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The right prescription... Monday February 17, 2014

Since the age of 11 I've been a spectacles wearer. I still remember that momentous day so many years ago at the opticians. I'd been suffering headaches, was falling behind on school work because I couldn't see the board properly and my eyes were always tired from having to squint. It was such a relief to finally receive a 'diagnosis' and to hear the optician say that I was mildly short-sighted.

I will always remember walking out of the opticians, with my NHS brown metallic rimmed glasses pushed against my forehead, and for the first time really seeing things: the trees now had individual leaves and branches, rather than the blurred mess I was used to looking at; I saw detail in shop signs and peoples faces as they walked by; I appreciated the colour and vibrancy of everything so much more. Over the following weeks the problems I was experiencing improved dramatically: no more headaches, I caught upon on school work and actually did quite well and my eyes no longer had to tire themselves out.

Fast forward to my late teen years and I experienced these same emotions and feelings again. I'd been having horrible mood 'attacks', feeling extremely sad for no apparent reason, my university work was suffering and I was constantly tired. Finally, a very helpful GP diagnosed me with low mood and depression. It was such a relief to actually know my problems had been recognised. Receiving this diagnosis meant I could now finally receive the help I needed.

The GP explained about serotonin levels and how some brains like mine were just different and gave me a prescription for anti-depressants. The following days and weeks after taking them, I experienced the same clarity and relief as I did when I first put on my glasses. I felt back to my normal self, the countryside looked greener, I heard birds sing, saw smiles on peoples faces and even smiled myself.

Both of these episodes resulted in a prescription for my problems. I'd never now leave the house without my glasses - to do so would cause me to not see things in the right way. The same goes for my anti-depressants. If I neglected to take them I wouldn't see things properly and most importantly I couldn't be me. I view taking anti-depressants the same as I do my glasses - it is not a sign of weakness wearing/taking them (as many people think) but a sign of strength that a problem has been recognised and is being treated. You wouldn't tell a spectacles wearer to stop wearing their glasses as they should be 'cured' by now, so the same applies for anti-depressant takers (yes, I have been told this!)

Everyday, with the help of my glasses, anti-depressants and mood tracking, I'm seeing more - and liking what I see.

A Moodscope user.

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Deborah Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 6:55am

One of my friends likens her anti-depressants to the insulin that diabetics need to correct an imbalance. They are a necessary correction and enable her to live her life. We are lucky to have access to these life-saving drugs.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 8:21am

I am envious that anti-depressants work for you Ria. During fifty years of depression I've been prescribed just about every one available. None have any effect. My prescription for myself is to be kind to myself, to ignore advice about brisk walks, socialising when I don't feel like it and so on - I find forced activities make me feel worse. I listen to my inner voice and do what it says. I find it works reasonably well and sometimes I sleep, read, feel miz, sometimes I'm social, happy, busy with housework. I've learned to live with, and not argue with my frequent depressive days. That's my prescription for myself!

Mark Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 9:05am

Thank you Ria for bringing some 'reality' to the stigma that surrounds depression. It's so hard to accept the fact that our brains are as vulnerable as any other part of our body and, if it becomes dis-eased, then it is perfectly 'normal' to take whatever medicine that will make our lives more manageable. Mark

Anonymous Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 9:55am

Thanks Ria, as a glasses wearer too I think this is a good analogy to use. Anonymous makes good points, I too am trying to be good to myself around my depression and other health issues. It took me a long time to realise that I'm not bad or mad, I just have dis-ease as Mark and Deborah say. Similarly, being forced to be active on a bad day doesn't help me at all. What does help is the open offer that you are welcome to join in or contribute in the most accessible way for you at the time, if you can, without facing gossip and backbiting from people.

The Entertrainer Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 11:13am

Simply a brilliant illustration! Glasses wearer from age 10 (and bi-focals at that!) I love the fact that you are now able to be gentle with yourself. If we cannot be kind to ourselves, how are we ever going to be able to be truly kind to others?
Excellent blog.

Tere Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 1:27pm

I got my first pair of glasses at age 11 also. I was so blind I literally couldn't even see the WALL, let alone the E at the top of the chart. I so understand seeing leaves on trees. At the time, I was an avid tree climber who never climbed DOWN, I just grabbed a branch and jumped. Imagine my horror when I realized I was jumping almost TWENTY feet. Truly. I could not see how far the ground was from me, so I just did it. I continued to do it, much to my mother's dismay (this is why she took me to an eye doctor to begin with). I still marvel when I get new glasses. Anyway, no one ever used this analogy for my depression before, so I am beginning to see what is meant by depression. As The Entertrainer said, Excellent blog.

Julia Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 2:58pm

I really like Ria's blog and Anonymous' which follows. It's true antidepressants do not appear to work for everyone but for those for whom they do work, then great, keep taking them I say. I know so many people who have been helped by them. I also like Anon's and Lex's advice to be kind to ourselves. So important. People who are affected by low moods and worse, are generally so hard on themselves; I often think what advice would I give to someone I knew who was depressed and compare that with how I treat and berate myself. I think Frankie wrote recently that we should sometimes stand back and take a look at ourselves objectively and from a distance as this makes it much easier to be kind to ourselves.

heather Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 4:14pm

I am setting off to the Doctors in 10 minutes and just don't know whether my very low mood is from physical or mental ailment. I am bipolar and have been on Lithium for over 30 years very successfully but I have read that in later years (I am 69) our mood swings usually are more on the depressed side. I hope the doctor knows what to do with me !! and that it works !! I have not needed anti depressants up to now but Ria's response is very encouraging and well described. Good luck to all Bloggers ! Heather x

Anonymous Mon, Feb 17th 2014 @ 4:23pm

Good to read such a good counter to the guilt attached to taking anti depressants. And good to share in the responses. Our first duty is to ourselves and it is easy to forget that if you have been caring for someone you love and has been dependent on you.

Anonymous Fri, Feb 21st 2014 @ 1:52pm

Thanks for writing this. Also a glasses wearer and this analogy is not one I've heard before and so true! I've not been low enough to feel a need for anti depressants for a long time, and never took them when I was (at that time I didn't go to the doctors and self-diagnosed my own depression!) I always viewed taking pills as something which you'd only do if you completely couldn't cope, and that it would make you numb and 'not yourself ', but, again, I can't imagine my life without my glasses, yes they cover up my 'real' eyesight l, but who wants to deal with not being able to see anything? Maybe anti-depressants would be the same - allowing me to see the world the way it really is, instead of only being able to see what's going on a few inches from my face!

Mary Sun, Mar 2nd 2014 @ 11:32pm

Brilliant Ria! Thank you so much. wonderful analogy. I will be using this from now on!

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