About the Make a Ripple campaign
This series of blog posts are part of the See Change Make a Ripple campaign, an initiative to help end the stigma of mental health problems by sharing experiences and building public understanding. If you’d like to tell your story, you can visit the Make a Ripple stories portal. If you’d like to write a longer piece like the one below, you can contact a member of the See Change campaign team email@example.com or on 01 8601620
It first became clear to me that there was something seriously wrong when I was watching a movie at home and suddenly I thought I was going to die.
I still can’t explain exactly why I thought that I was going to die, because I didn’t feel sick, I was just convinced that those were my last few minutes alive. I had only moved from Dublin to Lisbon a few months before and I was still struggling with the language and with meeting people.
The idea that there was nobody in the city that I could turn to was extremely frightening and made me feel even worse. I didn’t know what else to do so I got into the shower and tried to think of someone who lived nearby and who could call an ambulance for me. But the people I knew in the neighbourhood were work colleagues and I had not felt so welcome at work.
After I got out of the shower, still alive, I began to realise that maybe I wasn’t about to die, but that I just felt a more intense despair than I had ever felt in my life before. I survived that night, as I have survived many more since, but I did it alone.
I began seeing a Portuguese guy, which distracted me for a few weeks from the intense loneliness that I had been feeling, until the day he admitted that he was still seeing his ex-girlfriend. And that small shred of hope for feeling okay, which was really a hopeless wish that somebody else would fix me, came apart in my hands. I sank again.
But I had arranged to meet a new Portuguese friend for dinner and I forced myself to go. Every time, meeting with a friend was not at all what I wanted to do, almost every time I did it anyway, and every time it helped. Going through any episode of depression alone was always a mistake, talking to someone and asking for help never was.
A few days later I was feeling completely panicked and almost suicidal, and so I rang the Portuguese friend and asked her if she wanted to look for an apartment and live with me. I still thought something practical and constructive could cure my intense sadness and loneliness.
The day after my birthday, after a wonderful party with lovely people (I was lucky enough to have made some very good friends in and out of work in the meantime), I crashed again, and panicked so much that I thought I would fall apart completely if I didn’t get out of the apartment, but I was terrified of going anywhere alone. My flatmate agreed to come to a restaurant with me, where I ate nothing, but I finally told her what was going on. I was surprised to hear that she had been depressed before, and had seen a therapist. So I resolved to contact someone, and ended up with an English-speaking psychoanalyst.
Psychoanalysis is like chemotherapy. Very often it feels like the cure is worse than the disease, that the cure is what makes you want to kill yourself. But it was the only hope I had of feeling different and I clung to it. For two years I went to the English-speaking psychoanalyst between three and five times a week. Once a month I went to a Portuguese-speaking psychiatrist to get my medication.
During that time, I lost my job – partly as a result of my diagnosis and treatment – and completely ran out of money. But the close friends that I had only just gotten to know were there for me whenever I needed them, even when all I could manage to do was to ask them why they bothered spending time with such a hateful and miserable person.
Then I slowly managed to start working again, and got financial help and frequent visits from my parents and friends from Ireland. When I moved to Vienna for an exciting new job at the beginning of this year, after almost three and a half years in Lisbon, it was like being re-born. I had been cynical for so long about all those reassurances that I would feel even better by the time I was finished therapy.
I just wanted to survive. But I do feel better. I really do. I just take one tablet a day now and I am finished psychoanalysis. I still proudly drink from a mug that a politically incorrect friend gave me that says “A Prozac a day keeps the voices away”. But it does. And one of thefirst things that I told my new boss, new colleagues and any friends I made here, is that I suffer from depression, but I got better.
See Change understands that there is a complex multiplicity of perspectives on mental health problems and the experience of being unwell. See Change encourages the publication of material that promotes understanding of mental health problems, the experience of being unwell, and recovery. The opinions expressed by contributors to the Make a Ripple campaign are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of See Change, funders, or partner organisations.