The tragic suicide of Robin Williams seems to have bought the somewhat taboo topic of depression back out into the open. Everyone is talking about depression. Depression sufferers are sharing their experience with their own personal battle with depression. And it’s become quite clear that there is a lot of stigma attached to depression but also a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding. For the longest time I was clueless about depression, until I was diagnosed with it, along with GAD (general anxiety disorder) you know the disorder everyone has been having a field day laughing about during the Oscar Pistorious trial. I don’t know if Oscar genuinely has GAD or not, but I do and it’s really not fun.
The irony is that I come from a long family history of depression and GAD but I never really understood it or recognized it until I was diagnosed with it sought treatment for it. Yes, I live on Cipralex, 10mg every day and I have for the last 4 years. I get by with a little help from my meds and to be honest, I never want to go back to the person I was in the depths of my depression and so don’t see myself weaning off my Cipralex any time soon.
My battle with depression started as a slow slide that was very much closely linked to my infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. No one should go through that amount of trauma and grief and expect to come out unscathed. At the lowest point of my infertility I threatened suicide. Just so you can understand how mentally unwell I was, on the day I got the news that my 6th pregnancy was not progressing as it should and was going to result in another miscarriage, I went home and planned how I was going to drive my car at a high speed down our road and slam the car into a thicket of blue gum trees. What a stupid plan. But I was so hopeless and so desperate to make the pain stop and so mentally destroyed by that stage that logic clearly was failing me. Thankfully, I had the sense to phone the therapist I had been seeing and tell her my plan and she managed to keep me on the phone, while phoning Walter from another line and sending him to home to me. She saved me that day, she certainly saved me from whatever injuries I would have sustained with my stupid plan and the airbag deployed straight into my face as I slammed into a thicket of trees.
I still did not seek additional medical intervention after my brush with suicide. Maintaining I was fine, that it was normal for somebody experiencing what I was experiencing to feel sad. I still didn’t understand that depression is so much more than sadness. Sadness is a normal, healthy reaction to difficult circumstance. But I was more than sad. I was deeply depressed, I just didn’t know it.
Ironically, Ava’s placement was the catalyst that pushed me over the edge. Years of grief, trauma & depression had built up and adding the stress of being a new mother with my past history and all the stress of her adoption and I was no longer even spiralling downwards anymore, I had literally crashed and burned and lay frozen in the ruins of my life and my wellbeing. It was also at about this time that my anxiety of seemingly ordinary everyday things began to become uncontrollable. I was terrified of everything and saw danger everywhere. I wouldn’t get on a plane with my baby. I didn’t want to travel in a car with my baby. A trip to the shops would result in me going through every ridiculous worst case scenario & coming up with a million obsessive plans on how to keep us safe should my worst case scenario’s come into being.
My experience of depression was so completely different to my understanding of depression. For me, depression was debilitating. My work performance suffered, my home was a mess, I couldn’t complete the simplest task as I’d either be overcome with anxiety or just be totally frozen in place, unable to participate in anything in my life. Depression for me was like being trapped in a block of ice, watching life and the world pass me by, but not being able to participate. I was trapped.
I can only imagine how frustrating this time must have been for Walter. I couldn’t cook, tidy up, make a bed, take a shower. I didn’t want to socialize, I didn’t want to talk. I could only manage to care for Ava. That was it. Things at home were a mess and our relationship suffered. I lack the energy for anything and I couldn’t break free.
It was only after we started marriage counselling that I was encouraged to get some medicinal help. And I remember sitting in the Dr’s office and explaining to him how I was feeling. We were leaving on holiday in a few weeks, flying, and I was literally hyperventilating about taking my baby on a plane. I was hysterical. He started talking to me about taking an anti-depressant and I remember being really angry with him and repeating over and over again “but I’m not sad!”
It took a lot of convincing on his part to convince me that depression is not being sad! That depression comes in many shapes and forms and it includes feelings of sadness but more importantly is closely linked with anxiety and extreme feelings of hopelessness.
I grudgingly agreed to give the Cipralex a chance and amazingly, within a couple of weeks, they began to breathe life back into me again. I had an interest in life, in my friends, in socializing, in cooking and keeping my house in order, in spending time playing with child and talking to my husband and best of all. I was not overwhelmed by the crushing anxiety over the most ridiculous of things.
Four years on and I feel I am still mentally well. While I do still have a tendency towards unexplained bouts of anxiety and let me tell you, I’m a master of anxiety, I can get anxious over not having anything to be anxious about.
Depression comes in different shapes and forms and can be triggered by a stressful event. If any of what I’ve shared above seems familiar to you, get help. Don’t leave it, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets.