The Battle

blackDepression! It is not a word we like to associate with ourselves, but many of us will experience it to varying degrees in our lives. It is said that in America that one in six people experience depression. Most often it affects teenagers but it can impact on anyone. Apparently in Australia 65% of people that may experience depression will not seek treatment for it.

I got all of that from Google and I won’t provide the references, but there were several. What is clear is that depression impacts on lots of people and can happen at any time. This I know, having recently commenced my own battle with it at the grand old age of 49.

And depression is caused by lots of factors too. The Beyond Blue website says it can be life factors, illness, stress factors, drugs, alcohol and for some it may be inherent and genetic. The cause will vary, but whatever the cause depression is a bastard.

We know from various research that people who are deaf can have a high incidence of depression too. Some facts and figures will claim it is more than twice the going rate. It’s not surprising really. If you are deaf and fighting the system constantly, it’s bound to get you down at some stage. Humans are social beings where communication is just one of the ways that we nourish our souls. We are communicating at home, with friends, in the community and at work. Sometimes it is a constant battle where you are forever disclosing your needs and bringing attention to yourself. And sometimes elements of our society are simply not responsive. They think they are, but they often are not.

This constant battle to communicate and the stress and the loneliness it can bring leads to many to breakdown. Our society is not made for people with a disability. By and large people with a disability have to manage things and make people constantly aware of adjustments and changes that are needed. For some people who are deaf, particularly with profound deafness, it is a never ending thing. And sometimes our society just does not respond. The isolation, the exhaustion and the constant pressure wears you down. I have no doubt that I am one of those “Deaf Depression” statistics. For legal reasons I cannot elaborate at this stage. But that cause part of my depression is just another battle that needs to be fought. And fight it I will, there is no other option.

I don’t swear on my Blog very often but depression is a fucker. It hits one day and you know it. Some might be confused and need counselling to find out exactly why. For others there is a trigger. A life event, a series of life events and often a simple last straw. My case was a series of life events building up and then one event that simply triggered the mind to snap. Again, for legal reasons, I cannot say what but I can tell you it is not my family. They among many are the one of the many good things in life that are keeping me going.

How did it manifest? Well I cried. I did not just cry, I sobbed. My whole being and my whole body were just overcome with sadness, fear and helplessness. I sobbed and my body shook. I hunched over and virtually wailed. The last straw that broke my back just turned me into a wreck. I knew that this was something that I could not manage alone and that I needed help. The first thing I did was text my wife and closest friends. I let them know I needed them and in no time at all they were there.

And really with depression that is the only advice I will give. Seek help and fast. For me it was through my family and my friends. I made a very conscious decision that depression is not something I was going to be ashamed of. I made a very conscious decision that this had been brought upon me by circumstances beyond what I could control. There is no shame in depression! I announced my depression to the world on Facebook.

I don’t advise everyone to do this. Depression is an individual thing. Each person will cope in their own personal way. I decided to share my illness with my friends. I did this because throughout my professional life as a social worker I have offered support to people with depression and I always told them that there is no shame in it. This was just my way of saying to the world – “Hey the beast has got me – I am not giving up – But I need your help.”

And oh my god did people help. People contacted me. People inspired me. People reminded me of my worth. People reminded me of the things I had done for them. They reinforced to me I am a human being that is valued by many. Hell they reminded me that I was even needed by some. They were my crutch. They kept me upright and pushed me on and on. I will never, ever forget the outpouring of support from so many friends. A simple thanks just cannot express just how much they contributed to giving me the strength that is needed to fight.

One of the worst things, probably the worst thing, about depression is the impact it has on your family. It must be horrible to see this rather large, usually wise cracking and cheeky fellow a constant wreck. But they drove me on too. My wife, Marnie, was a constant motivator and reminder of what is good in my life. Oh and she suffered, she not only looked after me but she was my confidant and often my interpreter. The burden on her was huge. The mental health system, to the surprise of no one, is not that responsive to the needs of the patient who is deaf. You can wait up to 48 hours for an interpreter. This isn’t really viable and Marnie took on the burden of a system that just cannot respond.

My kids were there often. A simple smile, question as to whether I was alright, a ruffle of my hair and a hug. They let me know just how much the loved me. It is a fantastic feeling. On one particularly bad night my eldest just held me in the most enormous bear hug. That night I ended up in hospital and it was then I accepted the need for medical assistance. But my kids that night were absolute rocks. They didn’t panic they just reacted calmly and reminded me that I was worth it.

It is that feeling of worthlessness that gets you. Your self-esteem hits rock bottom. The mornings are worst. It is like Groundhog Day. You wake up and you know everything is not better. The problems are still there, the fight is ongoing and the helplessness just hits very hard. It is then that I cried the most. And Marnie would just hold me and let me cry. No questions asked. One of the kids would hop in bed and hug me too. It was almost a roster system ;-D .

Make no mistake the love of your family and friends and the constant reminders that I was worth it gave me enormous strength. Take my word for it that love is more powerful than any drug. But sometimes it is not enough. The drugs are needed too. Many will try to manage it themselves but for some the drugs are needed too. If I am going to offer a second bit of advice it is that there is no shame in using medicine to fight depression either. If you are not coping use the medicine. Do whatever it takes to get better.

And that is my story until now. It is not over. There is much that needs to be done to get me back to being mentally strong and healthy. That is the battle I must now confront. Thanks to my family and friends it’s a battle that I now have the strength to take on. And I am winning ….. BIFF BOFF POW – Depression – take that you fucker!