Part 10 - Confidence Is Chemical

Seven of the ten deadliest snakes in the world are native to Australia; the deadly funnel-web spider is rife in suburban Sydney; the box jellyfish, with its deadly stinging tentacles, inhabits the waters just off the coast of northern Queensland; Phillip Island, just over 100km from Melbourne, is a breeding ground for the deadly Great White Shark…

…Qantas have never lost a commercial passenger jet.

At least I had one comforting, non-deadly piece of antipodean trivia to ponder over as Qantas flight QF10 rose gracefully from the tarmac at Heathrow Airport, before heading south-east into the night sky to begin the long journey to almost certain venom.

As we climbed to cruising altitude, I looked back over this closing chapter in my life. I could scarcely believe it had been only eighteen months since I had heart-wrenchingly bade a fond farewell to Glasgow and headed south to begin a new life in the hustle and bustle of The Big Smoke.

I had always wanted to experience life in London; I had been determined to stick it out for at least a year. I also wanted to face up to the homesickness demon that had always plagued me, and prove to myself that I could actually live beyond the borders of Glasgow.

But I never settled in London, never really enjoyed the place. To make matters worse, everyone there thought that I spoke so rough and fast that I sounded more like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier on heat than a man speaking the Queen’s English.

Well, having scratched the Big Smoke Itch, and scared a few Londoners, the last golden opportunity that my job in London gave me was a chance to live Doon Unner for a year. I’d always wanted to experience living overseas too, so how could I say no? Once again, I was determined to give it a go.

But as I sat there buckled firmly into my upright-positioned window seat, finally with my back to London, I severely lacked the confidence that I would last the distance. Given my track record with extreme gut-retching homesickness, and the fact that Melbourne was not the short flight from Glasgow that London was, my safety net was now gone.

I also lacked the confidence that I wouldn’t be bitten or stung to death halfway through this next chapter. Yep, my what-if anxious mind made it quite clear it had come along for the journey too.

If only I’d looked back a little further, I would have realised this was the story of my life – dogged determination, kept in check by a lack of self-confidence.

If, for example, I had looked back as far as my schooldays, when it came to girls, I was a complete confidence-free zone. I always envied the confident in-crowd guys at school who dated all the girls. They seemed to live in a different world; they were the stars on a glamorous television show, and I was just a viewer. I barely uttered a word to the girls in my year, and I found the whole ordeal quite depressing.

I just didn’t realise back then that a lack of self-confidence doesn’t cause depression but rather goes hand in hand with depression. Like depression’s wingman.

I used to hate it when someone would say “you just need to develop more self confidence, Mark.” Statements like that just made matters worse, I tell you! I mean developing self-confidence is hardly the same as developing a photograph. How can you develop more of something when you don’t know what it is that you are trying to develop?

Once I left school, my determination fortunately got a boost and I started asking out practically every girl who caught my eye. But I still lacked the confidence that any of them would ever say yes – so I never knew what to do next with the ones who actually did.

There were some whom I knew I didn’t stand a chance with, but my determination meant that at the very least I had to find out – I was never going to die not knowing.

I certainly had more ‘no’s than ‘yes’s over the years, but some of the ‘yes’s really were unexpected surprises, nay shocks.

One that really sticks out in my mind is when I was working part-time in a bar in Glasgow, every Friday night. Many of the staff and regulars had their eye on my jovial and not unattractive boss. As, of course, did I.

Once I had decided to make my move, I was practically falling over myself with nervousness as I walked into work.

“You mean, as in a date?!” she replied, somewhat surprised, when I fabricated the opportunity to get her by herself. The only thing I was confident of at that point was that I was about to get a polite rejection.

When I clarified my intentions, to my utter amazement she followed up with a “sure, why not!” It may have only gone on to last two dates, but unless my maths are wrong, two dates is infinitely greater than no dates.

Talking of maths, I also did not too badly on the academic front. OK so I did excel (even if I do say so myself!) at primary school – but that is hardly curriculum vitae headline material, is it?

I didn’t, however, stand out like a genius at high school or Uni – but I did ok. I was quite good at some subjects, but I made up for it by being complete pants at others. Nor was I ever a star on the sports field, but I was always reasonably fit.

