The title of this may just give away the general theme of this post, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it… hell there are a lot of reasons not to read my posts, don’t let me being blindingly obvious be one of them. Anyway, I’m here for the good news stories.. everyone loves a happy ending don’t they?
Last time I wrote of my apparently amazing, practically overnight recovery from years of depression.
If I gave the impression that a visit to a shrink solved my problems overnight, then I am sorry. I know some people do permanently overcome depression, but I’m not going to giving you a false sense of comfort. I changed, over a long period of time, from living with – accepting – depression, to managing it to the point where it doesn’t interfere with my life. Some times it doesn’t rear it’s ugly head for long periods of time, other times, when life is rough, it takes some conscious effort.
But, that 1st trip to the shrink did bring me back from the brink, I had a purpose again, I had assistance to get well, it was no longer hopeless… there was a future and there was an immediate lift in my mood.
Anyway, back in story telling mode…
A few years after getting help and sorting my life out, a time that involved timeout by myself, changing habits of a lifetime, working crazy hours on crazy hard projects, even nursing my brother-in-law through home-based palliative care (and staying on a while longer to make sure my sister had a good chance of getting back on her feet), one of those things that you only see in pathetic chick-flicks happened.
Taking one step back. Many of my friends were concerned that I was fast approaching the big 4-0 with no partner on my arm. Some were even more concerned when my office moved to the middle of an industrial estate populated by mechanics and other tradies… but then one day…
I was walking past the reception desk on an overcast day, when I was startled by a ray of sunshine coming through the front automatic doors, stepping from that ray of sunshine was a beautiful Indian woman in a beautiful Saree.
Yeah told you it was sucky.
Nothing much happened for a while, until I returned from a trip to Zimbabwe… then… well, 2 weeks later I was engaged.. 6 weeks after that I was married.
It was bliss, for a long time, but then the black dog reared it’s head.
Not in me… in my wife.
I was still acutely aware of the impact of depression and managed it when I needed to, but my wife didn’t have the tools or the understanding.
I thought my family was psychiatry-averse and depression deniers, but I hadn’t met a culture that that wouldn’t face it. I guess in a way, she would have been in the same position as my parents… get over it, we have living to do, no time to deal with depression.
It was one of those hard periods in life as well, both of us were working, both of us were studying (yeah, I actually went back to University), times were tough and this was just the icing on the crap cake.
We just lived with it.
A couple of weeks after my wife’s graduation party, we had that news that nearly all newly weds dream off… we were going to have a baby.
Life couldn’t get any better…
… or worse.
The black dog wasn’t just nipping at our heels now, it was curling up on the end of the bed at night, it was right at home, in our home.
Pausing the story for just a moment, the crazy thing is, Australian has a brilliant (well maybe not 100% top notch, but pretty close) PUBLIC health system. All these years I have been cursing the government for taking my tax dollar and giving nothing in return, and you know what – there it is, when you need it, you just need to ask. You just need to realise you aren’t taking a handout, you are taking what you have been paying for, for years, waiting on the day you might need to claim.
Forcing the issue.
On the way to our last checkup before Odin was born, I told my wife if she didn’t mention the depression to the nurse, I would, I had to. This was no longer about just her, it was also about Odin as well. I didn’t need to say anything, when asked, my wife told the nurse.
Holy shit… I have never seen services scramble so fast in my life. let me tell you, next time you break your arm, don’t wait in the hospital emergency for 4 hours, go tell someone you are pregnant and depressed – IMMEDIATE FUCKING ACTION.
It was awesome! Seriously, the efforts that the nurses and doctors put into helping my wife over the next 18 months were amazing, right down to arranging whole-day childcare just so she could get time out for herself.
This is fantastic, but what it underlines of course, is the lack of services if you aren’t a woman with PND (Post-natal depression), because the services don’t jump in the same way. There are services, up to 12 counseling sessions in a calendar year (seriously, if you are in Australia and concerned about your mental health, go talk to your GP… IT DOESN’T COST YOU MONEY!), but nothing compared to the services now available to combat PND.
You know why?
Because PND is now accepted by the general population. It’s real, it exists, it’s a danger to the mothers and their children. 20 years ago other women would scoff at a woman with PND… now days, men or women understand and want to help.
