Over time, Carolyn began withdrawing from her sporting commitments, friends and family. ‘I didn’t want to answer questions about my separation and divorce. The night shift affected my mental and physical health. I wasn’t sleeping well, if at all. I wasn’t eating and lost 10kg. I was having heart palpitations and terrible chest pains that would wake me if I was sleeping. A few times, I thought I was having a heart attack.’
As her anxiety attacks became more frequent, Carolyn would hide in the staff toilet to calm down. ‘I would wash my face with cold water, look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “I can do this”. I began practising breathing exercises to help calm myself. I thought I could manage my anxiety and depression on my own but I was wrong.’
Overwhelmed and exhausted, she considered taking her own life. ‘I contemplated suicide many times. One night on my way to work, again, I thought about ending my life,’ she recalls. ‘I pulled over and burst into tears. That’s when I realised that this was more than just feeling sad and overwhelmed. I needed help.’
Carolyn saw her GP, someone who knew her circumstances. ‘I felt he would understand, and I could trust him with my secret pain.’ With the help of her GP and her children, Carolyn slowly began to regain control over her emotions and manage her depression and anxiety. ‘We had one of those Dymo label makers, and my kids typed the message “We love you” with their names where I could see it every day. I’ve kept that sticker. That’s why I’m still here. My kids saved me.’
Carolyn left her night shift role to start a job as a community nurse, something she had wanted to do since high school. She remarried and with her new husband, they now have a blended family. ‘I take each day as it comes; some are great, some not so,’ she says.