My favourite subjects at school were French and Italian, ones in which I would class myself as above average, though by no means outstanding. My worst subject on the other hand was English, where I literally managed to scrape through. No Staffie jokes, please…

But such was my affliction with homesickness that I completely lacked the confidence I would last a compulsory year living in France or Italy if I studied my favourite languages at Uni. I was absolutely terrified at the prospect, so I dropped them. After graduating from Uni, completely lacking any sense of direction, I went on to take up a job in Glasgow as…an accountant. Go figure!

If the truth be told, I didn’t ever stand out at anything I did in life, at work or at play, so I was more surprised than anyone when my London employers actually offered to fly me to Australia and give me a job there.

And I’m not making things up here. I still have performance reviews from my time in London that say I was a reliable, average employee – who lacked in confidence.

I didn’t realise until I was almost in my forties that my average performances were nothing to do with lack of ability, but rather all down to that lack of confidence.

And so I couldn’t help but feel that I was sitting in someone else’s seat on flight QF10 as the map of the United Kingdom disappeared off the left side of the overhead screens. Surely it was only the confident, high-flying career types who literally got high-flown to the other side of the world with jobs waiting for them when they got there?

While I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in part enjoying the adventure, I was also terrified that I’d be found out for the complete fake that I felt like, and that I would be sent packing on the next flight back to Glasgow. I simply lacked the confidence that I was up to the job that was waiting for me.

So what exactly is this elusive little critter we call confidence? Before I started writing this post, I asked a few people for their views.

One friend’s opinion is that confidence is in the eye of the beholder – because she was once turned down for a job for not portraying any confidence, whereas she was asked back for a second interview with a different employer because she came across so confidently.

Another friend reckons that lack of confidence is no pints; confidence is two pints; overconfidence is four pints. He never did tell me what six or eight pints was, though.

My favourite answer was that confidence means believing in your abilities, backing yourself, making decisions with conviction.

Yet none of the above answered the important question – how do you develop more of the stuff?

But before I could find the answer, I had to sit in a dark cave for many years under the watchful gaze of a growling black dog and lacking in self-confidence. Because before I knew what confidence was, first I had to know what it wasn’t.

I have in the past suggested that one of the stigmas associated with antidepressants is the very term ‘antidepressant’. I believe that ‘Serotonin Boosters’ would be a more accurate and less stigma-inducing term, given that boosting brain serotonin levels is exactly what SSRIs do.

Once my own ‘Serotonin Boosters’ kicked in, I began to feel what I can only describe as instinctively normal. My racing what-if irrational thoughts gradually slowed down. Eventually, all the clutter cleared and only rational thoughts remained. Like putting on a pair of internal glasses, I began to have focus and clarity of thought. I also began to develop – self-confidence!

Previously, for example, I might have found myself in a meeting at work, where someone would say something that I disagreed with. But they would say it so confidently, with such conviction, that my racing what-if thinking would convince me in the heat of the moment that they must be right and I wrong – even if I knew deep down that I was right. And so I’d keep quiet. Nowadays, however, I am more confident about expressing my opinion regardless, it doesn’t need to be confrontational!

And how often do we do or say something we don’t mean to or want to, or even at times the opposite, purely out of blind fear or lack of confidence that we may otherwise offend someone?

What if, I now asked myself, what if all those years it was my irrationally worrying mind that had been stripping me of self-confidence? What if it had been holding me back from believing in my abilities, from backing myself, from making decisions with conviction, simply because it was asking too many questions? Questions, that is, that distracted me and made me hesitate in doing the things I wanted to do, saying the things I wanted to say.

What if all my incessant worrying had been giving me not just a second opinion, but a third, fourth, fifth, umpteenth simultaneous opinion about everything – and I mean everything – that could go possibly wrong if I did what I really wanted to do?

And to answer the sixty four million dollar question, what if confidence could be defined as nothing more than clarity of thought?

Just to reiterate from a previous post, the little Paroxetine pills that I take on a daily basis create this clarity of thought at a basic chemical level by acting on the neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Serotonin is temporarily released in the brain to relay signals – commands and thoughts – across the neural pathways. The serotonin is then reabsorbed so that it can be recycled to relay another thought, another time.

Paroxetine and other SSRI medications work by simply delaying the reabsorption process, allowing the serotonin to linger a little longer.

