Depression

Updated 09 May 2016

'My suicide attempt saved my life'

When South African artist and mother of two Yvette Beneke realised she was suffering from depression, she could have never imagined that it would almost cost her her marriage, and even worse, her life. This is her story...

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Yvette Beneke is a successful South African artist and loving mother of two. Well-known for her beautiful, happy paintings of flower arrangements, no one ever suspected that Yvette was actually suffering from depression.

'I put on a brave front'

In fact, Yvette herself did not realise she was depressed until early 2015.

“I never knew I was depressed. I didn’t have the normal symptoms. Only now I realise that I have actually been suffering from depression since childhood.”

 It was in May 2015 when Yvette first noticed changes in herself. Despite the low mood weighing her down, she felt that she needed to just keep going about her normal daily life for the sake those around her.

“Because of the stigma associated with depression, I put on a brave front.”

Yvette was rapidly sliding deeper and deeper into a very dark space. Her symptoms got worse and soon she found it too difficult to even get up and out of bed in the morning.

She remembers loved ones telling her to “just be happy”. They would tell her to get up, go for a walk, go for a run, not realising how difficult it is for someone in Yvette’s state to even do those normal, everyday activities.

Yvette began seeing both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. She was given antidepressant medication but did not respond to the treatment. After trying several different medications with little success, she was becoming increasing desperate.

During this time, Yvette convinced herself that her husband was the source of her unhappiness. She decided that she would divorce him, believing that she would then be able to start over and begin to feel happy once again.

A desperate attempt to end it all

One Saturday morning, with her husband out for the day fishing, Yvette began painting. This time, she didn’t paint bright flowers. Instead, she began painting a dark, black angel with tears rolling down her cheeks.

When she had finished, she put a movie on for her children to watch and went upstairs. She lay down and cried. Eventually she felt a sense of numb calm.

“You feel nothing. You shut down completely. There is no happiness, no sadness, nothing. You feel zero.”

Yvette began taking all the medication she could find. She took all of her sleeping pills, some muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs, downing all of the pills with a glass of wine.

She calmly wrote a letter to her children and then sent an SMS her to her husband before lying down.

Sensing something wasn’t right, Yvette’s husband decided to come home. He found her upstairs and thought she was just sleeping until he noticed all the empty pill bottles strewn around the room. Once he clicked that she had attempted to commit suicide, he immediately called for an ambulance and Yvette was raced to hospital.

Doctors managed to successfully treat the overdose. Yvette awoke and felt completely infuriated. She was angry at her husband for coming home early and saving her life, angry that she was still alive.

Out of darkness

After her hospitalisation, Yvette was given a type of antidepressant she hadn’t tried before and, for the first time, it actually worked. Slowly, she began to feel better.

She remembers waking up one morning to the sounds of birds tweeting and frogs croaking in the garden and for the first time, she felt truly happy.

Looking back on her life, Yvette realises that she’d had happy moments in her life, but before being treated for depression, those happy moments had always quickly been replaced with worry.

depression

She has also realised that there is a link between her suicidal thoughts and her menstrual cycle. Her suicide attempt occurred the day before she was due to start her menstrual cycle. This is probably due to hormonal changes that occur during that time. There have since been three other occasions where Yvette became suicidal, all right before her period.

 Yvette is in a much better place now that her depression is being correctly treated. She has reconciled with her husband and loves to spend her weekends away in McGregor with her family. She hopes that by sharing her story, others will become less concerned about stigma associated with mental illness and will recognise their own symptoms more quickly than she did.

 Read more:

Joburg mental patients left out in the cold

Warnings signs of suicide

Coping with the loss of a loved one

 

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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