WARNING: Parts of my storey are very confronting and some may find upsetting, if you find yourself upset and depressed I encourage you to ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224636.
I won’t pretend that my journey to start the road to recovery was as simple as taking a few prescribed medications for depression and then life would return to normal, because it didn’t, and I’m confident in saying that this is the case for most people who are diagnosed with depression.
Since being officially diagnosed with severe depression in 2004 after a lifetime of suffering my GP has tried me on a countless number of different medications, and doses in an attempt to gain control of that wild Black Dog. It has been a very hilly journey of trials and tribulations, and wasn’t as simple as I originally thought it would be.
There were many side effects from nausea, to dizziness, nightmares, insomnia, exhaustion, increased depressive symptoms, and increased thoughts of suicide. For years, meds, and doses were changed. When finally it appeared that my Black Dog had been tamed, I would start to fall back into a depressive episode, and we would be back to square one.
While my GP was fantastic, he recommended I see a Psychiatrist who could prescribe medications with specialist knowledge. As a single Mum I simply could not afford the costs to see a Psychiatrist, and the mental health plans established by the government to assist patients with counselling, did not include appointments with Psychiatrists. I was unable to see this level of help, so again the trials and tribulations of more meds began again.
I wasn’t frustrated, angry, I was too sick to react, I was simply very depressed, and everything was way too hard.
At one stage I just gave up, and stopped taking my meds, went through withdrawal, and stopped going to my GP. To this day I don’t know why I went down this path. I guess it had to do with endless meds, endless doctor’s appointments, with little to no reprieve from my depression. I gave up, accepted the Black Dog would run rampant forever. As such, my health suffered, my work was affected, my mood interfered with all aspects of my life, and my depression continued to get harder, and harder to cope with.
Eventually out of sheer desperation I went back to my GP and back on the meds merry go round.
A lot has happened on this journey to find the right medications. I have been so sick I’ve attempted suicide a number of times, another storey to be told, and despite this it appeared to me that I wasn’t sick enough to receive more help than what my GP could provide. At times I really wondered how sick someone had to get before they could receive affordable specialist help. There were always way too many questions than answers.
I had nearly lost my life a number of times, I was a high risk, yet I wasn’t sick enough to receive the help I needed.
So life continued on this massive roller coaster, accompanied by a wild Black Dog that no amount of treatment could control.
In 2011, I hit rock bottom, that’s probably an understatement. I ended up in ICU, a hospital ward, and for the first time a psychiatric ward. I was terrified, officially I was locked up! I didn’t know what was happening, I was left for days where no treatment or consultations from doctors. I was having serious withdrawal because I hadn’t been put back on any meds, my depression was at its lowest, and I felt like I was in a gaol where nobody cared for me or my health.
Out of nowhere, all of a sudden I was being transferred to another psychiatric hospital, and there was talk of ECT, electro convulsive therapy. Once transferred I was prescribed a heavy dosage of seroquel, that had me moving like a zombie, and other meds to try and control psychosis, my mood, and depression. Soon after being transferred I was started on a course of ECT, six or eight sessions over two weeks, that’s another storey.
On Christmas Eve I was discharged, they were going to need my bed! I wasn’t better, far from it, I was so drugged up on seroquel and other meds, I was out of it, exhausted, living in a thick fog with no signs of light.
A lot of what happened from this point on I don’t remember a lot of, because of retrograde amnesia caused by ECT. What I write is from my true love answering questions to fill the black hole which had become my memory.
My true love while I was in hospital organised health insurance, recognising the issues, and lack of help in the public health system. I started seeing a Psychiatrist at a private mental health hospital who changed my medications again, organised admission, and another course of ECT.
The medications my Psychiatrist prescribed were continually adjusted and changed to find the right mix that would lift the dense fog, open doors in my maze, bring light to my darkness, and send that bloody Black Dog on a walk hopefully he wouldn’t return from.
I can say after this very long journey that I have started to get off rock bottom, there appears some light, and doors opening in my maze, and finally the walks my Black Dog goes on are getting longer before he returns, more tamer each time.
Maintaining health will always be my challenge, but I think finally I have the right Psychiatrist, GP, medications, and care to stay on my journey to recovery. My message from my trials and tribulations are that no one pill or mix of pills will simply cure depression, it takes time, setbacks, and changes to find the right road on the map. To get through this it’s far from easy, but I guess I can say that finally I am on my road to recovery, for anybody on this long journey patience, support from others, and specialist care are your best friends, some of these not easy to befriend, but it takes time, but eventually the road becomes better, and that Black Dog starts to stay away.