As I’ve literally felt for myself, this “extra time” boosts the signals running through my brain. It strengthens my thoughts by giving them just a little more time to get through.

It also mutes my incessant what-if self questioning, replacing it with clear logical thought, allowing me to focus on what I really want to do and say.

It is this focus and clarity of thought, brought about by a reduction in clutter, that I believe produces a boost in self-confidence.

I also have a theory about how irrational worrying thoughts come to be. I believe that in my pre-Paroxetine days, all my logical true-self thoughts that didn’t manage to leap across my neural pathways before the serotonin was prematurely sucked away were left with nowhere to go. Trapped, they were then left swirling around, trying to find a way out. Unable to do so, they became irrational, panicked, and stripped me of any focus and self-confidence.

On the flipside, I had experienced occasional brief periods of confidence over the years. Nowadays, even with my serotonin levels permanently boosted, I don’t walk around like six pints of superoverconfidence, believing I’m invincible. The balance is simply right nowadays; any more would be dangerous for sure

It also took me several months on my medication to become fully confident that the worst, most irrational outcomes I ever imagined would not happen – and that I was worthy of good things happening to me.

During those initial months, I still experienced blips of depression and anxiety. To this day I still experience ups and downs in mood and confidence, but nothing like the extremes of my past.

I now recognize that these ups and downs are just fluctuations in chemicals in my brain. This all leads me to believe that at its most basic level, confidence is chemical.

I’m not saying that should pop a Paroxetine a day just to boost their confidence. That would fall into the controversial realm of what psychiatrist Peter Kramer calls Cosmetic Pharmacology. Nice side effect for once, though.

In any case, not everyone responds to the same medications in the same ways. SSRIs such as Paroxetine, for example, may be ineffective for anyone whose brain lacks the ability to produce enough serotonin to begin with.

But take a look at successful people like Richard Branson who once had a successful record company that had made him millions. He then sold it to risk his lot on an airline.

I’m sure he had some nervous moments along the way, but I’m also sure that near-perfect serotonin levels in his brain would have contributed to his confidence levels, as well as to the success of his airline.

Talking of airlines, when flight QF10 finally touched down in Melbourne, I was immediately on my guard and looking out for any signs of danger.

As my taxi sped down the Tullamarine Freeway, I was surprised to not see any snakes hissing at passing traffic from the roadside, or huge spider webs draped across the overhead gantries. I also have to admit that I was disappointed to not see any kangaroos leaping clean across the freeway in a single bound. Nothing like I had imagined.

It still took a long time, however, before my overimaginative mind was confident enough for me to stop making detailed snake inspections under my doona (sorry, quilt!) before I could settle down for the night. Or before I was able to slip my feet into my shoes in the morning without cringing at the thought of a rogue bird-eating spider dining on my big toe.

Of course, I would have quite happily taken a bath without expecting to see a shark fin emerge from the murky depths, not even my irrational mind was that imaginative. But I preferred to take a shower, as my bath was only four feet long whereas I am a strapping six-footer.

Over the years, my accent has also softened, ever so slightly. And now that I don’t have constant worries racing around inside my head, I am actually able to listen to what I am saying while I am saying it, so I now talk more slowly. In other words, as well as understanding myself better, I am also more understandable. People no longer look at me like I am a Staffordshire Bull Terrier on heat.

Pour a few whiskies down my throat, however, and my accent and speed of speech still revert back to normal. Don’t worry – I don’t bite.

 

Part Eleven coming soon! Watch this space…

Leave a Comment

42 Comments

Kiersten responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Favourite post yet :)

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks - favourite comment yet :)  

Louise responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Safeway car park rarely throws up life little gems! Was lovely meeting you and Freddie today! And despite my lousy parking - my car door remains intact!

Jess responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Another fine blog. Best yet. Saw you and your son at the Melbourne Heart game on the weekend. Awesome work.

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Hi Louise – lovely to meet you too! Not sure if you’ve ever read Celestine Prophecy but since reading it I realise there are no coincidences! Yep Im now a Merc fan!  

