(This post is about my experience of depression, anxiety and PTSD, including self harm and suicidal ideation. If you feel this would trigger you please feel free to skip. I have included the contact details for Lifeline, Australian emergency services and Beyond Blue at the bottom of the post).
It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote anything. A year where words were lost to me, and sentences disappeared into a fog so thick I thought they would never come back. The rawness of getting through a day meant writing was a luxury; caviar and truffles, where I was surviving on dust. I missed writing as one misses an arm but I didn’t have the emotional energy to even try.
At the start of last year, I was suffering from severe depression but didn’t know it. As I see now, the signs were obvious – I was barely sleeping, I’d wake up in the morning feed the cats and then be so exhausted I had to lie down again. I isolated myself thinking I just needed space, I was unable to work, and only went out when absolutely necessary: church, the shops and walks with mum. I spent hours and hours just staring into space, unable to do anything other than curl up in a chair or lie on the couch. I hated people looking at me, clothing was too tight; housework, personal grooming and talking were beyond me.
While we might call depression a mental illness, my experience of it was physical – tingling in my hands and feet, loss of appetite, nausea, my body feeling heavy and slowed down, and I was exhausted like I have never been before. Depression came with a side of anxiety and PTSD; it was much more like anger, terror and unending blackness than sadness with significant suicidal ideation thrown in for good measure.
I’d had bouts of depression and anxiety before so I thought that I could tough it out, get through because I was so much stronger – after all I’d beaten it without help before. I didn’t want to be the person who falls into the hole, so it took me far too long to go to the doctors. She took one look at me and prescribed antidepressants. I was reluctant to take them but in the end I had too. The first one I tried helped me to sleep a better but not much else, it wasn’t until June when I got onto a medication that helped.
I won’t lie those six or so weeks when I got used to my second medication were horrible, SSRIs are known to make your depression worse before it makes it better and I can testify to the truth of this. I gave up for a while because I couldn’t see a way out, it got so bad at one point that I wrote a goodbye note to my parents and considered taking all the medication I had in the house. My doctor phoned my mum and they took my medication off me – for months my mum had to dole it out to me so I wouldn’t take it all if it got too much. If there was one saving grace, I did start to sleep better and for a few hours there was the oblivion of sleep.
Depression is not an illness I would wish on my worst enemy. It’s the most terrifying experience I have ever been through. It felt like something foreign had crawled inside me, taking all the lightness and hijacking my brain. And as much as I wanted to reach for the joy and happiness I knew still existed, I just couldn’t. I was a shell; alive and walking around, forced to keep living, while all the best parts of me were gone.
The worst part about it is it’s seemingly endlessness, it makes the days so unbearable that I just didn’t know how I’d make it through a minute let alone a whole day. And then there is the suicidal ideation and tendencies to want to self harm. For quite some time, every unoccupied thought was me wishing I was dead and when that wasn’t happening there was an urge to hurt myself by throwing myself up against a brick wall. At one point I got so overwhelmed I took an overdose of valium just to give myself some relief.
And while all of this was very bleak, there was also something else too. Call it the belief that hard times end, the will to live, or sheer bloody determination but there was just something that kept me going. It wasn’t a joyous or happy thing; it made no promises of survival and it wasn’t about living for the people who loved me, although they were never far from my mind. When I wanted to give in because my brain was on fire and I was so overwhelmed that a minute seemed like an hour it refused to let me because maybe, just maybe tomorrow might be better.
Is that what hope is? The thought that tomorrow could be better than today. Or the grim resolve to not give in because I wanted to see how it ends. Maybe it was my faith in God and knowing somehow we would get through this, and maybe it just doesn’t matter because whatever it was, it helped me survive.
I’m alive today and words are slowly returning, and that is everything.
If you struggling and need help
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
In an emergency call 000.