Anthea is a Journalism major at university. Her love of nature, animals and travelling is evident in her home full of fresh flowers, foreign artefacts and her two Labrador’s roaming free in the beautiful garden of her humble abode.
Anthea has a bright and bubbly demeanour, a caring nature and an unspoken sense of intelligence. However, look closely and you will see sadness in her eyes. A sense of melancholy that she effortlessly disguises. She will hug you and make you feel so welcome and loved and yet everyday she struggles to feel the love that she permeates within others. Each day she battles demons within her mind that tell her she is not good enough, that spark anger and anxiety. In essence, these difficulties have hindered her ability to thrive in her studies, and have also damaged the core of her relationships with her spouse, family and friends.
The following is an interview with Anthea, offering an undeviating and direct perspective of what it is to live a life that has been overshadowed by depression.
*Names have been changed.
Depression. What does this mean to you? When did it all begin for you?
I have had two miscarriages and I believe this is where I began to change emotionally and mentally. Prior to being diagnosed with depression, I wasn’t entirely aware of what depression as a mental illness entailed. Depression is to have the desire to live a normal life, striving to be happy but not having the mental or physical capability to do so because the lack of personal strength and overwhelming sadness that suppresses your being. It is an endless battle of self-doubt and wanting to feel loved so completely but always questioning the motives of those around you. Depression to me is feeling emotionally crippled. It is like running a marathon and never reaching the end because of pure and utter exhaustion, and because you’re crying, yelling frantically, tripping over, and being pushed down. You’re trying to finish the marathon and you’re trying to make it but you’re constantly struggling and asking yourself, “What is the point?”
What has been most difficult for you as you battle your demons?
Hearing loved ones call me crazy. Having the people I love give up on me. Seeing other women with babies. Feeling useless for not being able to have a child. Losing my friends because I can’t stand to be around them. Getting out of bed every morning. Trying to be happy around the people I love so they don’t get hurt or feel sorry for me. Not graduating with the rest of my university class because I have not been successful with my studies despite previously being an A student. Sometimes I fall asleep and hope that I won’t wake up. I even have my funeral planned out because I feel that I will die young. I have my life insurance set up, this was a difficult process because I realised that I do not have what I truly desired before depression hit me. I don’t have children to give anything to. I haven’t been a mother. What is the point in living to not have what truly matters? A loving home, a family, a career, and a purpose. This is what I struggle with every single day within my mind.
Regarding my emotions, when I know I can’t handle or contain my anxiety I do try my best to contain my anger and overwhelming emotions but it is like I’m aware that I’m getting myself worked up but I can’t stop. I’ll cry endlessly in the middle of a mall, in front of anyone, yell and have an anxiety attack without fully knowing what is happening until much later as I have to also suffer the consequence of my actions. It is difficult because this is not the person I am and this is not the person I want to be.
How has depression affected your relationship with your spouse?
The effects of my depression on our relationship have been detrimental. *Jacob was the one who took me in to see my doctor as my condition worsened. I couldn’t get out of bed, just unable to move, crushed by sadness in a foetal position crying and wanting to end my life. Prior to being diagnosed with depression my relationship with *Jacob had suffered due to my episodes of anger, sadness and inability to live in a normal and happy state of mind.
I constantly fought with *Jacob and felt my self-worth was diminishing and our relationship was on an unpleasant plateau. He told me constantly that he loved me, that together we would work towards a happy and successful life. My desire to have children has been so strong but I truly feel this will never happen after being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and now having to overcome depression.
*Jacob is the love of my life but my mind has been so clouded, unable to see or feel his love the way I want to. Initially, I always craved for him to love me with everything he had, to not ever give up on me no matter how difficult the situation became. I just wanted *Jacob to love me and not ever make me feel alone. I have felt so alone. It is like being in a room full of people, so boisterous and pleasant but still feeling so empty inside.
My mind kept telling me that he could never love me the way I loved him. Our relationship has suffered because of the way I have been thinking. My mind constantly switches to thoughts of no matter how much I try to explain my emotions I always feel like no other can understand what is happening to me or what I am thinking and feeling. This is a constant battle because I feel judged instead of heard and that what I say doesn’t matter.
After being assessed by my doctor and being on anti-depressants, *Jacob said he saw a change in my character, that I was back to my usual happy self. I did feel a change in my thought processes. I started to notice and enjoy a lot of what I had taken for granted; flowers, reading, smiling, laughing, making love, spending time with loved ones. *Jacob’s patience and unconditional love has been important in my journey of recovery.
What support systems have been helpful towards your recovery?
I grew up in the Pacific Islands with a culture that has not gathered a concrete sense of mental illness. A culture that is reserved and deals with issues with the mentality of “Get over it” or “Forget and move on”. The lack of knowledge within the Pacific Island community is worrying and has not been helpful towards my recovery. My parents migrated to New Zealand from a Pasifika community that places much pressure on children to perform and provide for the family. Essentially, my success is my parents success, however taking into account my mental illness I have reached a breaking point. My parents actually said I’ll get better once I stop caring about the insignificant, and one relative even told me to “Harden up”.
Counselling has been helpful as opening up and talking about issues have been integral in my attempt to overcome my struggles.
My partner, *Jacob has been supportive. He has been with me to see my doctor and has encouraged me to do what I love and to not give up on my studies or goals in life. I do my best to do simple things that make me smile. I love flowers so I’ll arrange them in vases. I take a lot of photographs of nature and do my best to love, just love.
Where to from now, Anthea?
I feel the road to recovery is an on-going process. I am grateful for all the support that I have and my only desire right now is to get better and to accept the love and support of those around me. I must let go of my pride. I do understand that my mental illness is not easy for *Jacob or my family. I have been off anti-depressants for two weeks and I feel the need to see my doctor to go back on the medication. The meds make me extremely tired, however I do feel the meds have helped in the sense of allowing me to have a clearer state of mind. I just want to be happy and I want those around me to be happy, too.
What would you say to others who are going through depression?
There is support out there for you. www.depression.org.nz is a website that features a New Zealand sporting legend, John Kirwan who has been through depression. I have known about his programme for over two years, however it was not until two months ago that I checked out the website, a great help.
Do not give up. Love yourself and you will be loved.
Thank you, Anthea.
Love & laughter,