Interview by Trish with I.B.
I don’t usually do interviews over the phone because I prefer to meet with people face-to-face and record the conversation so I can quote them directly. But with I.B. it was necessary because she has a broken leg and has no means of transportation from her rural community.
She describes the incident of flying over the handlebars of her mountain bike and lying on the uneven cement in front of the plaza. There were construction workers nearby and they put orange safety cones around where she laid waiting for the ambulance.
This picture in my mind makes me laugh and I.B. agrees you have to be able to laugh about the situation. For her, laughter is sometimes the key for relief from the depression she experiences. At least for a bit.
This situation is hard for I.B. because she is unable to go to the Krasman Centre (a local consumer/survivor initiative) to visit with people who also experience depression and other mental health disorders. She has found the support in talking with others to be priceless in managing the depression.
Depression runs in I.B.’s family and she feels she was born with it. It impeded her ability to understand words, read and speak when she was a child so she was sent to a special education school.
But her family did not understand it was depression. They were convinced she was a troubled child.
She grew up with parents who practiced harsh discipline based on their European upbringing. The abuse she suffered caused her to run away from home 16 times. Eventually she was taken away after she charged her father with assault—a beating resulting in her becoming epileptic.
Married life with depression
She married her husband at the age of 28. He is, to this day, the love of her life.
After trying to have children from some time, her doctor sent her to a neurologist. It was the neurologist who discovered she was experiencing depression.
I.B. didn’t even know what depression was. She knew she should be happy but didn’t understand why she was down all the time.
She was determined to work but found it hard. Each time she had to quit because of feeling so depressed.
Eventually she got pregnant and she never felt better. Her husband supported her emotionally during this time because she could not take her medication for depression or epilepsy.
She had their first son and soon fell into postpartum depression. With her second son, she also struggled. She put all her effort into being there for her sons and this helped to curb the depression at times. At first her husband was helpful and tried to understand. But eventually he seemed to not be able to handle it anymore and their relationship began to unravel.
I.B. began to feel betrayed as he cut off from her. She supported him through the hard times by always being there when he needed her. She had been taught to stick by her husband—that you don’t get divorced.
Her husband had a long period away from the family and when he wanted to return, she took him back though she was in a deep depression and struggling to deal with her own issues and keeping a job. I.B. told me that she gave him more support than she could give herself.
When her sons were about 7 and 8 years old and she was in a deep depression, she realized she could no longer stay in a marriage with a man who could not understand.
“If my husband would have stood by me, it would have been a better marriage and I wouldn’t have had to leave. If he would have went with me for help, been there for me when I was in my down moods. I suggested ‘why don’t we have a gathering tonight, just the family’, or a family meetings but he never wanted it. Life would have been so different if he was available to talk to me —he didn’t have the time or was too tired. I wanted it to work. I wish I never had it [the depression]. It hurts when you gave your all and I was there for him and he doesn’t want to be there when I need him.”
The separation was a horrible time for I.B. as she was so depressed she was not fit enough to take care of her sons. They went to live with their dad.
She worked hard to get better and when she was prepared to get back together with her husband and sons, her husband didn’t want it. They officially separated.
Coping without the support of family
Today I.B. finds herself seeing her sons less and less because of their lifestyles as young adults. Her oldest son has depression and she wants nothing more than to support him through that—to be there for him to talk to.
She has recently been cut off from her sons and ex-husband because of the past. She tells me she receives no support from her sisters because they do not understand the severity of her depression or isolation. And though she did reconcile with her parents after leaving home, her father has now passed and her mother is in long term care for Alzheimer.
She tries to live on day at a time. Before her broken leg, she regularly went to the Krasman Centre to be around people who can relate to what she is going through. It is so helpful to her to talk to others and to know she is not alone in her struggles. She says she feels like a human being again when she is there.
She encourages all families who have a family member with depression to find professional support and people with lived experience to try and understand the illness. To sit in the discussion groups. To become educated on depression and to know the signs as it relates to your family member. To go through it together as a family. She feels this is a true sign of love for that family member who is struggling.
She has accepted that she cannot make everyone happy, especially in the more difficult times. She is facing some of these difficult times now but she remains strong in her value to do what’s right and to try to keep the lines of communication open and honest with her family members and her ex-husband.
I.B. is looking forward to the day when she can return to her regular visits to the Krasman Centre and be with people who understand. She is doing her best to remain occupied in her isolation but it is difficult. She is at a loss as to what to do.
As I hang up the phone with I.B., I contact Susan at the Krasman Centre to tell her about I.B.’s feelings of isolation and ask about services that might be available to her. Susan quickly responds with the Krasman Centre’s ‘Warm Line’ (a non-crisis telephone peer support line answered by psychiatric consumer/survivors) and another support line. But what is truly awesome is that Susan calls I.B. to check in with her herself.
This is how the community works and why it is so important to I.B. and so many others. It supports our primal need to feel safe and protected by a tribe who get us—that we won’t be ostracized out of ignorance or a misperception of being weak.
I.B. knows she will make it through these hard times because of it. And someday, I hope for I.B. and her family that this tribe will expand to include her family members too.
Image credit: mallix
The Krasman Centre is a community mental health drop-in centre, with locations in Richmond Hill and Alliston Ontario Canada. The Krasman Centre is an organization that is governed, led and staffed by consumer/survivors and family members. They work with consumer/survivors and families to improve lives through information and education, self-help, mutual support and partnership. They promote wellness and recovery, and foster supports to help people stay well.
Click here to visit their site.