Whilst pretending I didn’t have a zillion things to do today on my day off, I stumbled across This Morning where they were talking about Mental Health Illnesses in aid of #Time to talk , #Time to change in order to end Mental Health stigma. I have been toying with the idea of blogging about my personal experience of depression and anxiety for a while. Apologies if this post makes you puke in your shoes, weep from tears of boredom or just weep, but if just one person reads it and can relate to it then that´s really quite awesome.
About six months ago when it all got a bit too much for me, I went to see a doctor who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and lovingly reprimanded me for not seeking help previously and for “being strong for too long”. I was promptly put on pills and started seeing a psychologist, who is the absolute bees knees. Nothing I say is met with a curly wurly cuckoo sign and no eyes are rolled. Anything goes.
When you become a parent, in my case a Mum, I think there is an unspoken self inflicted pressure to just keep on going, if you let your guard down then you’ve failed. If you can’t keep it all together then how are your kids supposed to? I now think that with my second born, I had undiagnosed post natal depression and because at the time I didn’t have a huge support network here, I just plodded on dealing with all the other things going on, a sibling diagnosed with cancer and the four of us being temporarily homeless and living in a relative´s home which although was obviously a blessing, was also an incredibly difficult time. I was also incredibly lonely. I am so fortunate to have the most wonderful group of friends and brilliant family, but when all communications are done by phone and the only way of seeing them is by jumping on a plane, it’s not the most practical of solutions. So you get on with it, burying yourself in nappies and birthday parties.
You perfect your brave face, the homesickness grows and grows, but you muster on. From fear that somebody might dare suggest you need a break, time out to relax and remove the breakfast from your hair. But the idea terrifies you, so you push on and push it away. The years tumble by, the boys get older and their needs change, but you are still able to hide behind them. Everything gets too much, a phone call brings you out in a sweat, anything anybody says that might hint at a bit of criticism means you spend the day crying and feeling useless. You make plans to go out, then somebody with the intention of encouraging you makes you feel suffocated by the pressure to god forbid, have fun. The self doubt in your head gets louder, you distance yourself from even more people and avoid public situations where somebody might endeavor to ask you how you are. Because the truth is that you really are not o.k at all. And you need a hug, a huge one, one that cushions you and makes you feel safe. But you don’t ask for it , because you have forgotten how to, instead you keep on pushing on and away.
Just because you are depressed, it doesn’t mean that you don’t laugh anymore, there are days when you laugh so hard and again I have been so blessed because when I am alone with the boys I am able to put my feelings to one side. I often think I need to write them a Thank you letter and give them a box of chocolates, (although they would cry and say they want Lego ), for grounding me and giving me a purpose. I realise I am so fortunate to have them, when I feel anxious I see their ridiculously cheeky, normally sticky faces and it makes it all ok.
When I picked the boys up from school at lunchtime, I mentioned to somebody I was going to write this post and they said, with the best intentions, “Be careful, you’re applying for jobs aren’t you? It might jeopardise your chances.” This is exactly the stigma that needs to stop.
Just because you are feeling how you feel, doesn’t mean you can’t be a capable parent, of course you can. The fact that your children are dressed, went to school and had dinner, even if it was Weetabix and crisps and that you had a giggle is huge. It also doesn’t mean you don’t laugh and can’t do your job well
The day something snaps and you ask for help, it is scary and the change doesn’t happen overnight or the day you start taking your pills, but it starts very slowly but surely, you might not notice it, but people around you do and it is a boost and you realise that you have achieved things you wouldn’t have a few years ago and you will wonder why you didn’t talk about it from the very beginning.