The wind dashed two tiny fledglings from their nest into the schoolyard. I cradled them but they died in my hands.
I was seven years old and inconsolable. “The poor little birds,” I sobbed.
A nun snatched them away. “You’re too sensitive, Kathy,” she snapped.
I felt ashamed for showing my feelings. So I kept them to myself and worked on being popular.
I did well at lessons and sport – the mantelpiece at home in Melbourne groaned with my trophies. Mum and Dad were very proud.
When I was 14, a trusted family friend started taking me to play tennis.
One day he took me to his house instead… and raped me.
“You tell anyone and I’ll kill your father,” he threatened.
I loved my dad more than anything so I kept it to myself until, two years later, I broke down.
Horrified, my parents went to the police.
The man retaliated by breaking in while Dad was away, tying up Mum, my brother, sister and me, and taping our mouths.
He was crazed and had a gun.
He kept us like that until Dad returned – and then he slunk off.
The man was arrested and jailed and no-one blamed me… but I couldn’t stop blaming myself.
The cure, my parents decided, was to go to Scotland for a holiday.
I met a boy there and we wed in Melbourne when I was 20. A lovely bride smiled at me from the mirror – I was normal again.
My husband would never know my secret and I’d be a model wife.
But I didn’t like him making love to me. It reminded me of those terrible days.
Still, we had two beautiful daughters, Lynne and Traci.
We spilt when Traci was four. He said he wanted a “real” woman.
It was like the fledglings had died in my hands all over again.
I swallowed my tears. I had two youngsters to support.
I found a babysitter to look after my girls while I worked night shifts as a nurse at Dandenong Hospital.
I didn’t sleep or eat well, but I managed.
Some months later, my supervisor took me aside. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked kindly.
I was shocked. What did she mean?
“You’ve not been yourself for a while and you look thin,” she said and then, suddenly, I was crying.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I sobbed.
I was booked in to a psychiatric hospital for assessment. The diagnosis was major depression.
My babysitter’s mum, a registered foster carer, took in Lynne and Traci while I had treatment.
After eight months, I returned home on medication. The girls knew that I was ill, so they didn’t muck up.
But it was still dreary life for us all.
And then something changed. I got a computer and came across an internet site called depressioNet.
It wasn’t just another lot of statistics, although all the information was there – more like a club with a
noticeboard and chat room.
I found a world of people to talk to, people who knew how I felt. They had depression, too, and it wasn’t a turn-off.
Understanding flooded in. I learnt the words to describe how I felt.
Before I knew it, I was chatting with new friends from around the country.
I started washing my hair, wearing colours instead of just black. I even made a proper chicken soup for my girls. I was alive again.
depressioNet organised a midnight beach picnic.
It’d be the first time I’d meet the people behind the names and I was scared rigid.
After five minutes of face-to-face, I retreated to the beach blanket. Then as we were packing up. I saw a tall guy.
He was getting in a flash Ford Falcon. “Love your car,” I blurted out.
“Thanks – I’m Cartman,” he said.
And I remembered seeing his pen name on depressioNet’s noticeboard.
“I’m Socks,” I smiled.
A week later he asked me out to a café for coffee. He had gorgeous blue eyes and his real name was Alun McMahon.
Slowly we learnt to confide in each other. Alun lived alone and thought he’d always be alone.
“When I started thinking of suicide, I realised I needed help,” he said.
That was when he found depressioNet - and the help he needed.
Neither of us liked being touched.
Alun felt he didn’t deserve affection and I still feared intimacy.
But, after a year, I knew I wanted a hug from this gentle, vulnerable guy.
He dropped me home one evening and I took a risk – I put my arms around his waist. He froze.
Then to my relief, he held me close before jumping back as if electrocuted and driving off!
Each day after that, we progressed a scary bit more… another hug, our first kiss…
Then, four weeks later, Alun held me longer than ever. “I love you, Kathy,” he murmured.
Through tears I told him I loved him, too.
We married in a civil ceremony on July 15.
This lovely bride smiled at me from the mirror – but this time the smile was that of a free woman,
her emotions showing unafraid in her eyes.
Two days later, we had a medieval handfasting – a pre-Christian wedding – for all our friends, including depressioNet’s brilliant founder, Leanne Pethick.
Today we live in Noble Park, Victoria. Alun, 34, is off his antidepressants now. His chemical imbalance has been corrected. “You are my cure,” he says.
I’m now 41 and all I need is one tablet a day. My lovely Lynne, 19, and Traci, 17, have their mum back, and I can’t describe our happiness.
Help At Hand
Depression affects one in four Australian men and one in six women.
Every day, eight Australians commit suicide because of depression.
Leanne Pethick was a corporate manager, supporting two teenagers on her own, when she was diagnosed as clinically depressed.
When a work colleague committed suicide, she decided to establish www.depressioNet.com.au in 2000.
“Only 25 per cent of people with depression obtain treatment,” Leanne says.
"The majority suffer in silence – depressioNet can be a lifeline.”
The unique, free 24-hour service has saved countless lives.
And as an unfunded charity, depressioNet is desperate itself, needing professionals - and money to pay them – to keep the 24-hour service going and
help coordinate its hundreds of volunteers.
Donations to depressioNet are tax-deductible and can be made online at www.depressioNet.com.au/donate.html
on 1300 13 55 42 or at PO box 2375 Richmond, Vic 3129.