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Jess and thanks for being a great proof reader, I struggled with this one a bit but glad I persevered now! I cannot believe how many people saw me and Jack and my cousin in law Huw on the tv the other night – we were on for, like, 2 seconds!!  

ed responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

test

Lynne responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Keep up the good work Mark! :-)

Sara Weatherly responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

I struggled with similar problems as you for years. I am getting better and happier now and I don't even take antidepressants anymore! Keep up the good work. I will too!

Dawn responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for this blog. My husband was recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, although (as I'm sure you understand) in hindsight it's obvious that it's been an issue for years. He is still struggling with finding the right combination of medication(s) and counseling, and we are still struggling with the impact that his illness has on our marriage. Reading your blog helps gives me some insight into what he must be going through, and gives me hope that we may eventually get through it with our marriage intact. So thanks.

Rebecca Sears responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Thank you. I'm making am appointment asap. I'm turning 65 and just recovering from a life altering accident. What am I good for? No family around. Little I can do physically now. Many dark thoughts. Time for a change. Still time to live the time I have. Do something that may lead to something. PS I found your blog by following Stephan Fry and also follow Obama. So in some cosmic way, you are linked to Obama too. Life is a mystery, and thanks to your blog, I'm determined to not allow depression from keeping me in the dark.

Sharon Hurst responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

I am in awe at your amazingness. Having read all 10 parts of your story I realise just how much your experiences mirror mine. You explain everything so well and I now truly believe I can feel better with time. YOU have given me hope and I can't thank you enough for that. I've never been to Australia BUT it has almost become an obsession to me that I want to live there. I don't know if life is better there or not but it always looks so much better. Perhaps I just want to 'start again' and reinvent myself but I am so jealous that you have had the opportunity to make the move. I'm 56, from England, and have been told that I do qualify to emigrate so I'm stuck in my rut in gloomy old Britain. Thank you again for giving me hope. Sharon

Trevor responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Mark, Thanks for the blog which will no doubt help lots of people. My recent experience with depression having been on many different medications for over 15 years has been startling for reasons different to yours. In February I checked into a hospital to come off Cymbalta and Seroquel to move to newer medications. After 2 weeks off the old meds I was feeling so good I asked my psychiatrist if I could stay off and see what happens, he said yes. I've been off the meds for 2 months now and still feeling great, I have my old zest for life back, just signed up for an OUA physics course, so life can be great without meds. All the best, Trevor.

Tania responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Than you Marc. Reading this blog has been like looking in a mirror. You have inspired me, i am making an appointment to see my doctor on Monday. After taking Prozac 10 years ago for about a year when I went though a very rough patch, I remember after about 4-5 months one day smiling again and feeling normal. I was so surprised. When I felt better I gradually came off and started living again, but have been in and out of therapy and now am back to feeling the anxiety and depression almost daily, dreading the bad days. I am scared to feel any worse (like you did when you started your recovery journey) but if that is what it takes, so be it. . I cried reading your blog and have decided to take action. Whatever you are doing keep doing it, it helps a lot.

admin responded: 5 years, 6 months ago

Hi Sara, you are, in my humble opinion, so much braver than many! I still take medication even though I dont feel like I need it any more as I am soooo in control, I may or may not choose to try coming off it one day but I am not going to beat myself up if I dont. I absolutely applaud you though for coming off them and showing me and many others that it is possible to come off them under doctor supervision and still keep the black dog at bay. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Watch this space, Part 11 coming soon!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Dawn thanks for taking the time to share some of your own situation, and I am truly sorry to hear of your husband's struggle and of course how it will impact on you. I am glad that reading my story gave some insight into the mind of the anxious depressive, as that was always an aim of mine - to try to let non sufferers relate. I wish you and your husband the very best. Hope is out there, never forget that!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Rebecca - reading comments like yours is exactly why I write this - encouraging others to take action. I sit here early on a Monday morning applauding your decision! Best of luck, stay brave, and keep fighting on. Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Sharon - seems I jumped the gun when I responded to you yesterday as you have clearly also read the post I mentioned! Your comment is also one of the reasons I vowed to myself to write about my experience when I was doing a few rounds with the black dog and getting used to the Paroxetine. And that reason is simply - shining a light on hope! So thank you for having your eyes open to it, I truly hope others will read your comment and get the same hope too. Mark

Stephen responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi mark. Stumbled across your blogg purely by chance or fate? Who knows. What I do know is that your story sounds all to familiar to mine. I read every page. In January this year I was having repeated sleepless nights. 1 night I just felt like I was going mad because I couldn't sleep.

