Before reading ahead, please note that this is in no way meant to make those with depression feel any sense of guilt. I am simply trying to shed a little light on what it can be like to live with depression from a different point of view and to raise awareness of the way that depression can impact lives.
I was also reluctant to write this as I am not after a pitty party. While it has affected my life tremendously, I am strong, I am resilient and I am grateful for all of the wonderful things in my life. It is the people currently suffering with depression, and those currently affected by it who need the love, support and empathy, not me.
So, while this blog is meant to be my little light hearted place, I’m also going to use it as a platform for those who no longer have their voice. Or who are too afraid to speak up. This is my story, written from my point of view, as a child…
Living with Depression…
Growing up, I was a child of divorced parents (that’s another story, I have many). We moved from here to there, but I didn’t really care. As long as I had my loving mum by my side, as long as she was holding my hand life was going to be ok.
When I was 7 we moved from Western Australia to Tasmania. I think they (my mum and step-dad) were looking for a better life. It didn’t turn up.
I can vividly remember her sadness. My beautiful mum sitting all alone on the couch in the corner of a dark room. Silent. Empty. Alone.
She wasn’t crying, but there was sadness in her eyes. Even as a child, I knew there was a pain she was feeling. I didn’t know how, why or what it was, but I knew it was there. I knew it was real. We didn’t talk about it. That was ok. I got used to it. As long as she was there, everything was ok.
Fast forward a year and we were now living in Queensland, at my Great Aunty Ellen’s house. In Mount Tamborine, Queensland. What a great adventure, leaving one farm for another. My sister and I had a new place to venture. New animals to play with. More kids to meet. One school, then another.
I didn’t realise we were staying at my Aunty Ellen’s (my Mum’s Aunty) because Mum may have needed help. Mum’s don’t need help. They are strong. What was depression anyway? Nothing wrong with her. Nothing wrong with you. Just cheer up. So they say.
Another 6 months, we had moved out. Lived somewhere else in Queensland. Things got better for a while. We sang songs, ate yoghurt, mangoes, avocado and pineapples, went to the beach. We lived in Queensland, life was good, I loved my mum and she was here.
One day I came home from school, I knew something was wrong. There was mum. Still in the chair. Same chair. From this morning. Eyes sad, face empty, gently rocking back and forth. I hugged her, we hugged. I could see her eyes well with tears. Our dark friend had returned. But my mum was here, with me. Life was good.
Christmas holidays of 87. Doing the divorced parents kid thing, catching a plane to spend Christmas holidays with Dad. I’m happy to see my dad, but I cry. I don’t want to leave my mum, not when she is sad. I love her. She is my world.
The phone rings. It’s our Uncle. He puts my mum on the phone and she tells me in a voice that has the hint of a quiver that we are going to move back to WA. I can still hear Dad playing Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean in the background. Wow, how exciting and how lucky are we. Another move, another adventure. Why are we moving. I don’t really know. I don’t ask. I will see her soon. That makes me happy.
Time to pick Mum up from the airport. I’m so excited. I missed her soo much. I love my mum, she is my whole world. She makes everything better. I see her come from the plane, something is wrong. She’s in a wheelchair. But she’s not sick. There is no broken leg, no cast, no stitches. Well, what’s wrong with her? Must be nothing, so they say. Just cheer up, so they say.
We live at our Aunty and Uncles. Now I worry. I can’t see her. I’m not allowed. I want to run into her room, give her a hug, tell her I miss her. They don’t let me. “She can’t handle that. She needs to be in a quiet room. You can’t stress her out.”
I leave her alone. I worry. I cry. I’m scared, not for me, but for her. I’m scared for her. I cry some more.
When no one is looking, I quietly creep to her door. My little fingers gently open it, just a peek. I just want to see inside that dark room. To make sure she is ok. Oh how I wish I could run inside and give her a hug. Or lay down next to her. I would be quiet. I would be good. I can hear the ‘meditation’ tape playing. I hear someone coming, I quickly shut the door and move away. I go to school. I cry.
People ask me what’s wrong, kids from school, teachers, parents. I shrug my shoulders, say she has depression and they give you a look. A stare, a weird kind of ‘what?’, I learn to say nothing.
I’m ten. She’s getting better. I can skip again. I hug her, she holds my hand. But I still worry. I have developed anxiety. I ask her to write me a note that I take to school. Every day. I need to know everything is ok. I need to know she will be ok. That she will be there when I get home. I love her. She is my world. She makes it better.
The next few years are up and down.
Teenage years. She seems good, my happy, caring, fun loving mum is back. She is happy. I am happy. Life is good.
Now I’m 15. Divorce looms. Separation. My mum is here. My world is ok. As long as I have my mum by my side, everything is ok.
16. New boyfriend. Don’t like him. He is taking my mum. Divorce proceeds, we need to move. With him, the boyfriend? No!
Miss teenage bitch face kicks in. I’d rather live with Dad. Not the stupid boyfriend. She will change her mind. Dad, can I stay with you?
She has to move and pack. Alone. I left her. Alone.
Why hasn’t she changed her mind? It’s breaking my heart. It’s breaking her heart. Our hearts are breaking.
It’s Wednesday. It’s Summer. The phone hasn’t rung. She must be busy. She must be packing. It’s ok. I’ll call her tomorrow.
It’s getting late. It’s getting dark. I’m at my dad’s. He has passed out. He is snoring. I’m listening to music. It’s getting cold. I put on a jumper. I change the CD.
I hear a knock on the door. I walk to it. I open it. The world looks dark. The world feels cold.
I see my step-dad. He looks at me. I can tell. Before his mouth says the words. I know. I see it in his eyes. He shakes his head. He steps forward. He calls me Vanessa. He begins to talk. I just scream NOOOOOO, and scream and scream and scream in the dark of night. NO, NO, NO, again and again and again. But she is gone and my heart is broken. Forever. I blame myself. Forever.
It was not determined as suicide. It was an accidental reaction to prescription medication that affected her heart. I know what happened. I broke her heart. It was my fault.
What was wrong they ask? Was it her leg? Did she need stitches? Broken bone? Tumour? Cancer? She needed understanding. She needed compassion. She needed support. She needed a world that cares, a world that understands. She needed a voice. She needed love.
My dearest mum, for over 23 years I have carried the pain, the loss of not having you by my side, the regret for not being there. I have blamed myself and 23 years on, I still do. I will forever be sorry Mum xx
20th August 2016
I’m going to write you my letters here. I miss you. It was Toby’s birthday last week and he was asking about you. What you would be like, if you would like him. It was sweet that he was asking and I told him how much you would love him. I miss you, every single day of my life I miss you. xxx
7th September 2016
Indi was pretending to play with butterflies last night and it reminded me of you. She is so cute, my little meant to be baby. Love you XX
15th October 2016
Dear Mum, I have been meaning to write this but have been so busy lately that I never seem to get a chance. It’s only a small little detail, but I loved it.
A few weeks ago Summer was at Bee’s house and saw your photo on her bench. When she came home, she told me how much she thinks I look like you – minus the hair. First time any of the kids have really made any connection with things like that and it was beautiful to hear Summer talking about you. She is arty and creative just like you, I always wished at least one of my kids would get your talent, I think it may be Summer. She also loves to bake, def didn’t get that bit from me! I’m sure you remember when I made you green eggs and ham, but I was like about 15…. yes, my cooking skills have not really progressed since that disaster!
Anyway, that was all.
Love you for always and for ever, miss you more than you will ever know.
Love ness, or Vaness as you would say xx