I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!! Well after my last post I think a break was definitely a good thing! That was the start of a head first plunge into a significant depressive episode. I had been trying to treat the depression naturally for many years and until last year I was quite successful at it. Last year though after going away on my wonderful holiday, I returned to my excessively demanding normality and I found myself no longer capable of handling the reality of my daily life, I had forgotten how stressful and exacting my role in the world was and I found myself unable to meet those challenges. I used to use exercise as my greatest depression repellent, but I got to the point where I could barely manage a 10 minute walk (‘walk’ is generous, ‘drag’ is a more appropriate term) before returning to my car utterly exhausted. I struggled along for a good 6 weeks before suicidal ideation kicked in and I tearfully agreed to start anti-depressants and see a psychiatrist, counsellor and psychologist. The psychiatrist has been awesome and I am glad I have been under specialised care as I needed to change my medication towards the end of September and my GP cut my medication down very quickly due to potentially severe side affects that started to emerge. Thankfully my Psychiatrist was able to help me step down my very high dosage in a kinder way. All this coincided with the school holidays so the kids and I escaped to my parents home so I could get some TLC. Which as it turned out was a very, very good idea.
I woke one morning experiencing extreme symptoms and battling panic attacks. I NEEDED to get out of the house so I took my babies to the beach which was wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable. I sat on the beach listening to an audiobook and watching my beloved children play joyously in the sunshine and play chicken with the waves. But on the way home whilst driving up the range in an 80km/h zone I was hit by a massive panic attack. It kept pulling darkness over my eyes that I had to fight to keep at bay so I could get my babies back to safety as there was nowhere for me to pull over. I pulled up at my parents home, beeped the horn in distress so my mum would come out and look after my terrified children and practically fell out of the car in my attempt to get myself to a small quiet place where I could call my psychiatrist. I just wanted to die. I wanted to drive my car over a cliff so I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Life was just too damn hard that I didn’t want to live it any longer. I was so tired and fed up that I just didn’t want to do it any more. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up – that seemed to me like the ideal state. Thinking it and saying it out loud are two completely different things though. Saying it out loud to my Psychiatrist made it even more real and even more scary, because if I could say it then I was one step closer to following through on it. I was very scared and felt very, very unsafe.
My Psychiatrist knew me well enough by then to know that I was in very severe distress and was a danger to myself, and thus advised me to admit myself to hospital for psychiatric monitoring. She organised a letter to be sent to the local hospital outlining my severe major depression, the transitioning of medications, my PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, special needs children and my suicidal ideation. At the hospital I was a crying, shaking mess until they took me to a small room and started talking to me. I finally felt safe. I finally felt like I was going to be ok and that there were people there who would make sure that I was going to be ok. They talked about the letter from my psychiatrist and after keeping me there for a few hours told me that they were going to send me home because I hadn’t actually attempted suicide. As soon as the words were out of their mouth my mind started planning places to drive where I would be able to fatally wound myself. They offered me drugs which I refused because in my mind it wouldn’t be responsible of me to take Valium and then get behind the wheel, because I might hurt someone else and I only really wanted to take myself out.
I was released without any real support other than a 1800 number that I threw in the bin on the way out – I wouldn’t need that because I had a plan now. I called my mum to come pick me up – I waited and planned. In a stroke of luck both my parents were really ill – I know this sounds awful of me! But I am a selfless, caring person and having people to look after was just the diversion I needed to distract myself from my suicidal planning and in a moment of clarity I instructed my mother to take all the car keys and hide them in their room somewhere as my weapon of choice against myself was my car. The mind is a strange thing. With all the sharp objects, cliffs, mountains and potentially lethal substances on or within walking distance of my parents rural property, the only danger to me was my car. So with the keys hidden, my body recovering from the panic attacks and downright awful day, I spent one of the worst nights of my existence trying to stop my brain from planning my demise through vehicular suicide. It was a really long night. But in the morning both my parents and my kids were really unwell and needed to be cared for. I spent most of the day in the kitchen keeping my mind and body busy making nourishing food and drinks for my family members. At the end of that day I was so exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically that I finally slept.
Over the ensuing weeks I started my new meds and completely transitioned off the old ones. I felt much better on the new tabs but over the following months the dosage needed to be increased as I would plateau and then start to go down hill again. The dosage I am on now seems to be working, however last week I had a day where my baby boy attacked me no less than 3 times during a day of rolling meltdowns. It set off my PTSD, anxiety, hypersensitivity and depression in a big way. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again but I didn’t reach a point of contemplating suicide, so that was a win. I feared though that I may need to increase my medication again, but within a few days I was doing much better and even had a little increase in energy. That is a win. A very significant win.
Depression is a severely debilitating condition that isn’t just feeling sad – that is feeling ‘depressed’ which is vastly different from clinical ‘Depression’. When a sufferer is in the throes of a depressive episode, simply getting out of bed is an achievement. Anything beyond that is a significant accomplishment that should be recognised and praised. An analogy that is often used to describe depression is living in darkness. My best friend and I had a discussion last week on my first “dark day” about what it is like. I likened it to living in darkness and not being able to find a switch to turn on a light. There may be hands there wanting to help but you can’t see them, and trying to find them is an unfair struggle unless you know where to look – but depression makes you think that you are all alone, so looking for the hands in the dark seems to be a pointless endeavour. I am lucky enough to know, within the depths of my soul, that my best friend will always be there, no matter what and that makes me the luckiest girl in the world. We have been there for each other through thick and thin and I know that no matter what happens to me, I just need to reach out and I WILL find those wonderful hands and that beautiful heart that always shows me where to find the absolute best of myself. I am also blessed to have another amazing best friend who knows that I sometimes need someone to walk into the darkness, find me and bring me back into the light – for her I will be eternally grateful and I am so happy to know that whatever challenges life throws at me she will be there to support me and laugh with (and sometimes at) me. Unfortunately these two fabulous people that I love ridiculously, live nowhere near me! But I am lucky enough to have some good friends who DO live close by and who enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs – these are the people that make my every day life more enjoyable and I hope that they say the same about me. Along with my wonderful family, these are the people I look for when things go dark. They bring light to my world when I need it the most and it is a privilege to know and love them all.
Depression is a bastard of a thing to live with for a lot of reasons, but something that a lot of people don’t know about Depression is that it takes the things that you enjoy most and prevents you from doing them. ‘Crazy!’ I hear you cry! Well it is true and just awful! For me, the things taken from me were exercise, writing and reading. Thankfully I am now able to write again (joy of joys!), I am super keen to get back into exercise (happy dance!) tomorrow, but my beloved reading is still evading me. Even webpages I wish to read for research purposes are just not available to me. It is more than a mental block, I physically can’t bring myself to open the pages! It is ludicrous and so very frustrating! I am a very logical person so my own inability to overcome this seemingly self imposed obstacle is irritating beyond measure! But thankfully I am making progress and that MUST be acknowledged and appreciated.