It’s not a phase, it’s not attention seeking, it’s not something you can just snap out of.
Depression & Anxiety; It exists and sometimes it claims those we would never in a million years have expected it to. My childhood wasn’t typical, nor were my family and the way we and our household functioned due to my brother facing his own individual journey.
I was only little at the time our lives began changing and I don’t think I really knew any different. I’ve always been a quiet sort of kid who kept to herself as well so I just took things in my stride, adapted and tried to never complain or question.
It eventually got to a point where I would look at my family and close friends and see how close they all were. They could touch, show affection, they were loving and protective of one another, they could walk around their home freely and sit in the same room as each other. I was never jealous or spiteful but it really hit me sometimes that I wasn’t normal like they all were and I never would be. I didn’t want a fancy home or materialistic things, I wished for their normality, some nights I would pray for it.
For this to make sense, a quick run-down: my brother was unwell for as much of my childhood as I can remember and unfortunately as part of his illness I was “not clean”, a part of his phobia, therefore I wasn’t really allowed near him. Without question I knew it was easier to stay out of the way. I confined myself in many ways and spending the majority of my time in my room by myself was one of them.
I enjoyed my own company and became very familiar with it, I was and still am an extremely emotionally concealed and private person so everything I felt, thought or dealt with I did it alone and would get angry at myself if anyone ever saw me broken, which is something that has made my journey so much harder.
Once I started getting towards the last years of primary school I spent a lot of time angry and confused, I would write everything I wanted to get out and then tear it up, there were countless nights spent silently sobbing under my bed wanting a different life and a different childhood.
I always felt so selfish because I knew I could have had it so much worse, but I guess that’s a big part of depression your mind goes into overdrive and the tiny bit of logic you still have coming through the bad thoughts just block that logic out straight away, it is an overwhelming feeling.
I believe I was in Grade 6 (11 years old) when I had written out letters of apology and explanation to each member of my family, which I kept hidden for a long time; I didn’t even know what suicide was and I never had a plan of what I could do, but the fear of not being around anymore didn’t faze me as much, it wasn’t something I was scared of.
High School come around and it was a fairly lonely place for me to begin with, I had friends but I felt so distant from them and felt like I had nothing in common with anyone, I really struggled finding myself. In Year 7 we watched a documentary type film about depression and suicide, during that film I so desperately choked back tears and the big lump in my throat. I instantly felt an overwhelming thought of ‘that’s me’. That night I went home and for hours I googled and researched depression, the more I read the more it added up and explained the way I had been feeling, however being the stubborn and emotionally concealed person I am I never said anything to anyone about the way I felt or took any action to help myself.
Year 9 soon come around and a lot of things started to slip out of my control, everything I had been concealing was starting to over flow. I was skipping school and classes, I was making really poor choices and lacked care for myself, I avoided my friends and surrounded myself with the wrong sort of people and I had lost interest in everything which had once lit me up with passion and love. I felt helpless and hopeless. I was given anti-depressants and referred to a psychologist. Unfortunately anti-depressant medication and I don’t have a good track record.
A couple of weeks into being on my medication one morning I remember telling Mum to leave without me as I wasn’t ready for school, I said I will get myself there by recess. I was having a really rough morning and I just couldn't shake myself out of the depressive state I was in, I had a shower where I laid on the shower floor sobbing uncontrollably, questioning why me, why do I have to feel like this and why can’t I make it stop?
I would tap at my head telling myself not to be so stupid and selfish but the sobs kept getting heavier and heavier, it was like an extreme physical pain that just felt like it was never going to end. I picked myself up off the shower floor and got organised, my mind had decided this is what I needed to do, I had filled up a drink bottle, I got dressed and sat on mum and dads bed with my pack of medication.
That was my first encounter. After this I went off my medication and refused to take it, there was something about it that made me feel weak and incapable or different to everyone else. I travelled fairly well with the odd up and down here and there until a few years down the track.
