Do you ever find that things can take on a significance in your life far greater than you might have imagined? By things, I mean in the physical sense, not the way we use the word when we say “things have been getting on top of me recently,” or suchlike. Before the days of ubiquitous digital cameras and smartphones we used to have prints of photographs to remind us of important events and moments. Remember them? Apart from wedding albums I’ve hardly seen one of them for ages. But if I look in one of my ‘memories’ cupboards I can find many things I’ve saved as mementos, like my ticket for Leyton Orient’s playoff final at Wembley 18 months ago: we lost on penalties so I may throw that one out sometime, if I can bring myself to touch it!
I’ve been prompted down this line of thought by this little box. Those of you who have ever been on daily medication for an extended period will recognise it as a pill box, designed to help remind you to take your meds. My doctor suggested I get one of these just over 4 years ago, when I was diagnosed with depression and needed to be certain that I was taking the prescribed dosage of antidepressants. As part of the illness I was virtually incapable of planning anything, so she suggested this to reduce my anxiety level about the medication which, like the illness itself, was all too real. It was probably the best advice I was given, as there were countless times when I opened up that day’s compartment only to find that I had already taken my tablets: I dread to think how many double doses I would otherwise have taken! Over this time my health has improved markedly, and the only problems I have now are related to the lymphoedema which affects my legs. That’s a long story, which you’ll be glad to know I’m not going to bore you with, apart from saying that the treatment doesn’t require medication.
That little pill is the smallest dose, and having gradually reduced my daily intake I’m now down to one of those every three days. You’ll see that there’s one in the Tuesday compartment, but no more: this is the last one I have. After I take that on Tuesday, I then have two weeks without taking any more tablets before I see the doctor again. If all has gone to plan I will then be officially signed off from the antidepressants. That little box has been a major part of my life for so long, going back to the early days when it felt like a lifeline, through the period after I went back to work up to my retirement, and the two further years since then. I have made a conscious decision to remove stress factors from my life as much as possible, which is much easier to do when you don’t have to worry about all the aspects of working for a living. On Tuesday, I can put that little box away in my kitchen cupboard. I’ve got very used to seeing it beside my kettle, which is where it has been living, and in a funny way I’ll miss it.
But any sense of loss of an old friend will be fleeting. For me, this is a hugely significant moment: the point at which I can finally think of myself as being as ‘cured’ as is possible with an illness like depression. Yes, I know that it can return at any time, and as it is part of my chemical make up that could happen without any particular stimulus. I’d be stupid to ignore that, but I can park the thought away in the back of my mind for now. Hopefully, my little friend will gradually work its way towards the back of the cupboard, as things have a habit of doing when they aren’t in regular use – like the candles we used to keep in case of a power cut, which you could never find when you actually needed them (and even if you did, somehow they had parted company in the cupboard from the only box of matches you owned!).
I know that many who follow and read this blog are fellow sufferers, and I’m sharing this with you for one reason: please read my story and know that this could be you too. You should never give up hope! Four years ago I was in a very dark place. Now, I’m not. I hope that can be your story too.