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Monday, January 23, 2012
Posted in: depression

I don’t think I’ve ever had depression, but I know plenty of people who have suffered from it.
Of course, I, like most people have days when certain things bring me down and weigh on my mind, but those days are few and far between and don’t really bear any resemblance to what a lot of people with depression go through.

I recently read a very moving account of one sports man’s battle with depression.

His name is Stan Collymore, and he used to play football for a living, now he’s more of a broadcaster and sports commentator.

Here’s his extended tweet, in its entirety:

“It’s 4:48am in the morning(Sat 26th Nov 2011),and i’m wide awake.

I decided to tweet my own personal experience of my latest bout of Depression yesterday,and firstly wanted to thank the hundreds of messages from friends,journalists,mental health workers,doctors,and sufferers,as well as well wishers.It’s very humbling to read the stories of fellow sufferers,links to blogs,and general experiences of this awful illness.

I want to elaborate on what Depression is for me,as the illness has so many facets,and varies from bout to bout ,that it can be hard to explain to a fellow sufferer,never mind someone fortunate enough to have never been afflicted!

I’ve spent so much time with Depression sufferers who have anxiety,irrational fear,too much sleep,not enough,that it’s hard to pinpoint one “thing” that Depression is or isn’t.All i know is that depending on the severity of the bout,it can be made of mainly one or all of these things,so i’ll explain this latest bout,and what it’s effect is.

I keep myself in really good nick,i run 10k every week day,and only not go to the gym or exercise at weekends,when i commentate on football for talkSPORT.The running i find really has helped massively,as i’m sure you guys that suffer who exercise find,the tangible release of calm,and “being on top of things” powers your internal dynamo,and keeps the black dog from the door.

Around 10 days ago however,i started to feel anxiety,which grew into irrational fear,which in turn turned into insomnia for 3 days(little sleep,and an incredibly active,negative mind),that in turn over last weekend(Swansea v Man United) into Hypersomnia,whereby my energy levels dipped to zero,and my sleep went from 8 to 18 hours overnight.

So i went from last Saturday at the gym,running 10k as i normally do,looking forward to working,to Tuesday morning being unable to lift my head from the pillow, feeling like my body had been drained of any life,my brain “full” and foggy,and a body that felt like it was carrying an anvil around.

So fit and healthy one day,mind,body and soul withering and dying the next.This to me is the most frightening of experiences,and one fellow suffers i’m sure will agree is the “thud” that sets the Depression rolling.

Once it hits,then cause and effect start to kick in.I sleep 18 hours a day,so i don’t see sunlight over sometime a period of a week(my worst ever bout,i spent a month in bed),which i’m sure a doctor then would tell me makes the body shut down even further.My personal world grows smaller,i detach from friends and family,partly out of self preservation,partly not wanting them to see the man bounding around days ago,now looks visibly older,weaker and pathetic.

I eat less,my personal space gets smaller,none of the vain grooming of days before,as bathing,washing,and even going to the loo seem almost impossible.So its me,pyjamas,bed and increasingly despairing thoughts of how long this one will last,a tired,desperately tired but wildly active mind burns through its own blue touch paper until the paper ends,and there is simply nothing left.

That’s the point when the practicality sets in,and not a nice one(and incredible to think when you finally get well).

Suicidal thoughts.

Thankfully i’ve not got to that part yet,and in my last 10 years only once or twice has this practical reality entered my head,and practicality its is,unpalatable the thought may be to many.

Why a practicality? Well,if your mind is empty,your brain ceases to function,your body is pinned to the bed,the future is a dark room,with no light,and this is your reality,it takes a massive leap of faith to know that this time next week,life could be running again,smiling,my world big and my brain back as it should be.So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith,they address a practical problem with a practical solution to them,and that is taking their own life.And sadly,too many take that route out of this hell.

I’m typing and my brain is full,cloudy and detached but i know i need to elaborate on what i’m going through because there are so many going through this that need to know it’s an illness,just an illness.Not bad,mad,crazy or weak,just ill,and that with this particular illness,for its sufferers,for family and friends who are there but feel they can’t help,you can!

Patience,time,kindness and support.That’s all we need.No “pull your socks up”,no “get out of bed you lazy git”,just acknowledge the feedback the sufferer gives,get them to go to the GP asap,and help them do the little things bit by bit.

That may seem simple but in my experience,and currently as we speak,having a bath,walking for 5 minutes in the fresh air,making a meal,all things that days before were the norm,seem alien,so friends and family can help ,just by being non judgemental,and helping in the background to get the sufferer literally back on their feet.

I hope that if you are suffering,or know someone that does,that a little insight into someone elses experiences might resonate with one or two and give them the comfort of knowing that there are millions out there like us that deal with this reality in our lives.

