TITLE: Introduction to "Encouragement for Women with Depression and Anxiety: 31 Days of Hope" 27th April 2016
By Nicki Jeffery
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Encouragement for Women with Depression: 31 Days of Hope
I am about to describe my experience with a nasty illness. If you have experienced depression or anxiety, I want you to know that there is hope. Hang in there. You are precious and loved by many.
Thoughts raced. I tried to wake up but I hadn’t slept. Then life became a nightmare. I don’t know how I fell into the black pit. I just knew there was no way out. I could feel the darkness. It was tangible. Close as my next breath. Paralysed by fear, I was stuck.
Cold. Lonely. A brick was plonked atop my head. Heaviness. Pressure. Everything was dismal and grey. Joy was gone. I had entered a world without excitement, with nothing to look forward to. A storm engulfed me. Navy coloured clouds filled the sky. Thunder boomed and crashed. Streaks of lightning bolted to the ground.
I was in the valley of the shadow of death, with no escape. Day after day was bleak. Week after week and month after month. Few sunshiny moments.
Life was a prison. My feet were shackled. A ball and chain dragged behind my every step. How would I ever break free from my mind? I was suffocating from emotional pain.
I once loved food, but now everything tasted like cardboard. I once loved playing tennis, but now my groundstrokes were tentative and I had lost my confidence. I once loved inviting friends into my home, but now I had nothing positive to share.
A shell of my former self. But a shadow.
Who I had built Nicki to be was crumbling. My image was blurring like a smeared watercolour painting. It was like I didn’t exist anymore. Who was I? I wasn’t a teacher. I was a mother, but quite a pathetic one. A wife, but not the lover and best friend to my husband that I had once been. I was a mess of hormones and chemical imbalance. I was actually really sick.
The barren, wintery day I left the hospital with my newborn son, the outside world looked different. Having been inside for about five days, nurtured by hospital staff and visits from family and friends, getting in the car was a shock. As we headed out of town, the hills looked brown and the tree branches spindly and bare.
We were “home” for a few weeks. I was anaemic after my labour and extra loss of blood. I didn’t feel well and was sore. But I recovered.
I was perfectionistic about my son’s sleep, feed and wake times. I kept meticulous records. I wanted to do things “right”.
Around my baby and I, people buzzed about packing boxes. Family members visited from afar. I addressed thank-you postcards and revelled that I had everything I had ever wanted – a husband, a baby, and soon a new life at the beach.
The world outside my hospital room looked odd. Changed. Soon my whole world was to be turned upside down and inside out. A tangled web of terror and heartache.
I slipped into depression ten weeks after the birth of my first son, Matthew. My husband and I and our six-week old baby moved towns, and Nathan started a new job driving trucks. We knew no one in our new city. I was overcome with sadness, having moved away from my family and our support network. The depression manifested in sleeplessness and racing thoughts.
A new doctor was quick to put me on antidepressants and send me to a psychologist. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. What followed was a year of trying one antidepressant after another, appointments with two psychologists and three psychiatrists.
After that period, which was easily the worst year of my life, I fell pregnant with our second son, Ethan. My GP was gravely concerned. But as can happen in pregnancy, the feel good hormones made it a largely pleasant experience.
I started to go downhill again after the birth of Ethan. Four and a half months later, I had a psychotic episode and ended up in the mental health ward of the hospital. Rather than antidepressants, I was given mood stabilizing/antipsychotic medication. Two years later, I had weaned myself off the drug under psychiatric supervision. Then I began an antidepressant medication that is supposed to be good for anxiety.
I saw a counsellor for about three years on and off. She explained that seeing her is like going to a personal trainer at a gym. We need to exercise our minds. I was in training.
So far it has been a long road to healing. I have a biological predisposition to depression and anxiety. Many beautiful women have helped me along the way with their friendship and support. Some of their stories and tips appear in this book. After five and a half years, I came off the medication and remain on supplements.
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