Monday, 16 February 2015

Guest Post from my Mum: Living with someone with depression

Living with someone with depression

This amazing post is written by my wonderful mum about living with someone with depression; I can't read through it too many times because it keeps making me cry. I wouldn't be where I am today without her - I love you so much Mum!!! (And yes, that is me with really chubby cheeks above).


Hi! I am Hannah's Mum. Some weeks ago Hannah asked me if I would write a piece for her blog about living with a family member who suffers with depression. It has taken me a while to put pen to paper because the events of last year when Hannah was suffering so badly still seemed quite raw, but I feel ready to express our family's feelings and how we have learnt through experience how important people who are close to someone suffering with a mental illness can be.

Hannah had shown signs of suffering with depression at the age of 15, particularly following a horrendous tragedy that happened to friends of the family, but we did not recognise the warning signs and although we supported her through some difficult times, we did not fully understand what she was going through and looking back I think we just hoped that it was a phase in her teenage years.

When Hannah again showed signs of depression last year, the symptoms were much more severe and I think we soon realised that we could not cope as a  family without some outside help. Her behaviour became unpredictable and irrational and we felt completely out of our depth. Never before has anything filled me with a sense of fear like I experienced last summer.

That is the thing with mental health problems - it is a recognised illness that touches at least 1 in 4 people and their close friends and family, but we do not talk about it openly. Only very close family and very dear friends who have supported us through the last 12 months knew what Hannah was going through until she set up her blog in July. It seemed the right thing to do to carry on as normal to the outside world, but was that the right thing for Hannah?

Everything came to a head in June 2014 when Hannah was at her lowest point. How do you deal with the fact that one of the most precious and most beautiful  people in the world to you keeps saying that she doesn't want to be here; that we would all be better off without her; that she can't see the point of carrying on any more because she doesn't want to feel this bad? This came from one of the cleverest, kindest, funniest and most loyal individuals that I have ever known. (And I am not just saying that because I am her Mum!!!)

I have learnt so much about depression over the last 12 months and if you know someone that is suffering from depression or any mental illness, I hope that the following helps:
  • Be prepared to listen to their concerns at any time of the day or night. Hannah and I have had long discussions well into the early hours and she has always said afterwards that it has helped. They probably won't tell you everything at once - some of their worries and concerns will take some time to emerge in conversation, but give them your time. I can't express enough how important it is to be there for them during their darkest hours. Knowing that people care is absolutely key to their recovery.
  • Never judge them. Depression and other mental health problems are a recognised illness. Just because they do not show outward signs of being ill, does not mean that their condition is serious. More often than not their feelings and thoughts will be irrational but this is all part of the illness. Just listen and talk things through, giving your support at all times.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Send a text on a regular basis - make that phone call to them. It means a lot when they know that you care. I know that Hannah often struggles in the mornings if she is feeling down. That cheerful message letting them know that you are thinking about them makes all the difference!
  • Get help from other sources. Hannah contacted her doctor and has also had several sessions with a psychologist. She is confident that both these professionals have helped her through such a difficult time. I have to admit that I was dead against her going on to anti-depressants because of the stigma around them and my worries that she would become addicted. I can see now that they have helped her cope and she has reduced her prescription so that she is on the lowest possible daily dose now. Hannah also had a lot of support from the pastoral team at university. She put in place all the support that she needed to get through this difficult period - there is the help out there if you know where to find it. Don't think that you have to struggle along on your own.
  • Try not to feel guilty. I used to feel that the reason for Hannah's unhappiness was something to do with her upbringing and I used to blame myself for her low mood. Hannah had feelings of guilt because she had everything going for her. She is very intelligent, studying medicine which is all she has ever dreamed of, has a close and caring family, good physical health, a great sense of humour (if a little warped at times like mine!!), so why would she be feeling depressed? Unfortunately, the mind doesn't work like that and in no way can Hannah help how she feels. I understand that now and the whole circle of guilt feelings has a very negative effect on the whole situation.
  • Encourage them to take small steps on their path to recovery. Hannah always said with her blog that she would try to do something every day that she enjoyed to help her feel better about herself. It doesn't matter how small that step is - it may be just getting out of bed some days, but it means a lot. Planning ahead with things to look forward to also helps. Just the promise to meet for lunch or a coffee will make all the difference.
I am so proud of what Hannah has achieved and never believed last summer that she would be feeling so much better so quickly. We have done all we can to support her, but she has achieved so much herself through her own determination. She really is an inspiration and is so keen to destroy the stigma attached to mental health problems as you can see from her previous blog entries. She has taught me how to be more understanding when somebody at work is suffering with stress and depression. I am the first to admit that I knew nothing about mental health conditions before it touched me personally and I can now empathise with anybody who is suffering with similar symptoms.

