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A few years ago, I was visiting my GP when he told me that he thought I was suffering from depression. I hadn't been to work in weeks and had suffered a panic attack on my first day back. I was spending most of my days lying in bed not bothering to get up and do anything. I remember saying to him “I’m not depressed” as he handed me the prescription for antidepressants. And again to my partner when he collected them. I must have said it to myself a hundred times. I never took the antidepressants, I just sat them next to my mirror and every morning I would get up and look at them and say “I’m not depressed.”
Now though, I’m experiencing those same emotions, that same lethargic attitude to getting up and going to work. Only it’s harder because I have two small people depending on me to get out of bed and get them dressed and fed. Am I depressed? As a family we’re experiencing one of the most difficult times we've been through yet, as a couple we’re facing a horrible situation of broken trust and trying to rebuild, and on top of all of that we’re facing bankruptcy. I want to move to a new area and start again but am struggling to overcome the guilt I feel at leaving this place. My parents moved here to be closer to their grandchildren and we’ll be taking them away. One of my children has a lot of close friends and we would be taking that away from her. Would it just be escapism because we’re going through a rough patch? We’re quite heavily involved in our community and I have quite a public job so suddenly withdrawing from that would raise a lot of questions, questions we’d have to provide an answer to.
I feel as though all these things are jostling for space in my mind and I just want to clap my hands over my ears and scream “enough!”
But, what I really don’t want to do is go to my GP. I don’t want to say “I think I’m depressed” because I know they’ll prescribe me antidepressants and I don’t want to take a pill. I’m scared of what taking an antidepressant will mean for the girl who always manages to keep the plates spinning. It’s what makes me who I am, I’m the person who can always get everything done, who never has to turn anybody away because I’m always on the ball. I feel like it would be admitting defeat to need to take something to help me.
And so I’m stuck. I know, in the end, I’ll be OK because I've been here before. At one time when I was at college I didn't sleep for a week as I couldn't shut off. I left college after my exams finished, a year early. I tell everyone it was because I fell out with my history teacher which is one small part of it but I gave up the opportunity to go to university because I couldn't cope with the pressure. I spent the last few months before my exams not attending college and not being able to get out of bed. But I got over that, got a job, met my husband and life moved on.
Until we were planning our wedding, which is when I had my first panic attack and when I saw the GP. Since then, other than becoming slightly unhinged after the birth of my two children I've handled things well. I've not been back in this place. So I’m battling inner thoughts of “I know I’ll be OK because I've been OK before. I've walked this path and I've come out the other side.
But I also know that if I were reading this about someone else I would tell them that they needed to get help. That these are the ramblings of a woman who needs to talk to someone.
So I guess I’m putting this out there because I want to hear from other people who've admitted they need help. I am, honestly, the kind of person who worries about the words that they will use to explain something. What do I say to my GP? She’s quite a hard woman and I don’t want to have to convince her that I’m depressed, but do I just come out and say it? What will that mean for my children, for my job?
And this is where I get stuck, because I don’t want to lose any of the things I've worked so hard to build up. I told someone recently about our personal struggles and we suffered hard repercussions. My experience in life has taught me that telling people things about yourself makes you vulnerable and people will expose that vulnerability. So I mostly want to know how to sort this out behind closed doors, without telling anyone. But I’m running out of options. I can’t explain to my two children why mummy doesn't want to play, or why she hasn’t made the tea until daddy gets home which is really when it should be bedtime. Or explain to my boss why I’m calling in sick again with a migraine but really it’s a stress headache linked to the fact that I haven’t slept properly in a month. Or help my husband to understand why I’m crying down the phone because he told me to make the dinner in a saucepan and I don’t want to make it in a saucepan, I want to use my casserole dish.
I suppose this is the time when I wave my little flag that reads “help”.