I was 22 when I was first diagnosed with depression - by that time I was absolutely beside myself and so deep into my depression there really didn't appear to be even a tiny glimmer of light at the end of my tunnel.
I thought that admitting that I had depression would ruin my life
I was constantly at the doctor with every illness, every symptom of a medical/physical illness you could name; I think I had gone through the medical dictionary from A to Z, missing out D for depression and M for mental health, of course. The words just wouldn't come out. Did I know what I had before diagnosis? Yes I did, eventually. Would I admit it? Not on your life; I had three children all under five, I thought they would be taken away from me, I thought that it would split my marriage up, I thought I would be subjected to uncomfortable treatments and go into the local mental hospital. So, I decided I had physical illnesses.
Living wasn't an option, I existed
Living wasn't an option, I existed; I functioned, just about. I went to bed at night but couldn't sleep because I was convinced I was going to die in my sleep of a heart attack or the ever growing brain tumour that I obviously didn't have. I got up in the morning, exhausted through hardly any sleep, and then I was worrying that I would get run over– at my most unwell I genuinely believed that the doctor knew that I had a physical illness, but wasn’t telling me about it.
I started to write things down, symptoms of everything I was experiencing, the palpitations, the headaches, the shaking, the tears, being unable to focus, get my words out. It took me weeks to write it all down. I didn't read it back - it was two or three sides of A4 paper, creased from the many times I had folded and unfolded it, dirty and smudged from the tea stain and the pen marks where I had left my hand rest for too long on a part of it.
"You're not mad...I think you are depressed, so let's get you better"
I made my weekly trek to the doctor with my paper gripped in my hand inside the pocket of my coat, I experienced the same, familiar clammy feeling in my palm as I sat waiting in the surgery to be called. My head was swimming and I felt the rush of tears before I even went through the door. As I sat down the doctor said, “What can I do for you today, Elainor?” That was it: I couldn't speak, and I started to cry (although it was more like wailing as I remember it). I knew it was now or never.
I passed the crumpled pile of paper over the desk for him, as he passed me the tissues and, even though I had put on the bottom of that letter "am I depressed?", I was waiting for him to say “you have two weeks to live” or something else dramatic. He read my pages and he let me cry, and then he said: "You’re not mad, you’re not going to lose your children and, yes, I think you are depressed, so let's get you better”. My journey to recovery started that very day, when I started to talk about how I was really feeling, a journey I would never have been able to take without that fantastic doctor.