Thursday, November 6, 2014

Losing yourself and Finding yourself - Life is a journey!

Many people have commented recently about how happy that I look and that I am 'glowing' and I have been journalling about the reasons for this. I am a generally optimistic and positive person and I know I have a good sense of humour and enjoy fun so nothing changed there. I am so lucky to be in a relationship - now marriage - with a man who loves me and whom I love more - he is heaven sent. However I am used to being cherished, anyone who knows my late husband will tell you that he loved to tell people about his lovely wife and I was blessed to have had him, and his love in my life for forty odd years. So what is it??
Well, its no secret that Tony suffered from depression and had had several major episodes of deep depression over the last ten years of his life and I hadn't realised the many ways that this affected me and had perhaps underestimated the effect on my well being. Anyone who is in a relationship with a person who has a debilitating or terminal illness will tell you how it takes its toll on them physically and mentally and depression is no different -  its just as hard being with a person who is mentally unwell and perhaps even more.
My love for Tony made it easy for me to be supportive - I so wanted him to be well and experience joy again. When Tony was well he was functionally well but I now realise that he never really was the same person after his first major depression and the 'black dog' was never far from his side casting a shadow on his life ....and our life. My role as his wife was now more complex and I became his unofficial psychologist as I tried to help him make sense of why he was so unhappy when by his own admission, he had a lovely life. I was his pharmacist as I  made sure he took his anti depressants and sometimes they came to work with me if I sensed that he may be tempted to misuse them. I was his health guru as we looked for more natural ways of supporting his nervous system, his coach, his cheerleader and his protector.
I fought hard to separate his illness from him but depression is an illness that affects thinking and behaviour and many times I was frustrated, angry, impatient and despondent. One of the reasons I married Tony was because he made me laugh and for over a decade life was, at times, no laughing matter. Depression is such a difficult illness spoken about in hushed tones, bringing embarrassment and awkwardness into conversations. For me it was just awful to witness my competent, capable and intelligent husband become paralysed with fear - unjustified imaginary fear! This was a man who had flown around the world, dealing with multi million rand projects, managing a company - not only respected by the people who worked there but by most of the engineering community - and he was genuinely liked by them. Overnight he lost all confidence in his ability, struggled to make decisions, and battled to look forward to anything. He fought so hard and so bravely to regain his belief in himself with therapy and medication. I  know my story is familiar to many and I know that our society is stressed, struggling and sick - every psychiatrist in town has a long waiting list and our medical aids are bogged down with the cost of medication. Its predicted that depression will be the number 2 cause of death by 2020.  The "Working Wounded". We sympathise with people who are physically ill and understand that they cannot help it but somehow believe that mental illness is a choice. Its not.
Tony's illness cost him his life and it cost me and his children - and those who loved him -  a lot of heartache, It is only now in retrospect that I can say that it cost me a lot more than grief - I invested a great deal of energy in protecting, supporting and trying desperately to hold him... and us ....and our family together. I spent a decade fighting for his life and we both lost that battle. I still have the greatest admiration for Tony and I know how hard he tried to be well. I am glad that he finally found escape from the torment of depression and anxiety and that he is at peace.

Life is a journey to becoming who you were designed to be, Now, I think, what you are seeing and experiencing is ME - my fun loving, enthusiastic and positive self - enjoying life and investing all my energy in being who I was designed to be.
I have so much empathy with those of us who love and support partners who are fighting this dreadful illness and I pray that one day there will be a cure - not temporary relief. I salute you and urge you to not forget who you are to take care of and give generously to yourself while you are supporting your loved ones. My battle is over and I can live again.
Thank You my family and friends for walking this journey with me 
 I could not have done it without you!