I put the whole thing down to my excess weight
Renate, 62 years old
"When it became clear that I had depression, I was flabbergasted. It hadn’t occurred to me at all. I had always thought I felt so bad because of my body and being overweight."
At some stage I noticed that something was wrong with me. I completely withdrew, and felt like a spare part. I was totally shut in on myself. It was only work that gave my day some structure, and took my mind off things. For a long time, I put the whole thing down to my excess weight.
After I had a really intense dream I decided that something had to happen. I talked with someone from work about it, and he recommended a psychotherapist. My sister also advised me to call him.
Taking the first step was hard
But I was very reluctant and a bit scared. I couldn’t bring myself to make the call. Then my sister did it for me. But the therapist told her that I would have to make the call myself. I did it because I knew that my sister wouldn’t let up. I called the practice and talked with the therapist for a long time, and eventually made an appointment.
I was very nervous before the appointment. At first he asked me to tell him why I had come. I couldn’t think of anything, just my excess weight. I didn’t really know myself what was wrong with me. I felt very tense, but he was very understanding. At first I went twice a week, later on once a week, and then once every three months.
Therapy also means working actively on yourself
The therapist made it clear right from the start that it was not him who had to do most of the work during therapy, but me. I also got homework.
For example, I had almost completely withdrawn socially, and he told me to practice approaching other people. Slowly I learned to do that again.
After the therapy sessions, I often switched on the computer at home and wrote down how I felt. This was the best way for me to express what was bothering me. That was good for me. I always took my notes to therapy, and we talked about them.
Thoughts of ending my life
During that time, when I was looking out of the window, or when I was walking along the street, I sometimes felt the need to go into a house, to the top floor, and walk through the window. My parents were still alive then, and at those moments I always thought of them. Inside, I was fighting these thoughts. I didn’t really want it. But they had such a power over me. I talked with my therapist about it for a long time. That did me good.
I also take psychotropic medication: I take one tablet in the morning and one at night. We had to adjust the dose a little bit, but it now works well.
I’ve had depression for quite some time
I think that I’ve had depression since the 1980s. Maybe even longer, but it wasn’t as obvious before. I never had it continuously; it would come and go in episodes. At first, I had it mainly in wintertime. When I got it in the summer, it didn’t last long until I got over it. Other episodes lasted from about November to February. In the summer, they tend to be about eight days, or three weeks at the most. The longest episode I’ve had was about nine months. I always have to expect an episode of depression, but I try to do something about it. But the last winter was the first winter in a long time when I didn’t have depression.
I can feel when a depression is coming on. If I stop making food for myself I know that it is starting again. I don’t cook anymore, I’m not interested in eating, and I eat too much candy. I end up not doing any household chores. I’m just too tired and exhausted. I force myself to go outside for as long as possible because the light is good for me. If it gets worse I isolate myself more, and also close the blinds.
Staying active and making plans helps me
I’m a chronic pain sufferer. It’s a great mental strain if I feel bad physically. If I have depression, regular activities in my life help, such as appointments with the physiotherapist, doing the shopping, or appointments with a doctor. They help me to get out. When I go shopping, I don’t do all the shopping at once, but go every day to get the things I need. This forces me to go out every day. I try to meet friends and other people I know regularly or to talk with them on the phone. That’s very important for me, and talking helps me.
If I am angry about something I don’t bottle everything up anymore the way I used to, but settle it right away. I have also learned to do autogenic training. It’s good for me.
I enjoy planning things, for instance going to the zoo with friends, meeting old colleagues in town for a coffee or going Nordic walking. I always have things to do. I look after the shared garden. I sometimes find it difficult because of the pain, but I always try and get it done. It also helps when I’m having depressive thoughts. If the weather is good, I try to have breakfast outside, in the garden, to get some light in the morning, and to enjoy the peace and quiet.
You shouldn’t feel reluctant to go and see a psychotherapist. And if you don’t get on with your therapist, you can always switch therapists. But you have to be prepared to do something yourself in therapy. The therapist can’t solve the problem for you. A therapy session is not a nice little chat. You have to work on yourself, and it sounds funny, but therapy should also be enjoyable. It is good to have a little laugh once in a while.
When it became clear that I had depression, I was flabbergasted. It hadn’t occurred to me at all. I had always thought I felt so bad because of my body and being overweight. I have now accepted depression as being part of my life, and try to make the best of it.
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Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.