You'd think it would be obvious, wouldn't you? If you're depressed, then you're depressed. You feel down, you might feel life is not worth living, you suffer from negative thoughts.
But sometimes it's not that simple. I was just exhausted all the time. I was sleeping most of the day. I was too tired to go out, to put my make up on; too tired to get dressed properly, to cook, to eat. But there were no negative thoughts, no blue moods; I was just frustrated and needed a good old fashioned tonic.
I still remember the total shock and disbelief I experienced when my GP (a very experienced and wise woman) said "I think you might be suffering from depression."
My immediate reaction was "I can't be depressed: I have nothing to be depressed about!"
It was true then and true now. I have experienced great blessings in my life and have the luck and privilege of being happily married and the mother of two healthy children, to have a roof over my head and enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table. Lots of people don't have that. It is they who can rightly be depressed. I don't have that right.
But there is another point of view.
I was reading the memoirs of another GP recently. He wrote about the futility of prescribing anti-depressants to those patients who lived lives of abject poverty with no positive relationships, dealing with problems caused by alcoholism and drug abuse.
He made the point that, though those patients were undoubtedly depressed, they were not suffering from clinical depression as such – but from dreadful lives (he used a more pithy and graphic term which I shall not repeat at the risk of causing offence).
So, the depression that we live with may be utterly unconnected with circumstances and it's no use playing the guilt card. It's also no use declining the drugs out of pride or pig-headedness.
I always swore I'd never go on the drugs, but now I bless whoever invented Fluoxetine – because it helps – it really does. In those times when just getting out of bed, getting washed, getting dressed, taking the children to school is the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis (in stilettos), the pills can provide that vital extra boost. The therapy helps too, of course!
At the moment things are fine, and for every day that continues I'm grateful. And finally, finally, I've learned not to feel guilty about my illness. It comes, it goes; I'm learning how to deal with it and educating my family and friends in how to deal with it also.
It's a nuisance, but it's not a tragedy. And I refuse to be a drama-queen about it.