Last weekend, I was at the Bloomsbury festival (as a random member of the roving public). As it happened, the sun shone on the Saturday – when we went to the festival – and the rain poured down on the Sunday, when we went to the Natural History Museum and ultimately were dissuaded from revisiting the festival site by the general dampness.
But this post is not about the weather. Although it may get mentioned again (us Brits like to talk about the weather; it’s safer than politics).
It’s about depression.
My sister and I had a pleasant, random chat over coffee with a representative of the charity Time to Change, which campaigns against mental health discrimination. He gave me some postcards, but I wasn’t sure who to send them to – so I’m posting them here.
I have mentioned, in the past (as part of a review of Cecil Todes’ book), that depression is a common symptom of Parkinson’s Disease.
Perhaps now is a good time to talk about this most tricky of topics. I don’t think that I have been unfortunate enough to suffer from Parkinson’s related depression.
It can be very difficult for someone to recognise depression in themselves.
Parkinson’s UK – advice on mental health symptoms
Even so, I don’t think I have thus far. Maybe I’m lucky, and I won’t; I understand that some people are more inclined towards depression than others.
However, I do have an inkling of what depression feels like, because I was diagnosed with “borderline” postnatal depression when I had my second child. I didn’t take any drugs for it, but I was offered the option. I knew something was wrong at the time, and it was helpful to pin it to PND. There were – aren’t there always? – other issues at play. I’d lost my “permanent” job and had lucked into a short term contract that gave me the desired part time hours – but then the contract had ended, earlier than I’d hoped for, and I knew that finding another job that offered me appropriate work with those sort of hours was going to be very difficult indeed. I didn’t want to go back to work straight away, but still the prospect of fruitless job hunting loomed. Then there was the simple reason: I was quite badly deprived of sleep; this second child didn’t seem to “do” sleep for many, many months. And, of course, it was possible, in retrospect, that there was a flash of pre-diagnosis Parkinsonian depresssion there (many Parkinsonians have a history of depression). It’s impossible to know.
Of course, it’s easy to imagine that just knowing you have Parkinson’s might be enough to tip anyone into depression; but that sort of idea is, I think, not terribly helpful. Feeling down about something real, in proportion to the bad thing, is perfectly normal. Clinical depression, as I understand it, would feature a reaction that was entirely out of proportion to the bad thing. It includes disinterest in pretty much everything.
… having severe Parkinson’s symptoms does not necessarily make someone more likely to get depressed. More important is how those symptoms interfere with the person’s life or threaten to interfere in the future. Perhaps because of this, younger people with Parkinson’s seem to be more at risk of depression than older people. Sadly, the more active a person is, whether in work, hobbies or raising a family, the more they have to lose and the more likely they are to become depressed. However, this does not mean that being active is a bad thing, quite the opposite! Maintaining an active and involved lifestyle is probably the most important protection from depression.
Right. Plan. (Get someone to help) fix that dodgy back wheel on the bike, and go hill walking! After tidying the house and surviving hallowe’en and half term… Maybe I can fit a spot of hill walking in the survival plan.
I like walking the hills … come rain or shine.