Picture this. A woman, could be you, me, a sister, a friend, a stranger, your mother or daughter, it doesn't really matter who it is, because it's a lot of people. She's sitting isolated. For the point of this story, we'll say at a beach. It's a cold, windy, gloomy day. The sky is grey, her hair is blowing around her face as she looks to the sky and notices the black clouds rolling in. The wind is howling. She's in shorts and a tee. Around her is a sandcastle, it completely surrounds her and shades her from the harsh wind. She's smiling at her castle, proud of what she's accomplished in what appears to be horrible conditions. A castle, her own little castle. This makes her happy, everything else about this picture is sad, dark, gloomy, devastating... this castle is the only thing keeping this lady happy and protected.
The rain begins to fall, and her sandcastle begins to wash away. She's desperately trying to shovel the sand back, build up her lovely castle, her protective wall that had previously surrounded her. With the rain beating down on her, and the wind blowing from all directions, the castle just keeps on falling away. Her smile fades as this becomes a hopeless task. One that she's clearly lost. Her castle is gone, her happiness has faded. Tears roll down her face...
That lady, was me. For the last 10 months, I have been struggling. Struggling to hold it all together, much like holding the sandcastle walls up, and for 10 months I did well. I think I did well. The internal turmoil was manageable on a good day, on a bad day I would question everything I was doing, everything I wasn't doing, everything I should be doing. On a bad day I would be on constant edge. Wondering if something horrible would happen in the blink of an eye. On a bad day I would wonder what was next, what would this fucked up life throw at me? Would I manage, would the kids manage, would we survive this. What would 'this' be exactly? Who knows. One thing I do know is that on a good day, nothing I worried about on a bad day made a lot of sense.
By 8 months, walls were washing away slowly, and it became harder to smile, to laugh, and to enjoy. By 8 months I would have burst of anger, of upset, of regret. It all started to unravel before my eyes and I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was feeling this way.
At 9 months, I was struggling a lot. Everything was a massive task (still is most days). Everything from getting up in the morning, to housework, cooking, even things I used to enjoy like playing with the kids was an effort. I slowly began to withdraw myself from activities... a playgroup here, a playdate there. Slowly until now.
10 months. I don't do much out of the home. My list of housework is a mile long, even longer is my list of 'things to do with the kids' which I haven't ticked anything off in a while. I love my boys, I know I do, but loving them has become an effort. It takes up energy, it drains me. Drains me emotionally as well as physically. One day I snap, I smack my child, not once but 3 times. Did he deserve it? No. No child deserves to be hit out of anger. I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't angry. I overstepped the line of control... I lost it. That day I also broke my child. I broke his heart and his trust. When I dropped him at school, I couldn't even walk him in, I was a mess. When I kissed him goodbye he looked so sad and I asked "What is wrong?" and he just cried. This broke me. Tears were wiped, apologies were exchanged, and I drove my stupid sorry ass to the doctor for an emergency appointment.
That 35 minutes was the longest wait of my life. While I sat there, fighting back tears (wiping a few strays) I messaged my support group, the ladies who I can confide in no matter what. I told them what I had done, I told them how desperate I felt at that moment. I believe my comment was "I need serious help... or someone to take my kids away" ... at that moment my life, my beautiful life full of love, support, laughter and 4 beautiful boys, seemed completely helpless. At that moment, my boys were better off with anyone but me.
That doctor diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression. My brain is sick.
In a weird way, it was a relief, there I was bawling my eyes out (I think I used half her box of tissues) but feeling relief. I might not be 'normal' but I had a reason! I suddenly didn't feel stupid. Even though I didn't feel stupid I still sat there blubbering "it's so stupid, I cope fine, it's just stupid, I don't get it" ... Her support that day stowed me there was hope. Even if it was just a little glimmer. Suddenly it wasn't so horrible and hopeless. I think the biggest thing for me was that it was OK not to cope, it was ok to not be wonder woman, to not manage. Once I had told someone how I was feeling, I felt a little better. I feel this way today, just a little better because no, I am not coping but that's ok. I don't HAVE to cope all the time.
Through this whole struggle, I've pushed people away, I've over reacted about a lot of things. My true friends have stuck by me, I've made some wonderful new ones. They are the ones who matter.
If there is one thing anyone can take from this it's this. Next time you ask someone how they are doing, pay attention, be interested in how they really are, offer help but don't just say "If you need anything, let me know", say "how about I come over on ____ and help with ____". Offer a service, not a statement. Coming from someone who finds it difficult to ask for help, it was the people who said "I will grab the kids from school for you tonight" and "I will pick the kids up in the morning for you" and "I am going to the shop, can I get something for you" that really helped. It was these small gestures that really helped me get through the first 10 months of this struggle, and for that I am truly grateful. And if you are me, it's ok. The day I admitted I wasn't ok was hard, I was ashamed. Scared. Felt stupid. Felt ungrateful for what I have. I felt like I was wasting the doctors time. But there is help. I am almost 2 weeks into that 'help' and there are people who care. I am now on medication and seeing the doctor, my MCHN, a counsellor and also a centre aimed at helping people get past this bump (hole) in the road.