Its Boxing Day. The festivities are over and in my house we generally pull the tree down today. Bit of a grinch? Maybe. But its done.
I’ve decided to gatecrash Elyssa’s blog to explain another perspective. About loving a person that is living with anxiety and depression. Because it requires an instruction manual. And if, like us, the person you love was diagnosed as an adult, then there’s a whole world of information out there that you blindly navigate. Trust me on this, Dr Google is not your friend.
Please don’t presume that I have any answers. This is purely a reflection on my relationship with Elyssa. Everyone sees things differently. Even her dad would see things in a completely different light to me. But I figure after feeling like you’re the only one in the world dealing with this stuff, sometimes even knowing that someone else has been there (and is still there) makes it a little less lonely.
So in no particular order (except the randomness in which they appeared in my head) here is some of the stuff I have learnt.
There are so many signals of depression that aren’t really signals. Confused? So was I. The original onset of this entire episode was a bout of severe vomiting. If this is TMI sorry. But I’m serious. It was right before the Dowerin Field Days, which for anyone who knows us, will know that this is an extremely busy time. Vomiting lead to back issues, which at times left Elyssa almost unable to move. So began the experience of countless appointments, various methods of investigation and alternative treatments in an effort to alleviate her discomfort. I’m talking x-rays, CT scans, MRI, chiropractors, Bowen therapy, natural medications, gp’s and specialists. And I’m not disparaging any of them. But in the eighteen months it took for a diagnosis it becomes frustrating. And frightening. Because it turns out I am a natural at worst case scenarios.
You cant buy your way out of it. I love to shop. And I remember quite vividly the day that Elyssa yelled at me to stop buying her stuff in an effort to make her feel better. This was before her diagnosis and I admit I probably did try. I just wanted to make her feel happy. Because it was quite obviousthat she wasn’t.
Nothing you did caused it. As a parent, Im pretty quick to blame myself for lots. Actually that’s me as a person. But this wasn’t down to me. It wasn’t because there is so many children in our family that anyone was missing out. It wasn’t because I grounded her for a week for swearing quite robustly at next doors children. We may live in a small country town, with a limited social life, but I don’t think that that in any way contributed to Elyssa’s depression. It’s one of those things that have no explanation. That in the end require no explanation. They just are.
Don’t take it personally. Elyssa and I have quite a good relationship. I think anyway. She may however, beg to differ. But we have lived through episodes where I was quite sure one of us wasn’t going to survive. At her lowest points, and this was all pre diagnosis when nothing made sense, we had some massive arguments. Those stupid ones where horrible things are said. Stuff so nasty that just thinking about it now can still take your breath away. But it passes. And in the endyou can see it for what it was. Frustration and pain. Now I can see that it wasn’t really Elyssa saying that stuff. And it made no difference to our relationship longterm.
What you see is generally only the tip of the iceberg. Looking back now I’m amazed at the stuff I missed. Sure I knew she was miserable but the extent of that misery eluded me. Every now and again stuff will surface that I had absolutely no idea of. And that scares me.
It will frustrate you no end. Because it feels like there is nothing you can do. No amount of talking, listening, cajoling or even begging for things to change will help. Your loved one is the only one who can facilitate these changes. Usually with medical help. But love, unconditional and unswerving love, in the face of anything that occurs is necessary.
There really is a stigma attached to mental health issues. We found out the hard way. As you all probably know, Elyssa was in high school and working locally before and during her diagnosis. Most people were completely understanding. Work and school accommodated her needs as best they could. And support was crucial for all of us.However, there was a couple of instances where we delayed telling some family of the stuff that was going on. Purely for the fact that I was unsure of their reaction and didn’t feel the need to have Elyssa’s health further compromised by them. Maybe that was a bad call on my part, but I wasn’t prepared to risk it. And yes they were informed when we all felt that the time was right.
There is generally light at the end of the tunnel. That isn’t to say that life is a bed of roses now. I guess I feel a bit more equipped to deal with stuff. A bit better at recognising that maybe things are slipping backwards a little. A bit better at understanding that some of the things Elyssa says are not always what she means. I also understand that this probably wont ever go away completely. And that its part of her. The overthinking of situations (that I totally understand) was present in her long before any of this was even on our radar. That the bubbly social personality that she presented to the world as a child is still there, just hidden a little under some layers. But in saying that glimpses of that are re-emerging, whether she will admit to it or not.
So that’s it. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s needs are varied. But love is the common denominator in all of theseequations. And like I said, this is just my perspective on the effect that depression has had with my relationship with Elyssa. But if even one person can feel a little less lonely, during what is an extremely lonely and frustrating journey, then that makes me happy.