Guest Post – A Sad Story

This post is from someone I know. I never got an inkling all this was going on in her life, to all intents and purposes the facade of happiness always was on show. I finally knew some of the details when she asked me about my depression and how I fought it off. I still never knew as much as she has shared here until the post arrived in my inbox.

I am very proud of her for writing this, it would have been very difficult. Hopefully now though with it all written down it is all in the past…that is certainly my experience.

All the names in this story have been changed, but it is about depression and the effects on her. It takes a lot to fight depression, it takes even more to actually share it with others.


I remember the first time I ever really thought about killing myself. This wasn’t the half arsed, self indulgent idea that most of us have thought about once or twice in our teens. This was the deadly intention of a desperate individual before a last ditch attempt at saving a relationship that was surely but slowly, making me lose my will to live. It chilled me to the bone in a way I had never truly felt before, my closest glimpse of death. I think that no one who hasn’t felt it can really understand. I hope that you won’t ever have to understand.

Tossing and turning in the spare bedroom of a friend’s house with my head swimming in wine, it was my third stay there of a similar nature. I drifted everywhere then. My parent’s, my brother’s, four different best friends. My clothes were scattered all over town, though not in a dodgy way. They, who had all helped me pick up the pieces of myself each time I tried to leave him, only to have me escape away in the night to throw myself back into the meat grinder of Blake and his heinous toxicity. I wasn’t even with close friends that night. Everyone else was sick of me, you see. I saw myself through their eyes. Weak, unable to live without my pathetic excuse for a man. Didn’t I have any respect at all for myself? It made me sick.

Torn between indecision (a classic symptom of depression) I thought, ‘What if it doesn’t work out this time?’ I clung onto hope, you see. I cursed it’s eternal spring, coursing through my neurotic veins. ‘Well… well… if it doesn’t work out this time, I’ll just kill myself. Simple as that.’ After days of messages and flower deliveries to my work I texted him, right on midnight. His birthday. The start of our third year together.

I woke the next morning free from the cloying effect of wine (always a disappointment), with the familiar choking dread settling, the first thing I felt every morning – an impending sense of doom. And a double dose of Loxamine. I tripped on the cat on the first step downstairs, my head foggy. I fell the whole way down. I lay there for a few moments – as you always do after a nasty collision to check you haven’t broken yourself – the physical pain barely registering. I remembered my late night ultimatum. But gone was my resolve, I had to get to work. I dismissed the drunken memory, the wine dulling its intensity. I put it out of my mind, it was forgotten.

It had barely begun. 

The story behind being sad

Let me back track a little. It’s difficult to explain my depression without the events that led to it. A couple of years previously I had met a guy. My first real lesson in intimacy, he was everything I thought I wanted. Highly intelligent, driven, tall, good looking, confident and most importantly, crazy about me. We had balls of fun together, both having the tendency to push our limits when it came to partying. It went splendidly for the first few months, as these things do. I was in love.

None of my close friends or family liked Blake from the start. In every sense I was at the top of my game before I met him. Work, post grad study, home life, social life, sporting life – everything was going great. But I moved to a flat of my own after my best friend and flat mate made it clear she would not tolerate the new boy. Once or twice at the beginning, my alarm bells faintly tinkled. He said a couple of weird things that for some reason turned the pit of my stomach. The abortion topic, not that I’m pro-life, a few off colour things said there – or was it just the way he said them? He mentioned a few strange things he had done, like how he had freaked out a couple of times on acid – lost his mind, more like – and got so angry once, I bailed on a date early. Sure, I thought, he’s just a bit autistic – many brainy people are. Despite my doubts, we spent every day together so it was hard to worry as I enjoyed losing myself in a relationship for the first time, as so many of us often do.

