Wednesday, 9 August 2017

THE EVENT THAT REALLY KICK STARTED MY DEPRESSION

I'd always been inclined towards depression, but nothing serious. Just moods, mostly, nothing to fuss about. But when I got engaged, instead of feeling happy, as would be expected, I - we - were scared. We kind of celebrated with our folks, drinking the obligatory sherry, kissing cheeks and shaking hands all round (including the unbelievable comment from my mother: 'What do you want to do a thing like that for?!' She who exacerbated, along with the rest of my family, my depression). I cried on route to Husband's family.

     I recovered from that, and six months later,  knew how much I wanted to marry Husband. We married - a fun wedding, planned to the 'n'th degree by my mother - and set off on honeymoon. Halfway down the motorway I began to cry. I felt strange. Not happy. Just weird. I had a good howl on Husband's shoulder on the hard shoulder and we continued to our Cornish honeymoon.

     Even after settling into married life I cried for no apparent reason. I didn't like being at home much. I had a voluntary job at the local hospital after leaving my previous temporary typing job to move for Husband's work, and that helped, then I took up a place on a three year art course near London. Enjoyed that, a lot, despite my shyness and lacking in confidence.

     I finished the course, during which we'd moved house, and I became pregnant. Much rejoicing, but early on, while on holiday, I became quite depressed. We were in Suffolk, and we walked beside a river near the sea and a low feeling descended on me. Antenatal depression. Apparently one in ten women suffer from it.

      I got over that, and the time for the birth arrived. I had high blood pressure and the baby was back to back in my womb. 'That's okay,' I was assured, probably by my lovely midwife, 'the contractions should be strong enough to turn the baby around.' Due to my high blood pressure, I was invited into hospital to be induced (high blood pressure isn't a good thing in this biz). It was February 1985, and snow was thick on the ground. I felt fine, then Husband visited the night before the induction. We watched Star Trek, a sixties episode featuring a planet peopled by beings in Greek robes and Corinthian columns, as they did. Husband went home and the nurses began my induction, which involved the use of something that looked extraordinarily like a Turkish delight fork. Won't go into graphic detail.

     The following day Husband turned up. My contractions had begun. Not too bad to start with. I tried Pethadine, which instantly made me throw up. Then the contractions grew worse. The baby being back to back and turning round made those contractions sheer agony. I know, at the time, that an American political broadcast was being shown on telly, but all I could think of was having relief from the pain. Husband has my fingernail marks on his hand to this day - don't know if that was the American politics or not. Probably not because I don't do politics.  It was agonising and horrendous and seemed to last forever, just waiting for someone available to administer the epidural. The relief when it arrived cannot be described. Being stitched up afterwards was nothing.

     A girl. 12.05am. We had a girl. Samantha. Named after Samantha in Bewitched, and I loved the name Sam. My parent's fifth granddaughter! I was wheeled back to the ward and Samantha was placed in a cot next to me. Post natal depression kicked in immediately. My daughter. Sounded weird. Hated the idea. I listened to a lady in the ward coaxing her newborn to sleep and she sounded fine. I wished I felt like that. I think, looking back, that apart from post natal depression, I also suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, the birth was so agonising. Something that's only really occurred to us in recent times.

     I wanted to go home. No I didn't. Yes I did. No... I didn't know. My parents arrived and I wiped the tears away and put on a brave face. I couldn't tell them I felt ******* awful. Later, Husband and his parents arrived and I howled. Just goes to show what kind of people they were.

     I eventually went home. Felt very weird. Horrible. And Sam didn't sleep well. And I detested being a cow. Eugh. Husband said: 'You do realise you'll have to sterilize bottles and make up the milk?' 'Yes! Yes! Anything but being a bloody cow!'

     Husband returned to work and I cried into my cornflakes. Then I invited myself round to my neighbour, Olive, who I hadn't really met since our move. And so much for being a freelance artist. Was far too depressed for that. In the end, initial shock gradually wore off and, stunned but learning to cope, I began voluntary work with babe in arms, including voluntary art, visited numerous coffee mornings (I loathed being at home at any time of day) and attended every toddler group going. I began to produce artwork, began writing The Novel, wrote anecdotal articles, and, because I was attending a young mothers church group (I'm not at all religious, but did begin 'searching', if you will). All in all, I survived.

     A year later I was still low. Husband suggested I see the doctor. 'Post natal depression.' He said, and prescribed my first antidepressant. It returned me to some kind of normality and kept me going for the next twenty years. At which point I'll continue with the rest of my story, which includes 'the crisis'.

     I'd love to hear from anyone else who's had similar experiences. So do please contact me!


                                  

   




   

   

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