Someone Else's Story
I've listened to a lot of stories over the past few years.
When delivering Mental Wellbeing in Workplaces, something happens in the room.
When we create a space of trust and respect.
What wants to be shared can be shared.
And people ~ at all levels of the hierarchy ~ people share.
Of loss and illness.
Of recovery and hope.
Of sadness and despair.
Of love and life.
Of human vulnerability.
This helps me listen, respect and learn. And I know that delegates too on these workshops listen and learn too.
I believe the more we, people, can share stories. And open up to being courageously vulnerable, the more we can take steps in reducing the stigma that lingers in relation to mental ill health.
Here is one courageous persons' story. A person whose story has really touched me and taught me in many ways.
A person who gave me permission to share.
Whilst respecting this person's anonymity.
Someone Else's Story
For some reason when I was younger I had a preconceived idea that it would be obvious to see if people suffered from mental health issues, surely they would sit rocking to and fro and not making any sense. As I grew up I realised that these ideas were an outdated cliché – until I saw my husband do just that.
My husband had been diagnosed with epilepsy some years earlier and would display some ‘odd’ behaviour (he refused medication!), so when he sat on our bed rocking backwards and forwards I put it down to that. But I was scared, seeing a person you love in such a state is heart rending – I could do nothing to help him.
I rang our local GP out of hour’s service and explained the situation and was told that I needed to contact the mental health team – but they only operated between the hours of 9-5 Monday to Friday. Great, so no help! I considered calling an ambulance but was concerned this would make him worse – so I did nothing and finally he slept.
The next day he was his normal self and had no recollection of the incident the night before, and in fact was disbelieving when I told him.
After a couple of weeks of me trying to convince him (nagging) he agreed to see our GP, he went alone and came back seeming brighter saying the GP had diagnosed him with depression and had prescribed him some anti depressants. I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that he had sought help and optimistic that he would get better.
That was pretty much the last conversation I ever had with him, that night he committed suicide and my world crashed around me.
Once I had got through the first few days I started to get angry - how could he be so selfish, how could he just throw his life away (6 months previously I had watched my 30 year old brother die of cancer, I know how precious life is) and how could he leave me to bring up our 22 month old baby alone.
This anger fuelled me and saw me through some very difficult times. Sadly his family had blame – they blamed me entirely. This just increased my anger – a family torn apart, hating each other for one man’s selfish action!
This is how I saw it; this was the reality for me – anger, pain and hatred – no empathy or understanding! I held onto this anger for years and it spurred me on to make life matter for my son and I - little did I realise how unhealthy this was.
17 years on, still feeling angry and hurt I started to get physically sick – I kept a close eye on my diet but couldn’t find a trigger, I then lost interest in my hobbies and lacked any energy or motivation but just put it down to lack of sleep.
Just after Christmas last year I had some annual leave booked, I thought a couple of lazy days having lie ins and reading would help sort me out.
That wasn’t what happened – I found that as the days went on I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t want to see any of my friends, I didn’t want to go out and socialise so I reluctantly agreed to see my GP after several weeks of denying there was anything really wrong with me. I was diagnosed with depression – even the sickness was a symptom, I didn’t know that physical illness could be part of depression!
After the diagnosis things went from bad to worse – I still couldn’t get out of bed (and when I say this I don’t mean I had a case of lazyitus – I physically couldn’t get myself out of bed, I couldn’t even make myself get in the shower - grim I know but this was the reality of me being ill, I was unable to function. The black hole I found myself in just got deeper and deeper until I could see no way out.
The longer I was at home the more I started to worry about going back to work and this almost became a vicious circle, the panic and dread of people seeing me, the fact that my self esteem was rock bottom – I was basically worried that people would think I was either mad or was swinging the lead and that there was nothing wrong with me.
After all, there was nothing outwardly to see – depression doesn’t give you a rash!
I was in such a mess that I found myself contemplating suicide – even after everything I had been through previously, the thoughts crossed my mind.
However, I didn’t attempt it – I’m still not sure what the turning point was for me but I started to get better. Maybe it was the drugs kicking in or it may have been that I kicked my own backside for having thought what I did – I will probably never know but whatever it was I am so grateful!
After 6 weeks of being ill I managed to return to normality – well as normal as I ever get! I returned to work and despite my fears of how I would be treated by my colleagues I found that everything was fine. I was shown care and compassion and wasn’t judged – I was helped.
That was nearly 3 years ago now and I feel it’s time I shared my story – not for sympathy or attention but in the hope that it will help people to understand those of us that suffer from mental health issues.
I’m glad I have depression; it has opened my eyes to how people can suffer from this invisible illness. It has finally helped me come to terms with my husband’s death – I now appreciate that he must have felt so desperate and so ill to have done what he did. All the anger that I have carried for 18 years has gone. I can now look back and remember the good times we had – there were plenty of them! I can smile when I think of him and I can now allow myself to miss the person he was and not hate the act that he committed.
I’m still taking medication and I still have some bad days, just last week I drove myself over to my boyfriend’s house and found I couldn’t get out of the car, so I just sat there for ten minutes while I worked my way up to opening the car door and putting my feet out – small steps!
I’m lucky, if I know I’m having a bad day I will tell my boyfriend, he’s very good at distraction techniques and will suggest a day out mooching round antiques centres or something. This really helps as it gives me something to focus on and I can control the black fug that tries to grip me.
I’m still unable to do the hobbies I love, but am starting to feel the urge so this is good.
Not everyone with depression is the same, this is just my experience. I don’t need constant watching in case I ‘do something silly’ depression isn’t like that, well not for me.
I have learnt a lot, people with depression are not miserable all the time, they don’t cry 24/7, outwardly in most people you wouldn’t be able to tell – in fact in a lot of people they’re the life and soul of things, it isn’t a case of ‘pulling yourself together’ but it’s important to get the right care. Therapy works for some people as does medicating, but it does take time to find what’s right for the individual – we’re after all unique!
I work closely with a charity called Depression Alliance, they have a Friends In Need scheme where people with depression and anxiety meet in local groups and talk – sometimes just talking to somebody that understands can make a huge difference.
So – that’s my story.
"I’m Mandy and I live with depression!”