I eventually learned where Blake acquired his spare money from, in conjunction with the discovery of where most of our friends got their party gear. I’m ashamed to admit I got into it too, and started using even more than Blake did. Most weekends and occasionally during the week we would crush the latest pills and snort them. For the come down we would have GHB, alcohol, whatever pharmaceutical downers we could get, and special K. For what I missed at University, I acquired a degree in Class As. We didn’t need a good excuse to party, it would often just be a handful of us, staying up for 30 hours straight, mixing music. Methadrone, then methalone, synthetic acid, designer drugs, trial drugs, drugs that didn’t even exist yet. All would disappear up the hoovering noses of our group. We never talked about anything negative, it was all sunshine and smiles, uplifting music and a shitload of denial.

Gradually, my moods began to be a problem. At certain times I would be inexplicably grumpy, I went off at Blake a lot and was unreasonable. I blamed the bad moods on my contraceptive pill, so had it changed three times. By then Blake was staying at my flat every night, and had started storing his stuff there. He always said he asked permission to do that, but I could never remember giving it. He sometimes did that when we had a disagreement. He would blame my forgetfulness, which I couldn’t argue was in full force at that time. He was clever enough to get away with it, lying only when he had a bullet proof story, but lying often still.

I finally decided to go off the pill, but a few days into that fell instantly pregnant. Blake and I both had exams – we each failed a couple of papers during that time, and I took on an extra part time job to pay for the increasing debt I owed him – about $7,500 by then, despite him staying rent free with me for four months. I know what you’re thinking – what’s the point in having a drug dealer for a boyfriend when you don’t even get free drugs? Tell me about it. Blake and I had also just moved into a bigger house of our own, which was when things really started to go downhill.

Blake must have figured that he could really tell me what to do then. He became more controlling. The upside of this was that we addressed our wee drug problem, and kept use down to a minimum for a while, choosing instead to go to the gym together, among other more useful activities. I stopped seeing my family and friends as often – they weren’t really welcome, nor did they feel comfortable in our home anyway. Luckily my pregnancy failed from natural causes, although this didn’t make the experience any easier. Right afterwards, I decided to get really wasted. I ended up taking some of Blake’s stash without asking, and he caught me. To be fair he is a pretty confrontational person, and when he asked me about it I lied – we had people over and I didn’t want a scene. He left me then though, went away for the whole week. He returned with a whole list of demands for me and I complied, desperate not to lose him. I was just too vulnerable. It pains me to admit this, but Blake spent several hours in our reconciliation talks making me admit to him that I was a liar – because my version of events never matched his own. It makes me sick to my stomach, but I ended up thanking him for making me see myself how I truly was.

We were pretty good for a while, Blake giving me enough golden times to hang on to, giving just enough of himself so he was always in control of the relationship. At one stage I had had enough again, and tried to leave him for a few days. I came back to find the lock to our apartment changed. He had labeled me a thief, and never let me forget that. I worked two jobs  over the summer, paying Blake back, while he stayed at home all day, still managing to have more money than me from his work on the side. Everything was always my fault, Blake managing to manipulate himself out of most situations. Being a pliable person, I fell for it and managed to overlook the slow psychological abuse that was going on.

My family intervened at the start of our second year together. A friend had also heard that some ‘people’ were getting unhappy with Blake and wanted to get him off the scene. As Blake’s live in partner I was at risk, and made secret plans to leave him again. Right before I was going to though, I had some friends over on a night when shit just hit the fan. Blake and I ended up in a physical fight upstairs, and I ran down to my friends with his hands going around my neck. A mere two days later a whole team of people moved every belonging of mine out of that house – even the (second set of) new locks didn’t stop us. One of my friends smashed a window to get in. He told me later that that was one of the most enjoyable things he had ever done – he still speaks of the memory fondly.

Blake pursued me vigorously for the following weeks. As always, I gave in, the indecision and loneliness almost worse than the pain of being with someone as emotionally hurtful as him. When we made it official, Blake got me really high, and then told me he had slept with his best friend – and his best friend’s partner – while we were technically split. Somehow, he had made it my fault that it had happened because I was the one who had called us off. And somehow I put it out of my mind.

