Are you dealing with depression?

I have just typed ‘depression’ into the Google (UK) search engine to see what the definition is according to the official Oxford Dictionary. It wasn’t until page 4 that I found it: “A mental condition characterised by severe feelings of despondency and dejection, typically with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”. People, me included rarely reach page 4 of the search engine. Our impatience and need for information sees us settling for an answer on the first page, even if it isn’t the answer that we are looking for, we make it fit. Those of us searching for depression looking for information or self-help on the internet more often than not find it on the first page. Especially with a very general term like ‘depression’. It remains to be seen whether the answer we are really looking for is on the first page, we operate under the same veil, we accept what we read, less than 10% of people advance onto page 2 of Google, like they say ‘when the glove fits…’

So what information did I glean from the first page? Well, there are links to the NHS website, several large charities and a self-help website. If you had any doubt before starting your search whether or not you are depressed, you will diagnose yourself after the first few excerpts. Who of us doesn’t suffer with low moods? Who of us doesn’t experience stress at work? Who of us doesn’t have periods of time when you feel tired or you can’t be bothered to go out? I would guess, and it’s only a guess that a large proportion of the population at some time in their lives experience these symptoms. So does that mean we are all depressed? Feeling low maybe, a little worried or anxious about something, but would you be concerned enough to visit your doctor thinking you are suffering with depression?

Whichever website you read, on as many pages you can bear to scroll through, the common denominator is that depression is a mental health condition. How a person behaves, how a person reacts to certain information and situations, what threshold a person has to cope in different situations, their thoughts, feelings and sense of well-being. Not only can these factors alter when a person is depressed, these factors can alter, resulting in depression. A condition that cannot be seen, a condition that is judged, a condition that people loosely use ‘oh, I am sooo depressed’. It is a condition that is very personal. Unique to the person that it is plaguing, treatment varies from person to person, antidepressants might suit one person but another might need a more holistic approach. Some don’t talk and suffer in silence. One thing for sure is that for those suffering with depression, hearing the words ‘snap out of it’, ‘you just need to do something to get over it’, ‘think more positively’ amongst other things, is not only ignorant it is very hurtful.

I am grieving, does that mean I am depressed? Initially probably not, as I succumbed to shock, numbness, anger and denial, you ride on the crest of a wave of grief, and as the wave breaks you come crashing down. At this point reality sets in, I am left to resume what my life is now, having to live life on life’s terms not my own. The pain of being left behind by someone I can’t live without. My natural reaction to grief persists, and will do until my last breath, but depression loiters, how can it not. Do I feel low? Yes. Do I have an aversion to going out or doing things? Yes. Do I feel hopeless, helpless and useless? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Yes. And the worst feeling of all, do I feel suicidal? Yes. These are some of the reasons I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Reluctant at first to diagnose any medical condition, after all, a mother is likely to react in such a way to losing their only child, but I have progressively sunken lower. I function, but emotionally and mentally I’m stuck in a washing machine on a never-ending spin cycle.

Do I suffer with anxiety? Yes. Do I suffer with PTSD? Yes. Do I suffer with insomnia? Yes. I have never been familiar with these conditions, let alone experience them. So this is new to me. Do people understand why? Yes. And I find myself thinking, well my baby died, my beautiful little boy died and I found him, the way I feel is totally justified. But why do I think this. I think this because unless people know what your story is they judge you. Stood behind me in the queue in the supermarket they whisper ‘you’d think she’d brush her hair before going out’, but what they don’t realise is that going out is a major feat on its own, being in an environment where there a smiling, happy toddlers, my mind constantly trying to process what William would be doing in that moment. Would he be running off up the aisle, giggling? Probably. Would the cashier lady comment about how cute he is? Definitely. Would I struggle to juggle my keys, purse, shopping bags and wriggly toddler all the way to the car? Absolutely. So no, I didn’t make sure my hair was neat, because when I got out the house the last thing I thought about was brushing my hair. I got in the car and looked in the rear view mirror at William’s empty car seat, and drove past his nursery on my way to the supermarket. The last thing I was thinking about was the way my hair looked.

My message here? Don’t judge people. When you bump in to someone in the street and they’re in a dream world and they don’t apologise. Don’t think they’re rude, that could have been me walking down the street after visiting my son in the chapel of rest. When you are sitting in a cafe having a coffee and the person on the table next to you is moody, and has a face like thunder. Don’t tell them to ‘smile love, it can’t be that bad’ that actually was me, I was waiting for my grief counsellor. And when you’re stood behind someone in the supermarket whose hair isn’t as neat as you’d expect and you think they’re scruffy. Don’t judge. That was me. If you knew why, would you think the same? Would you judge me as you had done 5 minutes earlier? No.

