This blog was first published in 2013. As future blogs will demonstrate a lot has changed…
For around 9 years now I have lived with depression.
My partner was diagnosed with manic depression in 2004-2005 following a short period of her life that would test any living human to the limit. After discovering her mother had Cancer and only weeks left to live we then discovered we were expecting our first child. Before our daughter was born her mum passed away. Our eldest was born a few months later and just 2 months later my partner “lost” her father after he literally packed up and left without a trace to shack up with a Turkish woman he had found online. No notice, no goodbye. We simply went to visit him one day after not seeing him for 4 days and found his house empty! I reported him missing to the Police who located him living in West Yorkshire and he said he wanted no contact from his family as he was “starting again”. Call it a midlife crisis, call it what you want, I call it being a heartless bastard. It absolutely destroyed my Mrs who was already showing signs of depression since losing her mum and giving birth.
I had just joined the Police at this time and was working a lot of overtime as most Probationers do. When I wasn’t working I was studying. I was living and breathing Police life. At home things were….Ok. We argued a lot but it was mostly over something tiny and trivial which 99% of the time would turn into a full blown argument due to my partner’s increasingly worrying mindset.
Life grew tough. I was walking on egg shells in my own home. I couldn’t have a social life or do ANYTHING I wanted to do because it would upset and anger her. She would say some awful hurtful things to me. She would end our relationship almost once a month sometimes simply for not taking a day off work when she demanded despite the obvious impact that would have on my very early Police career. I could see that the lass I loved more than anything who had given me the most beautiful daughter was falling further and further into this black hole of depression. In her mind she had no family of her own as her closest relative, her sister, lived 50+ miles away and depending on what mood she was in would depend on whether she give a damn about my Mrs. She would not accept it when I told her that our daughter and myself were her family and literally BEGGED her to talk to me. My own mother tried to help as she is an ex nurse and she too has depression. My sister tried but it always ended with them both falling out. She was never aggressive, never a risk to herself or others, just very VERY emotional and would often get into really low moods where NOTHING in the world would pull her out of it. She was always pessimistic about every situation and just had that constant “what’s the point” attitude to life.
I knew that she had depression but how do you tell somebody you love, who has such an unstable temperament, that they need help? It was awful and a huge amount of stress on me. I often cried with frustration and literally begged her to speak to me but whenever I got stressed it angered her more. However, I loved her and vowed never to give up on her and I was NOT going to fail her or my daughter.
Eventually, on one of her good days I sat her down and I basically told her she would not like what I was about to say but she was suffering with depression and that for the sake of herself, our daughter and for our relationship she needs to speak to somebody. I had watched it develop from day one and I asked her if she would please speak to a Doctor if she would not or could not speak to myself and my (our) family…. SHE WENT BESERK!
Shortly afterwards when I was working, policing an England cricket game, I got a text telling me she was taking my daughter and leaving to do stay with her sister. I asked how long for and was told “I don’t know”. I asked her not to leave, we would talk when I got home and I got no reply. I text again and TOLD her that she can not just walk away with my daughter and not even let me say goodbye. I got no reply. It was messing with my head big time. I was stuck in the middle of Leeds having to be friendly and polite to people whilst my life crashed around me. I just wanted to race home and sort things out and at least if she still wanted to go I would get to say goodbye and hold my baby girl one last time. When I eventually got home that evening they were gone and so were a lot of their stuff. I fell apart. I sat and cried. I tried about 40-50 times to call her but kept getting her voicemail. I didn’t know where her sister lived so couldn’t drive and sort things out. I literally felt like my daughter had been kidnapped. I called my parents in a state. I went to see them at their pub and sat at the bar in bits. As I spoke to them and a friend I decided there was nothing I could do if she had chosen to leave me but that I had to try and make it civil so I could still be a daddy to my little girl. I text my Mrs and asked her to talk to me and let us sort things so I can still be a daddy. I asked her if this was it for good. Were we over? The next morning I still hadn’t had a reply so I sent another text and said that if I had not heard anything by midnight that night then I would take it as a yes and would start making plans to leave the house so she could return with our daughter. I got no reply. The next day I started looking for somewhere to live. I took time off work explaining to my thankfully understanding boss what had gone on. Four days later Katie returned and was acting like nothing had happened and couldn’t understand my upset. She told me that she hadn’t gotten my messages because her sister confiscated her phone so she could relax and clear her head. I had found a flat and paid my deposit and was moving out and she saw this as me leaving her alone and walking out on her and got upset that I would do such a thing. I ended up renting a flat very close by so I could still see my daughter and put a bit of distance between us. I spent more time at our family home (on the sofa) than my own flat. The break seemed to do us well but she would still have very frequent dark days. I felt heartbroken and desperate as I watched her drift further into depression. I felt useless and hopeless. I felt I was failing my daughter because at this rate I could see my Mrs eventually being unable to cope with her. I cried a lot. I worried a lot. I relied heavily on good friends and family to help me help her.
After around 6months of living apart we decided we should start a fresh and move back in together. It was her idea and she told me she missed me and did not want a broken family. She told me that our little family unit was all she had now and she did not want to jeopardise it…. I therefore made a deal with her.