I decided that a holiday away together would be a good idea. We spent several weeks in Southeast Asia, several weeks of complete bliss and relaxation on my redundancy pay from a job that had understandably, had enough of me. When we got back though, Blake’s car had been broken into. His gear and a load of cash were missing. We tried to put it out of our heads – surely nothing was amiss. A month later I had some trouble getting hold of Blake for lunch – he had been arrested. It was the end of the academic year. We both failed more papers this time. A few months later, Blake got let off, with the help of one of the most expensive lawyers in town. Luckily I wasn’t living with him then – in fact, the original charge had been laid a few days after I had moved out – my little bird was right. Knowing the right people = winning.

For once I found myself in control of the relationship – no one was really keen on hanging with Blake during that time. He relied on me and really needed me for once. All the anger I had carried over the last two years came out, and I constantly gave Blake grief for his actions and implored him to be more apologetic and take responsibility for his actions. His many, many unforgivable actions. I gave him an ultimatum – he couldn’t be friends with the people he had been unfaithful to me with, or I was gone. Being a man who never kept his word, this didn’t really work. It all ended again one morning at 4am, where he really did strangle me this time.

Blake never really acknowledged the strangling incident, which made it easier for me to pretend it didn’t happen. I’m sure you can gather what kind of person I was dealing with, and imagine the emotional toll this had on me. I sent an email to our closest friends, telling them what happened. With Blake’s denial, no one believed me. I deleted those friends on Facebook, an action which still stops them talking to me today. How could I expect other people to cut him out of their lives when I couldn’t cut him out myself? I became increasingly depressed. I self-medicated with chemicals, alcohol being the worst one, actually. I was bowed, bloody, but Godammit, I still loved him. We carried out the rest of our dysfunctional relationship in secret. Somehow I was the one who ended up losing friends. I have learned that drug dealers are protected in social circles.

One day I woke up with a hangover and come down that was just too impossible to ignore. They had become increasingly worse over time, and that last one was just unbearable. After a pregnancy, an arrest, a hundred break ups and hurdles in my professional and academic career, I finally decided to resort to anti-depressants. Well, my doctor decided for me, really. Blake took me in to my GP and I was immediately prescribed with a dose of Loxamine, chemically equivalent to Paroxetine, or Prozac. Blake turned into more of an over-confident prick than he already was, and somehow several other girls became interested in him. What is it with chics and cocky guys, I wonder. Gradually the periods where we lasted together had become shorter and shorter. We were due for another break up. He used this one as an opportunity to get busy. The next time I wanted him back, he had found someone else.

My Depression

I was absolutely devastated. The one thing I had been terrified of had actually happened. My man, the first man I had ever loved, had fallen for another girl. I tried everything to get him back. I bought him expensive colognes, I confessed my undying love. I wrote letters, I played the desperate woman with nothing to lose. I had lost almost everything. My studies, the friends we had shared, my house, my confidence, my happiness. Miraculously many good friends – and of course, family – stuck around to support me. They remembered the me from times before Blake, and patiently waited for her to come back. My ordeal wasn’t over yet, though.

The last time I saw him we spent the day shopping and then hit the gym. My emotional pain was just unbearable. I poured a bottle of wine into a drink bottle and took Blake shopping with it. When I ran out I filled it with Jim Beam. I had started smoking again, and – ironically – went out for a ciggie while we were working out. There was a bar across the road. I sat there and started talking to some older girls having a wine outside. I told them a little of what happened. Next minute I was on the town, on the piss with them. I don’t remember anything after 9pm. I came home in a taxi with an empty eftpos card, an empty head and an empty soul. I gave the driver my mobile phone to pay for the cab, I figured I would need to change my number soon anyway if I was to control my urge to call Blake. But this time I really didn’t want to. I had finally reached my limit – another girl on the scene.

