On Monday I had a bad day. After discharge the day before from hospital, the adrenaline that had kept me going through the previous 3 days was wearing thin and I felt anxious, on the brink of tears all the time and exhausted. Exhausted doesn't even begin to sum up how I felt-we use that word too lightly a lot of the time, but I felt so leaden and frankly like I just wanted to curl up in a ball in dark and damn the two year old, the house and the entire world that needed me to do things. Of course I didn't-well, I did the damn the house and ignored defiantly the washing up, pile of dirty clothes and the spillage of coffee in the kitchen. And I didn't take the bins out. Rebel. However dead to the world I feel, I cannot damn the two year old. Because she needs me and no one else is here, and that pesky thing called love and conscience. I simply couldn't and cannot ignore her little face. As much as I would love the block out my ears and sit in the dark all day, she is the reason I keep going even if my movement is without feeling, emotion or motivation. Even knowing I want to ignore her and am too tired to care about playing tears me up with guilt, making the whole things worse. It did get to a point where I just laid on the sofa, whilst she safely played by herself for half an hour or so, tipping every box upside down and cheerily lobbing things across the room. It did her no harm to amuse herself for a fraction of the day, and meant I could scrape a fraction of enthusiasm and vigour together for bedtime. When I kissed her goodnight and told her I loved her, I meant it by then. It wasn't just going through the motions like the rest of the day had felt like.
Tuesday felt a bit better, and Wednesday better still. By today I felt back to "normal", whatever that is. I was scared at the beginning of the week that I was back slipping on the road to a terrifying pit of depression and anxiety and it is only now that I am able to acknowledge just how far in the last two years I have come. Only a little over six months ago, after I very nearly lost the plot entirely and had a brief hiatus from work to recover from a very unsettled and horrible period. In the end, I was made redundant as the company needed a full-time more reliable person which was a blessing in disguise. If I was still working, I dread to think what state I would be in now. Although days are times are hard still too, being at home means I can at least try and give me all to my daughter, not feel like I am drowning or slowly peeling away from the world and all I hold dear. I have written about suffering with PTSD and the secondary depression and anxiety that tagged along with it. This blog turned into a balm in helping me to sort of my jumbled up mind and find some sort of order, rhyme or reason and also importantly to realise I wasn't alone, a freak or a terrible mother. Just a mixed up one that needed to get a little better. And I have. So much better than I thought. I used to have Mondays all the time. I would go through months of Mondays, and even when they weren't entirely bleak my best was never good enough. I used to have panic attacks in groups, cry at the postman, avoid people deliberately and spent the evenings crying or sitting there, numb and void. I still have times when the anxiety creeps up with an unwanted "BOO!" and have to really work to just brush my hair and put on some tights. My care for my little girl might not waver, but it takes only a little trip up for me to let caring for me slide.
I haven't had counselling since April or taken anti-depressants since June. Initially I thought that not having active treatment meant things were fixed but am slowly trying to accept that because my mental health was triggered by very real events that I am still often reminded of, that it will take a while for the anxiety to ebb away and re-train my mind of happier times and less high-alert reactions. The difference is that I now have some basic tools and a better sense of "normal" to help me through rough days, where as before I felt like I was swimming in a huge sea, alone, against the tide. Now I am paddling-I just get out my depth sometimes. But I've got some metaphorical arm bands.
Depression and anxiety aren't quick in and out experiences, but they are not forever. They come in waves like many illnesses. It takes experience, support, belief and a whole lot of laughs and smiles to ride out the tough times. But it does get better. If eighteen months ago you'd have told me I could sleep and even remember to feed myself 3 meals a day and truly immerse myself in the day for at least 6 days out of 7, I might have cried. Or laughed. It feels like I have grown up a lot in that time, but I think it is less growing up and more just my mind growing out. It takes some compassion and understanding to realise it is ok to not be perfect and not weak to ask for help.