Stephenibever knew what was responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi mark Just read all of your 10 page blogg and it sounds all to familiar to me. In January this year I was having many sleepless nights and after my 3 rd sleepless night I remember thinking to myself " am I going mad". I was dreading waking up because the days ahead where getting more and more unbearable for me and yet I never knew what was up with me. I was unable to think straight. All my thoughts where that because I thought I was losing it I was going to lose my wife, house and business. I broke down crying on 2 occasions not knowing what was up with me except I just knew I weren't right. One morning my wife phoned what I thought was a psychiatrist but turned out to be more of a hypnotherapist who did not diagnose me with anything except to try and meditate wit me and he told me to take St johns wart. None of this worked, if anything he was useless and I felt he was trying to just take my money. At £40 an hr he didn't come cheap. So after two sessions of the same old crap I decided to give him the elbow. Every day I was feeling very anxious and you could add a sprinkle of depression as well as panick as well. In 24 hrs I would say I'd have an hr if that where I wasn't feeling anxious. It was getting unbearable. If I stopped being anxious for 10 minutes I'd be asking myself why I'm not. Then this would start the vicious circle of thoughts to start again. The term worrying about not worrying is a term I used when my wife or family would ask me how am I feeling and it sounds ridiculous when you tell a normal person. Anyway I went to my GP and was diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder and given paroxatine 20 ml. But as u have mentioned the stigma attached to anti depressants is very off putting so I decided to wait a bit before I had them. Then purely by chance my brother who is a taxi driver picked up a mental health worker in his cab and got the number of a cognitive behaviour therapist. So I phoned her and arranged an appointment. I found the first session very good as I filled in questionnaire about my symptoms. She diagnosed me with anxiety, panick and u could also add slight depression to this as u will know that they all fall closely in the same bracket. After 3 weeks she advised me to take the paroxatine but the only thing that scared me about taking them is that I didn't fancy getting worse before I got better. Anyway I took them and kept a daily diary of my thoughts and I'd say that by the 5 th week I started to feel a lot better. I can remember saying to myself 1 afternoon " this is the first time in months that I know the feeling of being normal ". After 7 weeks I've come off paroxatine and went onto citalopram as I was having side effects , nothing serious. I'm on this medication 4 six months the dosage is reduced after that. Anyway sorry to waffle on to much but it was just nice to read about someone who has been through something that I've been through also you have probably lifted a lot of people's spirits up who have been through this themselves but haven't been able to help themselves. Hope this helps in someway as well. My advice is that if somethings broke u fix it by whatever means possible and if that involves taking medication then so be it. thank you. Ste.

Amy responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark Saw a retweet you got from Stephen Fry, and looked up your blog as I am recovering from anxiety & depression at the moment. So many of the things you have said are very similar to what I've experienced, and I've found it very interesting, and helpful to read. Will comment properly tomorrow as have read your blog all in one go and it is 1am here and I'm very tired!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey Trevor - wow what a great snappy positive story you have there! I can honestly say as I sit here on a 'cold Melbourne Monday night' that reading your post brought a huge wave of relief over me. Not because I feel I have to stop taking my own meds even though I no longer feel I need them (more on that in a future post) but just in reading another unique story and seeing how coming off meds actually made your life better! Goodonya! Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

and PS - THANK YOU!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Tania - thanks for sharing your honesty - and your tears! And full credit to you for taking action. Whatever. It. Takes. Keep fighting on till you discover what works for you. Dont let the black dogs get you down! Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Stephen I remember the sleepless nights all too well! That is a topic worthy of its own post, and you Sir have made me realise that. I cant believe in fact that I hadnt thought of it before - the importance of a good night's sleep! I had several of those 'thought I was going mad' from lack of sleep nights but Ive actually found on Paroxetine that I cope better after a poor night's sleep. Two in a row however and I struggle a bit - but not nearly in even the remotest possible sense in the same way I used to struggle hopelessly. Thank you for commenting. Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks Amy I look forward to your comments. Am glad you found my story so far helpful. Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey Ste - wow! You might think I am kidding here but I assure you not, when I was reading your comments I actually thought I had mistakenly opened up a file of my own notes for a previous post of mine and was asking myself where that came from! Your story soooo mirrors mine. I just had a wave of several emotions rush over me at the same time there - all positive though! Thank you so much for taking the time to write your comments, I am beginning to see how the more people share their own experiences in the comments, the more it adds to the message that is Dancing With The Black Dog. It is not just my story that way. Fantastic effort from you also in having the guts to go on the medication. I had that same stigma but got to the point where I didnt care about the stigma any more, the struggle was just too great. So from me, and from anyone else who reads your comments, thank you! Mark

