One of the biggest things that concerned me when I found myself in the fog of hopelessness was telling other people. I was embarrassed that I had let myself get to this point & ashamed to admit that I couldn’t cope. I was also acutely aware that – compared to many – I have nothing to be depressed about; I have a son & husband who love me, loving parents, good friends, a roof over our heads & a job. I have over 1000
friends acquaintances on Facebook, yet I felt totally isolated & like I couldn’t speak to a single person about how I felt.My mum is an old-school healthcare professional, & her stance on mental health issues has always been ‘pull yourself together’ & my dad once managed someone who had been off with ‘stress’ (he always does the air quotes around it when he talks about it to show he didn’t believe that to be the case). I must admit, even I had been scathing when someone at work had recently been off for 3 months with stress & thought ‘what has she got to be stressed about?’.
The thing is, mental health issues don’t discriminate. Here I was feeling at rock bottom & not knowing the way out & so embarrassed by the stigma of mental health issues that I had cut myself off from my friends & family. I was in a cage of my own making & the only one who understood even a little bit how I was feeling was Mr T, as I had confided in him, although I don’t think he realised the full extent of it, as I didn’t want to turn into a wife that does nothing but moan.
Telling people was the suggestion of my counsellor & I was certainly not keen on the idea. I thought people would start avoiding me; you know the saying that a friend in need is a pain in the arse…..I didn’t want to be that pain in the arse.
I am still unsure if I have depression. Part of the reason for that is the huge load of associations the word conjures for me – I’m not sure I can give myself that label. That’s my issue to deal with, because in the leaflet the counsellor gave me, I ticked 10 of the 12 ‘symptoms of depression’. I have certainly been in some very low places, without hope, feeling worthless & like a weight around the neck of those closest to me, but as soon as I label myself as depressed, that flicks a switch for me, so I avoided the word when talking to people.
I have spent most of my life being a positive person & did not want to become a ‘mood hoover’ or a ‘dementor’ as Mr T calls some of the people I have been friends with in the past (& taken the decision to limit my time with, as a result). The thought of any of my friends calling me a ‘mood hoover’ was awful.
There were lots of tears (& not just mine) but – do you know what – my friends & family have been (& are) brilliant.
I told my mum I was off work & taking some time for myself & she said she just wished I had told her sooner & asked how she could help.
My oldest friend (by that I mean I have known her longest!) had just had her second baby & I didn’t want to bother her when she had enough to be thinking of, so I texted her & said Id had ‘a bit of a meltdown’ & felt like I was ‘overwhelmed’ with everything going on. She sent me the most lovely text back saying ‘Please don’t ever think that you can’t talk to me about the bad stuff’. She came round the next morning & we had the most honest chat we’d had in a long time – we usually meet with the children & it’s hard to have a serious conversation when your sentences are interjected with ‘PUT THAT DOWN!’ or ‘PLAY NICELY!’ every couple of minutes.
The biggest comfort I found in my friends who were parents is that we all share the feeling of being overwhelmed at times. There is no ‘Big Book of Answers’ once you become a parent & it’s all trial & error.
Everyone I’ve told has been incredibly supportive, but also asked why I didn’t say anything sooner & I can’t answer that, other than with what I said earlier; I was ashamed. It’s taken the counselling to see that admitting I wasn’t ok doesn’t make me weak. It’s a big deal to ask for help. I don’t ask for help very often & it was most definitely out of my comfort zone to admit my true feelings, even to those who know me best.
There are some people I have chosen not to tell & I have my reasons for this. I don’t think they will understand how I am feeling & I cannot find the words at the moment to articulate it well enough to them. Maybe once I’m feeling better, I will tell them, but time will tell on that one.
For now, I’ve learned to be honest*. I wonder if I would have got to the point I did, if I had spoken out sooner? I’ll never know, but I know that mental health needs to be talked about more & the stigma attached would slowly disappear.
*The other thing I’ve learned is that Estee Lauder Double Wear mascara is good if you’re a crier.