Looking back, I think I’ve suffered from depression for a large part of my adult life. During the early years, I didn’t realise there was actually anything wrong with me. I just put my low moods down to very bad bouts of PMT. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I suffered my first real “nervous breakdown”. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but I remember I couldn’t get out of bed one day because I was feeling too nervous and scared to go to work. I had recently been placed in a very stressful situation where my boss had left his job and I was trying to continue doing my job as well as his. At the same time, I was going through a very sad breakdown in a relationship that left me heartbroken and severely lacking in self-confidence. As it turned out, I resigned from my job and took my life of living in the city in a completely different direction by travelling and then working in the Kimberley for many years.
Throughout my years up north and since moving back to Wagga Wagga at the end of 2001, I have had many bouts of depression. I have sought help from various GP’s, psychologists and psychiatrists over that time. The consensus is that I have a genetic predisposition towards depression and, coupled with my “perfectionist” personality type, I am a prime candidate to be a sufferer of “the black dog”. When I get myself into particularly stressful situations, e.g. work, and whenever I get over-tired and run down, these seem to be the times that I slip into depression.
I imagine it must be very difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced a depressive illness to understand what depression is really like, so I will try and explain what it feels like for me. Most of the time, I don’t see it coming, though my husband (ex now) would say I become grumpy and argumentative leading up to a depressive episode. When the depression comes, I instantly lose all interest in everything that makes up my everyday life. I lose all my enthusiasm and passion for things I usually love to do. All I want to do is stay in bed all day and sleep so that I can pass through time and not have to endure the nothingness of it. I feel like I lose all my emotions, my self-confidence and my ability to communicate with people. I feel empty and useless, as if my brain doesn’t work any more. I feel lonely and isolated because I know the people around me don’t feel what I do and even though they want to help me, they can’t. One of the worst things is that I feel like I’m never going to get out of the black hole and I’m never, ever going to be ME again. It feels like I’m living in the deepest, darkest hole where there is no life and no hope.
Being in the pit of depression is extremely debilitating. You lose all sense of who you are, where you fit into the world and what you are here for. Things that you have achieved in your past seem lifeless and uninteresting and things you desire for your future now seem utterly empty and pointless. Some people describe depression as like living with a dark cloud over their head. I’d say it’s that and more, like a thick fog is enveloping your mind and body so that you can’t see anything past the damning hollow thoughts that plague your mind. And what I find most frustrating is that there is no reason for me to be like this. It is such a waste of my time.
Depression is the most horrible experience for anyone to go through. When I’m in the black hole, I keep telling myself that I will get out of it, that it’s just a waiting game and it will get better. And I know I have to trust the people who love and support me. As much as I think they don’t understand what I am going through, their unwavering love and encouragement is amazing and I couldn’t get through it without them. When I do come out the other end of depression, and I always do, I really, really appreciate being able to get out of bed in the morning and feel excited by what the day ahead may bring. I never take being happy for granted.
A few years ago, I found a particularly good psychiatrist who finally put me onto the right medications. Because of him and the wonderful counsellor who I speak to on a monthly basis, it has now been over three and a half years since I have had a bout of depression. This is the healthiest I have felt in many years, yet I am still extremely thankful for every day that I wake up feeling “normal”. And now I understand and accept that depression is an illness of the brain and that there is definitely a life after depression.