It's been just over a fortnight since I began taking anti-depressants and on about day 11 the clouds definitely started lifting. My sharpness of mind has mostly returned and day by day the anxiety has eased dramatically (which my psychiatrist said should happen as I reach full dose). I'm far more relaxed and the days are so much easier to navigate.
My emotional state is still fairly flat. Moments of true elation have been few and fleeting. My reaction to situations of stark sadness (there have been plenty on the news recently) is not what it was. Mainly I feel numb rather than sad. I miss the former extremities of my emotions. You feel like a half person. But in time I know I will recover.
I have to mention a couple of moments that sparked a feeling of joy. At the end of last week, I found myself bursting with pride and unable to suppress a full-blown grin after my eldest daughter scored her first ever goal at netball. I was so pleased for her, and I noted how deeply happy I felt in that moment! I also returned to one of my favourite running tracks and as I descended through one section I felt a rare runners' moment of effortlessness. I imagined that I was floating just above the leaf-covered trail, totally lost in the moment. It was amazing.
Being lost in the moment has been one of my main allays this last week. When things have gotten difficult, or the anxiety has crept up on me, focussing on the task at hand has helped me through it. I've been getting through my days one task at a time, consciously avoiding thinking too far ahead. There's no need to rush. There's no need to worry about the past or the future. At the moment all I need to do is take care of myself and those around me.
I welcomed back my youngest daughter on Saturday, with a big bear hug at Christchurch Airport. Her eight days up North with her grandma and my wife's extended family gave her a lovely adventure and me the chance to get through the rocky first week on my medication. It gave the dust a chance to settle, and I'm so thankful to my mother-in-law for offering to do it.
Also on Saturday, I picked my parents up from the airport. It was my youngest girl's birthday party on Sunday and they came down for the occasion. It was a special time but all the rushing around caused me to crash a bit. I had periods of being extremely tired during the weekend and I lost my appetite. I struggled with being social. I'm also still not sleeping without the help of sleeping pills, not that it is stopping me trying. Last night I finally popped a pill at 11:30. Why can't I just accept that I need the help at the moment? Surely, like everything else, the sleep troubles will pass too.
I'm very thankful I sought help early, and that I didn't wait till I was truly broken to speak up. That would be my only advice to anyone out there. If you're not sure, but suspect something is wrong, you should talk to someone or see your doctor, or a counsellor. Don't suffer in silence.
I've been truly lifted up by all the messages of support, from friends, family members and readers. I feel so much love and concern for me and my family. My wife continues to be amazing. She came with me to my last counselling appointment. Love is an amazing thing. I am trying to pay back all the love I have been receiving to those around me and to people I bump into ... strangers. You never know the difference you can make to someone's day by talking with them or even just smiling at them.
I have been seeing many things as metaphors of my depression recently. The strongest one was when I returned for a run to Harry Ell Track on Friday. Parts of the upper track were engulfed by the Port Hills Fire earlier in the year. I hadn't been up there since the fires. Much of the charred forest has been cut down, the track bordered on both sides with blackened logs. The terrain is unchanged, but the devastation is sobering, large sections of formerly-forested hillside exposed, burnt and empty. But new growth is starting to sprout, grasses and moss blanketing the ground.
I feel like I've survived my fire too. I've accepted it has happened, and I'm growing again. I'm looking ahead to a bright future.