Since I can remember, my mum has suffered from moderate to severe depression, accompanied by anxiety and intense mood swings. Unfortunately, we all knew there was a problem but none of us really knew the extent of it, were not aware of the ripple effect it had on our close-knit family, nor how to best handle it.
I desperately wanted to see my mum happy, and so I spent a lot of my childhood comforting, supporting and consoling her. If she fell out with someone, or suffered any disappointment, I would try to help lift her back up. My fear was that she might decide to kill herself, or leave us, or hurt one of us in anger and be taken away; or that my dad might leave one day and never come home because he had had enough. I felt it imperative that the family stayed together, so I reasoned that if I was good, as good as a person can be and the best daughter, then no one would leave.
Over the years this ‘good girl’ became who I was, I lost myself in the fear and worry of my family self-destructing; my efforts to hold things together by a thread became embedded in my psyche. I always hoped someone would come along and rescue us all or my parents would wake up one day completely healed, but no one came and they didn’t heal, and I eventually fell into my own deep depression.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die” (Juliette Lewis)
I came to a juncture in my life where I realised that if I wanted to live, then I was going to have to change. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either, I simply didn’t want to exist anymore. That’s pretty much what I said to the doctor; help me want to exist again.
From there, I entered therapy, tried anxiety courses, meditation courses, group therapy, medication, read tonnes of psychology and self-help books, and fought tooth and nail to overcome my deepest fears to slowly but surely rebuild my self-esteem. I overcame my biggest fears and spoke to my parents about my struggles, was open about being in therapy, and had numerous very difficult conversations about the things that affected me during my childhood.
Despite perhaps not understanding fully, my parents listened to me, and acknowledged their part in my difficulties. This, and the ability to release the more painful and deeply rooted feelings and behaviours in therapy, allowed me to build a new, more open relationship with my parents; a less involved, reliant and blaming one. This has been crucial to my recovery, and I am grateful that it has been possible because I know that for so many people, it is not.
My purpose in life is to help others find peace in their lives, to learn self-love and self-compassion, and know that they are worthy of a good life. I want to share my experiences because I believe that knowing we are not alone in our sorrow is imperative in contributing to our recovery, and working towards that contented and peaceful life.