I went to boarding school at 10 and I just kind-of got on with it. I was an only child and I liked being at home with my mum, but I was not, so there you go. When I was 13 or 14, I started getting depression and anxiety while I was away from home. At about 16, my grandfather died while my mother and I were in Canada and I did not realise it at the time, but that left quite a big hole, a very big hole really. When I went back to school I started struggling with panic attacks and things. I did not know what it was, but you just get on with it, come on – crack on – I didn’t deal with it, nobody knew how to deal with it. I went to college, carried on having issues on and off, sort of peaks and troughs. I don’t think being at boarding school helped although maybe because I had been away from such a young age, I had learned to get on with it, because that’s just what you did.
When I was at college the panic attacks got even worse. I was having real issues with attending lectures etc and I did go and see a doctor and got some Propranolol, which slowed down the heart rate (beta-blockers). It helped for a bit. I started doing a bit of counselling, it helped for a bit, I kept chugging on, finished college even though they wanted me to take time out, but no I was going to carry on – a bit stubborn of me.
The depression went on and off over the years. I had lots of counselling and then kind-of got back on an even keel. I got married in 1995 and had my daughter which was great but then post-natal depression set in. I would wake up in the night shaking and feeling sick. I couldn’t go back to sleep, couldn’t function and I’d think ‘get through the night’ and then ‘get through the day’. My GP was amazing he had been saying I really needed to take antidepressants but every time I tried one, I had awful side effects. I went on Sertraline, which was great and suddenly I could function. I would wake up in the morning and it would be lovely, bloody hell. I think this might be normal.
I had a really bad patch in the year 2000 when we went the Cayman Islands for a friend’s wedding. I had a horrifically bad flight and it just triggered all sorts; I ended up having three months off work where I just stayed in the house I could not go out. It was horrible.
When my grandmother died, my husband, my daughter and I moved in with my mum. They would argue and I would try to keep peace. Then I fell pregnant with Sam. I felt sure this marriage was not going to last but I wanted another chid and did not want a separate father. So, crack on. I went to counselling the entire way through being pregnant just to keep going. I went straight back onto Sertraline after I had our son. Anyway, it all came to a head. We probably struggled on for about three more years of marriage and moved house in attempt to mend things, and then it all went to pieces. I stopped going anywhere and I wouldn’t get on a bus, train, plane or anything. If I couldn’t get out of a vehicle, I was not getting in it, simple as that.
My friend Jehramy had had a motor bike accident and he was stuck at home. He said he really wanted to come to my hometown to see his mum, but he couldn’t drive for four hours. OK, I said, I would get the train up and drive him back. I had not been on a train for 20 years. I got myself on a train; three hours to Waterloo and then change to Gillingham. I must have been insane; it was Bank Holiday. He met me at the station and gave me a big hug and I thought ‘oh wow’; I felt as though I‘d come home. We were just really good friends. He had a hospital appointment in London and I went up and met him; another train journey and the tube as well; oh my, I don’t know how I did it. I remember thinking even if nothing else in my life changed, I knew I could not actually cope with living with my husband anymore.
Life has been so much better. Don’t get me wrong; divorce is not easy and there have been some really bad times, but the children see their father every week and we all get on much better now. I’m in a much better place and more stable than ever. It took a long time for me to find peaceful relationships but having them in my life makes everything so much easier and it means I can manage the anxiety and depression and feel normal, whatever that is!