I used to believe that depression was something which would never affect me because I am, by nature, a happy and optimistic person. Which is an ignorant, even idiotic, thing to believe. I found out the hard way that depression can affect anyone – and that it is a terrible, terrifying illness which will destroy your life, your mind and everything you thought you knew about yourself. I was lucky enough to recover completely, because of the type of depression (PND or PPD) I had, but there are countless people who have to live with it every day and, even in the good times, they don’t know when it might return.
After I gave birth to my second child, I felt OK. I was a little miserable at first, but I thought I was just lonely in the hospital and that, once I got home, I’d feel better. But I didn’t. I didn’t even have the ‘baby blues’ with my first – I felt on top of the world from day one – and I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so down. No … ‘down’ is not the word. Neither is ‘sad’ or ‘miserable’ or ’empty’ or any of those other words. It started with the feeling that I wanted to run away, and then, for nearly six months, I thought of nothing but killing myself every day. I didn’t love my baby. I honestly thought my family would be better off without me. The only thing that stopped me doing anything permanent was the fact that I understood I had post-natal depression. I told myself every day it was chemicals in my brain. If I hadn’t known about PND, I probably wouldn’t be here now.
And my husband. If it weren’t for him, I definitely wouldn’t be here now. He used to be a care worker and he understood what was happening to me better than I did myself. He was incredibly patient. He knew how to treat me – he was sympathetic and supportive, but he made me do certain things in order to keep me functioning.
And I treated him terribly. I behaved entirely irrationally. All the time. Worse, I treated my elder child badly, too. I yelled at her, sometimes I swore at her. Once, I even hit her. I hated the way I was acting, but I felt like I couldn’t stop it. Like I was on the outside, watching myself destroy my relationships with the most precious people in my life – but utterly powerless to prevent the destruction.
For me, the most terrifying moment was not when I had my first panic attack (although that was terrifying – thank God my husband was at home). It was the day I put my baby in her pushchair and went to five different pharmacies and bought boxes and boxes of paracetamol. I came home and I put them all in the cupboard – and immediately I felt so calm. That frightened me more than anything.
Suicide was another thing I didn’t understand before. It can’t be that bad, it’s so selfish … all those things people always say. Now I know that, to a depressed mind, it is the only thing that makes sense. It is that bad, it’s not selfish – the world will be better without me. The lives of my family, my children, will be better without me.
How could I have thought that? … I don’t know, but I did.
I lost six of what should have been some of the most wonderful months of my life. And it took me another eighteen months to feel like myself again. I am so angry – at nothing and no one in particular – that I was robbed of those precious first months with my daughter. I felt nothing for her and, even though she was a newborn, I’m sure she sensed it. But thank God I recovered – and she forgave me. We love each other so much now. She really does light up my life, and I would die for her in a heartbeat. She’s three now and she’s so affectionate with me – she’s always hugging and kissing me. Sometimes, at night, I think of her and I love her so much it hurts. Then I have to get into her bed just to be close to her.
Maybe, somehow, we’re both trying to make up for the days of darkness and the love we should have had from the start.
Images from Pixabay.