I know I have touched on my battle with depression in a post here and there. And it was the reason behind my 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. But now I want to give you the full story and how I have treated it in the past and how I am going to treat it in the future. And if you are a sufferer of this sometimes debilitating mental illness maybe you can get some ideas on how to move forward with a life less medicated as well.
Be prepared, this will be a long, possibly rambling post.. I will start with my past.
I have lived with depression since I was about 15 years old. Unfortunately my black moods went past teen angst into the depths of self harm and contemplating suicide. Thinking back to that time it just feels like I lived my life with a veil of darkness over everything I did and everything I felt. It went on that way for a few years until I got out of high school and went straight into office work and found my passion for traveling.
Traveling gave me something to work towards and an enjoyment in something that I had never felt before. So for a few years I had a reprieve from the black hole I had lived in. I travelled to New Zealand, UK and Europe and the United States and was about to start a working Visa in the UK when I met someone. I was almost 25 by this time and had never had a serious relationship, I prefered my company. Another symptom of my depression was my inability to socialize when I was having a down day/s. So it was just easier on my own.
So this relationship was always going to be more difficult than most because it was my first with another female. And the first for her as well. I liked her as a person, I didn’t care that her gender was the same as mine, something about her called to me on a deeper level. But it was tough, she was immature and I had no experience with relationships and those that know the difficulties of same-sex relationships know that in itself is hard.
We were too embarrassed to hold hands in public and she would not even tell her friends or family that we were more than just friends. In fact the relationship had me so stressed out that I started having panic attacks for the first time in my life. But the harder I tried to make it work the more it fell apart and it eventually came to a painful end after 6 months.
It was my first heartbreak and it hit me hard. I was enrolled in tertiary education and only had a month of study left but I withdrew from all classes, I had no job and was living at home with my parents. I fell into a pit of despair so deep that I didn’t leave my room or my bed unless it was to go to a job interview. After a month I got a job, I don’t know how as I am sure I was a mess for most of my interviews.
But I impressed someone and so I threw myself into my new job and picked myself back up again. Later that year I got back into contact with people I hadn’t spoken to since school because after a taste of what it was like to be in a relationship I couldn’t stand being on my own any more.
And it was at this time I met the man who would be my husband. Well, re-met as we both went to high school together. I still had no idea how to be in a relationship. Being around someone when I was having a down day was difficult and until this time I had told no-one, not even my parents, that I suffered from depression. After a few huge fights and what I can only assume would be erratic and horribly rude behaviour from myself, I had to explain to my boyfriend why I acted the way I acted.
This time I knew it was true love and I didn’t want to mess up the best thing that had ever happened to me. Talking about it for the first time was the hardest thing I had ever done. That stigma surrounding mental illness is a strong and powerful thing and I would sometimes prefer people think I am just plain crazy than them know that I have depression.
Being in a relationship is hard work even without depression but it feels some much harder when you do. I still had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t want to talk to anyone. I would call in sick to work just because I couldn’t handle being there and functioning. But having someone who is supportive and loving despite your short-comings is a blessing.
So this brings us to a couple of years after my husband and I got married. We decided to have children. I was desperate for kids and by the time we finally started trying it was all I could think about and I remember saying to my husband fairly early in our relationship that I was going to have trouble falling pregnant and when he asked why, I couldn’t say. I had no idea why, I just knew. And it turns out it was going to trouble as after a couple of months of no success I went to the doctor only to be told I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It was a massive blow, even though I knew deep in my heart that something wasn’t right, deep enough to send me running for antidepressants for the first time in my battle with depression.
I wanted to have a child so bad that I couldn’t handle being told that it was going to take a while or need medical intervention (IVF) that my husband and I possibly could not afford. So even while we still were trying to have a baby I was on antidepressants. It is not something that I am proud of as I know having a baby while on antidepressants is not good. My doctor and I both agreed that it was in the best interest of the baby we were trying to make and myself that I was of sound mind as well as body. In the end it took us 11 months to have a baby after a lot of examinations, medication, taking my temperature everyday..
That time really took it out of me emotionally. But I had a beautiful healthy baby boy and he was a happy, easy-going baby and I felt more like myself again. So about 8 months after he was born I came off antidepressants as I hadn’t developed Post Natal Depression (PND) and was coping with motherhood fairly well considering. It did help that our bubs was an absolute dream baby!
