Part 1 is here.
In a moment of clarity, I opened up a book and scanned its glossary. I found a reference I was looking for, read some symptoms and made a phone call to a nurse. She validated my fears, but I refused to admit to myself that something was seriously wrong and hung up the phone. My husband walked in the bedroom as I was part-way through the conversation with the nurse. He knew it was bigger than I was letting on and asked how I felt. I said that I was fine, that I could go until Monday, but the empty hope just reverberated in my own ears.
We got to my mother-in-law’s home and I couldn’t go any further. I out-right refused to go to work. I felt like I had shrunk within myself and thinking about all my tasks at work, interacting with others and their potential demands of me – even just interacting with them – was more than I could ever cope with.
Things steadily got worse from there. It’s difficult to reiterate the physical feelings that I had, it’s almost easier to try and relate it through broken, fragmented sentences, because I was broken and fragmented. The day I realised I was suffering from depression was probably one of the worst, darkest days of my life. I didn’t want this. I was happy! Content, even. I had everything I wanted, and how dare it invade my life and destroy every piece of happiness I enjoyed.
The next day after I spoke to the nurse, I thought about waiting until the following Monday to go get the medication she promised was waiting for me. I didn’t make it to Monday. I threw on a poloneck (to cover as much of myself as I could, plus it was November), tried to show I cared a little about my appearance by brushing my hair and forcing myself to put in my contacts and apply some mascara — all in front of a compact mirror because I couldn’t bare to look at myself. If I was going to do this, I had to fake any type of feelings I had about my appearance.
We drove the few minutes down the street to the InstaCare and I sat and waited, wondering how I was going to get through any type of explanation without crying about it. I sat across from the nameless doctor staring down at the floor as I spoke, ringing my hands together. I saw him watch me, realised that I was displaying behaviour he was probably looking for, and stopped. I hadn’t realised I was doing any of it. I just felt so consumed and wanted it fixed as quickly as it had seemed to sweep over me. I felt ashamed that I needed help, and more especially that I needed anti-depressant medication, but he reassured me by saying, “you need this just as much as a diabetic needs insulin.” Then came the words I never expected to hear: “the only drawback is the medication can take up to six weeks for you to start seeing a difference.” I was devastated and scared out of my life. I couldn’t wait that long! I already felt out-of-control of myself and this almost seemed like a death sentence.
I didn’t have days off to take, but I took them anyway. The mornings were the worst part of the day, but the very first thing I made myself do was go downstairs and take my medication, it almost became a ritual. I’d spend hours lying on my bed just trying to exist. I couldn’t bare to shower, dress, style my hair, put in my contacts, apply makeup and take care of my son. These menial tasks were now overpoweringly difficult to rationalise in my head and was far too much to cope with.
As quickly as the disease had overtaken me, the showers rapidly changed from daily to every four days. I didn’t feel dirty. I didn’t feel anything. It’s much different than being apathetic or indifferent: there’s nothing. An emptiness where there was once feelings. All I felt was an immense feeling of physical darkness and I couldn’t pull myself out of it, despite how hard I fought it or tried, and that brought on tears too. Eating was a burden. I couldn’t eat, I felt no hunger. I heard my stomach growl occasionally, but rarely felt hungry enough to eat. All I felt was the powerful tingles that took over any other feeling that I may have been capable of. (The only way I can describe it is a feeling of your blood being icy cold.) Then there was the huge pit in the stomach that never went away. I couldn’t think, all I could do was exist. And if I did think, my thoughts of worry and anxiousness spanned my family’s entire life in one moment, rather than day-to-day. I now carried any plausible stress and anxiety any mother would carry for a child’s lifetime every moment.
It became unbearable to cope with and all I wanted to do was sleep. I was constantly tired, but the thing I yearned for the most was furthest from my reach. Feeling comfortable and secure in my home was not enough, as I lied down to rest, my brain never once shut off, I was consumed by rapid thoughts or music that would run over and over in my head, and the exhaustion increased. I couldn’t bear to go out, I didn’t want to see anyone; to go shopping for food was a huge nightmare, I felt recluse and broken. I also felt vulnerable. I couldn’t bare to look anyone in the eyes, doing so might reveal my plight; but in hind-sight probably just highlighted it. The doctor encouraged me to go out, to be in the sunshine, but why would I want to? It was the thing I feared and despised the most.
My home became a prison and a refuge. But I didn’t want to be alone, being alone with this stranger I didn’t recognise brought more fear and dread, not knowing what I may be capable of or not cope with was frightening. Coping with my own needs and the needs of my son seemed far too much to deal with alone. It couldn’t be anyone, it had to be Bryan, someone I was explicitly close with and loved me. But it just wasn’t possible. My only solution was to have us both dropped off at his mother’s. She cared for Ian and I…I just sat and existed. I dreaded if someone came home for lunch, I knew I looked different – I certainly felt different – and social interaction was not on my list of priorities. I’d lay down to sleep and three hours later, I’d still be wide awake, alone with this other person who was taking over my body and I couldn’t fight. I’d feel ‘me’ coming through every-so-often, and it was all I could do to convince myself that I was bigger and better than this, that it wasn’t me but an illness that had seeped every ounce of happiness from my life. Any amount of pleasure from a task or a daily ritual was now…empty. Nothing. Applying makeup, going for a walk in the sunshine, talking on the phone, all require some level of enjoyment or happiness and they were still out of my reach and burdensome.
By week 3 of the medication, the anxiety was easing and life was becoming tolerable again. I was able to cope. I’d went back to work a day or two each week, but it was difficult and by 4th of December, I spoke with the H.R. Manager and we agreed it would be better for me to quit. I asked that that day be my last and she understood.
At the end of December, I returned to my doctor for my yearly checkup and mentioned the depression. I told him that I had sought help and was getting better. By that point, I had probably lost 25-30 pounds through not eating consistently for three weeks; generally I only was able to eat one small meal a day, usually force-feeding myself. I was now 17 pounds lighter than I was before I had Ian in a very small window of time. He advised me to stay on the medication for about a year.
With time, things improved immensely and I was eventually able to take myself off the medication. But one thing always stumped me: What had caused it? I really could never get a clear or informed answer and l reluctantly labelled it Post-Partum Depression.
Two-and-a-half years later, right before I had Cameron, I told my new Obstetrician everything, and we took necessary precautions. I was able to come off the medication again after a while.
After we returned home from Scotland in April, I decided to wean Cameron. I had continued to do it to aid with the flights and changes in the air pressure to help with his ears. After three days, I started noticing a small change – the anxiety had returned, as minimal as it was.
I now had my answer, and it all made sense. The hormonal changes from weaning both Ian (accidental at 5 months) and Cameron had caused it.
Cameron was having a hard time adjusting and I gave in and relented. When we arrived at his doctor’s office for his 18-month wellness check, I told him that I wanted to wean him completely but that he was still coming to me for comfort once a day at nap time. He said the best way was to just cut it off completely.
We are now on Day 13 and doing well. My morning anxiety is still there, but I feel like I can cope and have been fighting it with everything I have. I know the help and advice is there for me if and when I need it and I have the support system I need to get through it.
If you know of anyone experiencing depression, the biggest piece of advice I can give is to be there for them and also seek out someone who has been through it and can talk and listen. Depression is a dark, scary, lonely road and they need all the support out there that there is.