Beating the Beast


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Well, this has taken me a very long time to get around to doing. I have thought about it so much, and when I do I'm either feeling so low, thinking about it makes me feel worse, or just the act of thinking about it brings me down. But I want to share my story, so have done my best to describe my experience of depression.

My experience started at home with my parents. My mother suffered very badly from depression (was hospitalized 3 times before my 9th birthday) and my father was a psychiatric nurse.

I always struggled with self esteem issues, even as a small child. I was a nervous child - my hands began to shake when I was about 9 (or that's when I began to notice it and be highly embarrassed and aware of it). My parents split up when I was 7. I was completely numb to it all, I missed my sister (who moved with my father) more than I missed my father, who was a strict disciplinarian (slippers and belts were used as weapons). I watched my mother slip further and further into a deep depression in the year following this, which ended in her 3rd breakdown which she was hospitalized for.

The next few years were...ok. I was still a very self conscious child but I think I was reasonably happy, I think.

Things for me began to get very bad when I was about 12. This was not helped by my beginning my periods and having very bad pains from the off, with pms too. I couldn't cope with secondary school, I was scared of everything and everyone (including the other students). This was when I started to isolate myself. I took a lot of time off school and attempted suicide at the age of 14 - a failed attempt, which was undoubtedly a cry for help which was not answered. My mother made me sick with salty water and it was never mentioned again...I really just wanted my mothers attention I think as she spent many hours shut in her room (at this time she was on many different meds, including heavy tranquillizers and sleeping tablets, so she slept a lot).

Well, fast forward a few years. I got through school, passed some exams (god knows how given the amount of time I had off), and ended up in art school. I think this was probably one of the happiest times of my life. I met others who were 'misfits' in life and made some of my closest friends while there (who I still have contact with). Even though this was a good time I did still have down times and just stayed at home when I felt bad, yet never, over all this time, did I think I might be depressed...perhaps I had an idea, but had a terrible fear of ending up like my mother. When I was 17, my father left me cold, didn't have a marked effect, apart from making my angry ( I hadn't seen him since he left home as he moved the the west Indies, so I'd never spoken to him about his leaving). When I was 20 my mother was diagnosed with dementia (early onset, she was 59). I dropped out...of everything. College and anything connected with having a normal life. I had two years of excess and that was my way of hiding from reality. By the time I was 23, my body/mind couldn't take anymore. Triggered by a split with a long standing boyfriend, who I clung onto for some sense of security, I broke down. Anxiety was the biggest problem for me. I thought I was going mad and phoned the Samaritans. They were so worried about me that they asked me to come and see them at their office and from there was encouraged to see a doctor. I did and to this day I have no idea what he diagnosed me with. I just needed him to tell me I wasn’t mad and he did. I was given a small amount of diazepam, which I took reluctantly (after watching what they did to my mother I was very anti any meds). I thought then that I was ok. It was a situational episode and I wasn't mad. So, I started to try and live my life. I had a few good years but there was always a period of time when I would hide away from everything. It cycled. I knew I had a problem but as far as I was concerned I was just a 'fuck up' who needed to learn to live life as normally as possible. These thoughts led me to seek counseling when I fell pregnant with my son - I felt it was a matter of urgency that I get myself sorted out before I had my baby. I found a counselor but before I'd really got anywhere with her I had my son. I was so overwhelmingly happy when I had him that I felt I must be ok and dropped out of counseling.

After 6 months it was clear that I wasn't ok. I was crying over every little thing, very down. A friend dragged me to the doctor, who was not very helpful. That was a bad experience and it stopped me from seeking professional help again. I tried everything but. I read a lot about depression and tried various herbal/alternative ways of fighting it. I started having panic attacks when my son was about 3. I still didn't seek professional help, still struggled alone. About 6 years ago I even wrote to an agony aunt for advice! Bless her, she did reply and put me onto a self help group. I joined the group but there were no meetings in my area so I just received the newsletters. It was in one of these newsletters that I found the address of an online support group, WoM. This was nearly 3 years ago. Unfortunately the site closed very soon after I had joined but it was there for long enough for me to realize I needed to get some more serious help. I had a very bad summer that year, I think I had reached the very lowest I had ever experienced. I couldn't function and before this time I had been a 'functioning' depressive. I couldn't leave my house, my bed, I was in a bad way. My then husband (we have married since) asked me if he should phone for a doctor. He knew my feelings about doctors. I was so afraid I would be sectioned and put in a psychiatric hospital and made my husband promise that he wouldn't let this happen, I would only agree if he promised this. He did and the doctor came to my house. He was a good doctor and appeared to understand my anguish. I was given a prescription of anti depressants and some diazepam. There wasn't an immediate improvement for me and I had to go through a lot of meds before one was found that worked for me. I had bad experiences on SSRI's (he tried me on various and they all made my anxiety sky rocket), but eventually found I reacted well to the older style meds. Life has been easier since that time, but my journey is far from over. I still have periods of depression and anxiety, but the edge has been removed.

I have been on medication for nearly 3 years now, and I'm starting to think I don't want to take them anymore now. My next step is to get myself med free and have some kind of talking therapy to learn to manage without them (and resolve 'issues').

Being a member of BtB has been so good for me. Without it, I'm not sure what I would be doing now. It is good to know you're not alone.

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Revised: 04/02/05.

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