“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer in our souls.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) in her speech to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1890.
Truth. This word means a lot to me. I’m having to face a lot of truths at the moment. Truth can be painful. Speaking truth can leave you feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability is frightening. Truth can be terrifying.
But fearless truth telling can heal. Not only myself, but others who hear (or in this case read) it.
The truth of the matter is, my depression has been back and there has been absolutely nothing that I could do to stop it. No amount of late night over-thinking, crying, pretending, talking or remaining silent has managed to keep the Black Dog from my door.
So I am going to share my truth here. It might be painful to read and to write, but if nobody talks openly about taboo subjects like this, more and more people will suffer in silence. If one person reads this, and in doing so feels less alone, or seeks help it will be worth the emotional effort that writing a post like this involves.
Each time it returns, my depression seems to have mutated. Like a germ that’s become immune to antibiotics. Like something from a zombie film, lurking where you least expect it.
Seven months ago my biggest problem was anxiety. Crippling, physical, exhausting anxiety. Talk-based CBT helped this, as did medication, and now it’s not such an issue. This time around the relapse has involved a lot more paranoia and the darkest of thoughts. Feelings of being worthless, a burden, a disappointment.
Depression is a very cruel illness. It robs you of the ability to take on board any rational advice or listen to logic. You just can’t believe anything good about yourself at all. You seem to feel too much of everything and at the same time, not enough. Nothing makes sense in my experience, when it comes to depression. Thoughts which to any other person are ridiculous, horrifying or absurd seem perfectly acceptable. During a conversation with a friend who was once sectioned for her own safety, for example, I felt that perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing to happen. At least there would be rest. And quiet. And help.
Last week I had a long conversation with my doctor. He increased my medication and referred me for more Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. During my assessment I answered several questions which gave a picture of where I am on a depression scale. Despite all of the feelings I’d been battling I was still crushed to hear that based on the answers I gave, I’m considered to be seriously depressed. The fact that I felt surprised by this news is ridiculous as I’ve been living with this for weeks now. But the truth is, I keep expecting someone to tell me that this has all been a mistake, I’m just a bit tired and no, I haven’t actually got a mental illness after-all.
One of the doctor’s questions covered suicidal feelings. Not a conversation I ever expected to have. But I answered truthfully. My truth is that whilst I would never, ever put my family through it, I can, at this point in my life, understand why people do choose to end their lives as a result of depression. I’m sorry if this is painful and shocking to read, but this post is about truth.
I am speaking my truth here, in the hope that saying this things aloud (or on screen, as it were) will banish them away. In my darkest moments, I truly believed that the world would be better off without me, and that my husband and children would be better off with a different wife and mother. I feel I should stress again, before anyone calls an ambulance, that at no point did I ever plan to act on these dark thoughts. There are too many people whom I love for me to ever do that. But what I am saying is when I read news stories about women who’ve ended their lives, I can understand the feelings of desperate desolation that must have driven them.
After leaving the doctor’s, feeling very fragile indeed, I messaged a good friend who has personal experience of depression herself. I explained my feelings to her. Her response contained the following wise words:
“Please try not to be heartbroken- we both know depression is always there in the background and it’s inevitable that there will be relapses throughout our lives. What’s important it how we deal with them”.
She went on to commend me for getting help. Her message was of great comfort to me at a time where I just wanted to take to my bed and howl.
But here’s the thing. Each time my depression comes under control again, I think it’s gone forever. When it returns, it comes as a massive shock to me. In writing this I realise how ridiculous this sounds, but it’s the truth. I can’t seem to accept the fact that this may in all likeliness be something that comes back again and again throughout my life. The thought terrifies me. I can’t really even bear to think about it.
As I write this, I am thinking about the people who I know, who may read this. What on earth is possessing me to write down my very darkest thoughts and share them on the internet? What will people think? Will it look as it I’m attention-seeking? But then I re-examine my reasons for this post. I am writing not only to help myself, but to try to help others. Not just those suffering from depression themselves, but those trying to support loved ones going through it.
