Talking openly has helped us to cope: Bren's story
How do you cope when both you and your partner have severe depression? Bren, now in her 70s, explains that talking about their ‘bad days’ has meant her relationship has happily lasted 20 years (and counting).
My name is Bren and I am a survivor. I believe that I have suffered mental health issues, in some form, for most of my life.
After taking part in a wellbeing weekend over New Year 1999, I started to notice a difference in the way I felt. It was hard to explain but I didn’t feel like me anymore. My marriage of twenty-eight years broke down as a result and, due to financial problems, we lost our home.
Finding myself alone in a strange place, I began to self-harm. I was diagnosed with depression mid-December 1999 and given medication which I didn’t take at the time. My treatment consisted of an appointment with a marriage guidance counsellor, which was of no use being as my husband was living in another part of the country. It wasn’t until January 2000 that I was referred to the mental health unit, after a complete breakdown and an attempt at suicide.
When I attended the clinic, I was not impressed by the doctor’s attitude, so I didn’t go back. I tried taking the medication but it made my moods swings even more erratic and the panic attacks increased, so I stopped taking them.
I met my current partner in 2002, a few months after he had broken up with his wife. He had been diagnosed with depression after several attempts at suicide. From what my partner has told me, he was given help in the hospital, then handed over into his sister’s care for a few months.
There followed a very rocky seven months with my new partner, during which his mood swings and ‘sulks’ were terrible and I was always thinking I had done something wrong. I experienced another breakdown which left me unable to communicate with anyone and terrified to go anywhere. During this time my partner gave me as much support as he could.
During the course of my depression, I was often told to pull myself together, there is no such thing as depression.
When I finally recovered, we made an agreement that if either of us was having a bad day that we would say so. We found that this helped us to not feel like we had done something wrong and were getting the ‘cold shoulder.’ We talk openly about our thoughts and feelings and this has helped us to cope, and stay together for nearly twenty years.
As for extended family helping, I only have my son, who has major health problems and also suffers from depression. I am now past retirement age but still work as a psychic medium and am author of several books. My partner drives for a living.
During the course of my depression, I was often told to pull myself together, there is no such thing as depression. Since writing my memoir, I have encountered people who cannot understand that mental health issues often make you do things that ‘normal’ people wouldn’t do, and have been ridiculed and disrespected as a result.
My advice to others in my situation, is: Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Don’t try to go it alone. Ask for help. You are not alone, there are others who know exactly what you are going through.
My life now is not about wanting to end it all. It is about how much living I can get in before I go to meet my maker.
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