Are You OK? Reaching Out.

After my son died, I had a recurring dream. The dream would occur not only in sleep but also in the hours I was awake.

I sat, curled up in a ball at the bottom of a deep hole. It was bigger than a well but still perfectly circular.
The earth that surrounded me was mud, I was numb so I could not feel the coldness of it. On the opposite side of the hole was a ladder. I had no intention of climbing it.

I sat in that hole for days. Each time I felt those muddy walls rise up around me I gave no resistance, the ladder remained and I had no reason to climb it.
I would go through the motions of living each day but all I really wanted to do was go back to that hole.

Is this what depression is like?
I imagine it would be my closest experience and it is the feeling I draw on to help me understand it.

I did choose to climb out of that pit the day my husband and eldest child appeared at the top. Parental instinct taking over? The realisation that I still had a child who needed me, at that moment more than ever and that I needed him.
This is perhaps where my understanding of depression fails, where many people fail to understand.....

Why don't they just climb out?
Can't they see what they have to live for?

A few years ago a very dear friend of mine fell victim to this horrible illness.
I didn't understand.
He had a family, a wife who loved him and children who adored him. Wasn't that a good enough reason to climb the ladder?

I'm afraid my view is shared by the majority and is probably why there is such a stigma attached to the illness. The chemically balanced mind cannot possibly begin to comprehend the lack of choice depression sufferers face, they have no ladder and without help from others, they are trapped.

Beyond Blue is an amazing organisation dedicated to helping not only sufferers of depression and anxiety but their friends and families too.
If I had visited their site earlier, I may have been a more supportive friend.
If you know someone who may be suffering depression or anxiety, The Beyond Blue Guide for Carers (which probably should be renamed "for people who care" rather than "carers") has information helpful for all involved. The guide provides information on recognising when something is not right and how you can help to get your loved ones on the road to recovery.

The road to recovery is not always easy.
Beyond Blue describes the process towards recovery, it is actually very similar to grief:

"Recovery is an individual process with stages that people move through at different rates. However, there are some common emotions that many people may experience.

Shock at having to deal with something difficult and scary of which the person has no prior experience.
Denial or difficulty in accepting having a health problem, particularly one that many people find hard to understand.
Despair and anger about why the person has to deal with this condition and the related difficulties.
Acceptance of having a condition and the changes it brings, and accepting how others see the person and how he or she sees himself or herself.
Coping – Finding new ways to live with and tackle the changes and challenges that having anxiety or depression may require."

In a 12-month period, it is estimated that 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt,with an average of 2,320 people suiciding every year. In fact, around 45 per cent of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, while 20 per cent are affected every year. -Wikipedia

I have not been directly affected by suicide in my life. This is a really pleasing revelation for me but, I do know many people who have been left with the devastation of losing a loved one in this way. It's possibly the hardest loss to go through.
One that stands out to me was a client of mine, a mother of three boys who lost two of them to suicide due to mental illness. Suicides that she believes she could have prevented, if she had only noticed the signs.

Imagine the agony! Everyday she beats herself up, her boys were in pain and no one knew, not even their mother. I know I would blame myself too if I were in that position, I cannot imagine what that does to a person's soul.

September 10th is R U OK day, an annual day dedicated to remind people to ask family, friends and colleagues the question, "R U OK?", in a meaningful way, because connecting regularly and meaningfully is one thing everyone can do to make a difference to anyone who might be struggling.

Taking a moment to listen may save someone's life.


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