Then there were two
When big bubs was a year old we started thinking about having another baby. I wanted them all done and out of the way while my husband and I were still relatively young. But it was at this time that my big boy started showing his temper. And I was struggling to control him as I was already back as work. So we started to think having a second baby wouldn’t be good for me in particular because of my unstable mental health. But life works in mysterious ways and we fell pregnant without even really trying after the first month.
And this marks the beginning of one of the most stressful and depression filled times in my life. Our second boy was the complete opposite of our first, the pregnancy was a horror from start to the early finish at 34 weeks. 6 weeks before that at 28 weeks my waters broke. I was admitted into hospital over Christmas as the likelihood of having a baby after your water broke was extremely high in the first 7 days. Nothing happened so I was allowed to be discharged and go home on the proviso that I take it very, very easy. I leaked amniotic fluid almost every time I stood up so there wasn’t much of a chance that I would be doing much.
But with a husband who needed to work and a 21 month old toddler who wanted his mummy it was the roughest 6 weeks of my life. My husband and I were at each others throats almost constantly because we were both so stressed. I honestly felt like we were on the verge of divorce. When it was finally decided by the doctors that bubs needed to come out I was not ready mentally to give birth. I was proud of myself for not needed pain relief during my first labour and delivery. That was not to be the second time around. I have heard being induced is intense but you could do it without pain relief. I could not.
He was born early but fairly healthy considering his early release. But he still had to spend 3 weeks in special care. And once again it was a truly difficult time, it was great not to be leaking amniotic fluid every time I moved but still stressful. My big boy was struggling with being passed here, there and everywhere so that I could spend every spare minute at the hospital and my marriage still was on the rocks.
THEN when little bubs came home he just would not sleep! I could not get any more than 20 minutes at a time during the day and a few hour stints over night. With a toddler and an abysmal milk supply (thanks PCOS) at the end of a super stressful pregnancy… Nope! I couldn’t take any more and went straight back onto antidepressants as I knew being already a sufferer of depression that I had developed PND. My life felt like it was snowballing out of control and I was talking everyone down with me. I contemplated suicide. Not in the very real sense of looking around for something to actually do the job, but I just kept thinking that my family would be better off without me.
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My battle with depression..
And that brings us to today.
So that’s my story, nothing terrible, no dark secrets to call for the black hole I sometimes fall in. I live a fairly normal life with the ups and downs that everyone experiences. But for some reason my downs are REALLY down. That’s depression. It has no rhyme or reason it just exists somewhere in my brain trying to sabotage my happiness. It’s a constant battle to overcome the darkness trying to drag me down. And for years and years I just dealt with it, until I couldn’t any more and I took the embarrassing path of taking medication. I felt like a complete failure when I turned to antidepressants. Deep down inside though I knew it was in the best interest of my children and myself.
I am now ready to move on from medication, I survived little bubs first year (barely) and I feel like I’m on a somewhat even keel. Motherhood is never going to be smooth sailing but it is something I am getting used to and I love my family so I do whatever it takes to make them happy. And in turn make myself happy.
What am I doing now?
I am in the process of transitioning off antidepressants, which is no fun, and I am thinking about ways to handle my depression in a natural way. It’s one of the main reasons I started my organic journey. I didn’t want to be reliant on medication anymore and knew that a more natural way of living would be how I deal with my depression.
From next week I will post once a week about my other methods of dealing with depression starting with eating more whole foods and how having a healthy diet helps kick depression up the ass.
If you suffer from depression and are on antidepressants I hope you never feel embarrassed or a failure like I did. It’s not failing when you are doing what you need to do to have a healthy mental state. I have realised that now. It was a step I took to get me where I am today and that’s in a better and healthier mindset and ready to move on from them and try different alternatives. When you are ready to not need medication any more I hope you will come back to my posts and give some of my natural alternatives a try.
I hope my story wasn’t too long and you have made it this far. I really hope that anyone who wages war with depression always remembers to keep fighting. No amount of black holes and down days are worth the alternative…
I will leave you with a few positive thoughts that always keep things in perspective for me. Remember to check back next week for my post on eating whole foods and cutting down on fats and sugars (depression’s evil henchmen)!