Friday, 15 April 2011
Highs and Lows....Living with Depression
I spoke out on my latest blog post for More about having depression. It is something I make no secret of, though a lot of people will never have spoken to me about it as they find it awkward and think I will not want to speak about it. I find it actually helps to speak about it so I wanted to write a slightly longer post on the times depression has threatened to take over my life, and the struggle of constantly having depression in your life.
The first time I was diagnosed with depression was when I was 12 years old and had recently lost my beloved Grandad who I was very close to. I took his death in my stride at the time, but inside I was really cut up. I started to lose motivation to do anything, a classic sign of depression. I became extremely affected by the weather and would look out the window every morning before school, if there was even one single cloud in the sky I would know I would not make it through the day at school as it would make me feel so anxious. I would go into school and have myself admitted to the medical room before first period had even begun. The reception staff knew me well before long.
This went on for weeks before finally the school suggested that something might be wrong with me mentally as I couldn't possibly be ill almost every day constantly for that long. On the days that I lasted longer than 5 minutes at school, I would sit in lessons and write myself a checklist of hours left until I was back home. I would sit and watch the clock, trying to bargain with myself that it was only another 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour..... It was an awful time.
I missed a lot of school because of how I was feeling so my mum took me to the doctor and I was diagnosed as having depression and S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I was adamant I didn't want to go onto antidepressants as I didn't want to become addicted to them. Instead I was booked in for counselling. In my first session I was so nervous. Luckily the counsellor I had was amazing and we started to talk all about my childhood and life at home, not just about my grandad. It turned out I had a lot of issues that I was unaware of, but that were deeply affecting my behaviour and feelings. She got me to talk at length, but also to write down my feelings, and draw pictures of things, and make mood boards. It was so helpful that I felt a lot better and more in control within a few months of the counselling.
It was a few years later that I became depressed again. It was less to do with grief but more to do with the atmosphere at home (read my previous post on living with an abusive step parent to understand more). I was also finding things with my actual dad very hard and hated going to visit him in London where he lived with his long term girlfriend and my sister Megan as I would miss my mum (despite it being only one night) and I would have panic attacks, feel helpless and a loss of control and would start crying without even meaning to. It had happened before when my grandad had been alive, but happened again when I was this age and my dad struggled to understand it, believing instead that I just didn't want to see him and so he started to shut me out a little and eventually I just stopped going to see him.
Things were very messed up in my head and I would become paranoid and irrational, often feeling like I had another person in my head who would tell me what to do and what not to do and make me feel like I was going insane. I struggled at school again and found it hard to let anyone in. The lowest point this time round came about when I felt I couldn't go on feeling the way I was feeling anymore. I felt I could not escape. I would stand outside and stare up into the night sky, wanting to escape not just the house or the town or the country, but escape the World. I felt panicky and claustrophobic and would cry every night to myself in bed.
My mum tried to help me but she had no idea what I was going through. People would tell me to snap out of it and pull myself together. Nobody would understand the hell I was going through. I tried to self harm using just my fingernails, clawing my arms until they were sore and bright red, the skin peeling. I would do it to my legs as well as my arms. It didn't help. One day I wrote a suicide note, but didn't have the will to actually kill myself, instead I took it to my mum. It was awful for her to read, but she realised how low I was and took me to the doctor again.
Again I was referred to a counsellor, but this time it didn't help. It was at a different place and the woman I saw this time made me feel very panicky and suspicious of why they were asking the questions they were asking. I became paranoid and didn't go back after a couple of sessions. I was determined to stop feeling the way I had been feeling though as I was scared I wouldn't make it otherwise. With the help of my mum, I managed to get through my lowest patch and out the other side. But depression was always there in the back of my mind, I was terrified of going back to how I had felt before and would sometimes feel myself slip and would cry at the thought of being like that again. After a year I had a boyfriend and seeing him and also having a social life kept my depression away for a good few years, though I did have the occasional slip where I would feel that terrifying lack of control.
I didn't become as low again until I was pregnant. The situation I found myself in, without going on about it, was not a good one and I felt awful throughout my pregnancy because everything was such a mess. I should have been really happy to have been pregnant, but instead all I felt was alone and scared. I hate having regrets, my tattoo shows that(!), but at the time, I couldn't help wondering what if I hadn't of become pregnant? I would have still had my carefree life, could have made another go of things with the ex boyfriend who instead was telling me almost daily that he was suicidal, that he wanted to die.
Do not get me wrong, I love my son more than life itself and have never once thought this since he was born. It was just very hard, with only the ever growing bump, to see past the hard times to the baby boy I would soon have. I cried so much throughout my pregnancy. I am ashamed to admit that I self harmed in the same way I described before. I would lie in my bed, having got off the phone to my ex who would be crying and begging me to have an abortion, and I would lie and cry and feel awful. It was when I completely lost my appetite and admitted to my mum how low I was feeling again, that I wasn't sure if I wanted to be alive anymore, that she told my midwife and my midwife, apparently, went into talks as to whether I would need to be sectioned for the sake of both me and my baby.
It luckily didn't get that far, instead I was again referred to a counsellor. I was fast tracked as I was by this point in my third trimester of pregnancy. My counsellor was lovely and got to the root of my issues with my ex boyfriend, which were linked to my past relationships where I had been cheated on, and the fact that I was sexually assaulted just before my relationship with him started, meaning that I saw him as someone more important to me getting over this than he was. I was making him into some sort of god when he was in fact treating me awfully with emotional blackmail and just generally bad treatment whilst I was pregnant.
I still couldn't quite cut him completely out of my life (which I have now finally done, thankfully!), but she helped me understand how I was feeling more. She also told me I had prenatal depression and that quite a few women actually became ill with it whilst pregnant, mostly due to an unplanned pregnancy and feeling a lack of control and identity and struggling to accept the change in both body and lifestyle. I was so relieved to find out that others felt like this during a time when most pregnant women seemed to be loving being pregnant. I managed to get through the last month of my pregnancy feeling a lot more confident about my life after the birth, and looking forward to meeting my baby boy.
Since having Cameron I have been feeling highs and lows. Up until recently I thought I hadn't experienced postnatal depression, but looking it up I think I have after all. I can go from a high to a low very quickly and sometimes will sit in floods of tears whilst trying to cope with everything being a mum entails. I have felt like a failure sometimes when Cameron sits on my lap staring at me as I cry. He doesn't understand why I am sad, I don't really understand myself. I know it is hard the things I am coping with, but I shouldn't be feeling AS low as I do sometimes. I am going to book myself in at the doctors, I might need more counselling, I don't know yet. But I am going to get better for the sake of my son and for my own sake.
Depression is a constant illness, it doesn't ever really leave you for good. But with the help of your family and close friends, and if necessary, a doctor, counsellor, or even those dreaded antidepressants, you can cope with depression. I am proof of that.