I could barely drag myself out of bed. By some random act of providence though, I still had a respectable job, one that a good friend had got me after being made redundant at the last one. I managed about 20 to 30 hours per week, but I was always late. I had trouble sleeping, but I couldn’t stop myself from sleeping once morning had come. I began to crave alcohol not just psychologically, but physically as well. Alcohol reacted with, yet was somehow encouraged by the anti-depressants I was on. I felt nothing, good or bad feeling. Alcohol made me feel… different, but the hangovers were worse than ever. Exercise was a temporary relief, yet it didn’t permanently alleviate my incredible, lobotomising sadness. Despite not having a dealer boyfriend I still managed to get my hands on stimulants about once a week. I dreamt a lot, and sometimes I couldn’t distinguish between dream and actual memory. Sleeping began to require more than one sleeping pill, and then I would have nights of complete insomnia without them. I went to work a total of 5 times on zero sleep. Even distant friends began to comment on how sad I was, how I wasn’t myself. I became embarrassing and inappropriate when drinking; I stopped being fun to hang with and even harder to put up with. I cried myself to sleep for a while, but I stopped doing that eventually too, as my emotional connection to myself became sedated by alcohol and anti-depressants.

My sister made a call, and I started therapy. Denise was excellent. She had years of experience, and was professional to the core, full of healthy suggestions and a non-pushy approach. She encouraged me to write and find different ways of expressing my feelings. I was all over the place. I couldn’t stick to my decisions, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I wrote some of my thoughts:

‘My Mother threatened to kick me out today.
Disappointment. Stealing. Thievery. Addiction.
Trust. Hope. Failure. Shittiness.
Cataclysmic let-downs of epic proportions.
Scorn. A fight. A war.
Addiction settling on my shore.
Fighting, killing, tricks.
Slavery, self-hate, a trip.
Approval. Ownership. A price.
Dreams. Distortion. Vice.’

‘Life, death, angels in disguise.
Failure to surprise.
My life comprised.
My joys, diminished!
Invisible and vanished.
An insiduous enemy, its form fed by bad thoughts.
A culmination of beliefs.
Dying, lying, not surviving.’

We discovered that my unhappiness was more than the result of a series of unfortunate events. I had addictive personality traits – but I wasn’t just addicted to substances, I was addicted to Blake, to drama. It was so hard to pinpoint. My sister and uncle had been depressed, so my GP was convinced that it was hereditary. Denise had a more holistic approach, and after all, depression can be anything from two weeks of feeling low to a lifetime. It’s hard to figure out ‘why.’

The anti-depressants weren’t working. As well as feeling low, I also had huge anxiety. I could barely eat, and lost lots of weight. I vomited constantly each time I received a new blow from Blake. My doctor responded by doubling my dose, as apparently the meds worked for anxiety too. It was crippling. It is truly the worst feeling, even worse than the numbness of depression. I have always been a rather excitable person, and tend to throw up when I’m really excited or nervous. This was every single day though. But I trusted my doctor. After all, he had been my GP for over ten years. I gave myself over to his prescriptions, but it was a while before I started listening to his advice.

I needed to address the alcohol problem. I was not getting by. A primal part of me knew that I would not get over this without getting sober, at least for a while. So I did. Did you know that alcohol is one of the most addictive substances on the planet? No beer bottle will tell you this. Apparently, if someone drinks more than 12 standard drinks a day, it is considered unsafe to stop. I wasn’t even at that level, but my relationship with alcohol and substances was toxic – I was doing them for the wrong reasons. With the gentle nudging from Denise and not-so-gentle nudging of my GP, I checked myself in to Alcoholics Anonymous and went to meetings for a couple of months. Getting sober was great. It was very difficult at first, but I started to feel better. The anti-depressants seemed to be working, everyone thought. I lost even more weight, and found a new man for a while. Younger, richer, hotter than Blake. I felt grateful that it was possible for other, better guys to be interested in me. He was much kinder than Blake (not hard to achieve), and I knew that after seeing glimpses of how a guy should really treat a girl, I would never go back to my ex.

