I would like to say that this is my first brush with depression. I would like even more to say that it never has touched my life and never will. But I would be lying.
When I was 15 my mom had a nervous breakdown, I didn’t know what that was, all I knew was that it was bad. She didn’t get out of bed for what seemed like an age and I don’t know how many times she actually went to the bathroom to brush her teeth or have a wash.
Between therapy and antidepressants she began to get better, she could function to a point. but with that her personality changed. She would get angry and say things she didn’t mean. At that age (being a teenager) I used to bite back and I couldn’t tell the difference between my mom and the depression.
10 years later, I’ve moved out of home, I have two of my own kids and a partner I am planning to marry. Then it comes to bite me on the arse again. I never thought I would have to deal with depression again, but here I am, this time, not as a child but as the partner of someone with it, and the parent trying to protect the kids from the worst of it.
They say that depression is a lonely experience, it renders you unable to connect with people you thought you loved, it tears families apart and ruins relationships like no other thing. The person with depression constantly feels sad and sometimes it is for no reason at all. Even when they smile there is a black cloud behind that smile. Everything you knew about yourself is put into jepody and you begin to doubt yourself. You no longer believe that you are deserving of love or support. Your ability to function on a daily basis is impaired. (or at least that is how it appears to me)
But what about the person left behind, for me as the person left to pick up the pieces, it was like a bomb going off in my face. While the person with depression may not know what is wrong with them, at least for me, my partner got so good at hiding it, that I thought it was me being irrational or that my anxiety was making me think things that weren’t there. So when the doctor diagnosed him with depression, it was, like I said, a bomb going off in my face. I went through emotions, such as “omg, not again” “what can i do to help?” “what does this mean for us?” “I knew there was something wrong, why didn’t I push it and get to the bottom of it?” For me, there was an element of guilt that I should have known, that I should have spotted it and done something.
Moving on from that, I can honestly say that I have never felt so lonely. I know that the person I love is still there, regardless of how deeply buried, and I am determined to help him find that person again. But in the meantime I feel lonely, half the time he wants a hug, half the time he can’t bear to be touched. I have got to the point where I don’t feel like I can ask for a hug, for fear of rejection. my entire relationship has disintergrated in front of me, I am no longer his fiance but his friend, and there is nothing I can do to change that. I feel helpless, all I want to do is help and I know that as much support or advice that I give, makes no difference. sometimes he doesn’t want to talk, and other times he wants to talk so much it gives me a headache. I never know what mood he is going to be in from one minute to the next or what mood he is going to wake up in.
I am learning however, I am learning where the depression ends, and the real person begins. I am recognising his sudden mood changes where he can go from ok to about to explode with anger. He has always said that I am the only person who can calm him down when he gets angry, and I am using that to my advantage to diffuse any arguements or outbursts of anger. I am learning what metaphors can explain that empty and lost feeling.
I compared it to driving into the middle of a remote unfamiliar place and being dropped off and told to make your way home. Infront of you there are two paths which you can take. neither are sideposted and going back the way you came isn’t an option. Which way do you go when you have no idea which way is going to lead where? how do you even know whether one way is safe or better than the other? my partner said that is exactly the kind of lost he felt, except he was sat on our sofa, in our house, with me by his side. he knew where he was, but mentally nothing felt familiar.
Sometimes I feel like that myself, it feels as if my life has been turned upside down, and somehow I have to turn it the right side up again, but knowing what to say or what to do, or where to start are things that evade my ability. Sometimes I can feel myself slipping, and I pray that depression isn’t contagious. (I know it’s not before some smarty pants tells me. I just mean that happiness breeds happiness and sadness breeds sadness, in the same way that I have always joked that Dementia is contagious – when you spend too much time in the presence of dementia it sends you a little bit doolally – trust me, once i spend 12hours with someone who had severe dementia, I went home, made some toast and put my bread in the cupboard, butter in the breadbin and the toaster in the fridge, in that respect dementia and depression are just as contagious as the common cold) Sometimes it feels like that black cloud is slowly moving over the whole house and not just over one person.
One thing I can say for sure, is that my father is a saint. I never really thought about it before, but being on the recieving end, like he was with my mother, I have a new found appreciation for all he must have felt and all he must of dealt with.
Thank you dad!