Tuesday, April 24

To be or not to be?

Cheerful, that is.

I am currently signed off work to come to terms with and acquire adequate/successful management of my depression and anxiety so that I can juggle both single motherhood and working at the same time. After a slow-building but sick-inducing wobble very recently, I simply could not do both and with no family or back up, it was with both regret and relief that I agreed to forgo a small period of working to make sure I could mummy as best as I could, rather than fall apart and let my one year old take the consequences. I am already feeling calmer, more rational and more positive with regards to the future. This weekend was a stressful weekend, as Wriggles was poorly again, but I am proud to say I held my cool and even made us leave the house yesterday to go to a parent and toddler group we haven't been to before, and speak to strangers. You know what; I think we both even enjoyed it. A breakthrough. Before I could barely manage the duration of such a group without a panic attack or breaking down into tears either and running off (with Wriggles in tow of course!).

Today was a good day.
I had a productive appointment with the psychologist I see.
Wriggles and I went to an art gallery with an interactive pre-schooler section and listened to a story and then played with some blocks, a plastic tea pot and a colour mixing bubble lamp (honestly, that alone signifies a brilliant day surely?). 
We met up with my good friend and had lunch (ie. cake) in the cafe and Wriggles ate half a packet of Quavers (dietician approved. Salt content is soooo yesterday...when your child doesn't normally eat) and consented to having some spoonfuls of fruit and custard too. 
Afterwards we went for a wander in the sun and put the world to rights while Wriggles dozed in the pushchair, wrapped up in her pink coat and spotty socks.

Then I saw some people from work.

It was a bit awkward.

When you are sick and it is not a physical illness with obvious signs, how can you prove it? Answer, I haven't a clue. Answers on a postcard please. I felt a fraud. I know I am not, but I still felt one. Do they think I'm making it up or exaggerating? Do they think I just don't care? I worried and wondered if they would say anything to my seniors back at work. Silly, even if I was at working, Tuesdays are my day off anyway, why shouldn't I be out?

There is a real misconception that depression means a constant state of melancholy and wringing your hands. Depression can actually manifest in many other forms and is very changeable. You can have several good days followed by many more terribly bleak days. You can have several good weeks, followed by despair and isolation. Depression is not just unhappiness, it is more complex. Depression is always there in the background, but on good days it is not the defining factor in your day. It is possible to laugh and smile and do "normal" things. It is possible to make decisions and feel motivated. In fact, it is really quite important that on the good days, you really make the most of them. Sitting inside and feeling guilty is only going to enforce a negative cycle of behaviour. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy-I am depressed therefore I must act depressed therefore I will feel more depressed... in a nutshell, not helpful to you, people around you or people helping to treat you.
I know that this time off is imperative that I will be able to get on with life in all spheres soon. But I desperately needed this little break to slot my mind back into thinking mode and start feeling like I am "living" again and not just "existing". This time off is helping my focus, concentration, ability to make decisions, ability to prioritise and face up to things and think rationally. It is letting me manage things not let them manage me. It is reducing my anxiety and rekindling interest in anything other than hiding under the duvet. I have never questioned my feelings for Wriggles in the dark moments, if anything my love for her burns bright with a fierce intensity, but I could see my capabilities and my day-to-day devotion through simple tasks and attention slipping away as I would struggle with daily tasks, routine and getting things done that needed doing. I am clawing those things back now, and breathing in each moment as it happens. I am trying hard to be here in the present, not floating in the ether looking down.

But can you show people that in a brief meeting? How can you say that when people say "How are you?" and you reply on autopilot "OK, good thanks." Because anything more is a long and/or delicate conversation that is not really for fleeting moments.

I am revelling in feeling cheerful again. I am getting better, just not "cured" yet. I know my close friends and family understand.

I just hope other people do too.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, it's really hard isn't it? When I was pregnant I was told by my doctor that I had to reduce my hours because work was too stressful (long story but essentially jut at the time I found out I was pregnant someone had made 'efficiency savings' and cut the other two posts in my team, leaving me doing three jobs), and the doctor was worried what effect it would have on my daughter. I went from full time to two days a week, and of course spent the other three days doing normal things - not sitting around moping. I would occasionally bump into work people and get the dirtiest looks, as if they were saying 'how dare you be out and about, you're supposed to be ill'. Fortunately I didn't have to go back there after my girl was born but I know there was a lot of resentment at the time. I really don't think people understand that sometimes needing to be away from work isn't always because you're physically ill.