Hi, I’m Fiona and I suffer with chronic depression. This is my story.
I have been suffering with depression from a very young age. I am constantly learning how to deal with depression, and not let the ‘up’ periods fool me into thinking I am cured. Learning an emotional toolkit is essential to help keep the darkness at bay, and constant reflection helps understand which tools work the best and when.
Depression in early years
I first remember wanting to die when I was about 12 years old, but I remember struggling with my emotions from a very young age. I always felt a strong anger towards my mum but didn’t know why. The feeling of being unloved and unwanted was always there, but I was too young to understand why I felt like this. In my early years I was very close to my grandparents (mum’s parents) and I always felt torn between them both, often more drawn to my grandparents.
Depression and Sexual Abuse
Around 1985/86 my parents moved us to a new village and closer to some of my dad’s family. This was when my abuse would start and last for 3 years until we moved again when my parents bought their first house. I didn’t understand that I was being abused in the beginning, the acts were presented to me as a game. The lightbulb moment came when I was about 8 and the person threatened to play the game with my younger sister (who was 3!) if I refused. This was the point I became very protective of her. We were/are very close, and she always followed me around. In order to protect her from being around me and this abuser I had to start being horrible to her, something that has always eaten me up inside.
At 12 I was ready to give up, I didn’t want to be alive anymore. It was that simple, as far as I could see, there was no value to me being alive. I had sexual urges that I didn’t like, I started drinking alcohol to numb my pain, and I didn’t like the new place we were living.
As I came home from school one day, I passed through the kitchen, picked up a sharp knife and went to my bedroom. As I sat the contemplating slicing my wrists, my gran came in. Knife quickly put under my pillow; she knew instantly something was wrong. She reached under the pillow and I just broke down in tears. My gran didn’t say anything, just hugged me tight, wiped my tears, and kissed the top of my head. She reminded me how much she loved me, and I was to never feel like this again.
These feelings followed me through my teenage years, numbing them with alcohol was the only thing I could do. Often, I would drink until I passed out, and by the time I was 19 I would be admitted to hospital 3 times for alcohol misuse. And if I escaped hospitalisation, I would wake up surrounded by vomit.
In 1999, I found peace when I joined the Royal Air Force. I found myself away from home, away from the memories of the abuse, away from the place I perceived to be my Achilles heel. I would continue to binge drink, but I was much happier doing it. Never again would I end up in hospital for alcohol abuse!
Over the next 20 years I would dip in and out of low periods and 2009 was the first time I went to the doctors. I had got to that low point of wanting to die again, the plan was made but I had my children to live for this time. Why 2009 though? I hadn’t felt like this since I was a teenager! In April 2009 I arrived at a RAF base in South Wales, only 30 miles from my hometown. I had also started dating my teenage sweetheart. Did these factors trigger all those memories from my childhood? The truth is, writing this post has just made me consider that maybe part of my depression is also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Third Time No-So-Lucky
So, 2019 was going to be my year! Coachella tickets bought (a dream of mine for many years), a mini road trip of California planned, my 40th birthday birthday party planned, and I started with a new team in work which I loved.
By July the big events were over, then BAM… That black cloud hit me. Friday came and I wanted to die again. This time I believed my children would be better off without me in their lives. As I sat there deleting all my social media accounts, I could feel the relief of deleting my life. If I could delete myself this easily then I could finally be at peace.
I wrote two notes, phoned my grandad to look after my daughter, and made my way to my favourite spot down a local beach in the early hours of the morning. Much to my dismay, I woke up being sick with the sun beaming down on my car. Even more disappointing for me was the arrival of the lifeguard, police helicopter, and eventually an ambulance. Help turning up wasn’t a moment of relief; I was annoyed that I was still alive. Disappointed that as well as being crap in life, I’m also crap at killing myself!!
Depression & Loved Ones
My mother and sister were the first family members to see me, they turned up at the beach and saw me as my liver was failing. I’ve never seen my mum this emotional before, and it dawned on me that maybe she does love me after all. She is much more caring towards me in general now, we’ve both realised that we show and receive ‘love’ very differently so we’ve both made an effort to understand each other. My sister and me have switch roles now, she had become my protector and we are closer than ever.
My best friend came to visit me in hospital, and I could see the disappointment in her eyes. The anger that she had lost many loved ones over the years to diseases like cancer, yet here I was willingly trying to take my own life away. She has never said those words to me, and she is one of the kindest people I know, but I can tell. She’s my best friend.
My daughter was the most affected by my actions, waking up to an empty house, a suicide note, missing car, and no idea where I was. She had the arduous task to phone around my friends and family to see if I had gone to any of them. Then she had to phone the police and explain what the situation was; 14, scared, alone, confused, and abandoned.
My son lives with his dad so wasn’t around during this event. He knows what happened, but I don’t think he understands how serious it was. Thankfully, he didn’t get to read the note, and he is open to hearing what happened. When my daughter made her first attempt, he was here then and that really shook him.
The Present Day
My daughter now has PTSD from that event nearly 2 years ago. I took her innocence away but forcing her into adulthood issues before she was ready. She has also tried to end her life twice recently and awaiting a referral for therapy.
Our relationship had changed dramatically. If I’m not in the house when I’m supposed to be, she gets anxious. She has a lot of anger that she can’t express or understand. We are on constant eggshells around each other. She is no longer my little girl
Finally, I understand myself and recognise my own symptoms. I don’t ignore them anymore, and I’m no longer ashamed to let people know that I suffer with depression. I value life more than I ever have, I love those around me much more, and I have removed toxic relationships from my life. Having down days are no longer a guilt-ridden day of beating myself up. Now I understand that ‘doing nothing’ is recovery and essential. Being open about my feelings can still feel a bit weird, but I’m learning to open up more. The usual ‘I’m OK’ responses are now honest reflections on how I really am doing! Learning the difference between depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has helped identify that my mental health also takes a dip in the winter months.
I don’t drink as much as I used to and I feel in control when I do have a few. This has helped hugely as we all know alcohol is a depressant which exacerbates negativity.
The Depressed Future
I am confident that I now have my depression under control, instead of it controlling me. I know my trigger points which I monitor and review. My toolkit is full of meditation, mindful colouring, journaling, sleep monitoring, and kindness. Accepting depression is going to be with me forever has helped me with the guilt. I am not in the constant fight to be ‘better’. It is something I will manage for the rest of my life, not battle with.
Realising I cannot fix other people has also been a huge part of ‘letting go’. I now take care of myself and fix my problems instead. Now, when I get the ‘fixing’ urge, I ask myself what needs to be fixed in my life.
I want to raise awareness about depression and how it is different for everyone. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you. It is important that you try everything a few times before deciding whether to keep it in your toolkit.
For mental health support I use MIND. There are loads of useful help sheets, signposts to other agencies, and step-by-step guides on getting the help you need.