Parenting with long-term depression

I’ve suffered with depression for over 20 years, probably longer, as I child there were times I felt alone, even when surrounded with friends. I wasn’t an “unpopular” child and had many great friends but there were times when I felt that I was outside of everything – even when I was putting myself right in the middle of things.

I was “diagnosed” with depression following the birth of my son and having gone through the “is this post-natal depression” scenario I was finally put on medication. I’ve been lucky enough to have counselling, which has armed me with a plethora of “coping mechanisms”. I have hit very dark times in my early years, which I won’t go into here, when I was hospitalised because I hurt myself.

One of the things I did was to blog through it, it wasn’t a public blog, but just my way of getting things down, of trying to rationalise my behaviour. If I could write it down maybe the feelings would go away. But generally the feelings didn’t.

For many years I hid my depression, ashamed of being “weak and wrong” of not being able to “pull myself together” – I hid it all behind a smile, my weight – controlling it or ballooning, behind another drink! But nothing helped.

When I’m in a deep blue funk. I’ve lost it, lost the ability to communicate, lost the ability to see what is right and what is not. Lost the ability to see lightness and can see only the dark places and they scare me.

Well last night I didn’t so much run as crawled into a corner and pulled the cover over my head. I’m hiding, I don’t want to come out and face this world. I’m losing friends because I can’t talk to them, the answerphone takes all my calls and when I do eventually find the strength to talk I’m spiky, so I don’t return calls because I don’t like being spiky.

It’s been coming for weeks, and I’ve done nothing to stop it, in a way this is a safe place for me to be, I can fall into the emptiness, embrace it. I’m feeling brittle, like one more small shake and the world is going to shatter into a thousand pieces and I won’t be able to come back.

This last couple of years though I’ve come out of the dark or as I call it “my deep blue funk”; if anyone talks about depression I am now able to talk about it – no longer afraid of the judgment that may follow, Im glad to say it rarely does. The reality is I’m finally beginning to accept that “I am normal”. So many people I meet are the same; no matter what they do or how perfect their lives may have seemed to me. There are so many people dealing with their depression in different ways, but still dealing with it. And I’ve learnt, amazingly, life with depression does go on. I take medication daily and probably will every day for the rest of my life – as my Dr says “if you had diabetes you would deal with it daily, your depression is like that”. So I deal with it.

I do this whilst working, whilst dealing with Dylan, whilst getting on with life, not because I’m stronger, or less depressed, but because this is my life.

I’m lucky enough to do a job that not only forces me out of the house, but that makes me meet people. I truly feel blessed to be doing what I do and no matter how down I am, how blue the funk is, I still go into work. There have been days when I have cried on my way to work, blubbed at nothing, or blubbed because I was feeling nothing.

I used to think I was “putting on a face”, acting happy, being something I wasn’t really, but I realise now it’s just one more part of dealing with my depression. As soon as my parents come into class or I hear a “signing story”, or one of my babies signs the funk fades and I throw myself into the joy! Sometimes grasping at it as the one glimmer of sunshine. Working with babies is a tonic, it should be on the NHS!

My friends and family accept that there are times when I “go silent”, these are the times I can find no joy in life – no matter how wonderful it is – that I feel the funk slipping over me and I spiral, old thoughts penetrate my brain, snide voices tell me I am not enough, and I remove myself from those I love, withdrawing into the funk. Luckily for me those I love give me space then gently pull me slowly back to them. For those who know me and accept this I offer my gratitude and love!

My depression takes me through low lows and high highs, giddy and excited one moment, crying hysterically the next but mostly, for me, it’s all about sleep! Sleep, is my biggest sign that things are going wrong with me. I either do it too much or too little, it’s my very own personal alarm clock that things are not right with me.

It’s been three weeks now and I’m running on empty. I go to bed at a sensible time, following a nice bath, I don’t eat before I go to bed. I have a cool room, and I’m fairly relaxed. I read, nothing too thought provoking or taxing on my brain.

And I fall to sleep! All well and good, yes! No! Somewhere between 1 and 1.30am I wake up. I’m wide awake, not just sleepy awake that comes with needing the toilet or hearing a strange noise. Not even dream/flashback awake, recovering from burning again. But wide awake. I stay wide awake till somewhere between 4.28 and 4.32, yes somewhere between those four crucial minutes my brain shuts down and I’m asleep again.

Which would be great if Dylan didn’t wake up between 5.45 and 6.30. I’m running on empty, I’m crabby, I’m making mistakes, stupid ones that impact on my daily life. Not being able to find the keys that I had put in the door. Forgetting to call people back, or calling people back when I had just spoke to them. I’m going to make an appointment to see the Dr!

This is not normal, it’s not how I want to be, I want a tablet, several nights of tablets. I want to wake up with the Disney birds and butterfly’s urging me awake! It used to be like that, why did it change? And it has changed, I don’t have birds and butterflies every day, I do have sunshine in my life. But I am someone who suffers with depression, I will never be able to “just pull myself together” I am not alone in this and I am not ashamed of it. My months, sometimes days, are dealt with individually, I have to monitor myself, to check that my medication is right, use the coping mechanisms, take time out. Depression, for me, is not about weakness, it’s about strength, and it’s about facing life and more importantly accepting that I have an illness that need me to take care of myself.

Those of us who suffer with depression are often the ones that are out there, in the public, trying desperately to make life better. Not because we are saints, we would all say “far from it”, but because we know sadness, we know how hard it can be and we want to offer our smiles, our hugs our support.

So whether you need to pull the duvet over your head and climb into your nest, or you just need a hug and a little help to find a smile, know that there are lots of people out there who want to be with you – This is not a journey we have to make alone, if we don’t want too!

Shannon x

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About Janine 594 Articles
I am an antenatal teacher, doula, baby massage instructor, postnatal educator, life coach, writer, mum, wife, friend and, sometimes, just me. As an experienced and qualified practitioner, I specialise in pregnancy, birth and early parenting - my aim is to listen, inform, support and reassure when needed. I have worked with parents since 2002 and I set up Birth, Baby & Family in 2011 to provide good information, a different perspective and links to the best products and services for families. I set up the Birth, Baby & Family Centre in 2014 to provide a welcoming, friendly and supportive space for parents across Tyneside.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article, it made me cry, because I am on the same boat. Sometimes better, sometimes deep deep down in hopelessness and nothingness and pain… It always helps to know that somebody is feeling the same.

  2. Keep going Luca, each day brings its own trials and tribulations, but we are not alone, as these articles have shown. Be well and take gentle care Sx

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