Depression – A Sufferer’s View

Depression

This blog post was written by my good friend Jessie from Tidy House Tidy Mind: 50’s Wannabe Housewife. She asked me to proof read it for her and after reading it I had to post it as it is so well written.
Linda
Depression is a cruel illness. I have suffered depression for many years, although I didn’t always realise I was sick. In fact, I became so used to being depressed that feeling lacklustre and unmotivated became normal. Happiness wasn’t something I aspired to, it was something other people had and deserved but I didn’t. And the worst part of this is that I was ok with this.
The whole practice of depression is to conquer and divide. If we are with people who care, they can talk us up, make us get help and support us. If we are alone, it’s just this disease and us and it gets free reign. It can control us by changing our beliefs, warping our perception and twisting our words and the words of others. And we become afraid to seek help too. This disease discourages seeking help from friends, doctors and therapists because it is afraid that with help we can get rid of it. But it is a powerful disease and sadly so many of us don’t seek help or get the help we need.
Communication too is difficult, if not downright impossible. I know I found it very hard to explain to my husband why I felt so miserable and to others too. How can you tell someone that you wish you had never woken up this morning, that you wish you had caught a horrible disease because you deserve to have it, that you wish you had died as a baby because you have done nothing but cause or be a pain. The truth is, none of this is rational and the responses of people are often dismissive. “Nonsense, you do have friends.” “Rubbish, we all love you.” “You’re a great friend/mother/sister/brother/etc.” Depression is very alienating as it discourages communication and understanding, and being an illness of the mind makes it even harder for many people to understand. I know for some that writing it down can help. For others, poetry or music can help, either reading and listening or writing and playing.
Antidepressants are part of the journey and are not for everyone. They will not cure you of your depression, just help to mask some of the overwhelming symptoms to allow you breathing space in which to work through the issues that the depression is using as weapons. This is the cleverness of this disease. It uses our own failings and faults as weapons against us. And it does so with extremely high efficiency. My depression would remind me of unkind words I spoke to someone when I was 10 or 11 and then use this to reinforce what a horrid person I was. The next step was to tell me that the friends I had were only friends with me because they pitied me and didn’t want to stop being friends because then I would have no-one.
Seeing a therapist is not easy. It never is easy when dealing with our own fears and our past. Sometimes what we remember is much worse than what actually is. Sometimes our fears are justified but either way, dealing with them whilst we are with someone qualified to help us is going to help beat this disease. Self medicating, be it with drugs, alcohol, food or hiding from it doesn’t help in the long run and often compounds the problem with addiction. I hid myself in fantasy books which did nothing to cement my grip on reality, only helped me switch off from my pain for an hour or two.
For those around us, they have their own journey with depression. Watching someone’s confidence erode, watching them self destruct , listening to them crying or self hating or lashing out on those around them is horrible. And when someone you love is hurting and all you want to do is comfort them, being pushed away is heartbreaking. But keep trying. Keep listening. Try not to judge or advise how to fix things, just back up, support and offer help unconditionally. Most importantly, if someone mentions suicide or even hints at it, take them seriously.
There are help lines out there that can assist you to support someone with depression or help you if you need some support. And if you can’t get hold of anyone else and you are really concerned or in a really bad place, call the police or a hospital.
Resources available:
Beyond Blue          http://www.beyondblue.org.au     ph. 1300 22 4636
Kids Help Line    http://www.kidshelp.com.au/       ph. 1800 55 1800
Lifeline                  http://www.lifeline.org.au/           ph. 13 11 14
Mensline               http://www.mensline.org.au/       ph. 1300 78 99 78
PANDA – Post and Ante Natal Depression Association
                                 http://www.panda.org.au/            ph. 1300 726 306
SANE                     http://www.sane.org/                     ph. 1800 18 SANE (7263)
There is also a  Lifeline App for iPhone which allows you to search for help based on location or service required.

