It seems fair that I start discussion here, since I brought this subject up with Lesley. The reason I brought it up is that I am going to a parenting bloggers conference in Sydney next March, and have seen many friends and fellow-bloggers find corporate sponsorship to pay their way to this conference. I have no issue with that, as I realise that many of us parents are blogging for many reasons - to vent, to share our experiences, to laugh, to cry, and to share product knowledge as well.
For me, though, the opportunity to share experiences is what really caught my attention where this conference is concerned. I have personally struggled with depression for over 10 years now, and have seen loved ones struggling with so many of the same issues, and yet been afraid to bring those up, so I think it's an issue that needs to be brought to the forefront of parenting.
I am not a mental health professional. I do not profess to be an expert in the subject. I simply know that I have struggled with my own mental health, and have observed friends battle the same demons, so just want to share our stories and let others know that they are not alone in the feelings they may be dealing with each and every day.
I cannot explain why I ended up depressed. I didn't know I was for a very long time. I simply felt that something wasn't right. My second child was planned, anticipated and much loved before he even came into existence. I was (at the time) happily married, financially doing ok, if not secure, and healthy. There were no dramas with his conception, gestation or birth, in fact his birth was the best I've ever had - natural, on my terms,peaceful (as much as it can be) and safe.
As a newborn he was a delight - he slept, fed, grew and pooped according to all the appropriate charts and descriptions. A more pleasant newborn you couldn't ask for.
And still I wasn't happy. I had no idea why I wasn't happy,but I simply wasn't. I couldn't sleep when the baby slept. I couldn't take the acceptable pleasure in seeing him progress and grow, in fact I couldn't take pleasure in anything.
I put this down to having 2 children under 3, being a SAHM when I'd always worked, and adjusting to a new country. Sure, those are all big issues to deal with,, but FFS, women all over the planet deal with that and much worse and they cope just fine, right?
Welcome to the big Denial. We may feel blessed in so many aspects of our lives, we may very well BE blessed in many aspects. We may have the husband, family, home of our dreams, so how DARE we feel that we're missing out on something. That's what I told myself, anyway. I refused to allow myself to believe that there could possibly be anything wrong. I mean, I had it GOOD!
Or not. Depression is an insidious disease. It sneaks up on you and bites you on the arse when you are least prepared for it.As an intelligent, rational being, it doesn't make sense. How can you possibly be depressed when, by society''s standards, you are seemingly so well off.
Well guess what? It doesn't work that way. Depression takes society's standards and turns them inside out. Depression does work by standards. It comes from the inside - nothing to do with how your perceived life is suppposed to pan out. Depression literally eats you from the inside out - by the time you realise you have it, it's already devoured half of you.
Depression can't be explained in rational terms. It's near impossible to describe to someone who hasn't been there. They always want to understand what's wrong, and how to fix it. Depression isn't something you fix - it's something you fight. It's something you may well have to fight every day for the rest of your life.
That's not to say you can't win. I think you can. I'm not sure I'm there yet, but I have many days where I feel I'm winning. These days the winning days far outnumber the losing days, but it's not long ago that the stats were the other way around.
So how did I pull the depression straw in the grand scheme of life when I had it so damned good? I have no idea. My doctor can't explain it. She told me of hormones, brain chemistry, luck of the draw, modern stresses, eating too much <insert food of choice here> but she didn't really know. I'm just bloody glad she picked it. She picked it when my son was 2, so I'd gone through 2 years of not really understanding why I felt so awful. 2 years of thinking I was a bad parent, a bad person, that the Universe was paying me back for something I'd done in a previous life - who knows?
Words cannot express the guilt and self-loathing I felt during that time. At my worst stages I took a blunt knife to my forearm and cut painful, bleeding,ragged lines into them because I somehow wanted a physical pain to match the emotional pain I was feeling and didn't understand.
My closest friend was beside herself. Bless her, she simply didn't get it, and who could blame her. What rational person (which I still considered myself to be) would do such a thing? I felt even more useless and "bad" because I couldn't make her understand.
My saving grace during those darkest days was a website called something like "wing of madness". It was a discussion forum for people like me and, sadly, people suffering a whole lot more than me. I have never felt suicidal, and yet can see how others have felt driven to such desperate measures.
I was lucky enough to find a GP who recognised my symptoms and pushed me (really hard) into getting some help. Strangely enough, despite the fact that I was self-harming, I thought I was ok, in some strange way. My GP truly made me see sense, and I will never be able to thank her enough for that.
These dark days took place over 10 years ago, and I am still on anti-depressant medication. I've tried several times to go off it, with unpleasant results. No doctor has explained to me why I suffer from this, and what it was during my pregnancy or childbirth that set it off. I have many more good days now, but still have a few bad days where all I can do is hide under the doona and watch TV to take my mind off the black hole of despair that is trying to suck me in. That's ok - I just do what feels right on those days and try and wait it out.
And it does pass. It always passes. I've learned enough about myself that I don't feel weak for caving into those days. I do what works. And those days are fewer and fewer now.
All I'd like to say to anyone who feels anything in common with what I've written is that you can do this. You can beat this. Seek medical help, don't feel bad about doing so, and follow what your doctor suggests. If you're not comfortable, then try another doctor. Share experiences with others on depression forums - it's anonymous and safe, and you may well get a whole lot of comfort out of knowing others are going through the same.
And always remember that you are bigger and better than the Beast, even when you don't feel like you are.
I can't believe I've just written so much on this - it's been incredibly cathartic (sp?) and you should give it a try! I'd love to know that I'm not he only one who will bare her soul on this topic!
Much love and healing,