Penny Wilson: My journey with depression
I was in my twenties the first time I realised I was going through a depression. I was living with a man that was psychologically abusive. I’m sure that’s probably what prompted that first episode.
I’ve had exposure to mental illness all my life. My mother struggled with it and so did my younger brother. So I knew what depression was. Although it took some time to recognise what was going on within me. I went to a counsellor for several sessions and I think it helped quite a bit. She was a person I could express myself to without worry of repercussions.
Over the years, I think I have had different periods of brief depression. But there was nothing long lasting or alarming until I was in my early 30s. Depression is one of those things that sneaks into your life. It hides in the crannies and crevasses of your mind. Before you know it, it has you by the throat and you have no idea how or why your life became so dark.
I remember quite clearly sitting on the bed with my husband and crying. He had his arm around me trying to console me. He asked me why I was crying. I said “I don’t know, I don’t know!” It was a frightening experience. I couldn’t stop.
This was the first time I sought help from my doctor. I was prescribed anti-depressants and my life seemed to even out, for a while. The husband and I made a major move and I lost my health insurance and my medication (I live in America).
I think it was about two years before I consulted a doctor again about my depression. I was fortunate enough to have a Nurse Practitioner as my “doctor”. This woman was wonderful. She not only looked after all of my usual medical issues, but she became someone that I could confide in. My doctor acted as counsellor. Just the act of talking to someone helped.
Knowing that I would not be judged for how I was feeling was liberating.
I no longer have a counsellor. But I do have two advantages. The first advantage is that I have been through the ups and downs of depression enough times to recognise the signs. Usually, I know when to seek help. But, for those times when I do not recognise the signs, I have a second advantage. I have a very dear, close friend that I can confide in. She has also experienced depression on different levels in her lifetime. We watch each other’s back. If we see symptoms in the other that seem troublesome, that’s when the dialogue begins about seeking help.
There have been times when all I want to do is sleep. This is a classic symptom of depression. People who are depressed sleep, because it's a way to escape reality. When you are depressed, the real world can be just too difficult to bear. During this time, I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want to do anything. My close friend has seen those warning signs and she starts a very open and frank discussion with me about my depression. I’ve had to do the same thing with her.
I am very fortunate that I have a very kind, understanding doctor right now. I feel comfortable enough with her to be able to speak freely about my depression. She does not take the role of counsellor with me, but the conversations about medication come easily with her.
Right now, my life is going wonderfully! I’m happy and content with my life. I feel that I’m moving forward and pursuing my goals and dreams. I am on anti-depressants now and will probably be on them the rest of my life. That's alright with me. It’s a small price to pay for having a happy life.
If you are going through depression, don’t write it off. Depression is serious and can be a deadly thing. Talking to your family physician is a good place to start. If you have a friend that you can confide in, talk about it. Tell someone! Don’t suffer in silence. There is help out there!
You can read more of Penny's work on her blog. We especially love this piece where she describes how depression feels to her. Remember, if you are struggling with depression, help is available. You can use our site to find a counsellor near you.