So I know this blog post has been a long time coming, I write this at a time that is fitting, not only that, I believe I owe it to some people for an explanation.
Three years ago today, I got the news I was getting taken off the suicide prevention program, that my mental state was improving enough to stop the push for antidepressants and it appeared that I was beginning to be happy.
So there ya have it Bridie Edwards – sufferer and conqueror of depression.
Some of you who know me may know that for a short period of my life I did suffer from mental illness, some may not. For the people who don’t know – I hope this offers some comfort in the current pain you are feeling if you are feeling any and for everyone else, I hope it paints a more understanding picture of who I am today.
I have always been an overthinker, a lost soul to some extent, craving happiness and craving love. When I was 15 I started to notice I wasn’t happy, that I could smile but I didn’t feel like I meant it, that I cried for no reason, far too often, that the things that use to make me happy didn’t anymore and that the words in my head began to take on a nasty streak of self-hatred. I searched in the eyes of my friends to see if anyone was feeling the same and if what I was experiencing was normal, I wondered if everyone felt like this life wasn’t what they were expecting and that the hollow feeling inside my chest was normal.
For months I kept it locked inside, nibbling little cuts into my arm to escape whatever it was I was feeling, not telling anyone because I believed I didn’t have any reason to be sad, which I didn’t, still to this day I can never understand why I went through it, I had the most amazing family; sisters who gave me warm hugs, brothers who joked about bashing any boy who came near me, a mum who took me to netball and a dad who face lit up whenever I walked into a room; friends who wanted to spend time with me, friends who I knew would find some way to understand what I was feeling, and social calendar that certainly symbolised a good time for a newly growing wild child. There was nothing behind the drive of sadness, it was me.
There was nothing behind the drive of sadness, if you want to visualise depression, this is the way I saw it- me driving a car, people clambering to get in the car to take the wheel but me still insisting on driving the car off a cliff, driving faster and faster to escape the hands of help, clutching at the door handle, faces pleading, wanting to get in, sick of walking themselves, wanting to reason with me and their own feelings, wanting relief from their own tired legs but me still not understanding that me being selfish and zooming off, running over the toes of some leaving enough pain to hurt them and leaving others bruised and beaten up on the ground from my constructive metaphorical car hitting them with full force as I try to reach my destination.
This made my experience worse knowing I had no reason to feel this way but I simply couldn’t help it.
Bullying struck me hard in high school, I was always taller than everyone, I hit puberty before a lot of my friends, my voice was louder and I certainly was more emotional, an easy target for adolescent boys wanting to bring a young girl down for their own little egos and girls; too sad in their home life to believe what they were doing to me was wrong. So the gentle wave of bullying that I use to ignore now hurt coming into the age of 15, it actually hurt deep, my chest wheezed with pain. It wasn’t the rocks that got thrown at me that hurt or the fear of walking home, it was the words that stung my personal image that really cut deep.
My friends never noticed just how sad I was, I hid it well for the first few months, I guess I was trying to hide it from myself also. I didn’t have the heart to tell them either, nor my parents, it wasn’t until I reached up to my locker one day in winter and my jumper exposed the band-aids wrapped around my wrist and a friend saw and stared at me in shock, I was quick to make up some excuse about falling through a barb wire fence on the weekend and what an inconvenience it was because people would think I had actually brought harm to myself, in the most typical way.
After that day I knew it would come out at some stage, I knew that mum had clued on after I spent most of my evenings now curled up on the couch instead of out riding the horses, dad always putting my constant mood swings down to “just growing up” being the reason I cried most nights, that my hormones were on a whirlwind of their own and that they would surely one day find their little groove in my body and I would resume to feeling like a normal, happy girl again.
After I realised that was not true, I came home one afternoon after school and told mum I no longer want to be alive, that the way I felt inside it not normal, that I know I had no reason to be sad but every breath I breathe hurt and going about every day sucked more than a jawbreaker.
I remember the day so clearly, mum in the kitchen, making jam, the house smelling of sweet strawberries and the tears stinging rushing down my face, the carpet burning as I fell to the ground, relief rolling over me to have told someone.