Stephenibever knew wha responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi mark It's Stephen again I would like to stress that medication has worked for me and you so far " touch wood ". But for anyone reading this who is suffering from anxiety or panic disorder I would recommend they first go and c a cognitive behaviour therapist. I found that it gave me a good understanding of what anxiety and panic disorders are. The reason I'm not mentioning depression is because in my personal experience depression comes hand in hand with the other 2. In my 6 sessions I had I found that just talking to someone about your past experiences helps a lot. Although we can't actually trace the cause of the anxiety in your case and in mine I very much think that anxiety has been lying dormant 4 years and just waiting to erupt. In my case I found that my thoughts where effecting my feelings. I would hear a sad song on the radio and suddenly imagine myself taking my own life and my family all devastated and crying. That was a very irrational thought that would never ever happen but when you feel so low u can understand why people do such things because when you r waking up every morning and dreading the day ahead these r thoughts that cross your mind. Irrational behaviour such as fortune telling ie. predicting that u r not going to enjoy something lets say in my case going out for a family meal because your scared of how you may react whist in a crowded resteraunt for fear of losing it. But I never did ever lose it or I don't even know what losing it means but these r words I told therapist. Whilst all this may seem somewhat baffling to certain people I hope it may also help someone like yours has helped me mark. Did u also know that anxiety and panic disorders are more common than diabetes it's just as you said mark a lot of people out there must still b out there suffering in silence. They need to speak to somebody.

Stephenibever knew wh responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi mark It's Stephen again I would like to stress that medication has worked for me and you so far " touch wood ". But for anyone reading this who is suffering from anxiety or panic disorder I would recommend they first go and c a cognitive behaviour therapist. I found that it gave me a good understanding of what anxiety and panic disorders are. The reason I'm not mentioning depression is because in my personal experience depression comes hand in hand with the other 2. In my 6 sessions I had I found that just talking to someone about your past experiences helps a lot. Although we can't actually trace the cause of the anxiety in your case and in mine I very much think that anxiety has been lying dormant 4 years and just waiting to erupt. In my case I found that my thoughts where effecting my feelings. I would hear a sad song on the radio and suddenly imagine myself taking my own life and my family all devastated and crying. That was a very irrational thought that would never ever happen but when you feel so low u can understand why people do such things because when you r waking up every morning and dreading the day ahead these r thoughts that cross your mind. Irrational behaviour such as fortune telling ie. predicting that u r not going to enjoy something lets say in my case going out for a family meal because your scared of how you may react whist in a crowded resteraunt for fear of losing it. But I never did ever lose it or I don't even know what losing it means but these r words I told therapist. Whilst all this may seem somewhat baffling to certain people I hope it may also help someone like yours has helped me mark. Did u also know that anxiety and panic disorders are more common than diabetes it's just as you said mark a lot of people out there must still b out there suffering in silence. They need to speak to somebody. I could go on for hours about my irrational thoughts and believe me that's all they are " thoughts" but it's worth writing down these thoughts know matter how small or stupid they may seem. I found by keeping a let's say 3 week diary whilst starting medication you will notice as I did that from week 1-3 you will c a change in the manner of your thoughts. Mine changed from negative to not so negative to positive. I'd also recommend exercise if possible no matter how much u do it all helps. Finally mark the reason for me writing this is that after reading your blogs it has just reminded me of so much that I wanted to forget about through fear of returning to my so called black dog days but if anything it's sort of had a more calming effect on me. As I know that for once I'm in control of my thoughts and feelings and I am able to live a normal family life. I bet you could fill another twenty bloggs with your irrational thoughts during your black dog days. I could. But that's all they r ... Thoughts. Thank you once again. Ps hope you can make some sense of this.

