I was first diagnosed with depression about 15 years ago when my husband and I were experiencing fertility problems. At the time I had a job that I loved and we enjoyed our time out of work together; evenings, weekends, holidays, life was pretty great, except for one thing. We wanted a baby.
I truly believed that the only thing I wanted from life was to be a mum and nothing else mattered. Like it was my destiny. So, when it didn’t happen I felt that I was to blame. That being unable to concieve was my fault. When IVF didn’t work for us, that was my fault too. It was my body that was failing to become pregnant, so obviously I was to blame.
No amount of rational thought or cold statistics could change my view.
Faced with what seemed like a constant barrage of pregnant women, babies, talk about babies, I struggled to cope. I don’t really remember when things got quite so bad but on top of the low mood and tearfulness, I began experiencing extreme anxiety. All I wanted was to be isolated from everyone and everything (apart from hubby, bless him xx). I would get distressed about being anywhere where I could see or hear reminders of what we couldn’t have. Staying home, safe from potential distress, was the best option.
Eventually (I don’t remember when exactly) I was diagnosed with ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ – that sounds so much worse than simple depression. I was unable to work for a significant period of time and started taking anti depressants… I won’t go into my treatment now, it’s enough to know that I really wasn’t well.
I didn’t want to accept the label.
I clearly remember asking my doctor to write stress on my sick note, I didn’t want ‘people’ thinking I was mentally unwell. To me stress was normal, everyone had stress to some degree. But not depression… oh no, I didn’t want people to know I had that. I was ashamed that I couldn’t manage my emotions. I blamed myself (again).
At some point in time, I was well enough to return to work and subsequently to stop my meds. As far as I was concerned that was it. I was better/recovered/healed from my episode of depression and that it was a one off, a (significant) blip in life.
There was no way that I was ever going to let it happen again.
Years down the line, and yes, it happened again. I saw it coming but was powerless to stop it. I am slowly recovering from this (relentless) recurrence of depression, triggered by my cancer diagnosis and treatment.
But now, I accept the label
- I live with depression (and PTSD)*
- I will have periods of recovery and relapse
- It is a lifelong illness
But in accepting my diagnosis, I take an element of control.
I know that it’s there, I know how it works, I have a relapse prevention plan, I have strategies that will provide short term relief, I know I can ask for help, I know not to ignore it.
I’m certain that it will hang around, lurking on the sidelines, for sufficient life stress to trigger relapse. But it can no longer creep up on me or jump out from the shadows because I’m waiting… an awesome ninja/assassin/warrior and it really doesn’t want to mess with me.
* more about PTSD another time