This is the first time I have written about my experience, but I hope that in doing so someone, somewhere, battling anxiety and depression reads this and realises they are not alone. If you have depression it isn’t something that is easy to understand or talk about. You fear people will think you’re losing it, going mad. In fact those are fears you have yourself so you certainly don’t want anyone else qualifying that for you. Fortunately, society is more informed and realises mental illness can affect anyone.
I can’t really say whether I have always been prone to anxiety or depression, or if it is something in my genes, or just something that happened. Certainly, I was always an anxious child; always wanting to please and show my appreciation. I trust and wear my heart on my sleeve and maybe that made me vulnerable, I don’t know. I felt I had a good life, a loving husband, a supportive family and good kids who other than the usual teenage concerns never really gave us any trouble, so why then, when I was 40, did I suddenly fall apart.
At the beginning of that year I felt pressure from my area supervisor; I had been in my job for more than 15 years and I was good at it. For some reason, maybe to boost her own sense of importance, this young woman had it in for me. Despite me turning great growth in the business and having very happy staff, she looked at every opportunity to pull me up. Finally, she broke me and I felt forced to leave a job I loved and had done more or less full-time since I left school. I considered taking legal action, but my father advised me against it saying it would tar my CV and future opportunities. Perhaps he was right, but maybe it would have helped, somebody who she targeted after me did so, so she got her payback, but mine was still to come.
I found another job, we moved house and I was feeling fine, everything was good, or so I thought. Ten months after the event I started feeling anxious all the time, I felt worthless and I couldn’t help myself or understand why my usual cheery disposition deserted me.
After months of nearly ripping my family apart I sought help. I felt I’d been having bouts of complete madness. I would flare up at nothing, scream, throw things, sit in a corner of my bedroom and howl like some kind of animal. I didn’t know how I could go on. My family, particularly my dear hubby, got the brunt of it. Sometimes, to save them from myself, I would slam out the door, jump in the car at night and take off, they never knew where I was going or why or when I’d be back. My husband would try and follow me, he would plead with me, hold me and talk to me. He never judged, he just didn’t understand how to help. My kids would be waiting to make sure I was okay. I knew I was destroying our happy life, but didn’t know how to stop it. I felt I was in a black hole and the world as I knew it was closing in. In supermarkets I would get panic attacks and just abandon my trolley where it was. I felt I was going insane and I was worried if I voiced it then maybe I was.
Finally, I went to my doctor who explained that sometimes depression comes on a good while after the event that sparked it, in my case giving in to a bully who I felt destroyed my career. My daughter who was between the ages of 16 and 17 at the time — the depression lasted a while — would write me little notes, apologising for some silly thing or sometimes nothing at all, just to tell me she loved me and just wanted her mum back.
I was given Prozac, which did nothing except make me feel worse. The support from and the fear of losing my family was the thing that finally dragged me back to some kind of consciousness, a wake up to the seriousness of the situation. I realised the only way forward was to cure myself. I threw away the pills I had become dependant on, I read self-help books and took natural supplements, and accepted the love my husband and children gave me.
Nobody outside of my husband son and daughter knew or guessed what had been going on. I didn’t speak to anyone at my work either, because I didn’t want to admit to being a failure to myself and my family. The mask from the movie Scream is a violent reminder of how I felt inside, every day while battling my anxiety and depression.
I finally came out the other side, purely through love and support from the best family in the world and through my own stubborn determined self. I still have ‘wobbles’, but I now know to recognise them and take my headspace in a different direction. I am a strong person, a survivor by nature, but we are not all so lucky. If anyone in your family is feeling blue, says they are depressed or suffering anxiety, accept what they are saying, talk to them, let them know you are there for them, that it is okay, that they can come through it. Whatever you do, don’t ever ask someone to snap out of it or pull themselves together. Accept they may be frightened of seeking professional help.
Thankfully, communities and businesses are tackling mental health issues. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Most suicides today could be prevented by us being more aware and in tune with our loved ones and catching them before they fall.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis or suicide prevention support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp, or call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.