Too often, depression sufferers are stigmatised as weak and unstable individuals. The truth of the matter is that many depression sufferers are well-qualified individuals with responsible jobs. We spoke to three successful career women who told us about the courage and strength it takes to overcome the trauma of a depressive disorder.
Thumi Mkhize works as a teacher at a Middle School in Mafikeng. She is married with a son and daughter.
My story starts last year in February when I began to experience bad family problems. I reacted by becoming very depressed and avoiding people. I also began to experience strange physical symptoms such as shortness of breath and dizziness. Before long my work began to suffer and the principal decided to give me some leave. I was hospitalised for one week, during which time I attended a number of valuable therapeutic sessions and consulted with a psychiatrist. After my hospitalisation, I went to stay with my mother in Pretoria for another restful week. I did a lot of soul searching when I was with my mother. I realised that I had to gain courage and learn how to face other people again. I left my mother’s house a completely different person. I am now completely healthy and working hard as a teacher. I am also studying in my spare time and will be graduating in April. My advice to other depression sufferers is to try and stop putting the blame on themselves. Instead, they should have courage and walk tall.
Grace Sebo, 25, works at Standard Bank as a Senior Officer. She lives with her mom, dad and two sisters in Tladi, Soweto.
At the beginning of last year, a very traumatic incident occurred with a friend of mine. I discovered that my friend was using my ID and CV as her own, and was working in a very comfortable job under the pretense of being me. It was a very big shock to me as she was one of my closest friends and I would have trusted her with anything. I slipped into a very bad depression after I found out. I couldn’t eat or sleep and I lost a lot of weight. The hardest thing was that there was no one I could share my agony with. After the court hearing in June last year, I felt I had to speak to someone about what I was going through. I got hold of the toll-free number for the Depression and Anxiety Support Group in Gauteng. I phoned up and was put through to a very understanding and supportive counsellor who explained to me that I could be suffering from depression. The Support Group sent me some very useful brochures on the causes, symptoms and treatment for depression. Through reading these brochures, I was finally able to understand what I was going through. That was the catalyst for my recovery. I have slowly been able to piece my life back together over the last year or so. Although I will always be hurt over the betrayal of my friend, I am starting to trust people again and feel stronger very day. The Support Group can be contacted weekdays from 8am to 7pm and Saturdays from 8am to 5pm on (011) 783-1474/6 or (011) 884-1797.
Veli Zondi, 36, is a Grade 4 teacher at a primary school. She lives by herself in Soweto.
In 1995 my father died, and shortly afterwards I began to suffer from severe headaches, sleeplessness, lethargy and a depressed mood. I eventually went to see a doctor in Pretoria who told me that I was suffering from stress. He prescribed some tablets which I began to take. A while later I heard about a workshop that the Depression and Anxiety Support Group were holding at Soweto College. The workshop was very useful in that I learnt what I was really suffering from and how to deal with it. I also learnt how to handle the problems as they came. What my experience taught me is that people don’t know enough about depression in South Africa. In total, I suffered with depression for 3 years. I think it is very important that people are made more aware about depression and the symptoms and treatment. I would also recommend depression sufferers consult professionals about their disorders.
Anyone can have depression but, these days there is no need for people to suffer unnecessary anguish. Help is readily available, either through medication, psychotherapy or support groups, depending on the severity of the individual’s illness.
Clinical depression often goes untreated because people don’t recognise the many symptoms. They may know some symptoms, such as sadness and withdrawal, but they are unaware of others, including anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness. As with many illnesses, if treatment is needed, the earlier it begins, the more effective it can be. Early treatment also increases the likelihood of preventing serious recurrences. Joining a patient support group can be very helpful during the recovery process. Support group members share their experience with the illness, learn coping skills and exchange information on community providers.
DEPRESSION CHECK LIST
Different people have different symptoms. Not everyone experiences clinical depression in the same way. To help decide if you – or someone you care about – need an evaluation for clinical depression, review the following check list of symptoms and mark the descriptions that best apply. If you experience five or more of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, if you feel suicidal, or if the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily routine, see your doctor, and bring this sheet with you. As a first step, your doctor or another health professional may recommend a thorough examination to rule out other illnesses.
Symptoms of clinical depression:
· A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying.
· Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain.
· Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as
headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.
· Irritability, restlessness.
· Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”.
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism.
· Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking.
· Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex.
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
· Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.