It all started a few weeks ago…
Things were going pretty well. I was taking things one moment and one day at a time. I wasn’t even thinking about being depressed or worried about the depression coming back. I was well and truly surviving.
Then, at a regular doctor’s appointment, I was asked a relatively routine question, “How are you feeling in yourself?”
“Okay,” I responded and then smiled because, for the first time in a long time, I was doing okay. Really okay. Not I don’t want to go into hospital okay or I don’t want to sound like a bad mom okay or any of the other versions of the putting on a positive front okay I’d used before. I was alright and had been for a while. His next question, and my subsequent answer, had me on cloud nine.
“When do you think you started getting better?” I thought about it and smiled again. I’d been out of that weird depressive fog for a few months! This was amazing. I was not well yet but I was certainly on my way and the changes were finally noticeable.
Then, after 16 weeks on a waiting list, a therapist finally called to administer one of those tests.
Part one was full of questions rating how I’d felt about things in the last couple weeks. Result: I had my down days but actually it put me in the normal range. Brilliant. I’ve taken various forms of this test since first seeking help and I had never before been even close to normal. In fact, if I’d been called a week or two after my referral, I have no doubt I would’ve been off the charts.
Part two: how does the depression affect your daily life. My results had the therapist asking me if I needed to be more honest with my questions in part one. Nope, I’d been honest. It was true, in the last two weeks I’d been fine.
But when the depression does hit, it is bad. Of course it affects everything. In the past two years I have done little more than survive because it’s all I’ve been able to handle. Putting one foot in front of the other is all I could manage and, even though I’ve been feeling pretty okay the last few months, that is still all my life is about.
Since I tested “normal,” I don’t qualify for one to one care I have been waiting for. I am on my own to make it from feeling better to actually being well again. Before hanging up, the therapist was wonderful. She practically prescribed finding happiness and has sent me a series of CBT ‘workbooks’ so I can essentially give myself therapy.
She advised things I’ve been telling myself, that my husband has been telling me, and that various ppdchat ladies have mentioned to me before. I need to do things for myself and I need to do them without feeling guilty. It’s gone beyond the small things. I’ve been taking naps, making cups of tea, watching girly movies, reading books, and various other little things since my baby was a few days old. They have been sanity savers but they are not enough. They help me remember I am human and are immensely important but they fall short of what I really really need.
I need time to shut off and re-charge. I am either on mom duty, at work, or on my way from one to another all the time.
Part of me knows that yes, of course I need time to myself. The other part reminds me that she naps and sleeps so well that I get loads of time without her. I’m at work four days a week so that’s even more time when I’m not around. Surely it’s not too much to ask for me to spend the rest of the time with her or with my husband or with all of us doing things as a family unit?
Apparently it is. I have only been ‘off duty’ from everything a handful of times in the past two years and each and every time I vow to make it a regular part of my routine. Then life gets in the way, my resolve wanes, and I’m not getting better because of it.
It’s been two weeks and, despite numerous suggestions from the #ppdarmy, I have still yet to come up with one thing that would make me happy. I’m too busy feeling horrendously guilty that having a family doesn’t make me happy enough. I wish I could just get over myself, realise I have so much more than many other women that manage to make it work and to be happy doing it.
Why can’t I feel happy with a f**king glass of wine in a bubble bath after a long day like a normal woman would?!?!?!?
Sunday morning is now mine to do with what I wish and step one is to make it out for a run. Once a week isn’t really enough for training and it will actually be much more difficult to get back in shape this way but for now it’s not supposed to be about that, it’s supposed to be to give me a break.
I have also set aside one night a week for ‘writing as therapy.’ I tried to write on Thursday but after 1600 words of skirting the issue of selfcare, I realised I wasn’t actually ready to share how hard it is for me to do something nice for myself without feeling incredibly guilty.
I went to bed feeling low and even worse the next day. This morning I woke up with a sore throat so missed out on my weekly run. Mentally, I’ve sunk again. I feel as though I’ve failed on week one of caring about me.
I KNOW I won’t get better until I start realising I matter. Taking time out for me will actually make me a better wife and mother and yet I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. But even now, as I write this, I’m trying to type as fast as I can so I don’t miss out on quality time with my husband. I am in a mental tug of war as part of me knows if I don’t get this out, I could very well relapse and the other part of me thinks if I spend one more minute wallowing, I might lose him forever.
I’ve got two big hurdles that have become abundantly clear since I started getting better enough to think straight. I need to find to find happiness and I need to restore a relationship that is in tatters after two years of surviving with PPD. In my eagerness to call myself well, I tried to tackle both at once this week and I’m suffering as a result. Seeing life in a normal light again makes me all the more aware of how damaging depression really is. I want to be better. I do not want to walk the lonely road from the beginning again. I know I have to go back to baby steps but I am petrified baby steps just won’t be enough.