I was sat wondering this afternoon what to write for a blog article. It suddenly hit me that I should speak up about my not so public battle with depression, it is something I have battled for 22 years now. Some people regard Mental Health as a somewhat taboo subject, but should it be taboo? I do not think it should be anymore, more and more people are being diagnosed so people should feel they can talk about it openly with friends; family; colleagues etc.
I apologise now, in advance, if anything I mention or discuss in this article upsets you as I will be discussing ‘episodes’ of depression I have had. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this article.
So what is depression? Some of us know from personal experience, but it manifests itself in many ways and not every affected person will have the same symptoms.
Depression is a mental illness characterised as having low moods; loss of appetite; mood swings and loss of interest in life/work/sex etc. A person with depression may experience sadness; anxious; empty; hopeless; helpless; worthless; guilty; irritable; excessive or reduced sleep patterns. They may also experience suicidal thoughts. I am sure there are many other symptoms linked to depression too.
Depression is something only a medical professional can diagnose. They will, or at least should, start you on the right treatment/s whether it be counselling and/or antidepressants. It can affect a person at ANY age. Do not assume children cannot be affected because they can be and are. Depression and any mental illness still has a stigma attached to it. With all these celebrities citing alcoholism or drug abuse as a reason for going to rehab (substance misuse is a form of mental illness) there should not be a stigma.
The Mental Health teams within each NHS Trust are available, or at least should be, to help sufferers with their mental wellbeing. There are a lot of treatments out there these days. Some are well-known like, for example antidepressants, and others not so well-known about like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Not all treatments are successful and the majority will be short term.
There are some medical conditions which can cause depression and sometimes if treatment is unsuccessful the GP may wish to rule them out. Again, there are a few conditions that do this and I won’t go into them on here as they are rather complex for even me to understand.
So, as mentioned I have battled with depression and mental illness for around 22 years now. I have recently turned 30. As you can see my mental health issues begun at a rather young age. I come from a family where my mother had chronic mental health problems that were prevalent, and are still so, throughout my childhood. It has affected me in ways I did not realise until recently actually. This is not an excuse for any stupid or idiotic behaviour by any means but at least I feel I am beginning to get answers to some of that behaviour.
It is fair to say that life has not been easy for me, it has never been nor will it ever be. I have not only battled physical health issues from birth but also had to contend with a hearing problem (which later turned out to be Aspergers) that was exacerbated by meningitis a little before my 2nd birthday. I had brain damage as a result of this potentially lethal disease, okay so this sounds scary but it was (fortunately for my family) the memory and hearing parts of my brain that were affected.
I have a poor short-term memory which I have trained and managed to get some control of back but ask me what I was doing at 346pm yesterday I could not tell you, however if you were to ask me what I was doing at 346pm on the 25th October 2001 and I would be able to tell you quite clearly. I would be able to recall exactly what I was wearing and doing, I would even be able to remember the conversation I had with the person I was with at that very time!
Hearing wise, I lost 70% of my hearing in the right ear and 50% in the left ear. I had multiple operations for grommets after glue ear (am sure there are many mothers out there who have been to A&E with their child because of this). When I was in Year 7, aged 12, I received hearing aids and was made a Special Needs child. A lot of my depression stems from being bullied because of my hearing problems.
However, my first ‘foray’ into mental illness was at 8 years old. I have chosen not to explain the why’s and the what’s for this situation as it is still something I have to deal with. My first diagnosed mental illness was an eating disorder, Bulimia. Those of you who do actually know me may find this laughable now as I do love my food, mind you some foods do not love me. It is not something I openly discuss but it was a very scary time. It has left me scared to be sick, I hate being sick. If I am I find myself having a panic attack. I have to stop myself from bingeing even now. I could quite happily eat all day with some foods. It has also left me very touchy about weight remarks. I may be a big lass now, this is due to steroids for Crohns Disease mind you, but this does not mean I am constantly reminded of the past battles. As I said before, I am not going to get into why I had bulimia but it still is there in my head.
