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  • Translator: Lena Clemente Reviewer: Denise RQ

  • The TEDx team warned me that when I was announced as a speaker,

  • some of you would google me.

  • If that was you, you'll have discovered I keep a very low profile,

  • so by way of introduction, I asked a few friends

  • to offer a few words as to the kind of person I am.

  • "Jill is the kind of person who lives life to the full,

  • who believes anything's possible, who laughs from the belly."

  • No one said, " the kind that suffer from depression,"

  • no one said, "the kind to attempt suicide,"

  • and yet, in the early hours of March 13, 2013,

  • I got out of bed, left my sleeping family,

  • drove to a nearby bridge and jumped.

  • I don't remember the fall or the impact; I remember being found,

  • I remember a neck brace being fitted and been put into the ambulance.

  • As I was been taken to a hospital,

  • two policemen would knock at my door and break the news to my husband.

  • From there, the news would spread causing shock and disbelief.

  • Not surprisingly, I wasn't in great physical shape;

  • many of the bones on the right side of my body were broken:

  • my lung had collapsed, my pelvis shattered;

  • neither was I in great mental shape.

  • Thinking I'd already hit rock bottom,

  • I now contemplated a life as a social pariah

  • confined to a wheelchair with limited access to my kids.

  • So how on earth had I reached this point?

  • It's difficult to say when my story begins -

  • roots into depression are complex -

  • but let's start with the loss of my father.

  • His death had prompted a major reevaluation of life.

  • It was time to make some big changes,

  • so together with my family, we decided to up stakes and move to Devon.

  • We didn't know a soul here, but we believed

  • we'd find a better quality of life; we'd live the dream.

  • There were a few setbacks in our new life, but nothing we thought we couldn't handle.

  • However, a year into our time here in Exeter,

  • I realized that things weren't quite right.

  • I started waking early;

  • things I previously enjoyed, I didn't want to do;

  • I was becoming withdrawn, social occasions were a real effort,

  • my concentration levels were flagging, my thinking was becoming muddled,

  • making simple decisions became really difficult.

  • What was going on?

  • A little time on the Internet suggested I was suffering from depression.

  • Depression? Me? How embarrassing.

  • What did I have to be depressed about?

  • I thought about confiding in friends, but they had real problems:

  • a seriously-ill child, a dying friend, financial problems;

  • I'd come to Devon to live the dream -

  • whining to them that I was feeling a bit depressed?

  • "Really? Pull yourself together."

  • I thought about going to see my GP,

  • but I'd met a doctor at my practice socially;

  • I didn't want her finding out my shameful secret

  • so I contacted the local depression service.

  • They suggested a course of cognitive behavioral therapy,

  • and as time progressed, my depression lifted.

  • I could laugh and enjoy things,

  • I could concentrate and engage with people.

  • It was such an enormous relief.

  • I decided to make up for time;

  • it was time to come back and suck the juice out of life again,

  • I was never going back to that dark place.

  • With gusto I threw myself into every aspect of my life.

  • Few months later, I remember feeling a little under the weather.

  • I just thought I was coming down with something

  • but no, the depression returned.

  • This time, the descent was much more rapid,

  • and it hit me much, much harder.

  • I couldn't do the simplest of things:

  • a trip to the supermarket was overwhelming.

  • I stopped taking my post, my emails, I had no appetite.

  • I tried to keep up appearances, but it was hard work

  • so I started to avoid people.

  • I just seemed to shut down.

  • My concerned husband made me see a doctor.

  • I was given a questionnaire to gauge the severity of my depression.

  • My answers confirmed that it was indeed severe,

  • but I lied on the last two questions, the ones about suicide.

  • How could I confess to feeling suicidal?

  • What if they take away my children?

  • The doctor prescribed antidepressants;

  • said they might make me feel worse before I felt better.

  • Worse? Worse than this? I wasn't taking them.

  • And taking them will be proof of my failure to sort myself out.

