By Grainne McCool
“Hello everyone. I hope you’re well. I may start with an introduction. My name is Leonie. I have a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a fantastic family and a great bunch of friends. Pretty perfect, right! But I forgot to mention something I live with every day: Depression!”
I read the above words on a new blog called Where is My Sunshine on Friday 27th March 2015.
I remember the night well. I had just poured myself a glass of wine and this new blog appeared on my Facebook page through a then acquaintance of mine, Leonie McLaughlin.
I knew Leonie through a number of other people. I knew her as a young, beautiful lady with two amazing children and a very loving husband. Pretty much as she sums herself up in the introduction to her blog.
I, like many others, was shocked when she told us she lives with depression.
As the days and weeks went by I became very much inspired by this young lady’s decision to go public with her illness.
It was a huge step to take and very much one into the unknown. Since then I have got to know Leonie as a friend.
We have run together, done a little fit camping together and even had some drinks together.
So earlier this week there was no hesitation in her making me a friendly cup of tea to talk about her life now, with her ongoing mental health and depression.
As Leonie and I sat down with her youngest daughter, depression seemed a million miles away. Or so I thought.
Then Leonie told me: “Yesterday was a particularly bad day.”
This young lady looked a million dollars to me this morning, so how could yesterday be a bad day?
Leonie explained that it’s difficult to understand unless you have experienced depression.
“It’s not really bad days and good days but more bad hours and good hours.”
She explains that everyday can be different and you just never know when one of those bad hours is going to strike.
With a vibrant one-year-old running about the house, Leonie doesn’t get much time to sit down.
She does however admit:
I’m so grateful to have my children because they give me a reason to get up every day. I sometimes worry that if I didn’t have them, I would be tempted to just stay in bed.
Such is one of the effects of her depression.
Depression struck Leonie shortly after the birth of her first daughter, over three years ago.
She visited her local doctor who diagnosed her with post-natal depression.
Leonie was put on medication which she says began to help as the weeks and months went by.
“I could feel the difference and eventually I felt well enough to come off that medication.”
When Leonie’s second daughter was born seventeen months ago, Leonie was immediately aware of the warning signs.
“This time the symptoms were worse,” she told me.
Again she visited her doctor and was once again prescribed medication to curtail the symptoms.
Leonie also has counselling sessions which she says are “a huge help”.
As Leonie talks about her depression she says she now knows that the warning signs were there long before she had her children.
“In hindsight I recall certain times in my teenage years where I was feeling particularly low.
“I now know that in those days I was also suffering with anxiety and depression at various periods.’
Leonie says that at her worst she felt that her children would be better off without her.
She thought that her husband and family would be better able to care for the two girls.
She now knows that’s not the case. Those two little girls need their Mum and their Mum needs them.
Going public with her depression was an important step for Leonie.
She says in one of her blog posts:
I confided in someone only for them to decide I wasn’t suitable for friendship anymore.
Such is the reality of living with depression. Some people choose to walk away. However she goes on to say that she is in fact “the same person I always was, just with some added baggage”.
Depression shouldn’t be classed as ‘baggage’.
This young lady fights a daily battle and yet she doesn’t let it define her. She gets up and she gets on with her life.
Her children are a clear indication of her maternal love and dedication to her family. Her husbands constant support and love is endless. She lives with an illness not ‘baggage’.
Thanks to the endless work of people like Niall Breslin (aka Bressie), it is now acceptable to talk and be open about living with depression and anxiety.
Breslin speaks openly and avidly about mental health in Ireland. He says that: “depression and anxiety need to be normalised in this country in order for people to deal with it better.”
Leonie admits that going public with her illness has attracted some negative feedback with certain people accusing her of “seeking attention”.
But she readily admits that the positive by far outweighs the negative.
“I have many reports about how I have already helped others deal with their depression through reading about my experience,” she says.
Living with depression is an ongoing battle for this young lady. She accepts that it is something she has to live with throughout her life and knows that it might never leave.
But she is facing it with her head held high, with two beautiful girls and a great husband and family behind her. This is definitely one battle that depression will NOT win.
I don’t doubt that the sun will shine brightly for this lady as she travels through life, and thanks to her, many others will also see their sunshine.