Prior to going to university for the second time I had managed to ‘maintain’ my weight at the healthy level I’d reached when I was 18. This was through my usual cycle of binge eating and panicked dieting. As my depression was so severe I was unable to stick to a diet and during the 3 years of my degree I gained a total of 90 lbs. I despised myself for being so weak willed. My depression continued to be a serious issue and by this time I had been on several different antidepressants without finding one that worked sufficiently for me to live a normal life. My self harming continued and in 1997 I started seeing a psychiatric nurse weekly.
In February 1997 I had a miscarriage which obviously didn’t help things. My self harming reached such a level that my nurse threatened to section me for my own safety and I think it was this that finally made me turn the corner. I fell pregnant again in the December of 1997 and had Katherine the following August. Following Katherine’s birth I started taking medication again and had a couple of good years.
My self harming returned in 2001 and I finally realised the reason why I was doing it. It was a way of letting those around me know how bad I was feeling. Depression is an invisible disease and people that don’t experience it themselves can’t understand how it feels. Realising that it was almost a form of control made me feel so ashamed that it gave me the strength the stop. I have not self harmed in 17 years. That’s not to say I’m cured as I still get the urge to cut, but I know I don’t want to go down that self destructive route again.
I stayed at home with the girls until 2003 when Katherine went to school. I then decided to retrain as a primary school teacher. In the months prior to this, there had been a lot of bad press about the antidepressant Seroxat. As this was what I was taking, I decided to stop taking it. My teacher training course was a disaster. I was placed in a small village school where the headteacher was a total nut job -and that is being kind. It would take me hours to describe everything that went on, so I will just mention a couple things. I was not alone in feeling the way I did about her, she was intensely disliked by the entire staff. The worst thing for me was that she daily humiliated the children she didn’t like (e.g. by singling out them for unwarranted criticism in front of the whole school). I asked the other staff why they didn’t step in and was told that they ‘just have to make up for it afterwards’. Without any medication I had a total mental breakdown after 8 weeks.
I was then put on the antidepressant Sertraline and remarkably over a period of 6 months my depression was stabilised. I still had low periods but they were no longer all encompassing. This wasn’t the end of my mental health issues but it was certainly a massive step in the right direction.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT ANXIETY
This is a hard thing for me to talk about because I am always worried about how I am being perceived. I am extremely lucky to have a husband who loves me unconditionally. He is the closest friend (and other things) I’ve ever had. I actually suffer from separation anxiety when he is not home. I know this makes me sound like a child and I know this is not normal. I have made great strides towards controlling this anxiety as it was having a such a negative effect on our lives. It did require an additional medication to dampen the anxiety response but it also required a lot of introspection and honesty on my part. Things are a lot better now but I still have to work at it.