Thursday, 14 March 2013

I've dabbled a bit with depression

I've dabbled a bit with depression
14 March 2013

It’s true.  I’ve dabbled a bit with depression.  And I don’t like her at all.  She’s mean and she’s nasty and she cries quite a lot.

A few years ago, for a seemingly endless long time (2 years and 4 months to be exact), I was subjected to external factors out of my control.  And, out of respect, I won’t go into the details.  I don’t feel it would be fair.  This is quite hard for me in itself, because I like to share.  I’m honest and I tend to tell all.  Still, on this occasion, the root of the depression, shall rather remain unnamed.  But these factors, ended up being the boss of me.  Controlling me in every single way.  And suffice it to say, that I was not coping.

The irony of the matter, was that I was the only one that didn’t know that I was not coping.  I think that those that didn’t know me too well, might have looked in from the outside and thought “she’s got it all together”.  Or “look how well she’s coping – always a smile on her face – always happy and chatty”.  But those that knew me well, saw right through my little farce.  My Oscar performing act.  I was miserable and simply trying to get through every single day.  One day at a time.  I was worried.  I wasn’t sleeping.  I fretted constantly.  I looked for solutions and ways out of my dilemma, yet none appeared on the horizon.  Nothing imminent to ease my mind.

I carried on.  And in hindsight, I was perhaps on a bit of an auto-pilot mission.  And I’m not entirely sure who steered the ship, during that time.  It petrifies me, that some might have thought it was me.  I carried on making suppers.  Carting kids around.  Doing homework.  Running a business.  I smiled.  I even laughed.  But on the inside, deep, deep down inside, I was not very well.  I was constantly tired and occasionally, I would even sleep in the day.  I’d drop the kids off at school, get home and crawl under the covers again.  Sleeping is a form of escape.  A forced switching off of the mind.  Furthermore, constantly playing a happy role, is tiring.  Exhausting in fact.  Very much so.  I felt a bit like I was in a bubble.  Cut off from the outside.

I think all of these feelings only crept in much later.  Two years and four months is a very, very long time.  And for the longest while, I really did keep it together.  Especially in the beginning.  Oh, I was worried, but I was optimistic.  It’s in my nature.  We would be okay.  Something would come up.  It will all work out.  But eventually, if you aren’t vigilant, you’ll find that life has a way of knocking you down.  Of keeping you humble and in awe of her power.  It’s actually a very nasty habit of life.  She can bring you down, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll find that she’ll keep you there.  If you want to get back to the top again, you’ll have to claw your way out.

My mom was beside herself with worry.  We spoke on the phone, a few times a day.  The rest of my family were also very, very concerned.  My friends too.  It all might sound overly dramatic, but it wasn’t.  I promise you.  And did I really have a valid reason to be feeling like this?  I had my health.  My family had theirs.  I had my marriage – a good one at that.  I had my business and therefore I had a job.  I had many, many things to be grateful for and that were in my favour.  But this one thing, happened to be a biggie.  For many it might even be a deal breaker.  And whether justified or not, I was clearly depressed.  And not only was I depressed, people were worried.   The bottom line, is that people cared.  And thank heavens they did.

Eventually, I reached a crises point.  A place I could not go forward from.  I needed help.  And I didn’t even know it.  But it is usually at this exact moment, that people step into your life and come to the fore.  Their love and concern for you, overrides their respect and wishes to not interfere.  Some might have called it an intervention.  The result is, that I went to see my Doctor.  On my mother’s behest.  And luckily for me, he is a friend, who also showed deep concern.  In fact, he had started expressing his concern a few months previously already.  I was clearly depressed.