After a while however the old feelings of disatisfaction returned and I started to wonder what the point of being sober was if I was still unhappy. I began to resent everyone telling me what to do, because their instructions weren’t working. The anti-depressants weren’t working, the sobriety wasn’t working. The exercise wasn’t working, going to work wasn’t working. I even started a fairly taxing new physical hobby, but that only worked in the times when I partook in it. Despite my good job, it still didn’t really challenge me in a way I needed. I made plans to move overseas and saved money easily – I wasn’t spending hundreds of dollars buying drinks anymore. I saw it as my escape, but the time I had ahead before I left seemed endless and I began to find it difficult focusing on my goal. I found it harder and harder to relate to the stories told at my AA meetings, I didn’t really feel I belonged there. They helped me get sober though, showed me I could do it – and for that I am very grateful. That in itself was almost too easy though.

I started partying again. Anxious to get out of the city, now! I went away every weekend for about 7 weeks, self-sabotaging and squandering my savings. I was worthless, useless after all – didn’t Blake always tell me that? I started calling in sick again, not caring whether I got fired or not, almost wanting to get fired. Medical certs were easy to get, I even got one after a weekend snorting lines. I was honest with my doctor but he gave me sleeping pills, a med cert and more anti-depressants anyway. I was screwing up my life in every way possible, waiting for something to give, daring the universe to give me a reason to move. I didn’t care, my fears were highly sedated. I was highly sedated.

Somehow though, I fell in love again on one of my forays out of the city. The other guy had gone overseas, and I met the new one at a Roller Derby afterparty. We clicked instantly, and things happened really fast. He was kind, handsome, worked in the creative field – the opposite of Blake – and had an accent that was identical to Justin Timberlake. He was a bit intimidated by my intensity but we got along so well, surely it was worth a try. I saw him as my saviour, maybe eveything that had happened to this point would culminate in this happy ending? A few weeks later he flew down to stay with me.

The whole weekend I was so nervous. In my head I had already gone through all the possibilities, and had lost him before I even had him, if that makes sense. I drank and smoked weed the whole weekend to cover up my fear of losing him, which in return pushed him away. He wasn’t a drinker, and if you’ve ever spent any time with someone in the throes of alcoholism, while sober yourself, you would understand how offputting and boring that person can be. That was me. He went back home after the weekend saying in the nicest possible way, that I wasn’t the girl for him.

I was hit with Round Two of being devastated. For some reason, it was worse this time. I had been with Blake for two years, but never once felt as bad as the end of this one month relationship. I didn’t get out of bed for a week. One night that week, I got behind the wheel. I crashed into the first traffic island, puncturing a wheel with the impact. I went back home, thank goodness – I probably wouldn’t be alive otherwise.

I insisted to my doctor that the meds weren’t working. After 5 months of waiting for them to ‘work,’ he put me on something new. I was due to leave the country in 5 weeks, so to allow the new stuff to work and monitor progress, he put me on them right away. It’s normal practice to wean off these things for at least a month, although I suspect there isn’t a clear cut rulebook for these types of medicines, unlike antibiotics. I was instructed to completely stop the Loxamine for two days, and then change. This time I read the script properly.

It was mentioned that in the first few weeks of meds like these ones, the risk of suicide is increased for some people. I was reluctant to go through the ordeal of adjusting to a new drug, but my trust for my GP prevailed – surely he knew what he was talking about. He had, after all seen these drugs work so effectively for other people. And he did after all give me some diazepam, or valium, for the withdrawal.

Day 1 of Loxamine Withdrawal

The first day without anything went OK. That evening I helped my Mother collect for charity at a supermarket. We had an argument over something really small. She wouldn’t buy me a notepad at the supermarket or something – seriously, what was I, 12? I completely broke down. I couldn’t stop crying. I left the house and went to my cousin’s, and turned to the only thing that still worked for me – alcohol.

