For many years I have struggled with depression. It has affected every part of my life, I have been unable to hold onto jobs, lost friends, not been able to appreciate the joy of having beautiful babies. The list is endless. I do not believe there was an event that caused it, nothing happened to me that meant I developed depression. It started way before I had children, and is in no way at all related to the fact that my youngest daughter is severely disabled. It’s an illness. And for me at least, it just “is”.
I am incredibly lucky to have found a man who has stood by me for over ten years now, he has never once (so he says!) considered walking away from me. When I am not consumed by the darkness, I can see the impact living with me at my lowest has on him and although he would never admit it, I am very hard to live with. My depression comes in waves, I do have periods where I feel ok and whilst the demons are always there, sometimes they are quiet in the background and I am able to enjoy life with my little family. When it hits though, there is no warning, no build up, no chance to try and avoid it. It makes it impossible to breathe, my anxiety levels go through the roof, I have no interest in anything or anyone, no motivation to do even the most simplest of things and what scares me most of all is the suicidal thoughts that always come.
The last year or two, my demons have been the loudest and most suffocating they’ve ever been. It has been a constant daily battle to ignore the urge to just give into them. It’s exhausting to have to fight every day and in turn that makes the depression worse. It feeds on the tiredness, making you believe that you are worthless, that no one cares, that no one needs you and if you weren’t here then it really wouldn’t matter. If you don’t fight, the suicidal thoughts take over and once that happens there’s not necessarily a way back. So you fight with every breath that you have, but that makes you exhausted in a way that is so much more than just being tired because the kids have kept you awake. It’s an emotional exhaustion that sometimes makes even speaking a huge effort. It is a vicious circle and the light is always just out of sight.
So the point of my rambling? I have been as honest as I can on Facebook about the way my depression affects me, but I have received a lot of abuse from people who just don’t understand mental illness. People I considered as friends who see my life as a wife with two beautiful girls and who can’t understand why I feel “sad”. Believe me, it goes way deeper than just being sad. It has been really upsetting to receive messages telling me to “snap out of it” and “give myself a slap”. Yes, in 2016, this is still what those who battle with mental illness are up against. I have however, also been very touched by the number of people who have contacted me privately to share their stories of their own personal fights. There are a frighteningly large number of people who fight in silence, who daren’t share their feelings out loud for fear of lack of understanding. I don’t know if reading about my life will help anyone. Selfishly, I think that putting it down in writing will help me – clear a little space in my head, so if no one reads it then it’s ok. But if just one person reads this, can relate to it, and realises that they’re not alone in the way they feel, then this exhausting, all-consuming daily battle, will be worth sharing.
If you are reading this, and you feel like the darkness has left you isolated and alone, you’re not. I understand. I care.