Sometimes I think when I picture me at my happiest point and where I want to be in the future, stirring jam in my farm house with a baby brewing in my belly, Ed Sheeran playing in the background and a husband walking in the door looking at me like I just conquered Everest, I believe that has some sort of meaning to that moment in my past, that maybe my future can counteract that pain I once felt, jam being a metaphor for that. That the moment in my future I will feel that much happiness it will make me forget that moment of sadness, that the smell of strawberry jam will be ever so sweet once again.
I waited another two months to tell my father, for anyone who knows my father, you’d know our relationship is hard to explain, two exact copies of one another, based on a foundation of understanding love and bonding in a time that was our lowest and forming a duo that will forever be unbreakable, a man who has taught me about love, two people who count on the heartbeat of one another to continue everyday. So telling him that I no longer wanted my heart to beat, was an experience that could make the happiest of people cry, a wet blanket to any situation.
My mum took to telling my sisters who lived in Perth at the time, Lauren taking on the role of mother hen and calling me daily trying to understand the way I felt, Rachel chucking bulk amount of love at me through phones. My other seven siblings who lived in various parts of Australia didn’t know, I wanted to keep it that way, for the function of our family.
The counseling began the following week from telling my mother. After several blood tests to check my thyroid function, liver function and heart rate (to make sure I was in physical working order) the push for antidepressants began from my GP and the constant backlash from my mother insisting antidepressants weren’t the way, thank god for her persistence, she tried everything under the sun to avoid antidepressants, disregarding what the doctors said.
Rescue remedies I carried in my pocket and popped on my tongue when I felt the bubble of pain erupt from within, natural teas before bedtime, plants condensed up into one bite size tablet and tasting like what I imagine a sock filled with a tennis players sweat to taste like, kinesiologists with bright coloured salt lamps in their dingy house bedrooms set up to be an office, naturopaths with soft lavender smelling hands, osteopaths saying I hold my tension in my back and if we relieve the trigger point around my neck it will then relieve the pain in my chest, whale sounds filling my bedroom to help me sleep, running every night to escape whatever it was I was running from, every person under the sun within more than a 200km radius I saw and all of them had a different approach to fixing my broken soul.
To my dearest mum, no words could thank you enough for that persistence you had, if it wasn’t for you and every alternative health practitioner I saw, who knows where I would be.
For two solid years I had one counseling session a week, inner school suicide watch prescribed by my doctor, bullying watch, one kinesiologist appointment and god knows how many other people I saw in a week.
For months nothing seemed to have worked and I still didn’t feel happy, but it was different because I didn’t feel useless, I felt like I could one day be happy, but that certainly wasn’t going to be anytime in the future. I just kept that image of my farm house in my head, knowing I had to get there. I started to go to school less and stay at home more, I started to push more people away and started to dig deeper into my depressed hole.
I am not going to explain how bad I got for the sake of my own current mental state, writing this now hurts enough let along recounting every suicidal thought I once had and every attempt I had at taking my own life.
But to paint a realistic picture let me tell you this, every morning I would wake up, duct take my boobs to my chest, so I didn’t feel like I was developing too quick, put on a back brace to keep my shoulders from hunching, stare in the mirror with a red texta and put an “X” on the bits of my body I hated, before taking to bandages, betadine and band-aids to hide the damage I had done the previous night from the people I loved.
There was never a point I thought I would ring that final bell, that it would all finally get to me so much I couldn’t do it anymore, no one last hit, not a final “boom” in a literal sense. I wanted it to be slow and painful, I wanted to hurt. If I thought I would actually take my own life, I pictured the heartbreak and turmoil it would leave behind, dad always said suicide was a selfish way out, but for me and the mental state I was in I thought I would be better off leaving pain for others then what living with the pain I was feeling, I was being selfish, so damn selfish. I know that now.
