This post discusses mental health in detail, including depression and suicide.
Miscarriage is also mentioned.
So, last night I was sat at my laptop all ready to send over my blog to be published and I happened to have a look on my phone and saw a friend of mine had reposted an article by The Mighty*. It discussed the recent death of Swedish EDM DJ Avicci, real name Tim Bergling who died on the 20th of April, aged just 28. His family released a statement which included that he had been struggling with mental health. It later emerged he had committed suicide.
And now here I am, hours before my deadline, writing a whole new post. Why? Because, I too suffer with mental illness, I have friends who suffer, and yet, unless there is a “news worthy” post it’s something that is very rarely talked about on main stream media. It is still a “taboo”, something that even who people who suffer themselves struggle to talk openly about. So maybe, one little blog post and article at a time we can make big changes in the way mental illness is perceived in mainstream society.
My own mental illness is complex; it’s an issue I hope to cover in a series of blog posts for Freddie Fox & Co.
Today I’m going to begin with Avicci, my own suicidal thoughts, and how I hope that maybe, just maybe, by me writing this blog, it may be seen by just the right person, at just the right time, and that person will stop and take a breath, understand that what that there is hope, and help, a hand in the dark to pull them back into the light.
1 in 4 people in the UK suffer a form of depression**, it’s an awful illness; it eats away at the very core of your personality.
I suppose the first time I experienced depression was in my mid-teens, of course back then I had no idea what it was or that “it” had a name. I remember feeling thoughts of such self-loathing, I had regular suicidal thoughts and I self-harmed. To others around me, including my family, I was just moody, awful to be around. I buried that part of me the best I could and learned how to cover it, I would put on my best smile and learned to become the joker, the centre of attention. It is a mask I began to calve, and one I still carry to this day.
My first “big” episode happened in my very late teens, I had recently broken up with an on again off again boyfriend, the kind most of us have, when one morning I woke up to a pool of blood. It was what turned out to be, my first of many, miscarriages. Although completely accidental and unplanned the sense of loss hit me like a grenade, it was the first time I seriously considered ending my life. Although I was too afraid to speak with anyone within my family, I had the sense to speak to a work friend who took me to my GP and from there began my journey of anti-depressants.
Over the years it again reared its ugly head, usually after a stressful event. I would go to the GP, start taking anti-depressants, start to feel better again and stop taking them. And so the cycle continued.
In 2005 I gave birth to my son. My post natal depression was so bad it resulted in psychosis with auditory hallucinations. Again, I was able to put on this mask I had so carefully been calving for myself over the years, hiding the worst of it from my now husband. Behind the mask I was a mess, fantasising about how I was going to end my life, then feeling awful for feeling the way I did, going round and round in circles driving myself crazy. Eventually, it subsided, I went to the GP, had some more of the "happy pills". And life continued with its ups and downs.
The next big event, I still find hard to talk about to this day, I’m sure in blogs to come it will be covered in more depth, it deserves it. I feel like those of you reading this are taking in a huge breath with me. I had another miscarriage. Only this wasn’t a normal “miscarriage”, unaware I was pregnant I had a huge bleed and was rushed to hospital. A scan confirmed the pregnancy, but then there was the moment when the sonographer left the room and the nurse came in. What was said, medical terms, complex, I cried, a lot, the baby would not make it to term, there were risks involved, a family history. I had a decision to make though, and I made it. I don’t regret it, but the guilt I felt was unimaginable. This was the one time I came as close to suicide as I did. The guilt consumed me. If not for my family I honestly don’t think I would be here writing this today.
In late 2012 with the stress of planning a wedding, and a huge fall out within my close family unit I hit breaking point. I completely fell apart. My life around me shattered into a thousand pieces. I was taken to the GP by a family member, this time it was different. I was referred to a Psychiatrist, I saw a psychologist, had counselling, it was the beginning of a long process to a diagnosis. One I’m still working on to this very day.
The most important thing I have learned though is that that having suicidal fantasies, something I do regulary, is normal with mental illness, especially with depression. What isn’t normal is when those fantasies become plans and then those plans start to become an action, that is when you need to stop and seek help.
For those of you reading this that don’t have depression, who have never suffered with mental illness this can be a confusing read, you may find it hard to understand, most people will go through periods of feeling down. There may even be those of you that don’t think depression is “real”. Just because you can’t actually “see” what’s wrong with someone does not make it any less real.
Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a real illness with real symptoms. The good news is that most people with the right treatment can make a full recovery.***
When you are depressed, you are not you, it robs you of your core identity. You fall into a pit of darkness. It’s not just being “sad”, sadness is an emotion, like happiness. You cannot force yourself to be happy, depression is an illness, and your brain actually changes. Personally I feel like I’m turning into greyscale, that I’m losing my colour, fading away. That is what my illustration shows.
I’m very good a putting on my well-made mask, others are not and here are some of the signs to look out for if you think you, or someone close to you may be suffering with depression.
· Disturbed sleep pattern, sleeping more during the day, not wanting to get up.
· Lack of energy or enjoyment in daily life.
· Finding it difficult to make decisions.
· Lack of motivation.
· Being tearful.
· Self-harming or thoughts of self-harming.
· Becoming isolated.
· Continuous low mood, becoming “snappy”.
Find out more at www.nhs.uk
So, how can you help someone who is feeling depressed? There is no right or wrong answer here, www.mind.org have some brilliant suggestions but I can only say what helped with me.
I’m a complex case. I’m very good at hiding how I’m really feeling, because of that it’s the small things that helped me most during my darkest times. My friends messaging me, sometimes every day, even though I rarely returned one back, just the thought of having someone there “keeping in touch” made a difference. Knowing when to give me space, I have a fuse the size of a pin head. My family and friends have learned when to interact, and be open about what they are witnessing, and when to back down because they know they will make things worse. Having my personal space is important to me. The most important advice I can give is not to be critical, when a person is feeling very low they are often very harsh towards themselves already. Although it can be hard to understand why someone can’t just “snap out of it”, it can be frustrating but try not to put too much blame or pressure on them, try and be sympathetic to how they are feeling.
Going back to the article that began this, published on The Mighty*, when suicide is mentioned in the media it is often described in the most graphic and disrespectful way possible. We should not be glorifying suicide whilst disrespecting the victim and their family.
The most important thing I have learned though is that that having suicidal fantasies, something I do regularly, is normal with mental illness, especially with depression. What isn’t normal is when those fantasies become plans and then those plans start to become an action, that is when you need to stop and seek help.
We need to take this subject and talk about it open and honestly, the “why” and not the “How”, this can be a great way to reach others that may be struggling. We need to regularly share articles and blogs that discuss mental illness. Each time you do this you are making the subject less “taboo” and are making it more “normal”.
Although I have my own illness to contend with, I will, every day, fight like crazy to normalise mental illness. I have no “magic pill” as such to make myself better, to stop these thoughts that plague my brain, I have my good days, I have my bad days, but I plan on taking one day, hour, minute, second if I have to, at a time!
I don't plan on ever losing my rainbow again, but if I do, I know I have an amazing (and sometimes adorable, as seen below) husband, supportive friends and family. And not forgetting my amazing MamaGang, non more so than the amazing group of Mama's I have come to know as my Freddie Fox Family.
Places to call if you feel you need help:
SAMARITANS 116123 24 hour helpline www.samaritans.org.uk
SANE SAFEline 03003047000 4.30-10.30pm Textcare- comfort via text when a person needs it most www.sane.org.uk/textcare
RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS support 03005000927 mon-fri 9.30-4 www.rethink.org.uk