My first experience with depression was with post-natal depression after Michelle’s birth in my late twenties, but not until my mid forties did depression visit me again. I sank into a dark and deep depression. After 25 years, I was no longer happy working in the high-powered and stressful computer field and the onset of early Menopause was attacking my entire physical being. I bled for months with no cure. I had 2 curettes but got no cure. I was over-sensitive to any unkind comment, especially about my weight and went berserk if the kitchen was messy. My poor girls and Peter were afraid to make a sound. I would scream and shout for no reason, I spent days in the bedroom, unable to resist the magnetic pull of my bed, the safety of a dark, quiet room. I was paralysed emotionally and contemplated how many Mersyndols® would do the trick. I couldn’t lift my arms.
It may be that this experience helped prepare me for – and ultimately have a better understanding of – the bouts of depression which in time would become a debilitating part of Natasha’s life. That feeling that everything, no matter how small, is insurmountable. The smallest of tasks is huge. Get out of bed and have a shower – impossible. Unstack the dishwasher – you must be out of your mind. Call a friend or accept a phone call – can’t be done.
I felt trapped, I was trapped, I couldn’t see a way out. I could not cope with my job, with looking after my family or with life. I felt helpless and suicidal, I kept planning to jump in front of a bus. I wanted it all to end. I wanted to end it all.
Winston Churchill called this state ‘The Black Dog’ – but dogs cheer me up, especially scruffy brown Terriers. (I have 2 and their little brown faces fill my heart with joy.) I felt like one of those big bears trapped in cages in Asia, shown on the heart-wrenching ‘Cruelty to Animals’ brochures, with such sad eyes, hopeless, helpless, enslaved by the cruel world. (Bears hibernate through winter. Maybe they are depressed?) So I call my depression a Black Bear.
Peter dragged me to a new GP, (who was recommended by a friend), whose response to my personal problems was an insulting and simplistic “Can’t you quit your job?” “No, I can’t, I have a large mortgage”, I replied. “You think you have a large mortgage – I guarantee mine is bigger!” was the best consolation/medical assistance he could offer. Such compassion, such understanding. Such bed-side manner. Such professionalism.
I didn’t go to him again. I needed a correct medical diagnosis and emotional support, not backchat from a patronising git.
I tracked down the female GP whom I used to see until she left the medical surgery near us to start her own practice. Peter dragged me to her holding my hand all the way. She immediately diagnosed Clinical Depression and advised that, until I regained my mental balance, Peter should be in charge of all my decisions. (I was unable to make any rational decisions). Thank God for a sympathetic woman. She recommended that I see a Psychiatrist and prescribed anti-depressants. Three different types were tried until we found Efexor®, which turned out to be my miracle drug. The GP never gave up and I still go to her regularly and talk about my life and problems. She saw me through the crisis and I will always be grateful for her care, patience and dedication.
Years later, remembering how long and severe my period of mental instability was, I asked Peter why he stayed with me instead of opting for an easier and quieter life. He said “you were wounded and I had to look after you”. What a wonderful partner. What a lucky girl I am.
I quit my computer job and took a less demanding one in a friendlier, family environment.
The depression slowly lifted but the bleeding was only stopped by taking HRT drugs. Again, a few were tried until the right one was found. Menopause has continued for me for 7 years but now it is reduced to only the odd hot flush and occasional night sweat. I’m still taking Efexor®.
I have been to two very good psychologists, one of whom I am still seeing. She makes me calm and is teaching me to concentrate on ME, my need for time out, for peaceful times. Unfortunately, therapy is a very expensive exercise – the associated financial stress can counteract the psychological benefits. It is outrageous, misguided and socially irresponsible – not to mention economically illogical, considering the long-term cost of mental health care – that private health insurance will pay for Weight Watchers’ programs and refund the cost of Reeboks but not for mental health professionals. There are refunds for physiotherapy but no refunds from Medicare or private health insurance, for those seeking help from a psycho-analyst. Many years ago the Government closed mental health facilities and offered no alternatives. It now expects the families of the mentally-ill to provide emotional, physical and financial support.
This is a chapter from ‘The Bi-Polar Express‘ book published in 2007. Mental Health services have improved since these events.