Wonderful Angela is happy to share her story. Thank you so much!
During my first episode of suicidal depression, I spent every waking moment thinking about the best way to kill myself in a manner that would inconvenience other people as little as possible. It was cold, unemotional, and almost clinical. They haven’t all been like that. A few years ago I had a different experience – a maelstrom of emotion: howling tears, huge waves of pain washing over me, terror at having to endure any more of it. The reason I didn’t follow through that time was my husband. Not because I felt I had anything to live for, but because I knew the devastating effect my death would have on him. And I hated him for it. I hated him for loving me so much that I couldn’t end my misery. That was probably my all-time low point.
I’ve generally been very open about my illness, because that’s all it is. When people have praised my bravery for speaking out, I thank them for their intended compliment, but note that they wouldn’t have said that if it was diabetes. Why shouldn’t I talk about it? It’s a disease, not a character flaw. There were times, in some work situations, where I wasn’t sure of the response I would get and struggled on in silence. The effort of having to hide your difficulties in coping, and to maintain appearances and performance, just adds to the sense of failure and hopelessness. More recently, I’ve told coworkers when I’ve been struggling, or going through a medication change, when I’ve had cotton wool where my brain should be, and asked them to bear with me while it passes. Not having to keep it secret, and allowing people to give you the support you need, is an enormous weight off your shoulders. Trust people – they may surprise you. And if they don’t, it is their problem, not yours. You are entitled to ask for and get support when you need it. And for many, it may be the first time they feel able to talk about their own or their family’s problems with mental illness – lifting the burden of stigma all around.
The other reason that I wanted to take part in the Unmasked project, is to stand before any of you out there who are suffering now, and promise you that there is an end to it. You can get through it. Ask for the help you need, keep trying if it doesn’t work to start with. I am still on antidepressants and probably will be for life. I fought against taken them for the longest time but they probably saved my life. There were times I wished they hadn’t. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and I have had to change medication several times over, each time accompanied by a major breakdown that cost me months or years of my life. But I have never been happier than I am now. I have suffered some major life setbacks this year, but have handled them all with calmness and aplomb – the way that I used to, before the depression. I am me again. I love my life and I’m thrilled to be living it. There is hope.