Time to Talk… Anonymous author 💜💚
I first got diagnosed with depression aged 19 – I was at university, I had found out my parents were separating and my dad was going to live with someone else, gone home for Christmas (which really didn’t feel Christmassy) and gone back for exams. Then in February, it hit me. Luckily, I had a housemate who realised there was a problem and went with me to the counselling service at the university. People talked about recovery, but the most honest response was when I told one of my lecturers and he said “I’m so sorry, it’s an awful thing to have as it keeps recurring, it will never go away”. He was right – recovery is possible for me, but I slide backwards often. I had depression 5 times over the next 10 years, lasting on average 6 months each time. I went through periods of self harm, thought about suicide, went through councillors and at one point a psychiatrist. Life went on.
I met my husband, was very honest with him very early on, although he never really understood it until he experienced it himself a few years ago. We got married after 2 years, had a baby and …. post-natal depression. I couldn’t feel anything. I would sit and feed my baby, hold him as he fell asleep or put him on his mat to play, hoping he would amuse himself or sleep. When we went out time and again I wanted to go home without him. The only thing that stopped me was the thought that if I did, I’d have to explain to my husband, and then I probably wouldn’t have a marriage any more. We went through a very difficult, testing time – my husband was taken to court by a former employer alongside 5 others and it took 3 months to clear his name. During that time we were away from home, as it was down in Kingston-Upon-Thames, and staying with people my husband knew but I didn’t really. I had the choice of going to court each day with my husband, who needed support, and leaving my baby with his friends who were willing to look after him, or staying with my son and leaving my husband to it. I chose my husband. I would hand over my baby after breakfast, go to court, then have him back each evening – he always wanted a feed straight away. Because we had been preparing for the case, I hadn’t received any support for my PND. When the case finished, I debated offering my son to the people who had looked after him – after all, they’d spent more time with him and he knew them better. I didn’t, and we went home to continue life. By that time, I knew I was pregnant with my second. I have a 19 month gap between my children. My youngest was a baby who fussed, woke each time he was put down, wanted to be held all the time. Turned out he had a cows milk protein allergy, not diagnosed until he was weaning, and now he’s also being investigated for potential sensory processing disorder. At the time, I remember holding him at night whilst he screamed, singing to him with tears running down my face and begging him to stop. My health visitor this time was better – she picked up that I had depression and made a referral for me to counselling. I rang for the assessment – I explained I had a baby who was breastfeeding and was told he could come, but that I’d need childcare for my 2 year old … great, except that I couldn’t afford a babysitter and didn’t want a free nursery place. Instead of pushing my children away, I was now terrified of loosing them – my eldest knew me and for a reason I couldn’t understand, he loved me – I couldn’t loose that by sending him to nursery. I had a friend (as it happened, the same friend who had taken me to that first session) staying the week of my first appointment. I asked her to watch my eldest, figuring that I’d sort something out the following week. I went, walked in and was instantly told my baby couldn’t be there. I explained that I’d been told he could come and was told the receptionist had it wrong, that it would say that on my letter. I had the letter in my bag and pulled it out – there was no mention at all of children being allowed or not. The councillor was quite annoyed by that, but told me I basically had two choices – leave the counselling until my youngest was weaned or switch to bottle feeding (I couldn’t express). I spoke to my health visitor who was shocked, but then looked into it and found out that no, you can’t take babies to counselling usually (she hadn’t known this before) and when she requested and received the councillors notes from that session, was amazed to find that she had indeed suggested to me that I should choose between counselling and breastfeeding on demand. She had written to my health visitor that, if I was adamant I was going to continue to feed my son (who was 4 months old at the time and went on to stop feeding at 28 months!) then my need for counselling couldn’t be that significant. When my he turned 8 months old, we moved and my new health visitor also referred me for counselling. She managed to find me an 8.30am appointment, which was great as it meant my husband could watch my boys after his night shift (he normally sleeps in office hours) by staying up a little late. I went to every session, did everything I was asked and made great progress. 6 weeks later I was discharged, in time for my son’s 1st birthday. Except 6 weeks wasn’t long enough …not after nearly 3 years of post nataldepression, and I soon relapsed. I couldn’t go back to the same counsellor, those appointments were no longer available at that time. I was determined to get help now though, and I looked and looked. I joined an online peer support group. I went to a mother and child group for mums with pnd… the only issue was that they only allowed children under 3 to attend and my eldest turned 3 two months later. I can see their point – from 3, everyone is entitled to nursery hours, but I still wasn’t sure about nursery and having moved not long since, was told that the local nursery didn’t have spaces until the September anyway (he was a January baby), so I had to leave that group. I decided if no-one was going to help me, I had to help myself and I did everything I could. By the April, I knew I needed a few hours a week away from my boys, just to be me. I applied for a job at Motherwell and got it. I was terrified as I had previously spoken to one of their staff members at my lowest point. I needn’t have been – whilst she recognised me and remembered me, we get on well. I’ve felt so much more like me again after those three years of loosing myself. I feel normal again!
Then … I found out I was expecting my third, at the same time I discovered it should have been twins but one hadn’t made it. I was numb. Then it hit me, that I had a baby I would never meet – I was terrified that as it hadn’t made it past 8 weeks development it wouldn’t have a soul. That may sound silly, but to me it was hugely important – was it just a thing that had tried and failed to grow, that would be reabsorbed (as they explained at the hospital – no miscarriage with a twin, the body just absorbs it back) or was it a baby with a soul, was it safe with God and feeling the love I’d never get to show it? I’m in tears now again as I write this. My minister was wonderful – she has helped so much with a service for my lost baby and with just letting me talk. I also received support from Motherwell, from one of their counsellors. This is different to anything I’ve known before –it doesn’t feel like depression, because it’s only at certain times or with certain triggers that I cry – I guess it’s grief. It feels like I shouldn’t grieve; I have a living baby growing inside me still, and two other children, and it’s not that it was planned or that we ever met it, or even saw it kick – my baby wasn’t even old enough when it died to be more than an ‘it’ -too soon to know if it was boy or girl. But I can’t help how I feel. I will always remember my angel baby. It won’t be long before I meet the surviving twin, only a few months to go and time is flying by … and I’m terrified, terrified that once again I will look at my little helpless baby once my husband has returned to work, and feel nothing. This time I’m prepared – this time, my midwife has asked me about my mental health history and offered me support – I know it will be there if I need it, that I can have someone come to my house. I know that, should I need it, I can find help whilst on maternity leave (I know the people who run a group I can take my baby to, at a time my husband will be awake to watch the older two, because I now work with them!). I know that it is probably too much to ask, that this time I can really be the mother I want to be – interacting, smiling, doing all the stimulating things young babies need, whilst being a fun and loving mum to my older two; making sure my current youngest has all the help he needs to adapt (I have no idea how he will cope with SPD and a new baby!) and that my eldest isn’t left out. But I also know that I can do this. I’ve done it before. If depression hits, I have my action plan ready!