Hello, my name is Jean, I am a survivor of Depression!

I am grateful for the opportunity to write this blog this morning with information, knowledge and first hand experience of a breakdown and a recovery from Depression!
Depression in a simple description is when the brain is unable to function properly, effecting how a sufferer feels, thinks and acts. In the early stages, thoughts and emotions are erratic and a sufferer can appear sad and the body lethargic. As depression takes hold, the sufferer withdraws into one’s self emotionally and is physically unable to perform the simplest of task.
 Depression is a disease like any other disease in that the symptoms can be small at first and easy enough to hide but if left untreated, it will only get worse. It causes a huge amount of emotional pain to the sufferer and their family and friends. And that was me.
The first time that I mentioned to my doctor that I might have depression was twenty seven years ago, when I was twenty three. My first child was one years of age and I spent most of his first year sad and angry. Post natal depression were new words around Ireland at the time but I suspected that I might have it. I give the Doctor his due, he suggested I go down the route of self help first instead of giving me anti-depressants. He knew my history well.
I, like many other north side Dublin kids, grew up in poverty. Fear was a constant in our daily lives. Kids living in fear learn to hide their emotions from the outside world. It was hard for our parents to meet our emotional needs in the 70’s. They didn’t know what emotional needs were.
 Poverty breathes poverty and education was basic in Catholic homes with thirteen children being the average size family. And as we all know now, education is the key in life. The more we know about issues, the more we understand them.
 I had learned to hide my true feelings from even myself, so I was at least twenty years neglecting my own emotional needs at that point in my life. Eventually these emotions surface in a negative guise. ‘I had reasons to be sad and angry,’ The Doc had said. I needed to figure things out. He was a wise man.
I took his advice well and I was delighted to join a self help group.
I didn’t think at the time how long it was going to take me to be better. I knew there wasn’t going to be a quick fix though as I had been feeling low ever since puberty. Although I was still able to appear happy and even confident to the outside world.
I felt immediately comforted by the support of the group. They helped me see where I maybe needed to change a few things about me and my life in order to feel better.
 So I began there. But I was a complex case. I really had no idea of the depth I needed to go to change. And even if I did figure out what I had to change, I had absolutely no idea how I would do it. I didn’t really know who I was or what I was about at all.
I followed the road of self help and counselling for the next couple of decades and as my life was entwined with a husband and children, I found it was getting tougher. I could still just about do physical things, go to work, get to functions, get the kids to their school and activities but I just couldn’t figure out how to meet everybody’s emotional needs. That saddened me and I felt guilty. ‘Why wasn’t I naturally good at motherhood?’ Or, ‘Why did I find marriage so difficult?’ And, ‘How come I couldn’t succeed in the workplace?’  The counselling helped. She tried to get me to compartmentalise each emotion and try rationalise it out. But my brain was full of all my worries and my fears jumping around together and my constant feelings of failure and self hatred.
I finally resorted to medication when I was thirty eight. I just couldn’t do it on my own. It really helped my symptoms but I knew I still had to help myself by going to counselling and doing the emotional work. But I think I stalled on working on myself at that time, because the medication was doing the job for me. After a couple of years, the Doc suggested I come off my meds, I was happy to do it. I was feeling good. But it wasn’t too long before the dark clouds of negativity came back into my mind. And much worse than before.
I was working full-time, I was a mother, a wife and I was not coping with any of it. I was crying all the time. And I was hating myself more and more because I was so weak. And the guilt was bad. Don’t under estimate guilt. It can be soul destroying. I constantly felt guilty for not being good at anything and with that, worry and fear were racing around my head. I didn’t want to go back on medication then, I wanted to fight my depression.
I began to have panic attacks.
It still amazes me of the power of my mind. I couldn’t figure out my head, so, my mind began to give my body physical signs for me to see. For me to stop everything. For me to keep on trying to figure me out! For me to get to the root of me!
My panic attacks came in the guise of paralysing feelings. My legs became numb and I couldn’t move. I literally felt like I was having a stoke. And then other times, there was a massive pain in my chest that I was sure had to be a heart attack.
My mind was out of control. And I was terrified of what else it would do.
I think I might have been about a year off my meds then and I was getting worse. I didn’t want to see people. I couldn’t receive phone calls. I couldn’t read text messages. I couldn’t listen to the radio or the news. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t go to the Doctor. I was aware that I looked really bad and that maybe he would suggest hospital and I didn’t want to go there and leave my kids, not for a minute. At that point depression is very visible. Your weakness is on view for all. There is it. You’re the ultimate failure. You just can’t cope in life. And that is not easy to admit to anyone.
I know on the TV programs, they say talk to someone, but you can’t talk and rationalise what’s going on in your own mind at that point to yourself never mind anyone else. You’re too ill. It’s not like you’re a bit tearful and you can tell your best friends you’re broken hearted over a failed relationship, or you lost your job, or you’ve gained weight, or you even have the baby blues.
This is a total different kettle of fish. And I can totally understand why a lot of people die from depression. And I don’t say take their own life, because I know for sure, they are not in control of their own mind when their mind is that ill. Your mind is dying, just like a pancreatic cancer. And the symptoms spread through your body just the same. Your body becomes so weak that you can’t do the simplest of chores like wash yourself. You lose your appetite just the same. You can’t go outside for a little walk and fresh air, because your body is so sick. This is probably the worse type of disease in that it effects your mind and body.
I know this, because I was there. My mind was very ill. I had no idea what it was capable of.
That’s why I went back on medication.
But this time it took me at least six weeks to start to feel a little better. And this time I knew I had to do the work.
I took full responsibility for my illness. I asked God to help me.
 I stopped blaming myself, people and situations. I forced myself to walk. And while I walked I began to brainwash myself into positive thinking. Gratitude. Acceptance of me. Forgiveness of myself. And to like me, warts and all. Because I had hated me for a long time. I had to banish negative thinking. After a while, I felt myself finally getting better.
Life is still full of challenges, but I’ve learned to just focus on the day at hand. I don’t compare myself or my children to others. I accept me as me and my husband as he and my children as they.
My life is where God wants me to be.
After five years on anti-depressants, I know I’m probably really ready to come off them now but I’m just not brave enough yet.
Jean xxx

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