Depression in all its form’s, largely isn’t visible. Just because we don’t walk around on crutches with a limp doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering. Don’t make assumptions about people, be kind to people, be understanding and compassionate in all that you do. Life is too short in comparison to the length of death.

 

 

 

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Living with anxiety

“Nobody else will ever know the
strength of my love for you.
After all, you’re the only one
who knows what my heart
sounds like from the inside.

Acceptance of where I am on this insufferable journey has somewhat given me some breathing space to not expect any more from myself than where I am and what I’m thinking. It is normal to think and feel the way I do. The thoughts about not wanting to die but equally not wanting to go on without William to co-exist is a hard concept for anyone looking from the outside in to understand, but for me it is a personal battle that I enter into every morning that I wake up, again to the realisation that William is gone.

The only change since my last post is the noticeable difference of the symptomatic side effects of anxiety. I still sit here with heightened anxiety but the medication has lifted the lid on the intensity. Sometimes it’s not enough, I become more and more agitated and what ability I did have to string my thoughts together completely diminishes. This feeling is unsettling and leaves me in limbo. Whenever I come up against something difficult I’ve always taken a very logistical and pragmatic view on how to break it down and deal with it. However, I can’t make sense of this, how can you? How can you break something down and manage it when the foundations of your life have been destroyed.

All I am doing each day is tolerating life, tolerating each day. Not wanting to or having the desire to move forward without William. I kind of feel like moving forward with life or even each day is somehow leaving William behind, leaving behind what has happened. I can hear you all saying to me ‘but you carry him with you’, ‘he’s in your heart and in your mind’, ‘you’ll never leave William behind, he’ll be with you always’, and you are right but it’s not the same as William being here, to me it feels like a betrayal to move forwards, to get to the end of each day. I now know I am not going to be moving forward knowingly, not by choice but if I do it’ll be naturally without me knowing. It doesn’t help when people point out subtle changes in my mood or something that I might do, all this does is exaggerate that it’s a ‘marker’, a ‘sign’, but it creates more of an issue for me, pointing out that I have managed to cope better with something doesn’t allow me to move forward naturally without me knowing or noticing, but just highlights that it’s happening, and that is what I want to avoid completely. I don’t want to move forward.

To even begin to entertain the idea that there is a life without William, there is another element that my mind is fighting against. That is needing William’s permission, William’s permission that it is ‘ok’, ‘ok’ to function and exist without him here. This is something that William cannot possibly tell me himself but something that I need to ‘feel’ him say or ‘sense’ him telling me. At the moment I am not ready or willing to allow this to happen. So for now I will carry on tolerating life, tolerating each day.

One thing I am certain of now is that if I carry on with this life, the life I have been left without William, I will only ever manage to live with what has happened. I will not leave it behind me or move forward but learn how carry it with me through life. Like I carried William for 9 months, like I carried him in my arms for 382 days, and now like I am left to carry him, only in my heart.

Struggling to cope

It’s been over a week now since I wrote my last post. That week feels like a lifetime. Everyday feels like a lifetime. Every hour and every minute. As we slowly creep into February I have no concept of the day of the week, apart from Sundays, every Sunday I relive the day that shattered our lives. I didn’t realise that I could feel any worse than I did that day. But Sunday 25th easily took that crown. After being discharged from hospital on the 26th I was home. Thinking well I’ve been to rock bottom, but this last week showed me that there is no bouncing back from rock bottom, you just sit there.

As the week wore on I very quickly found out that I wasn’t able to manage. Struggling even to string my own thoughts together. Thursday my anxiety was virtually out of control. The constant tremors absolutely exhausting. The adrenalin surging through my whole body, it is so hard to explain but the only thing I can relate it to is when you have a near miss car crash and you get those intense butterflies in your stomach and it comes up your chest and into your throat, your heart pounds in your chest, your hands are clammy, a constant headache. Well, that’s where I’m at, all the time. Visibly noticeable to those around me, lifting a drink I could barely hold the glass without it shaking everywhere, gripping a pen virtually impossible. Not able to concentrate, not taking in what people were saying to me. I just had to go to bed. Hoping for some relief. As I lay there and close my eyes, I couldn’t even rest, my eyes shaking with the tremors. How does that work? Why does it happen? I have never in my life felt like this or experienced anything like it.

To say I slept that night would be a lie, laying there with every thought going through my head, What if I’d gone in to him earlier? What if I’d not listened to the doctors and taken him to hospital? Was he in pain? Running through every detail of finding him on the Sunday morning was only torturing myself but I had no control over what I was thinking. As I look at everyone around me I feel like I should be further ahead on this journey, like I should somehow be living with it better. But the fact of the matter is I’m not, I’m nowhere near, not even close, this last week has actually been the worst I have felt since losing William. I didn’t think I could ever feel as bad than the days immediately following the 14th of December but I was wrong. I no longer have that immediate shock, the complete numbness, when you still don’t think it’s real.

