IN MY THIRTIES, I suffered two major depressive episodes. It all began one May evening just over twenty years ago when depression struck me seemingly out of the blue. I was a journalist at The Times newspaper and mother of two, married to Sebastian, a junior banker.
One night I was taking our two small sons – a six-month old baby and a toddler – upstairs for bath time. I laid them on their towels kissing their rounded tummies in our normal routine when my heart started racing.
That night I was gripped by insomnia. I thought I was having a heart attack, my heart was beating so wildly. I paced the house all night, checking and re-checking the children. When I lay in bed unable to sleep, my worries went round and round, the anxiety worsening like a skater who carves ever deeper patterns on a frozen lake.
I was worried about trying to work, trying to be a good mother, trying to be a good wife. I became more and more overwhelmed with worries. I was bursting with an active sense of dread that disaster was about to strike. Something terrible was going to happen and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. It felt like I was on a plane that was going to crash. In three days I went from being mildly anxious to being unable to move in an agonising foetal curl on the floor, suicidal with fear.
It proved to be the start of my first major depressive episode, born of overwhelm and anxiety. I was briefly in hospital, and was then ill for six months. I was treated with antidepressants and sleeping pills and got back to work, hoping the topic would go away.