During the time that I was depressed, I felt that so many things were out of my control.  I could not change certain circumstances and some choices that others might take for granted, were denied to me.  I felt powerless and a bit of a victim.  But one thing, I could control.  And control it, I did.  Eating.  I became as skinny as a rake.  I have never battled or obsessed about food.  Yes, I’ve been overweight before, but then, I simply do weigh-less, exercise control and discipline, and lose the weight again.  It’s not a problem.  But this time, I crossed a line.  Everyone noticed that I had lost so much weight.  In the beginning it was even kind of cool.  I felt that my body had never looked so good.  But I wasn’t eating healthily and I knew it.  I ate almost nothing in the day – I simply wasn’t hungry.  And it’s a vicious cycle.  If you don’t eat, you don’t have energy, which naturally leaves you feeling drained, weak and spent.  But there comes a time, where thin is too thin.  Where things changed from “you’re looking so good and slim”, to “you’ve become too thin”.  One can look haggard so easily.  Many spoke to me about it – friends and family.  Still I carried on. 

But, I am fortunate on very many levels.  I am an inherently optimistic and positive person.  I am not predisposed to depression.  I am very even tempered.  I have oodles of patience.  I have a moderate temperament.  I am not given to outbursts.  In fact, I don’t like a lack of self-control.  This depression was purely due to external circumstances.  I was under a lot of pressure and strain.  And had been for a long and sustained period of time.  I took the drugs I was offered.  And gladly so.

My mom arrived on her white steed (it was actually a white Audi, but so what) and whisked me off to Tulbagh.  Just like that.  In the middle of the week.  With no advance warning.  And Grant let me go.  I left my kids.  Knowing they had to get to school every day.  Do homework.  Get to extra-murals.  Need meals to be cooked.  I left my kids.

It was a hard thing for me to get over, afterwards.  And Cole took a lot of strain, for a long time.  Months later, he would still say to me – “you’re not going to go away again hey, Mommy?”.  He became very clingy.  And needy too.  At the time, he was just 5 years and 9 months old.

But here’s the thing.  I didn’t desert them.  Grant and I explained to them that I was sick.  And because I was sick, it made me cry and grumpy.  And that I was going to visit Mom (that’s what they call my mom), and get better.  Furthermore, my children are fortunate enough to have a wonderful, caring and loving father.  I knew they were in very good hands.

I did not leave them because I needed a holiday.  I left them because I was sick and needed to get better.  Because only if I was better, would I be able to be a better mom to them.

In the end, I spent three nights with my mom.  It was just the two of us, as Daya was away on a trip.  And for three days and three nights, I pretty much slept.  And cried a lot too.  It might even have been a breakdown.  I was amazed by how very tired I was.  A bone deep kind of tired.  I slept until I had no more sleep left in me.  How healing it was.  My mind knew a measure of peace, as I could look after myself and get better.

I went back home again, feeling refreshed.  And ready again.  Happy to see my children and my husband.  Ready to take up the mantel again.  I had needed that rest.  For the battle would end up continuing for a further eleven months.  The tablets had not taken the problem away, nor removed it from my life.  The tablets simply enabled me to cope better with the circumstances I had been dealt with.

It is a few years later now, and I am happy and healthy.  And have been for the longest time.  I have been off all meds for a few years already.  And coping absolutely fine.  Once the external factors were removed, my former sunny disposition reappeared. Before this time, I had never battled with depression before.  And I am hopeful I never will again.  I am able to endure a lot.  I am strong emotionally.  This was simply a case of too much, for too long, with no end in sight.
Depression is not something to be embarrassed about.  It can happen to anyone.  It is not something to try and hide.  It happens.  And is not discerning with its victims.  For some people, they are sadly more prone to it.  It could be a chemical imbalance, a genetic familial heritage or simply due to circumstances out of their control.

My advice would be to take control of your life.  To get help.  And to those of you out there, who knows someone that is depressed, I urge you to help them.  For they cannot help themselves.

Super skinny me.  The bod was hot, but the head was not.


  1. You have a wonderful way of writting about things in life that are so relevant to many people! Thank you Helene. I hope that those who are going through what you have been through can take it in, identify, and seek help when it is needed! Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly. Lindsay

  2. You made it, as we knew you would! I think most people have suffered depression at times - I know I have, but thank goodness, been able to move on.
    You are a very strong gal!

  3. Helene darling, boy I remember these days, well! Am so proud of you and how you have come out on the other side, smiling and stronger xxx