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!

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10 thoughts on “The Battle

  1. I totally relate to your story with depression as I suffer this illness too. All the best in your journey. In addition to family & friends, I have also found practicing Mindfulness has been very helpful.

  2. Glad to know I am not the only one, I have been suffering from it since I was 11 and haven’t beaten it yet but one of those days I will… My biggest struggle these days is finding somebody who really ‘gets’ it…
    I admire your article, thank you for sharing because it a man’s shame to admit ‘I have depression’ and many men are ashamed of it while it is ok for women to say it.
    I have written an article on it if you like to check it out.. http://rosemundy.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/is-mental-health-a-taboo/
    Hang in there… we all are in the same boat, some of us get off quicker but some of us stays in the boat longer.
    B xo

    • Just allow yourself to be depressed and don’t feel guilty about it! Never ever put on a fake mask just to make other happy! Be kind to yourself! xoxox

  3. Thank you for sharing your admirable and personal journey with us. Yes, depression is a very individual and personal journey – with all various of experiences they have travelled and are travelling. We are here to work together especially with Deaf wellness – the word, “mental health” sounds scary but with education it is really okay with positive and recovery outcomes. I don’t see many places here with understanding of Deaf people who went through and go through their depression journey. Some are afraid for help. Quality of professionals, can they understand our cultural and linguistical meditation that they can get through with help? I will let you know when I am ready to write my journey – you have been encouraged and brave to write yours. Thank you, Gary. We cuddle you and your family. 🙂

  4. Hi Gary

    I don’t think I ever met you but I know the story you tell quite well. I suffer from congenital depression triggered by life events. Both things are not in my control, not my fault, but there are things I can do about (will get to it in a moment). I had three, may be four serious episodes where I do needed to get chemical help. And getting chemical help is the “right” thing to do, or was for me, if I hadn’t I would probably not be here to add my piece to this story. The first episode was in 1997 in a third world country were society was even less prepared to deal with the disease and we knew much less than we know today My friends for example couldn’t understand how and why I had turned into a crying vegetable, not their fault ☺. It is a sad disease that can obscure our senses, bias our perception of life taking away our capacity to see the negative and the positives aspects of life, of daily life, our will to chose to focus and value the positives and deal and get on with the negatives the best we can, that seams to drain our hope away. What is working for me is the choices I am making, in having a life style which minimizes the chance of yet another episode: have a social life and a group of very close friends (there is a difference here), do exercise, be physically fit and active, avoid getting excessively tired mentally and especially emotionally, find joy, pleasure and beauty in the simple things of life (the sea, the forests, the sunset and sunrise, the full moon), smile and laugh a lot (again there is a difference here). You are not the only one and you are not alone. PS: did you ever read the lyrics of Don’t Give Up from Peter Gabriel?

  5. Deafness and depression is not uncommon. While there is a lack of data, some studies suggest a link between deafness and mental health issues. Regardless, there is hope for those of us who do experience mental health issues.

    However part of the problem is getting help from a professional who is deaf aware. I’ve set up a Facebook page – see The Deafness and Wellbeing Network and also a website to encourage people to seek help and educate themselves about deafness and mental health. Please visit http://deafnessandwellbeing.com.au/about/ to learn more 🙂

  6. Well done Gary for being brave and opening up. Join us the fight to improve better deaf mental health awareness. Come along to our first deaf mental health presentation at karli Deaf Health Centre, Blackburn, to share deaf stories. Neil Wood, deaf guy, will talk about his experience with depression and how he managed it. Dr Leonora will talk about mental health plan in her General Practice and how she helps her clients managing their depression issues. Namaste Gary.

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