Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogging for health

I think it is probably a mistake to take a break from blogging - if you lose the momentum, you may find it difficult to get going again. That's what has happened to me anyway. "Back after Christmas" I said, and here we are 10th of January already. Every day I sit at my computer and deal with emails, or surf other people's blogs; I may leave a comment or two but that's it. When I say to myself "time to blog or your friends will lose interest" ..... I can't do it. I'm not in the mood, I haven't the heart for it. In fact I'm feeling kind of sulky and reclusive, sort of "what's the point"-ish. "Is this depression?" I ask myself.
Not surprising with the weather we have been having. I always tend to be rather down in the winter but this year it's worse than ever. And even when the sun shines it is too cold for me to walk, as the very cold air in my lungs makes me breathless and I can't walk fast enough to keep warm. So I stay indoors and stew in my own juice, nibbling constantly just to have something comforting in my day. Oh sod it! It's a bugger being old!
So why am I telling you all about it? Not really my style. But then on the other hand I started this blog with the idea of "telling it how it is" - and this is how it is for me at the moment. What decided me to write about it here was an article in The Mail on Sunday written by Jane Alexander yesterday, (and drawn to my attention by the Digital Unite blog). It seems that blogging about her problems and her "black dog" is her preferred form of therapy. So why not give it a try?
When I talked to my GP about feeling depressed she gave me an assessment form to fill in. You know the sort of thing:

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been feeling Down, Depressed, or Hopeless?

Not at all :: Several days :: More than half the days :: Nearly every day.

Silly question to start with, as each of the three is different in my view, if only in degree. I would say "Nearly every day" for Down; "Several days" or "More than half" for Depressed; but "Not at all" for Hopeless. Reassuringly, I was also able to write "Not at all" for "Feeling you would be better off dead, or Thoughts of hurting yourself in some way".
So, first off I wanted to rewrite the questions. Then I wanted an additional column to tick, as the four given didn't cover the full range of my experience. Then for one question I was on the borderline, and couldn't decide which way to go, so opted for giving myself a higher score. The GP wouldn't tell me in advance how the scoring was done, and I was quite surprised to find that my score did qualify me for treatment. She couldn't really believe it - she keeps telling me I always strike her as very "together". But together or not, I know that the quality of what I am feeling is different from previous winters.
Nevertheless, I suddenly found we were both agreeing that many of the symptoms occur in old age anyway, like feeling tired, low energy and trouble sleeping. But so what? Does that mean I am not feeling depressed, but simply feeling old? No, I'm feeling depressed because I am old. Does that mean my depression is inevitable, or should be disregarded? Does that lower my score and make treatment unnecessary, or does it just reinforce the view that one of the big problems of health in old age is depression, which can be treated?
Anyway, I didn't really want another lot of pills to take with all the others I have to keep track of , and take at the right time, and order more of every other week it seems. So I decided not to have a prescription this time, though I know she will give me one if I go back again and ask. She was not unsympathetic (despite being a bit disbelieving), and seemed to think as poorly of the form as I did. And I think at least she respects me for being someone who is knowledgeable, articulate, and in charge of my own health.
Well, that's my whinge for today - or was it a rant? I wouldn't be sure. I certainly feel a lot better for it. And I've just had another happy thought: there was a time 14 years ago when I felt a whole lot worse than I do now. Just to remind my self, here is a poem I wrote at the time.

Nights of panic
Days of gloom
Trapped alone
Within the room

Endless fevers
Strength that wanes
Thoughts that fester
Fears and pains

Guilt and self-blame
Haunt the mind
No solution
Can I find

Wandering blindfold
In a maze
No way out
To better days

Normal life’s
A long-gone dream
In my head
An endless scream

What is happening?
How and why?
Must I simply
Wait to die?


Anonymous said...

My Dr. recently gave me one of those tests for depression. He was very concerned as he said I scored a 15 and need to seek help right away. I assured him I am not about to end it all and know how to handle the winter blahs. I don't think age is the only factor at work here. I know younger people who are a bit down. The Holidays are over, the economy is bad, the weather is cold and gloomy.
We shall all deal with it best we can and enjoy those things that give us happiness. For me it is my pets,my grandchildren, watching the birds, seeing the sparkling blanket of snow in the yard as it twinkles in the night just like the fire flies did last summer.

KeithD said...

My thinking is that depression with an identifiable cause is far, far less of a problem than depression without any obvious reason. The first seems rational to me, and can respond to a bit of positive thinking, pampering, or work on the underlying cause; while the second may need pharmaceutical help.

(I see you've removed the anti-spam thingie that asked commenters to type a few distorted characters. Was that deliberate, I wonder?)

Judith said...

Anonymous ~ I scored 15 too, until my GP started taking away points for the symptoms of old age! But certainly, depression is no respecter of ages - I just don't like the suggestion that it can to any extent be discounted in the old because age produces similar symptoms.

KeithD ~ I don't like word verification, and don't normally use it as I get very few spam comments on my blogs. But for a while my biographical blog was getting runs of comments from some sort of motorbike community, which looked more like a technical mis-routing error than comments on my blog. My Viagra post did bring one or two spammy things, but no great trouble. So I've taken it off again.

Granny J said...

I too have had a bit of a downer, thanks to winter chill, which has been worse this year than in the past. And yes, getting older doesn't help! I find that getting out in any way at all is a big help.

KeithD said...

Coincidentally / serendipitously, New Scientist has an article on this, which is well worth a read:

Here's a TinyURL in case that doesn't work:

Judith said...

Granny J - I'm sorry to hear you have been suffering too, and I am sure we are not just a few people here and there. You are so right about the importance of getting out. The trouble is the more down you become the more reclusive you become - well I do, anyway - so the struggle to come out of it is even harder.

KeithD - Thank you for the links, neither of which worked, incidentally, but I got there in the end. I also read an interesting comment in the Daily Express. The result is I have clarified my ideas a bit, but I think I shall write a second blog about that.