I know that some of Hannah's new found positivity comes from writing her blog and also the comments that she receives from her readers, so thank you all for helping her on  her journey! Believe me, it means an awful lot to all of us to see her happy and confident again.

Best wishes

Jan x

Mother and Daughter. It's a special bond that spans the years. Through laughter, worry, smiles and tears. A sense of trust that can't be broken, a depth of love sometimes unspoken. A life long friendship built on sharing, hugs and kisses, warmth and caring. Mother and daughter their hearts as one - a link that can never be undone.




PS Please donate towards my sponsored skydive for Mind here, or text MIHV99 £1 to 70070 - thank you for your support!

20 comments:

  1. This nearly brought tears to my eyes - what a lovely, and important, post. Sometimes when you're the one with a mental illness, you can feel like a burden to the people you're close to, but the reality is that actually they really do just want to help you.
    Jennifer x
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

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    1. Thank you so much Jennifer! Yes it's true, I often feel like a burden. But my mum always just desperately wants to make me feel better xx

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  2. I also almost shed a tear, this article was a great idea and well written. All the best to you!

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  3. Great post Hannah and Jennifer and good advice. Keep up the good work with the blog x

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  4. Lovely - have made a small donation to MIND.

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  5. What a beautiful post Jennifer. Hannah is avery lucky girl to have a mum like you and Hannah sounds ana amazing person. Hope you both have a very contented and peaceful life ahead of you. xxx

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    1. Thank you very much - my mum is absolutely amazing and I am so lucky to have her there xxx

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  7. This is fabulous post and I think I should get my Mum to read it really. I think parents often feel like it's their fault but it's definitely not! Well done to you Mum for doing this xx

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    1. Yes you should definitely get your mum to read it - parents often blame themselves like you said, but I think my mum has highlighted how important it is to not feel that way. Thank you Sam :) xx

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  8. Thank you for writing this very beautiful post. I got very emotional reading it because I have had depression and other mental health problems for over 20 years. I know just how hard day to day life can be when you suffer from this. It is always such a great help when you have got the help, love and support from you family, it certainly sounds like yours are a great help to you.
    I hope that you are ok at the moment.
    All the best.
    Kelly glen.

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Kelly. My mum is amazing and so supportive of me - it's the main thing that has helped me pull through (as are the rest of my family). I hope you also have the help and love that you need xx

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  9. Great article, illuminating and very on-point. From experience i found the way that depression attacked me warped my perceptions completely, and having people think about me and actually make the effort to check I was ok made all the difference in the world.

    I think once you have suffered it there is always an underlying sadness that things won't be the same again - kind of like you have seen a world that had previously been completely hidden. Having other people lift you up is the best remedy, as it is as very cruel and isolating affliction. Kudos to you and your family for the very brave way you have written about your own struggles, and wishing you all the best in the future

    Dewi

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    1. I hope you don't mind me replying to your message but I just wanted to say what you have written explains depression and the way it makes you feel so well, I have had depression for a long time but have never thought of it the way that you explanied it. So thank you for helpful nag me to understand it more.
      All the best,

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  10. You have been a great therapist for Hannah.

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  11. Both my sister and mother died due to my illness.My illness was not managed the way Hannah is receiving it.I feel tremendously guilty for their death.Mother died four years back in this month,a few days from this death.Unemployment arising out of this illness killed my mother because her diabetes could be treated on time.This illness affects the fate of the entire family.By helping Hannah,I wish to decrease some of my guilt feelings that I have for my inabilty to get my mother treated due to shortage of fund and my sisters death as well.If I was stable and had money,they would have been alive now.

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  12. Hi Hannah, I just stumbled across your blog today and I think it's fantastic. I especially love this post - how lucky you are to have such a kind, understanding, intelligent mother! Though I'm sure you know that already. Libby x

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