The Problem with Depression, Part 3

If I went to the GP with a sore throat, she or he would look in my throat, possibly even take a swab. If I had broken a bone, I would be x rayed, and any broken bone would be mended in a certain way. There are blood tests for a range of diseases or conditions, MRI scan and tests for various bodily fluids. But yesterday, I sit in front of my GP and tell him that my depression feels much, much worse. How much worse?, he asks as he flicks eyes over my notes on the screen. He is about the fifth doctor I have seen. The last one took time, asked me to complete a depression test and talked about other possible causes, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which accounted for my low resistance to infection.

But this doctor seems in a rush. I guess they are busy, this appointment has taken me a fortnight to book. I start to tell him the symptoms which are worse, starting with my sleeplessness. As soon as he hears this, he jumps into life and starts typing, telling me that, yes, I have a stressful job, don’t I and my daughter is ill. Yes, I say, but getting two or three hours sleep a night over weeks and weeks is gradually eroding any ability to cope. Perhaps if a temporary drug could be given to assist me to sleep. No, he doesn’t think that would help. He asks me what drugs I am taking and suggests an increase as it is ceasing to have the same effect. He looks at the dose and whistles in surprise. I ask what is the matter and he tells me that we are now at the maximum dose before impatient treatment is recommended. He says this as if it is a warning, but the word inpatient sounds restful and comforting. He tells me to come back in a month as no further increases will be possible and anyway, I need to deal with my ” issues”. Medication isn’t the answer.

What a great idea. If only I had thought of that. I just need to go home tell L to stop being anorexic, give up work and pay the bills with fresh air and prayers. Or remove my defective serotinin deficient brain and replace it with one of those serotonin efficient brains. How simple it really is. He is already printing off the prescription. I have not had time to tell him about the sudden panic attacks, the exhaustion and muscle pain or the sore throat which never goes away. There seems no point in mentioning my inability to leave the house for four days when on leave or the sudden tears or lack of confidence in my ability to do anything. Or the constant effort of putting on a mask for everyone. He is already handing me the prescription and we are done. He is a young doctor, seeing this middle aged woman with depression in front of him and is probably irritated by the whining about depression – people like me need to pull ourselves together and deal with our issues rather than popping the happy pills. Thank goodness the Government put GPs in charge of the Health Service….

But, I suppose, what else can he do – if only he could dip a stick in a urine sample and tell me my depression scores 8.2 on the scale and I should therefore take this medicine or be referred for this procedure or prescribed the drug which will sort that out. Mental illnesses are messy, imprecise both in diagnosis and in a cure. I feel as if I have wasted my time and his time – but I have pills at least. Which may work or may not. I put make up on, brush my hair and head to work.

6 responses to “The Problem with Depression, Part 3

  1. You are strong, brave and courageous. Though I know it doesn’t feel like it. Just getting yourself into that appointment took strength. Seeing a different doctor and taking the gamble that they’ll be understanding/knowledgeable about mental health or even just empathetic about depression, you never know. But I’m glad you made it, even if you didn’t get to explain how the symptoms have worsened, I hope that by persevering you will be able to find the support you need. Maybe your local Mind can help?
    I know that depression is hell, combined with the rest of life’s drama just gets harder. I’m sorry and I hope that it begins to lift soon. Even if just for a short moment of a day, where you might be able to think “right now, I’m okay” even if in the next moment the darkness returns.
    Take care and as always, I’m here xx

  2. Well done for getting to your appointment today. I am so sorry to hear that the doctor you saw was so lacking in empathy and sensitivity. However busy, he should have at least listened and asked some pertinent questions. As somebody who has experienced from depression and anxiety for most of my life I know that this doctor has failed to respond appropriately. Could you bear to make yet another appointment to see a doctor who has previously been more helpful? Or even, though it takes precious energy that you may not have, explore changing to another practice? You need and deserve support now and I can’t see what today’s doctor expects to happen in the next month that will make a significant difference to the way you feel. You are being courageous and seem to be using almost all the strength you have to tackle all the issues that you have no choice but to deal with. The continual lack of sleep you describe is bound to sap your energy and it is extraordinary that you have been able to keep going for so long without the replenishment of proper rest.

    I have no idea how you manage to put on your mask day after day and face the world. Does C understand how you feel sufficiently to help you explain to a doctor? It’s so very hard to be assertive with somebody who isn’t listening when you are feeling so lacking in confidence. Sometimes a loved one or trusted friend can be more effective than you are able to be at the time. Or maybe you could write to your registered GP or to the practice specialist in mental health issues and set out how you feel and the symptoms you now have.

    I can identify very clearly with many of the feelings you describe so eloquently and hope that you can get some rest tonight. My GP, when presented with a very similar situation, was prepared to prescribe a small quantity of sleeping tablets at a time. They were to be used sparingly but enabled me to have two or three nights a week of reasonable sleep and that made such a difference to my ability to cope.

    I apologise if you now feel bombarded by suggestions about what you might do. Perhaps something in my meanderings might help you.

    I hope that tonight you are able to get some rest and that tomorrow there is a glimmer of sunshine in your day. I send you my love and best wishes for better days ahead for yourself and for your beloved L.

  3. I am sorry you are struggling at the moment. Although there are many doctors that are helpful and wonderful, it seems like we only get the rushed/uncaring ones when we are really ill. Last week i saw a GP to tell her i had begun abusing laxatives and purging again. I got told to ‘try to stop’. And that was it, even with a 12 year history of eating disorders. No referral to a counsellor or relapse prevention techniques put in place. Sometimes its just becomes up to us to do our best to stay afloat xxxx

  4. Hi, I’m sorry the gp was useless and didnt help you.

    I’m a long term follower but you don’t know me (I read all entries but rarely comment) but wondered if I could ask for a cyber favour please? The NHS currently classes chronic fatigue syndrome as the same thing as M.E. it’s NOT fatigue and a bit of a lowered immune system or tired and achy its a neurological illness that can kill (I’ve lost too many friends to it :(), sadly many doctors don’t really know the first thing about it and people with other problems get dumped into the chronic fatigue category which doesn’t help the patient who has been diagnosed or those who do have M.E. there is a charity that sends a booklet to help gp’s spot the differences and all you have to do is send the name/address of the surgery to them, they won’t know you asked for it and hopefully it will help future patients. The link is http://www.meassociation.org.uk/?p=15009
    Thank you, and I really hope you can see a more friendly and helpful gp x

  5. Thank you, all of you for taking the time to comment. I think that despite the negative experience the pills may be working, although they result in me feeling very “wired” which makes the insomnia even worse.

    V, the last doctor did talk about ME, but said there were other conditions too, which came under a CFS umbrella. I will send them the information though

    It really does make a difference that you all care enough to send me your thoughts. As I am sure you all know, depression has many facets, but the worst is loneliness and isolation and you have all made that so much better.

  6. Your posts about depression ring so true!!
    Book another appointment with another doctor. Even though you want to give up &just think “all doctors will not treat me seriously,” keep trying, although it is disheartening and honestly, soul-destroying, when it’s taken every ounce of your being to force yourself along to that appointment…
    If it’s okay to ask – what medication are you on? Have you tried any others, or different combinations? The same drug, coupled with another can have drastically different effects – alone maybe neither are sufficient, but together may be different – maybe bring this up in an appointment?
    Possibly ask about SHORT-TERM pharmaceutical sleeping aids – they like the word short-term(!!) & are more likely to prescribe something (which is usually v. addictive) if it’s for short term use, to try and get your body back into a more substantial sleeping routine
    Take care x

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