I started writing this post a week ago, but I was then too tired and maybe too confused to complete it. So I’m going to do it now because I have been thinking about this problem for a while. When I talk about the beginning of my depression, I never know when the first signs began and I always talk about the time when I was diagnosed. So instead of saying that I have suffered from depression since 2010, I say that I was diagnosed in 2010. February 2010 was when I started to break down at work and my manager suggested that I went to see my GP, he said that he’d been observing me and noticed a change; he suspected that I had depression and that my GP would sign me off work for a while. I confess that at that moment, I had no idea what depression was, I had heard about it, but the concept was very abstract in my mind. I don’t think anyone who has suffered from depression can accurately say when it exactly started. We don’t know because we don’t know the signs and more often than not, we don’t even know what depression is in fact. Depression is one of those things that is very difficult to understand when we haven’t experienced it. And despite all the efforts to bring awareness to the general public these days, there is still a lot of stigma to it.
Lately, I have been trying to draw a picture of my early stage of depression, I look back on time and try to find the first symptoms. I can’t say if it was the permanent tiredness, frequent insomnia, lack of pleasure in activities that I used to enjoy, the feeling that there was no point in going to the gym or in wearing make up – just to mention two examples – the thoughts that I was a failure and a burden and so on. I don’t know what started first or when it started. All I can say is one minute I have a job I love doing and feel very grateful for, I go to the gym every morning before work, enjoy the journey to work listening to the radio, and my life seems to be going better than it has ever been. Everything seems to be working ok, my daughter is in college and has a job, my boys are doing well in school and I have friends with whom I share good times; my life is good for the first time in a very long time. Next minute, I feel tired all the time, can’t sleep, stop going to the gym, start to isolate myself, nothing gives me pleasure anymore and I think no one wants my company, I feel like a failure, a bad mother, a bad friend, I am making mistakes at work and I feel inadequate.
One of the things I remember just before the diagnosis was the disconnection between body and mind. Your mind knows what you should be doing, but the body just doesn’t follow. Like when you know you need a shower, but your body refuses to follow instructions. Sometimes you might be having a conversation and say something really stupid, that you know doesn’t make sense, but you just can’t help it. I was making mistakes at work and I knew it, but I couldn’t help it. To this day, I still can’t explain it. And this still happens when I have my low moments, the difference is now I know why it happens and I am not so hard on myself – most times.
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments if you ever felt this way xxx
The story behind the poem I posted this week ‘Grief’, refers to the worst type of grief – or one of the worst – the loss of a child. No human being is programmed to outlive a child and this kind of loss is against nature. When I got pregnant, it wasn’t planned and the timing was so wrong; the relationship I had with her father was wrong, everything was wrong and at first, I was terribly disappointed in myself, angry even. It was a dark period of my life. Besides, I had a daughter and a son that was enough for me, they were all I ever wanted and I felt complete in our little family.
However, as the pregnancy progressed I started to love the baby very much and I was really looking forward to meeting her. She was a girl and I called her Sara. Everyone was looking forward to meeting her. At week twenty-two I woke up in the morning covered in blood and when I went to the hospital, they took me in and put me on bed rest, I was losing risk and the baby was at risk of being born prematurely; which wasn’t good at that stage of the pregnancy.
But after two weeks the liquid was very little for the baby and she had to come out only at twenty-three weeks and a half. She was so tiny but so perfect and still so vulnerable. She only lived three days, she would have been sixteen years old now and I think of her every single day.
This week I shared a poem I wrote about ‘Guilt’ and its relation to my depression and so I decided to explore the theme a bit further. Since an early age, I grew up with a strong sense of guilt. I am the first child of my parents, in any fight with my younger siblings, my parents always said that as the eldest, I had to be the most reasonable. And whenever my father upset me and I went to my mum for sympathy, she would always tell me to try and understand his point of view because he had a terrible childhood and a hard life. In every situation I was put on, the responsibility was mine; not only for my own actions but also for others – those younger than me as well as those older than me.
