Well hello there, thanks for stumbling towards my page and taking the time to read my ramblings. You can blame the people in my life who told me I should be writing more for this blog. So what better way than to put my story into words, the same story I tell in my Time to Change Wales talks… and it starts with a bubble..
Depression to me is like being in a dark, turbulent sea and deciding whether to struggle just to stay afloat or let yourself drown.
We all grow up in a bubble, at least I did. I geew up with a whole load of brothers (5 to be exact) and 1 sister. So it’s safe to say I felt protected and safe. I grew up in a loving home with two amazing parents who quickly became my heroes. Every night I would perform a montage of musical numbers from start to finish, and they would clap and cheer as if they weren’t hearing “on my own” from Les Miserables for the 100th time. Most nights I’d wake up in my dad’s arms being carried to bed.
That bubble made me feel sale, but bubbles are fragile…
When I was 14, a small pinprick appeared in that bubble. I realised there was something wrong with my vision and was referred to the hospital for tests. After 2 years of extensive testing, I was told at the age of 16 by a consultant with the empathy of a rock that I might go blind one day. I listened, numb, as he said that I had an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa an eye condition that affects 1 in 4000 people. I got to be one of the unlucky few! I remember being hit with a whole load of emotions, the strongest being fear, anger and confusion. I looked to the people who always had the answers, my parents, and their faces reflected my own emotions back at me. So, I pushed down my emotions and decided to just “deal with it.” But in my mind, a slow trickle of thoughts started seeping into my consciousness.
You’re going to end up blind… No-one will love you… You’re a burden… They’ll end up resenting you…”
I pushed those thoughts deeper, unknowing that I was leaving them to fester and grow…
My little bubble survived the loss of family members, and the breakdown of a 3 year long-distance relationship but at 21 my bubble was burst when something happened to me that changed me forever.It tore the safety net I’d built over the years to shreds and caused all those dark thoughts and feelings to spill to the surface. It left me scarred, lost and overwhelmed. My thoughts were now an ugly sea that I was drowning in.
You’re disgusting… It was your fault… You deserved it…No-one will care if you go… Give up… Give in…
That mantra played over and over in my head until I listened. And told myself I had a headache, after taking one pill, I took another and another… until the packet was empty. And then it hit me.
You’re trying to kill yourself- stop.
I was horrified. I made myself sick in the toilet and vowed it would never happen again and I would forget about this. I’d gotten through things before, I could do it again.
At 25, I became registered blind. My vision had changed to the point where I started finding things harder and harder. But still I tried to pretend that I was coping, that I was “fine.” Every day became a struggle, every task became much harder than it should be. Before I knew it, I was breaking down in a job I’d loved for years. Thoughts or ending my life were plaguing me. I was persuaded by my amazing work family to see a doctor, and as I told her everything I felt myself getting lighter and lighter with each confession.
When I heard her say I had Severe Depression, it all made sense. Suddenly I had a name for the ghost that had been haunting me from the age of 16.
“Yeah, yeah but what are you doing now?”
Unfortunately, despite the amazing lengths my job went to so that they could adapt the job as much as possible, I wasn’t able to do it to the level I wanted and as I worked with children’s, I didn’t want to cause an accident due to my vision or I’d have never forgiven myself. So I had to make the upsetting deacon to leave. I’d love to hopefully work in the 3rd sector in the future as I’ve always loved helping people and want to continue to do so.
I’ve become a champion (volunteer) for Time to Change Wales which is a Mental Health campaign run by three Mental Health charities- Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru. Their aim is to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding Mental Health and to encourage people to talk about their Mental Health and normalise it.
My disabilities aren’t visible but does that make them any less dibilitating? I also get much more sympathy about my blindness than I’ll or anyone will ever get for a Mental Health Condition. That’s not right, and it needs to change. And I’m loving being a part of that change. Through becoming an advocate I’ve truly found my voice, I’ve gained huge confidence and most importantly, I’ve met incredibly strong and resilient people that have me laughing on one breath and crying on another!
My family, friends and partner have been beyond incredible. They’ve accepted me for me and have given incredible support at some of the darkest times. I have been told recently that I’ve changed and it’s true. I have. I’m growing and changing all the time.
When you have a support circle like mine, who can pull you out of that turbulent sea…There’s no need for a bubble anymore.