Long term readers will have read about my struggles with post natal depression but today, on #timetotalk day, I thought I’d share a little more to explain why I’m so passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental health illnesses… Child related or otherwise!
My battle with depression started long before I had the children. I was originally diagnosed with depression during my first marriage. I took meds for a while, didn’t talk to anyone and eventually stopped the meds.
Everything trundled along sort of OK for a while. Then I took up Weightwatchers and started losing weight. And the more I lost the more I wanted to lose. It was addictive. I’d try and ‘live’ on zero points food, I exercised regularly and then I’d also exercise in secret when my husband wasn’t around. I knew my behaviour wasn’t ‘normal’ but I had something in my life that was under my control at a time when I was being controlled. It was my rebellion.
Eventually I was significantly underweight and, I knew in my heart, heading for a full blown eating disorder.
The thing that broke the self destructive path I was on was, sadly, my husbands suicide. Now, I am glossing over a lot of the dirty details but suffice to say we were both horrifically unhappy but neither of us really saw or dealt with, how the other was feeling.
Sometimes I look back and wonder what would have happened if events had been different and we had just gone our separate ways like many couples do.
At this point I was diagnosed with reactive depression. I took a few months off work and had to work really hard to get my life back together.
Part of the process was counselling. My assigned counsellor was not the right person for me – I felt uncomfortable and decided to get through it on my own instead of continuing sessions.
Needless to say, that failed.
Just coping with the day to day saw me abandon my exercise regime, increase my reliance on wine to cope with the days and eat really badly.
At this point, to save boring you I am going to skip over the 6 year rollercoaster years that included destructive relationships, poor diet, weight gain, smoking and general disregard for myself as I struggled to repair my mental state.
Eventually I came out the other side. But I had changed. My ability to deal with stress and conflict was reduced. At the same time my personality had changed. I had hardened.
A while later I met The Husband and things started to change again. I had a positive relationship and my addictive personality channelled its energies in a positive way.
All good then?… Well…for a while! Things went wrong again after the birth of my first daughter. And worsened after the second arrived. Post natal depression is an utter bitch!
The ride has been a bumpy one and with each episode of depression my ability to deal with it and recover has been dealt another blow.
Of course all marriages have their ups and downs and ours has been no different. For a number of reasons there have been additional pressures and incidents. Counselling has provided more successful outcomes than in my previous experiences. But I remain on my anti depressants.
I’m no longer ashamed. I wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg so I refuse to be ashamed that I have an invisible illness which affects my life each and every day. Yes it is mostly managed but it can still be unpredictable.
In comparison to many, many people out there my depression is minor. People live every day with dreadfully debilitating mental health conditions. And whilst living with those conditions they are faced with the daily stigma that is attached to mental health issues. They are labelled and judged in a way that nobody would dream of doing to person going through any number of visible conditions.
Mental health issues are vast and varied. Many sufferers just look for ways to get through each day. Some use coping techniques (such as diet & exercise) to function, others use meds and some need greater levels of support. Yes, sufferers might act a little strangely from time to time but not one of us knows ‘their’ stories.
So, whilst we bury our heads in the sand or pretend that mental health issues don’t affect our life, lets remember that talking helps.
Talking helps sufferers feel accepted, gives them the chance to get help and support and includes them in ‘real life’.
#timetotalk is doing a fabulous job to break down barriers but there is so much more we could do. It’s time people weren’t ashamed of their conditions.