The worst thing I that I grew up oblivious of this exaggerated feeling of guilt, and the truth is that I always felt responsible for anything bad that would happen to me and to those around me. And this feeling contributed to the strong sense of worthlessness and the low self-esteem I experienced most of my life. I didn’t like me because I failed in everything and let everyone down, but at one thing I excelled brilliantly – at faking it. I was the best at pretending to be self-confident and happy with myself. Looking back, I don’t even know how I did it. I lived that lie for almost forty years of my life and only when I was in therapy for depression did I learn that when my parents induced that sense of guilt in me as a little girl, they were abusing me. I never look at myself as a victim of parental abuse, because I didn’t know any different, but I was. They abused my innocence when they should have taught me self-love and unconditional love. A few years ago I would have thought this statement to be a bit tragic and exaggerated but now I know better, only because I have hit rock bottom, being in so much emotional pain that I believed my life was over. Yes, there were moments when my depression was so dark, that I believed I would never be able to go back to employment and to be independent ever again – and to be honest, I couldn’t care less.
But thank God for Private Medical Insurance, CBT, group therapy and the few brave individuals who have shared their experiences with me and made me gradually believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am also hugely lucky to have a group of friends and family who have supported me and been so patient with me helping me to be hopeful and keep going. I have forgiven my parents because despite not liking the way they made me feel I love them and I know they didn’t mean any bad, they simply did what they knew best. They also did good things to me and loved me the best they could.
I will revisit this issue again, I’m sure of that as there are so much more to guilt in the story of myself, there is also the guilt of not being well and being a burden to others, but that is a whole new post. I remember during therapy being very surprised with the role guilt played in my mental health – who would have thought? If you would like to find out more, follow the links below:
Today I want to talk about the poem I posted on Monday ‘Mask’. I remember very clearly a period of time, when I was deep in my depression, that I did not know who I was. I knew my name, my age, where I lived, where I was born, etc, etc, but I didn’t know my identity. I did not know who was I all about, behind the mother, the daughter, the sister, the bread winner, I felt absolutely at loss amidst all those personas I had been showing to the world. I was supposed to be a strong, independent woman, self-confident and afraid of nothing, but behind that mask, I felt like a very scared and vulnerable little girl who craved nothing but to be cared for.
I remember people that knew me for a long time, being surprised with the fact that I was suffering from depression because I was antonymous of depression – my sister said once that I would be the last person she’d expected to see with depression because I was always so confident and upbeat. That was the problem, I never allowed myself to feel sad, scared or disappointed; in face of difficulties I would just pull myself together and move on. But sometimes we need to live through the disappointment and feel the grief, the pain, cry and ask for help. I didn’t do that for most of my life and it made me ill. And the realisation that I had used a mask of ‘everything is alright and if it isn’t I don’t care’ for too long made me feel like a farce; I did care, in fact, deep down I cared too much. I broke down when it became impossible for me to pretend and it took me a while to find myself, to find who I really was; not before the depression but who I was behind the mask that I wore all my life.
I think that one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt with depression and during therapy was that it is ok to be vulnerable and it is ok not to be ok. Pretending to be ok, when you’re not is long life habit of mine and I have to admit that I still do it from time to time, I just can’t help it. However, now I can recognise when I’m doing it and take a step back – without judgement – and that makes all the difference.
Thanks for reading and be kind to yourself!
I should have been graduating today in English and Creative Writing (BA), but I didn’t. Since the second semester of year two, my studies have been a struggle for me – to be honest, my whole life has. But that is not what I am going to talk about here today.
When I realised I wasn’t going to be able to finish all my assignments on time to graduate this year, to a standard that would be satisfactory to me, I thought that the best option to me be would be to repeat this year and graduate next year. When I made that decision, I felt a huge relief, it was like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders and my mental health felt better straight away. I even started reducing my medication. I thought I would spend the summer reading books just for pleasure and not for coursework, developing this blog and just enjoying my family life before going back in September for a fresh restart, more focused and ready to actually enjoying studying my course. It seemed the best option for me because I came to a point where I felt exhausted, really, really tired of running to catch up, without time to deal with grief and other emotions and feelings fighting for my attention. Anyway, I needed a break and felt that I deserved it as well as a second chance at giving my course my best shot. I was happy with my decision.
