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 (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.