The Black Dog & RA

Depression. Even the word is dark.  For me it conjours up images of rain and grey skies, stormy seas and windswept moorlands, barren landscapes with stunted trees. 

If only depression was that simple, had that Heathcliffian black and white glamour.  In reality it’s days of deliberate isolation, it’s curling up because you want the world to go away.  It’s knowing if one more person asks how you are you’re going to start screaming and never stop  so it’s better to turn off the phone. 

There are no definitive numbers available, but it’s thought that around 30% of people with RA suffer from depression.  Cause and effect? Who knows.  There is a new school of thought suggesting inflammation may be linked with depression, it’s certainly linked to RA. 

It’s pretty obvious that combining a life changing diagnosis of RA with days of fatigue and constant pain are a trigger for low mood.  Then you hit the old catch 22, studies have shown that people suffering from depression feel pain more.  And so it goes round. 

Sometimes the cause is irrelevant, the why is unimportant.  It’s the living with that we need to focus on.  ‘Why’ will drive you mad.  Those of us with chronic illness do not need an extra why. 

Writing about depression is hard.  I find writing about my RA fairly easy, it’s almost factual, it’s symptoms and pain and drugs and impacts… Whilst obviously personal it doesn’t feel revealing.

Depression feels more like I’m opening a window instead of talking about the facade of the house.

I wanted to touch on this because it’s been a difficult road for me the past few weeks, yet I’ve never been alone.  Thanks to some amazing people I’ve met online, that I now think of as my RA family, we have shared. 

We have shared in the small hours when the pain is visceral and all encompassing.

We have shared the lows of losing activities, friends, relationships and whole careers to this damned disease. 

We have shared the need to sometimes tune out of the world for a time, because one more thing that demands energy will just be too much. 

I’m taking anti depressants, my GP is very supportive.  Nearly every RA sufferer I’ve gotten to know well online is on them too.  I think they are a necessary and vital part of our support system, we have to look at our health holistically, we are in this for the long haul.  Most importantly we should not be ashamed.

I think it’s starting to be recognised by the medical profession, my rheumatologist has a direct referral link to a psychologist to help people deal with diagnosis,  I was offered this last week and accepted with open arms, I see this support as being as important as any other they offer me. 

To anyone who stumbles across this post who even thinks they may be depressed, please reach out.  GP, rheumatologist, nurse, samaritans – there is always someone there, and thankfully these days the stigma surrounding mental illness has diminished dramatically – to the extent I am not ashamed to say I suffer with depression. 

If you’ve not come across the black dog from the WHO on you tube I’ve posted a link here, it’s a useful way of explaining how depression feels. 


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