Depression: “I need to work through my traumas and rise above them.”
Published 24 Nov 2021 • By Candice Salomé
Zeph525, mother of a 13 year old daughter, is affected by depression. After years of consulting countless specialists without a real diagnosis, she has decided to stop looking for a label that could define her. She is now looking for doctors that are willing to listen to her and understand her situation and needs.
She tells her story on Carenity!
Hello Zeph525, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us on Carenity.
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am the youngest of a family of four girls. My mother is French from a wealthy background, my father is Belgian from a modest background.
I had some rather serious seizures in my first year of life, which led to hospitalisation and low-dose phenobarbital for 3 years. My mother was particularly worried about me as she had experienced the loss of a niece at an early age.
I separated from my daughter's father 7 years ago. My daughter is now 13 and I am 48.
Illustration courtesy of Zeph525
Could you tell us how depression came into your life? What were the first symptoms your experienced?
I remember feeling sad at a young age, it was mostly related to the feeling that I didn't know how to have fun and performance anxiety.
I had a very good education. I was brilliant in specific subjects (maths, French), but I could underperform occasionally. The trigger for real suffering came when all at the same time, I was accepted into a top school in France (Ecole Normale Supérieure Lyon), my partner at the time became disabled following a serious road accident, and one of my sisters attempted suicide by overdosing on medication. I was then 20 years old.
How many doctors did you see? What diagnoses were you given?
I saw many doctors and specialists because I was somatising (when psychological concerns become physical symptoms), and I tried many alternative practices. I bought a lot of books. I was given many labels: fibromyalgia, generalised anxiety, spasmophilia, perfectionism, phobia disorder, post-traumatic stress, yeast infection, somatic symptom disorder, neurosis, and then, with the latest "mental illness trends": intellectual giftedness, bipolar disorder, and also autism.
I thought that this research would be of help to me, but in the end, it was the opposite. With each label, I felt a twinge of hope that help would finally come, only to see that it was going nowhere.
As I had just read a book on bipolar disorder, I went to see a psychiatrist and told him that I thought I was bipolar. He told me, "Yes, but you know, now everyone thinks they are bipolar".
I had experienced a severe mental decompensation in 2019 and the psychologist said that I had Asperger syndrome. I didn't pursue it any further for financial and practical reasons. Then COVID-19 hit, so I then gave up on the labels.
Could you tell us about the impact depression has had on your life?
I was always afraid that pain would impact on my career and therefore on my finances.
Eventually I had a burn-out due to harassment at work, I separated from my partner to try to survive, and have been financially insecure and unemployed ever since.
I did several courses to try and get back into the swing of things, but during one of them I had a serious mental decompensation and had to stop it early.
I completed an online training course in computing during the COVID-19 pandemic and am now looking for an internship and further training.
I found out at the end that my computer setup was not powerful enough (I was working on virtual machines during the training). I am not in a position to change it now.
Does your condition have an impact on your relationships with family and friends? Do they understand your depression? Are they supportive?
At home, things had to run smoothly, and they did. It wasn't easy to talk about my problems. Talking about it could provoke worries, rejection, some "me too's", a breakdown in parenting, and some "that's just how it is".
I always managed on my own, saying as little as possible so as not to be discouraged.
When I was really struggling after my separation and then the redundancy, I turned to other people for help, but they sent me back to my family and that's when hell began: panic, judgement, rejection, spread of sordid stories, putting my former partner on a pedestal, asking for information about what medicines I was on, control, refusing to help, insults, developing strategies behind my back, wanting to control my daughter.
With my ex-partner, the violence exploded when I got my new job on a permanent contract. The verbal abuse, mockery, humiliation, contempt, and refusal to talk are still going on.
I communicate mainly by email to protect myself. But I had really taken the time to explain the chronic pain and I always took care of myself so that it would have a minimum impact on my family life.
There is no support for my condition because in their eyes, there is no condition. There was practical support:
- Returning to my ex-partner's house because my flat was unsanitary, the energy costs skyrocketed partly due to the state of the place and an irresponsible landlord, non-existent social assistance, extreme physical and psychological exhaustion, hospitalisation. Then, COVID-19 hit.
- A loan from my family to rent a new place.
Are you taking any medications? If so, are you satisfied with it? How long have you been on it?
I've been on 15mg of escitalopram for the past two years. I took a bit of everything before and it was very difficult. I am satisfied with the treatment, but I still have a lot of side effects and I hope to be able to stop it gradually. For insomnia, I was treated with Atarax (hydroxyzine). I am not taking it anymore.
Are you being treated by a doctor or another medical professional? What do you think of their care?
I've seen several doctors, assistants, and specialists, with some good progress and some very difficult subjects to deal with.
Here is some of the progress I've made:
- Being able to talk to the doctor about my phobia of the motorway and therefore being able to re-achieve mobility in the car, even if there are still roads I avoid.
- Being able to ask the doctor to examine me to confirm that there was nothing to worry about (I had extreme digestive pain at times).
- Being encouraged to find solutions to my problems and being supported in these solutions even if they were not obvious or "traditional".
- Being able to get back in touch with my body to feel what was right for me.
- Being able to participate in group therapy sessions (action method: psychodrama): this has led me to become more aware and do a lot of work in a way that suits me because it's not face-to-face.
- Being able to put the things my family has said in the past into perspective and regain confidence in my role as a mother.
- Being able to express myself on the attitudes of aggressive people to distance myself more easily and keep my self-esteem.
- Being able to do a mini virtual written therapy course during the COVID-19 lockdown and keep up with it.
- Being able to meet with medical professionals who saw that my mental situation was critical without panicking.
- Enjoying and celebrating every little step and progress.
- Persevering through getting a new job that stimulates me intellectually.
- Having a better vision of who and what can and cannot help me.
What are your plans for the future?
The future will undoubtedly involve working with medical professionals who are more in tune with me and working on traumas (which I have been able to identify more precisely) in a targeted way, with a prior discussion of behaviours that promote healthy collaboration. It also involves the care I continue to give to my mother-daughter relationship, which is becoming more and more harmonised. I am also working on job prospects, if possible, from home and in the IT sector.
What do you think of patient exchange platforms like Carenity? Are you able to find the advice and support you are looking for?
I'm not very active on Carenity but I'm satisfied with what I've done on the site. I really like the fact that I receive messages, that I feel like people are checking in on me, that I always get answers, and clear answers at that, when I contact the platform, even if they don't solve everything, and that's why I wanted to give my testimonial. There is structure and independence with regard to the information provided.
Finally, what advice would you give to other Carenity members living with bipolar disorder?
See the illness as a chronic infection that is reactivated every time the trauma is touched. Work on identifying traumas and overcoming them. Find solutions to respect your limits. Remain convinced that it is manageable, even reversible.
A final word?
Be aware of those whose flaws make them rob you of your strength. And send gratitude to those who activate your strength while preserving their own.
Many thanks to Zeph525 for sharing her story on Carenity!
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