The last few days I’ve had some thoughts on my journey of mental illness and recovery so far.
The first thought was about my illness journey. I don’t know whether I’m lucky or unlucky, but when I get depressed, it builds up gradually. I see it coming but I’ve struggled in the past to be taken seriously by professionals because I am rational about asking for help. I really struggle though because my depressive episodes always follow the same path.
Sinking into a depressive episode is like being at the top of a cliff – the beginning of the episode is like falling off the cliff. Then what follows is like sliding down that cliff face, falling faster and faster, trying to grab on to anything you can as you fall. Sometimes you manage to grab on to a tree until the branch breaks, or you get a hand to a rock until it gives way. You call out for help, but most people don’t hear, and those that do hear don’t even turn to see you falling and just yell out to you that you’ll be ok.
It is incredibly painful to fall into the depths of depression, but at least one positive has come out of my episode earlier this year. I now have people who throw a rope out to me to grab onto as I’m sliding into depression.
My thoughts over the last few days has been that I finally have people I can reach out to before I’m at the bottom of the cliff. And while I hope I never fall off the cliff of depression again, it is greatly reassuring to know I have people to turn to if I fall again.
It’s still frustrating for me at times to think, why did it take 9 months this time for anyone to listen to me. But then I think… the last time I was severely depressed, for 6 years no one listened to me or tried to help me. And I am just grateful that it was only 9 months and that I got help when I did, because I wouldn’t have made it to even one year.
And that brings me to the second thought I’ve had over the last few days. One that is more about the journey of recovery. The other morning, I lay in bed with Rose cuddled up in my arms drinking her bottle. It’s not the first time she’s done it. In fact, she’s been doing it ever since she was born. But it was just the look on her face and the way she cuddled into me.
For the first few months after she was born, she was a real daddy’s girl, but over the last few months, she’s now becoming a real mummy’s girl (although daddy is still her second favourite person and nobody else comes close). She loves nothing more than cuddling up in my arms at bed time and falling asleep.
It’s a real blessing to me. When Sammie was a baby, she never did anything like it. Partly because when she was the age Rose is now, I was in and out of hospital a lot and partly because even as a baby she just didn’t like to be held. I wonder though sometimes if I hadn’t been so depressed when Sammie was this age, if maybe she would have wanted more cuddles. I don’t think so, but I still can’t help wondering.
I feel like I’ve been given a second chance in having Rose. To have all the happy mummy-baby cuddles that my depression and Sammie’s ASD prevented Sammie and I from having. There is something really precious about having a baby nuzzle into you, look up at you and smile and fall asleep in your arms.
I think it’s made a huge difference to my recovery to see the change in Rose. I could always tell she loved me dearly, but that she could sense that I was terrified of her and so she preferred her daddy where possible. But over the last few months, she and I have just grown closer and closer and it is a real precious gift.
But it’s not just the change in her – as she lay in my arms sleeping, I realised how totally completely happy I was. That there was nothing else in my thoughts other than watching her sleep and smiling at her. I loved her from the second I found out I was pregnant and was overwhelmed with loved the first time I held her in my arms as they lay her on my tummy in the operating theatre, but for months, my every interaction with her was tinged with an uncontrollable sadness from my depression. As she lay in my arms the other morning, I realised that sadness was totally and completely finally gone.
I don’t claim to be cured of depression. I don’t think anyone who has had multiple severe episodes of depression ever truly believes it’s gone for good. But I do know it’s gone for now. It robbed me of enjoying the first 6 months with Rose, but I am just so happy that it’s not going to steal from me the first 6 years like it did with Sammie.
Recovery from depression will always be a daily journey – you never truly reach the end of the journey as long as you are alive. But I am just happy that my journey is currently one of being able to enjoy my two wonderful children.
Of course there will be difficult times along the way. At the moment I have a few big worries on my mind – Sammie is really struggling with bullying at school and we are struggling to find the best way to support her through it, last night I found out one of my closest friends has cancer and I feel awful as I’ve not kept in contact much this year due to my struggle with depression and the difficulties in juggling two kids and work. But I feel like a terrible friend because I feel I should have tried harder to stay in contact.
But I can’t change the past, all I can do is change the future. John and I will keep supporting Sammie when she is feeling down about how she is treated, we will continue to keep in contact with the school to address the issue until such time as we can get her into a better school (she’s been on the wait list for a few years now) and we will keep searching for more support for her. And now that I know what my poor friend is going through, I am determined to stay in better contact with her and with other close friends that I miss dearly that I’ve fallen out of contact with since Rose has been born.
I guess that’s all we can do in life – learn from our mistakes and struggles and resolve to do better in the future.