PART 1: THE BREAKDOWN
ASKING FOR HELP
It was June 2015.
I knew it was coming.
The warning signs were all there.
I was angry, feeling easily overwhelmed, aggressive, making snap decisions/judgements, acting out at work, unable to prioritize tasks so becoming obsessive about irrelevant things, not sleeping, indulging in a poor diet, snapping at loved ones, shutting people out and generally not coping.
And that was before I became pregnant with my second child.
But despite my inner turmoil I was functioning.
I was functioning at a high level. At that time, I had been married for 11 years, I was thriving in my role as a new Mum, at work I was highly thought of, I appeared to be sociable and outgoing with lots of friends (albeit few who are close) and I managed to ‘front it out’. My coping mechanisms had become finely honed over the years and made me more aware of the imminent threat of ‘an episode’. Most people are shocked to learn of my struggles. These could be perceived as positive things but actually they enable me to delay the onslaught of depression so when it finally hits, the power it exudes over me is absolute.
The other difficulty in being a highly functioning and capable individual is that I struggled to ask for help.
I was afraid to let myself, and my mind, be messy and chaotic with someone else.
I also struggled because despite my deep love of language and usual ability to express myself in clear terms, I couldn’t find a way of articulating and therefore communicating how and what, I was feeling and thinking.
I knew that I needed professional intervention but didn’t know who or how to ask for help.
At my first few midwife appointments I became a little fragile and weepy. Naturally, it was assumed that this was simply a result of increased hormone levels. When I left the room my husband was asked about my mental health and how I was coping but he wasn’t aware that there was anything significant wrong. Because I hadn’t told him.
On the third visit my mood was notably low and I sobbed.
A quick referral to my GP that afternoon and I was back on antidepressants.
It was another fortnight later that even the antidepressants couldn’t not stop my mind from caving in when I went into a full meltdown.
At my 20 week scan I discovered the fantastic news that I was expecting a second healthy son.
I did not take the news well.
I wasn’t aware of having a preference with regards the sex of my child but I think I had believed I was carrying a girl as my pregnancies were so different.
I should make it clear at this point that my second beautiful boy has never been a disappointment and I have never loved him any less than my first son. He is affectionate and good natured with gorgeous big blue eyes you could drown in and a laugh that could melt metal.
I loved my son as soon as I knew of his existence but I went into a state of ‘mourning’ for the little girl I expected but who wasn’t to be.
That night I refused to even look at the sonogram picture and was quiet and withdrawn.
My husband was angry.
He had looked forward to learning that our child was healthy, seeing the little fingers and toes on screen and the excitement of discovering the sex – he had no preferences.
I ruined this experience for him.
For that, I will never forgive myself.
Even worse I knew that had I even tried to explain how I was feeling I wouldn’t have been able to push all my energy into strangling the sob desperate to escape my throat. I certainly couldn’t have expressed the depth of sorrow I was experiencing in a coherent way.
I wanted to not be pregnant.
The images that my mind conjured of throwing myself stomach first into the corner of a table quickly escalated to frantic scrambling in my cupboards for a bottle of vodka to numb me and self-medicate against my intrusive thoughts.
Suddenly I was holding a bottle of bleach in my hands. I imagined the impact of swallowing it and feeling the burn and erosion of the inside of throat and lining of my stomach. I considered that it would maybe end my pregnancy.