After deciding that perhaps I was right and that conventional treatments for depression weren't going to help me, my psychiatrist gave me a few names to add to my diagnosis- Atypical Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder with elements of several other mental illnesses thrown in, just for the sake of some variety. As well as the original Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis. Once again I’ve been told that I don’t fit into the damn metaphorical “box” that shrinks and doctors have been trying to stuff me into for years.
We have been trying some alternate treatments recently. They are usually fairly expensive, but thankfully I’m no longer going loopy on more anti-depressants. I’m finally on a medication that I feel is actually helping and it’s making a huge difference in my life. I am now doing some flexible volunteer work- it’s only a few hours a week, but for the first time in years I feel that I am actually accomplishing something worthwhile in the outside world. I am one of the only people I know of who would do anything to be able to work full time.
Still, things are slowly improving. I find that I now view the world from a completely different perspective than others as a result of my experiences. I still have my bad days, but everyone has them. Sometimes I feel myself slipping and I take a turn for the worse, but I have learnt to recognise the signs, and can take steps to prevent myself from going any further downhill. But every day that I get out of bed is, in a way, a small victory. Every time I work for a few hours, I start to realise that I am worth so much more than I had ever believed possible. Every birthday I reach is a milestone for me. I get a huge feeling of pride every time it hits me- I have survived my own personal hell and come out of it as a much better person. I appreciate the simple things in life more than most- money is not really that important in the way I live my life. I make the most of every invitation and opportunity that comes my way to the very best of my ability and I am grateful for everything that I have.
I don’t believe that my illness has been a bad thing in many respects- if I could go back now and change things, I don’t know that I would. I now know exactly who I am and I am proud to be that person- I’ve been through so much to become who I am today. I have learnt more in my short life than many people I know who are decades older than I. I have had the freedom to study things that interest me and I know that my life is whatever I choose to make of it- there are no expectations that I have to live up to, no pressure to be something that I am not. My priorities are not material based- to me, friends and family, love, laughter and beauty are what make life worth living. I have learned the meaning of unconditional love and friendship and the importance of having faith in yourself and the people around you. I take the time to sit in the sun or to look around and enjoy the beauty in the world whenever the mood strikes me and I value this more than you could imagine.
My life is now beginning to come together more than I ever dreamed possible. I am starting to settle into and enjoy my life instead of always having to fight with everything I have just to survive one more day. Because that is what I’ve done for almost 10 years now- survived.
But surviving is not living, and now I’m finally learning to live again.
Alicia Brennan is married to a wonderful, supportive man, whilst keeping busy looking after three amazing kids. Making cakes in her past time and volunteering as a basketball scoretable official is something Alicia does regularly, all whilst deaf in one ear and slowly losing her hearing in the other. Living with MDD,CFS & other health issues for the past 20 years, Alicia has taken the opportunity to get out all of her pain onto the page - so she could 'accept it, let it go, and live her life to the best of her ability'. What an incredible woman!