I had tried to write this story in just 250 words for a specific purpose. Since I utterly failed to keep the word count down, I am posting it here instead.
As someone who has suffered for years with ME, migraines and more recently, diabetes, I have been asked if I am depressed more times than I can remember. As my GP said to me a few years a go when I answered that I wasn’t depressed; “Why not?”
In 2008 I moved house and ended up with a new GP. This GP seemed convinced that my ME was actually a mental illness (The world health organisation says it is a physical, neurological illness) and referred me for a mental health assessment. After a nice discussion the psychiatrist assured me that I was sane, and suggested that I find a new GP.
Things changed in 2010 as surgery and flu left me in bed for the second half of the year, leading to an ME relapse at the end of the year. My illness contributed directly to the decline of the family business that I had set up a year previously, and by Christmas I was not only severely ill with my ME but also became suicidal. As I lay in bed on Christmas Eve I came extremely close to going outside in sub-zero temperatures and going to sleep in the snow with no intention of waking up. I did not realise at the time that I was depressed, but my wife did.
Once back home ME kept me in bed solidly for the next six weeks. I hid my depression, but spent much of the time staring at the wall or at twitter as it scrolled past, not thinking at all. Then through talking to people on twitter I realised that I had to do something about my depression. I began to talk about what I was going through. My wife was extremely supportive when she was at home, but I often had bad points when she was out at work or was asleep. At my worst points of despair I received messages of support from my friends online, and it was only those messages which prevented me from trying to kill myself. Encouraged by my wife and my online friends, I talked to my doctor in March. She was very sympathetic and she started me on anti-depressants. Four weeks later I reported that I had got worse, and changed to a different anti-depressant. Part of the reason for my worsening is that I have been going through some serious problems with my business, housing and benefits. A major contributor to my depression at this point was problems with applying for ESA and filling in the ESA50 form. Since then we have found a house through the local housing association, and I have managed (I think) to sort out my ESA claim with the help of Worcester DIAL.
Another four weeks later and I have switched to a stronger anti-depressant and have been referred for a mental health assessment, which will take place in two weeks time. Altogether it was two weeks from my referral before I received an appointment with the psychiatrist, and four weeks until the appointment, which I don’t think is a terrible waiting time. I was very pleased to find that the person who called me to make this appointment also offered help with finding a house and applying for benefit, although this help was too late.
The DWP and my benefit applications have been a major contributor to my continued depression. My family, friends online and off, and the NHS, on the other hand, have all been excellent and supportive. I know from talking to others that I am very fortunate to be able to say that.