Dealing with depression, a mother's view
One in five Kiwis will experience depression in their lifetime. As the mother of a son with depression, reporter Paula Hulburt writes about life behind the statistics.
Paula's son wanted this story to be told.
Sometimes I could cry and often I do. Tears of sadness and of failure, for what mother wants to watch their child suffer and not be able to help?
When someone in the family suffers from depression, it is not a journey they take alone, it is a painstakingly slow and uncomfortable process for the whole family.
At the centre of this journey is my 16-year-old son, now battle-scarred and weary. We all are. This is not the life I want him to have.
Holding him in my arms when he was just hours old, I envisaged a bright future full of hopes and dreams, love and laughter. Of course, I knew it wouldn't be all roses and rainbows but I find myself angry and bitter; why him?
Of course, deep down, I know the answer to that, why not? There have been times in the past year where I have wondered if I will ever get my son back. I catch glimpses, instilling just enough hope that we will eventually find our way out of this only to have him disappear again.
He is being smothered by his illness which both isolates and scares. As a parent we are programmed to protect our children and my failure to do so this time is painful to me.
When he worried about monsters under the bed, I chased them away. When he fell off his bike, I was there with the Band Aids and hugs but this, this is far out of my field of expertise, but gradually, I'm learning.
It's my job to stay strong and at times that has seemed impossible. I find myself looking at photographs of him as a beaming toddler and wondering where that boy has gone? Hearing him apologise over and over again for something he has no control over breaks my heart. This is nobody's fault.
Depression is different for everyone and there are no quick fixes. Looking back, there were some early indications that he may have been susceptible to suffer from depression. I don't use the word carelessly; suffer is exactly what he does.
Initially I cast aside my nagging doubts until they became too big to ignore and I knew we needed help. Initially though I felt like I was stranded on a desert island, frantically setting off flare guns and writing 'SOS' in huge letters on the beach only for passing pilots to wave in acknowledgement and fly onwards.
It turns out getting a diagnosis of severe depression for a young adult takes a long time, too long I think, but when it came, it came with a sense of relief. If we knew what we were dealing with, then surely it could be fixed?
He then started the first course of four different antidepressants he would try and I waited in vain for my son to return. For weeks, my son barely left his room. I got used to constantly cajoling and imploring him to come out.
He missed school, he fell behind and missed exams. He didn't want to talk, he didn't want to see friends or be seen. He didn't sleep, or he slept too much. He retreated so far inside himself I doubted I would ever find him again.
Then came the point where he didn't want to live.
The hopelessness he felt was too much for him, it was too big and too heavy to manage. He saw himself as a burden. If sheer willpower could make him better he would be the happiest boy in the world by now.
Every time he doesn't answer the phone or has a particularly bad day I brace myself. Trying to instil a sense of hope in him and persuade him life is worth living is no small task and I get tired of the sound of my own voice but I'm ever hopeful some of what I'm saying will sink in.
He has so much to live for and it's my job to help him see that.
Thankfully, he has improved but we still have a long road ahead. I have grown to detest this road. I do not want to be on it. I want to call a taxi and motor off into a happier future with him safely belted in the passenger seat, away from the sadness that has kept him prisoner for so long.
Patience was never my strong suit and I've had to learn it in spades. I've also learnt to persevere and to keep pushing for help. Keep shouting until you're heard. Do not be fobbed off and eventually the people who can help will hear you. We are not alone and there are people out there who do care and can help.
I am grateful to all the support from his Child Adolescent Health Mental Health Service support nurse who has been there for us both countless times. The genuine care and attention from his teacher at Southern Health School has helped me see there is a path through this and his GP always took the time to see him and talk with him.
I've learnt to speak up and to ask questions and to keep pushing for what I believe is right for him, to seek help and answers and to keep looking forward with hope, for on the bleakest of days, sometimes that's all we have to hold on to and I don't plan on letting that glimmer go any time soon.
Paula's son wanted this story to be told.
Support and help for individuals is available through these organisations.
Helplines Lifeline 0800 543 354
Youthline 0800 376 633
Kidsline 0800 543 754 (weekdays 4-6 pm)
What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight 7 days, for young people aged 5 to 18)
Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
Samaritans 0800 826 666 (lower North Island and Upper South Island) provides confidential, non-judgmental emotional support through their telephone helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to people in distress and at risk of dying by suicide
Healthline 0800 611 116
The Lowdown (for young people) www.thelowdown.org.nz or freetext 5626
The Depression website www.depression.org.nz which provides information about depression and an online depression self-management programme
'The Journal' presented by John Kirwan, which is backed up by online and phone base personalised support services.
Primary care professional or general practitioner
Community mental health service through the local district health boards (contact details in the white pages or at www.moh.govt.nz/districthealthboards)
- The Marlborough Express