I was 22 when I was diagnosed. I think the
diagnosis was as much a shock to my system as the actual
depression was. My doctor classified my depression as reactive and not
genetic- in other words my illness has surfaced because of things that
had happened to me and was not an acute part of who I was.
I remember it all came to a head about 6 months
after the first symptoms appeared. During those first few months I had
plenty going on in my life that I could blame my unhappiness on- my
Mum was sick, I was doing my finals for my degree, my relationship was
strained. But one day I realised that enough was enough. I was
chronically unhappy. I knew there was something wrong and I wanted to
do something about it.
I remember walking to the doctorís clinic and
thinking to myself- I wonder will she diagnose me with depression?
Nah, thereís no way this is that serious. But even if it is, maybe I
can get some tablets and Iíll get better really soon.
And so the diagnosis was made. I donít think I
really believed it at first, and certainly my parents didnít. I think
they thought I was just Ďdowní, and were hoping the doc would slip me
some valium and Iíd perk up in no time. None
of us took it that seriously, and when the doctor said Iíd need to
take medication long-term I decided against it- who wants to have to
pop pills every day?
But a couple of weeks later it was worse, and the
medication began. Describing the feelings behind depression is so
hard. I remember trying to describe it to my Mum, and the only phrase
I could come up with to come even remotely near what I was feeling was
ĎI canít see the wood for the treesí. In other words, my whole body,
my whole being, was consumed by the unhappiness I was feeling. It was
a dull, aching sadness that crept over my body as soon as I woke up.
Crying was all I could do. I couldnít give a reason for it, and found
myself searching for excuses to be upset. My relationship faltered and
eventually ended. I couldnít handle the effort of existing, let alone
being with someone.
The very day I was diagnosed I sat with friends in
a cafť. For some reason the topic of depression came up and I remember
one of them saying Ďthat whole depression thing is such a load of
nonsense- people should just pull themselves together and move oní.
WowÖ talk about being hit in the head with a lump hammer. The thing
was, I think I was a subscriber to a similar train of thought before
my diagnosis. It took me a long time to understand that depression is
a physiological condition- itís beyond our control, and is a physical
thing. We feel sad because of whatís going on in our body chemistry. I
think that was one of the hardest things to come to terms with.
Unfortunately the pain didnít stop there. After the
initial diagnosis, I looked at the whole situation as a sort of
novelty. Oooh, Iím depressed, Iíll take some tablets, get better and
have something interesting to talk about at parties. But that was just
it. Instead of getting better, I got worse. I didnít realise that to
get to the root of my depression, I had to get to the root of the
problems behind it. In the meantime, I think the novelty factor wore
off for everyone around me too. They kind of stopped tip-toeing around
me and life went on. Six months after the diagnosis I hit rock bottom.
I couldnít physically take any more. I couldnít take the despair, the
loneliness, the guilt, the whole, horrible, raw, tearing pain. I
really didnít think it could ever get better. After spending a
night in hospital, I went to see my doctor again. Thankfully I have an
incredibly understanding, patient, caring doctor who has a good
knowledge of mental health issues. She said something to me that will
always stick with me, particularly because I now realise just how true
it is- the darkest hour is the one just before dawn.
And thatís just how it was. Having hit the bottom I
slowly began to climb back up. For me, that smash into the very bottom
of the pit brought a lot of the problems to light, and with the help
of a therapist, we talked through a lot of what brought it on in the
Itís never been easy. So far itís taken three
medication changes, visits to the doctor every two months, six months
of therapy and an endless supply of love and understanding from my
friends and family to get where I am. Iím still not 100%, but Iím well
on my way. I still get down, I still have bad days, but at least now I
understand them. I accept that Iím not doing so well and I move on. I
know itíll pass. Being part of the BtB has been incredibly important
to me. I think just talking to other people who could totally and
completely understand where I was coming from was a big factor in
accepting this condition. And so, the next step is to keep on moving.
Itís a rocky road, and sometimes the path goes a little backward, but
eventually Iíll get there. And actually, Iím kind of proud of myself