Having had a week with barely anything to say here, I now find my burning issue – mental health. This is mainly due to the news of the untimely death of Amy Winehouse, which has seen her battles with depression and addictions get picked over by the traditional media ( and by all-and-sundry on various social media outlets ) with alarming alacrity. But there have been other instances where mental health issues, including depression, have been mentioned – like the initiative to promote mental health awareness in rugby league.
It’s as though everyone who’s had a negative opinion about Ms. Winehouse has been waiting for this moment to happen so they can wade in with ill-timed and poorly judged comments about her life. Ms. Winehouse had her problems with addictions too. I don’t and haven’t. I don’t feel I can speak about this intelligently and I’m certainly not going to guess. But it’s the danger of the stark scrutiny of a sufferer’s life and lifestyle that makes those affected by depression shy away from revealing that they have problems. And that they need help. It’s the fear that you’ll be mocked, ridiculed, or worse that stops you from saying something to even the most trusted among your family and friends. It’s the assumption that no-one will understand what you’re talking about and will trivialize it or ostracise you that keeps you quiet. I have my own experiences with depression. I believe this is a common theme with carers. The pressures and stresses of being a carer can make life impossible to bear. Even now, until this post exposes me, I’ve tended to keep quiet about my “dirty little secret”. I find it embarrassing to discuss – shameful even – because I don’t know what kind of reception I’ll receive when I open up.
I wrote about the forms PHQ9 and GAD7 in my post “Wait! What? What Just Happened…..?” . I fill one of these forms in every couple of weeks or so. Depression has blighted my life at various points in my life. I’ve had feelings of very low self-worth from being a kid, but had no idea what it was or where they came from. I was classed by my ( then ) GP as being “highly strung” ( whatever that means ). About 10 years ago, I was in an abusive relationship and was desperate for a way out. But I didn’t want to fight violence with violence which made my frustration with life (and depression) worse. And now, as a carer, I am struck with depression again. I know the feeling of being so utterly despondent that the idea of committing suicide becomes appealing. That my life is completely empty with no hope of ever having anything to look forward to. That I’m a total failure at everything and therefore not deserving of the good things that other people seem to take for granted in their lives. That it would be better for everyone if I was no longer here. These are not the transient thoughts and feelings of someone who’s a bit sad. They’re the result of sleepless nights. Thinking about your life and its problems over and over again and reaching some very dark conclusions. I’ve felt like crying in the most inappropriate places, at the most inappropriate times.
It wasn’t until directly after my first panic attack – that I wrote about a while ago – that I started getting help. Thanks to two GPs, my previous one and my current one, I’ve been able to open up about it all. I’ve now been taking anti-depressants for 4 years. I’ve had some counselling sessions and I’m waiting for an appointment for more. But the catalyst for me to realise the severity of what I was feeling was being able to talk to someone openly. Someone who wasn’t going to tell me to “pull myself together”. Someone who wasn’t going to pick my life apart and make sweeping judgements about me. I hope, now you’ve read this, that you don’t think of me any differently now you know my “dirty little secret”. Because, to be able to reach out for help with a peace of mind, sufferers need other people to have an OPEN mind. Depression can affect ANYONE. Without this understanding, I fear there will be more untimely deaths. And that would indeed be a tragedy.