Ok... deep breath... here goes...
I was diagnosed with depression 5 years ago, pretty much to the day. I had a 4 yr old and a nearly one year old and I had gone to my GP, to discuss my contraceptive pill as I thought it was effecting my hormones in a negative way. I’ll never forget the moment the GP, (an amazing locum actually who I wish I could remember the name of), said “honestly Helen I don’t think it’s your pill, I think you may be suffering from depression”, and in all honesty I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach.
How could I have depression? I am a capable and strong woman, I pride myself on my ability to just keep going and not let things drag me down. But I was already down, I wasn’t even actually me anymore, and I will be forever grateful to that man, for looking past the facade and enabling me to stop and take stock of how I was actually feeling.
I was prescribed antidepressants and also given the option of being referred for telephone counselling. I took antidepressants for around a month before realising they weren’t for me. They definitely levelled me out but the consequence was a constant numb feeling. I didn’t want to feel numb around my friends and family and I was actually pretty scared of the concept of being on medication long term. So I was referred for a course of CBT counselling over the phone. The first consultation was probably the most liberating experience of my life. I think for the first time ever I spoke aloud the words that I had been thinking for such a long time...
‘I feel like I’m not good enough’
‘I feel like my children deserve a better mother’
‘I feel like I’m pushing my partner away but I don’t know how to stop it’
‘I wake up some days and I can’t even move because the dark clouds have descended over me, and I can’t see a way through’
I was crying pretty uncontrollably (not too dissimilar to my state now!) struggling to get the words out, and what I heard on the end of the phone was an understanding, encouraging voice telling me how hard that must be to carry those feelings around all the time.
We discussed certain coping mechanisms and things I could do to reduce my anxiety and the fact that I wasn’t alone, and how reaching out to people around me could help. I put the phone down and hugged my husband and my kids and for the first time in a long time I felt like things were going to get better.
For me, I have always held my cards close to my chest. I keep a lot inside and I choose to deal with things very privately, I don’t open up as they say particularly often and to many people. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m disingenuous or fake, as I like to think I have lots of close friends, it’s just the way I cope. For me opening up means a serious sense of vulnerability, and a feeling of weakness.
Which is really why I’m writing this post, because for such a long time now people suffering from mental health problems have been stuck with the stigma of being weak or of somehow not coping when you should be able to. Those 5 years ago I would have died at the thought of other people being aware of what I was going through and I did what I always do and I painted a smile on and I carried on.
But now I can identify that as soon as I did open up and speak to the people around me and the professionals, it got better. I felt unburdened and I was always taken seriously. No one belittled my feelings or made me feel like I had failed in anyway, it was just something I was going through and together we would do whatever it took to see me through it.
Nowadays I still get the odd period of depression and my brain operates on an anxious level pretty much all of the time. I think I’ll always worry what I say and how I’m perceived but that’s ok because I now have the tools and the people around me to cope with that. I can now also identify the days when the grey clouds come a little lower and on these days I take things a little slower and I forgive myself a little more and I tell the people I love that I’m finding things hard, and together we reach the next day, or the one after that and the clouds float higher and I can carry on without the weight on my shoulders.
So today I’ve decided to take the time to talk, and to openly say it’s ok to not be ok! Writing this has been hard and not something I thought I would ever do but if it makes even one person stop and think that they may need a little help or guidance than it’s most definitely worth it. Remember you aren’t weak, it’s just a time in your life you will get through.
Written by Helen Moreland
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.