Day 2

I made it to my meeting at work the next day, but had to stop at the chemist between offices – I was withdrawing really hard. It also says on the packet ‘DO NOT STOP TAKING THIS MEDICINE.’ Do not ever stop taking this medicine! I broke down again at the chemist. I didn’t even have my prescription with me, but I conveyed pretty clearly what I needed and the chemist called my doctor for a faxed prescription and I got my drugs – fast. He even gave me a free jar of multi-vitamins. Oh yeah, I popped a lot of those too. Vitamin B supplements, fish oil, anything that I thought might help – for all the good it did (none). I was just too distraught for work after that. My boss met me out on the street, crying in public, and sent me home in a taxi.

Where was home, though? I was living with my Mother, but it never felt homely. It was just a stop gap while I got my life together. I was angry at her because we were constantly at each other’s throats. Everyone else put up with my behaviour, but she was brutally honest to the core, and I couldn’t handle it. I called my cousin, uncle and aunty. None of them picked up. Fuck it I thought, and made the taxi turn around and take me to the airport. I wanted to see the guy I was in love with. I took a stand by flight to his city, where I also had a close friend and another cousin to stay with.

Lots of lucky things actually happened to me then. I was put into the first class lounge because someone took pity on my tears. Again, alcohol helped get me through. And I had lots of money to burn. The new meds still hadn’t kicked in yet though, and I was running out of valium really fast – in fact, it barely had an effect on me anyway – too many months of abusing drugs left me with an iron tolerance. The new anti-depressants would take at least a week to work. I was still suffering from severe withdrawal of the other meds, and it was killing me.

My best friend and I went out that night, but I disappeared after midnight to find my American man. He had just finished work and was surprised to see me. He asked me if I was sober and I lied, even though it was blearingly obvious I was anything but. I spent the night with him but he wouldn’t touch me, and if it wasn’t clear that he wasn’t into me before, he most definitely wasn’t now. I guess I had gone back for more punishment, I was after all addicted to pain and suffering. I took the rest of my sleeping pills and sedatives that night.

Day 3

I woke up with the most desolate feeling of bleakness, anxiety and panic that I had ever had the displeasure to experience. And unfortunately, some empty pill containers, too. I stood on the balcony that morning, very high up in the city, chainsmoking. For the second time in my life, I saw death as the final solution. I welcomed falling down onto the concrete. The thought was actually a relief. I just can’t begin to describe the unbearable feeling of withdrawing from those anti-depressants. It is sheer hell on earth, a feeling that nothing is ever going to be OK, not ever. Logical thinking couldn’t pull me through. I was done being strong. Any previous thoughts of suicide were always stopped by thoughts of what it would do to my family, but for once my own pain eclipsed the imagined pain of loved ones. I began to formulate a real suicide plan – not falling from that building, too messy. I knew I could get my hands on some chemicals that would finish me off.

But I still called for help. Blessedly, though not for her, my cousin in that city is a nurse. I called her to pick me up and she drove me to the hospital. We waited for hours in Emergency for a specialist phychiatrist, while I sat in tears. I craved alcohol in the waiting room, but I couldn’t get my hands on any while my cousin was with me. Paradoxically, it occurred to me that this was the first real feeling I had felt in ages. After months of hardly shedding any tears, they came in torrents. In some way, it felt good. I expained this to the psychiatrist. She was the first professional I had seen to date with an background knowledge of mind altering chemicals. For her it was obvious that the meds I was administered initially were not the ones for me. But she put me back on them, as well as advice to start the new ones, because my body was highly dependent on them by then. Imagine my dismay, having to stay on something that I knew was bad for me, but having no other choice. She gave me stronger sedatives though, and I left with a container of clonazepam, but even they barely took the edge off the pain. It’s funny, I’ve had one since, and was almost knocked out. It was no surprise to the shrink that I was feeling the way I did after explaining the events of the last couple of years. I felt like I was understood, for the first time since being depressed.

