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Understanding Depression - Part Two

Last week I explained what Depression was. This week, it's all about my experience. This has been harder to write than I thought, I'm not going to lie, it's not an easy read and it may be upsetting (I shed a tear or two writing it) but I feel it explains my downward spiral quite honestly. If you are affected by anything you read, please check out my "where to get support" page. It certainly wasn't one big traumatic event that made me ill, it was a build up of lots of little, insignificant things over a long period of time. Whilst I'm open about a lot of things, some things will never be in print.

Before being diagnosed with Depression I would say that I have experienced several low periods in my life, I had mood swings some of which I just couldn't explain. One minute I'd be high as a kite, and the next I'd be crying my heart out. Every time I went to the doctor's over the past 10 years, I was just told it was my hormones. One GP even suggested having a baby... I could not believe it! How on earth would having a baby help my fluctuations in mood? 

That may have been part of the problem. When you are young you make up a little life plan: go to uni, get a great job, meet a guy, buy a house, get married and have babies all before the age of 30.

When everyone around you is succeeding at their life plan, it's totally natural to feel a bit low and yes this did really affect me. I think I'm a nice person, I'm loyal and will do anything for those I love. Maybe that's a problem too, I'm a pushover.

Anyway, I never seem to get relationships right, I can give my all to someone and still be left standing alone, being lied to and cheated on. I now know just how much relationships have really screwed me up. The same can be said about friendships.

So, what does any girl do when she gets dumped? In true Carrie Bradshaw 'Sex in the City' style, it's time to drink excessively, get a new haircut and go and buy an entire new wardrobe to show them what they're missing. I never really thought about the money I was wasting every time a relationship went wrong or I was just feeling fed up.

Shopping was my coping mechanism, and that was fine, I was earning decent money and still living with my parents due to believing I would be moving in with Mr X any day.... "play your cards right" yeah I totally bought into those words, and surprisingly that didn't work out either. 

31 and still living at home, self esteem at rock bottom and totally lost because I'd put so much of my life on hold for a man. Now, any sensible 31 year old living with parents would have a rather sizable nest egg to put a deposit on a house, I didn't so I rented which was great, my own space, my own home.

A few years pass with ups and downs, great times and horrendous times. There was always something that didn't feel quite right and would creep in and remind me from time to time.

There was this big ball of sludgy nothingness which would sit heavily on my chest and spread itself over my body like an octopus. I tried to ignore it for so long, telling myself, it's just my hormones but I don't think it was that. Maybe it was loneliness? I could be in a crowd full of friends and family and still feel desperately empty and alone.

I tried and tried to find happiness in exercise, in decorating, cooking, reading, walking, going out, staying in, drinking (sometimes a little too much), eating... even shopping didn't give me a buzz anymore nor could I afford it.

As it went on, the more I lost myself. Inside I was screaming out for someone to notice and help me but on the outside I smiled because that's what we do; telling someone would make it real, make it their problem and I didn't want to be that person. I was going to snap out of it and get a grip.

How would people describe me?
A heart full of love.
Life and soul of the party.
Always up for a laugh.
Positive, like a ray of sunshine. 
Always up for going out drinking and dancing until the early hours.

I'm not quite sure when it changed, but it did. I felt like I was none of those things and that it was all an act.

Truth is I would go and hide in the toilets sometimes, begging myself to hold in the tears and to put that mask back on so no one would find me out. I did this at work, with family and even on nights out with friends. That's when the anxiety set in, paranoid that everyone was staring at me, calling me names and laughing behind my back. Why was I here? Stood in a bar, all my friends busy talking to each other and not me. God, I must be really boring or stupid... why don't they talk to me? I'm worthless, I don't belong here, I'm invisible. Everyone hates me. I don't fit in. What's the point in being here; being out socialising should make me feel better not worse.

So I drank, cocktail after cocktail to try and take the pain away; to hurry the night along and block out this pain in my chest. I knew before I went out that something was going to happen, I didn't want to go out but couldn't cancel on the girls as I'd never hear the end of it. Before I left the house I'd had a bottle of prosecco and a couple of shots to try and put me in the mood for a night out. If anything it had made me feel lower.

Back to the bar... I started feeling a bit panicky.

I can't catch my breath, I feel dizzy. It's so loud. My heart thumping. I feel like I'm being strangled, why can't I breathe? I'm sweating, shaking. I have to leave, I need to go home. I've spent all my money, how stupid. What a state to get in. Reckless. And yes... that was my first panic attack.

