The day it happened was a day like any other. I woke to my alarm and swung my feet out of bed. My husband was still asleep next to me. But something felt wrong within me, my heart was racing and waves of nausea kept sweeping over me. I was sure there was some unseen entity waiting to attack me and as such my body was reacting in the appropriate way, fight or flight. I shook my head trying to rid myself of these bizarre thoughts, my brain felt cloudy, as if it was trying to move through treacle, I couldn’t quite form complete thoughts. Standing up I made my way to the bathroom on shaky legs, where an overwhelming sadness suddenly engulfed me. I collapsed onto the floor as if just being told the most devastating news and it was here that my husband found me an hour later, curled up, sobbing on the cold bathroom floor. He helped me back into bed and phoned my mother, he didn’t know what to do. He had never seen me like this. I couldn’t move or speak, only cry as if my heart was breaking.
I should have noticed the warning signs leading up to my depression. I had suffered in the past from periods of mild depression, which had thankfully only lasted a few months, and I had managed to maintain the ability to cope with everyday life throughout those dark episodes. However this episode of severe depression crept up on me, like a thief in the night slyly worming its way in to the depths of my mind. I had been so busy planning my wedding, working full-time whilst completing my dissertation and final exams for my degree that I had kept pushing the tiredness, the irritability and the sadness to the back of my mind. ‘I was tired and overworked’ I would tell myself and ‘I would feel better once the wedding and dissertation were out of the way…I wouldn’t be as stressed’. But it was once the pressure had dissipated that my body finally succumbed to this illness. Is spread throughout me with a force that I could not have anticipated and left me feeling like empty vessel with no hope, where I had once been vibrant and full of life.
In the darkest days I would not get out of bed. I couldn’t force myself to do the simplest tasks such as brushing my teeth or getting dressed. This made me feel worse. ‘Why was I so useless that I couldn’t even take care of myself?’ My husband was worried, he did not want to leave me alone, and I was so full of despair that I could see no hope of ever feeling better. No future to look forward to, nothing would ever be worthwhile again. I remember being fixated on a bracelet I had seen; it had a sparkly pink heart attached to a black strap. I felt like my own heart was shades of the darkest purple and navy, like a bruise that was spreading, tainting my soul. This sparkly pink heart reminded me of a healthy loving heart. It reminded me of a heart that could be happy and partake in life again, a heart that was optimistic and beating strongly. I told my husband about it between tears, feeling foolish for thinking a piece of jewelry was a symbol for anything at all.
My husband left me a few days later and returned with the bracelet. I put it on and touched the faceted surface whenever I felt the despair wash over me. I would look at the heart and remember that I was surrounded by people who cared about me and who needed me and so I would force myself to take small steps towards recovery.
It has been a long road to recovery. It has had its ups and downs, often I would feel like I was getting better only to have a short period of feeling like I was being washed away in a sea of turmoil again. However I was able to release myself from its grasp each time a little bit easier, and each time the depths were not as deep and dark as the time before.
My husband forced me to seek medical help. I was scared; I didn’t want anyone to know. I was ashamed despite knowing logically that this was a real illness, I had discussed this often enough with friends who had suffered from depression. I knew that it didn’t mean I wasn’t strong and yet I felt that others would think I wasn’t capable, that I was weak. Gradually, as I started to feel better I read books about depression, devoured them and realized that I was not alone. Others who suffered with depression had also felt the physical pain that I had experienced with this illness. I wasn’t losing my mind as I had worried so often. So today I am writing this for all of those who have suffered with depression. I know that you feel completely alone. I know that you will wonder if this is a real illness or a figment of your imagination. I know that some days you will feel like you are in such agony that you want a way out. But please, seek help. Confide in someone. This world is such a beautiful place and with time and patience you will come to realize this again. I know now that I am prone to this illness; I will never be completely cured. But in future I will not dismiss the signs when my body is trying to warn me that I am taking on too much. I will listen to my body, and I will try to be patient and with grace hopefully I will continue to enjoy the many gifts I do have in my life.