I told her that we would start again, move into a new home and build our family life on ONE condition…she goes to the Doctors. I told her that if I was wrong and the Doc says she does not have depression (she still denied there was anything wrong with her) then I would take her out on payday and buy her a whole new wardrobe. The deal was made and she booked the appointment.
When the day finally arrived she marched off to the docs confidently telling me to get ready to go shopping. 45mins later she arrived home. I could see she had been crying. She looked sheepish. She came straight in and hugged me. I could feel a difference already. For such a long time I had felt no love, no affection, just emptiness. It actually hurt to cuddle her cause I could see she had no interest. Right at that moment however I could feel real love. She squeezed me and we both cried with relief. I could finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
She told me that it took the Doctor less than 5 mins to tell she was suffering with depression. Apparently the Doctor could see it as soon as she entered the room. She still went through the NHS questionnaire and answered the doctors questions but she said after 45mins of talking she already felt better. She had been diagnosed with Manic Depression and given a repeat prescription of Citalopram. She had also been put in touch with a free, charity funded bereavement counselling service. She apologised so much that I had to tell her to be quiet! I didn’t want apologies I just wanted my Mrs back.
A few weeks later we moved into our new home to start a new life, just the three of us. Shortly afterwards things were already much much better thanks to the tablets. However, there was still something missing. She would still have her dark days. We had forgotten in all the madness of moving house to pop along to the counselling centre. She give them a ring and the very next day a lovely lady called Tracy came to visit. I took our daughter out for a walk to the park whilst they spoke and 2hrs later the Mrs called to say I could come home as Tracy had left. She already sounded brighter.
Upon my return I had a brew waiting and we sat on the sofa and she told me that despite all her initial fears of “what if she thinks im mad” and “what if she thinks I am just being silly” etc she actually felt 100 times better. Talking to somebody completely detached from the whole situation who did not know her and who wouldn’t have any prejudice was exactly what the Doctor ordered. She was to keep a diary and write down her feeling daily and then once a week we were both to sit down together and read it and talk about what she had written. Within 2 months and 6 hours of counselling my Mrs was the smiley bubbly lass I had fallen in love with. I wanted to pick Tracy up and kiss her! Despite our initial worries when the session stopped everything has remained fine.
Now almost 9 years later, despite the odd slip back into depression when she runs out of tablets, things are great. We have two beautiful girls and we get on well. Things aint perfect but then what relationship is? I am SO proud of her for coming so far and she has come out of this black hole with such a positive and enthusiastic attitude. She thanks me all the time for being her “rock” through all these years and for “putting up” with her. I tell her the same thing every time… I love you and would do it all again if I had to.
However, seeing this depression develop and grow from the start has given me a unique insight and an ability to recognise the signs in others. This includes, most recently, myself.
For numerous reasons ranging from financial stresses, work issues, the loss of both my grans weeks apart and also issues I can not talk about at this stage, I have begun to see in myself the same initial signs of depression I saw in my better half.
I am suffering fatigue and lack of sleep. I have become tetchy and snappy. I have suffered with chronic digestive issues, headaches and tension. I am irritable and argumentative. I find it hard at times to concentrate. I am more emotional and often feel the need to cry with frustration. I want to go out or go to work less & less each day and want to just spend time with my Mrs and kids at home, away from anybody else. This isnt EVERY day but it is becoming more and more common. I am never aggressive or hostile and I don’t take mood swings out on others but I am just a big grumpy grouch and fed up.
I have recognised these signs in myself. I have had the odd comment from my Mrs telling me “Ya need to stop getting so irate” or “Your so bloody tetchy lately”…. She is trodding on the same egg shells I was all those years ago and probably wondering like I was with her, how she tells me to seek help and do something about it.
Because I can see the signs myself I have developed my own way of managing the problem. I don’t like the idea of taking drugs to alter my state of mind although I know just how well they can work. I have my own way. A long shower with some relaxing music (wolf song seems to work best) and a touch of meditation or relaxation. But I know that wont always be enough and I know that wont always be possible.
I can’t talk to her cause it could cause her to become more depressed again worrying about me. My parents have their own issues but they will always listen if I need them. I also have some very good friends and have met a couple of VERY lovely people on Twitter. They know who they are and I thank them soooooo much. However, I need to follow my own advice which I give to my Mrs all those years ago.
So today I made a decision. I am calling the Doctors and I am going to speak to them NOW before it gets to the levels I witnessed Mrs Wolf reach.
I am a big believer that depression is NOTHING to be afraid of. It is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is NOTHING to hide from the world and if managed properly and quickly depression is NOTHING that can’t be cured. It is an illness, not a weakness. It is not contagious and people have no reason to be fearful or embarrassed.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of trying too hard to be strong for too long.
We are all human and we are not invincible. There comes a time when we have to accept that we need help from our friends and family to get through some tough times in life. There is no shame at all in that.
So… To try and break down some barriers and to show that depression is nothing to be embarrassed about I am taking you all on a little journey and will keep you updated along the way. I will book my appointment and when I have been to see the Doc I will write again about the process, what happened, how I felt, what I thought and what the diagnosis is. It will no doubt be very cathartic for me and maybe, just maybe, it might help somebody else…? Who knows.