Day 4

I stayed with my cousin for one more day, but she wouldn’t let me stay if I continued to go out and see friends – she knew I would drink, and was concerned at my approach to taking meds. I got through the sleeping pills and clonazepam a little too fast for her liking and she had her young son in the house to worry about. I didn’t want to be a burden, and I had plans to carry out anyway. I also had plenty of money to stay anywhere I wanted by myself. A bit of luxury in my final days wouldn’t hurt, I figured.

I went out that night as planned and stayed with my best friend’s nextdoor neighbour – she had also kicked me out by then. I wrote my suicide letter then, but for some reason sent it only to Blake. He called me up and suggested he see me one last time, before I went through with it. So I waited.

The following days were a blur

I waited for Blake to visit and made plans to book hotels and his flights and all of that. I caught up with friends, drinking each night and making phone calls that I didn’t remember the next day. I purchased Panadeine from chemists all around, and extracted the codeine from them by water extraction. The foul tasting drink that remained calmed my nerves a bit. It never occurred to me how my family and friends found out my plans. A part of me felt guilty but a bigger part was preoccupied with my own suffering. I spoke with several mates, cutting ties to all whom I held dear, saying that we were too different to be friends. I felt that I was different, that my sickness was unique. That I was alone. I cancelled a promise to be Bridesmaid. They all spoke to one another realising something was seriously wrong. My sister called my GP and therapist, and even got a police car to find my location and take me home several nights in a row. I roamed the streets, looking for parties, and one evening almost got assaulted by a man who saw me as an easy target. I dive-rolled away from him in an alley way however, my ninja skills kicking in. Once again I found myself in a police car being escorted home.

Apparently there is a list of people at risk of suicide kept by legal and health professionals – I was on that list, and despite being far away from the people I knew, my wonderful family found ways to keep me safe. Meanwhile back home they were beside themselves, skipping work and study, sick with fear and worry. Despite my turbulent emotional past, I had never been nearly this bad.

Blake kept delaying coming to see me, but by the time the weekend rolled around I was semi-rational again, my mental balance somewhat restored and recovered from the serotonin that was left so cruelly out of my system suddenly. I decided that I wanted to live. After a bender of a week, I took a flight home and prepared to pull myself together.

The second detox was much harder. My urine was the deepest brown for a whole week. This time I didn’t ask for sleeping pills or sedatives. This time I didn’t smoke any weed. My sleep was plagued terribly. On the Wednesday following I finally made it to work. Everyone knew somehow. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, showing up at work when everyone knew what had happened – I knew how gossip went on there. I felt a lot of shame. I had the worst headache and concentration problems, but I soldiered on. I only had filing to do anyway, as the person due to replace me had arrived – and was taking care of my job much better than I had. To be fair, he was also paid more than $10 an hour than I was…

I forced myself up every morning and saw out the last days in my role. I began to enjoy mornings again. I came home one evening after a day that was perfectly ordinary, but I’ll always remember it. I felt the stirrings of hope, and unadulterated joy. I began to make better plans. My therapist and I decided on a healthier way to go off the meds. It was my choice, and no one but her supported it. My doctor threatened to invoke the Mental Health Act, so I took the prescription for new meds from him anyway and said I might give it a try. Very scary by the way. Trust me, you don’t ever want to hear those words threatened. It was the last time I saw him. The report from the hospital phychiatrist was emailed to him and being the kind of open doctor that he is, he gave me a print out. I was scared of reading it, but the report diagnosed my problems as being primarily caused by withdrawal. A more severe than usual reaction, to be sure, but not unheard of. She also suggested that my depression was likely circumstantial, and a result of recreational use of drugs. Even the amount I was drinking was not enough to say I had serious alcoholism. I knew I had a problem though, as it was more my relationship to alcohol than the drinking itself that was the problem. Some part of me knew this all anyway, and I was certain about something for the first time in a very long time. Drugs, any drugs, are not for me. Surely I would know this better than anyone, hmmm?