About a year after I was getting help, I came home after school, walked into dad’s house mumbled a hello, gave him a kiss on his bald head that smelt like “Bank Aromic” and sweat. I walked to my room, heart heavy with pain, eyes stinging from holding back tears and a note in my pocket from my teacher saying “We advise Bridie stay home from school tomorrow, today was not a good day for her mental state, please call at a time that is convenient to discuss her workload.”
It was this day that everything changed, dad came busting into my room, tears rushing down his dirty face and words stinging from a father who was unsure what he’d done to make his own blood so damn sad. That was the first and only time I had ever seen dad angry, he has never once raised his voice, certainly not at me. In all honesty that was the first time I had seen dad sad, he is always happy, he always lights up a room. Let me tell you, this day he sure did raise his voice and he certainly lit up a room! Standing in my doorway telling me I needed to stop, I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and fix it, if I was unhappy I needed to fix it, I had to cut ties with the people who were ruining me and change as a person. That I needed to stop being selfish and fix it, fix it for the sake of the ones who loved me, because watching me the way I was, made a clink to our family chain.
That night I didn’t sleep, I cried and cried and cried till I thought my heart may combust, that my throat ached and eyes swelled but something changed in me, like all the counseling and everything I had been taking and doing was working. That I had to get better for the sake of everyone around me.
So the next morning I woke up, packed the suicide notes I had written prior to loved ones I had into a little shoe box and buried them, cut my hair so it no longer draped down as low as my bum, took the band-aids off my cuts and told everyone who was hurting me what they were doing and the detrimental effect it was having on me.
Things changed from then, I started to heal, I started to find out who I was as a person, the balance of a good diet and professional help started to help, I began to smile and mean it.
It wasn’t all that simple obviously, it was a long hall but I am so thankful for that hall I had to take to get me to where I am today.
Everything I find easy to talk and write about, apart from this, although I am getting better, because I want people to know, I want people to know every little bit of pain I held inside, I want people to know the words they said affected me and the good people I had in my life helped me. I am simply writing this now because I feel as though if you all have become so personally invested in my current adventure you might as well know everything before you all take to the judging the way I have chosen to live and the person I have become.
In saying that it is not something I have ever hidden from people, people know, if you ask or if I know you- you would know of my depression, maybe not the screaming at night, heart agony that made a ventalin puffer essential to daily life but you’d know, now you all deserve to know.
Rachel and Lauren moved home around a year after I was diagnosed with the big D word, a major contributing factor to my current happiness. I now watch my nieces and nephews grow up and fill my heart with so much love, we have family Friday and we have so much damn love in our house.
I still cry, I still hurt and I still overthink every situation, however, I no longer wear a band around my wrist to let loose every time I have a bad thought, I no longer wear clothes to hide my cuts because I no longer cut my skin, I now live a life that makes every day a blessing.
I feel as though I can not finish this post without a special recognition to Rochelle Dodd, I know she won’t mind me mentioning her, thank you for the countless amount of times you had to race to my house and pull me out of a bath, the amount of times you sat with me in the office at school as I cried and wouldn’t speak, for the times you use to grab my hand under the table as we sat with our friends because you saw the pain I felt when someone said something unintentionally nasty, no one will fully understand the pain I put you through, just know you will forever be my best friend and if it wasn’t for you the beat in my chest may not be there. They say friends are always there for you, you took that to a new level. As Bernard Fanning once wrote, “When trouble fills my world you bring me peace, you calm me down, your my release.”
I hope that this post has brought some sort of hope to people who need it, I know life may seem pretty rough at the moment, but I promise you as a victim of depression it gets better, my dear god it gets 100 times better.
I now have a job where I can write about what I love, new friends who love the person I am, old friends who have seen how far I’ve come, a family who are stronger than I ever thought possible and ,recently much to everyone’s surprise, a boyfriend who knows about my past and has run with it to the best of his ability and who makes getting up in the morning even easier than before.
Life gets better, you just have to be around to see it, take it from someone who knows.
Three years ago today, I was given the all clear, three years ago I didn’t just turn a page I shut the book.
Superman got nothing on me.