The Lights Aren’t On, But Someone’s Home

woman under stressImagine waking up one day and discovering that you are no longer the person you thought you were. This is a story of one woman’s struggle, to sustain the person she was before mental illness struck. It’s a journey of discovery through Depression and Bipolar, and a celebration of the things that really matter in life.

To anyone out there who has suffered, or is suffering, from depression, my heart goes out to you.  I’m not talking about sadness, feeling down, or an off day or week here and there- I mean that black, empty hole of depression. That very, very lonely place where at times you wish you could die, so as not to feel the pain any longer.

I know this place, because I’ve been there, but I find it difficult to explain it to another human being who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. I have found it to be the loneliest place that I’ve ever visited, despite the fact that, unlike many others who have battled with this illness, I was fortunate enough to have the support of caring people around me.

I have visited depression on a number of occasions now, and I believe it to be substantially a genetic illness, one that is passed down through the generations.  My mother suffered with depression, at least that’s how I saw it.  It was never identified as depression in our home, but as a young child, I often found myself wondering why Mum was so tired all the time, or crying, or distracted. At times, she seemed to be absent. I would talk with her, but I could tell that she wasn’t really hearing me, even though I was right there beside her.  There was a distance; a lack of presence.

I remember the time when I first experienced my deepest episode of depression. It was more than ten years ago when I separated (temporarily thank God) from my then partner, and current husband, Rick. Rick and I were not married at the time, but were living together in what had been his marital home. Eight weeks after I moved in with Rick, he asked me to leave. As a result of his own emotional turmoil, guiltiness, and misguided loyalty, he felt he could no longer sustain a family environment with me and my children. The next 6 weeks proved to be the most tormented time of my life.  The depression I sank into was life nothing I had every experienced before.  I literally stopped functioning. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. I rarely left the house, and I battled to care for my two children. I basically ceased to exist.  I forgot to brush my teeth, I would lie in bed for days, only getting up to feed the kids and drive them to school.  Some days I wouldn’t even do that.

On the nights Cassie and Dylan slept over at their father’s place, I would drink alcohol alone and cry my heart out!  I wished I could die, and prayed to God to take me.  At times I would hold tablets in my hand, contemplating the worst. I felt useless to everyone, and worthless. I had no logic or reason operating inside me. If someone had said to me “What about the kids?”, it wouldn’t have registered. It wasn’t that I didn’t love them desperately, but rather I had switched off from the outside world.

Many people who witnessed the condition I was in could not understand the depth of my despair and sense of isolation.  I now believe I may have been prone to depression all along, and this was the incident that triggered it off. For some, depression is a way of life.  To escape from its grasp feels almost impossible.

Depending on an individual’s personality, depression can go unnoticed for a very long time. If you are primarily an outgoing, jovial person in social situations, then most like the majority of people near to you  that, by commonly accepted criteria, is pretty much together; solid marriage, healthy children, financial stability, steady job, etc; the outside judgement is often “Why on earth would he or she be depressed?”

I taught aerobic exercise for 10 years, and I was good at it.  Much of the positive feedback I received reflected my ability to motivate others, along with my jolly disposition.  I think my clientele would be astounded if they read this book and realized that the same person who stood in front of them yelling, singing, and laughing while sweating through a vigorous workout would often later be at home in bed crying, and not knowing why.  Perhaps this sounds like you, or maybe alarm bells are ringing in relation to someone you know.

Depression and Bipolar can be a lifelong companion. I’ve made a conscious effort not to let my illness govern the quality of my life.  Nor will I succumb to the stigma attached to it, and feel ashamed of or embarrassed by an illness I did not bring upon myself.

Australian actress Paula Duncan writes about the book: “The Lights Aren’t On, But Someone’s Home. A Journey from Depression to Bipolar” (by Louise O’Connor) is a tool to help us through the emotional turmoil and confusion of life. A journey of heartfelt messages, experiences, activities, and lessons are shared by the author in the hope of helping others.

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