Hello Phil, could you introduce yourself in a few lines?
My name is Phil, I’m a 46 year old single father of two wonderful teenage girls. We currently live in the Lake District after a long stint of city life and are now enjoying the quiet life in the countryside.
How did you hear about Carenity and what motivated you to subscribe?
I came across Carenity a few months ago whilst searching for help regarding my depression and anxiety. The internet is full of so called "helpful" sites, I often found that a lot of other sites can be very judgmental and critical of opinions but find Carenity is different. There isn`t any competition to see who has the worst condition etc, it is a friendly atmosphere where opinions are shared and help is offered based on experience by fellow sufferers.
When was your depression diagnosed?
I was originally diagnosed with depression about 14 years ago following a session of grief counselling after the death of my father. It had been a long struggle with cancer and affected the whole family but as I began to open up it was found that my problems were a lot more involved than first thought.
The diagnosis was initially quite quick but it has been a long road since then.
Do you have other conditions? Which ones?
I also suffer from extreme anxiety, which to brutally honest is the worst part of it all. It is such a complex yet simple condition to deal with. I am in therapy at the moment and we are looking at a further diagnosis of PTSD.
This goes a long way to explaining the depression and anxiety.
Has it been easy for you to cope with your condition(s)? Has it changed something in your relationship with your family?
This is the easiest question to answer but the hardest to understand for others. Short answer is no definitely not easy to cope with as it just doesn’t make sense.
My conditions went a long way to cause the end of my 19 year marriage and also the only relationship I have had since then. But on the plus side it has helped me to find out who really cares and my children have shown me how proud I am of them. They are so resilient and understanding.
What has been the most challenging thing you have to go through because of these conditions?
I imagine as a lot of others find with an invisible illness, the most challenging part of the conditions I suffer from are the misunderstanding and judgments made by people that don`t understand. The Stigma attached to mental health in general together with how I am perceived by others plays a major role in my lack of control of the depression. I constantly have to explain why I can’t just "cheer up" and to have to re live the very reasons that cause my conditions in the first place it doesn't allow me to forget.
PTSD is all about the constant reminder of past trauma I try so hard to hide from and just because someone can’t take me at my word, I have to unlock that door and let out the horrors of my past. To re-live childhood abuse, domestic abuse and suicide attempts makes it a constant cycle of ups and downs.
Without trying to get into political and ethical debates how can I explain that my disability has been used against me even by the very services that are there to support and help.
Depression is a very lonely condition and to have to fight on your own just makes it that little bit harder.
As for today, what medication or treatment you think has worked best for your depression?
Luckily I have had the help of some very understanding GP`s who have allowed me to explore what I felt was needed to help. I am on anti-depression/anxiety medication that allows me to stay focused enough to remain in control, also beta-blockers that help with the very real physical symptoms and lastly tranquilizers should I find myself unable to cope. For me, the medication isn’t an answer to my problems more of a helping hand so I can do things for myself.
The real help comes from talking, CBT therapy has helped greatly to deal with the effects of my illness and I am now receiving help trying to find a cause of it all so it makes a little bit of sense. I have embraced the fact that I have an illness like any other, I’m not mad (although my girls might disagree) I’m not unstable or a danger to anyone. I have just reached the point of not being able to hide from the past that’s all. It doesn`t define who I am. I love to laugh and smile and joke around. I ride a motorbike, have lots of tattoos and a shaven head but I am certainly not a thug, in fact I’m a complete pacifist, I don’t drink and my main concern in life is the health and wellbeing of my children.
What practical advice could you give to other people who live with several chronic conditions on how to cope in everyday life?
We are all different and cope in different ways, so do what is right for you. There isn’t a workshop manual on the human body we can go to for answers, so talk and surround yourself with people you trust who are willing to listen.
I have found that my conditions are all linked in some way, so achieving small goals can help in big ways, but do not try and self-diagnose. The brain is very good at lying to you especially when you are down in the deep dark hole. Don`t be afraid to ask for help or even advise.
Do you think Carenity has helped you in some way?
Most definitely, I have never been told what to do or what to take. I have been advised based on experience which allows me to make my own choices and to hear others telling similar tales of their struggles makes me think I’m actually not alone, that in itself is a great feeling.
What positive message would you like to share with our readers?
Just because you have an illness or a disability it doesn’t define the real you. Only you know what is happening to your body so don’t be afraid to talk and seek help.