For Miriam

My post from 2012…

For many months of 2011 my life was black and there really seemed no way that I was going to get out alive.
I had suffered from depression before but nothing could have prepared me for the depression that came after my son’s birth.

Sebastian’s arrival was very traumatic, not just in one particular way but in many. We both could have died and although at the time I felt (or was told to feel) lucky, I was soon to wish that I hadn’t been saved. It is with a mix of happiness and sadness that I will live my life without ever experiencing contractions. The care we received at our local hospital ranged from woefully inadequate to good. I do believe this contributed in some part to what happened, as did the whole arrival itself, however I’ve learnt it was more about my interpretation of these experiences than the actual experiences themselves.

It took about 2 months after Sebastian’s birth for the darkness to fall. It felt at the time that one day I was ok and the next I was standing in the shower looking at a razor wondering if I had the bravery to slit my wrists there and then. However, in hindsight (such a powerful but useless thing!) I’d been ill since I was a teenager and I had been experiencing this particular encounter with depression for months before my son was born. I felt that the emotions I was experiencing were all my fault and because I couldn’t stand the psychological pain of admitting this I projected it on to my son – Sebastian became the focus – if he hadn’t entered the world then this wouldn’t be happening……

The days between the 16 February and 16 March, when I was finally admitted to an NHS Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), were filled with increasing desperation – I was “screaming” to be helped and although friends, family and medical professionals were trying, nothing was even touching the surface. My GP represcribed my antidepressants – I had been on them since 2005 and had carefully reduced them during my pregnancy to give my baby boy the best start! The Mental Health Team was assigned. My family tried to ensure I always had help with the baby.

Although grateful for all of these attempts at help, I felt that no one understood (or still does understand) how close to the edge I was. Despite being as honest as I could be – imagine sharing with your parents and husband (the three people you love the most in the world) that you are having images of hurting your own son – the images filled me with horror and eroded any element of self respect I had left, yet still you are expected to be with the baby.  When I talked of suicide during this time and also for many months afterwards I genuinely believed it would be the only way this nightmare would end and that it would be best for everyone – I did tell anyone that I met that this was the case but even mental health professionals told me not to be silly. None of my other attempts to get away from the baby (including my request to be admitted to the local psychiatric ward) would even be considered which is when the MBU became the only option – I felt like my heart was breaking for about the millionth time when I agreed to us being admitted – how could my life have gone so terribly wrong and why couldn’t anyone understand that I believed being with him was literally killing me.

That first night locked away was awful but there were so many similar nights to follow that thankfully the memories are not singularly too painful (although the tears are flowing a little as I type). I begged my Mum & Dad to come and get me and take me home (to their house, where I had grown up – not to our flat) – I was their little girl – surely they couldn’t believe that having me locked in this place was what I deserved? I want to make the point now that I honestly don’t believe that my parents or husband could have or should have done anything differently – they didn’t have many choices. The intelligent, kind hearted person they knew and loved was no longer visible – apparently there were glimpses but these were sporadic and I felt like I hated all three of them and know my behaviour reflected this – I have never hated anyone before and the guilt I felt for feeling this way further destroyed me…

I don’t feel comfortable going in to too much detail about my time in the MBU for a number of reasons 1) all the mothers I met deserve to have their privacy respected 2) despite the fact that I did not get better there at all, I know of and have read many recovery stories that have involved time spent in one of the very few MBUs this country has and 3) I am living my life looking forward now – the experiences are in me and that is enough this early on in my recovery.

Our longed for family life was now Sebastian and I at the MBU / my husband alone at our flat Monday to Friday with weekend leave spent together at either our flat or my parent’s house. The toll on my husband was unbelievable both physically and mentally – he maintained a full time job and would visit us almost every night.

I did take an overdose in the May (when at home) and was admitted to A&E, even then the only option was the MBU and I was clearly told I would be sectioned if I did not agree to return. Despite being a complete shadow of myself, I did not want to be sectioned – I feel ashamed that I had attached such stigma to this, as if used properly it can be an integral part of a person’s recovery.

Finally something shifted in me in August. I had spent the majority of the previous 6 weeks without Sebastian but was still no better. I had point blankly refused to have him back in the MBU with me, yet because I was such a risk to myself and basically there was nowhere else for me to go, I was still there. On the 19 August I had my care moved to a private psychiatric hospital – this would not have been possible without private medical insurance. Up until this point I was desperate for someone to help me but in the end it was me that helped me. I saved my own life but I did have a lot of help along the way. My psychiatrist and therapist have helped me to process all of my experiences both around my son but also my life in general.