We contribute like everyone else,so treat us like everyone else.

You are not alone,there are millions of us.







Just over twenty-four hours later, Gary Speed, the Welsh football manager, and former captain of the Welsh national football team, took his own life. His wife found him hanging in their family garage.

Gary had battled with depression for years, but it seems that very few people outside of his family knew about his issues. It’s speculated that another bout of depression led to him taking his own life.

Gary Speed was a fantastic guy. I met him a few times at The Reebok Stadium, where he used to play for Bolton Wanderers. He will be very much missed by the whole football fraternity.

In my own life, I’ve known and know people who constantly fight with depression. They can go for weeks, months even, on an even keel, then all of a sudden, the grey clouds seem to take over their lives, with very little warning. It suddenly becomes hard for them to think of a reason to get out of bed, and the very act of living becomes an inexplicably enormous battle, with no end in sight.

I don’t really know what I wanted to accomplish with this post, it just seemed important that I raise the issue, because a common refrain amongst people who have lost loved ones to depression seems to be that it was never openly spoken about, or indeed taken seriously. I’d hate for that to be the case for any of you guys.

Can I ask if any of you have experienced, or know somebody who’s experienced depression? How do you/they deal with it? Do you have any advice for fellow sufferers?

I would say that if you suspect a family member or a friend of being clinically depressed, don’t hide from it, and don’t let them hide from it either. Talking about the problem is always a positive step forward, and can only help, rather than hinder. Like Stan so eloquently states, they are not alone.


  • Excellent post, Karen.

    I’ve had depression. It runs in my family, unfortunately. It started as an eating disorder when I was a teenager, and resurfaced in various guises over the years. The most recent was postnatal depression. I felt rather silly because I didn’t recognise it for what it was until I was in a truly miserable state. The postnatal depression manifested itself in the form of panic attacks rather than the usual “I feel wretched and can’t face the world” form that I’d been used to. I can only assume it was because I didn’t have the time to be preoccupied with worries as I was busy running around after two small kids, so it had to come out somehow. I’m now pregnant with my third child and I’m expecting it’ll crop up again. I’ve promised myself I’ll get it seen to promptly this time round and hopefully avoid the panic attack cycle.

    As for how I dealt with it: everything from therapy to antidepressants. I found therapy a waste of my time. I saw a couple of different ones over the years, and they were useless. Perhaps I never found someone I clicked with. Antidepressants do help, but it can take a while to find the correct dosage. I’ve only taken them for short stints, mind, so I can’t say how they are long-term. It’s such a clichée but another thing that genuinely helps me is regular exercise. I might hate working out while I’m doing it, but it gives me a definite rush afterwards.

    I know so many people who have or have had depression. In comparison to what many suffer, I’m a mild case. I’ve had two friends who committed suicide. One was a known depressive and had made several attempts in the past. The other was a total shocker. He wasn’t the kind of guy I’d have thought had bad days, let alone feel bad enough to take his own life.

    A huge problem is the stigma attached to admitting you have depression. People are more willing to talk about their hemhorrhoids. It’s tough for women to speak out, and I think it’s even harder for men.


  • @Sarah, my mother suffered badly from postnatal depression after she had me, and it was the same with my other four siblings. This was obviously at a time when depression wasn’t considered an illness, so I can only imagine that she went through hell. When our youngest sibling died, I think that sent her into a state of permanent depression. She’s mostly ok, but she has some very dark days.



  • Aloha, Karen!

    Today your blog title, “Karen Knows Best”, truly fits the subject. Your focus on depression is spot on. Some might find it odd that I am sometimes find myself depressed living in Hawaii. Stan’s advice is also spot on – take a walk, have a bath, read a book, and call a friend. Do what ever is necessary to get through that low period because there is a rainbow after the storm.


  • Karen, I can’t imagine what people must have gone through years ago. Unless you were an extreme case, it was a suffer in silence sort of thing. Talking to women I know, it seems postnatal depression is the norm rather than the exception, albeit to varying degrees of severity.

    The reason I responded to your post is that the thing about no one noticing Gary Speed’s depression struck a chord. Again, I think this is the norm. I remember mentioning my experience with postnatal depression to a few of my former colleagues. This was well after the fact. They were totally shocked as they’d noticed no difference in my behaviour. One even said she didn’t think I was “The Type” to be depressed – too confident and smiley. Just goes to show there is no “type” when it comes to depression, and most people can play a pretty good game at hiding it.


