depression is STILL a dirty word

As you all know, I reserve my blog for issues and experiences relating to my life.  But occasionally, I break the rules.  Today I was approached by one of my first ever interviewees for this blog.  Claudia Sylvester is a bespoke jeweller but this morning she hadn’t called to talk diamonds.  As one of my regular readers, she wondered if, in light of the Jonathan Trott recent departure from the Ashes, I would allow her to borrow my platform to talk about depression.

As I had only ever percieved her as a happy, lucky, talented interviewee, I found myself full of admiration at her honesty.

Here are her words.  Please do share them so that we can make depression acceptable whilst also, as mothers, ensuring that our children are not victims of ambition.

If anyone understands the emotions, the angst, the sheer devastation that depression causes then it’s my husband, Steven Sylvester.  Together we want to fight the cause for everyone affected. The bottom line is that depression can attack anyone at anytime and that more support and understanding is desperately needed.
My gorgeous, kind, talented and very special brother committed suicide through his depression and I so wish I could have reached out to him at his time of desperate need.  With everything to live for, a tight family, a young family of his own, someone who was loved so dearly – how could he have had such little self worth?
Claudia with her brothers:  Paul (right) and Mark (left)

Claudia with her brothers: Paul (left) and Mark (right)

I now know that this was an overriding, overpowering dark force that took over him and the most awful, nightmare-inducing realisation is that he went through this alone.  NONE of us knew…the guilt, the sheer self hatred and disgust of  supposedly loving him and knowing him and yet not KNOWING… his depression drove him to think that life for everyone would be better without him. His Doctor knew (this is another issue that needs addressing separately)…and i’m guessing there were others (some unresolved areas that I can’t bring myself to go to yet…its a deep process) but his own flesh and blood did not…looking back now of course we can see the signs…you look for them retrospectively, the headaches, the over attentiveness in the last days…the need to see his family and spend time…and finally the letter. 

The knowledge I have now is, of course, too late and of no help to him or us – our lives have forever changed. But my wish is that goodness can come in the shape of knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge.  Steven (my husband) and my brother Mark were great friends and it was the hardest time of Steven’s life to lose his friend whilst supporting me and my family at the same time. He finds himself dealing day in, day out with people suffering from depression and the reality is that it is getting worse. Not a day goes by when he isn’t listening to someone suffering. (Then on a bad day he comes home to listen to me – poor chap!)
The day before Jonathan Trott announced he was to leave Australia, Steven (an ex-professsional cricketer himself) and I were chatting about my own self doubt which still creeps up on me and at times feels intensely suffocating – a reaction all these years later to my unresolved grief for the loss of Mark. As a family, we support the mental health charity MIND and I was asking Steven how we can get more involved.  Then this news broke about Jonathan Trott and Steven was contacted for his view (something he’s not shy to produce).  The enormity of this problem in our society combined with the talk of mental toughness makes this a constant issue.  If ‘mental toughness’ is to brush aside our issues and ‘get on with it’ to produce results or be deemed successful, then no wonder so many talented yet vulnerable men and women suffer…
For me to get to where I’m at today emotionally, I have had to hit rock bottom, expose my every fear, emotion, memory and lay myself bare. I have had to reveal my vulnerabilities in order to gain my strength.  It’s not over… it’s an ongoing daily battle but I feel like I am equipping myself with the right thoughts and pathway to move forward in a positive way.  Life truly is a journey and how we navigate that journey depends on what support we get along the way.
If I could share the support I received from my husband with everyone, that would be a dream come true.  I will not rest until I feel everybody and anybody can say ‘I feel bad, something doesn’t feel right, I need to get some help’.  Or a time when people can admit their failings and feel that it is ok.
I’m a failure and guess what, that’s ok with me.  Because I’m working on it….

Claudia Sylvester is a bespoke jeweller, wife and mother to 4 children (aged between 3 – 15).

Steven Sylvester was a professional cricketer and is now a chartered psychologist.


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4 Responses to depression is STILL a dirty word

  1. Sue

    As soon as the phrase ‘stress related’ was uttered on the news my first comment to my husband and son was words to the effect of “Why don’t they say he is suffering from depression?” I have suffered bouts of depression many times over the last forty odd years and have learnt to accept it for what it is – it’s an illness just like any other. Just because the symptoms are not always obvious it is still an illness. When I have been off work due to this illness, I have often felt unable to leave the house for fear of bumping into someone I knew. To them I would appear normal, just enjoying time off work. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I loved my job as a primary school teacher. Since retiring two years ago (after yet another bout of the illness), I thought that I would no longer need to take my medication as I was no longer under the stress of work, but I soon discovered that this was not the case. As my doctor patiently explained to me, depression has little or nothing to do with being happy or content – it’s due in part to a chemical imbalance in the brain. An illness that needs treatment. The stigma that surrounds depression will continue whilst people pushy foot around it. Depression and stress are not the same thing so why treat them as such. Come clean, identify depression as an illness and the stigma surrounding it may eventually fade.

