The second of AWARE volunteer Cliona McCarney’s two-part blog on her battle with depression. Last week, Cliona realised that the weight of the world on her shoulders was literally killing her.
It took every bit of strength that I possessed to convince myself that it would be a bad thing for that to happen.
That sounds melodramatic, and maybe it is, but that was the point I’d gotten to. I went to my GP and, for the first time, I faced up to the true extent of the problems I was having.
It took me several attempts to make an appointment. I waited in the call queue for what felt like hours and then hung up in fright when I heard a voice.
Even when I eventually made it through to reception, I refused to tell the woman the nature of my problem, saying it was a check-up I needed about my asthma.
A couple of weeks later, I faced my doctor and I told her I couldn’t be sure that I would keep myself safe anymore and she needed to help, to help me help myself.
She prescribed me my first course of antidepressants and they absolutely knocked me for six. Again, this was around Christmas time when I would ordinarily be rushing around, busy, but I felt so lethargic I could barely stand up.
On Christmas Day in our house, everyone mucks in to help get the dinner out and the dishes done, but I physically couldn’t do much more than plonk myself on the sofa.
I was aghast with despair, but mainly frustration. I thought that opening up, taking this medication would make me feel better, but so far I was almost worse.
Nevertheless, I persisted. I fought the demons inside my head every day that told me I was beyond help and not deserving of it either. I took a deep breath and counted to 30 inside my head.
I began to trust that if I could make it through the next 30 seconds, then the next, that I could will myself onwards.
Fast-forward a few months. I had finally opened up about what I was feeling to the people closest to me. A very lovely friend had helped me make some decisions and defer my exams at university.
I continued with my medication. I stood down from my political roles to allow myself time to heal. The support I received from within my political party is something I’ll never forget.
Slowly, very slowly, but surely I started to feel like myself again. I took things day by day and always remembered that I had survived 100% of my very bad days so far, and that was a track record I was proud of and bloody determined to keep.
With the support of my friends and my truly magnificent family, I put myself together again.
Two and a half years later - I’m me. I’m Cliona. I’m not perfect. I don’t always like myself and sometimes
I get bad days, sometimes they turn into bad weeks and I start to panic, but now I know that it will pass. I survived the worst time of my life and I think my best days are still ahead of me.
I’m working in a job that I love, trying to give a little back to the health system that helped put me back together. Depression isn’t a cop-out response to a bad day. It’s an illness that can be debilitating and life-destroying. Mental illness is no less of an illness.
It’s been a long journey, and I don’t know when I’ll be finished with the journey, if ever. But the one thing I can say, with every confidence, is that it’s worth every single step. I am stronger now than I ever have been.
I hope that by sharing my story it will help other people to seek help. AWARE does amazing work, please never suffer in silence the way I did. You are worth seeking help for.
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