Hi all, welcome back!
I’ve been writing for around 7 months now and this is by far the most honest thing I’ve ever written. I thought long and hard about it because once it’s written and posted, I can’t take it back.
The thing you’re not supposed to say is, “I’m depressed and I really, really need help. I can’t cope anymore.”
I can track my depression back to my early teens, years before I had any diagnosis of Lupus. I had issues with body image like most girls and I was frustrated with things I couldn’t change.
Fast forward to the 2004 and I’ve been told I have Lupus. Being told that you have an incurable illness is one of the most devastating sentences you’ll ever hear. Therefore, my low mood was completely valid.
I went to university within weeks of my diagnosis. I had no idea what Lupus was or how it would affect my life. I was living away from home for the first time and I was very ill. My illness didn’t allow for me to have the expected student experience, I was permanently exhausted and on a ton of medication.
Fast forward to 2007 and I’m back home from uni. I graduated but feel sad knowing that whilst my graduating class have all secured great jobs, I have to take this time to look after my health.
I had always been hardworking, energetic and ambitious. From an early age, I knew that I didn’t want a ‘normal’ job. I wanted to travel, I wanted to do something like travel writing or to work in advertising/music PR. I envisioned living a fast paced life and being a super independent woman. I had to give all of this up and watch as everyone I went to school with began their lives, on their terms.
I can link a lot of my depression to feeling a sense of loss for the life I have had to give up. I also became a product of my illness having gained a huge amount of weight, feeling weak and permanently ill. Being ill also made me retreat and prefer to stay home. I lost all my confidence and this is when I began noticing symptoms of anxiety.
Last month, after 11 years of pain, fatigue, chest pain with no let up, migraines, arthritis, insomnia, muscle weakness, weight gain, thousands of pills, hundreds of hours spent in waiting rooms, blood tests, frightening admissions to A&E, struggling through work, scans, x-rays, lumbar punctures, chemotherapy, immunosuppressants, therapy, aches, inflammation, pleurisy, psychois, pericarditis, respiratory problems, anxiety and depression, I had a massive breakdown. I sat alone in my living room and contemplated suicide.
(No lie, as I’ve typed this, I’ve started to feel breathless and my hands are shaking)
I called my mum and told her that I was feeling scared to be alone and she rushed over to be with me. She let me cry and kept me company until I promised that I wouldn’t do anything to harm myself. This wasn’t the first time that these thoughts have come to me. I have them frequently and the feeling will pass but something was different this time. This time was triggered by reading about Lupus and pregnancy and Lupus and miscarriage. I absolutely want to be a mother and I understand how real the possibility of miscarriage is with Lupus and it got me thinking of the challenging road ahead when you live with chronic illness. I was so angry thinking about what Lupus has already stolen and the possibility of it threatening something I so desperately want in the future.
When I went to bed that night, on the cusp of falling asleep, it was like my brain was telling me how to end my life. To this day, I’m not sure if it was psychosis or if I was dreaming but it was horrendous and so frightening. The next morning I went to see my GP and I was rushed onto antidepressants. This is the second thing you just don’t talk about.
My depression had become a part of me and a feeling that I’d become so used to. I’d accepted that it was something I would just have to live with. Some days I’d wake up already feeling sad and my days were just emotionally draining. Then there were the days where it would hit me without warning. I could be having the best time and something would switch in my mind leaving me utterly destroyed and manically depressed. Within this haze of depression, I’d lose all motivation to look after myself, actually, I’d often hate myself.
I wanted to write about this struggle because I know I’m not the only one. It’s funny how we’ll make appointments to ‘fix’ any part of us that’s injured or not working properly, but when it comes to the mind, we rarely ask for help. Now that’s crazy!
Mental illness is everywhere, we just don’t talk about it. Although I’ve decided to share my story, I feel uncomfortable for people to know what’s behind my mask. When I write these blogs, it’s for me and for you. I want to spread awareness, I want to help, I want people to feel that they aren’t alone.
Because I always smile, I’m always being told that I’m strong and believe me, when I write positive and optimistic blog posts, those are real! I don’t want people to feel duped or that I’ve been dishonest. I just haven’t had the guts to speak on this before.
I feel sick typing and looking at the word suicide. It’s such a graphic, dark, emotive word. I can only speak for myself but when I told my mum that I was contemplating it, I didn’t want to die. I DON’T want to die, I just became so desperate for the pain (physical and emotional) to stop. You get to a place that is so low and so dark that you just can’t see life getting better, you’ve lost all hope.
It’s been around 3 weeks since I’ve been taking antidepressants. It’s Bizzare. Normally, I’d have cried, felt low and been depressed during that time. I just know I would, I’ve just become so used to the routine of being optimistic, getting sick, felling pain, feeling sad and then withdrawing.
I’ve summed up the feeling of antidepressants as “Botox for the mind”, I’ve yet to feel any feelings of sadness or depression. Am I actually happy? or am I depressed under the veil of daily happy pills? It’s impossible to tell. Hence the Botox comparison!
As for now, I’m going to stay on them. I just have to be careful with how they interact with some of my pain medication.
I hope that my ramblings have been somewhat useful. I just hope that if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you seek the help you need. Friends and family are a great place to start. Depression isn’t a personality flaw, it’s a response to your struggles. I’m finally learning this myself.
Today I’m feeling a bit happier. Although I’m medicated, I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I have previously been. So far, I think I’m benefitting from that tiny white pill.
See you soon,