We often spoke about the vulnerability that is required when you choose to speak up about your journey with depression. It still carries a stigma. Something is wrong with you if you journey with an illness above your neck. Then it is considered to be “all in your head”. A sickness below the neck are acceptable in society. As a couple, Andre and I chose to share something of our journey with the aim to encourage others and give practical guidelines of the experience we gained together over 35 years. My prayer was always that our pain should not be in vain, but become profitable to others, because we have the guts to share. Practical things we implemented in our pursuit of life. Experience of what worked and did not work for us. Things you do not learn in a book. Things nobody speak about. We decided that it is a risk that we are willing to take and share our hearts about our pain from different angles: the caregiver and the one who required extra care. He wrote one blog a year ago in May that I would like to share with you.
There are many words that start with ’re’. In fact, the Free Dictionary says there are 11 700 of them. Some of these are quite wonderful: revitalise, recover, receive, restore and resilience. Some of them are more business-like: review, regulate, report and reason. For me, the scariest ‘re’ word is ‘recur’. I met this word in 1985 when I was diagnosed with my first major depressive episode. The psychiatrist explained that given my family history and the severity of the episode, the depression would most likely return. About three years later I met one of my favourite words: ‘remission’, which indicates the absence of any symptoms of depression. I was determined to banish ‘recur’ from my vocabulary and my life. Unfortunately, that was not to be. In 1992 I met another monster of a word: ‘relapse’. It was also the first time that I was admitted to a clinic and received electroconvulsive therapy. I had to make peace with the recurring nature of depression. However, I was determined to manage the disease so well that I would not require hospitalisation again.
Over the years, and with recurring episodes, the possibility of hospitalisation came up a few times. Once I literally turned around at the doors of the clinic. At the end of February 2019, I was admitted to Tyger Valley Clinic for ten days and placed on three months’ sick leave. There are many benefits to hospitalisation: It ensures safety when self-death is a real threat, you are taken out of your normal circumstances, you get to see the psychiatrist and psychologist on a daily basis, you take part in occupational therapy activities and medication is adapted in a controlled environment.
Despite knowing this, I still felt devastated when Annette and my psychiatrist insisted on hospitalisation. I felt an utter failure. Once the decision was made, it took a couple of days for a bed to become available. During this time, my depressed mood intensified. Up to that point, I was clinging to a precipice. Now my grip had failed, and I was plunged into darkness. I lost hope. I could not envision my life beyond the admission date. It drained my last bit of energy to make the necessary arrangements to be away from work for three months. I had to let go of projects that would come to fruition during my sick leave (e.g. HospiVision’s 3rd Biennial conference and 20-year celebration). My work is an important part of my identity and I suddenly felt cut off from that which gave me meaning and purpose. I felt stripped bare by the admission process – a long and intrusive questionnaire and having all medication and personal possessions taken in. I am a very private person. To share a room was like sandpaper to my soul. I had no desire to continue with any of my spiritual practices and felt unable to do so.
Despite all this, I knew that I needed emotional, spiritual, relational and vocational ‘re-suscitation’. I wrote Psalm 23:3 on a piece of paper and kept it with me at all times: “He restores my soul.” That is what I clung to. “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:3-4) This is God’s promise for you.
Andre de la Porte, May 2019
I feel like a dry winter’s tree whose bark has been stripped away. I will Hold onto Him to restore my soul in my journey of sorrow about my Beloved, my André.
The Voicebox: a blog for those who lost their voice (became silent) in their journey with depression.
Annette de la Porte