“Are you ok?” my partner asked me with concern in his eyes.
“Leave me alone” came my angry reply. Just looking at him filled me with rage, so I continued to stare into the dishwasher at its clean contents. He walked out of the room and all I wanted to do was pick up every one of the dishes I could see and throw them against the wall. I felt like I had fallen into a dark pit, alone with no way to get out. I rang my sister. When she picked up I sobbed, deep and long, eventually telling her what was going on in my mind.
During the First Year
During my daughter’s first year of life she cried a lot, and so did I. I clearly remember one Sunday afternoon with just us two at home, she cried for 5 hours straight. I tried everything and I really do mean everything, but nothing I did helped and some of it made her cry louder. In the end, I had nothing left to give… I was ‘done’. I put her back into her cot, shut all the doors and with tears rolling down my face, I retreated to my bedroom. My daughter fell asleep 20 minutes later and I sobbed on the bed feeling the weight of my failure pressing down on me.
I became isolated from my friends and my faith-community, because spending time with people required taking my daughter in the car. This would involve her engaging in loud screaming protests from the moment I strapped her in until we reached our destination. It was easier to stay close to home.
I started to become angry and I wasn’t a naturally angry person. I thought things and said things in my head that I never thought would enter my life. I would hear people say how well I was doing or looking etc. and all I could think was “You don’t know the half of it.”
I didn’t ask for help as much as I should have, mostly because I believed the lie that I shouldn’t. I told myself that I wanted this and I wanted to be a parent and it was my responsibility to handle anything that came my way. I ‘should be able to do this’ and I ‘really didn’t have anything to complain about’. It was a downward spiral. I also didn’t think people would understand why I was in so much pain and lacked the words to articulate how I felt. What I didn’t understand was that I was burning through my serotonin levels faster than a mentally healthy person. All I knew was that I was somehow ‘failing’. Failing my daughter, failing my partner, failing at this thing called Motherhood. I was giving out in excess, while feeling as though I was letting everyone down.
The Phone Call
So, just before my daughter’s 1st birthday, I sat on the kitchen floor talking to the safest person I knew – my sister. She listened and loved me so much, gently encouraging to see my GP. We chatted for a bit and then she said she’d check back in with me every day for the next few days.
Two days later, after being told I had post-natal depression, I started my healing process with the help of medication. They say it takes about 2-3 weeks before antidepressants work, but I honestly noticed a difference straight away. For the first time in about a year, I could think clearly.
And so my next journey began. Four years on I have come a long way in some areas, while others still require a bit more attention. I am continually taking back the ground and replacing the lies and unrealistic expectations with truth and rest. I look back and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come.
After my own experience, I have talked to many people who have found themselves in a similar headspace. Most people are hesitant to seek medical assistance, believing the lie that they can ‘limp’ through life. When I encourage people, I like to relate mental health issues to a broken leg. If my leg was broken, I wouldn’t pretend it was ok just to prove I was ‘strong enough’. I would go to a doctor and get that leg fixed. Why would I struggle through the pain, possibly cause more damage or increase the healing time? I wouldn’t. Likewise, if I’m having problems with my mental health, I’m not going to pretend everything is ok, I will take myself to a doctor and get the best professional help and I recommend others do the same. Would you judge someone else for taking a clearly broken leg to a doctor? Would you look down on someone if they had to take time-out to recover from a physical injury? I seriously hope not.
I hope you are encouraged by my journey out of the pit of depression, because if you’ve never been there, believe me, it really does feel like a pit. If you are in that pit yourself, you are not alone. In fact 1 in 5 Australian adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness this year. There is hope for us, for you and for me.
If something you have read has spoken to you, please take action. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it really doesn’t have to be this hard. Contact our team today.
By a Wellness Coach at The Banyans