Like Miranda, Elizabeth responded to my appeal for guest bloggers who were willing to share their experience of Depression and M.E. Thank you to Elizabeth for doing so and for doing it so well.
‘M.E. and Depression’ by a patient and counsellor.
As ME is not ‘just’ being tired, depression is not ‘just’ sadness - and understanding their similarities and differences can help us to see how both can be misunderstood. ME is a physical illness that, like any chronic condition, can impact on mental health; depression is a mental health problem that canmanifest itself in physical symptoms. In the west we tend to treat mental and physical health as distinct areas, but in reality each affects the other and they can’t easily be separated. Look at the symptoms that can be experienced in both ME and depression: fatigue, concentration problems, reduced sex drive, sleep problems, appetite problems, guilt, agitation, moving/speaking more slowly, irritability, indecisiveness, loss of confidence, anxiety and low mood.
ME and depression both lack one agreed on cause (or treatment); both are experienced across a wide spectrum from mild to severely disabling; and medical training (and so accurate diagnosis) can be limited in each. As a counsellor I have seen people referred with a diagnosis of depression that was wrong in a key area – they didn’t lack the motivation or enjoyment of activities that is a key characteristic of depression, but rather the physical ability to do those activities, accompanied byhuge frustration.
I have also worked with people with ME who have become depressed because they are ill, characterised by hopelessness about the future and often a sense of failure. Living with ME therestrictions on your life; being misunderstood; anger and grief at what has been lost; isolation;uncertainty; the missing out can all mean great distress - it would be strange if this didn’t impact on your mental state. How do you know if you are becoming depressed? While it is natural to feel sad sometimes, beginning to feel separate from the world, an absence of usual feelings for loved ones, not being interested in personal care and losing motivation - if you experience these and maybe have thoughts of harming yourself it is time to seek help.
How to minimize the risk of depression in ME? People with ME often don’t want to talk about it as they assume others are as sick of it as they are, but finding a place you can express the full range of emotions and feel understood is extremely helpful protective factor - whether this a friend, a support group, online forums or a counsellor. If we always answer ‘I’m fine’ when we are far from it those feelings can be turned inwards. Counselling, mindfulness and acceptance are very helpful tools whenliving with chronic health problems - learning to live from the starting point of what you can do helpsas fighting and denial don’t change ME, and can make it worse.
So, the key difference between ME and depression is between not being able to do something without great physical impact and not wanting to do it. If both are starting to be the case for you seek help.
For more on living well with chronic health problems see @lizahpool & www.elizabethturp.co.uk