*TRIGGER WARNING* discussion around suicidal thoughts & sexual assault
This author has bravely chosen to share her story, but wishes to remain anonymous to protect those closest to her.
Depression is something I have dealt with for a long time, since I was twelve years old to be precise. It has been the demon that almost permanently lives on my shoulder while the little bubbly happy one is hogtied and gagged in a dark corner somewhere, only occasionally able to let out a little peep of positivity. For years I self-medicated. I smoked, drank, got stoned, had sex, partied, listened to angry music, fought against everyone and anyone, had a ‘fuck you’ attitude and in every fibre of my being I was an angry teenager that was hurting so deeply that the only behaviour I was physically able to display was destructive fury.
My parents separated when I was young and in the aftermath my siblings reacted in their own rebellious ways and I was left wondering what the hell had happened to my family. I was the youngest, only 10, and the illusion of my happy family was ripped apart in no time and I quickly became overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and abandonment. My mother was angry and upset and bitter, my brother pulled into himself and my sister went off the rails in her own way. The demons hadn’t shown themselves yet, I was just a sad and confused 10 year old, still blissfully ignorant and innocent. Fast forward two years to the even more thorough breakdown of my family and I found myself hanging out with the wrong people, doing the wrong things, because they accepted me. They liked and understood my special brand of broken. Within two years of my parents separation I had made a lot of poor decisions and found myself in a position that made it possible for an older man to rape me. And that is when depression entered my life.
For the next 5 years I broke apart more and more every day, I became increasingly more depressed and the more depressed I became the more destructive my behaviour became. I had a non-existent relationship with my family for the most part except for fighting with my mum or getting money off my dad, which only helped to fuel my depression. I never wanted to admit I was hurting so I would put up a tough exterior, I wouldn’t let anyone in and I was deathly afraid of being hurt again so I never gave anyone the chance. By the time I reached my worst point I was 16 and I was in an extremely dark place. I was getting drunk almost daily, partying all the time and was almost constantly thinking of suicide. I was so tired and so sick of always hurting, I was sick of the nightmares and the never ending gut wrenching feeling of complete and total worthlessness. I felt like nothing, I was nothing. I thought that if I just did it, if I just died, it would make so many people’s lives easier, they would have one less inconvenience to deal with. My parents wouldn’t have this disappointment that was me, hanging around to make them angry anymore. I was getting more and more convinced of this and the more convinced I became the more I drank and the more depressed I became.
But coincidence, luck, divine intervention or whatever you want to put it down to, I found out I was pregnant. In my darkest place when all I wanted to do was end the pain and misery, I had a little fluttering heart beat resting under mine that gave me every reason I could ever need to keep going. Almost instantaneously I saw the two pink lines and my entire perspective on life shifted. The second I made the decision to keep my child I knew that no matter how much pain I may be feeling or how miserable I may be sometimes, I had a little human being that was depending on me to be the best I could. After my son was born I had terrible post natal depression, it was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. At least 5 times a day I would end up hiding in the bathroom and crying until I couldn’t cry anymore, every night I cried myself to sleep and every morning I woke up struggling to hold it together. When my son was 2 months old I went on anti-depressants for the first time. I hated them, absolutely loathed them! They made me feel like a zombie, I was just going through the motions but not actually feeling anything. I decided I would rather feel miserable then feel nothing at all so I went off the medication. Gradually I was able to slowly build myself up and out of the gloom by telling myself that no matter what, there was a little boy who thought I was the world. No matter how tired and crabby I was or how messy I looked, he would light up the second I came into view and that was my constant reminder to keep pushing.
My son is five now, he has the most spectacular personality and he lights up my life every day no matter how down I am. Even when I feel like I am drowning and my chest won’t stop aching, I feel sick and my head won’t stop spinning, I feel like I have weights on my shoulders and waves of raw misery keep streaming through every inch of my body, my son is what keeps me anchored. Over the last five years I have had so many ups and downs I lost track a long time ago. Sometimes it is months that I can keep myself above water and look on the bright side, sometimes it is only days. When I have been able to I have seen a therapist which has helped me deal with my demons enough to avoid needing to take medication up until recently. In the last few months I have found myself starting to drown again and as a result I have started back at therapy and am back on a low dosage of antidepressants, the best thing I can do for my depression is to face it and to deal with it, hiding from it is going to do nothing except make things worse.
It has taken me a long time to stop viewing my mental illness as a weakness, as something to be ashamed of. Even on the days I can’t get out of bed, I am still strong for facing my mental illness head on and not letting it define me. Not every day can be a victory and sometimes I just need a day in bed sleeping, crying and reading, and that doesn’t make me weak or a failure. One day I will be able to look back on these years of depression and be proud of myself for not letting it break me. It may be months or years before I am healthy again but until then I will never stop fighting against the people trying to define me by my depression, the people who try to tell me ‘it’s just a faze’ or to just get over it, I will continue trying to accept my mental illness and make my mental and emotional health better. I will never give up on myself again, I just need to keep looking for the silver linings.