I write this, sitting in the dark at 4am, with my knee rocking my little man’s bassinet trying to get him to sleep. My left shoulder is cold as my shirt is soaked in vomit and I have the sneaky suspicion there is some in my hair too. I have been awake every 30-40minutes with him since 11pm, resettling him back to sleep. He is now fed and battling his bowel movements to try and get some sleep. It is times like this that I’m reminded of some things that the psychologist said while I was at Tresillian. She warned us not to continually look to the future thinking, ‘Next week will get better.’ Because it may not get better next week, or the week after, or the week after that even… At the time I thought that was harsh. Even though it had already been 12 weeks of hell, I guess I couldn’t bear the thought that it wasn’t going to all turn a corner soon.
So here I’m at 17 weeks and I’ve finally understood and am giving up waiting for that corner to turn. Taking her advice and living in the now. See, continually thinking things will get better can set yourself up for failure when things don’t get better. Sort of dangerous when you are battling with something like depression. Far better to accept the reality that although things might be changing slightly, they aren’t necessarily getting better, just different. Actually the whole, ‘Things don’t always get better they just get different,’ is something a very wise friend said to me, that at the time I also thought was a bit harsh. However, now it makes complete sense.
A friend encouraged me to write about what it is like for me at this time because it’s difficult for people to understand what I’m going through. Especially as I can usually pull together a happy face when I see people. So it almost doesn’t seem like I’m having difficulty. Having sold our house has relieved a lot of stress. I rarely have the ‘black’ days anymore. I feel terrible for my husband on these days as he has to cope alone. The days when I can’t stop crying or the days when I don’t think I’d really care if someone came and took my children away from me. The kind of days when I lock myself in the bathroom – I can hear one or both of my children crying outside, my husband trying to placate them and I honestly don’t care. I am in tears writing this because I feel like a terrible mum that there have been times, many times, when I just don’t care that my children are crying. Yesterday in the car my little man was having one of his crying fits. We have these regularly in the car. It’s why I won’t drive to go see people. My daughter would often cry in the car but the crying my little man does is on a completely different level. He just screams from point A to point B. Screams so much that he goes purple and even when you get him out it can be a while before he calms down. In the past he’d get hernias in his belly button from crying so much. I now travel in the back seat squished between him and my daughter so I can try (unsuccessfully) to get him to just be calm. Anyhow, today he was screaming and for a split second I thought, if my husband offered to pull over and leave him at the side of the road and drive off, I don’t know if I’d stop him. And in the same moment you are horrified for thinking that because, of course, you’d never want to leave your baby. But I was looking at my daughter who was getting so upset at the constant screaming and the thought occurred to me that life might certainly be a lot easier if he wasn’t with us. How horrible is that? That a mother could have those thoughts. Tears are streaming down my face. Do you understand why I haven’t shared before? They aren’t very nice thoughts that go through my head. They make me feel like the worst kind of person that I could think these things about my own child. But there are days when you just disconnect. Apparently these thoughts are normal for PND… But that doesn’t make you feel any better when you come out of the fog and realise the thoughts that you were having. It is quite scary at how readily you just disconnect when all the screaming starts. You are aware he is screaming and you are aware that you are patting/rocking/cuddling him. You are vaguely aware of how time is passing… But I guess for sanity, you just disconnect. My husband is wonderful. He and my mum are about the only people I’ve been game enough to share my darkest thoughts with. My husband said to me today that it doesn’t matter what I think. What I do matters and he sees a mum who, that no matter what thoughts are flying through her head, she is always loving and caring, speaking gently and patiently to her son. I’m so glad that he focuses on that.
The worst kind of people to be around at the moment are the ones who say, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about, he seems happy now.” Well yes he is. Ofcourse even he manages to be happy for a few hours of the day. We aren’t stupid, we choose the best times to see people. With medication the screaming fits have lessened. However you weren’t present for the screaming fit in the car, or the one that will happen if I don’t keep this visit short. You won’t be with me at night when I have to hold him, cuddle him, rock him, sshhh him and even then he may or may not choose to be calm. He won’t just nod off in my arms like most newborns do. He will just scream. And you will leave. You will go back to your life. I will be left holding the screaming child who may take hours to calm down.