  • I have… it wasn’t long after my first child was born, although it wasn’t at all postpartum. Too many bad things happened all at once and I had a bad time coping. Sleeping too much, lost interest in EVERYTHING…

    Life just didn’t seem to matter and then one day, my little girl came up to me while I was laying on the couch and tapped my shoulder. I yelled at her. Not bad. But all she did was tap my shoulder. She was about 15 months old and she tapped my shoulder. And I yelled at her.

    She got that little lip quiver thing and I think I sat up, picked her up and rocked her, played with her… then once she was calmed down, I put her down with some toys, locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes and cried.

    I was losing myself and I’d taken it out on one of the most precious people in my life. My baby, who’d just wanted to play with me.

    The next day, I went and saw my doctor. We talked and we decided the best thing to try was Zoloft. I was on it for maybe a year. I was able to cope with the bad shit better, life got a little easier, and I was able to find the pleasure in simple things-I also got back into writing, which I finally figured out is my main stress relief, my therapy…LOL.

    This kind of thing runs in my family and I decided early on, that day, there was no way, no how, my kids would suffer when I was having emotional highs or lows. If I ever find myself in that place again, I’ll do what I have to get level again.

    It helps that I’ve found better coping mechanisms…keeping up my writing helps, exercise helps, church…and I removed some bad influences from my life that, while I love them, I know they aren’t good for me.

    They keep me from being who I need to be for my family.


  • There is a huge, huge stigma attached to suffering from depression–and there are also those who use depression as a shield to excuse all sorts of behaviour, from appalling to frankly criminal, which doesn’t help.

    It takes such bravery to come out and admit one’s issues with it (don’t think you’ll ever see me talking about it) that I can’t help bur applaud those who do.

    Thank you, Karen.


  • I agree with what AztecLady said. I think there’s far more people who suffer with depression in silence. Sadly, they’re the ones who take their own lives without their family members fully realizing there was ever a problem.

    Posting something to your blog opens up the discussion, makes people think, and if just one person reads it and decides to seek any type of help, well then that’s all you can hope for.



  • Thank you for this post, Karen. I spent the better part of the past five years with increasingly longer bouts of depression until it felt as if I were living underneath a big, black cloud that seemed to suck all joy and hope from my life. Simple things like answering an e-mail became a chore and a seemingly unsurmountable problem; indeed, some days even leaving the house filled me with anxiety. At some point last year, I simply gave up on my life as there seemed to be no joy left and nothing to looking forward to.

    In addition, my body was reacting against a generally horrid situation at work: during the summer term I suffered from stomach pains and finally had a breakdown. Then, at the start of the winter term I suffered from migraine attacks that were becoming ever more frequent and ever more intense. They made me feel like a whimp, like somebody who is not able to deal with a difficult situation, and this increased the feeling that I was worthless and unable to accomplish anything at all. I had also gained an enormous amount of weight (55 pounds since 2007), felt ugly, unlovable, and was secretly convinced that my friends had only stayed friends with me because they pitied me.

    Luckily for me, I have a no-nonsense Mum, who kicked my a$$ over the whole weight issue and finally managed to make me join Weight Watchers. I joined on 25 November — and it was like a miracle because right from that moment I felt as if I were taking back control of my own life. It does sound ridiculous, but writing down what I eat and counting WW points has affected all areas of my life. I found my backbone again (which has led to some problems at work, but what the heck, at least I can hold up my head again); I have become more relaxed and more hopeful about the future; the migraines have disappeared; and I have already got rid of a considerable amount of weight (16.9 lbs to be exact). So if I ever doubt my ability to accomplish anything, I now only need to look at my considerably smaller butt. *g*

    Of course, there are still things I need to work at: sometimes the anxiety and the weeping bouts still return; some things (*cough* e-mails *cough*) are still a bit of a problem, but overall, I’m feeling so much better. Last week I registered for RWA National (I haven’t been to RWA National since 2007) and I booked a hotel room — and I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to going to California in July!


  • Aloha @Kim! I’m pretty sure that depression isn’t an illness that is just confined to sunny climes, otherwise we’d all be living in The Seychelles I’m sure.

    @SarahT After Gary died, quite a few pro footballers came out and admitted that they’d suffered from depression and in most cases, were severely hampered by it in their everyday lives, yet hiding the effects became a way of life. It was all very sad.

    @Shiloh ((((hugs)))) At least you were able to self-diagnose, so many people find it impossible to admit that there’s even a problem.

    @AztecLady One of the things that came out after Gary’s death was how many footballers had suffered from depression, but were too ashamed to tell anybody. Carrying around all those rain clouds, and never having anybody to unburden to. That’s a tough gig.

    @Jenny The statistics on people with some kind of mental health problem seems to have doubled in the past few years. Not really surprised though.

    @Sandra Thanks for being so open, and I’m happy for you that you are managing things much better now. (((hugs)))


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