Depression. Some 350 million people in the world suffer from it (source). Here Jane shares her story of overcoming depression story to motivate and inspire others, so that they might do the same.
This post is part of My Sweet Home Life’s Overcomers series – where we look at women whose lives haven’t turned out quite how they expected.
We feature women who have struggled with abuse, addictions, unexpected loss, and challenging circumstances.
Each of these women have come through their experiences with lessons learned – lessons that can help us all as we navigate this crazy thing called life.
Jane has battled with depression over the last twenty years. This is her story.
Trigger warning: suicidal ideation.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Jane and I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, as well as both a fiction and non-fiction author.
I’m about to turn 61, which really has crept up on me.
The last few years have been a difficult emotional journey as I’ve struggled to find my niche. You would have thought I would have it all figured out by now, but life has presented its challenges.
When did you first notice a problem with depression?
I was so surprised when about twenty years ago I got hit with depression. I mean, me?
I was supposed to be happy. I’d achieved the thing I most wanted in life – after 13 years of marriage my husband and I had finally became parents after adopting two sisters from Russia. I was aged 39 and it was all so wonderful.
But fast forward a year and reality hit.
Our eldest had developmental delay problems – more than likely caused by her mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
When she hit puberty (which came at age 12) all hell broke loose. She couldn’t cope with periods, body changes, and of course, struggled at school.
There were times she refused to go to school at all, or wash, so body odor was an issue.
As I write this some 15 or so years later it’s a bit of a blur, but let’s just say, I coped. At least I thought I did.
I worked nights from home, plus I had a burgeoning fiction writing career.
So combine being a housewife, taxi service to various after school activities, and working what was essentially two jobs, with a child who was confrontational and rebellious, and something had to go.
That something was my mental health.
I felt it coming on.
As I stood at the kitchen bench, this wave spread up behind me, enveloping me. It was something I couldn’t have stopped if I’d tried.
I had no idea how to stop it anyway.
How did you cope with depression initially?
This feeling was so consuming.
I could feel it telling me that I’d be better off dead, and while I believe that I would never have committed suicide, the words were there as well as the thoughts.
This made me rather frightened and I knew I had to talk to my doctor. I did so and the ‘fixer’ of the time was to put me on Prozac. It seemed to work. A few months later, I felt a lot better.
Another thing I did at the time, which I believed was crucial in my recovery, was I began to share my stress/troubles with my husband.
He worked hard, and as I was essentially a stay at home mother (though I worked part time), I felt I should ‘protect’ him from how I wasn’t coping.
However I realized I had to speak out and share the problems (and successes of course), and ask him to be more involved in the discipline and issues with our eldest.
You know what they say about a problem shared, a problem halved – well this was very true and it certainly helped. Now I wasn’t going to always be the big bad parent!
When did you experience a depression relapse?
Fast forward to my mid-fifties and I had reasonably good career as a writer, my eldest was away from home, and my youngest was in a serious relationship.
Then life’s struggles hit again.
I had several very bad experiences with publishers which tore at my confidence in my writing ability. As a partially disabled person, physical exercise is not easy and so in my mid-fifties, my weight increased, further knocking my confidence.
My mother, who lived about two hours north of me, had serious health issues, and her ability to live alone deteriorated. My sisters and I had to arrange for her to move into a rest home.
Worse came as she had to have a leg amputated, and then we moved her back to Auckland (where I live) and so I was visiting her every day, plus writing, plus trying to sort out stuff with the publishers, plus working, plus arranging a daughter’s wedding, plus the eldest now kept asking to move home!
How would we cope? How would I cope?
Well the truth is I didn’t.
And then my mother died six weeks exactly after her 90th birthday and the depression which I had been fighting hit full force again. It was the same wave just rolling over me.
I experienced the same inability to stop it, and the same words playing in my head.
But this time the depression didn’t ease; instead it would hit me in those damned waves again. I could wake up feeling quite positive, excited about the day even, and then suddenly I couldn’t cope.
I think part of this depression was also grieving for the loss of my mother.
My father had died 30 years earlier when I was 27, but I was now in my fifties and so I’d had my mother in my life so much longer. I’m not sure if the loss was more profound, but it certainly hit me harder.
For four years I felt completely lost. I had no passion, no drive, no idea of what I wanted to do in life.
My love for writing completely disappeared, disintegrated in a moment. If I wrote another book I couldn’t have cared less.
And in my head the words ‘why bother’ repeated over and over. I mean why bother trying to do anything, when you’re only going to die? Why bother when you’re too old now?
I was always a woman who was focused and driven. Now I couldn’t focus on anything and nothing excited me enough to want to focus on it.
How did you turn the corner?
One day…. quite out of the blue, a little voice in my head said, “If you want something, go and do it yourself. Don’t expect others to do it for you!”
Though not necessarily profound, suddenly and I mean this truly, suddenly the depression was gone. Totally. I know it seems weird, extreme even, but it’s the truth.
I have excitement, passion, drive, a feeling that I can accomplish and move forward in my life. I feel alive.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels. I never thought I would feel like this again.
It’s early days though, and I’m extremely aware of that.
I’m still on the medication, but in a month or so, if I’m still feeling this great, I will ask the doctor if I can come off the anti-depressants.
What would you tell others suffering from depression?
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Please don’t feel that way.
If you are suffering from depression, I would offer the following advice:
- tell your friends and family what’s going on for you
- ask for help – don’t keep it bottled up
- go to the doctor. I remember the first time I saw someone about these feelings. I didn’t even know it was depression and when she told me, I was so surprised
- consider other professionals such as a counselor or life coach. Over the last four years, I’ve been to both. The life coach in particular was so helpful, so that is something I definitely recommend
In addition, sometimes we need to figure out what we want. Not just for our families, etc., but just us. I remember once being asked what I would like to do.
And you know, I had no answer. It took me a few minutes to think. Then I said I wanted a bubble bath.
The counselor inspired me to go buy some bath bombs etc., and off I went to have my bath. It was strange, but I needed permission to self-care. So don’t forget your self-care in your recovery.
Actually self -care isn’t just for recovery, it should be part of our daily lives.
As women, we have busy lives. We have so many demands on us. Family, elderly parents, grandchildren, careers – and all the while we’re meant to be good home makers, mothers, and wives, well-groomed, healthy and providing perfectly cooked meals!
Even thinking about everything we have to do is exhausting.
Technology was meant to make life easier, but I don’t think it has. We’re just busier. It’s like those mice on the treadmill; we can’t seem to get off.
We deserve some self-care time. It might be simply being able to take some quiet time, to sit out in the fresh air, to go for a walk, to sit and have a coffee, or have that bubble bath. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that you take that time, be it ten minutes or an hour.
The other thing I’m aware of too, is not to burn out.
Before I worked basically 24/7.
Today I write Monday to Friday, and I’m determined to take the weekends off. Life has to be balanced.
Be nice to you. You deserve it.
Want some ideas for self care? Try
I love being the old me again. It feels exciting, refreshing. I wake up every morning with enthusiasm and a plan for the day ahead.
Do I wish the last four years hadn’t happened? Absolutely!
But I am so grateful to have found me again, to have found passion and purpose, and the belief that I can do it, no matter what.
I’m taking baby steps, and I won’t hesitate to ask for help if I need it. And neither should you.