I don’t know if I’m just getting better at coping with the lack of sleep or just resigned to the fact that I’m not going to get any. The bickering and tears that I hurl my husband’s way probably says I’m not necessarily getting ‘better’ at dealing without sleep! But I am managing to get out and about a bit more. I feel like the cloudy days are becoming less but I know not to get too confident as one really bad night can send me into quite a downward spiral. I still struggle to want to see anyone outside of my husband and my mum, but at the same time I know I’ve been told that for my own sanity I should. I have started to catch up with my mothers group from my daughter again and I am being honest with them. When people offer to drop by now, I don’t refuse them. Interestingly it has been friends I didn’t know I had who have been most supportive. A friend I knew in high school who dropped by with her gorgeous girls had some very insightful things to say that have comforted and stayed with me. My husband’s sister regularly calls or sends text messages, just touching base. Something that means a lot to me, especially as I don’t have any siblings of my own. A work colleague invited me to a church talk on the book on Numbers which was very helpful and has given me lots of pause for reflection. I have another friend who has two of her own children, who through children being sick and schedules that aren’t managing to coincide, well we don’t catch up in person as much as we’d like, but the text messages she sends me every couple of days are wonderful. So comforting to know she is with me in spirit even if she can’t be there in person. Many of the people who I thought would be here for me are just so busy that time flies for them. Their lives continues to barrel along full of their own troubles. My husband thinks that this is a reflection of how society has changed, particularly in the city. We are so busy and caught up in our own lives that months can go by before we realise we haven’t spoken to someone. I also know that it used to be me that would call them to go out. So I guess when I’ve been hiding in my shell at home, not strong enough to reach out, well it will go unnoticed that I haven’t called because people aren’t used to calling me. But even knowing that, some days it hurts to think that your absence isn’t missed, especially when you are finding things so difficult.
I realise this post is a bit of a wallow in my thoughts… But left alone in the bed at 4am, covered in vomit, unable to sleep (apparently a symptom of depression)… Well I have a lot of time to think. Not a lot of people are up at this time.
Whilst at Tresillian in our group sessions, we spoke about how we felt coming to Tresillian was like we had failed. We were the mums who had failed to get our children to sleep. We weren’t living up to that ‘yummy mummy’ stereotype. For me it was a conundrum because I didn’t have these issues with my daughter. I could work her out. I could ‘read’ her. For those of us who had been diagnosed with PND, we said how it was just another thing in our list of failures. We really couldn’t cope. We were really hopeless. You didn’t really want to tell people you had PND because it was like something was wrong with you. It made people feel awkward. They don’t know what to say to you. The psychologists tell you that you should ask people to help. A little difficult when you are so tired that you can’t maintain a train of thought long enough to work out what it is someone could do to help. And let’s face it, the only thing you really need is sleep and nobody can really help you get that!
The most difficult thing I have come to terms with is that things don’t necessarily get better. You have hiccups with every child. With my first it was breastfeeding and for a short time sleep. But you see, when I changed things, put systems in place, etc, I could see improvement. The most difficult thing for me to accept with my son is that it doesn’t matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, it isn’t necessarily going to make anything better. We are brought up in a world that says if you try hard enough, work hard enough, you can bring about effective change. Reality is, that isn’t always true. But you just keep doing what you’re doing as giving up isn’t an option.
So here I am at week 17. Most people have stopped asking how things are going because for those that have kept in regular contact, they know it’s not really getting any better… and the others I’m guessing have just assumed what I would’ve assumed – that things must be getting better by now. Well they haven’t. If I’m being honest and not trying to make you feel better… Things aren’t better. They are different but they aren’t better. But I’m ok with that. There are people out there going through much worse.