Mother’s Day – From Loathing to Loving

This time last year I posted about my first Mother’s Day on the old Nifty Mum blog (which is now defunct!) I thought I would post about what I talked about last Mother’s Day Eve.

Mother’s Day 2007  Why won’t this baby sleep!!!!

My little girl is now just over 3 months old – it has been a rough 3 months. A post partum haemorrhage, blood transfusions, a close family friend is killed in a work accident, and a baby that just won’t sleep. No, let’s qualify that, a baby that will sleep when she is rocked in my arms, is held by her father or grandfather but as soon as her tiny body touches the cot or anything that resembles a bed she is wide awake and crying. When she is 2 months old I am diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND).

I can’t take it any longer. In the weeks prior to Mother’s Day, in the wee hours of the morning, the fight to get her to sleep has got the better of me. The sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion has seen me shake my poor baby in a vain attempt to get her to stop crying. I quickly put her in her cot and am shocked at what I have just done. I am a health professional – I know what shaking a baby can do. I am horrified and disgusted by what I have just done. So this is motherhood.

Mother’s Day….a celebration of mothers and motherhood. I can see nothing to celebrate. Why the hell would I celebrate these feelings of utter exhaustion and frustration. Even worse to not want my baby.

2007: Trying to smile for the camera

Fast forward 4 years which have seen me put on the wrong anti depressants (ADs) and wrong dose (so untreated), have another child, be diagnosed again with PND, put on the RIGHT ADs and RIGHT dose, seeing a psychiatrist, family counsellor etc.

Eve of Mother’s Day 2012

My little girl is now in prep at school and yesterday the mothers are summoned to attend the class’s Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea. We are escorted into class by the kids, given crowns to wear which they have made, seated at tables with hand made placemats and coasters. We are treated to songs, cake, pink lemonade and more. My little girl is beside herself as she waves to me while they sing their song and delivers my food to me. It’s hard to believe that I didn’t want this gorgeous little girl. The little girl that gives me huge hugs and asks me “do you know who the best mum in the world is?”….I play dumb “Who?”….”You are!” she yells out. This is my real Mother’s Day present….one you can’t wrap….one that you earn….even if it is the hard way.

2012: No need to “try” this time!

So to all those mums that are out there wondering why the hell Mother’s Day exists, wondering why we should celebrate the crying, the sleep deprivation, the exhaustion and all the others things that you don’t read about in the “baby” books and the things that no one told you about. It’s ok to feel that way. We all have different journeys of motherhood. Some of us enjoy every moment gazing at our children in wonder, our hearts alight with joy. Unfortunately, like me, some do not.

I have had to work hard at this motherhood caper. I know no one said it would be easy but if others had of been more honest about what to expect it mightn’t have been such a bumpy road.

So if tomorrow you are having the kind of feelings that I experienced on my first Mother’s Day just know that it can get better, it may just take a while and a little/lot of work.

Linda

Suicide. Trying to Understand It

My first contact with suicide came when I was in primary school. There was a boy that was a little older than me who I had met at vacation care and happened to live a few houses up the road from where my parents where building a house. He kept hanging round and I remember one day saying to him “I don’t like you so leave me alone. I don’t want to see you here anymore”. That was the last time I saw him.

I remember so clearly the cold rainy day when the news was delivered to me at school that the boy had been found dead in his home. I remember my heart dropping, wondering if my words had driven him to do something so drastic. Then the anger. “How dare he do that! How selfish. His poor family having to live with that for the rest of their lives”.

Since suffering PND I have come into contact with many mums and partners that have been touched by the horror of suicide or the equally horrid failed attempt at suicide. I am extremely lucky that at my mental worst I did not self harm or have the desire to harm my self or my children. My preference was to get in a car and drive……drive anywhere but here. But in saying that, I have learnt the real truth about suicide. The thoughts and feelings that underlie this dark under current that courses though some peoples lives. I have realised that suicide is not a selfish act but rather a selfless one.

