Winston Churchill talked about his black dog. The way it would sit in the corner of his room quietly staring at him until one day out of nowhere it would pounce on him and sit on his shoulder or at his heels, refusing to move. The black dog, cloud, void whatever you want to label it, it is depression. A deep down pain that consumes your every breathing moment, seeps into your muscles, grinds at your bones and steals your appetite. Depression kills your soul from within. No one sees it, no one can heal it and at times no one believes it.
The world around you spins at its normal pace but your world slows down, similar to a black and white movie where everything becomes silent and only your inner-mind consumes you. You become deaf to everything positive. Every time you blink a tears seeps through and stings your heart.
My depression was harrowing.
I’m not really convinced that my depression was solely down to the trauma of giving birth to Arjun or whether I was always prone to it. I had suffered in my younger days but it was undiagnosed, it was just seen as ‘teenage hormonal moodiness’ but now I recognise it as depression. It had crept back into my life when I first got married; the new life of marrying through an arranged marriage had taken its toll. This time though it felt different. The internal pain was more physical. My heart hurt, it felt like someone was shredding it into small parts, slowly and deliberately to cause maximum pain. It felt like someone was actually enjoying my suffering.
As the weeks and months rolled by, Arjun endured a new set of tests, and we were given further results which revealed more and more of the devastating effects of the brain damage, I withdrew more. I withdrew from Arjun and Dav. It is truthful to say that it is a miracle that we are still married after what I put him through. I showed him and Arjun no loving emotions, no tenderness and definitely no physical compassion, instead the anger at him for saving Arjun consumed me. Anger at Arjun for surviving. I know this sounds wicked, but it took me almost 10 years of therapy to admit to this, and then realise that in reality I was grieving.
Anger fuelled my grief and depression.
Post natal depression or PND can hit you at anytime, it is not necessarily at birth or indeed after 5 day when the so called /baby blues hit. This is much more. In many cases you are left dealing with your emotions alone.
In Indian culture, there is no recognition of depression. For most of the older generation (and some of younger) depression is a taboo, it is a stigma and a parasite, so much so that no one discusses it. For many there is only one solution, ‘get over it’ or turn to ‘GOD’. By the time I was deep into my depression, I had lost my faith, and couldn’t just ‘ get over it’. All I wanted to do was hide away like a snail in my shell, hide away and pretend that Arjun was not here, that I had not been pregnant or indeed have a child with such a depressing (excuse the pun) prognosis.
My most poignant memory is when I left Arjun with Dav and walked out of the house , knowing that I may not return. My mind was telling me to end it, drive my car straight into a wall or over a cliff edge. I cannot even begin to recall the deep dark emotions that clouded my numb mind. Yes, memories can play tricks on your mind sometimes, but I do recall parking up in the middle of nowhere (not really knowing where I was) and screaming in the car like a mad woman, almost beating myself as I did so. It was like the depression was consuming me from within and I was fighting with it physically as well as mentally, I recall the consuming anguish eating me and spitting me out.
I was truly alone.
It was only when I was exhausted that I felt the tug of the love for my son, for the child I had treasured in my womb for all those months that I managed blindly to return home. I have no idea how I got home, how I drove or how I survived, but I think the tug of love for my own blood running through Arjun, the love my parents and loss for Dav that brought me back, well physically, but emotionally I am still a mess.
I was grieving for the life I though I was creating, my perfect world, I had an amazing career ahead of me, Dav was the same, we had just bought our first home, I had fallen pregnant after such a difficult journey and we were finally independent. The pregnancy was the icing on the cake. The grief was unimaginable.
I am not saying that I am ok now. I am not. I continued to suffer with depression, throughout the years, triggered and exacerbated by two further difficult pregnancies and births. Simran’s birth at 29 weeks triggered the PTSD and nightmares. All I could here were the machines, bleeps and emergency C-section agony and the unknown again. We were fearful that she could have brain damage like Arjun. Priya’s pregnancy was extremely tough, I suffered with a low lying placenta (Placenta Pre via) so bled from 16 weeks onwards and was on bed rest, couldn’t be further that 15 min from a hospital and was fearful of a fatal haemorrhage. We wont even talk about her birth (that’s another blog)!
I am still not well, but I have been off medication for almost 5 years, despite there being some very difficult times and my depression making a return.
My depression hangs around me always, however by keeping myself busy I dodge the impending cloud on the horizon waiting to come in. I must stop this in its tracks; like hanging on a cliff -edge with my white knuckles screaming for release, I am consumed with darkness therefore I find myself getting imvolved in many community and charitable events, I fill my life with ‘busy ess’.
Many friends, family and colleagues would never guess my depression and anxiety is part of me, I still perform in the classroom, laugh with friends and even stand infront of an audience of hundreds ( including a Parliamentary gathering) and give speeches to raise awareness of children’s prematurity, disability and life-limiting outcomes. This does not make me ‘better’ it just means I’m avoiding sitting still for too long to allow my depression to consume me.
I am what we call a ‘smiling depressive’. I smile on the outside but inside I’m a mess, but you know what, that’s how it is.
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