I “came out’ about my depression through this blog. Before doing so, only a couple of people knew about it. My closest friends weren’t even aware. They sent me incredible messages of support once they’d read my first post. But I admit, and so will they, that after that it became somewhat of an elephant in the room. No-one liked to broach the subject and I couldn’t seem to bring it up. I began to feel paranoid that I’d alienated myself from my friends, who were becoming used to reading my inner thoughts rather than hearing them in person.
I find the subject far easier to write about than to speak about and I’m very good at putting on a brave face to the outside world. But last week, on the insistence of a close friend, my friends and I finally had the conversation. I struggled not to fall to pieces in a busy restaurant whilst discussing it. They offered support and suggestions. They were relieved and so was I. I hope that next time (and I really hope there is never a next time) I’ll be able to reach out to them more and let them in.
I sometimes wonder whether I actually feel too much. Too much of other people’s pain as well as my own. At the moment I have close friends going through horrendous divorce, serious ill-health and parental cancer. I spend so much time worrying about them whilst feeling incredible guilt for not being a supportive enough friend. Because at some point, like this past few weeks or so, I can only focus on myself and my family. I have to put our needs first but that feels so selfish. I have to concentrate on myself more and stop worrying so much about others.
Yesterday my friend’s one year old daughter broke her ankle for no apparent reason. The photo of her in her cast was enough to have me feeling low for an entire morning today. Other people would of course worry about a baby in distress. But for me, it seems to consume me. I internalise it and find it hard to switch off the worry. I suppose this is something for me to address once the therapy resumes again.
I’m really struggling with whether or not to publish this post. It still feels to raw and I’m worried about upsetting my family and friends. I’m also worried about what acquaintances will think.
So I’ll share this quote, to give myself a bit more courage:
“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”
Bernard Baruch (Often incorrectly attributed to Dr. Seuss, apparently).
So, if you’re a friend or acquaintance of mine and you’re reading this, don’t feel awkward when you see me next. I’m determined to get through this again and raising awareness is part of the process for me, it seems. In writing this I can feel a few subtle sparks of positivity somewhere deep inside, some flickering enthusiasm building slowly. It will be OK again. I will get through this again, bit by bit with the support of my loved ones. I have asked for help, and of that I am proud.
Before I hit publish, I’m going to take a deep breath and remind myself once again of my reasons for sharing this. To help myself to heal, and to help heal others.
If you’re reading this and you’re suffering, please do get help. Speak to someone. If you’re worried about someone, please offer support. Only by being supportive to one another can we break the stigma and help one another. And that’s the Truth.
All pictures credited to the Brave Girls Club
Such a sad but important post Rachel. You are so brave to put this all into words and share it. I hope it helps you and others who are suffering, and I hope you feel more positive very soon xx
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks so much xx
Lovely Rachel xx You find yourself in the darkest of places right now but it will get better again with time. I’ve been there too and it’s tough. You aren’t selfish, just honest. We all need to be more honest about PND. There are many out there who need to read blogs like this and know they are not alone. It’s time we stopped hiding behind closed doors pretending we’re OK when we’re not. The stigma attached to PND is the bit that stops people talking to us about it. Our friends and loved ones often don’t know what to say when a simple hug and a “I’m here for you” is all we really need. Well, I’m sending you a huge healing hug this evening lovely lady. Thank you for sharing this post. It made me realise that none of us are alone in our journey. We all walk together hand in hand, united. Much love to you and your family xx
Thank you so much Charlie for your beautiful message. I just love the idea that by speaking out, we can help women hold hands and walk this difficult path together. When combined, little, quiet, frightened voices can echo far and wide. Much love, new friend x
Wow. Oh my god wow. Sweetie I’m lost for words. You could quite possibly be the bravest person I have ever met. I am simply in awe of you for putting all of this out there, and there is NO WAY that others won’t find strength and comfort in knowing they are not alone in this horrible illness.
