When days are dark, search for the light within.
This was a difficult post for me to publish. I’ve written it a while back but because it’s so personal I held back. Had it not been for someone else’s bravery of posting their situation, I’d have not been able to realise mine. Maybe this can help the next person.
It started off a cloudy day with a somber shadow hanging over my bedroom window. As most mornings I’d toss and turn and keep the covers chin high, not feeling the day ahead.
That was the beginning of my story for many days. But not today!
My Facebook feed has been scattered with quotes about coping with depression, “It’s not your fault”, “You’re not alone” and it’s this spamming of content, along with not much other articles to read, besides your usual celeb gossip, that I decided to actually read a few of these posts. I started reading peoples stories, specifically by new mums, and feeling a familiar voice. My voice. What these women were going through I seemed to understand.
Putting my phone down I sat and tried taking stock, so to speak. I’ve been attributing my mood swings and arguments to the fact that everyone else was at fault. Taking a mental step back, just to consider, that it might all be my fault. Why do I lash out the ways I do? This is not normal. And other times when I turned away and shed tears thinking no one saw me. Why even those tears? Nothing was really wrong in my life. Was I depressed?
I couldn’t be. Because I didn’t feel depressed. At least in terms of what I thought depression was supposed to look and feel like. Besides, that’s not me. I have my life together. That’s just what I thought, having not paid any attention to the topic before because growing up this wasn’t the kind of thing anyone in my home spoke about. Was it taboo? I Googled postnatal depression (I have a little baby) and right there in symptoms was my mental checklist. Just to feel more secure in my findings I consulted my GP and yip there it is.
It took me a few days to let my husband in on the diagnosis. If you’re married it’s usually your spouse who bears the brunt of the mood swings so he deserved to know why. He basically didn’t know what to do with me. Also not having ever experienced it himself or knowing anyone with depression, what was he to do? He went and read up a little bit about it and it all made sense to him. The blaming, moods, crying and fighting weren’t his doing. He understood. I couldn’t tell the rest of my family. I was ashamed. I tried very hard to change my mindset thinking it was a mind over matter situation. That didn’t work out too well. We spoke about seeing my doctor again and talking about prescription pills. It may have been that moment that made me switch gears. I didn’t want to be dependent on pills for the rest of my life. Especially not to keep me in a happy mood. This was all just unnatural to me.
What I decided to do next should not have been my last resort. I turned to my Creator, one evening while performing my prayer. I spoke about my problem. I begged and pleaded and asked for help and guidance. I cried so hard my head hurt. I handed myself over spiritually to be cleansed from what felt like an unnatural thing that was happening to me.
Over the next few days I kept praying, harder than I would usually do. I felt myself becoming lighter and less stressed knowing that I have handed myself and problems over to The One who is most merciful and most forgiving. Slowly I started seeing things clearer. For me being a new mum of a baby and having a toddler was mentally exhausting. I think I reached a point where I was in auto pilot mode for such a long time that I had let myself go to a grey area. I lost touch with the outside world and was feeling the four walls close in on me.
On days when things were bad, I could never explain to my husband how it made me feel or what he could do to help me. I was self-destructing. Today, I came across this letter. I couldn’t have explained it better.
“To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression” by Becci Nicolls from Swords and Snoodles
I love you dearly, more than anything in this whole world. I think you already know this. I know you love me too, I just forget sometimes. Depression clouds my mind and fills me with horrid thoughts about how unlovable and worthless I am. Sometimes I believe you, sometimes I believe depression.
I know you prefer the good days when I’m happy and not anxious or snappy, and I wish I could have these days every day. But I can’t. I feel the cloud approaching and it petrifies me. Sometimes I tell you and sometimes I don’t. Please, if you notice the cloud before I tell you, just hug me tight and tell me we’ll fight it together. Please don’t ask me if I’m OK — my automatic answer will be yes. In reality, it’s a big no. You see, depression can make you feel ashamed.
I know sometimes I overreact about the smallest things and get angry, but please be patient with me. Forgetting the bread will not be the real reason. It’s that I feel like I’m losing control over my mind. Depression is very clever, you see – it builds up a wall of anger piece by piece, and you never notice it until it’s so big it begins to topple over. I’m sorry you get the brunt of my anger on cloudy days. Please forgive me. Please. Just tell me you love me and leave me to calm down.
I know it’s hard to help somebody through depression if you’ve never experienced it yourself. I understand. I totally get it. Just listen to me and ask about the cloudy days. I can’t just bring it up in conversation. Depression clouds your mind. I need you to break the silence.
There will be lots of times I feel like you’d be better off without me, or that my children deserve a better momma. Sometimes I’ll tell you. Most of the time I won’t. Sometimes I can go for months without those thoughts crossing my mind, and other times I think about them every second of every day for weeks. That’s the scary truth. Depression is vile — a vile, nasty monster. Please always keep an eye on me, but know no matter how many times you tell me I’m worth it I probably won’t believe it on cloudy days – but please never stop telling me. Ever.
I love our children more than anything, but sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel like a rubbish momma. My mind nags me and tells me other mommas do things better and love better than me. I feel like I always fall short. I find it so hard being a momma on cloudy days, but I try so hard to not let them notice the clouds. I hope you know I try.
I haven’t self harmed since February 2010, but the urge often consumes me. When the black cloud is here it consumes my mind. I fight it so hard for myself, my children and for you. I know it’s hard to understand why I crave it, I can’t explain it myself. It’s like an old addiction that comes to hurt me when it smells the dark cloud. One day I hope it won’t ever cross my mind again. I know I don’t talk about these black clouds often, but I want to. I hate the silence it forces me to keep. There’s a certain freedom when it comes to talking openly about the monster. Help me find that freedom. Depression makes me feel tired. Sometimes the fatigue is so bad I just want to cry. Every bone hurts. Sometimes I lay awake at night and worry about things that won’t even happen. Squeeze my hand tight if you’re awake too. Sometimes it takes every bit of motivation to get up in the morning, but I never let you in on this. A new day often scares me. I wonder, will I cope? Will the sky be blue or black? Is the weather nice? Every single morning is hard, but seeing you makes it easier. I want to publicly thank you for loving me and supporting me. You are the best. Yours forever x
That letter helped my marriage by creating more of an understanding of what I was going through. I’m happy to report that I am medication free, still praying for protection and guidance every single day and being grateful for all the little pleasures in my life. Be kind to the next person. You never know the battles they may silently be facing.
Depression is not easy. Talk to someone about your problems, your fears and your concerns. It was hard for me to talk to anyone apart from my husband. But I know my creator already knows what’s in my heart and my head and He understands.
I’m not sure where I read this quote but it’s truth: “Don’t compare your healing timeline to others. Don’t expect that you should be better before your time. Don’t give up. You will reach acceptance and recovery. You will get there.”