In the interest of honesty and keeping it real we need to talk. Remember that post I wrote a while a go about self care? Well I need to talk about the other side of that, about the black dog, the blues, melancholy, depression. I vividly remember nearly three years ago sitting on the grass at a park with one of my closest friends while her kids played. We had a conversation about her recent visit to the doctor where she was diagnosed with depression. That conversation changed my life.
*disclaimer – this is not my dog, but isn’t he beautiful?
We had both been through life changing, big things and shared a rather dark and twisted sense of humour along with a ‘just get on with things’ attitude. Naturally then we hadn’t realised that perhaps our reactions to our situations weren’t particularly healthy. It turned out all the dark feelings we had been bitching about, laughing about and whinging to each other about for the few months prior to this really weren’t normal.
In the year following Lyla’s diagnosis I had come to a point where I could barely hold a conversation without feeling like I was going to burst into tears. I spent the majority of my day just getting through and holding every emotion back because I was afraid if I let it out I would drown in my own sadness. Most people never saw this and, as usually happens, it was my husband who caught the brunt of it when keeping my emotions in got too much and came out as anger.
It was like constantly trying to keep the lid on a pot of boiling water. I was so sad, angry, overwhelmed and lost and I had no idea how to even start thinking about those feelings let alone dealing with them. Everything had to go to plan and I had to be in control all the time because there was so much that was out of my control. There was no going with the flow or relaxing, if something went wrong or didn’t go to plan it was the end of the world and it was all my fault.
Realising I didn’t have to feel this way was like a lightbulb going on and the next day I visited my own doctor and had a long chat. All the sadness poured out of me, I don’t think I had let myself feel anything for so long and I had certainly never cried like that around anyone even myself. I hadn’t realised how much I was holding back, how much grief I had for the things Lyla would never do or how deeply I felt the loss of my identity from having to give up my job to care for Lyla. I was diagnosed with extreme anxiety and depression, I chose medication and counselling. The medication was a game changer, it was like the lights had been switched on and the fog machine in my head turned off.
Counselling was an hour of me letting everything out, leaving feeling depleted and exhausted then letting everything build up again before emptying it all out again the following fortnight. I am a talker, (shocker I know right?!), so I didn’t have a problem letting everything out but no amount of talking was going to change our situation or how I felt about it at that time. I am a naturally positive person so once the fog had cleared it was easier for me to start seeing things more positively and feel more calm and less anxious. If I’m being honest I probably still haven’t really dealt fully with my grief and my fears for Lyla’s future as well as our family’s future but on a day to day level I am myself again and I am able to deal with the things life throws at me in a much calmer and measured way. The world no longer falls apart because I forgot baby wipes.
I don’t know if I will be on medication forever but certainly for the time being I have no intention of changing it. Recently I forgot to order a new prescription and spent an incredibly unpleasant week without the anti-depressents. The time between feeling grand and feeling the dark fog come back was about a two days and it was very apparent very quickly to my husband that things weren’t right. That’s when I knew that this was going to be part of my life for a long time to come.
I’m glad that I know what helps and what I need to do to feel better. It works for me and I would hate to think that the stigma of mental health and depression would stop anyone else in a similar situation for asking for help. Not everything works for everyone, for some it’s medication, others counselling, others exercise and mindfulness, there is no one magic cure. You have to start somewhere, for me it was that one conversation and realising that I didn’t have to feel that way. I have also learnt that sometimes I need to let a little of the sadness out every now and again so that I don’t drown in it, writing helps, as does going away by myself for a night or two and just being on my own. None of these things were possible when I was deep in the fog, anti depressants allow the fog to clear so I can focus on what I need to do to feel better.
Depression and anxiety don’t discriminate, they are equal opportunity afflictions. Special needs parents experience a huge amount of upheaval, grief and uncertainty which doesn’t change or get better in time. It’s unsurprising that for some this is too much to cope with and their mental health starts to suffer. I’m glad I asked for help when I did, my family and I are much better for it. It doesn’t make me any less strong or resilient than any other parents of special kids, we all do what we need to in order to get through.