OK. One of the things I love most about you is your desire to do good and make right all the wrongs you see around you. But sadly this wonderful trait in you has a tendency to overwhelm you. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and am reminded of the analogy of the ripples in the lake. The issues that are keeping you awake at night – cancer, divorce etc – are the huge circular outer-ripples. You’re powerless to stop them. Either these ripples will continue to grow and spread to the banks of the lake, or they will peter out and fade. But they’re out of the control of any one person. However that’s not to say you can’t be the force of good in the world that I think is so important to you. You just need to think in terms of the smallest inner ripples.
– Continue teaching your children to be kind and compassionate, and one day they will be the friend someone desperately needs guiding and supporting them through a personal trauma.
– Be kind to yourself and give yourself room to grow stronger and well again, so that your family and friends can fully enjoy all the wonderful gifts you have to offer.
– Smile at a stranger. You and I both know how a small gesture like this can be the thing that makes a difference to someone’s day.
Think small ripples my darling, and without even knowing it you WILL be changing the world. If we all focus on the small ripples, the big ones won’t even form. And the small ripple you should be giving the most time and energy to right now is your own well being. Because once you are strong again you can take on the world.
Love you xx
L, Sometimes you meet someone who simply sees you. I don’t think my counsellor could have written such an accurate description of the inner workings of my mind, yet somehow you seem to just “get” me.
You’re right, I do get overwhelmed and over-stretched and I do need to concentrate more on the worries I can control… the smaller ripples. There’s so much more to say but I’m not quite there yet. I can’t seem to match your comment with an adequate reply, so for now, I hope a simple and heart-felt Thank You will do xx
I have battled anxiety among other things for the last few years. I was recently diagnosed with severe anxiety a bit bipolar a touch of depression and serious pms issues. I hear you, I feel you. I too was referred to a cognitive behavior therapist and haven’t had the guys to go yet. Here’s what I know. Being a wife, a mommy, a woman and a warrior is TOUGH. We have a huge shoes to fill. People like you and me we worry cause we care. The pain if people I don’t even know overwhelms me, and those that I do know sends me to my needs. I carry all of that for everyone which sounds like you do the same. You are not alone. You are so so brave for posting this. You are the only you you can be. And you are enough. You are a beautiful woman mommy wife warrior. Don’t be ashamed of what you are going through. You are amazingly strong for putting this in words and I hope that it didn’t only bring you fear of what people would think but that you took a deep breath and felt a breath of fresh air for putting it out there. We, people like you and me need to know that we are not crazy and are not the only ones who feel the way we do. Holding space for you today. It is now that he carries you. I saw your post on Momestary and will continue to follow! Love to you warrior monkey!!!
Sorry for all the typos, commenting from my phone 😄
Lexi thank you so much for this message. It shows me that what I wrote really did represent how I’ve been feeling. Especially because you said this:
“The pain of people I don’t even know overwhelms me, and those that I do know sends me to my knees”. This. This is exactly how I feel at the moment. Well, most of the time to be honest.
Thank you for taking the time to write a reply to me and for helping me to realise that I am far, far from alone in any of this. There are sisters all over the world ready to hold my virtual hands. Lots of love to you.
Thank you for this brave post! I have several friends who have told me that they, too, are surprised when depression rears its head again. Sometimes they can’t even recognize it for what it is. So glad you are taking positive steps, and you are sharing your truth with us. Love and HUGS!!!
Thank you for being so brave as to tell the truth. Too many don’t. My co-author and I have made it one of our goals in life to decrease the stigma of depression by telling the truth about it. As you obviously know (I can tell from what you’ve written) that stigma affects both the depressed person and the people who care for him/her. And the best defense we have against that stigma is to keep talking, and keep telling the truth.
Another thought…from someone whose husband was SERIOUSLY depressed for 12 years, much recovered for 8 more years, and now in the pits yet again…though depression can keep coming back, the times of healing and feeling better can keep coming back, as well. Hang onto that thought, and look toward the sunshine – it will be there.
Thank you for this. A very important thought to hold on to, indeed. I guess those who have really experienced darkness can be even more grateful for light. I’ll be following your blog from now on, glad to have found you.
