“Waaahhh, Waaahhh, WAAAAHHHHH!”
“Oh please stop! Okay, okay I’m coming”
(Why can I never just sleep? I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. I’m just SOOO tired!)
“WAAAAHHHHHH” OKAY OKAY I’M COMING!”
This was how every day started for me. I didn’t want to live anymore because this was all too hard; living was hard, I was just too tired and I lived like this for six months before I realised that there was something wrong. I dreaded waking up every day; the pain that it caused just getting out of bed, (not just physical pain but pain everywhere – mentally and physically – I just hurt).
But I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t shout, I couldn’t do anything in fact. I was like a zombie – I just existed and did whatever the children needed me to do as their mum. The people was I didn’t do it filled with love, hope and joy. I did it because it’s what mums do, and my children needed me to do it so I did; it was as basic as that. There was no doing what I wanted to do because I didn’t want to do anything, except that is, to go to sleep and hide away from the world.
After six months of living a ‘nightmare’, just existing and really not being the mother my children needed or deserved, I walked into a doctor’s office and cried. I cried and cried and cried… and for 45 minutes the doctor listened to me (and for that I will always be very grateful).
I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, and was given a prescription and told to come back in a month. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t enough; Yes the medication helped but I needed more like a professional to talk to, and I needed to find out why things were happening. I had so many questions like WHY couldn’t I sleep? WHY couldn’t I eat? WHY was it so hard every day just to be me? More importantly, WHY didn’t I feel a bond with my baby? WHY did I find it hard to love her, to hold her and on the flip side to leave her?
I was absolutely convinced back then that if my baby was out of my sight, she would die and whilst I knew that wasn’t either rational nor logical, it was so very real at the time! I truly believed this and it was terrifying and that consumed most of my thoughts.
Once the medication started to work I soon realised that my thought process was flawed, and that Maisie wouldn’t die just because I went to the bathroom, had a shower, or left her with her Dad for 5 minutes.
Soon enough I realised that there was actually something wrong with me. I knew I had PND (Post Natal Depression) but there was more to it. The medication helped but it hadn’t fixed me and so I sought the help of a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
My recovery took 2 years but I did recover and I am a PND & PTSD survivor. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s over. I still have days where things are tough; there are moments when I second guess myself when I worry that things are difficult and I wonder if I’m coping like other people would cope or if I am getting unwell again, or if I’m looking at the possibility of another depressive episode. (That’s what they are called – ‘depressive episodes’).
Depression is an illness and like any illness, depression doesn’t discriminate. I didn’t do anything to get it, and depression doesn’t choose the weak, the white, black, only Christians or Buddhists. Depression can hit anybody and when it does, you have no idea it is coming but you do question what you did to deserve it, why you weren’t strong enough to fight it, or keep it at bay, or stop it. However, once you’ve been through one depressive episode you learn to spot the warning signs and are able to seek help before things get out of control. You see, depression is one of those things that can come and go and the chances of recurrent episodes are high and the risk of recurrent depression is exacerbated if you have a family history of depression. However, it is something you can learn to live with and not be afraid of.
If you are finding things hard in any way, please ask for help, because there really is nothing to be ashamed of. I first sought help from my family doctor, however I wasn’t offered talking therapy – only medication. After 9 months, I decided I felt better and was well enough to stop the medication I was prescribed. However, after a horrible relapse, I was eventually referred to a psychiatrist, and then a counsellor for therapy and then I went back onto medication again. It took a lot of hard work to get through to the other side of PND and PTSD. My recovery took 2 years and it wasn’t easy, but I have come out the other side of the journey astronger, more self-aware and grateful person. Having PND changed me and my life forever – it was a hard time but those changes have made me who I am today.
In saying all of that, the help and support I get from the medical profession wasn’t the key to my recovery, but instead only a piece of the puzzle. One of the other main parts was the peer support I had. I was so lucky to find 4 great friends who, when I really couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, sat with me, listened to me, laughed and even cried with me. They saved me and I will always be grateful to them for that.
After 2 years of medication and the rollercoaster of Postnatal Depression, I was able to see the importance of the friendships I’d made and the support they had offered me and this was the main motivator for starting Out of the Blues, which is a voluntary organisation that offers other women the help and support that I received, as well as the care and someone who truly understands those feelings that I had felt at the time.
It was over dinner one night with Louise, Michelle, Louisa and Heather that I asked them what they thought of the idea and would they like to be on board. They all thought it was a great and totally agreed that there needed to be more support here in Dubai and, as studies have shown, peer support is vital. Hence, Out of the Blues was born in January 2013 and has a team of volunteers with either personal or professional experience of mental health issues and the team work tirelessly to support families who are experiencing Mental Illness. We work very closely with a large number of health care professionals to ensure a circle of trust and care is provided to see people through the dark and hard times.
Out of the Blues can be found on Facebook here (link) and we also have a website with a resource section that offers information and support for both in the UAE and overseas, for all types of Mental Illness and for men and women.
My personal advice is to eat well, try to sleep and rest, and if you can exercise, do so, but do ask for help and talk to someone. If you had a broken leg you would go to a doctor and they would help you, and your friends would help you, and so would your family, so why not seek help for depression?
This is one of my favourite animations for depression and I hope you like it like I do.