, Almost twelve months ago, I was diagnosed with depression.
That is the first time I have ever just said it as it is, without feeling like I had to justify it. I suffer with depression.
And, let me tell you, it’s hard.
In January 2014 (I know it was the 25th because I previously liked to admonish myself with remembering the day I fell apart) I went to see the doctor. I didn’t care which one I saw, I just knew I needed to see one. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything without a waterfall of tears accompanying it. I was broken. As strong as I wanted to appear to the outside world (because, let’s face it, who likes a cry-baby?), I couldn’t put up my wall of strength any more. I’d been doing it for too long.
Initially he gave me two weeks off work for stress. He thought I just needed to take some time and see how I went. When I saw him again on February 6, 2014 – again, beating myself up with date recollection – he took the leap of asking me: “Do you think you’re depressed?”
There are some questions in this world that you just cannot answer. I couldn’t answer that one.
“How do I know if I am?” I asked him.
He looked at me, kindness in his eyes, while tears ran down my face.
“You have depression.”
You know how you watch a television show and that moment that someone is told they have cancer, that’s all they can hear? Having my doctor say the dreaded “D” word, all I heard was the echoing endlessness of depression in my head.
On one hand I was happy I had a diagnosis. SOMETHING that would prove, not only to me but to others that I wasn’t making it up; I was sick. But, then you get that unnerving pit in the bottom of your stomach. Mental illness = stigma. Judgement.
So, I did what any self-respecting coward would do. I didn’t tell anyone. Well, not anyone that didn’t need to know. My mother, some people at work, and a select few friends. But that was it. I made my mother swear she wasn’t going to say anything to anyone. No one would ever understand why. How could they?
Depression is an awful, insidious disease. It doesn’t discriminate, it just takes. It takes your ability to feel anything but, ironically, makes you feel so much; so deeply. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t suffered – and, if you haven’t, I’m so very happy for you.
I withdrew completely from my life. Not just work; from my child as well. And, as a single-mother, that’s probably one of the most awful realities of what I went through. I undoubtedly hurt my son as well. I didn’t mean to, like an alcoholic can’t avoid a drink, a drug-addict can’t avoid that next hit…I couldn’t evade the void I felt as I woke up each morning. It was just a never-ending vacuum of nothingness and I got pulled in to it every day. The thing is, I let it pull me in. I had no fight left in me.
This went on for two months. I alienated friends, found myself polarised from people in general because I couldn’t pretend to be the happy-go-lucky girl they had grown to expect. I just wanted to hide.
But then I was forced to have meetings with my workplace to organise my return to work. I used to think that climbing a mountain would be scary. Given I am petrified of heights; this isn’t as silly as it sounds. Taking that initial step back in to work, was the scariest moment of my life. And probably the best.
At the time, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I was so anxious I was shaking on the drive to work. What is a five minute drive felt like an hour and I got there half an hour early. I couldn’t peel myself out of the car.
What ensued was my meeting with the new CEO and one of the people that would change my life for the better. He could have quite easily judged me and taken the opinion that I was a trouble-maker. He didn’t. What that man saw in me were things I couldn’t bring myself to see. He saw positivity and strength; intelligence and an aptitude for things that were missing in our work environment.
Then, in to my life popped a wonderful lady; Maria Smith. I put my name down for a focus group called Career Change Happens. I didn’t know what to expect, just that I needed to do something. I was constantly doubting myself; constantly questioning my worth. I only put my name down because I thought there was no way they were going to pick me, why would they? What did I have to offer?
I was selected.
And, long story short, it changed my life. I went in to the Find Your Calling program so negative and self-loathing. When the Find Your Calling program finished, I was able to ask my doctor to take me off my medication because I felt better within myself. Maria, and all the team at CCH, gave me the strength to look into myself and see positiveness. I didn’t need to be perfect, who the hell is? I could have my faults and be ok with them. Most of all, I could feel the feelings that I had and not have to diminish them as being silly. The more I pushed my emotions down, the more the depression took hold of me.
So, now if I need to, I take a day to let myself be in the moment and feel what my mind is telling me to feel. The next day I pick myself up and I’m ok.
This won’t work for everyone, I know. Because the disease affects people in different ways. There isn’t a one-fix-cures-all type approach. Let’s face it, we’re all made differently, why would one approach be universal?
What I can tell you, categorically, is that Career Change Happens changed me. It has made me a better person and given me the tools to be a better version of me. And, I am happy to say, I have been managing my depression without medication since the end of July 2014. Yes, I have bad days and that’s ok. But, thanks to this wonderful program, I have so many better days than bad.
A single mum who devotes her life to her son. Kate is an inspiration to everyone who has been through tough times. Her insightful writing explores her own deep inner struggles that many women can relate to. She is courageous and hopes that her writing can help other women break through the barriers that hold us back, through her personal life stories.