This post is one of the hardest things I will ever write, not because I don’t have the words, but because I am not sure I have the courage. Chances are, if you’re reading this then I braved it!
For years I have struggled with my emotions; up until age 13 I’m not really sure I had any to be quite honest, my heart was locked away. Life had not been ideal to say the least. I was a very broken girl, desperate to feel good enough. (This will be a blog post one day in the future when I’m feeling mightily courageous.)
When I look back now I think the cloud I call depression set in very early on in my childhood. I just didn’t know it. It crept up very slowly, and as more and more baggage got hurled onto my shoulders I let the cloud consume my every breath. I was ashamed of how I felt. I was confused by how I felt. Feeling everything all at once yet being so numb and feeling nothing is a very bizarre, limbo-type state of mind.
As the years went by I learnt how to deal with my cloud in various ways. Self-harm was one of the routes I frequented daily, sometimes it was a quick hello, other times it was more, way more. I won’t go into detail here, as I have already said I’m sure my life will be a blog post one day, but just to give you the jist.
My childhood meant I didn’t know how to deal with emotions or problems. I only knew secrets, shame, and aggression. This has made life so difficult, sometimes unbearable, but I am through the other side now, there is a light, you just got to keep on walking, or crawling!
To cut a very, very long story short, my cloud and it’s friends followed me through my every waking moment all the way into my late twenties, when one day a little miracle awoke my sad, self destructive soul; I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were over the moon. On that day, 27th February 2010, I vowed to never self harm again. This was over four years ago – I’ve never broken that promise. It’s been four long years but I did it! I am not saying I haven’t been tempted because I have. I can go months without giving it a second thought, then along comes a speed bump and bam, it’s all I can think about for days. I have cried in desperation sometimes for the few seconds of relief it will give me, but I have remained steadfast. Some days are hard, some are not, but ALL are doable!
This post, though, isn’t meant to be about my struggle with destructive behaviours, it’s about the silent struggle so many people face; depression.
When I became pregnant, and instantaneously gave up self harm, ( I’d tried since the age of nine, so it was definitely miraculous 16 years later) I assumed my cloud would be going too, how wrong I was. It’s taken me a long time, 28 years in fact, to admit out loud that I suffer with depression. It’s hard to grasp that depression is a chemistry flaw NOT a character flaw. There is so much stigma attached to mental illness. You’re told to pull your socks up, that it will pass, and made to feel weak, when in fact this is so far from the actual reality of this illness. Depression is an illness, a decaying, nasty, debilitating one, I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody.
Some days are good, some months are good, and then sure enough the big black cloud rears it’s ugly, unwanted head and lands on your shoulders. Sometimes it takes you out, total wipeout, other times you have to just plod on through the cloud and cling on to the hope that it will pass.
Since having my children my cloud has reached new heights, some due to sleep deprivation, some due to a post-natal cloud. I’ve experienced enough, and researched enough over the last 21 years to self-diagnose my cloud. I believe medication for mental illnesses is a marvellous thing, and advise anyone suffering to go and seek medical advice, however I have chosen to take a non-medicinal route at this time. There are lots of reasons for this, both sensible and not so sensible, but I’m a very stubborn girl, ask my husband!
Sometimes the cloud is away for months; life’s peaceful, enjoyable, I savour every moment. Sometimes the cloud arrives for a week; I wake up wishing I hadn’t, I cry, I feel numb, nothing is enjoyable, I hate myself, I feel a terrible mother, I can’t sleep, I don’t want to eat, I push my husband away. When the cloud arrives you feel so alone, ashamed even, but do you know what? – that’s far from the truth! So many people will relate to you. Depression doesn’t make you any less of a person, it’s taken me a long time to grasp this, and I’m all for smashing the stigmas of mental health! Don’t fight your battle alone. People will not think you’re crazy, your children would not be better off somewhere else, and your friends won’t dessert you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Self-stigma is the worst! Go chat to someone, they won’t have a cure, but the weight of your secret struggle will be lightened. Being a momma is hard enough without a secret battle.
I personally have had a very good five months cloud wise, but only because I’ve learnt the art of plodding on. Of course there’s been bad days, horrendous days in fact (the kind where you hope you don’t wake up tomorrow etc), but I’ve chatted them through with my husband, and the secret shame is lifted, then I’ve put my head down and focussed on getting through the day; plodding on regardless. Yes it’s hard. Life is.
I could go on for days about my own experiences and feelings, but I won’t bore you. I just want people to know they’re not alone. You’re not hopeless, and you’re most definitely not crazy!
Here’s to cloudless days!