'I Was Living The Perfect Life In Australia... But I Was Miserable And Numb'
As part of our #TimeToTalk series, we will be sharing stories from our readers about their experiences with mental health in an attempt to open a conversation and battle the stigma in Ireland.
In this instalment, Her.ie reader Sharon talks about being diagnosed with depression, her time at a mental health facility and how one phone call saved her life.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression just over 15 months ago.
I was living in Australia at the time with the ‘perfect’ life. I had a great job, good income, sunshine, friends, a great boyfriend, and lived five minutes from the most amazing beach… but I was miserable and numb all the time.
I had been feeling this miserable low mood for about four or five months before I was diagnosed. I couldn’t understand why I felt so shit all the time. Homesickness crossed my mind but I didn’t physically miss being at home and I was in contact with my family regularly.
I felt numb a lot, tired but couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to go out, there was no joy out of food, going to the beach, holidays in Bali… I felt miserable all the time. I was working out daily and eating healthy but the weight was piling on and that really got me down.
I knew something wasn’t right so I decided to go see a doctor. Things got worse. I don’t know why but things just went downhill fast. I couldn’t stop crying and every night I would cry for hours. My boyfriend just hugged me but he couldn’t say or do anything to make it better, nobody could.
I couldn’t go to work. I wasn’t able to get out of bed, it felt like there was a big black cloud over or in my head all the time making all my thoughts negative. I went back to the doctor looking for more help so he put me on medication and recommended counselling.
I started the tablets there and then and made an appointment for counselling as soon as I could. I was willing to try anything to feel better.
Things got even worse. Metaphorically, I felt like I was in a big black hole and there was no way out. I began to get suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to kill myself but felt it was the only way to end the pain and torture that was going on in my head.
I ended up going to A&E one night because I felt so suicidal. I talked the doctors and nurses and they felt I should be admitted. I felt safer too. I was then transferred to a different hospital, something to do with the catchment area where I was living.
They put me into a mental health ward. It was so scary, young people walking around doped up to their eyeballs. There was a young girl rocking back, talking to herself in the four-bedroom room they put me in.
My boyfriend wasn’t allowed into my room, I had to go meet him in a communal meeting area. The doors were padlocked and it was underground so there was no windows. It was like a prison.
I couldn’t stay there. I wanted help and was willing to do anything to feel a bit better but this place would make me worse. My boyfriend was afraid to leave me there as well, he thought he’d come back in the morning and I wouldn’t recognise him because I would be doped up on drugs.
The doctors agreed to let me home on the condition a local nurse would visit me the following day. I never heard from this nurse. I was not be left alone and my medication was doubled. By the time I got out of hospital, my mother was on route to Australia to bring me home.
The night before I flew home, I was at my lowest point. There was a comment passed that really got to me.
I said to myself that once everyone was asleep that night, I was going to end it. I was a burden to everyone, I was useless, my friends didn’t want to be around me and had their own lives to get on with. I went downstairs and took any tablets I could get a hold of (luckily, it was only four or five Valium there though).
I swallowed them and took a sharp kitchen knife to my wrist. My boyfriend then grabbed my hand. I didn’t even realise he had heard me go downstairs. I am so grateful to him every day for getting to me on time that night. He was my rock through everything really.
Once I got back home, I thought things might improve but they just remained the same… miserable. I started counselling straight away and it took a while to work but it definitely helped.
Another remark came in the first week in December and I took it very badly. I was struggling so much with loneliness and felt hurt. I was in bits so I drove to a local pier with the intention to end my life.
There was a battle in my head. On one hand, I thought ‘I can’t do this to my boyfriend or family’ but on the other hand, I felt that it would end the pain and I would be free of the torture.
I would never get my life back so why suffer on any longer?
That’s when I decided I’d try ring Samaritans helpline. I tried twice… it didn’t ring or there was no answer. I can’t really remember but I took it as a sign, something saying ‘just kill yourself’.
I got out of the car to make my way down the pier. I decided I would give Samaritans a last go. Thankfully, a lady called Ann answered. I couldn’t even talk, I just cried for ages.
When I could eventually talk, I didn’t even know what to say. I wondered how I would explain what was going on in my head but I didn’t need to, she knew.
Her voice was so calming and we talked for about an hour. I can hardly even remember what we talked about but I felt she knew exactly what to say and she understood me and didn’t think I was mental because I felt suicidal. I will always be so grateful for the Samaritans facility and for Ann for saving my life that day.
I continued to see my counsellor until February. That’s nine months at weekly counselling sessions and I feel I needed every one of them. The help I got from my counsellor helps me pull myself out of low moods and gives me the strength to try overcome depression on my own.
I am still on medication and probably will be for a long time. The meds make me tired and lethargic, which frustrates me so much sometimes.
It makes normal things like working a five day week almost impossible. I still only work four days and by Friday evening, I can hardly manage to make myself dinner because I’m so zapped of energy, never mind go out on a Friday night.
Every single day I think about the low times, sometimes I feel like I’ve left them all behind me and I’m much better. The next day, I could feel low and worry that it’s all going to happen again.
I hardly have any social life because I’m so tired on the weekends that I need to recharge myself before starting a working week. I am very aware that alcohol can set me back so when I am not feeling great, I’ll avoid all drink but allow myself to drink when I’m doing good.
I know I still have a long way to go and doctors continually warn me that it’s likely to come back again, which terrifies me.
I am not the same person I was before depression but I am slowly improving and I am a million miles better than I was this time last year.
If you are struggling with mental health issues and need something to talk to, there are a range of confidential and anonymous options available. You can find a full list of available options here. To share your story as part of Her.ie's #TimeToTalk campaign, you can email us at email@example.com.