I’ve had depression for 18 years. I don’t know how I got it or why, I don’t know if it’s because I had roaccutane for acne as a teenager (which is what I normally tell people) or simply my brain chemistry is off. I would describe myself as a ‘high functioning depressed person’ if that’s even a thing. Most people don’t even know I have depression, it’s not something that I advertise. The reason why it’s so hard to tell that someone is depressed, is because this is what depression looks like:
I decided to stop medication a year before falling pregnant. Despite being told I should never go off medication, I just stopped taking it one day because I thought that if I did take medication while pregnant I would have an autistic baby. So fucking dumb. So basically I struggled for the whole year I was off it. My mental state was slowly deteriorating until every day I was secretly fantasising about dying. Whilst driving I would hope a car would cross lanes and hit me head on. In the shower or even just walking I would think about slipping and cracking my head open. I always wanted it to be an accident, I never wanted to do something to myself because that was selfish but if I accidentally died then that wouldn’t be my fault. I just wanted to stop feeling.
When I got pregnant all those thoughts suddenly disappeared. Pregnancy must have flooded me with happy hormones because mentally I was so stable. I always say how much I loved being pregnant, it wasn’t because I had an easy pregnancy, it was actually pretty hard with every symptom under the sun but my mind was clear and I was high on life.
3 months post baby
So I had Will and at first I had some baby blues but I mostly felt ok. When Will was 3 months old I went to my GP and said I thought I had post natal depression (PND). By the way, this is my GP of over 20 years, who knew my complete medical history. He just smiled and told me I was a normal mum, struggling with sleep deprivation and everything I was feeling was normal, that I wasn’t in a constant state of dread but to come back if anything changed. I’m not sure if I smiled too much, if I looked too organised and capable but a little part of me knew he was wrong but i just said ok and left. I decided to pay (way too much) for an online sleep program and in it, the founder talks about how she believes that many women think they have PND but they actually are just sleep deprived (how fucking irresponsible). So I watched that and thought I just needed to sleep more, stop being so dramatic and toughen up.
Nine months post baby
Fast forward to nine months in and I was getting pretty bad. I was super emotional, on the verge of tears all the time. I couldn’t watch the news or listen to something sad on the radio. I started to get paranoid and thought that Will didn’t like me and the thoughts of wanting to die returned. Still not wanting to kill myself but to ‘go to sleep and never wake up.’ I knew that I was in trouble so I told my husband I wasn’t coping and it was serious. We went back to my GP together. Will was really sick that day, vomiting all over me in the waiting room so he was prioritised in the appointment. I did break down and admit to my GP I wasn’t coping, he asked me to make another appointment to discuss treatment options but I was so worried about Will that I forgot.
Just before Christmas I had a child health nurse appointment with a woman I hadn’t met before. Halfway through the appointment the nurse looked at me really seriously and said ‘are you ok?’ I burst into tears and said no, that I had PND and I really needed help. She told me that the moment I walked in, I had set alarm bells off in her head. Before I arrived, she had read my file mentioning my long history of mental illness. I then waltzed on in with a huge smile on my face, in a pretty dress with make up on. Basically I looked a little too happy, a little too in control and she smelt bullshit. I did the PND quiz again and I only scored high enough to suggest a trip to the GP. I left the appointment promising that after Christmas I would make an appointment with my GP.
Christmas came and went, I was staying at my in-laws down South and one day breakfast just got too much and I broke down. I pretended to go have a shower and just cried my heart out in the bathroom. I text my husband asking him to come upstairs and I told him I needed to go to a doctor immediately, that I was seriously not coping and I needed to be medicated.
I told my husband I was fine to go by myself. Google maps put me at the wrong end of town so I had to run in the heat to the right place. I got to reception and cried the whole time, I had to put Will on the floor to fill out the new patient form, he kept crawling towards a person coughing. I dropped my bag, I was a complete mess. I went in to see the doctor, I just cried, mumbling that I wasn’t coping and that I needed medication. She told me that I needed to go on a mental health plan, that she couldn’t give me medication and I needed to go to my regular doctor. I just cried. She asked me what medication I should be on, I told her I couldn’t remember. She just looked at me harshly, then it dawned on me that she thought I was a drug addict. I asked her to call my doctor, she was hesitant but she did. Thank god she got a hold of him and after a brief conversation with him she held my hand and told me everything was going to be ok.
I’ve been medicated for 6 weeks now and I feel like a new person. I’m on a very low dose of antidepressant. My brain makes the serotonin itself naturally, the drug just stops my brain from breaking it down so I always have a supply. I don’t know how I survived the past 2 1/2 years to be quite honest, it’s like I’ve come out of a fog and life is great again. My thoughts are calm, I don’t cry, I don’t have a temper, I’m in control of my own mind. I’m quite aware that medication isn’t the answer for everyone, this isn’t a blog post promoting drugs but it’s the right thing for me. I’ve been told (again) that I need to take them forever, that just like a diabetic needs insulin, my brain needs antidepressants.
So what took me so long to seek help?
The scary thing is that I knew the warning signs. I’d been through this before many times and I knew I wasn’t right. That’s the thing about depression though, you just get used to living with it and it spirals. You think that the world is against you, you get paranoid, you get good at hiding your feelings. You think people aren’t going to understand. You think people will treat you differently so you live in a secret world of guilt and shame and negativity. You think people aren’t going to take you seriously. You think people will call you an attention seeker. You think people aren’t going to believe you. You think you don’t deserve to get help.
I only recently admitted to my husband and my mum about wanting to die, they had no idea. This is why people are shocked when someone ends their life because people don’t talk about how they are feeling. This is what depression looks like. You can’t tell who has it and it can affect anyone.
If you think you may have depression, seek help. Call beyondblue. Go see your GP and ask to go on a free mental health plan through medicare.