Read Part 1 of John’s amazing story here.
At the age of twenty-one I married. I was very, very happy and I felt as though I finally had my own life. Within two years Rosemary and I welcomed our daughter Lisa into the world. Three years later our son Mark was born and life was good. But it would not remain that way for long. My mother passed away at the young age of forty-eight.
My mother had a tragic life with so many challenges. When I looked back I always felt as though I could have done more. I’m learning that I did everything I could. The constant physical abuse from my father was all consuming. My anger, depression, anxiety and what ever the hell else I felt became a constant battle. Often I would seek out counselling, but would usually stop when it just became too difficult. And it became too difficult very quickly,
My guilt, shame and depression became too much when I realized I no longer trusted my own temper. It wasn’t just my father who was the target. I could be triggered by the smallest of things. Rosemary and I divorced and it was because of me. I couldn’t separate my father from my wife and children. This only caused more shame and guilt.
Over time it became a real challenge to spend time with my family. I got to the point where my anxiety and fear of my temper left me immobilized for days at a time. Over the course of the next seven years I had three relationships. Two were relatively good and one was terrible. This was a time in my life that I knew I needed to be on my own. I knew I had nothing to offer to another human being. It doesn’t get much lonelier than that.
Over the next twelve years I spent a lot of my time on my own where I became comfortable. At least I was in a safe place and only had to take care of myself. By reaching out for alternative ways of dealing with my depression and trauma I learned the practise of Reiki. Through Reiki I became involved in a long term relationship of ten years. Unfortunately, I am now in the final stage of a separation. As beneficial as alternative therapy was, I eventually fell back into that dark place of hopelessness and helplessness which created more shame and guilt.
I would often try to speak to my partner about how I was feeling but I never really felt I was heard. Maybe it was because I just never really new how to express myself. I never learned. I understand that living with someone with depression is at times very challenging. Over the years I have tried many different ways of dealing with my struggles. I try to stay active, especially physically, as it helps control my depression.
Mental illness of any kind can be an enormous challenge for yourself and your loved ones. When we talk, we just need empathy and we need to be heard. We don’t need sympathy or to be told what to do. Telling us to suck it up doesn’t work and makes things worse. It makes us feel more alone and that you don’t understand what we’re dealing with. If we could suck it up, we would. Believe me.
Looking back over the years I realize that during my darkest times, and there have been many, I would eventually deal with it with some counselling and alcohol. I thought I was OK though because I would go to work every day and I worked hard. I always went to the gym to work out, so I stayed active. I had two wonderful children, a nice home and great neighbours that were my friends. In my own mind I had sort of convinced myself that this was all good! I was so very wrong. I was often still very sad, depressed and would feel hopeless and desperately alone. During these times I would often wake up and feel unsure if I would get through the day, unsure if I even wanted to.
Currently I am going through the most challenging time of my life as every thing has collapsed all at once. We are often told to live for today. I am trying hard to do just that. I’m just really struggling to be in that place.
Depression is an illness which could be caused by many things. It could be a chemical imbalance or trauma or many other reasons but it is an illness and it is real and should not to be ignored. We all know someone or the family of someone who is dealing with this often ignored and misunderstood illness.
I am asking anyone who reads my story to try to find the strength to speak up about your own journey or that of a loved one. Being vulnerable and sharing your story will create a place of safety for others to share theirs. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give another human being.
Thank you so much for reading my story.