The bullying because of my hearing problems intensified from around 10 years old. It was at a boarding school, aged 10, that I experienced my first thoughts of suicide. Obviously I did not comprehend what these thoughts meant at the time, I just felt that life would be so much better for all those around me if I was not alive anymore. I did not act upon these feelings but I remember the fear I had, it was overwhelming and very frightening. I was at that school for all of 2 terms. I am, in fact, good friends with one of the bullies now which may sound odd but I am the kind of person that forgives. I recall it taking my mum ages to pick me up from school, my dad was even flown home from a detachment in Italy things were that bad. I was covered in bruises which I thought I could hide by putting on layers of foundation, it did not work as my mum would see them when she came to kiss me goodnight (when she came = rare moments). At the time dependents were still seen by RAF Station Medical Officers, or SMO’s, and he did not feel I was depressed. He merely said I should get a grip. A comment that led to me hiding a lot of my depressive thoughts until my teenage years.
In my teenage years I had the usual angst teenagers go through but I was still experiencing horrific levels of bullying. At 14 I was still wearing hearing aids and was at a comprehensive school that had a special needs unit (if you could call it that). An incident sparked off something that led to me actually acting upon certain thoughts.
I was being bullied by 3 specific girls, we shall call them Nicola, Anna and Sarah for the purpose of this blog. It was a Thursday morning and we were in Woodwork class (it was part of Design Technology). I was working on a rather lovely bird table and was in my own little world working with Andy, my best mate at school and am still mates with him to this day. I suddenly heard my name being mentioned in derogatory manner and, for some reason, I turned round to ask Nicola why she was being so nasty about me. Anna and Sarah both joined in at this point shouting ‘C is a deaf shit, C is a deaf shit and I hope she fucking dies’ amongst many other taunts they could fit in within a 5 minute period. Obviously I started to get upset when Sarah said she would give me something to be upset about. Before I knew it, and right in front of the teacher, she slapped me on the right cheek. The force of her slap caused my hearing aid to fly across the room as well as the safety specs, my hearing aid actually broke. A hearing aid that had taken a good 7 years to get. I did not retaliate, I am not one for confrontation. My mother was called into the school, fortunately she only worked 20 minutes away, my dad was away with the RAF in the Falklands. After a short drive home, my mother dropped me off and had to head back into work. I assured her I was just going to veg out in front of the telly until she got home at 5ish.
It was after she left that I felt a dark cloud gathering in my head. I had those thoughts back again, I had to end my life in order to make others lives far better. I was older now, I knew what suicide was. A teacher from the school I was at had killed themselves in the summer holiday before. He apparently was so upset at the death of his brother that he felt the only way to answer his problems was to join him. He hanged himself. I thought that if I took my life that my family and friends would be better off because they would not have to keep dealing with picking me up from school or wondering why I was sleeping all the time when I was not at school. Knowing full well my mother had antidepressants she no longer used in the medicine cupboard I grabbed the box and a bottle of vodka from the drinks cabinet.
Half a bottle of vodka later and 24 pills on, I woke up in hospital about to be force-fed some charcoal drink. It was at this point that my mother sat up and listened to my plight. You would think it would drive us closer when in fact it drove us further apart sadly. I do not know whether any lasting damage was caused by taking those pills but it is safe to say that was not the last suicide attempt. It was from then I was put on my first lot of antidepressants. I was withdrawn from the school at very short notice and subsequently went to another boarding school, there were incidents of bullying there but not to the extent as before.
My suicide attempts happened as late as 28 years old. I won’t go into my mental illness as an adult but it is safe to say that counselling has helped me in many ways. I do not seem to get on well with antidepressants anymore so I rely on having a good support network around me. My friends are like family to me and are there for me in so many ways. I love them all for the support they give me.
There is one part of the illness as an adult I will discuss. It is something one of my closest friends finds annoying, it is annoying even to me.
I have TRICHOTILLOMANIA and have had it for around 7 years now. It was triggered by something that happened at 22/23 years old. It is classed as an impulse control disorder as well as self harm. It is when one has the urge to pull out one’s hair, this can lead to noticeable hair loss; distress as well as social/functional impairment. I will sit watching telly and not notice I am doing it, if I have company then they start to stare at me. It is a tricky thing to explain, I do not have nits it is just part of my mental illness. Apparently, although a small element of control can be regained it is very difficult to actually get trichotillomania under full control.
I have counselling now every week, I usually have 12 sessions then 6 months off. I am currently 3 weeks away from having those 6 months off. I do not seem to tolerate the medications they have tried with me and I rely on those around me to keep me strong, they tend to notice when I am going downhill. If I notice I am going down hill then I can get some sort of help from a friend who is a psychiatrist.
There is a saying that could not be more appropriate at the end of this article, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’
As mentioned at the start of this article I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have about anything I have mentioned here.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your time.
Take care xxxx