2016/17 I had a rough year and felt things starting to slip out of my control again; I didn’t want to go to work and just wanted to sleep all day, every day. I left it as long as I could until I finally got over myself and accepted that I needed to give the anti-depressants another go. Finding the right anti-depressant is a lengthy process for some, I tried 3 different anti-depressants before finally staying on one and feeling a slight difference. That leaves us with my second encounter.
I had been feeling extremely flat and overwhelmed with work, financial things, my future and I was just plain exhausted all the time, mentally and physically. There was one night I couldn’t sleep, I had this super powerful urge to just end it all but then my selfless nature kicked in. I thought about my family and I had work in the morning, I thought to myself I can’t put that stress on my boss, I better go to work, so I toughened out the night.
The thought was already imbedded in my mind though, I sat up all night thinking of a plan of action, the mind is a super scary and powerful thing, it would not have mattered how great my morning was or if I won the lottery, my mind was made up and that was that.
I went to work and tried so hard to act as happy as I could. I remember so clearly one of my good friends I worked with had been asking me all morning if I was ok, she come up to me towards the end of my shift and said “Karls are you sure you’re alright? There’s something not right.” it took so much out of me just to hold back tears but I replied “yeah, I’m all good,” and a smile.
I so desperately just wanted to spill out everything, my plan and the way I felt, but I couldn’t. It was like my mind kept telling me it’s already done, it’s too late they don’t care anyway; if they did you would not be feeling like this in the first place. I left work that day and went to the chemist, I already had plenty of medication but I had to get more to be sure, I went to the super market as well and got a nice meal. The night went on and I said goodnight to everyone, I laid everything I had out on my bed and began to swallow handfuls until my little sister come and sat in my room talking to me, I was almost angry because she was ruining my plans. I ended up in hospital; another encounter which I was lucky enough to have gotten through without any permanent harm.
I have also self-harmed, which started out as little scratches on my skin but turned into deep cuts. It’s something I would never have thought I would be going through in a million years, my thought process was that it felt numbing and calming, and a cut is better than a funeral, but it always escalated to more and more, what once was enough just isn’t enough anymore.
In hospital after my third encounter I was given the opportunity to go to a Youth Mental Health Unit called YPARC; a voluntary place where you’re allowed to come and go as you please but are expected to stay each night, participate in activities and meet with a psychiatrist each week. I’m so grateful that I had access to something as great as YPARC. There were and still are a lot of disheartening moments since YPARC, unfortunately nothing is a quick fix or magic cure.
The day before I was being discharged from YPARC my sister was angry at me; I didn’t know where all the sudden frustration was coming from. I had been so happy and in such a positive mood we hadn't had any arguments to my knowledge. I asked her, “Where is this all coming from?”, she replied “I’ve been angry at you for weeks now, I have to sit at home watching Mum and Dad upset and stressed from everything you’ve done.”
At the time I left the gym where we were and walked, I walked all the way home crying, trying to think of a reason to stay around if I’m hated by my own family. I thought I was the only one feeling what I was going through. I was the one living in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people trying to benefit myself for my family; I was the one with marks on my skin and thoughts in my head.
While I was suffering I never really stopped to think about how everyone else was coping. I couldn’t understand any of it or justify living for everyone else's sake if they didn’t appreciate it anyway, until I had hopped off the phone to Lifeline where I spoke to an amazing man who listened to me sob and share my issues for over an hour.
My journey is far from over and it may be like that for the rest of my life, but I have walked away from this past couple of years alive and that has to mean something. I have learnt to accept help and let people in and put my pride aside and realise there’s nothing wrong with medication, psychological help and mental health in general. It’s not the end of the world if someone sees me broken and crying, I am just human.
Something which I was once so ashamed of and tried so hard to cover up and hide I can now openly and honestly talk about. I’m not proud of all my actions and choices which I have made while I haven’t been well but I am proud of myself for finally saying enough is enough and taking control of the voices in my mind trying to take over.
I deserve my life and I deserve happiness, passion, family, friends, laughter and memories, and so does everyone.