I started to feel better, really better. With each quarter of a pill that was reduced each week, things were clearer and more in focus. Denise and I made exciting plans for my future. By chance I came across the idea of seasonal work, and there was some available 4 hours drive away. I canceled my going away party, with the excuse that I had something really important to attend to instead. Myself. I delayed my flight overseas. I called the lady running the orchard and got told to come that Saturday. I was delighted how things were falling into place. I felt like my old luck was returning. I figured that instead of ‘going in somewhere,’ something I really did not want to resort to, I could spend a few weeks detoxing in the country.

Summer had started early. Those few weeks were perfect. I had sunshine, physical work, and new traveler friends to amuse myself with. It wasn’t always easy; I still felt it when it was time to come off that last quarter dose, but I was better than I had been in ages. I met beautiful people, got in touch with the history of my country, and spent a lot of time thinking and writing. I wrote letters to Blake and the American boy without ever sending them. There was never a right time to post. By the time I got it all out, it didn’t matter whether those letters got delivered or not. I found myself in a better position than years before – I was myself, plus what seemed like a decade of life experience. I was wiser, more chilled out, and infinitely stronger.

I moved overseas, and landed a good job immediately. I found myself in the up and coming area of the city, with great vibes and culture. Summer was coming, and it was coming for me. I stayed sober for a long time, but when offered a beer one day I didn’t turn it down. I even started drinking differently, and didn’t drink to excess. I could take it or leave it – well, mostly. Who am I, a saint? But as I had suspected, it wasn’t the alcoholism, it was me. I stopped drinking when I was unhappy – not that I was unhappy often. I felt much better without anti-depressants. That much was obvious.

I still wonder today if I was really depressed. It’s like trying to catch a puff of smoke sometimes, attempting to understand your own psych. I definitely had the symptoms, if for a shorter amount of time than most people. I know I still have work to do on myself; Denise says it can take years of therapy before people really work themselves out. I suspect anti-depressants are a blanket approach, a blunt tool, that might ‘fix’ some, but they didn’t fix me. They made me much worse, and I almost died from them. In hindsight I really needed a kick in the pants, even though it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.

By the way… Blake got dumped by his new girl sometime in this period. He invited me to go away with him, but for the first time in my life, I refused him. I have never seen him again. The friends that he was unfaithful with me split up too – no shit, I thought at the time, one of them was obviously gay as a fruitcake. All the people I knew in that group are still in dead-end jobs and the music we were into has become even more unfashionable.

It was Blake who sent my suicide letter to my family. I wonder if I hadn’t waited for him that week; would I still be here? All I needed then was to chill out for a few days and let my mind adjust again. I was certain that I was going to go through with ending it all, but I wonder… maybe I would have kept myself alive without him. I like to think so. I sent letters to my therapist and doctor, thanking them for their support. I thanked my friends and family. I went to the wedding and saw my friend down the isle anyway, even though I wasn’t a Bridesmaid. I know that I wouldn’t be here today without their help. I don’t hold a grudge against my doctor, he isn’t a mental health specialist after all. I know I still have a lot of amends to make, for the people I hurt. Amazingly, I didn’t lose a single important relationship during the ordeal. Not really. It’s funny how events like this show you who the people are that really matter.

All that is needed for this issue is more understanding. Friendship and kinship help enormously too. I am lucky enough to have a tendency to talk and be resourceful, so my recovery was probably faster than most. I felt good to see sense and realise that no one else but me has the ability to make the right decision in regard to my own mental health. It is my choice, and shouldn’t be influenced by an argument that this drug is better than that one or better than none. Everyone is different though, especially in matters of the mind. It is as complex as each one of us is.

If there is any piece of advice I can pass on it is to never underestimate yourself. To always have patience and forgiveness for oneself. Depression, that black dog, is all about self doubt. And you won’t get better overnight, we are incremental creatures, even the most passionate of us. Be preventative in your approach to things that you know will make you unhappy. Try and stay away from abusive relationships. Have patience, especially with yourself. Stay clear headed if you can, reach out, and it might just pass. It’s easier to get out of than you think – remember, depression is not our natural state.

‘As I walked toward my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ – Nelson Mandela

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.