I had my first episode of depression when I was 14. My parents had split up; me and mum went to live in a new town where I developed a huge crush on a boy.

He was my first sexual partner, but that first time wasn’t consensual at all, and from there, things got really dark.

It was the first time I’d experienced actually wanting to die. And I ended up trying to kill myself. My mother found me. Later she tried to pretend it didn’t happen. So things just got worse. I wanted to forget everything and disappear into chaos.

Depression isn’t something that just happens in your head, it brings very physical reactions. I get a tightness in my chest and throat, my limbs feel like lead and even small things take heaps more energy.

Negative thoughts start up and things that I normally take pleasure in become really difficult. Trying to get out of bed against the tide of pessimism and self-abuse is really hard.

I was about 28 when I was actually diagnosed with depression. That was the first time anyone had named it, and I was so grateful the doctor had noticed and cared about what was going on at that deep level.

Having good tools

My next major bout of depression happened about 10 years later and it was so frightening. Every time I walked past a set of stairs I’d imagine throwing myself down them, or walking past a window I’d imagine jumping out of it.

So the doctor put me on medication, which stabilised me. For me medication isn’t enough though, it’s just one of the tools in my toolbox.

Other tools include creating a really rigorous and regular routine of self-care. I have regular conversations with key people about how I’m going. I know myself and I know this condition.

If I have a crap day I have to say to myself: what can I do? Have I been eating well? Do I need to structure my day more? Do I need exercise or visit my doctor or do I need to spend time with friends?

I just need to keep telling myself that each episode of depression doesn’t last forever, it will pass, and I have a whole toolbox to help me get through it.


Content, image and video used with kind permission from Gareth Watkins from his NZ Mental Health Media Grant project, Rainbow Touchstones
Photo: Robert Cross