As a child, I was a worrier.
One of my sisters describes our childhood as “idyllic”. Growing up on a farm. Loving and present parents. Large and supportive extended family.
I do have lots of happy memories. But I also worried. About a myriad of small things, as well as larger things, like my parents dying. I don’t think I often expressed these at this stage. I was also, even as a child, highly sensitive to my own and others’ feelings. Expressing negative feelings, or “making a fuss” wasn’t encouraged in our family culture, and I think that was common generally in our immediate community (we’re talking 1960s here). I still have to work hard at feeling okay about standing up for myself.
We moved to a town three hours away from the farm when I was 10. It’s only as time has gone on that I’ve realised the full impact of this. It wasn’t a happy move for my father, nor for me, a quieter, introverted country child. I found the town culture bewildering, harsh, loud and confusing. I still don’t think of that town as “home”, even though my teenage years and early 20s were spent there. I felt like a foreigner.
And I was still sensitive. My teenage years had lots of emotional outbursts in them, usually with my mother. My mother was the dearest woman but I was the eldest and the teenage intensity surprised her, I think. Her response was “you’re too sensitive”. Mine in return was “I don’t want you to DO anything, I just want to say how I feel”. I see now that my mother was doing her best with what she knew about coping with life, but you don’t see that as a teenager.
My younger sisters responded with a desire to “not be like you when we’re older”. I say all this because I think it sets the scene for my future struggles. I don’t blame anyone, because at the core of it, I know I have been dearly loved and nurtured, and parenting is hard.
My father died suddenly when I was 21, and I became the other adult in the family. Again, no blame and I chose it to some extent, but it was formative at a time when typically, (whatever “typical” is!), young people are exploring and finding out who they are themselves.
That exploration happened more for me when I went overseas for a couple of years, aged 24. Those years had their stresses, for sure, but on the whole, they were years of freedom - not only in what I was able to do, but in who I was able to be, without the expectations of others who had known me all or a lot of my life.
Coming back to NZ was hard, but eventually I accepted being back, and settled in a different part of the country. Depression became a more obvious part of my life again, however. Not every day, but increasingly as my life did not follow the path I really wanted - which was to marry and have children. In hindsight, and with watching others, I now know that family life would not have prevented me from ever feeling depression again, but I was young and romantic - in the “rose-coloured spectacles” sense.
As relationships came and went and I saw my dream slipping away, I was sad. In my early 30s, I finally labelled depression as being part of me, and sought help: counselling, reading books, finding out more about what made me “me” - to help me understand and accept myself.
Another major life change in my mid 30s, prompted by health issues, was, one of the hardest but also best things I have done. I sought help again and found it. But as I moved into my early 40s, and I realised children were not going to be part of my life journey, I just couldn’t manage the depression “on my own” anymore.
I felt there was a stigma attached to medication and I had all the usual preconceptions about it, even though I was not at all judgemental about people I knew who took it - I felt I supported them. So if I was supposedly so supportive, why didn’t I think it would be ok for me?
It took one of my sisters going on medication after a traumatic life event (yes, my sisters - those one who said they wouldn’t be like me - have had their own mental health journeys) for me to consider medication for myself. And I can truly say I haven’t looked back. No, it didn’t make life all rosy. Far from it!
Life is just life. Happy, sad, excruciating, joyous, heart-wrenching, painful, peaceful, etc etc. I even still worry! And there have been plenty of other life events to throw me off kilter - more relationship issues, the death of my darling mother, and experiencing the Canterbury quakes (including a house rebuild). Other angst within my family. What I know now is that no-one escapes life unscathed. The quakes increased my anxiety so the medication got increased - fine by me!
In the early days of being on meds, I didn’t tell many people because of the judgment I knew would be there from some. A weird “blessing” from the quakes is that there are so many of us locally on meds that it’s easier to be open and not be so judged. But still I’m careful who I tell, and that’s to do with me looking after myself - as I said, I’m still sensitive. And if I can give myself one less thing to be stressed about (such as the opinions of others about me being on meds), I’ll do it. There is no right or wrong to a mental health journey. There is only your own journey. I hope it makes me kinder - to myself as well as to others. In the end, only kindness matters.
If the content on this website is distressing or triggering, or, if you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, we have provided in contact details below for you to speak with a professional. If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the police immediately on 111.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor (available 24/7)
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