Saturday, 26 March 2011


Re-reading my last post just made me realise how things have changed over the last ten years or so. You see, I used to dread spring.
It was this whole nature awakening, everything springing into life thing - it filled me with infinite sadness to see so much life around me, when I felt so dead and so empty inside. I was much more comfortable with autumn and winter; with decay and frozen darkness. I remember feeling surprised when I read that the suicide rate is highest in autumn - surely it should be spring? This is how it made me feel anyway; nature showing me what should be, which was such a stark contrast to how I was.
Of course, it wasn't until years later that I realised; or shall we say acknowledged, that I had a problem. No, make that A Problem with capital letters. While in my teenage years all those feelings could be passed off as teenage moodiness; and I didn't actually stick out that much, dressed in black and with my "the end is nigh" attitude as that seemed to have been quite fashionable at the time. When I was at Uni though  I noticed I was different. None of the other girls had to cover their arms up with long sleeves, even in summer. No one else had panic attacks at the thought of going to the library. It was this, eventually, that made me see The Problem.  While at first I was an excellent student and would get good grades, my inability to visit the library meant I was lacking sources of information (this was before the internet became omnipresent - how old am I??), and my coursework became more and more shoddy. I couldn't see a way around it though - entering the library would mean that people might look at me; and think that I didn't belong there. At this point I was already avoiding lots of shops and supermarkets for that same reasons, but because I still had places that were "safe" to go to I didn't feel the impact so much. This was different. So when one day, I saw a little sticker in the loos, saying "psychological help for students, by students" I thought I'd give it a try. Of course I was really scared of going but managed to suppress that by feeling superior - after all, those were psychology students; practically hippies! And how silly they looked with their corduroy trousers, long hair and John Lennon glasses! And I did smirk when I walked into the room and saw the box of Kleenex on the table - so stereotypical!
Well, 5 minutes later and I sat there sobbing my heart out, the Kleenex box half empty. The nice hippy bloke said that unfortunately he couldn't help me; that he thought I needed professional help, and he gave me the number of a Dr he knew at the local loony bin. I was horrified. Ok, so I might have A Problem, but surely I wouldn't need to see a loon doctor?
But alas, things didn't get better on their own, so at some point I made the call. Got an appointment. Saw the Dr, who I took an immediate dislike to. Kept going anyway. Saw another Dr there, who prescribed me anti-depressants. Little did I know that I'd be on those bloody things for the next three years. After half a year, Dr #1 suggested I'd be hospitalised, as she felt we weren't getting anywhere and I needed some time out to intensely focus on my Problem and get care and therapy 24/7. I was stunned by this, and of course said no. How could I? This would mean tearing down the facade I so desperately held up - of being "normal". I hadn't told anyone but my best friend that I was, er, seeing someone. But a long spell in a hospital, a few hours drive from home, would mean I'd have to tell everyone - my parents, my friends, my colleagues... I didn't think I could do it. But I did. I still remember the phone call to my Dad. It was July, they were on holiday, and I called him, already crying before he answered the phone. I was so afraid of his reaction. I knew I would disappoint him so much, I hated being such a failure. Thankfully though he was ok -not at all what I'd feared - so I guess that gave me the strength to go ahead with it. My mother was a different matter, of course, and she would refer to my stint in the hospital as either "my luxury spa break" as clearly there was nothing wrong with me and I was making it up; or she would say "I hope you'll stay in that loony bin; you're mad, you ought to be locked up!". Needless to say she never once visited me there, or called.
Phew. This isn't something I have talked about much at all, let alone recently. In fact I only talk about it if I have to. Of course, that means I had to tell the midwife at my booking in appointment, when they ask about your medical history - "Any mental illnesses?". So now I've got these big flashing reminders in my notes: "History of depression". "Self-Injuring Behaviour". "Attempted Suicide". Yes, it looks good, that does.
Although I'm pleased to say that I don't mind it much these days. I have come to peace with myself. I know that I still sometimes react irrationally; especially if someone or something triggers the old fears. But all those years of therapy have given me the tools to deal with it; and not only that, they have improved my skills of dealing with people and difficult situations in general. I have overcome my Problem, and it has made me a stronger person.
The one thing I worry about slightly is that some day, I'm going to have to tell my boys. Of course that will take another ten years or so! But one day they will notice all those silvery lines that cover my wrists and entire forearms, and they will want to know what happened. I hope that they won't judge me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you are in a different place now Anna! I am sure your boys won't judge you! I know my mother has clinical depression and some things happened in her past and I never once thought negatively about her. I've always felt proud that she was brave and smart enough to get help and to turn things around- I am sure your boys will feel the same way.