Depression and Me
Depression and Me.
“My eyes were sunken, empty, hollow, absent. I had been crying for large parts of the day, but because I pulled myself together again and managed smiles and some laughter with the kids, I thought I was ok.”
I thought long and hard about posting here with regards to my mental health. I spent many hours fearing judgment. On the one hand I can reason with myself that it doesn’t matter what other people think – as the expression goes ‘what other people think of you is none of your business!’, but it bothered me nonetheless.
So it is with trepidation that I made this decision - I have decided, in a series of blogs, that I want to address mental health and, in the first instance, me. How it has affected me. I want to be candid, open, truthful, because I don’t want to hide it behind vibrant ‘everything’s brilliant!’ Instagram/FaceBook posts anymore.
Depression has crept up on me and no sooner was I saying to friends, “I am not sure what it is – I think it’s like I have lost my footing, I am ok though, (I would lie so as not to worry them) I always am!”, than my footing kept slipping and I slid so far behind a smiling face and daily walks with my brilliant children, and baking sourdough with colourful “I.AM.OK!’ pictures on Instagram… that I didn’t notice when it finally happened.
Then my last breath of ‘ok’ choked me as it left.
I have been extremely honest and had some really open conversations with all my children, one-to-one and collectively. I have had nowhere to hide after all! Because #lockdown and #singleparent blah… I showed them I am not ok, but reassured them that (as Glennon Doyle writes in her book Untamed) ‘we can do hard things’. I have thanked them for their patience, their understanding, and honoured them for their courage in being with me doing this ‘hard thing’.
There’s probably (well, not probably), there ARE literally a hundred reasons why I am not ok, why I am depressed. Forgive my self-indulgence but… I seem, in life to be hit by tidal wave after tidal wave of things to deal with (trust me, I am not being dramatic, ask my friends who regularly pick up the pieces!). Family dynamics, a system that doesn’t understand that me working full-time means I will never get to see my extremely disabled husband in the nursing home. Four kids, the extra therapeutic parenting on top of the single parenting because they are kids who have (and still go through) trauma and grief. Trying to get my husband home, where he belongs, yet equally completely terrified – juggling work, caring for my husband, raising the 4 kids, logistics, practicalities…My mind whirrs endlessly with impossible to answer thoughts - so it makes me feel trapped.
And really, there are no answers - so that makes me feel afraid.
Then there’s homeschooling and laundry and dog walking and cooking and cleaning and Alex’s admin stuff which takes sometimes hours a day to fill out and go through, more work and wracking my brain to find solutions to my predicament.
And with all this - because of lockdown, I haven’t seen Alex in 4 months… This is the one that has toppled the balance. This is the one that has made me break. This is the fact that has left me curled up, clinging to myself at night sobbing into my pillow. The fact that has seen me puffy-eyed, unable to cover up anymore, unable to hide the ache. The ache of missing him took hold, it rose up in my sleep, waking me, delivering nightmares, body unable to do what it was supposed to do throughout the day as I tried my usual ways of coping.
My reasons are there, and they are a million fold, as they are for a great many.
But I lost myself and I lost sight of what being ok was, so much so that I believed I was. I convinced myself that because I was putting in place ‘good ways to cope’ (add happy voice), exercise, meditation, talking, walking, film time with the kids, sea time, games with the kids – I was doing ALL the things, the coping things!… I kept the house in order, so I was coping, right? Then I looked at myself in a photo the kids took of me, I wasn’t there. My eyes were sunken, empty, hollow, absent. I had been crying for large parts of the day, but because I pulled myself together again and managed smiles and some laughter with the kids, I thought I was ok. I was pulling myself back together again, that makes you ok, right? Pulling yourself back together, smiling, keeping a house tidy, kids fed, dogs walked, work done, does not mean you are coping, it just means you are going through the motions you have to, to exist. It means you are in routines that you can carry out on auto-pilot. It means you are surviving and very little else. It does not make you not depressed, and this is what I realised.
I made an SOS call to the doctor. I couldn’t sink anymore, I was at the bottom, the end, and when I recognised it I knew I had to act.
Then the next part of it ensued…
I am writing this in parts because I realise it would be a novel otherwise! This is the end of part one. I hope so very much that in writing about my experience, it may resonate with or help someone else.
I still fear judgment as I press ‘post’ on this, but honesty is the only way I know how to be. Hiding causes pain; so even if being honest causes that too, I would rather know that I exist in truth than live in the hiding and pretense of not.