I finally left hospital as an inpatient on the 23 October. For me therapy was/is the key but I really believe that the right medication made me stable enough to even begin to engage. I have no side effects and could possibly be on them for the rest of my life, which is not a problem. I was diagnosed with anxiety in addition to depression when I moved hospitals – I had spent 6 months with sweaty palms and feet and a racing heart – I was in “flight” mode all the time – even when asleep (not that sleep came easily).

I wasn’t emotionally equipped to have a baby – the responsibility of him overwhelmed me. How could I possibly help to nurture and care for my son when I had no idea who I was? I realise now that it was because I had no inner self belief due to my total lack of genuine confidence in myself. I come from a loving family, have a wonderful husband and great friends – if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

It has been the longest, hardest journey that required me to look at myself so deeply, see things I did and didn’t like but accept who I am – what the depression means and doesn’t mean about me. I thank humanity for giving me a second chance and I’m not going to waste it! My life is worth living and I can be a mother to my son and together we will learn about the world.

Sebastian turned 1 on the 7 January 2012 and it was a very emotional but enjoyable day. It was also the 7th anniversary of the day my husband and I moved into our flat – now our family home – I do believe that these things are significant.
Sebastian will be an only child – my husband and I had never planned to have more than one baby but our experience has now confirmed it – I would be sterilised if the NHS would agree but they say I’m too young.

So having spent a large part of 2011 wanting to die I now want to LIVE and experience everything life has to offer.

I am now back at work and have a life – I no longer just exist which I think I did for many years without even realising. My son is amazing – watching him toddle around and shout randomly fills my heart with joy, in a way that I never thought possible.
My husband and I are struggling to come to terms with what the past year has done to our relationship but we will get there – after all life is about choice.
I have learnt so many things from my experience but for me the most important is that “fixing” a person’s depression cannot be standardised – the answer needs to be as unique as the individual.

Thank you for reading this far. I only have three final points

To those of you who are depressed, please get help – it is out there – scream and shout if you have to – I know you might not want to cause a fuss (depression does that) or that you don’t feel like it (depression does that too) but you have to – life is worth living.

To those of you that have experienced depression please talk about it – you can go in to as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable but unless we talk, it will always continue to be something that happens to other people.

To those of you that haven’t experienced depression – we aren’t asking you to empathise as we know that isn’t possible – but spare some understanding for those of us that do.

10 thoughts on “For Miriam

  1. To friends of those suffering who don’t know how to help or what say, the best piece of advice I feel I was given when Beth was going through this was to keep the lines of communication open so that when they’re ready to come back to you it’s easier for them to do so. I’m so glad she came back.

  2. I should declare an interest at this point – I know Beth and I shared part of this journey with her.

    This is both a tragic and a heartwarming story – beautifully written and clearly from the heart.

    Having suffered a breakdown myself, I think the most important points you make are about demmanding help when you need it – bizarrely when no-one was listening to me, my plan was to go into Charing Cross and curl up at the feet of a policeman – I genuinely thought this would be the only way to get help. Thankfully I managed to get help before this!

    Your second point that is so well made is that of the need for us to talk to others about our experiences – only in this way will we break the stigma and I also find that it helps other people open up about any difficulties they might be having. This has happened to me on a number of occasions.

    Thank you for sharing your story and please keep posting!

  3. Thanks for reading my blog Beth… your story sounds so familiar, I am glad you are back!! You show an amazing amount of insight which I know is very hard and exhausting to examine your self so closely. Like you I found the wards both post natal and psychiatric so awful that I struggle to put it into words without feelings of anger re surfacing!! Thanks for sharing your story

  4. Very brave and open confession. It is a breathtaking relief to hear that someone else, in the depth of their depression, has had images of harming their child – something I can relate to. I have been lucky enough to recognise when i needed help and sought out that help – but I don’t think people are honest enough about their struggles, especially mums, because of their fear of being seen as a failure. Talk, people!

  5. I’m in a bad place myself and don’t really know what to do!I understand totally how you was feeling and for my hole life i have been depressed with glimces of happiness,I just hope my out come turns out like yours.

    • Hi Marcus, Sorry my reply has taken so long. Working full time is keeping me very busy. I really hope you have friends and family supporting you and that you have access to help. Things can definitely get better.

  6. Wow, what a story, so well told. I love and admire your honesty, if we could all be like this there would be no stigma, and more people could ask for help. Thank you for writing your story, I hope it helps you as much as it will help others. You’re awesome!

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