  2. Hi Sue
    Claudia from the article here. Thank you so much for commenting, which is really appreciated. It was an outpouring for me to write this and a cathartic experience to boot. I am feeling more liberated and free now that I have read back my own feelings towards losing Mark and all that I have perhaps ‘squashed’ away over time.

    My parents and my brother read the article and it turned into a family therapy session within the same night – truly blessed and wonderful. Mark would be proud of us…

    Depression has a multitude of layers and intensity and I believe (and this is all only my opinion) that everyone experiences a different level of depression and has a different way of showing/coping with it. Its because of this that no one quite knows how to help someone with depression because ‘how can they?’ (I don’t mean Doctors, I mean those around us that are not suffering). When you’re up, you’re up and when you’re down, you’re not showing you’re down!…well its been like that for me at times. I’m sure no one would ever have known.

    Fighting an inner battle is the hardest thing to do because it affects every part of you. The stress on the rest of the body begins to show after time and then before you know it the depression is almost hidden by other symptoms and then it can all mix up into one huge heavy cloud.

    You’re right that depression is an illness and it should be treated as such but I do have a view that ‘sometimes’ (and not all) that GP’s have been guilty in the past of giving out Anti-depressants and not really given consideration to the family of the patient. Will the family know how to deal with the side effects? Does the family even know? Does the patient have a supportive family that knows dangerous signs to look out for? If they notice something odd about their loved one, would they know what to do? Just things like that.

    I don’t know the answers to any of this….all i know is that I’d like to one day be able to help people that suffered like Mark, that suffer like me – have a safe environment that allows people to explore their feelings because heavens knows they sometimes don’t make any sense.

    When you’re feelings don’t match your opportunities or experiences thats a hard one to deal with, that I think only makes you feel worse. For example, I have an incredible loving family, like the best EVER, wonderful children, amazing Husband, great job, good friends etc.. etc… pretty happy all round and feel very blessed but then….whoosh…..there it comes, making me almost debilitated and then the feelings of guilt because of all of the above i.e ‘pull yourself together, look what you’ve got’…

    But for me now, I can see the light and its warm and welcoming and i’m feeling really positive about whats to come, all the good things (it’s not over, and I know its a learning process). But I can only really say that i’m on the right pathway as i’ve had the opportunity to strip myself bare without the fear of being judged, through the wonderful support I have received.

    I now feel a sense of freedom in unburdening myself and revealing the real me – someone who is hurting and trying to heal.

    You can probably guess, I use words as my therapy so thanks to Emma for allowing me this platform to waffle and waffle.
    I wish you all the best love, care and support and if you ever want to waffle to me, get in touch.
    All the best

  3. robert and kim groves

    hi this is kim groves my husband rob and I have got to know Claudia and her family through our tragic loss of our son jack he committed suicide in june 2012 and Claudia has been such a support. I cannot understand why the subject of depression and suicide is not more talked about it seems that people just cannot face to talk about mental health there is still such a stigma but it is such a common problem with so many people suffering and trying to deal with it on their own. I know myself how hard it is when nobody mentions jack and what happened, you would think that they would want to know about his mental problems but nobody asks, I think people just cant seem to deal with mental health, only a few close friends knew and know now. It would help so much if people could just talk about things and get it out in the open instead of trying to deal with it on their own. our thoughts and love are with you.

  4. Dearest Kim and Rob
    Wow! I know how hard that would have been to read my blog for you. Although it won’t be the first time I’ve let my delicate raffia bag of emotions unravel in front of you, will it?

    It was an honour and a pleasure to know Jack and he totally touched my life in so many ways. Firstly of course by introducing me to a game that ultimately gave me some inner peace and time when I needed it the most and then as I got to know him more, he gave me the gift of friendship. That friendship will never go as even though he has left us on earth, his friendship will always remain as he will always be ‘Jack’ and i’ll always cherish our time together.

    He was a precious soul and I have a special flame that flickers in my heart each time I think of Jack and of course you both and Coral too. Lovely lovely family. I love you dearly.

    Lots of love

    p.s I appear to have hijacked Emma’s blog ? x Thanks Emma x

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