March 10, 2013

Warning, some readers may find this post triggering.

My mother realised I had depression long before I did. In fact, I think I was the last person to acknowledge my depression existed, possibly because it became so severe so quickly.

It all spiraled out of control very suddenly. What had doubtless been an underlying problem for many years suddenly flew out of control in the space of a week after an ugly, cruel and unexpected break-up.

Within a week I’d attempted suicide and ended up in hospital where my heartbroken mother stayed by my side, keeping a brave face on everything in front of me, in spite of her shock and pain. In the following weeks, when I refused to acknowledge I had a mental illness or to seek any help, she was there all the time – on the phone, coming to visit or arranging for friends to suddenly drop round.

My mother refused to go away

This carried on for three long and painful months, until I tried again to take my life. This time it took days to regain consciousness and longer to regain my general senses. I was in hospital for a long time. I was numb with pain and grief and consumed with fright, self-loathing and a terrifying hatred for everyone who was trying to help me, including my mother, who refused to go away.

I behaved appallingly such was my desperation not to be alive and my anger at my mother for calling the police to break into my flat and save me. While I was in hospital she was by my side every waking moment. She went to the café over the road to bring food more tempting than the hospital’s offerings, not that I’d eat anything.

Even after all this, I refused to accept I had depression

Even after all this, I refused to accept I had depression. Someone like me (with a high-powered job, a nice flat, good friends) wasn’t ‘mental’. I knew nothing about mental illness except what I’d seen on TV – which I now know to be really unhelpful. But at this stage, if you’d told me I was mentally unwell, I’d have thought of Arthur Fowler in Eastenders smashing up his house in a fit of depression and being sent to the “funny farm”, or the Angelina Jolie character in the film Girl, Interrupted. Neither of these characters seemed to bear any similarity to how I was feeling.

The over-stretched nurses weren’t getting the message through to me, and the hospital doctors had no time to talk to me, they just wanted to dish out anti-depressants and get me out of their ward.

My mum became an expert on depression

But my mum knew I was depressed. While I was in hospital, she was busy gathering information where she could – from books, from leaflets, from the internet, from support helplines like Mind. And while the nurses and doctors were letting us down, she was filling the gap in my medical treatment.

Within weeks, my mum became an expert on depression, ways to treat it and different approaches to try and help someone living with depression. She patiently waited until I was feeling stronger before encouraging me to work with the various therapists she had independently found and urging me to speak to the supportive GP she had unearthed.

This experience has created an extra bond between us

It took well over a year before I was standing on my own feet again and able to move out to live independently again but there’s no way I could have done it without the support and unconditional love of my mum.

Over the following years, and up to today, my amazing mum continues to prop me up and hold me together. Although I’m thankfully so much better now than I was a few years ago, like everybody, I still have my ups and downs and my mum is always there for me. We’d always been close but this experience has really created an extra bond that we could never have anticipated. I owe her everything.

(I’d like to add that, although my experience of that hospital’s doctors and nurses in terms of mental health was not brilliant, I’ve since had some really positive and excellent experience with NHS doctors and nurses.)

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