I recently read a theory about depression and mental illness suggesting that depression is actually a result of physical ailments not the other way round, that it is a natural result of being physically ill and that all those aches and pains come first. I wish I could recall if that might be true but the physical and mental go hand-in-hand with me.
If you had asked me all those sane healthy years ago what the symptoms of depression were, I would have said the obvious: sadness, apathy, exhaustion, hiding away, suicidal thoughts. I would have guessed these from people I had vaguely been aware of, a few TV programmes and films, some books and poems. I never knew that there were physical symptoms.
At first I didn’t connect the physical pains to the mental ones. There are times when the physical pains are so insignificant compared to the mental ones that I barely notice them so I suppose I should be grateful for the days when I am stuffing painkillers down my throat like a thinner, more feminine Elvis.
Nowadays I suffer from intense neck, shoulder and back pain. It can be crippling. It goes across my whole upper body, leeches down into my arms and hands, restricts my chest and lungs. Coupled with the feeling of concrete in my throat and torso, there are times when I am convinced that a heart attack can only be seconds away.
Added to this are the headaches, the exhaustion, the dizziness, the tight chest, the aching joints and the non-existent periods. How many of these are solely down to depression and how many indicate that there may be something else wrong (or simply old age catching up!) is anyone’s guess. There are of course times when I desperately hope something is wrong – ah the luxury of a physical illness! – but mostly I am apathetic. Still, as with all aspects of depression, it’s reassuring to know I am not alone.