As a person who suffers with chronic depression and anxiety I have been deeply affected by the loss of Charlotte Dawson this week. Her friends and workmates need to know there was no ‘knowing’ that there was anything ‘wrong’. We sufferers are great actors. We put on a face that we think others want to see. We are usually jovial, fun loving and funny, poking fun at ourselves and others to hide the pain inside. There are of course days where this is not possible and for me those days are the days I hide myself away from the world and try to heal myself with peace.
Depression is very complex, there’s never one particular trigger, it may be several and not everyone with depression gets suicidal. Suicide is not something a sufferer takes any great time in reasoning with; you may have fleeting thoughts that this would be a way out but then slowly one little thing after another gets on top of you to a point where you are drowning in your thoughts. There is a very fine line between life and death and suicide is a split second decision of will I or wont I? Trouble is when you decide yes I will, it’s usually too late to turn back. For poor Charlotte it looks like she was trying to live a life of ‘what others would expect’ hoping that things would turn around for her. But there comes a time when you get so tired of putting on ‘the happy face’. When things just get too hard.
Depression is not just a word to be bandied about and unless you’ve had it, have it or have lived with someone with depression you will NEVER understand it truly. It’s not something you can just snap out of, it’s something you have literally no control of. Even with medication and experts to help you the big D never leaves you alone!
I personally have forgotten what real happiness feels like. I just keep putting on the brave face and hope beyond hope each day that I find reasons to stay on this earth. It’s a battle. I too have a loving family and people that love me, but unless you truly believe in yourself, love yourself, none of that makes the slightest bit of difference when you’re at the bottom of the black well.
Some believe that suicide is a cowardly, selfish act. If you feel that way then you have never been (and I hope you never do) that low where you believe everyone would be better off without you. It’s an act that happens when you feel there is absolutely no hope, an act when you become so weary of ‘trying’ that it becomes an answer to all your perceived problems. Perhaps with some it’s not even really about them in particular, it’s about how much they love their family and friends. You could argue if you loved your family you wouldn’t do it, but when I attempted this act (more than once) it was done out of love for my family, for they would then no longer have to suffer alongside me, they could grieve a little then get on with their lives and not have the constant worry of me and how I was feeling, it would be over for all of us.
Depression takes away the ability to feel happy. You can’t concentrate. You can’t sleep. You have very little if any drive left. You feel like curling up in a ball and hiding from the world. You take less and less care of yourself. You forget what makes you happy, for me, that was sewing and stitching. I became so depressed all I could do was sit and stare. The road to recovery started with a plan as simple as 1. Get out of bed. 2. Have a shower and get dressed. 3. Make breakfast and that was it for the day. If I could make it through those 3 steps then I had at least achieved something in the day.
When asked what makes you happy? What do you like to do? If you could do anything what would it be? I had no clue. I had forgotten what made me happy. I knew something was wrong because I had no inclination to pick up a needle and thread.
It affects others where they will go and spend, spend, spend, trying to fill a void inside. Others become too afraid to leave home. There are so many aspects to this illness. These are just a few.
For those that have lost family or friends through depression you have to realise there was NOTHING you could have done to prevent it. For Charlotte Dawson, she was the one in control, she was the one that had to learn to love herself enough to realise she was a valued member of society and that she mattered. For those left behind it’s hard to fathom how someone could think killing themselves was the answer, but you have to remember, the sufferer is not in a place where thinking rationally is a happening thing. I guess for those left behind you would be angry both at yourselves and at the person who you have lost. But for whatever reason the sufferer is no longer suffering. It was their one and only way to stop the pain of life itself!
Again, we’re not talking about someone being a bit ‘down’, everyone gets down at some point. Depression is the DEEPEST down there is, it swallows you up and paralyses you mentally and physically.
I continue my fight daily and as you may tell through this blog the news of Charlotte’s passing has profoundly affected me even though I didn’t know her other than her appearances on TV. I look at Charlotte and feel she was so beautiful, she had fame and she had what looked like a great life, but that’s only what she allowed us to see. I wondered how could someone like her feel similar to the way I do, then I looked into her eyes and see she’s just like me, pretending. She was trying to live life until she just couldn’t try anymore. This was no one’s fault, not even Charlottes, it’s an illness, but it’s not an illness that’s recognised like cancer and the like, no matter how many advertisements there are on TV, there’s still a stigma attached and as a sufferer you know it.
The R U Okay campaign sounds like a great idea. It may help others feel like they are doing something to help but in truth if you ask someone with depression – Are you okay mate? The person with depression is going to smile and say ‘yeah I’m fine’ and as a non-professional how are you really going to know? Only the professionals can see through the façade. More money needs to be allotted to mental health care, it needs to be taken as seriously as cancer, as it can certainly take your life as quick as any of the other diseases we raise money for.
I’m sorry this is such a ‘down’ blog this week. But as I said Charlottes death deeply affected me in a week where I was already particularly struggling. I’m not looking for sympathy, far from it. I guess awareness and understanding of the big D is the aim.
I have so much to be grateful for and I am believe me. But the ‘black dog’ of depression hangs constantly over my life and of those around me. It has seen friendships diminish and some end as it totally wears down your friends and family. So hence you tend to keep yourself and your thoughts to yourself, not wanting to bother anyone else and this is where the problem emulates. It’s a vicious cycle. There are ups and downs and there are okay days, I hope for more okay days.
I hope if you read this and feel you need help that you will talk to your local doctor and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist, I know there is a stigma attached, but these doctors are the best. They have the ability to listen without judgment. They have spent years studying mental health. They care about what happens to you. They have the ability to prescribe medication that is specific to your needs, so you’re not trying this or trying that like a guinea pig. I have great faith in them. Mind you, you have to find one that you’re comfortable with. I’ve been very lucky both in Adelaide and now in the Riverland to have found wonderful doctors. Their ongoing care is essential to my wellbeing and I believe that I will be okay. Maybe there is no cure, I believe my mental illness is hereditary, for others it may have started with abuse or a traumatic event. But I’m happy just to believe that with help I can live to see my grandchildren grow up and that is what will bring me happiness.
Again, I’m sorry for the ‘down’ blog, Darren just said it’s a bit personal isn’t it. My answer was yes, but people need to know, otherwise we go on hiding something that needs to be outed. I’m no longer ashamed of having an illness, I want to fight and talking openly is a great start.
Till next time
Love and hugs to all who bother to read this.