My battle with depression – and how I found the will to keep going

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PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images
PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images

But everything changed with the sudden passing of her dad, who she had a close relationship with.

It was then her battle with drinking, smoking and depression began. Several times she felt desperate enough to attempt suicide.

But thanks to the help of loved ones and her determination to get better, the grandmother made it through her dark days. Now, she wants to share her journey with the YOU readers.

This is her story:

“I was lucky enough to grow up on the Natal north coast, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. I was the youngest of two children and was born with a natural talent for most things. I did very well in everything I participated in, sport, arts and crafts, school and social life.

I could never put a foot wrong. Throughout my childhood, my father put me on a pedestal – I was his golden child! Unbeknown to me, this would place huge pressure on me to continue to perform to a very high standard in my adult life. I became a perfectionist!

But at the age of 16, I became a statistic. A teenage mom!

I got married to the father of my son about two and a half years later, and a year later I had a daughter to complete our family. We seemed to be a normal loving 1980s family, living in a small sugar industry community. I was the perfect stay-at-home mom and wife, looking after the children and keeping the house organised, while still having time to spend with the other wives and moms at the local country club.

Playing tennis, squash or just lazing around the swimming pool. What more could a woman want?

Then in May 1983, when I was 22, my dad (53) suddenly passed away from a heart attack. My whole world came tumbling down! He was my world! My life was never ever the same again after that.

I had this huge missing part of me that could not be filled and I was so angry with God. Why had my dad died when there were so many bad people in the world? My dad taught me so many things throughout my life, but never how to fill that gap. I had to try and do that all by myself.

And then the downward spiral continued.

My marriage began falling apart. I took my children and walked out of our marriage in 1986.

I then met my second husband towards the end of 1987, and we later got married in 1989.

He had also been married before and had a son, who was a year younger than my daughter. We decided not to have a child of our own, as that would complicate matters.

We moved to Durban in 1991 and built our first house in Pinetown in 1994. Life was good until my husband decided that the grass was greener on the other side and had an affair.

This was another huge blow, as I loved him so much, with all of my being, my whole soul. I have never loved another man like that again.

By then I had a very good job in the IT industry, so I was financially secure. I did what most women would do, I threw him out the house and started divorce proceedings.

I adopted a "nothing will get me down" attitude, but it did!

I became this angry, crazy, sad, rejected, inconsolable excuse of a human being, who was of no use to anyone. I landed up in the psychiatric ward, as I was wanted to kill myself.

After seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication for a while, I slowly recovered enough to continue with my life.

My ex-husband and I moved to Cape Town and tried to reconcile, but after being there a few months, I found out that he was once again having an affair with the exact same woman.

That was the last straw! I started hitting the bottle and partied continuously.

One night in my drunken stupor and high on marijuana, I decided to go to his house and try to kill him. I was repeatedly hitting him and grabbed a knife in an attempt to stab him. I was totally out of control!

After that chaotic incident, I went back to the psychiatrist and the medication!

When things finally started to get back to normal, my ex contacted me and we became friends again. But I had been hurt so much by him that I could never again be in a relationship with him – the trust was completely none existent!

A couple of years later,

I helped him buy a house and assisted him financially. I rented out my flat and moved into the house with him, but on a "no relationship, platonic" agreement. He was so happy to just have me around and we become good companions.

Because I was so organised and a “get to it" person, I managed the renovations and alterations that needed to be done to the house. We even added a granny flat and moved my mom and her husband in.

My ex-husband has tried to take our "relationship" further, but I could never see myself being in that situation again, ever!

But, and a very huge but… I still loved him! It was so complicated.

I lived with a caring man, in a lovely house, in a wonderful suburb, with my children and grandchildren basically around the corner from me and still, there was this emptiness. I was not satisfied with my life.

Feeling that I had nothing to lose, I asked one of my friends to give me the contact details of her psychologist, who she had been seeing for a few years and seemed to be really making a difference in her life. This is something I would never even have spoken about before. It was a taboo subject with me, I thought it was all a farce.

Revealing your innermost feelings and thoughts to a complete stranger was so daunting. After seeing him, he suggested that I see a psychiatrist to get onto some medication that would help me "find" myself again.

