Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Depression through the eyes of my mum.

Today I welcome my mum to my blog. I giggle as I write this line because my Mum's blogging experience includes me bailing her on the phone and pleading with her to share her story with all things Depression, asking her questions, mum jotting down her thoughts on a PIECE OF PAPER with a PEN and then SENDING it in the SNAIL MAIL to me in Adelaide so that I could type it! She's just soooo cute! My mum is everything you could possibly want in a mum. She's my friend, she's my shoulder to cry on, she's a little miss giggle pot who always makes me laugh, she's my number one supporter along with Dad and Mick, she's strong, she's suffered from Depression and she was there to support me when I hit rock bottom and she doesn't love me any less because of it.

Today I share Mum's story with Depression as a sufferer and a carer for me when I was going through the toughest battle that I've faced to date.

What was the hardest thing for you and Dad when I suffered from Depression?

Getting that phone call from Mick (my partner) to say that Kirsty was in Intensive Care and being 7 hours away from Adelaide. It was the longest 7 hours of our lives not knowing what to expect when we got to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. We arrived at midnight. Seeing Kirsty in Intensive Care all hooked up to all sorts of instruments was the worst thing a parent should see.

So DISTANCE was a major factor. Living away from Kirsty was extremely difficult when she was unwell.

Not knowing or realising on how bad she was with her Depression was also difficult. Kirsty was missing months off of work. She was ringing us up and saying that she wanted to come home and we didn't know what was going to be the best way to help her and that was very frustrating.

Seeing the person you love lose all of the things that are her. She's usually out there, and would drop everything for anyone, is loud, loving and loves life to the total opposite was very scary.

Kirsty being put through one hospital after another was also frustrating and hard. She was seeing different doctors and being placed on different medications. We were trying desperately to get answers and meeting a lot of brick walls. No one seemed to want to talk to us (a confidentiality  thing as Kirsty was an adult and seeking answers from specialists who didn't help at all left us more frustrated then ever.)

Finding that happy medium with doctors and mental health specialists was challenging particularly when sorting out medication, talking about things and getting to the bottom of what may have caused it. You have to get on well with these people to get progress and luckily Kirsty did with her uni contacts.

We only had limited time to spend with Kirsty as well. When it comes to things like this take as much time as you need. I feel now that I should have taken a lot more time off of my work to get through things and to be there more for Mick...if only in hindsight.

What tips can you give to other people supporting someone with Depression?

Being a person who has suffered from Depression myself, talking about it helps. There was this great stigma about Depression and taking medication when I suffered it over 10 years ago. I often had people say to me "have you taken your happy pills today?" This doesn't help.

People who have never suffered from Depression have no idea on what people go through.

Thank god times have changed for the better and there is a lot more information so that Depression and mental health issues are coming out of the closet.

Being a good listener and being there for people plays a HUGE part in recovery. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I got the kids off to school. I would sit around in my pjs all day. I would think the worst of every situation. I even thought of suicide but my kids kept me from going that far.

I went and talked to my neighbour about my symptoms and she told me that she thought that I had Depression so off to the doctor I went. With a great doctor and the right medication I got back on top of it.

I also rang Beyond Blue and chatted to the loveliest lady. It helped me a lot just to know that a phone call can make you feel so much better.

Trevor and I also got onto Carers SA and they have been fantastic. They have sent out lots of information to read and organised counselling sessions for the both of us. Counselling is great. Do it sooner rather than later.

Carers SA and counselling services are only a phone call away and they help anyone who is caring for a sick person. They offer retreats and things just to have some fun and time out and to recharge the batteries and to be able to share your caring roles with others.

What support was there for you as a family?

Again, it was a real learning curb for us all, our families included on how to deal with all this trauma and not having a real background on mental health was a struggle. There are lots of help lines available for anyone who needs to talk to someone about their situation.

Getting on to a good doctor and having supportive staff around you is also important.

Friends and family with good listening ears and lots of hugs when wiping away many of our tears was invaluable.

Carers SA were so helpful and got us onto the counselling service.

TALK. Don't be afraid to open up. It helps.

So if you have someone that has changed, MAKE TIME to spend with them and to talk to them about how they are feeling.

Put them on to phone numbers and websites that can help them to understand why they are feeling this way.

If you can, go to appointments with them.

Don't hold anything back. It's amazing how much better you feel when you can get it off of your chest.

How do you pick the early warning signs?

Depression goes in different stages. Recognising the early warning signs are a start. My moods changed for the worst. I became withdrawn and didn't want to go out and mix with people. I lost my appetite and couldn't sleep. Basically, I lost interest in life.


Do you have to be on medication forever?

I got the most fantastic doctor who was so helpful and put me onto medication. We kept in regular contact. I was on my first lot of medication for 12 months. I then weaned myself off with the help of my doctor. I went 12 months without medication when I started feeling low again. I was back on the medication for 12 months. I have now been off of Depression medication for 9 years.

Getting the right medication is the key. I stayed on my first brand and I didn't need to change it. Talk to your doctor if your medication isn't working (but be mindful that they do take up to 4-6 weeks to kick in). There is a HUGE variety of medication out there and one will suit you!

What shouldn't you do when you have Depression?

Don't hide how you are feeling. BE HONEST. There's nothing to be ashamed of.

Most of my friends never knew that there was anything wrong with me.

Kirsty was the same (at first). She hid it very well, too well as her friends and family had no idea how bad she was feeling. That's when she took the next step and that's NOT what you want people to do.

We are so very blessed to still have her with us now to share her experiences and ours. SO DON'T KEEP SECRETS. If someone tells you that they have attempted suicide then you need to tell the people around them STRAIGHT AWAY. Suicide is serious. That way, the people can get the person the help that they need.

Did you know that I was going to be okay?

Trevor and I both took time off of work to be with Mick and Kirsty. We stayed a fortnight going in and out of hospitals with her. Being in the city, we didn't know anyone and you don't know who to talk to. We felt like we were getting nowhere at times. She saw so many doctors that are heads were often in a twirl.

It all worked out when we got hold of a good doctor who prescribed Kirsty a medication that suited her.

Then slowly, things started to improve.

Having Mick there as Kirsty's partner was a god send. As her parents, we didn't have a lot of rights. Mick was able to get more sense from the doctors.

We were worried about Mick too as tackling something like this was HUGE for him as well.

Thanks to friends and family he got through it all. His hugs and comforting words telling us all of the time that it would be okay helped SO MUCH.

We love him and we are so grateful to have him in our family as he was Kirsty's rock.

We knew that once she got the right medication that things would improve and it did.

Have any positives come from me suffering from Depression?

There has definitely been a greater understanding of mental health for us all. You can not learn enough about it and after experiencing it you are an open book for anyone that needs or wants to listen.

It has definitely bought us all closer together with our friends and family. We keep in touch much more.

Kirsty and Mick have got the most supportive friends around them too which was a great help for us as well. We were so grateful when we heard from their friends while Kirsty was sick. They would text and ring us to see how we were doing.

Life is precious.

Hang on to it with both hands and tell your family and friends as much as you can that you love and support them as much as possible.

We never do that enough.

Hugs help A LOT too and giving and receiving them is pretty cool.

I hope this has helped someone dealing with Depression or supporting someone who is suffering from this illness.

Love to all,

Sharon ( Kirsty's mum).

Mum and me sharing a wine!

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