We can never talk too much about depression. One in every five people will experience depression- that could be you, it could be your partner, child or parent, and it could be a colleague at work. 1 in 5 people include doctors, psychologists, lawyers, and celebrities, ministers of religion, teachers and counsellors. Knowledge, social status, a particular culture, success nor even a particular faith or religion safeguards a person from depression. Depression is no respecter of persons.
I have experienced depression.
I was diagnosed with severe depression 23 years ago. At the time I was a minister of religion, wife and young mother of twin daughters when, having tried desperately (and frequently failing) to keep up the image of a strong, competent and successful leader, wife and mother, my body gave up on me and I collapsed.
I didn’t hear voices or experience hallucination. At the core of my experience I was just sad, perpetually sad, a deep sadness that no amount of positive thinking or encouragement from well meaning, good intentioned people could shift. I could not even muster my facial muscles into the position of a smile, I lost it somewhere.
I retreated inside myself so that I observed life around me but I had checked out. Life really didn’t register anymore. I just went through the routine each day until even that became impossible. I relied upon the understanding and support of my husband, a good G.P. and a supportive counselling professional. There were testing times for my marriage- my husband frequently felt angry and unsupported himself. Ultimately what got me through was the Counselling Professional whose unfailing support, empathy and knowledge guided me in the direction of healing.
Until I understood what depression was, I felt deeply shamed – shamed that I was apparently failing at life, shamed that I couldn’t even look after my children let alone carry off a job!
Depression crippled my self-belief so that I wanted to simply hide away. And I did for a while – I left behind the profession (minister of religion) I had held so dear, left a community of people who shared my former ideals. It took me many years before I was ready to face them again.
The day I finally collapsed was the worst but ultimately the sweetest of days because I attracted the attention of a doctor who recognised what was happening. I still remember the words of hope that doctor gave me when coming to visit: ‘you are sick and we can treat you and get you well again.’ The relief that here at last someone had actually validated my experience and promised effective help!
This was the commencement of a journey that continued over the next decade. You see, depression does not ‘go away’ simply by taking a pill. Yes, medication does help and is an important component of treatment however to fully recover and avoid serious relapse you need a treatment plan often referred to as a ‘mental health care plan’. This plan will include counselling, exercise and additional community supports should one need them.
In my personal journey I discovered that the image of an onion with its layers being peeled back slowly and methodically was very apt.
Having done an intense period of counselling and feeling more in control and in good health, I would decrease my medication and disengage from counselling only to ‘come a cropper’ down the track. This would send me running back to the GP and my Counsellor, where I would review the situation and take the necessary steps to recover my health again. Each relapse became shorter as I continued to learn more about myself and about how to care for myself. My desire to be well, to grow as a person, to thrive and to be a skilled helper to others kept me persevering. The secure, confident, happy and skilled person I am today is the result of much perseverance and the belief that life can get better.
As a counsellor, I observe a similar pattern where a person is initially diagnosed and seeks help. Having made an initial recovery, one is ready to decrease their medication and disengage from counselling. It is not uncommon for a person to have a relapse, having had a period of good health. Rather than seeing this as a weakness I prefer to see it as an invitation to further growth- an opportunity to revisit previous learnings, reinforce them and take in new learnings. It is another layer of the onion.
Many of us fear change.
We feel disinclined to put the effort into the disciplines that will ultimately heal us. It is actually easier to stay as you are ‘ comfortable in your discomfit’ than risk the unfamiliar! You might even have tried 1 or 2 sessions of counselling only to disengage, discouraged by the overwhelming emotions that assaulted you as you spoke about things long hidden.
I encourage you to try again- initially it can be very painful as you peel back the layers however there is no short cut to healing. Talk to the Counsellor about your fears and be persistent in seeking the support and help you need.
You are worth it.
If you are struggling with feelings of sadness, despair, depression, severe anxiety or thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek professional health assistance as soon as possible to help you recover. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Your G.P. and/or a Professional Counsellor can give you the additional support you need.
For a FREE 10 minute consultation as to how we can help you, ring Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 or you can book an appointment with Colleen or Duncan on our online diary here.