My Relationship with: Depression

By Rhea Turner

As I sit across from Anna I can see the fear etched on her face. She fumbles with her hands and looks shiftily around the room. She is about to address one of society’s biggest taboos as she tells us about her difficult relationship with Depression. This is Anna’s story…

“Growing up everything was normal. I had a family and friends and I had dreams and aspirations like everyone else. I would never in a million years have predicted the path that my life was going to take.”

Anna was just 17 when she met and fell in love with Anthony Steel.

“He was 24 and the cheekiest most caring man. I was head over heels.” Their relationship developed quickly and it wasn’t long before Anthony was asking for Anna’s hand in marriage. “Everything was perfect, and when we found out I was expecting we were over the moon. I wasn’t scared for one minute.”

The pair were driving to Anna’s first ante-natal scan when tragedy struck. The couple, alongside Anna’s mother were involved in a serious collision with a lorry. The crash claimed Anthony’s life and left Anna and her mother critically ill.

Anna’s life was turned upside down. “I had lost the love of my life and my world was just turned on its head. I was in the hospital for a really long time and when I got out everything was different.”

After being discharged from the hospital Anna was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and post-natal depression. She says: “I just couldn’t cope. I was a mess and I struggled to look after myself and care for my daughter.”

Anna knew something wasn’t right but tried to hide it. “I tried to act normal, it wasn’t until I had a huge panic attack in a supermarket I admitted to myself that I needed help.”

Her depression spiralled when Anna was forced to nurse her dying mother, watching as her health deteriorated.

Anna reacted by walking into violent relationships and financial difficulties.

“My life as I knew it was gone and I couldn’t cope with the past. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was allowing myself to be punished. I blamed myself for Tony’s death and I didn’t believe that I deserved to be happy.”

“That’s when the anxiety started to get the better of me. It became bigger and bigger and It began to take over my life. I stopped going out of the house. My relationships suffered and I lost a big part of myself. I gave up on me.”

“I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t look after myself. I couldn’t be around people. I became claustrophobic in the most open of spaces. The smallest detail like picking up my children from school would trigger a panic attack.”

As Anna’s anxiety and panic attacks developed she was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, a condition which is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of open or public places. She was prescribed with a number of anti-depressants including amitriptyline and citalopram, and beta blockers to help with her anxiety.

She says, “There is no way to explain a panic attack. It was the scariest feeling, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like people were closing in on me and I was going to die.” Her depression and anxiety was so bad that she became confined to her home. “I literally spent the last twenty years of my life trapped in the same four walls.”

It was when Anna hit ‘rock bottom’ that she decided to take control of the disease.

“I became paranoid. There were moments when I felt like I needed a way out. For me the worst time was when I thought I could hear voices coming from the television. They were speaking directly to me. They were telling me to hurt myself. I decided then that I couldn’t go on like that. I had wasted half of my life and I was ashamed of the person I had become.”

For the past year, Anna has been attending counselling sessions and has slowly been working up the courage to leave the house. Two weeks ago she went to her city centre for the first time in 16 years. “I reached a point where I had to step up. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my kids.”

Anna thinks it is important to share her experiences with depression with others. “People can be quite ignorant. There is such a stigma attached to depression and mental illness. I think there is a lack of understanding, education and awareness around the subject. When I was really ill, people said awful things to me. They told me that I was lazy and just using my illness as an excuse but no one would choose to have depression.”

High Profile cases such as the suicides of actor Robin Williams and footballer Gary Speed have highlighted the extent to which people hide and suffer in silence and Anna has urged people who feel low and depressed, to seek help.

“If you cannot talk to a friend talk to a stranger. Don’t be afraid, there is help available and by suffering in silence you let depression take hold of you and control your life.”

Although there is a long road left ahead Anna knows ‘there will be good days and bad days’ but she is ‘determined to not be a victim of depression anymore.’

Thankfully for Anna, today is a good day and she is hopeful that there are plenty more left to come.

For more information, visit: http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/depression.php

Or call: 0845 790 9090

 Did you know…?

  • Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime.

  • Men and women experience depression differently—while women tend to experience sadness and guilt, men often feel restless or angry and are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope.

  • Only 50% of people actively seek conventional treatment for depression, although a majority of people do find some relief through treatment.

  • Depression causes unnecessary suffering and is a risk factor for suicide.

  • Women and adults between the ages of 45 and 64 are most likely to meet the criteria for major depression; however, over 3% of youth ages 13-18 have also experienced a debilitating depressive episode.

  •  All statistics sourced from: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/conditions/anxiety-depression

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