On Friday 15th April 2016 I went to bed with flu like symptoms and woke up the next day in total emotional darkness. This was the start of the worst depressive episode of my life and one that helped me to realise even more exactly how debilitating depression can be.
Before this episode I had experienced depression at various times in my life but mainly as a result of periods of anxiety or not looking after myself (too much partying, not enough sleep, saying yes to too much). This felt different, very different.
Waking up that morning I felt complete and utter despair. Utter blackness. No hope. Only hopelessness. No point in going on.
My wonderful husband and children were not enough. I had nothing. I was nothing. I had to finish it all. I planned the ending and felt a certain small glimmer of hope as I planned. I told my husband “I can’t go on. I can’t feel like this. I need to end it” sending him into shock. He didn’t know what to do with me other than hold me and feed me and tuck me in. My children wafted like ghosts into the bedroom, the youngest stroking my hair as I lay almost comatose staring into the abyss.
Four days later my mindfulness training kicked in. That knowledge that everything passes and nothing stays forever. The knowledge that I wasn’t alone (although I felt more alone than ever before) and that I needed to shift something. I sent a text to my friend Sarah and said “I’m not right. Please will you just listen”. She listened and didn’t try to fix. This text conversation continued over the next few days. I also sent a text to my friend Jo, herself a therapist and also a healer. I said the same “just listen as I’m not right” and she listened. On the 8th day I contacted my counselling supervisor via text, my homeopath via text and made a GP appointment. The latter felt exhausting as I had to actually speak on the phone. I also sent a text to my Dad, a loving man who knows all about depression asking him just to be there although I didn’t know for what. I shared with all these people that I was suicidal but the saving grace was that I didn’t have the actual energy to do anything about it. By contacting people I trusted I created ‘anchors’ for myself and I started to feel not quite so lost at sea.
During this period of time I wasn’t a therapist, a mother, a wife or a friend. I was a shell of a human trapped in a cave with no light. I remember only strange fleeting memories of the daylight changing outside though the curtains. I was aware that life was going on outside but had no desire to be a part of it. I was able to drink water, eat toast, smoke and cry. But I cried until I was unable to cry anymore and my throat swelled up and bled.
And I had no idea at all why I was feeling like this or where this black abyss had emerged from. The day before the depression started I had been out with a group of girlfriends and their babies. I had a lovely day with no problems or cares in the world. Work was fine if not great. My family were happy and healthy.
Everything was normal and fine. The only sign I had that something wasn’t quite right with me was I had experienced a few strange episodes of heightened sensitivity and paranoia. I had been sharp with a friend and felt unnecessarily jarred by a couple of social media posts that were at the worst clumsy but not truly hurtful. Posts that normally wouldn’t bother me if I had even noticed them in the first place. Sensitivity and paranoia are part of the depressive picture unfortunately but I didn’t put two and two together till weeks later…..I also experienced what I hope was my first and last migraine 4 days before. A strange corona migraine that altered my vision and left me seeing lightening bolts and circles. Paranoia and migraines are not ‘me’ and I still wonder if this signs were the start of the abyss period…. My friends continued to be text message anchors. My supervisor listened empathically and soothed me but I can remember the concern in her face. My GP was concerned about brain inflammation and sent me for tests. My homeopath sent me a remedy and for some reason I left it on my bedside table for a few days before taking it. But I took it. My husband and children were amazing. My father a total rock.
A day after taking my homeopathic remedy I started to lift. Another 3 days passed and each day I became more myself again. I left my bedroom and sat in the cool Easter sunshine able to put one foot in front of the other. Life felt like a novelty to explore and I slowly became Lori again.
I still don’t know what truly caused this episode. Depression is described as a ‘condition’ or a ‘disease’. I’m not keen on either description really.
It can have its roots in our situation (literally situational depression) where a relationship breakdown, a period of stress, work problems or not looking after ourselves can trigger the abyss. It can be hormonal (brain chemistry imbalances or other hormone fluctuations rendering people to require medication), because of gut chemistry being imbalanced (second brain theory), post-viral fatigue, shock or trauma induced, sustained alcohol or drug abuse (prescription or recreational)….or maybe even a brain related virus.
The only thing I do know for certain is thats it’s a sign we can take no more of something and that we need support, love and empathy. We need what my friend Lara calls “a love burrito” (wrapping in love).
I have no hard and fast advice. We all experience depression differently. I can’t tell you what will work for you or what caused your depression. What I can say is that reaching out helped me. Speaking to people helped me. Knowing I was not alone helped me. I recovered with the support of my anchors.
Thats two months of my life I never wish to repeat. I would never wish that feeling on anyone. But I know that for many people that is how they too experience depression.
If you feel like this or like parts of this I do understand. I get it. This insight of the abyss I hope makes me a better therapist, a more knowledgeable therapist, an even more empathic therapist.
It has made me a stronger human though. I know this. We’ve got this….X