Paul responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Mark, what a great blog and I couldn't have found it at a better time. I too have sat in countless dark caves facing my own black dogs and only now at the age of 33 am realising the benefit of chemical assistance. It's like walking out of a thick fog for the first time. I will continue to read with great interest and wish you all the best.

Julie responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Thank you Mark for your honesty in your blog. I have also suffered anxiety for many years with irrational worries running through my mind constantly. These worries meant that my life had no quality and I became paranoid and fearful. My freedom came about when after fifteen years I told my lovely GP about my problem and she prescribed an SSRI which has changed my life dramatically. I realise that I am now able to think rationally and not be plagued by needless anxiety. The wonderful thing about the medication is that I occasionally have concerns but they do not take on a life of their own and blow out of proportion. I now feel as though I am living a real life and it has the normal ups and downs that are part of living. I am not worried about how long I will be on medication because it has helped me.thank you again your story helps us all, bless you in your life.

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Stephen thanks for the followup comment. I can absolutely relate to everything you say. And again proof that what works for some wont work for others ie even medication might not work for some where CBT may work for them. Thanks for such a long insightful comment from you, all adds to the overall flavour of dancing with the black dog - everyone's dance is different!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Paul thanks for your kind words and Im glad to hear you found it at the right time. More posts to follow, part 11 is imminent! And yes medicinal assistance is indeed like walking out of a thick fog - I love that analogy! Mark

Lisa responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark. Thank you so much for your very articulate account of what can be a very isolating and terrifying illness. I found about your blog by reading my local paper, and I too live in the area. I started to read your blog just prior to a dreadful period, where I questioned the use of anti depressants entirely. Thanks to your blog I continued on, and have managed to find some peace. Bless your honesty, and I hope you keep sharing!

yazsmum responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Fantastic reading. I found your blog via Stephen Fry, who I follow on Twitter. You have described so well a lot of the thoughts and feelings I have. Thanks Mark!

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Julie thanks for commenting, it is stories like yours that need to be told. Fifteen years of irrational worries come to an end and a better way of living because you spoke to the right GP who gave you the right medication! I realise not that simple for everyone, but until we all try... I too have healthy concerns which makes me realise I am still human. Thank you and bless you too! Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Lisa - wow, really wow, reading your comment just made my day! Good on you, REALLY GOOD ON YOU for walking on and finding some peace. And bless you too for also sharing. Others will read your comment too I am sure and take something great from it. Thank you! Mark

admin responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

And thank you too YazzMum! Keep pushing ahead and fight those black dogs till they are whimpering pups in the corner.

Tania responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Dear Mark, Thank you for your lovely comment, I'm glad to say I did take action, I went to my doctor, who fortunately understands anxiety and depression very well, and he told me that it was good I came before it got worse and that there is nothing to be ashamed off. He has prescribed "Duloxetine" (Not only does it increase serotonin levels but works on the nanodrenaline) and told me candidly not to worry about the whole list of side effects, but that I may feel nauseous the first 10 days. I did for about a day, and then nervousness, and insomnia for about 5 days but I went back to talk to him and now I have to take Ketazolam for about 10 days to help me sleep. I have to say it has been 9 days now and haven't had a "black dog" day yet, also I am sleeping well, and don't feel drowsy at all. I have told my close ones that I took this decision (not lightly) and everyone has been supportive, I cant believe I didn't do this sooner. I am also going to join the gym, that is another big step. Thank you Mark and thank you Stephen Fry for tweeting about this blog. God bless.

Ive responded: 5 years, 1 month ago

I felt comfortable after reading your artical printed on the newspaper. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I finally found someone like you who can speak out my feeling. I took the medication for nearly 15 years. My doctor told me it is safe so I get used to it and treat it as vitamin pill.

William responded: 5 years ago

Your post makes me think back to a time in my life where I was beginning to find balance. A time when my depression had almost slipped away, for what I thought was forever. I've been reading your posts for three days now and I am finally beginning to remember what brought me out of it.

lisa responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

thanks - just brilliant, informative and open. Cheers have passed on your info to all!!