There’s not one thing that’s got me here. It wasn’t like I woke up one day either and suddenly felt ‘depressed’. It’s sometching I’ve battled with in the past but for the most part it was always put it down to being an angsty teenager, or I had managed to pull myself out it of before it all became too much to deal with on my own.
If I’m being completely honest, this time around I can probably trace it as far back as 3 years. A lot has happened in these past 3 years so it’s impossible to pin it on one single event but I know that there has been at least a few contributing factors…
Back to 2013. What was meant to be an exciting time, carrying a second son, a brother for [a then 18 month old] John, was tainted by crippling Hyperemesus Gravidarum (HG). Almost as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test, I ended up signed off work and bed ridden for 9 weeks. Unable to look after John, unable to clean my house, unable to even leave my house from fear of needing to be sick and simply not having the energy to climb the stairs to our first floor flat. I was also on anti-sickness tablets which although believed to be safe, no one could make any guarantees.
HG left me a burden to my family. Poor Iain had to take on all care duties of John, as well as me. He was left with the task of looking after our home, as well as being the sole wage-earner at that stage (statutory sick pay is pittance). Hospital stays also meant my family had to help out whilst Iain worked. The guilt of not being able to be the partner, daughter and most of all mother that I should have been has never really left me. In many ways John was too young to remember it but that offers little comfort when I still feel guilt for those who do.
As my HG improved my pelvis started to fail me. I was back at work by then but for each day I worked, I needed a day after to recover as SPD had taken grip. Yet again I couldn’t care for my son the way a mother should – days at the park were replaced with time in front of the telly. I ended up having to start maternity leave earlier than planned, bringing more financial strain to our family. And yet again I was relying on my family, this time for childcare whilst I attended the hospital for physio and to help with the physical side of preparing our home for the baby who was well on his way.
When David finally came along it was a huge relief. My baby who I had gone through a 9 month struggle for was here and we could put it all behind us. Unfortunately though, life doesn’t work like that!
Just 3 short weeks later, still recovering from a slightly more traumatic birth than with John (I lost quite a bit of blood but was otherwise ok & very lucky) David became ill and was admitted to the children’s hospital with a temperature of 41°c and symptoms that could be interpreted as meningitis. Thankfully it wasn’t anything quite as serious but we did endure a week long stay on a secluded infections ward, with my little weeks-old David wired-up to monitors 24/7. John wasn’t allowed to visit either so aside from nipping out to the corridor one night to find him bewildered and confused as to where I was & what was going on, I didn’t see him – torn between my two boys, both who just needed their Mummy.
The toughest part of that hospital stay was that I couldn’t breastfeed David, simply due to picking him up being distressing for him (increased heart rate, nervous system in overdrive…) – instead I was expressing day & night for him to be tube fed. So if I wasn’t getting sleep due to having an unsettled baby, burning up beside me, I wasn’t sleeping because I was on a schedule to keep my milk supply up.
Thankfully David made a full recovery and we got to go home. Finally able to start adapting as a mum of two, I quickly realised how bloody hard it would be. David was dealing with some sort of reflux and would projectile vomit all over our house numerous times a day, meaning I’d avoid going anywhere in fear of the mess he could ensue. John was in full swing of the terrible twos, going through a sleep regression, attempting to potty train and giving us a whole lot of attitude.
There was one afternoon, just before Christmas, where I sat down on my kitchen floor and full-on ugly cried as I just couldn’t cope. David was crying having been sick another full feed and once clean, was looking for yet another feed, which he’d no doubt sick-up also. John was screaming and stamping his feet for reasons I can’t even remember. I couldn’t cope, so we all cried.
My health visitor could obviously pick up on how I was feeling and arranged for me to see my GP about potential Post-natal Depression (PND). Looking back, I’m certain I was actually going through PND but I lied to my doctor through the fear of stigma and the thinking that admitting I was struggling would warp peoples perception of me being able to care for my children. I even went to the extreme of googling PND before my GP appointment, memorising the criteria of PND and actually scripting what I would/wouldn’t say to avoid any official diagnoses.
Onto 2014. I continued to carry on through my internal struggle. Silently. At times things did get easier but for the most part I wasn’t coping and did everything I could to make it look like I was.
On top of everything else I was struck with Cystic Acne which did nothing for my dwindling confidence and in many ways caused me to hide from the world. I’ve never been a particularly social person but I can’t deny that this didn’t massively contribute to my social anxiety and lack of self esteem. Thankfully I did eventually speak to my doctor about this and received treatment but the lasting affects of having a face covered in agonising cysts, as well as the constant worry of what people would think has never really left me.
In 2015 I upped my hours, took on more responsibilities and seen countless members of staff – many whom had supported me for years before – leave and move on to other jobs. The added stress of training more new staff, doing nearly 50 hours a week, not having the usual support around me, juggling nursery runs & childcare is likely what eventually broke me.
If I look back on the past 3 years now with a clearer mind, it’s obvious… I’m working more to avoid reality. I have hardly any photos of my boys, despite previously loving taking photos of them. I had given up this blog despite putting in so many hours to it previously. I’ve put on weight and stopped caring about myself in the way I used to. I’ve distanced myself from my friends, avoided any kind of social circles and became accustomed to doing things that involved very little human contact. I used to walk for miles with John, just to go to a different park where as now I would barely go to our closest park as my energy is non-existent. No sleep is ever enough. My temper is short, my patience is long-gone and I constantly feel like I’m on auto pilot, doing the bare minimum to keep up appearances.
It was the physical affects that finally made me realise I wasn’t coming out of this on my own. That the short-lived ‘good’ days [were] literally no more. The exhaustion is the worst – it’s gotten to a point where I could barely get through a day without needing to nap, even when I’d already slept 10 hours that night. But other things that I wasn’t prepared for, like slurred speech, loss of coordination, being half way through a conversation and literally having no idea what I was even saying.
I’d become half a person. Living out my life on auto-pilot. It was time to admit defeat and ask for help. I initially took a week off self-certificated earlier this year and went to see my doctor. Depression. Stress. Anxiety. I am now receiving treatment, following a further 4 weeks signed off, which I’ll not go into too much at this stage as I feel I’ve rambled on a bit too much already.