Ten years of living with the Black Dog

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My first encounter with what I call the black dog was in the early months of 2010, not long after I went off work the previous autumn. I initially rebuffed my GP’s offer of antidepressants. That was partly because of a misplaced idea that it would be an admission of weakness to start taking drugs and a concern that being on them might adversely affect my ability to care for Daphne, who was seriously ill.

Eventually the pressures of caring and the feeling of isolation resulting from having had no contact from work colleagues led me to a point where I felt I needed medication. The first course of tablets the Doctor prescribed made me feel really ill (I can’t remember their name) so she switched me onto a different one. After a few weeks they started to help me cope better and in December of that year when my personal work situation was more or less resolved I felt well enough to stop taking them. Unfortunately I wasn’t told to taper the withdrawal, and going cold turkey was tough. That said, I managed fairly well eventually.

My next encounter with the medication came in January 2015. By then Daphne was in residential care, her condition deteriorating and my attempts to obtain some sort of part time role at my old work were going nowhere. Those were the triggers, this time it took longer for me to feel any real impact. In fact, I would say it was between 12 and 18 months. In addition on this occasion my sleep was badly disturbed and I was also given tablets to help with that. By the summer of 2017 I felt OK and again began the process of coming off the tablets this time in stages. Then my Daphne died which was hard and I started going through a bereavement process. I continued with the withdrawal.

By the summer of 2018 I needed to go back onto the medication again because I was struggling badly. Then in 2019 I finally got a precise diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder which I have written about previously. That helped a lot, and after a long battle to get counselling that helped too. At the same time I had to wean myself off the sleeping tablets on the advice of my GP. I now feel a lot better and am once again considering at what point I can consider an exit strategy. Given my previous experience I am cautious.

This is only a brief outline of my story. A tale with a backdrop of inadequate support from a variety of sources. I tell it because I want others who may suffer with their mental health in the future to be able draw on my experiences, particularly with regard to coming off medication. I also want to be part of the debate about what improvements need to be made in Mental Health provision. I hope to have that in future with fellow Liberals in our party.

 

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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5 Comments

  • Dealing with depression isn’t something that can be dealt with by a prescription.

  • David Warren 9th May '20 - 10:13am

    Thanks for the comment Joseph.

    What I wanted to get across in the article is the lack of medical advice of what a sufferer should do once any medication kicks in and they start to feel better. In my case I took the decision to come off the tablets which looking back was a mistake.

    Another issue is the failure to get a correct diagnosis, it took years for me to get a PTSD diagnosis, prior to that I was simply told that I had depression.

    We have to fight for improvements in Mental Health provision and these specific areas are ones I would look to focus on.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th May '20 - 1:35pm

    David, thank you for your courage in writing this post. I too suffered from depression from time to time and found medication very helpful. However, I was lucky to be able to pay to see a therapist who helped me to come to terms with my difficult childhood. This sort of help should be available much more easily through the NHS so I’m glad you’re fighting for this to be improved. Unfortunately I developed M.E and can’t be very active anymore.
    There will unfortunately be many more people suffering from mental health problems as a result of lockdown and there should be no stigma attached to this. One of the problems we have as human beings living today is that we are living lives that we haven’t evolved to cope with. It’s less than 300 years since the Industrial Revolution changed our lives and enabled us to live at a pace of speed and change that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. It’s almost inevitable that any additional stress blows our minds.
    Therapy has enabled me to see that I am loved, which I found very difficult beforehand. It should be everyone’s right to know this basic human happiness.

  • David Warren 9th May '20 - 4:26pm

    Thanks Sue.

    I agree with you that modern life is a major contributing factor to poor mental health. Human beings should lead slower paced lives and live in smaller communities.

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