I have a mighty stubborn streak inside me. I am fiercly loyal, but if you break my trust that it is, and I am told I have a sting in my tail. If you are someone who believes in the stars you might say I’m a typical Scorpio. So, from the moment I decided to taper off the antidepressants I had not long been on, I intended to go full force into doing everything I could to help me help myself.
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise for helping mental health; improved sleep and focus, a reduction in stress and mental fatigue, and a boost of natural endorphins. Having suffered from depression since my teens, and having been on medication for five years previously, I knew the benefits were significant. Less than three weeks after the Christening I contacted a local personal trainer and began training, having been cleared by my doctor.
After the initial sessions I realised my body could not do what I wanted it to do. My hips and core were still extremely weak and I was experiencing a lot of pain for days after each session. On the advice of my Osteopath I needed to stop training in the manner I had been, for the immediate future, and seek a more gentle form of exercise. This was a major blow to me. Not because I was hugely enjoying training: I wasn’t, in fact I dreaded each session. It was a major blow because this was another thing I was failing at. I couldn’t even help myself in this way. I had tried so hard to push myself, to release those endorphins, and to help myself, and I couldn’t.
From here (mid January), I began to sink much deeper. I continued to struggle for a further five weeks. Every day I woke with a heavy head, usually still tired from the night before having not slept well. My mind would immediately begin to race and fill with destructive and negative thoughts:
I can’t do this; I’m not good enough; I need to lose so much weight; There’s a full basket of laundry; why can’t I just get up and do these things like everyone else, I’m useless; I need to have a shower; Why haven’t I lost that weight.
It continued in that vein, around and around in circles until I tried to blank my mind. Typically I would just lie there as I got so overwhelmed. Some mornings were easier than others, but most, unfortunately were like this. Later in the day, I knew that I would feel so much better if I could get up earlier and try busy myself, but morning me didn’t know this. Morning me could not get up no matter how me she tried. She was essentially weighted to the bed by the thoughts pulling her into the depths of despair. Most of the time from mid-January to mid-March was spent in my pyjamas, at home, with my baby. Any day that I did manage to get up and leave the house my husband was always by my side. He was my safety blanket. He is my safety blanket.
Friday morning – 23 February 2018.
Through incomprehensible, animalistic sobs into my bed clothes, I asked my mother to call the doctor’s surgery. She handed the phone to me with the doctor on the line. It was sorted. I would start my medication again. A low dosage for the first week, and then doubled.
The 24th of the month is always a big deal for me as it’s Oscar’s month birthday. I decided against taking my medication on Oscar’s little milestone, and opted for the following day instead. The snow the subsequently came was both a blessing as it allowed me to stay in the comfortable and safe surroundings of my home, but also a curse, as it allowed me to stay in the comfortable and safe surroundings of my home. I did however don some walking boots to make the trek alongside my husband to the pharmacy to collect the next dose of Oscar’s prophylactic medication.
It was to be another 2 weeks, mid to late March, before I would go out socially for the first time that year. And what was to be a turning point, having essentially been housebound for the bones of two months.
Several times during these months I would get up and get myself and Oscar ready for the day ahead. I would even put on some makeup. I would have him in the buggy. Then something inside would click. Something would change. I would become hot, irritated and feel weak, and before I knew it my face was washed and I was back in the security of my pyjamas. Sometimes I would get out the door, and I would return after five minutes. Even though to some this would not seem like a win, it was.
I got out of bed.
For me on days such as the above, that was a win and the day was already a success.
At times when you struggle, take the wins where you can. Don’t compare your wins to those of someone else, or you’ll never succeed.
Yes, I feel like I lost a lot of days. But I always made sure my bad energy was never around my son. I put on a brave face around him. I spoke in a calming gentle tone. I practiced my deep breathing. It is said that children only need three things from you every day: to be told they are loved, to be read to, and to be out in the fresh air. Even in my worst times I made sure he got these three things; even if the last one had to be completed by someone who wasn’t me.
‘Allow yourself to be proud of yourself and all the progress you’ve made. Especially the progress that no one else has seen.’