Am I suffering from depression or am I suffering from poverty?

Help arrives!

Oh, no; it’s another questionnaire. The same one that I filled in online, now arrived in the post. It asks me a series of questions under the heading ‘How often have you been bothered by the following problems?’

The first one is ‘little interest or pleasure in doing things’ – I am asked to tick whether I have been bothered by this every day, more than half the days, several days or not at all.

This is the thing: during December of last year, I signed up to one of those budget planning apps on my phone to try to work out why I was running out of money every month, on average during the second or third week after payday.

The answer was basically, that my outgoings were greater than my income, and that was the case regardless of whether or not I took the standard advice of cutting out the daily coffee and economising on food spending. As a result of that budget, I understood that even the occasional night out would put me further in debt. I returned the dress I had bought for the work Christmas do and pretended I was too ill to go. I cut out the coffees, the alcohol and opted out of the pension scheme. All social activities were cancelled.

Now, I don’t run out of money until the final week of the month.

Life is unutterably tedious.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s definition of poverty is: “When a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet their minimum needs (including social participation).”

I feel guilty for claiming to be poor when I step over homeless people on my way to work every day, when I see around me so much despair and poverty. I am comparatively lucky, but my answers to the questions remain the same.

‘Not being able to stop or control worrying’ – yep. All day and all night. How can I create good memories for my daughter? If we go to the pictures can I make up the deficit in our budget by making more effort with cooking, baking instead of buying snacks? (and I HATE cooking and baking. It’s another chore that adds to my dread of getting out of bed on a weekend). What can I sell on ebay so that I can afford the new school blazer she needs? Will I ever be able to afford a bookcase so I can stop piling my books on the floor? Such small things, but so insurmountable. They go around and around in my mind on a constant loop.

It goes on to ask how much my problems affect my life ie work, social life etc.

I am able to work from home in my job, and as part of my budget planning I choose that option as often as I am able. It saves the travel costs and helps me to make my limited work wardrobe less obvious. It also affects my relationships with colleagues as I am seen as disengaged, not a team worker. A recent complaint from a colleague that I was never in the office almost reduced me to tears, not because it was anything that would get me into trouble but because of the hurt it caused.

Nights out are out of the question. I don’t invite people around because I recently sold my second sofa to reduce my debts, and it’s uncomfortable to sit in a line on the one remaining sofa.

So, my life grows ever smaller and more limited and my mind turns and turns in search of a way out, even as the walls close in upon me.

I don’t know anybody else in this situation.

So, am I suffering from relative poverty or am I suffering from depression? It’s hard to see which came first, and to find a way out of one without resolving the other.


Looking for help in the wrong places?


I woke up at 8am on Thursday, having spent the hours of 10pm to 4am staring dry-eyed and aching at the ceiling, and caught a glimpse of the red-eyed, angry, drooping face that I would soon present to my daughter (if she ever came home). A wave of pain hit me, a physical loneliness so deep that I fell onto my knees and sobbed and again caught a glimpse in the mirror and was horrified.

I rang the doctor’s surgery and spoke to a receptionist through suppressed sobs. She told me a GP would ring me back.

‘I’ve stopped taking my tablets and now I don’t think I’m coping very well,’ I spluttered.

‘Has anything in particular happened?’ asked the GP.

‘Em…work is stressful…I haven’t had time to go to the doctor..’ I ventured ‘but I just feel this way. I just feel this way without the tablets.’

I could hear a keyboard clatter as he typed what I was saying.

‘Do you want to come in and talk to us about it or shall I just leave the tablets at reception?’

It felt as if I should choose the latter option. I chose the latter option.

‘I’ll leave a card with the receptionist,’ he said and some words about counselling or online help washed over me.

The card had a phone number and a website address. I rang the phone number.

‘Please leave your name and address and a self-referral form will be sent out to you,’ it said ‘ or fill in the form on the website.’

I filled in the form on the website. After the first page a pop-up said ‘You seem to be experiencing a high level of distress. We suggest you speak to your GP.’

It is a bank holiday.

I swallow the tablets. I start writing a blog.






I write to survive

I have been taking Citalopram for a long time – long enough to forget what life was like before that drug came into my life.

Before Citalopram, I couldn’t manage a full-time week at work. I never faced this fact head-on, but it was there in the background – the stomach pains, the anxiety, the IBS, the teariness. I would always have to find some excuse to work part-time, or to find a job involving shift work – anything that would give me more time to myself.

I always needed more time than other people – time alone, time to relax, time to recharge myself and to force myself back out into the world again. The face I presented to the world was one-dimensional; a smiling, relaxed, outgoing face which cost more effort than anyone would ever realise.

I assumed that everyone was like this.

University almost killed me. Literally almost killed me. As I had suspected, I wasn’t able to cope with life, I was lost and vulnerable and I was in trouble almost as soon as I landed. Of the relationships I had before that time, few survived what happened to me and my failure to cope – including my relationship with my sister.

I came home, I recovered from an overdose, I tried to live a life and to forget all that had gone before, but my weakness remained. I believed that the world was wrong, that my failure to be able to do things that went completely against the grain, for 40 hours per week, for money, was because I could see the truth better than other people. These things were not what the human spirit was intended for. I believed that I was a writer and I just needed to write and somehow it would all be OK.

In this way I tried to reframe my weakness as strength and tried to carry on.

But I couldn’t write. I would lose whole days just staring at the wall, lying on the floor in tears, brain foggy and confused, body heavier than lead.

I managed to work, I pulled myself back from the brink. I was a bad employee, some days I was late and some days I rang in sick but I kept the jobs and when I was on good form my work was excellent.

My daughter came along and I coped. I was a single parent and I paid the bills (just about) and I looked after her (just about), I went back to university and I got a Masters degree and I got a part-time job and I managed all of that. And I loved her, more than I ever imagined was possible (still do, but more so). At least I succeeded in that.

I found a husband, I tried to make us into a family, and I thought that maybe I could be normal, maybe I could pull this off and make a proper life for her. But it was a difficult marriage and sometimes I was very upset; sometimes I lay awake all night, head spinning from an argument, and then cried all of the next day because I hadn’t slept and I was so tired. I stopped working because I couldn’t manage all 3 things – being a mother, being a wife, and working full-time. The hardest of the 3 things was being a wife.

My husband told me I should take some pills or we would have to split up. He did not like the crying.

The pills were a revelation.

For the first time in my life, I was able to behave normally. The brain fog lifted. I stopped crying. I felt no fear and my stomach stopped the eternal churning which had been going on for so long that I didn’t notice it. I found that for the first time in my life I could work full time, never taking a day off sick. I could concentrate on the inane, boring tasks that the work required, without day-dreaming and without wanting to do anything else.

I found the courage to leave my husband. I am almost at the stage where I earn enough to support my child. The tablets protect me from the destructive force of my emotions.  Almost.

I write to survive. To try to discover the better bits of myself, and maybe to safely rediscover the emotions that the Citalopram is masking.

This is an inward-gazing blog, written for myself, and I cannot promise fun or uplifting commentary – but it might be useful to someone in its own way. I hope so.