Months later, my friends and I arranged a get together for Women's Day and I thought that would be a perfect time to say goodbye – forever. I had a whole month’s supply of medication and was ready to use it. 

Fortunately, I was having too much of a jolly time at the lunch and had one too many drinks and opened my big mouth to one of the girls and said goodbye way too soon!

She straight away knew what I was planning to commit suicide and informed some of the other ladies and an intervention took place then and there. I was placed in a car and taken home to pack a bag and stayed with a friend where I was under strict observation the complete time.

The next day she took me to see the psychologist again. My psychiatrist was also informed and a bed was booked for me at the local psychiatric hospital. I was there for about two weeks while she changed and explored with the medication to get a combination that would work for me. I left there feeling positive and was ready to kick this depression into touch.

Unfortunately, the medication gave me a false high. I would be on cloud nine for a few days, then drop so low that I wanted to commit suicide again. I just thought that the medication was taking a while to get into my system and balance me out, so I told no one.

After about three months, I told my psychiatrist that she has to lower my medication intake, as I couldn't go on living with the highs and lows anymore. She booked me back into the psychiatric hospital and we went through the whole thing again of playing with the medication, adding this and removing that.

All this time, I never stopped seeing my psychologist and formed a good bond with him. I trusted him so much that I felt comfortable telling him my innermost secrets and feelings. He helped me to get over the anger I had always felt about my dad's death. He was a godsend!

I was sort of feeling better and my son was about to move to New Zealand, so I booked myself out early so that I could spend some time with him before he left. That was definitely the wrong move!

I dropped to such a low that I didn't do anything but listen to music, drink coffee and smoke, and every now and again added some alcohol for good measure. I was a physical and emotional mess. I didn't shower or wash my hair. I never made the bed or got dressed.

Through all of this, my ex and friends were very supportive and trying so hard to understand and find a solution. My ex went off to the butchery one morning and a switch just flipped in my brain and said: "Take all the pills you can lay your hands on". I did exactly that and washed them down with wine.

I vaguely remember being in the back seat of a car and then waking up in ICU with drips, tubes, and pipes everywhere.

Apparently, my ex-husband had got back home and found me comatose on the couch outside on the veranda. He had then phoned my daughter and the two of them managed to get me into his car and rushed me off to the hospital where I was put straight into ICU.

They were told that they would have to just wait this out and hopefully I would come around in a while. They did not know what pills I had taken, so could not do anything other than wait.

I was in ICU for three days, then transferred to the psychiatric hospital. I was still very pale and dazed. All my friends and family sent well wishes and some came to visit. Not one person was angry with me. I found that very strange!

When my mind finally cleared, I had a totally different outlook on life. I could see my ex and my daughter trying to deal with this and imagining what was going through their minds. Seeing images of my former husband telling my mom that I had died.

He still has issues with seeing me comatose but I'm helping him get over that, can you believe it? My grandchildren, I don't know how they would have reacted but I put myself in the shoes of everyone who I would have left behind and wow… that was really difficult and a huge eye-opener!

Luckily for me, I have an enormous, caring support system of friends and family, who are helping me along. My medication has been reduced and is working very well. I don't drink any alcohol, which is a huge plus because it can’t interfere with the medication. I have finally found peace within myself by using meditation and exercise.

Through all this, I have finally made peace with the death of my dad and have also forgiven my ex for his wrongdoings.

We are in a real relationship now and in love all over again and have just gotten engaged. I still can't believe that he waited 18 years for me. It's hard to put into words how I'm feeling now, I have so much love to give and the universe is smiling upon me since finding this new me, it's so euphoric!

My advice to anyone who’s ever battled with something like this: tell someone when you're feeling down. Go for a walk. Put on music and have a cry or just dance to get yourself through the day, because it does get better when you put your mind to it. You can beat this!

So please try with every inch of your fibre to not be selfish and take the time and effort to get yourself into a better mind set. You so deserve it!

 At the end of each day, look in the mirror and tell yourself gently, ‘I love you and you did your best today. Even if you didn't accomplish what you set out to do, I still love you anyway’.”

*Names have been changed

This story was submitted to YOU and has been minimally edited. Do you have a story to tell? Send an email to web@you.co.za

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