Same here. I just found your post from Feb. 18 on the crazy expectations we have for ourselves in childbirth and new motherhood. Though my last birth experience was 18 years ago, I remember so vividly the disappointments that came along with the joys. Being a mama to three is the best job I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t trade any of those joys (or disappointments) for anything!
Sending you love tonight for being so brave and honest. I’ve suffered from both postpartum depression after my first child was born and then postpartum anxiety after my second. Both times sucked! But I got through those times with help (Lexapro, counseling, even light therapy). I remember some very dark and scary thoughts. The brain just seems stuck in the negative – I know it is a very hard and uncomfortable place to be. I’m sorry you are there right now but hang in there. Spring is coming. You’ve seen your depression clear before so you know it can happen again. You are already taking actions to help yourself and now you are helping others with your words. As G would say, “Sister On!” ((Hugs))
P.S. Please feel free to e-mail me about my comments or just to talk
Thanks K. You’re right, spring is hopefully on it’s way. Such an optimistic time of year, it’s my favourite season. Looking forward to looking forward! as you said, it’s passed before and pass again it surely will. Thank you x
Hi Rachel, as an acquaintance of yours I am not feeling awkward reading it and you should know that when I do see you next I shall simply tell you how brave you are. This must’ve taken a lot to write and you should be proud with it xxx
Thanks Liz xx
Brave brave girl. Sending you lots of love and sunshine. I so look forward to receiving your posts. You brighten my world and remind me that there are lots of amazing mummies out there. Hang in there Hunny. This will pass again and there will be a tomorrow when the darkness begins to lift and the dawn comes cracking through. You will love that light in a way that people who have not experienced the darkness will never understand. Big fat virtual hug xxx
“You will love that light in a way that people who have not experienced the darkness will never understand.” That’s beautiful. Thank you so much xx
Thank you for your honesty. I hope it helps you when I say these words could be my own, so at the very least, you are not alone xx
Really hoping that you’re also getting the help and support you need. Be strong, sister. Big big hugs x
Hi, just wanted to tell you what an amazing,strong and brave person you are even though I know you feel none of those things and would deflect any compliment. I know because I’m in a very similar place to you and reading all your posts make me feel like you have access to my thoughts. I’ve also been fighting off depression for many years but let it overwhelm me last year and spent a month in hospital. Since then ive been working hard to get through the days, focus on cbt and stay safe whilst keeping ‘the Mask’ on for my husband, kids and the world. It’s exhausting and I’ve been to some very dark places. Reading your words helps me feel like I’m not alone and knowing that the feelings and thoughts I experience are not unique to me normalise me a little. And that’s why I wanted you to know the same – that you’re not alone and everything you are going through is felt by others. When you get overwhelmed by emotions relating to others problems try to remember that everyone has challenges and that if we all put our problems in the centre of the room we’d probably choose to keep ours rather then swap. I don’t know if that makes sense but I’ve been thinking about that to try and keep some perspective on my reality.
Keep strong, be brave and remember there are people that love you (in life and virtually) and will always be there for you no matter what xxx
“Reading your words helps me feel like I’m not alone and knowing that the feelings and thoughts I experience are not unique to me normalise me a little. And that’s why I wanted you to know the same – that you’re not alone and everything you are going through is felt by others”
Thanks so much, Amanda. This is exactly why I shared this post at all (and I very nearly didn’t). This is all sadly so much more common than any of us know. What frightens me is the fact that there must be so many suffering these horrible dark days, without help.
I hope that you continue to be kind to yourself. I know all about “the mask” but in my experience, at some point it has to slip and you have to let others see you. Stay strong and please do keep asking for help if you need it. The world needs more voices like ours xx
You are very brave! By sharing your experience, you are bringing light into this darkness. May you feel relief from this pain soon . . . there is hope!
Thank you Anne x
Thank you for writing that. It takes courage to be brave and recognise when you need to speak out. Reading it will make so many other people feel brave enough to tell someone too.
I really hope so, Margot. Here’s to silencing stigma x
So many people go through this, yet still there is a veil over it like it’s something to be ashamed of. I don’t think that’s the reason, I think we try to look the other way because we’re all scared we’ll let out some truths about ourselves. We all have periods where we can’t cope and sometimes it goes away, but other times it takes over.