  • I noticed the way I was behaving was starting to impact on my children;

  • unable to focus or function properly

  • I couldn't give them the usual levels of attentional support.

  • My mind corroded by depression,

  • I started to believe that this thing that was destroying me

  • would take my family down too.

  • I would not let that happen.

  • Each morning, I'd wake at 1 a.m.,

  • I'd lie there for hours telling myself how pathetic I was,

  • what a coward I was for still being here, a burden to my family;

  • I would be disgusted with myself by sunrise, for still existing.

  • This had to stop.

  • Of course I knew my family would be upset, but through this depressive lens,

  • I believed that they'd be better off without me.

  • My husband is an amazing father,

  • he would do an excellent job in raising our children.

  • We had a holiday planned,

  • they'd have time to bury me, grieve, take a holiday to get over it

  • and come back to start a better life without me.

  • Surely proof the depression does terrible things to your mind.

  • The day before my suicide attempt, after dropping the kids at school,

  • I pulled over on the side of the road, I just sat in the car feeling numb.

  • I remember watching the buses.

  • What if I just stepped out in front of one?

  • But that wouldn't be fair on the driver. And what if it didn't work?

  • I just maimed myself that wouldn't help anyone.

  • I then drove to a bridge where I sat in the car for hours.

  • At one point I wrote a suicide note and then ripped it up in shame.

  • As I drove off, I remember the diary in my bag

  • that revealed my struggle with these awful thoughts;

  • that would be too painful for someone to read after I'd gone.

  • I stopped the car and destroyed it.

  • I picked my daughter up from school and took her to a swimming lesson.

  • She just moved class so I was surprised to see familiar faces.

  • I knew I look dreadful, pale, greasy-haired, exhausted,

  • I was far from the bubbly, chatty person they knew,

  • but I was beyond faking it.

  • That night, I went to bed, and as usual, wake at 1:00 a.m.,

  • "This time no backing out. You have to do this!

  • Don't stop, don't think, don't kiss them goodbye!"

  • So that's how I came

  • to be lying on the road that cold March morning -

  • a physical, mental, emotional wreck.

  • As I lay there in my hospital bed fearing the worst,

  • something very beautiful happened:

  • a big tidal wave of love and kindness from friends, family, and community

  • arrived to carry me through this dark chapter.

  • This was shown in all sorts of ways, but what stood out

  • were the many compassionate messages from people telling me

  • of their own struggles with mental health.

  • These were people I thought I knew, sharing sides I never knew existed.

  • I had no idea the scale of this problem in our society.

  • In my mountain of hospital post I received a gift, from George,

  • a schoolfriend of my son.

  • This beautiful, hand-knitted bookmark had a single word stitched onto it;

  • that word was 'hope.'

  • This 10-year-old boy had summed up in one word

  • what I so badly needed at that time.

  • Hope is in short supply when you're depressed;

  • severe depression is a place of complete, total, and utter despair.

  • I needed to understand I've been extremely ill,

  • and I needed hope that I could and would recover

  • My physical recovery was long and painful; had a clear structure to it.

  • There were milestones along the way showing encouraging signs of progress.

  • My route back from depression would be less clear.

  • With time, the medication seemed to kick in,

  • my emotions returned, I was able to cry,

  • and what felt like a very long time,

  • I started to re-engage, to function properly.

  • I just felt like my normal self.

  • I was put on a waiting list for psychotherapy,

  • but waiting lists are long even for bridge jumpers.

  • It would be two and a half years from my suicide attempt

  • before I started therapy on the NHS.

  • It became clear to me that building on my science of recovery

  • was going to be down to me

  • so I started to research depression

  • to understand this cruel illness, to understand my own triggers

  • and my own toxic mix of circumstances that had led me there.

  • This helped enormously,

  • not just in my initial recovery

  • but still today, in my efforts to stay well and thrive.

  • I'm all too aware that my story could have had a very different ending.

  • My family could have had to go through

  • what an average 17 families, a day, in the UK, experience:

  • utter devastation, so many unanswered questions

  • endless what-ifs.