Auckland. There are a lot of issues, but none of them is enough to make me break down at my desk like I do. So I can't attack anything and fix it. It's like going after world politics.
If you're one of the people, like me, who know it's all in your head but it doesn't mean a damn thing, because it's still real...Here are a few suggestions:
Managing Your Depression: What You Can Do to Feel Better
Scriven says: At times I just want to be left alone, or I don't have the energy to go out. And that's fine. But you need to try new things, or go to a funny movie, or have dinner out sometimes, because cutting yourself off entirely is the worst thing of all. Try to find a balance. Hopefully this book will help!
When Someone You Love Has Depression: A Handbook for Family and Friends
A coping guide for the ones on the other side of the wall.
Scriven says: One of the worst things about depression is the guilt that comes with it. The feeling that I'm boring my friends and bringing them down, or that I'm a burden on my loved ones. True, your friends will worry. But you can't take on the guilt for something that's not your fault. Try this book on them so they can understand better what you're going through, and you can deal with it together.
Managing Depression with CBT for Dummies
Scriven says: When I was at my lowest, I didn't have the strength to think. I felt like I'd been navel-gazing for years, and I just wanted an instant fix, which medication very nearly provided. However, chronic depression is rarely just a chemical or mindset thing, it's both. If you're the sort of person who likes to go to the source of things, and you're ready to do a bit of work, cognitive behavioural therapy could be worth a try.
Sane New World
Scriven says: I'm on the list. With an endorsement from Stephen Fry and Wax at the keyboard, I can't wait. Laughter is definitely the best medicine.
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Scriven says: Not just for new-agers, the concept of mindfulness has been embraced by lettered psychologists the world over. It's huge. This book includes a CD of meditations to help you relax, but just search for "mindfulness" in our catalogue and you'll find a whole host of options.
The Fog Lifter
Scriven says: A story of dark places from the man who's been there. If you don't need it yourself, give it to someone who does.
Coming Through Depression
Part One explains what happens when someone gets depressed and what kinds of experience cause depression. Part Two focuses on a step by step recovery plan to overcoming depression and Part Three considers what has been learned in the past ten years about staying well and preventing relapse.
Scriven says: What's good about this book is it contains advice both for sufferers and their loved ones. Now you can go through it together.
Quiet the Mind
Scriven says: It even comes with illustrations! How good is that? You can also read Matthew's other works about his struggles with depression.
All Blacks Don't Cry
Scriven says: I used to think all rugby players were mindless thugs. So wrong.
Scriven says: Books and movies are my release. Maybe exercise or going for a drive in the car are yours. Or listening to uplifting music or gardening. Find something non-alcoholic, non-deep fried and non-pharmaceutical that helps distract you from your thoughts. And don't forget to give yourself a goal, or something to look forward to. From planning an overseas trip, to walking round the block, to just eating your Nutri-Grain for breakfast! A small amount of hope every day is so important.
Whatever happens, know you're not alone.
For more help, visit www.depression.org.nz or call freephone 0800 111 757.
Help is always there.