Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. A day to raise awareness of mental illnesses, a day to speak out about the stigma associated with suffering from a disease such as depression. Because that’s what it is, a disease. It is a very real, very physical issue that, according to several sites, affects more than 350 MILLION people world wide. That is a massive number.
Depression is something you can’t completely comprehend until you have experienced it first hand, possibly second hand. I know, because I didn’t get it at all. I thought people could “just snap out of it.” I didn’t understand how someone who had been given so many blessings could be depressed about it.
Then I had my son, and after 18 months of mental suffering, was diagnosed with post partum depression. It was then that I finally realised depression is physical. My brain function was practically non existent. I couldn’t sleep, I was miserable, I couldn’t cope with daily activities. I counted the minutes until help (either my mum or my husband) were due to come home. I wondered, every morning, “How will I get through this day?”
I thought what I was feeling was normal for new mums. Later, I thought what I was feeling was normal for mums who never got more than 3 hours sleep at a time. Finally, when the Dr asked me how long I’d been feeling like this, and I responded, “I don’t remember NOT feeling like this,” I felt like all the alarm bells went off. After 6 months on a low dose antidepressant, I felt ok again. After just the first 10 days of taking it I was a new woman. I felt like the weight of the world had lifted from my shoulders. The fog had cleared.
I didn’t feel like I had many people who truly understood what I was going through. “What do you need drugs for? Just get more sun and exercise” or “Just be careful on those things, they can be addictive and ruin your life” or “You don’t want to be on them for too long” were some of the comments I got from people. From people who had no idea what I was feeling.
There is no shame in depression. There is no shame in asking for help. There is no shame in trying/using/needing medication to help you think clearly. There is NO SHAME.
For me, the tricky part with depression is wondering if you are in it or not. Once you’ve been diagnosed, it feels like it is always there, waiting to creep back in again. Something makes you upset and you question whether you’re really upset or if you’ve slipped back into a depressive state. I think, at last for me, the key is in how long I feel low. It’s normal to be sad or upset about certain things. When my dad died it was hard to tell the line between mourning and depression. Dealing with secondary infertility it sometimes feels like there’s a fine line between longing and depression.
I know that the antidepressants was what I needed to get me through that period in my life. I know they helped. For that I am grateful. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to come through the other side in such a short period of time as I did. For that, I am grateful. For the doctor who finally asked the right questions, who listened to my answers and who diagnosed me with PPD, I am grateful. For people who truly understood, who had no judgement, just support and love, I am eternally grateful. For the true happiness I feel today, I am so very, very grateful.
Nicking this list of numbers from Daisy who nicked it from Gemma. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, depression, or just flat out not coping. Please seek help. You don’t have to suffer in silence, and you don’t have to suffer alone.
* beyondblue info line (National) – 1300 22 4636
* Lifeline (National) – 13 11 14
* Just Ask Rural Mental Health Information & Referral Line (National) – 1300 13 11 14
* SANE Australia Helpline (National) – 1800 187 263
* Suicide Helpline – 1300 651 251
* Mensline (National) – 1300 789 978
* Australian Psychological Society Referral Line (National) 1800 333 497
* Mental Health Information Service (NSW) – 1300 794 991
* Kids Helpline (National) – 1800 551 800
Linking up for Kate’s Thankful Thursday.