Written by See Change Ambassador Gormla Hughes:
I don’t know if you have ever seen the film ‘Shawshank Redemption’. Specifically the escape scene. Andy Dufresne, one of its inmates makes his way out of the prison via the prison’s sewage system. A very full sewage system.
My question for you then, is this,‘would you do it?’ I suspect you would probably have to give it some serious thought. Now,supposing I told you that, not only did you have no choice, but in fact, when you were in there, you would have absolutely no idea how long that pipe was or how you could get out of That sewage system is what going through an episode of Clinical Depression is for me.
You want someone to hear you screaming underground. You don’t want someone to hear you screaming underground, because they might be repulsed by what they see. You stay silent. You withdraw. You have to disassociate because there is only so much sewage your brain, your heart and your soul can take. Things happen and you read them like small signs that the end is near. Like hearing a seagull and thinking you must be close to the sea, now. Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption)
After the first episode, which was over twenty years ago, going back into the sewer pipe was really hard, but at least I knew, somewhere, I would eventually emerge. I took the backpack of information from my first trip, using the first aid kit I had. No alcohol. Do one small self-loving thing a day, like have a pink bath or paint my nails bright orange. If someone says ‘how are you doing today, Gormla?’ answer honestly ‘I’m not doing so good actually’.
It’s a loneliness that nothing can touch or heal. Eventually, the seagull sings, and I emerge into the light, disorientated for a little while and occupied with trying to get rid of the smell. Then I get greedy, wanting to drink in all the light and I ache with a longing to fulfil my dreams, my bucket list, and I do.
Truth, I do get tired of the struggle, sometimes. Although my faith, my daughter and my bucket list have kept me going, the day the rage, the exhaustion and the blackness appeared, I was terrified. I genuinely didn’t know if I had the capacity for another fight. What scared me the most, was it was an unfamiliar pipe, stronger almost reinforced. My familiar first aid kit didn’t work anymore. I was nearly four months in peri-menopause before I realised it. There are no words in the English language that could accurately describe my relief. Yes, relief.
I started researching, learning and acquiring knowledge. No alcohol. No dairy products. No coffee. I took Maca Powder for the fatigue and to help regulate my hormones. Just knowing I wasn’t having another episode of Clinical Depression was enough to lift me, at least a little.
Sadly, only eighteen months later, uninvited, severe stress entered my life. I began the worst journey into the sewage system, I have ever known. Fighting a feeling of complete worthlessness, Clinical Depression and full menopause. I felt nothing, I saw no colours, the loneliness excruciating, I swung from numb to anxiety to complete rage a number of times during the day. I couldn’t sleep. I was tired. Suicide ideation began taking over my mind.
In moments of lucidity, I knew I didn’t want to die, but I knew there was only a millilitre of fight left in me. I knew it would just take one flip of the switch to go from suicide ideation to suicidal. I asked my daughter, only one of two people I trust implicitly, to move in with me for a year. She did.
Slowly, I made it through. It took just over nineteen months. This journey changed me so profoundly, sometimes I don’t recognise myself in the mirror, now. I never regret, but I really wish the word menopause didn’t sit in the same stigma category as mental health. Because together, they are a double whammy. And there was very little discussion on that either.One recruitment agency said to me “we’re looking for someone greener and fresher”. Looking back, I wish I had said ‘I prefer older and wiser’.
I didn’t sail into ageing with the grace of a swan I thought I would. But, without question, I have earned one of its feathers, a Victory Coup, for making it this far. And I am proud of myself. I am strong. I have become truly self-forgiving. I have learnt self-patience. I am worthy. I am really greedy, again. I am. Finally. Me.
I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t wanna know. I would like to think they were singing about some thing was so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words and make your heart ache because of it. I tell you this voice soared higher and farther than anybody in a Gray place dares to dream it is like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away. For the briefest moment every last man in Shawshank felt free. Ellis Boy “Red” Redding (Shawshank Redemption).