There are a lot of sad people in the world today. Many are mourning the loss of an institution, Robin Williams, who allegedly committed suicide after losing a battle to depression. Many of those people may never have been touched by the black smoggy cloud that is depression but I’ll bet many have. An overriding theme appearing across the social networks is that we must talk about it more. It can’t remain such an unspoken about illness.
I’m nervous about posting this as it lays my pain and vulnerability open to public criticism but I cannot bear the silence, the veil of secrecy and misunderstanding that surrounds it. So here goes…
My depression and I use ‘my depression’ with great thought as everyone’s depression is unique to them. It’s your dark side, nobody else’s. That’s why none of us should claim to know what Robin Williams went through – I for one have no idea. It’s unique to him. I emerged from a childhood, filled with battles and confusion and the moment I hit what should have been a calm patch in my life with a feeling so encompassing and painful it left me disabled. I’d used up all my strength for survival and now I had some space I was able to stand back and think what the fuck have I just gone through.
I closed up into a ball and couldn’t work out how to fix myself. I for the first time ever had nothing to complain about, why the hell couldn’t I cope. My mum took me to the doctors, I talked and cried for what seemed like ages. My confusion and mess of emotions came flowing out. I was desperate for help. I came away with a neat and tidy prescription of Prozac. Ahh a pill that was going to fix me! I was definitely sceptical but I wanted to be cured, to make this burning mass of anger and pain leave me. I spent the next 18 months living like a zombie.
I was still at school and I started to fall asleep in my lessons. I had no concentration span or desire to engage in anything. Some mornings I couldn’t get out of bed. I kept my curtains drawn and hid from the world. In the evening I’d get up just before my mum came home from work. I already had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and it got worse. I drank to forget, I drank to be free from my crazy mind. I wanted the pain to stop. I dabbled in everything from anorexia to self-harm.
My life began to get worse. Other negative influences in my life came into play and I could no longer cope at all. I watched the pain in my long-suffering boyfriend’s face as he just didn’t know how to help me, pull me out of the mess I’d got myself into. The guilt was overwhelming.
I realised I couldn’t do this anymore. It’s not that I wanted to die, I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I took a cocktail of prescription drugs, more than enough, all swallowed down with carton after carton of apple juice. Fat Boy Slim’s Praise You was playing on repeat on my CD player and I felt the pain slip away. I tried to call my boyfriend to say goodbye but it was landlines then – no answer. I don’t remember the rest. Apparently my mum found me in a pool of vomit and pill packets, just as the mobile hairdresser arrived. How awful for her.
Blue flashing lights, crying, screaming, an ambulance, paramedics trying to make me talk, silence. Hospital, sticky pads all over my body, a drip in my arm, silence. Crying, screaming, old people, distress. Shit I’m alive. I’m still here and it didn’t work. Devastation.
I came to on the geriatric ward of a local hospital. I felt numb. Then I saw them, my brothers’ faces when they came to visit me. It’s only then that I realised how much pain my action had caused. I had honestly believed until that moment that I just could slip away, no one would notice and I wouldn’t have to feel this pain anymore. More guilt.
I promised the bored looking doctor that I didn’t want to die (with my fingers crossed behind my back) and after a few days I was able to leave. To cut a long story short that’s the point I knew I needed help, real help and not just pills. I stopped taking the pills and over the years saw a variety of specialists, from councillors, psychiatrists, a psychologist and finally the right person for me, a psychotherapist.
During the time right after I tried to take my life nobody knew what to make of me. A few of my closest friends just walked away, apparently hurt that I’d chosen not to confide in them. I didn’t have the strength to argue and explain I just couldn’t, I didn’t know where to start. Some people were angry with me. Many treated me like I was just a stupid little girl going through ‘a phase’. Some ignored what had happened and never asked. Only a few stood by me and I’m happy to say are still stood by me in life right now. Please find the strength to stay close to your loved ones if this happens to them, don’t punish them.
I definitely wasn’t cured over night, it’s taken years and as anyone who’s suffered with depression will know every now and again you can feel it creeping back in and it’s terrifying. There have been patches where it’s come back stronger and I’ve thrown myself into work, exercise, eating properly and tried to cut down on any toxins like alcohol. I sit here now fairly confident that I can manage it but I’m not blasé about it, it’s something I’ll always need to work on.
I now know that my father probably also suffered with depression and undiagnosed mental health issues, compounded with alcohol. I feel sad that he never got the help he needed. But I’ve broken the cycle and if anything it’s made me a better person for it.
My suicide attempt was around 15 years ago now. I’ve since been to university and achieved a 2.1, worked hard and carved out a successful career and have just come back from travelling around the world on my own. I’m excited about life and all it has to offer.
If any of this post resonates with you because it’s something you’ve dealt with or been dealing with, or maybe it’s a family member you’re concerned about, then I’d urge you to do a few things. Face the issue and start talking. Confide in someone you trust or if that’s too tough then call The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90 (UK). Check the Internet out, there are many people facing the same battles and they may just offer a few words that help you. A great starting point is ‘Magpies & Ladders’ a fantastic blog that faces mental illness head on. I’ve also just finished reading, Sally Brampton’s, Shoot the Damn Dog – buy it, it makes a lot of sense.
Posting this is scary. It’s not something I’ve ever written down before and certainly not posted online. But I agree with all the social network chatter, depression and mental illness does need to be talked about, openly and honestly and people should never be stigmatised for it.
Final thought: “Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”.