*TRIGGER WARNING – ARTICLE DISCUSSES SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND MENTAL HEALTH
I was deeply emotionally effected by the news of Danny Frawley’s death, recently. I don’t go for St Kilda or Richmond, I didn’t even KNOW he had a media career, I have no knowledge of him personally. Yet, when The Groom called me to say that there had been an accident and there were unconfirmed reports that it was Mr Frawley, my immediate response was to break down in tears.
I couldn’t understand it. Nor could I stop crying. I felt overwhelmed for a good couple of hours. Throughout the evening, as the report was confirmed, waves of tears hit and spilled. The children assumed that the accident involved someone I knew, but I explained to them that this was not the case. I told them that I didn’t understand why I was so affected. I told them that sometimes when a sad thing happens, it just makes you feel sad.
As the week wore on, I listened to a bit of media on the topic. He sounds like he was a lovely bloke. I felt for his wife and kids, and wider family and friends. I still couldn’t figure out the source of my intense grief. One of my family members said that they felt angry that it had happened, as well as sad, because someone who had everything to live for didn’t appear able to grab on to the scaffold that he had used previously, when dealing with that most insidious mental illness, Depression.
I’m no stranger to the Black Dog. Since the birth of my first child, that mongrel has visited me on and off. It never completely leaves, but I have strategies in place to keep it less pervasive in my everyday life. It shocked me the first time I was diagnosed with it, as I had always been a happy chappy clown type. I also thought that the feeling of greyness I experienced post birth was normal, given I was the first of my family to breed. I was shocked and relieved when my beautiful Maternal & Child Health Nurse gently suggested I fill in a questionnaire called an Edinburgh test. Wouldn’t you know, I got quite the high score.
After giving group counselling a go, I was referred to my local GP for medication. After the initial two weeks of uptake symptoms, which SUCKED, passed, I felt like myself again. I had forgotten what that was like. It was certainly an improvement to what I had sunk into, I’ll tell you that for free. One of the most alarming things, once I felt okay again, was that I hadn’t noticed myself receding into the greyness.
Long story short, I had another couple of children, having a second bout of PND after birth two, and none at all after the third. I had weaned of the medication while pregnant with my second child, fearing that it would have harmful effects on the baby. That didn’t end well. Six weeks after his birth, I was a weeping mess on the floor with a screaming newborn and a concerned toddler by my side. For about five minutes, all three of us bawled. That night, I recall waking up at stupid o’clock and rationally planning my death. I calmly went back to sleep after I was satisfied with my plan.
Upon waking the next morning, it occurred to me that I was suicidal. The grey feeling was back. I had seen the signs, noticed them from under the fog, and knew that there was help at hand. I called the Maternal and Child Health Line. What a wonderful, lifesaving bunch of humans. A MCHN was sent out to me within a day to assess me, and I guess to make sure that the children were not in danger. This godsend of a lady visited me twice a week for 6 weeks. She saved my life. She didn’t judge me. She just nurtured and cared. Again, I went and got myself to a psychologist and was placed on SSRIs.
All was well for a time, I came off the meds and was relatively okay for a few years. I always spoke to people about my experiences, preferring to be open about it in the hope that another person feeling similar would know someone understood, and could maybe even help them find help support.
Then, I had a particularly bad year. A close friend committed suicide, my Mum, another close friend and my seven-year-old son’s best mate were all diagnosed with cancers of differing types. That bastard black dog came sneaking back in. I didn’t notice him there when he was smaller. One day he stopped hiding, he bit me hard and my beautiful little family noticed. This time, as soon as I noticed, I took action. Not before I had subconsciously chosen a tree while driving around the hills to drive my car into. It was a massive mountain ash. I knew that nobody would survive driving headfirst into that at 80km/hr. I just needed a moment in the day without a child in my car with me. Thankfully for all of us, that didn’t happen while I was under the grey.
I had my answer. The feeling that was overwhelming me was familiarity. Maybe Danny Frawley had found his ideal tree before he realised that his black dog had gotten too big for him to manage alone. I was crying because I suspected that he had chosen the tree. I knew that he was under the grey, and couldn’t think clearly as a result. I was crying because he’d forgotten to take notice. I was crying because I knew.
© Melanie Bateson