This post is inspired by Lisa over at Pamper and Pose. She bravely shared her story on her blog, and left the link over on the MLBO Facebook page this morning.
It’s no secret I suffered from depression.
If you have met me for coffee and asked my background, I’m open about how I started doing what I do. It’s the first time I have spoken about it on my blog though!
Depression is the most common mental health problem in the UK, and despite the fact that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience it, there is such a huge stigma surrounding it. We’re British, we don’t talk about these things… Although that is changing as more and more celebrities come forward and reveal their personal battles with mental health.
So, taking my lead from Lisa, I’m talking. If this post resonates with just one person and inspires them to get the support they need, then it’s done its job.
Depression isn’t having an off day, it isn’t feeling a bit down and trust me you can’t “pull yourself together” either. It is debilitating and affects every part of your life.
This video from The World Health Organisation made for World Mental Health Day explains it far better than I can.
I don’t know when my black dog started. I can’t put a date on it. You would think being married to someone for 16 years who suffered from depression, I would recognise the signs in myself. I didn’t.
I’ll start with when my life finally fell apart, the point when I asked for help from my doctor.
My ex, suffered from depression. He self-medicated with drink and various drugs, although I didn’t realise the drug bit till a few weeks before I threw him out. I finally did the deed, and got shut. Within the week found a repossession order for the house on my doorstep and there started an on-going battle to keep a roof over mine and my daughter’s head.
Fast forward a few months, my daughter left school and wanted to go to a college a few hours away. It meant leaving home at 16 and moving into student accommodation. I encouraged her to do the course she wanted, while inside my heart was breaking.
In the meantime my job was changing. Gone were the parts I enjoyed, (getting mucky and nagging) and I found myself micro-managed and tied to a desk. I was stressed and not dealing with it well at all. I was turning up late, phoning in sick – you know, the usual stuff when you’re not happy doing what you do.
I was sick though…
I had headaches you wouldn’t believe. I was often physically throwing up. I’d have constant “cold and flu symptoms”, aches and muscle pains. I’d break down into screaming fits if someone approached me the wrong way.
This went on for almost a year, and yet the word depression didn’t enter my head. As I was always the “strong” one, admitting that maybe I was not coping well was not an option.
I walked out of my job before they could sack me, straight into my doctor’s surgery and broke down. I was given a sick note, prescribed happy pills and another appointment a month later.
Now I was officially depressed.
Within a year, I had kicked out my hubby and lost my job. Because I was no longer working the horses had to be sold. My daughter had moved out and I only saw her at weekends. I was fighting to keep a roof over my head. Everything that defined “me” had gone.
I didn’t care
I didn’t care about anything, least of all myself.
I pushed everyone away who could see what I was doing to myself. I lied through my teeth to my parents so they wouldn’t come to visit. I lied to my doctor, I didn’t ever tell her how low I had gone.
I spent 2 years avoiding everything and everyone. My dogs got walked in the dark, usually let out for a run up the entry so I didn’t meet anyone. My shopping was bought online when I could afford it and delivered.
I was claiming incapacity benefit, it stopped after 6 months as I was “fit for work”. They based this on the fact I didn’t turn up for 2 medical examinations. I couldn’t go. Leaving the house was a challenge, getting on a bus on my own was an impossibility.
My trips out consisted of every 2 weeks to sign on and once a month to the doctor for more happy pills. My social life consisted of playing an online war game and talking with various players on Skype.
I’ve lost count of how many suicide notes I wrote. And, I am ashamed now to say it wasn’t my daughter that stopped me taking an overdose or slashing my wrists. During that time, I was convinced she no longer needed me. People needed me in a game…
That was my life for nearly 2 years.
2 years wasted because I did not get help when I first started struggling.
Then I snapped.
It suddenly came to me that I’m not just going to get better. I have to change.
I really don’t recommend it, but I stopped going the doctors and stopped taking my happy pills. They never worked anyway, but then I never told my doc exactly what I was going through.
I started writing. First my journal and then articles online. It gave me an interest and helped me get back on track. I set daily goals and ticked them off each day. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I said one was to actually get a shower and get dressed – even basic things like this were a major challenge! I discovered learning again, I could feel old me starting to show her face.
Another fast forward and we arrive in December 2010, and the search online that sparked My Local Business Online. Finally, something that gave me a buzz, something I could get my teeth into and I ENJOYED doing for the first time in years! If you have suffered from depression, you’ll know how that enjoying anything is pretty amazing 🙂
It wasn’t until February this year that I finally took full control of my black dog. I was persuaded to do a coaching course at International Coaching Academy. I still don’t know to this day how I got on a bus to Liverpool on my own and rang the bell to walk into that room full of strangers. It was a huge step!
That first day, I walked in a mouse and walked out Wonder Woman. I had faced my black dog down. I had not only realised what I had lost due to events out of my control, but also what I had thrown away because depression had taken over my life. It was hard to admit and face up to my own failings, but necessary.
For 6 years I have knowingly battled with that dog, possibly longer as I know now I was showing classic depression symptoms for years before this tale started.
He’s not dead.
I wish I could say he was!
Now, I have the knowledge to recognise Depression when he starts to creep back. I have the leash waiting and that dog is marched back to his kennel. He rarely shows his face these days. Without depression though, there would be no My Local Business Online!
If you have read this far I suspect you have battled with your own black dog. Maybe you are still struggling with him. If you are, take the lesson from this post that YOU can get back in control. Take the first step, tell someone what you are going through and get the support you need.World Mental Health Day 2012: Do You Have a Black Dog? I Do... by Jan Kearney