I have always thought of myself as being a really strong and courageous person, and in many ways I certainly am. I have battled adversity many times over and negotiated obstacles so often in the last 5 or 6 years, that I really did not expect what happened to me a few weeks back.
If anything, I thought autism would have brought depression upon me 3 years ago, but it didn't and will probably never do. I have grown to understand my daughter's peculiarities and we all have found a way to communicate and bond together. She has come on heaps and is the most adorable, albeit odd, little girl in my world. So, what happened? How come I lost myself? Why did I wake up one day in tears and rushed to my GP to get referred for help? Was it just because I got my heart broken and crushed? Or was that just the final straw which destroyed the last bit of strength I had left in me?
There are some things I can't talk about, even on this blog unfortunately, and that will remain with my psychiatrist, but let's just say that a separation, a house move, an autistic daughter, a divorce, a complicated health-related issue, having your kids part time, being dumped by the man you consider being the one, quitting smoking, being totally cut off by half your family because they are not in agreement with your choices, massive uncertainty and stress at work, in no particular order, might just about be enough to send anybody over the edge. It did me.
And over the edge I went, and fell. Low, very low, and hard, very hard.... for days, i just could not function. My job was much too stressful too and I was on the path to having a complete burn-out. In hindsight, I think I did. That's more like what happened I think. I had a complete burn-out. All of a sudden life just did not make any sense at all. I am usually really positive by nature and in my mind. But then, I just couldn't find any more reasons, strength, incentives to get up nor function. I rapidly lost my appetite, not just for food, but for pretty much everything. I plummeted to 52 kg for1m78 (8 st for a height of 5'11'') and felt sick all the time. I knew i had to keep on functioning if only for my children, but even looking at them and holding them, I could only feel sorrow and pain. I knew I had to stop crying because I couldn't explain to my son why I was crying so much and so often. I had lost it all in my mind, and I was constantly battling with contradictory thoughts. "It's not the end of the world, you have only been dumped" was echoed by "all this time loving and hoping and building a relationship and it's all crumbled, I'll never love again". "I am worthless" got the "you are a good person" reply... and the tears kept streaming down my face. I even got an infection in my eyes because they were so dehydrated. This was bad. The alarm went off on the day one of my best friends told me I scared her, she did not recognise me and she had never ever seen/heard me like this. I think that shook me because I could feel I was losing myself and I just did not know what to do next to find me. I was terrorised. I was angry at being so depressed, i wanted to pain to stop, both my patience and strength disappeared, it was so scary and lonesome.
I gave in to the psychiatrist's order to take anti-depressants. For years I had totally refused to go near them, from the autism diagnosis time to the most recent divorce period. I always was reticent to the idea of being on a long-term medication and I really thought they were just for other people, not for me. After all, I had managed through the years without them, why would I now have to take them? Admittedly it had been years since I had had a good night's sleep and I had occasionally taken anti-anxiety pills or plants to help with my insomnia issues. This time though, I knew that I needed help, proper help, monitored help, both physically and mentally. I needed to become stronger than before so that nothing like this would ever happen to me again. So i started the course of medication and today, I don't regret it. I will not condone their use but I will not say a bad word either because they have probably saved my life. Of course, I do believe my own inner strength has also played a big part in the therapy and I won't need to be on them for long (2 months max) but they have really helped stabilise my emotions and get out of the manic-depressive state I was in.
I had to be put on sick leave for 2 weeks, I needed time to recover and switch off from all types of stress. So i turned off my blackberry, I just took one day at a time and tried to spend some quality time with my kids in the country. I also needed time on my own so I went back home after the week-end and started trying to understand what was happening to me. I asked for help from friends too, because I know that my real friends would be there for me and would not judge me. And I got the help. Not necessarily from the people I was expecting it actually - it's all a learning curve...
I went back to work after 2 weeks and I felt calmer and the demons were starting to fade away... There were still a few obstacles but I was in a better frame of mind and could front them and acknowledge the pain. I was ready to live with it. I was accepting.
My psychiatrist had said that I needed to really look after myself and do things that were making me feel good. But there was nothing that made me feel good, that was the problem. All the hobbies I used to enjoy, well, they really were of no appeal to me anymore... and then...
I decided that if running had worked for my ex-husband, then, maybe, just maybe, it could work for me. From all my readings on depression, one recurring advice was the one on exercise and the real physical and mental benefits of releasing endorphins. It was Summer, my kids were gone for 3 weeks with their Dad to Ireland, I was home alone, not much work to do, so I took up running. Malcolm, my ex-husband and father of my two wonderful children, had even bought me my very first pair of running shoes and written a training plan before leaving.
From that very first run two weeks ago, i knew sports would be my one of my saviours. My whole body felt good. The physical pain was actually a relief, a "good" pain, the one I can endure. I know it's probably a substitute for the losses I have had to grieve, but it's a tremendous one and now I do understand a lot more about the concept of sports equal pleasure and serenity.
Secondly I decided that one thing that had contributed to my "depression" was probably the fact that I had always felt like I didn't belong anywhere, except when I was living in England. I was born in Spain but barely lived there, I was brought up in France but there was always something about the people I could not really understand nor relate to. I had always had an unconditional love for England, even before setting foot on the other side of the Channel. I loved the language, the culture, the people and it was my choice, my heart's choice, to go live there.... I always thought I'd stay there forever but after having the kids, well, it became a bit more tricky, both from a financial perspective and from a family/personal one. And don't get me wrong, I don't regret moving back to France, but I do miss England massively, and it's people's ways... So I decided to try and hang out with anglophiles and also maybe expats, find like-minded people who'd have the sense of humour I like, who would know about marmite, bbc shows, music (!) and who would speak the same language ;) I am happy to have found a group of such people - they will know who they are!
Now I am waiting for my children to come back from Ireland and I am ready for my holidays with them. I am looking forward to this new start in my life, I am happy and at peace with myself and the rest of the world. I feel good, I feel beautiful from the inside out and I embark for my new adventures with a huge smile on my face.