These individuals feel that they are not good enough men, women, mothers, people. That they are not worthy of being on this planet. That they make no good contribution to the lives of those around them. By taking action they seek to lessen the pain and suffering of those around them. “If I am not here they won’t have to suffer through my pain” or “I am just burdening everyone with my mere existence” are both lines I have heard spoken when it has come to discussing motives behind suicide. They self loathe and abhor that they are wasting time….wasting a life.

I know many people share my early feelings about suicide stating “what a cop out”, “I have dealt with my issues why the hell couldn’t they – they are just weak”. The stigma that surrounds mental illness in general helps to perpetuate this image of the selfish person. We are forced to internalise our feeling and thoughts. Forced to take on the “appearance” of the happy mum or person even though we may be dying inside. In addition, the media’s stance on reporting suicide (see the “suicide contagion” for more information) has also been a hinderance in peoples understanding of suicide. How many mums die from PND every year? How many children are left motherless by mothers that can no longer go on? 10, 20, 100? It is a statistic I have never been able to find….so does that mean it doesn’t exist?

We don’t need to know the mechanism of suicide or where it happened but an acknowledgement by the media that a life has been lost due to an illness, that is treatable, I think would go a long way to making PND and mental illness in general less of a stigma.

So by writing this post I hope to remove the stigma, the shame and some of the silence that binds so many of us. If you are concerned about someone you know or someone you love talk to them or contact one of the following below to discuss your concerns. I have on a number of occasions called Lifeline, PANDA and even the police when I was concerned for someone’s safety. Yes, that person may hate me for doing it but I would rather them hate me and have them safe than live with the thoughts that I COULD have done something to help them.

Linda

PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association)

Manned by volunteers, most of whom have been sufferers of PND at some time, this is an amazing organisation.

Phone: 1300 726 306

Hours: 9am-7pm  Mon – Fri (AEST)

http://www.panda.org.au/

beyondblue info line

Provides information on depression, anxiety and related disorders, available treatments and relevant referrals.

  • Phone : 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day)
  • Email:  infoline@beyondblue.org.au

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=94

Lifeline

Phone: 13 11 14 (24hrs a day)

http://www.lifeline.org.au/

Suicide Call Back Service

Phone: 1300 659 467

This service provides crisis counselling to people at risk of suicide, carers for someone who is suicidal and those bereaved by suicide, 24 hrs, 7 days across Australia.

http://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/?gclid=COm0uNz39K8CFcgopAod7XCAEA

Sanity Tuesday – Food, Laughs and Sharing Troubles

At my place Tuesday is my favourite day of the week and it is affectionately known to myself and my friends as “Sanity Tuesday”.

Each Tuesday I open my house to any of my friends that have children who just want to get out, let the kids run about in a safe environment and have some adult conversation. I started this several months ago as a way of staying connected with the “outside” world whilst my husband was away. I found it difficult to schedule in visiting friends between school run, work etc so I decided to invite them to come to my house.

On Tuesdays there can be between 4 and 12 children at my place – the babycinos flow freely for the children and the “kick arse” coffee freely for us sleep deprived mums. We each provide a plate of something or even just an extra litre of milk and the usual routine is that the kids eat lunch together and then they have quite time and a movie whilst the mums enjoy hopefully an uninterrupted meal!

But it’s just not about seeking out strong caffeine and getting out of the house. It’s a time where we can talk about the stuff that is consuming our heads and our hearts. Many of us have suffered from either PND or anxiety at some time in our lives. We are each others sounding boards, spilling our proverbial “guts” to try and work through our “shit” and come up with strategies to deal with the slings and arrows of motherhood.

Today I shared a new book that I have just started reading called Momma Zen and shared some particularly relevant and truthful passages out of the book. The conversation then turned to the next book that everyone except me had seemed to have heard of 50 Shades of Gray. After watching the following clip on Youtube we frantically started downloading the book on our iPads, each of us erupting into shreaks of laughter as we each read excerpts from the novel.