Luckily my parents came and picked me up, mid 30s and mum and dad still have to rescue me. I wanted to tell them so much about how I was struggling and how low I felt but I couldn't disappoint them and admit to failing in life. I held in the tears until I closed the front door and then I cried for 3 days solid. I didn't want to live like this any more. I didn't want to live at all.

Why was my life such a mess, why couldn't I just be content with what I had, why was nothing ever enough? I couldn't find anything positive as hard as I tried and begged myself to find something good to hold on to. My Instagram became full of positive affirmations in an effort to pull me out of this quick sand and remain my cheery self... who am I trying to kid?

And then I went silent, I stopped posting on social media. Every time I looked at Facebook or Instagram I would feel more isolated, left out, unappreciated, ignored. It was full of fake and airbrushed made up lives. Why did no one have the ability to be real? Why was everyone trying to convince the world that life was perfect and people were believing all the bullshit. How was I supposed to be honest in a world that was so fake? Would "being honest" be classed as attention seeking? I later found out it was with the...
"get over it...your life is great...don't be stupid, you're not depressed"

I became distant with friends and family. When I did manage to reply to a text or speak, I never felt they understood, I didn't understand either and unable to find the words to explain that my every thought was about giving up on life. I lost hours at a time just staring at a wall. I was exhausted, I just wanted to sleep and anything else was too much effort. My bed became my safe space, I would wrap myself tight in the duvet and wish the day away. I was existing rather than living and it was unbearable. The mask that I had been wearing for so long had finally been ripped from my face and I was incapable of hiding any longer.

I remember at one point, lying in bed and needing the loo. I'd been having yet another argument inside my head about ways to end this misery but then being a coward as I knew I couldn't follow through with any of my thoughts. I thought to myself that there was no one to see me wet myself, why bother getting out of bed, why waste that energy, who would even care? I'll just wet myself. But then, with tears streaming down my face, I dragged myself from my nest and to the toilet and back, and built up the energy to make a doctor's appointment... I needed help and whilst I'm not religious I prayed that someone would be able to help me and get me out of this pit of despair. I couldn't survive another day with these thoughts.

None of it made any sense and I really struggled getting the words out of my mouth. It was like all of my energy had been used up inside my head so I was unable to string a sentence together. I googled quotes about depression, found this and then posted it on Instagram.

Even that didn't really set off the alarm bells with my friends, so maybe it was all true, nobody cared whether I lived or died, but I knew deep down there was a part of me that wanted to live...I just needed help to find it and I'm so glad that I found that strength to carry on another day.

I wish that I had been able to find the words earlier, I wish I had understood sooner.  I wish that I hadn't felt so ashamed to tell my family and friends because I was worried about burdening them with it. I was so scared that people wouldn't believe me and would call me a fraud and an attention seeker. I was worried that I would lose my job, my home and all the people I loved.

Even though I felt like I was completely alone and no one would understand, some people did care and did help me and supported me.

Remember, you are not alone, please don't bottle things up like I did. The people who love you unconditionally will be there for you, no matter what.

Comments

  1. Hello Natalie, I trust you are well.
    I’ve just read your piece on the BBC news online and for a moment, it felt like you were writing about me. I wouldn’t change any of the words you used to describe how you felt!
    Hmmmm...this is so new to me and struggled with being signed off work. Felt like I failed and that was very embarrassing :(
    ...if you want a sign to continue what you are doing, then here you are :)
    You reached me in London ��

    ReplyDelete
  2. Natalie and Barbara and ANYONE else reading this.... You are not alone, I want to give you all a hug from not so sunny Birmingham.

    I've been having CBT therapy for a good few weeks now and its hard and fantastic... we are getting to the depression now, rather than negative thoughts and challenging those - now its about the "low mood" you cant put it into words but the octopus comparison is perfect.

    Its loneliness, disappointment, sadness and isolation all rolled up into a horrible ball weighing on your chest and soul. Largely for no reason at all, or so I thought... the pressures we have from ourselves and society are hugely underestimated.

    I dont know where I am going with this - but wanted to add my thanks, let you know your not alone and while we are all different, one thing I am learning is that it is time I am nicer to myself, take the pressure off and understand that this isnt a failure getting help. It is the strongest thing we will ever do - you both (and anyone out there) are amazing and deserve to be free and happy, and you WILL BE. xxx

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