The Reality of Major Depressive Disorder – Guest Post by Ashley

Ashley’s guest post is the 45th post in the segment on my blog, called “The Reality Of…” which gives others the ability to share their story and raise awareness of the disabilities, illnesses, impairments and invisible illnesses that they have.

**This post briefly talks about suicide.

Meet Ashley!

My name’s Ashley and I live in Canada, specifically Vancouver on the west coast. I’ve been a nurse for the past 15 years, working almost entirely in mental health, although I’m no longer able to work much. I’m a mom to four beautiful guinea pigs. I’ve lived with major depressive disorder for the last 12 years.

Ashley is looking at the camera and smiling.

Common Symptoms

One of the hallmarks is depressed mood, although there are a variety of different ways that can present other than sadness, such as irritability. Another is loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. There can also be changes in sleep and appetite, impaired ability to think clearly, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide. Often energy is low, and there can be changes in movement as well.

How It Affects Me

While my mood is depressed, that generally isn’t the most problematic aspect of my illness, and my mood typically isn’t sad. Anhedonia, the clinical term for lack of pleasure and interest, is kind of a slow burn day to day but has really drained my life of any colour that it used to have.

Thoughts of suicide are part of my illness, and I’ve attempted to end my life multiple times in the past.

Insomnia has been an issue in the past, but luckily my current cocktail of medications keeps that under control. In the past, I’ve lost significant amounts of weight while depressed, but that doesn’t happen anymore as these meds have caused me to gain a lot of weight.

Day to day the factors that have the greatest impact are the cognitive impairment and psychomotor retardation, a clinical term that means slowing of thoughts and movement. My brain just doesn’t work as well as it didn’t when my illness was in remission, and my concentration and memory leave a lot to be desired. I have a hard time processing new information and get easily overwhelmed.

The psychomotor retardation isn’t an issue of energy, it’s a physical slowing down of movement that is apparent to other people. It makes it hard to get out and do things, and it feels a bit awkward when senior citizens using walkers and zooming by me on the sidewalk.

Learning To Adapt

I’ve learned that it’s better not to even try to rely on my memory, so I write everything. I’ve also recognized that I get easily overwhelmed, especially if I’m having to handle multiple pieces of new information at once. I’ve taken advantage of my pre-existing tendency to be organized, and I’ve developed an organization system that compensates for at least some of my cognitive deficits.

I’ve also recognized that I’m terrible at decision-making on the spot, as I just get too overwhelmed. That’s meant adjustments to things like grocery shopping; I have to decide ahead of time what kind of yogurt I’m going to buy, or else I’ll stare stupidly at the yogurt aisle for 5 minutes before giving up and walking away with no yogurt.

In terms of work, I’ve adapted by really limiting the shifts I’m willing to take. I only work night shifts, because they’re quiet and rarely call for any multi-tasking, plus I only have to work with one other person so there’s not a lot of workplace politics issues to navigate.

A photo of Ashley cuddling one of her guinea pigs. The guinea pigs fur is grey and white, with a white streak from its head to its nose.

Have I Changed As A Person?

I think the core of who I am has remained relatively the same, but my interests and what matters to me have changed. I don’t have in-person friends anymore, and I no longer have much of a relationship with my family (which is my doing, not theirs).

I think the hardest part for me has been moving from having a relapsing/remitting pattern of illness with periods of full remission in between to now having a treatment-resistant illness where remission just isn’t happening anymore. I’ve had to come to terms that “well me” as I used to know her just doesn’t exist anymore, and there’s been a grieving process associated with that.

I used to be quite a happy and optimistic person, but that’s no longer part of my life. However, I’ve been able to find a sense of meaning and fulfilment through writing and engaging with the blogging community, and I never would have had that if it hadn’t been for my illness.

My Favourite Superhero

I’m going to go with She-Ra, Princess of Power, because she was kicking ass back when I was a kid, and showing that the ladies can keep up with the guys (i.e. her brother He-Man) any day of the week.

Thank you so much Ashley for raising awareness on my blog!

If you would like to stay up to date with Ashley, then you can find her on her blog, Mental health @ Home, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!

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