I’ve always thought I’m a pretty strong minded woman – thick skinned and able to cope with A LOT. So a few years ago when I found myself sobbing in a chair in my GP’s office, it was NEVER something I would have predicted.
As a teenager I went through some difficult times, getting my adolescent head around my sperm donor father not being around, whilst dealing with hormone changes was pretty challenging, but something I felt had made me into a stronger, wiser, more capable adult.
It was around a year after I had left my husband when everything came to a head. If you have read my previous blog you will know the split was my decision and I had essentially come to terms with it for some time before it actually happened.
At the time of the split, I had not long started a new job and to be honest, I just got on with it. I didn’t miss a single day at work and for a while, no one at work knew what I was going through. I also chose not to share with my wider circle to start with, those close to me knew what was going on but it was not something I wanted to talk about over and over. Little by little I began to shut myself down – it’s only now when I look back that I recognise these were the early signs of depression.
I was hardly eating, but furiously exercising most evenings, feeling the need to concentrate on something other than my thoughts, craving the buzz I used to feel after an intense workout but it never seemed to materialise. The weight dropped off me, but I didn’t even notice.
Having sold the marital home, it was time to move and I chose to completely relocate to a different area – about an hour or so away from where we had been living but closer to where I was working. The move was a financial strain – having chosen a 110% mortgage back in 2008 to cover his debt, I ended up with pretty much nothing from the sale of the house. This meant in order to be able to rent in a new area, I needed to get a loan and a credit card to finance the move. At the same time, I had started a relationship with a new partner – someone I had known for a long time as a friend but the romantic side was brand new. I’m pretty sure everyone in this generation has, at some point, been “called out” on Facebook – people tend to overshare or use the protection of the keyboard to try and destroy others. We fell victim to this and the assumption our newly found relationship had been going on for a lot longer than it had. Having people you once knew talk about you is one thing, but having complete strangers sharing their opinions on you when they didn’t actually know the full story was destructive.
Over the next few months, I sunk lower and lower, without really realising it. I was experiencing the lowest ebb of self confidence I had ever reached, questioning everything about my new relationship. I hated the way I looked and questioned my new partner constantly about why he was with me, pushing him away at every turn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the two of us developing in this new relationship, my partner had a son. This extra dimension created a whole other level. I won’t go into too much detail as that is a whole other blog, but it was a really difficult transition.
With all this going on, I started closing myself off from friends and family. I would cancel on every social event I had booked, I didn’t want to see anyone and to be honest, at the time I genuinely believed my friends didn’t want to see me anyway. I just didn’t want anyone to see the failure I thought I had become.
I was crying constantly, being set off by the smallest thing, unable to deal with any additional stress. My temper was volatile and I could blow up at the slightest thing. Gradually, I started to realise something wasn’t right, I was starting to not even recognise who I was anymore.
The day I decided to do something about it was the day I completely broke down over a speeding fine. Yup, that’s right, a speeding fine. My brain had just completely shut down and I couldn’t deal with anything else. I called my doctors surgery in floods of tears, begging for a doctor to see me that afternoon. I cannot tell you how grateful I was to get that appointment. I couldn’t pull myself together for the rest of that afternoon, it was like the flood gates had opened and there was just no shutting them. I sobbed in the chair to my GP, explaining to him all the events that had led me to this point. I was a mess.
He prescribed me an antidepressant, Citalopram and suggested I see a therapist to talk about everything I had been dealing with. Honestly, I did feel a sense of relief. I wasn’t actually a crazy person, this was not the real me, I just had flawed chemistry and needed help putting it right.
It took a while for the Citalopram to make any difference and I did end up having my dose increased after a few months. Although I gradually started to feel more able to deal with things in my day to day life, I still felt very isolated from friends. I didn’t feel comfortable telling them I had been prescribed anti-depressants, I felt a bit of a failure, like I wasn’t strong enough to deal with what life had given me and honestly, felt like I would be judged for that. Unfortunately, this meant I lost a few friends, some who had only been in my life a short time, but others who had been in my life for a long time. That was a really difficult process and I can honestly say without the aid of the Citalopram to balance me, I wouldn’t have gotten through it. The stigma associated with anti-depressants is still so prominent, even though suffering from poor mental health is more common than ever. This means so many people don’t seek out the help they need for fear of being judged and I think that’s the saddest thing.
After about three years, I took myself back to the same GP’s chair and told him I wanted to start the process of coming off the tablets. I felt I had made good progress over the last few years, life had settled down, and I was taking the next step in my career. I didn’t want to start this leg of my journey with the veil of Citalopram. The tablets evened me out, they levelled me – I no longer experienced the lowest lows when things went wrong, but when things were going well, I didn’t get feel the highest highs either. I was ready to feel again.
Although many people do have an opinion on depression and on those people who need anti-depressants, the stigma is often fuelled by those of us who experience it for real and choose not to talk about it. At the end of last year, I was asked to be a Mental Health First Aider at work -n I jumped at the opportunity. The stats were mind boggling. 15 people committed suicide each day in 2016 – 15 people!!! And that is 15 deaths which have actually been ruled as a suicide, not mis-adventure or accidental death, so in reality the figure is probably at least double. These are the people who often do not seek help, who don’t make it to their GP’s chair for fear they may be judged for struggling. Having experienced an emotional breakdown and depression, I can now recognise the signs within myself, I know when I’m not dealing with things well and when I need to take a bit of time out to reset myself. I still don’t find it easy to talk, I know there are people in my life who have never experienced depression and cannot understand the debilitating effects it can have, but I am grateful for the few in my life who are there for me when I need it the most.
I know I will never be completely free of depression, I’m an over thinker, tending to over analyse everything and anything (or running with the ball as my other half calls it). It’s easy to fall back into that destructive mentality, it almost feels safe as for a long time that was my norm. I have learnt as hard as it is, it is SO important to talk, to share, to find someone you can confide in, don’t let fear of judgement stop you – facing your demons makes you far stronger than those who chose to judge something they have no knowledge of. If you don’t have anyone you feel you can confide in, reach out, if my experience can help someone get through a dark day, then this blog has done it’s job.
Choose to be stronger.