There is always hope, there are better times to come, and you’ve just taken a step forward x
There’s some real truth there, Jenny. Perhaps people are frightened to let themselves really be seen. I think trying to be perfect too much plays a big part, too. Food for thought…. thank you x
Only the truth will set you free…….
Here’s hoping, old friend x
Rachel, I read this with total admiration and utter respect for you with tears streaming down my face as I too have been in this dark dark place 4 years ago. Similar to you, I just felt my life was over and my family would be better off without me. Those feelings of self loathing and hopelessness are so destructive. I felt so utterly alone at the time despite all the wonderful support from my husband and close family. I simply felt like a freak who didn’t deserve to have these beautiful children. When you are stuck in this mind-set it is virtually impossible to believe that it will ever pass. I wish I could meet you to give you a big just to tell you that this terrible time WILL pass.
I wanted to share an amazing article with you written by a nurse working in Palliative care entitled ‘top five regrets of the dying’ Here’s the link but I’ve just highlighted 2 important point
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
You are one of the few people who can proudly assure yourself that you have been true to yourself and had more courage than anyone to express your feelings.
Rachel – I salute you and thank you for raising awareness of this taboo subject that so many of us have all suffered from.
Thinking of you and thanks for sharing xx
GG what a wonderful reply. I can’t thank you enough. What a thought provoking article:
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
Such lessons to be learned from this. I so appreciate your taking the time to share this with me. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve suffered so awfully, but at the same time, it helps to know that there are so many in a similar situation who have put the dark days behind them.
Thank you xx
I wasn’t going to comment on this, because I can’t seem to word things as beautifully as some people have on here. But then I realised that is ridiculous 🙂
So I just wanted to say thank you for sharing – and also OMG YES this is exactly how I feel! Lots of love, Georgie
Whilst I’m really sad to hear that you’re feeling bad too, your message made me smile at the same time, Georgie. Very sweet of you to comment. It takes all sorts of voices to make a noise and yours is just as important as everyone else’s. Thank you x
Thankyou so much for sharing this, it does make me feel better to know i am not alone, and obviously did know that anyway! Your words really touched me and did not just leave me with a lump in my throat, but my tears are more for your relief and comfort than my own sadness, i am so pleased you have someone you can talk to, turn to! I don’t have anyone.
Tracie I hate to think of you suffering alone. At the top of my website there is a long list of support organisations. I really hope you’ll find the strength to call one of them. There is really no reason at all to suffer this alone. Lots of love to you xx
Thank you so much for being so honest and putting things so beautifully – and simply for opening up another forum for us all to talk and realise that we are neither alone nor unusual in feeling low/guilty/depressed/horrible…any of the hundreds of synonyms. The worst thing is feeling guilty for thinking ‘what have I done to my life?’ when you simultaneously adore your children and would do anything for them. The best thing is knowing you are ‘allowed’ to feel this way – it is so hard to give yourself permission to feel the darker things, yet that’s what you have to try and do – and it never gets easier! And as so many of your friends and followers have said – the light times always come back. I particularly loved what your friend wrote about making small ripples and not focusing on the larger ripples that none of us can help – that moved me and will continue to help me, and I’m sure will help others too. As will your open, honest blog, which I always enjoy. So many fellow-mummy hugs and I hope that all this support goes some way towards bringing the light times back that bit quicker.xxx
Thank you Mandy. My reason for sharing this was to do just what you said… to encourage dialogue and discussion. It’s so important and I am really quite overwhelmed with the response so far. I am so pleases that you’ve taken comfort not only from my words, but also from the wise words shared here in the comments. That means a lot to me.
I take my hat off to you for speaking out and being so brave. I hope your brighter day is very near.
Wow, thanks so much for articulating exactly how I’ve been feeling for the last seven years (on and off!) since the birth of my first child. Your words completely mirrored my own feelings and served as a great relief to confirm that I am normal after all. Please keep writing as you are a wonderful therapy! X