I should probably feel a little embarrassed at sharing that! Oh well 🙂

Anyway…the remainder of the day was spent making a batch of pumpkin soup for one of our mums, me making a “mercy” dash with my friends 9 month old in tow, whom we were babysitting whilst mum was at an appointment, to another Melbourne suburb to take my hand massager (the BEST thing to treat mastitis), me drafting a little girls dress pattern and cutting it out for another mum and the usual refereeing of kids.

So I am looking forward to next Tuesday already….. the laughter, the tantrums (the children’s not ours!), the lively conversation :P, and above all spending time with women who understand me and know how to bring a smile to my face!

Linda

Post Natal Depression – Do You Ever Recover?

I am yet to publish the story of my battle/journey with Post Natal Depression (PND) on this new blog. Some of you know the story but in a nutshell I have been suffering PND for the last 5 years – for 3 of those years I was unaware that the antidepressants (ADs) I had been prescribed where the wrong type & dose so I was effectively untreated for that time (which explained a lot!) Now finally on the right ADs there has been a huge improvement as well as seeing a psychiatrist and a family counsellor.

I had broached the subject of reducing my ADs with my psych back in October last year but we decided that although I was doing well the fact that my husband was about to leave for a extended period of time overseas this was not the time to test myself.

But how do you know that you are getting better?

The problem with PND is that you never really know how sick you are until you start to get better. You suddenly think “OMG was I really that bad?” When you go to the doctor with the flu or the like, there are usually obvious symptoms – temperature, sneezing, coughing, abnormal blood tests etc. But look at the list of symptoms of PND and you will be amazed by the sheer number of symptoms and how vague they are. From panic attacks, low sex drive to abdominal pains and headaches – it is such a grey area it is hard to put your finger on it. Putting this aside most mums hide the symptoms exceedingly well which makes it even worse for her and those around her.

So although I am still playing single parent I am pleased to say that as of last week I have halved my dose of ADs. It is not that I don’t want to take them, I am more than happy to take them if I need them but a few things have happened that make me think that I am on the path to recovery. These things may sound horrible to mums that have never suffered from PND but those who have will probably know what I mean.

1. I now instinctively kiss my kids good night when I do my final check on them before I go to bed

I hear some of you gasping thinking what the hell is she saying! I love my kids, I always have, but slowly the long held undercurrent of resentment for them changing my life so dramatically has started dissolve. One night I did it and it was a light bulb moment….I am finally becoming the mum I wanted to be.

2. Sleep

I have come to realise over the years my wish to control all things in my life has been my undoing, especially when it comes to children and sleep. I wanted them to sleep, they wouldn’t. They woke too early, I would throw the doona back in a rage, swearing under my breath about how much it sucked. But I think my fight with this demon is finally over. Yes, I still have the occasional crappy night and early morning but the difference now is I don’t fight it and I have turned off the instinctive want to whinge and bitch about it in my head. I don’t wake up thinking “for god sake what now?, go back to sleep!, I just need to sleep!” … now it is “well yep, I’m up again, lets just deal with this and get back to bed as soon as I can etc”….. by changing the way I cope and talk to myself I have finally brought some acceptance to this.

3. Playing with kids

I have never enjoyed playing with the kids as I could always think of more “important” things I should be doing like the dishes! Lately I thought back to my own childhood and realised I never remembered my mum playing with me (I am sure she did!) but I remember the obsession with the house being tidy and ordered. Did I want my children to think back and remember me like that? So I made it my mission to sit and play with them for at least half an hour, one on one, every day. To my surprise I actually enjoy it now I stop thinking about what I could or “should” be doing. This has even extended to sitting and playing with my friends young son on the weekend…..who would have thought it!

In saying all this, I don’t think I will ever be free of this demon called PND. I am sure it will stay hidden in the recesses of my mind and rear its ugly head at points along this “journey” called motherhood. However armed with the knowledge gained from my psychiatrist, counsellor and the amazing support of my friends (you know who you are! ) I am sure it will be less bumpy!

Linda