According to statistics put forward by a group of doctors "true clinical depression probably affects between 25-33% of ME/CFS sufferers at some stage."
Since the onset of CFS I have struggled with my emotions. In the beginning it was purely a case of being frustrated that I wasn't getting the help I so badly needed, and that no doctors were taking my symptoms seriously.
Once in hospital I began to lack confidence in myself, when the doctors told me they were observing me for anorexia I began to convince myself I must have it, especially since at that time they had no other ideas about what it could be (or at least none that they were telling me about). During this time I was just incredibly confused about what was happening with my health, both mental and physical.
Once I was given my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I had a sense of relief. I knew what my illness was, therefore now I could begin to overcome it. Gradually I began to realise that it was not going to be that simple, I did not know a great deal about CFS, but as far as I was concerned it was the end of the life I had dreamed of. No more career, no more relationships, no more going out and having fun. This was a life of pain and suffering, and there was nothing I could do about it.
This very quickly spiralled me into depression. I had rapidly gone from having a purpose and having fun with friends, to being so tired and in such agony that I couldn't leave my bed. I may as well have been stuck done with duct tape. I had no purpose, I had no life other than what existed within the four walls of my bedroom, and I was incredibly lonely. Gradually the intensity of my depression grew, it went from feeling low, to feeling extremely low, and eventually to feeling completely hopeless. As far as I was concerned this is was going to be my life from now on; pain, sickness, boredom, loneliness.
On a visit to the hospital my consultant recognised my symptoms of depression and quickly referred me to a psychologist. I was apprehensive, but I need not have been. As far as I am concerned, the psychologist I regularly saw changed my life completely. She taught me how to cope. As my mood improved I gained the motivation to try and do more things. I began to see that I was not completely restrained to being alone and doing nothing, and that this was not the end for me.
All of this occurred in the first year of my illness. In the following 2 years my depression has fluctuated massively. I spent a year back in education and the more I felt like I was getting back to my old life, the more I was moving away from all those feelings of despair that came along with the depression. But as things began to go downhill and I was forced to leave education as it was making me more ill, my depression returned, and this time it definitely came back with a vengence. This was very recent for me, and I am still in the process of building myself back up, with the help of a counsellor and my gp. My mood has improved a lot, and I can see the light again. My mood fluctuates everyday; sometimes I feel full of life and like I can do anything, and as a result I feel extremely positive. On other days, perhaps due to my symptoms becoming worse, but also often for no reason at all, my mood will fall and I will become quite low again. It is not easy to handle, and the constant fluctuations mean my life is quite unstable at times.
I have no idea what will happen in the future with my depression, but whatever happens I just hope I never hit the abyss again. By this I mean getting to the point of no return, not being able to see a way out and feeling like there is no reason to go on. So long as I keep my head above water, and concentrate on all the good things I have in life, I know I will be okay.
Anyone who has never experienced depression may find it difficult to relate to this post, and see it as one big complaint. To them all I would like to say is that depression is not something you can just shake off and get over. It is a dark shadow which follows you everywhere, sometimes the light shines so bright you think you have lost it, and you start to get excited about your life. But eventually the light will fade and the shadow will reappear, and you realise you didn't lose it at all, it was just hidden. It is not something you can outrun, and attempting this just makes you exhausted and extremely frustrated. The only thing you can do is accept the cards you have been dealt, and learn to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
"Mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from natural experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain." - William Styron