Reblogging a guest post I wrote over at Fat Bottom Gal. I enjoyed writing this post for Jessica’s blog, so thought I would share it here too. I’d love your thoughts. x
Hello! I’m Emma and I write over at The Mummy Balancing Act, as well as being a friend of Jess. At first I was taken aback when she asked me to write a guest post on her fabulous blog. Me? Really? I try and keep my blog a positive, upbeat space these days, but every now and then I open up about the slightly darker side to me. I would like to thank Jess for giving me the opportunity to write about this incredibly personal but important subject again, as I am a firm believer that the more we talk about depression, the more we can understand and then begin to heal.
Is there really a light at the end of the depression tunnel? For me there was. I’ll admit that sometimes I get spun around and lose sight of the direction I was headed, but with help from family and friends I am able to find my way again.
A survey published in the UK in 2009 found that 2.6 in 100 people suffered with depression, 4.7 in 100 people with anxiety and 9.7 in 100 people with BOTH depression and anxiety. That means that far too many people are suffering in silence instead of seeking the help and support that is available to them. I understand how hard it is to reach out. The phrases, ‘cheer up’, ‘stop being so negative’, ‘look on the bright side’ were commonly said to me by those I love and eventually it starts to hurt. Why couldn’t they just understand that it’s not that simple for me?
I have suffered with clinical depression since 2004, most likely longer, but I spent a lot of years thinking that I was just moody. I started taking anti-depressants after I got married but I was ashamed of the fact that I wasn’t coping without medication. I hated that counselling didn’t seem to be helping at all, and I slowly let my depressive state become part of my personality. I stopped noticing how negative I was being. Stopped enjoying things which had previously made me happy. I’d convince myself I was happy, because I should be happy. I had a gorgeous loving husband,two fantastic children at the time and a steady job.
I would bounce between being medicated, and then suddenly stop as I (quite wrongly) believed that I was ok. I was being silly and that I could snap out of it. This cycle continued for YEARS. My employer grew increasingly frustrated with my constant sick days, but when I did make it to work, I was good at my job. I was just becoming increasingly unreliable however. I thought that all I needed was to sleep, and have some time to unwind and I would be ok. Why couldn’t the world just leave me alone!!!!
As you can imagine, this way of life was not a pleasant environment for my ever supportive husband, nor my poor children. I would fly off the handle for the smallest thing, and although not physically violent, I am in no doubt that my outbursts and behaviour were scary to them. They seemed to just deal with it, as they knew nothing else. That realisation makes me incredibly sad. It’s heart breaking to know that I can’t go back and take back the horrible words I said, or the times I sent them to their room when they were just being children. To admit this hurts so much, but I know that I am not that person anymore.
Starting university in 2011 saw the start of a change in me. I’d given up my job as I just couldn’t continue in the cycle I was in. Something had to give. The change in environment, being busy and excited seemed to keep the dreaded depressive me at bay. I was able to FAKE being a normal person for a little while, until the stress of dealing with deadlines and home life just became too much and I cracked. BIG TIME! I didn’t see it coming. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I couldn’t function day to day. I wasn’t sleeping, eating, talking at all. I was just numb. Almost catatonic. This time I had to be taken to the doctor and thankfully my husband has always understood my illness. He understands the anxiety and the false smiles and has always been my rock, so for him to be worried was a big deal. I had to admit that medication was my future now. It had to be. I had to get better. For my husband, for my children, but most of all for ME.
The biggest challenge I faced was talking about my depression. By talking about it, I was taking back control. I was taking away it’s power to isolate me and the more I spoke, the more other people would open up to me about their own story. By explaining my illness in a less emotional way, and a more clinical way, I was able to help my family to understand why I find some situations hard and some nearly impossible, and they can now help me find ways of coping rather than getting frustrated with me.
I managed to finish university (unmediacted and pregnant in my final semester *woo*) and beamed with genuine joy at my graduation. At the birth of my youngest daughter almost a year ago, and at my older children whenever they do something to make me proud. That can be as simple as helping each other, or not fighting. I still have the fear that I will become THAT person again, but that’s ok. I worry that I will one day get tired of running from the darkness that is my depression and somedays I feel it’s cold breath on the back of my neck for sure. Not every day is peachy, but 9 out of 10 days are, and for that I am grateful. I know that I am for now one of the lucky ones. A depressed person can really be hard to love sometimes, and sadly, we are the ones who need to be reassured about it the most.
So how do you get better? It’s not as easy as just deciding to be happy. Of course it’s not. But it really is a start. I decided to seek out the happiness I knew was living inside me. I think deciding that you won’t tolerate being controlled by negativity is the first big step. I choose medication to manage my depression as I’ve found that it’s what works for me. Sadly there isn’t a cookie cutter treatment that works for all, but help is out there.
A fantastic website I discovered a little while ago is Time to Change. It’s a great resource where sufferers of mental illness open up and talk about their conditions. They address the stigma attached to depression and coping methods which have worked on real people. A post which I’ve gone back to a few times now was written by a man called David. Take a look at his blog post, ‘How do you tell someone what depression feels like?’. I particularly love that it shows that depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are rich, poor, married, single, old, young etc. It’s normal in all walks of life and we need to remove the stigma. I believe that people like David, and Jess are helping to do that, one blog post at a time.
The charity MIND, offer a wealth of information to those suffering as well as those who would like to help. If you need to talk to someone, they have trained volunteers who are there to listen and try to help.
Have you ever had to deal with negative attitudes towards your depression? How did you cope? Are you fighting back? I’d love to hear your story.