Ellis Taylor | 98five guest blogger
I love dogs, but this is not one that I like. Nonetheless here it is.
It is small and black, and usually doesn’t get in the way. But one week, it did, and I knew that I would have to put down this puppy before it grew into a massive dog that would get in the way a lot more.
Yes, I am talking about depression. And I am dealing with a small touch of it.
Tomorrow is R U OK? Day. Ask those around you if they’re OK.
It might be a small act that helps in a big way.
I noticed over a couple of weeks that my overall mood was a bit lower than usual. I put it down to stresses and such, and figured that, given a bit of time, I’d be feeling a bit better.
But then one day, I fell into a pretty dark funk. After a pretty poor night’s sleep where I over dwelled on some things, I spent a day-and-a-half pretty angry, despondent and completely out of character. I didn’t want to interact with my wife and child, and, probably most telling, I didn’t even want to listen to music.
I like to think that most of the time I am pretty good at processing my emotions, but in the middle of that vortex, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to pull myself out of it. I didn’t want people to try and cheer me up — in fact, I didn’t want to be around people at all.
At one point, I seriously started thinking: “I could just catch a flight to Bali, and then to another to Makassar, and then jump on a boat to a deserted island and leave life behind…”
It wasn’t rational, and I knew that, but I couldn’t shake it.
And it was then that I knew my head wasn’t right.
I did some reading up on the websites of beyondblue and The Black Dog Institute, and it soon became clear that what I was feeling was on the scale of depression. I did a self-test and came out with moderate depression and/or anxiety.
By that time, I was feeling better than the funk I had been in, and it would have been easy to dismiss it and just keep going. But as I reflected on some other things that had happened in recent weeks, and my overall mood, I figured that I at least needed to talk with my doctor.
I should mention that my doctor is fantastic, and has known me pretty much all my life, so it wasn’t too hard to talk about this with him. He seemed to agree that I had a mild case of depression, and the best course of action was to nip it in the bud now, so that it didn’t escalate.
So, I’ve just started on a very small dose of antidepressants to sort out my brain chemistry. And that’s really what it is — just repairing a physiological issue that has come out in my psychology.
It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t change my core beliefs. Depression is not my identity, it’s just like having a virus, and it can be treated, and I will be better for doing that.
I realise too that there are other changes that I need to make to my life for my own mental well-being. This includes making more of an effort to get out of home and work from other places during the week, and making sure that I catch up with friends and family. I also need to get into a bit of an exercise regime, as I’m not doing as much walking or bicycle riding as I did in Singapore.
What brought it on? Well, I have just been through the biggest change in my life, so that is a part of it.
While postnatal depression is usually seen as a mother’s thing, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) says that just over 5 per cent of dads can also suffer from it. I suspect that is grossly under-reported, as most blokes will not admit they are struggling, leaving them to suffer in silence or self-medicate with drink and drugs. That just makes things worse, and turns them into a ticking time bomb, especially for their families.
I don’t want to be that guy.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m loving being an ‘amateur dad‘, and I love our little girl to bits. And we have really won the lottery, because she sleeps well, has a really pleasant disposition, and in so many ways is just a perfect little kid.
But at the same time there have been a number of new challenges, some of which I’ve been able to handle, and others that have caught me off-guard.
Being a new dad aside, it has been a pretty intense few months since we moved back to Perth. The last month of the pregnancy saw us walking a tightrope and preparing for an emergency cesarean at any time. I’ve also got a different working arrangement, and so there are other adjustments there. It has been a lot to process, and as any parent will admit, it can be hard to do that with the responsibilities of keeping a newborn alive.
Am I worried about having this illness?
Not really. I know that it has been caught early and shouldn’t get worse now that I am getting treatment. Adding in those lifestyle changes will also make things better, and I expect that I’ll be back to my normal self soon.
I should point out too that, at this point, it is very mild, and therefore very treatable. I’m not having any harmful thoughts, and I’m not a danger to anyone. I’ve just had some trouble with mood and that is what is getting fixed.
My hope and prayer is that by speaking up, it might prompt others to do so if they aren’t feeling right and can’t shake it.
If you are struggling, even when it seems that you shouldn’t be, please reach out and tell someone. Go see your doctor and get their assessment, and go with it. Trust me, it does take guts to do that but you will feel much better for it.
Beyondblue and The Black Dog Institute have some great resources to read through, while PANDA has a site dedicated to new dads at How is Dad Going. For me, they have helped to give me some clarity over why I have been feeling all over the place, and also shown that it doesn’t have to be that way.
So here’s to feeling a whole lot healthier soon.
There’s also more resources on our Helpline page.
Ellis writes the Amateur Dad blog — figuring out what it means to be a good dad these days with on-the-job training. He hopes you can follow his family’s journey to enjoy a few laughs and tears, and stories of other amateurs. Follow Ellis on Twitter