But depression for the average “man” in the street still doesn’t have that profile, although events such as Movember are working to change that.
Back on track once again, things between my wife and I weren’t getting any better. If you have ever had a child, as in a brand spanking newborn child, you will know that you can be in peak physical and mental health and still get the stuffing knocked out of you.
Things got bad…
Things got worse…
There wasn’t just one black dog in the house now… there was two… and we knew that soon there was a good chance that our black dogs were going to spawn a puppy for Odin.
My black dog grabbed me from behind. I was worried about my wife, worried about my child, worried about my work, worried, worried, worried.
I was so worried about everything else, that I forgot to worry about one thing… me.
Off topic for a moment…
A friend of mine once asked for assistance when she was fighting off the black dog. At that point I couldn’t give it to her, I just wasn’t personally in a position to do it and I made it clear through this analogy.
Imagine my mental heath as a cup of coffee.
When it’s low, as it is now, I barely have enough to sustain myself.
When it’s high, when it’s overflowing, I have more than enough to share about.
On topic.. yeah but for how long right?
My cup was full for a long time with my wife, but over a long period of time it had drained low. I had been so busy giving, that I had neglected to sustain my own safe levels of mental health.
I mentioned in my last post , that before I knew I had depression and sought help, I thought about suicide every day. My wife was similar, but with one major difference, she felt she had no choice but to do it. Not just once, many times. Thankfully I foiled every attempt, only one becoming serious enough for her to be hospitalised.
But imagine that.
Imagine going to work every day not knowing whether your wife would be alive when you got home.
After a while even the strongest person becomes drained under those circumstances.
I mentioned that one time it was serious, serious enough for her to be hospitalised for a week. Serious enough for child services to enquire whether our child should be removed for the sake of safety.
Not surprisingly, I too hit rock bottom, but this time I didn’t have the luxury I had the first time I sought help. I needed to be fully functioning – today.
I did something I was reluctant to do. I went on medication. The black dog was locked in it’s kennel. I could still hear it’s howls, but I was in control again. I was able to manage my life, protect my wife and my child while I sought counselling, while I got my life, our lives, back together.
Don’t be scared if they recommend medication. If it means you don’t walk in front of the bus when leaving the doctors surgery it’s worthwhile. It takes time to tame the black dog, and it’s a crafty mongrel, use whatever weapons you can to put it down.
Remember that if you are helping someone with depression, then you need to keep an eye on yourself as well, maybe even go so far as to check in with your doctor about resources to build your resilience.
Last year my wife and I made a very serious decision.
We ended our marriage.
We had acted too slow, hurt each other too much, allowed the black dog to come between us permanently.
Foremost however, was our concern for Odin.
When I looked at him I saw that little boy on the chairlift with his Dad. I, we, didn’t want that future for our son.
Our separation is amicable. We did it for each other, for Odin. We have pulled the pack of black dogs apart so we can manage them individually. They are still there, but now we can support each other from a distance to keep those mongrels in line.
We worked at it.
We worked hard at it.
But in the end, life is too short as it is.
Why make it less worth living?
Why risk it being shorter than it can be?
As for Odin… his mood lifted almost immediately. Three days after our separation he appeared a normal happy boy. Occasionally he asks whether his Mummy and Daddy will ever get back together (despite the fact that his Mummy now has a new boyfriend), but he is also well aware that we now all much happier and capable of handling what is thrown at us.
He is also aware that Chocolate Mo’s are in fashion this month…
He just needs someone to enourage his Dad to buy him more.
As does Gnomeaggedon… sure a Mo is better than a bare-face Gnome… but I can’t play WoW right now, because I break down in tears every time I get to the login screen!
You can give via Visa, Mastercard, Amex or Paypal.
Paypal, perfect for those abstained coffee donations
Gnomer and Out!
Other Posts of mine on Movember:
- Shave and a Haircut: Movember
- Just in case you thought I wasn’t serious
- Depression in the family: Movember
- Youth gone wild: Movember
- Married with child and depressed: Movember
- Depression in the workplace: Movember
- Talking about it saves lives: Movember
- Better Off without me
- Aware People are Supportive People: Movember
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