Woman's depression left her a prisoner in her own home

For four months, Jessie*, 39, couldn't leave her house or even look after her children, because of severe depression stemming from sexual trauma

"I didn't leave my house for four months last year, not because I suddenly became a homebody overnight. I was depressed, so much so that I couldn't go grocery shopping or even take my kids to school. Some mornings I felt so physically and emotionally drained that I couldn't get out of bed or shower.

Living a nightmare every day

I was raped when I was in my 20s. I was on a date with someone whom I thought was decent, but at the end of the night, after we'd both had a lot to drink, he raped me. I tried to fight him off but he was way too strong and ended up raping me multiple times. The next day he dumped me and I never saw him again. I never reported him to the police because I was scared he would make my life difficult or threaten my family. Besides, there were no witnesses to the incident, so who would have believed me?

Even though I was the victim of that horrific crime, I still blame myself for what happened. I chastise myself for having gone out with that guy in the first place, because he had a reputation for being aggressive towards women. I tell myself that I shouldn't have drunk alcohol that night, and that I should have reported him to the police or at least put up a harder fight when he grabbed me…

The rape occurred 16 years ago but it's still fresh in my memory. No matter how hard I try to block it out, it manages to creep into and take over my mind. At night, I wake up with nightmares that feel so real, I actually cry and shake in my sleep.

Love and support will not erase the pain

When I was 30 I married an amazing man and we had two lovely children. I became a stay-at-home mum because I wanted to be there for my kids at all times. My hubby knew about the rape and encouraged me to see a psychiatrist. So for the last few years I've been in therapy, although not regularly, and I also take medication for anxiety, insomnia and depression.

For a while, life was good. Even though the rape never left my mind, I could still function like a normal person. And whenever I felt depressed or angry, I was always able to deal with the emotions and get on with whatever I needed to do.

But last year, a surge of emotions engulfed me like nothing I'd ever known. I started out feeling depressed; this then spiralled into something worse. I cried all the time when my kids weren't looking and I felt such hatred towards myself and towards my rapist. I'd look at my wonderful family and convince myself that they deserved better than me. I wanted to run away and hide. Although I knew my husband loved and supported me, the pain, guilt, anger and shame that I felt in my heart would not go away.

A prisoner in my own home

The depression was paralysing. For four whole months I barely left my bedroom. I had to rely on my husband to bathe me because I had no energy to get out of bed or off the couch. My kids were concerned, but they're still young so they didn't ask many questions. I couldn't play with them or read to them - my husband had to see to them, as well as cook and do the grocery shopping. I don't think I ever changed out of my pyjamas. Many times, my husband suggested going out for dinner or taking a walk, but I couldn't bring myself to put my shoes on or brush my hair. I'd lie in bed and just stare at the ceiling, lost in my sadness. Sometimes I would watch TV, but very often I had no idea what the show was about or why I was watching it.

I missed my mother's and brother's birthday parties - my parents and siblings are aware that I'm depressed and seeing a shrink, but they don't know why. I would tell them about the rape but I don't want them to worry about me. I also don't think they'd understand. When Mum found out I was getting psychiatric help, she told me that I needed to go out more or get a job.

Those months cooped up in my house were the worst. It was like an out-of-body experience. I felt like a zombie - alive, but dead inside. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to disappear, I wanted to erase all the bad memories from my mind, and, even though I wanted to die, I was not suicidal. I would never take my own life and leave my kids without a mother; I just wanted the bad feelings to go away.

I missed a couple of appointments with my psychiatrist, too, but I didn't care. Nothing else really seemed to matter.

Improving, and on a slow road to recovery

One morning I realised that I felt better. I was still hurting inside but I could perform simple tasks. I managed to make breakfast for my family and do the laundry, and I thought, okay, this is a slight improvement.

Later that week, I stepped out of the house to water the plants in my corridor. It felt good to finally get some fresh air. That evening, I told my husband that I wanted to go for a walk, so we walked around a nearby park with our kids.

When I saw my psychiatrist again, I updated him on what had happened. We talked about how I could get a stronger handle on my emotions and better deal with them when they arose. It was a heavy discussion and I realised that getting through this ordeal wasn't going to be easy.

I'm only just now coming out of that bad depressive spell. It was definitely one of the worst periods of my life and I hope to never experience it again. I missed so many opportunities to spend quality time with my husband and kids; I missed so many days where I could've been more productive. I'll never get that time back and I feel horrible about it.

Even though I feel a little better now, I can't see myself being truly happy - at least not in the near future - but it's something I strive towards. My next goal is to join a support group for rape victims and hopefully meet other women like myself, so I don't feel like I'm alone in this.

I do want to get better and I am trying. And, despite everything, I'm thankful to have the husband that I do, and family members whom I can count on when I need help. Without them, I don't think I'd have made it this far.

This article was first published in Her World Online