Transcript

When I’m sick my depressive mind can make me feel bad about anything ‘I’m such a weirdo. I don’t belong anywhere. If I wasn’t queer I’d be closer to my family’. But when I’m not sick none of those ideas enters my mind.

It’s funny because I’ve never had a problem with my sexuality. When I was fourteen I fell in love with a girl and I just thought ‘oh, I’m bisexual – sweet’. It’s never been a huge trauma for me.

I had my first episode of depression when I was fourteen. My parents had split up; mum and me went to live in a new town where I developed a huge crush on a boy. He was my first sexual partner but that first time wasn’t consensual at all and from there things got really dark.

It was the first time I’d experienced actually wanting to die. I remember walking through a nearby orchard and saying goodbye to things – nature, plants, birds. And I ended up trying to kill myself.

My mother found me. Later she tried to pretend it didn’t happen. So things just got worse. For me, the answer for that kind of pain was to be become unmanageable and promiscuous. I wanted to forget everything and disappear into chaos.

depression isn’t something that ‘just happens in your head’ - it brings very physical reactions. I get a tightness in my chest and throat, my limbs feel like lead and even small things take heaps more energy. And things that I normally take pleasure in become really difficult.

The negative thoughts start up to and they’re pretty paralysing. Trying to get out of bed against the tide of pessimism and self-abuse is really hard.

It wasn’t until I was about twenty-eight that I was actually diagnosed with depression.

I’d gone to see a doctor about something else and he wrote in my notes ‘it’s not so much the overuse syndrome that I’m concerned about with this young woman, it’s her depression.’ And I was like ‘oh hell I didn’t know I had that.’

That was the first time I had anyone name it, and I was so grateful that someone had noticed and cared about what was going on at that deep level.

But it’s interesting because it still didn’t really click for me. I still thought that I was just not a very worthy person and that hating yourself, and occasionally wanting to die, and not being able to get out of bed for a week-or-so was actually quite normal.

My next major bout of depression happened about ten years later and it was so frightening. It was so not me. It was like being stalked by a murderer, but the murderer was myself. Every time I walked past a set of stairs I’d imagine throwing myself down them, or walking past a window I’d imagine jumping out of it.

So the doctor put me on medication which stabilized me.

The great thing about Western medicine is that it’s very good about giving things names. I actually had a really big suspicion of medication, like ‘you must be really mad if you have to take a pill’. Or maybe I just didn’t want to acknowledge that it was as serious as it was. But then I’m not beyond asking for help, and actually being diagnosed and offered that treatment was empowering.

The difficulty with depression is that it comes with its own sabotage mechanisms so the exact things that you know are good for you, the disease tells you that you can’t do them or you shouldn’t do.

It took me a long time before I could answer it back. I created a really rigorous and regular routine of self-care. I have regular conversations with key people about how I’m going.

For me medication isn’t enough. I’m trying to use it as a support to change my life into one that isn’t so stressful and full of triggers. And the medication is just one of the tools in my toolbox.

And it’s a toolbox that belongs to me. I know myself and I know this condition. If I have a crap day I have to say to myself ‘what can I do?’ Have I been eating well? Do I need to structure my day more? Do I need exercise or visit my doctor or do I need to spend time with friends?

I remember a friend saying to me once when I was sick ‘Don’t believe what your head is telling you’ and I remember thinking that that wasn’t very helpful at the time because it was my current reality and it felt so real and convincing.

But these feelings and thoughts do pass and when they do it all seems as bizarre as it actually was. So I just need to keep telling myself that each episode of depression doesn’t last forever, it will pass, and I have a whole toolbox to help me get through it.