Thanks to the power of social media, I have been seeing all my university colleagues in their gowns and accompanied by their families and friends celebrating their achievement. While I am ever so happy for all of them and proud to have witnessed the journeys of some of them, I am also a little bit upset because I am not graduating. It is a mixed emotion because I still think, there was nothing else I could have done and I think I can do it next year. However, in a remote place inside me, there is a voice whispering self-doubt thoughts, wondering if I will ever finish my degree… Yes, these voices still come back to me from time to time, but I have silenced them before and I will do again. I know I can finish my degree and graduate next year. I am absolutely capable of it.
I thought I’d share this year because it might be someone out there facing similar emotions and I would like them to know there they’re not alone. But, because I believe that this experience and all I have been through in the last two years of my life have made me stronger and better prepared for future challenges, I would also like to end on a positive note with the wise words of James Joyce:
Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
Yes, we got married on 21 June 2017. It was a lovely ceremony and a fun reception, very intimate with just over fifty guests – only the people that matter to us was there. I wanted to get married on 22 June because that was my 50th birthday, but the hotel chosen for the reception was already booked up for that date, so I settled for the day before. At least I can say I got married before I turned 50 – at least that’s what my husband says.
It was a dream wedding because everyone had a good time, all the guests enjoyed themselves and that was everything we both wanted – that everyone had a party to remember. My bridesmaids looked gorgeous, the flower girls and page boys were a dream and the singer during the ceremony added a romantic and emotional tone.
My daughter and I planned everything, she did so much for this wedding – I don’t know if I will ever be able to pay her back for everything she has done. But it all worked out perfect. The venue was very good and the food was delicious, the cake wasn’t only delicious but also stunning, the DJ and photo booth were a real treat and my hair stayed up all night – yey! The flowers got a lot of praise, I designed and made my own bouquet and the bridesmaids’ too. I was a very successful handmade wedding. I am so happy! My friends and sister came from Portugal and it made it even more special. My husband and I could have not wished for a better wedding.
I have had some very hard times lately, but now I feel that this is the beginning of good things. Those of you who read previous posts know that I have been battling depression while dealing with feelings of loss and grief. Right now, I just need to gather my motivation and start taking action into creating the life I want to live. I have not been consistent with this blog so far, but that is about to change. Watch this space!
Fri 17 March 2017, 17:45 – 19:00. Great Hall, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, LEEDS, LS2 9JT. Free, but registration required.
Geoffrey Hill was knighted in 2012 for his services to poetry after a long and distinguished career as a poet and a scholar which included posts at the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Boston; and, more recently, his tenure as Professor of Poetry at Oxford. A graduate of Keble College Oxford, his academic career began at Leeds in 1954 with his appointment to a lectureship. He spent the next twenty six years at our University and was appointed to a Chair in English Literature in 1976. During this time, Geoffrey published four collections of poetry – For the Unfallen, King Log, Mercian Hymns, and Tenebrae – works which secured his reputation as one of the finest poets writing in the English language. The University of Leeds is proud…
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Love must start with the self, sometimes we treat ourselves the way we wouldn’t treat our worst enemy and that’s just cruel.
Some of us never want to be selfish, it seems such a negative word.Happens with me all the time.
Like Sometimes we feel bad about ourselves because our friends keep calling us to hangout and we just don’t wanna go Or we want to be with our partner, so we keep saying NO but inside we feel bad about it.
Sometimes somebody is asking you to do their task but we wanna go home and just sleep but as soon as we reach home we feel bad for not helping.
Sometimes we are too broke to help somebody financially or we need that money for our family needs.But nonetheless we feel bad about ourselves for not helping.
Or sometimes someone wants to talk about their problem but we keep listening to their problem, feeling like a dump box for their negativity and done! So this time we don’t want to listen to…
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