This last week has passed in a fog. Some days I haven’t even had the strength to get out of bed, the need to be with William has completely consumed me. William will never be coming back, so where does that leave me? Stuck here, in a life that I don’t want, a life that doesn’t include William. I have never in my life before felt so much despair, there are no words to describe or explain to you what this feeling is like. Can you imagine a time in your life or when something has happened where going to sleep and not waking up, that not living anymore, that taking your own life is the better option rather than going through another minute of this pain. This is where I’ve been.

Until you have been there (and I hope you never are) it’s very difficult to understand. Those that are around me don’t know how to help me, no-one can, no-one can fix this, no-one can bring William back. I’m having daily visits with the mental health team and psychiatrists, numerous visits to the doctors, therapy, and when necessary going to hospital. Not to mention the plethora of tablets I’m taking just to function. But this is my own battle, it has to be one that I want to win, and therein lies my problem. I know that at the end of the road there is a life for me, not a better one, not one I had planned, but a life. However, at the moment I am sat on the path next to the road in a bubble, not wanting that life, because I know that life is without William.

But for now I accept where I am. Accept that I am no further down the road than this. Accept that all these feelings and thoughts I am experiencing are normal, but I will not accept what has happened, that is something I will never do.

This is what it feels like to go to hell, but I’m not back yet.

Losing William is an indescribable journey of survival

The cruel reality of losing William is not just a daily struggle of grief, but the overwhelming burden of guilt of getting to live whilst William doesn’t. Why should I go out for a coffee, when William can’t come with me? Why should I go and breathe the sea air in, when William can’t come and sift the sand through his hands with me? My days are filled with ‘necessary’ trips, to the doctors, to CBT trauma therapy, to the hospital etc. However, I then found myself stood in Dunelm Mill on Wednesday. My therapist asked me to keep a diary, I didn’t have one, or a notepad. This would mean I would have to buy one by myself. So, after picking up the DVD of William’s service I pulled up outside Dunelm, got out the car, walked in and stood there. Taking in the people who were going about their browsing, not knowing the true pain of the person stood in front of them, trying my best to smile if people looked at me, and making sure I remembered to acknowledge people when they let me pass. I felt like I was pretending, and I was, just a performance.

It was a start however, going somewhere I didn’t have to go, or get asked to go, but chose to go. I wasn’t brave enough to go in the supermarket today, the supermarket where we’d take Grumpus down the toy aisle and marvel over his captivating laugh at Tickle Me Elmo. Doing all these things I know would not have even been an option 5 weeks ago, or even a week ago.

People say to me about acceptance or coming to terms with it, but these are 2 things that I will never do, how can you ever accept your child dying, especially so needlessly or come to terms with knowing that I will no longer wake up to Grumpus anymore. No, I will not do either of these things, and that is something I am certain of and I have made that decision, and I’m pleased that I have, because it is something I no longer need to fight to achieve. I am however, trying to live with it, and I know the fact I’m writing this now, shows I’m ‘living with it’. I am prepared for people to tell me that in time living with it should become easier. I hope so.

When I had my first assessment at therapy they asked me whether I felt suicidal. Did I, do I? My answer was and still is, no. I don’t want to take my own life, I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up, I don’t want what life has to offer me now, because it feels empty and so painful. However, the way I seem to work this through is that Grumpus didn’t get a choice, the one thing he wanted and I want for him the most is life, breath, a physical existence. However much physical pain I feel and however much I feel that life is not worth living, it would be totally selfish of me to take away the one thing that he needs and wants the most, and that is life.

So that is what I’m doing, surviving.

I don’t want William to be a memory

Yesterday I collected the DVD recording of William’s funeral. I didn’t take it out of my handbag, and it sat in the corner like an elephant in the room. Everyone had forgotten I had collected it, they were focused on the CBT trauma therapy I had been too just before. That suited me, when I arrived home, everyone wanted to know how I felt the CBT trauma therapy had gone and how I had been affected by it. No-one realised that the withdrawn silence was due to the DVD that was sat in my bag.

I toyed with the idea of playing the DVD, whether or when I could watch it, if at all. But I couldn’t stand it any longer, I didn’t know what emotions watching it would evoke, but the emotions that not watching it were evoking were becoming more and more difficult to hide. So, we watched it.

I was gone as soon as seeing ‘In memory of William Oscar Mead’ came onto the screen. Seeing my son’s name in flowers, seeing my son’s nickname in flowers and hearing the song we had chosen to walk in to.

Then we came in carrying William’s tiny white coffin. Knowing William’s little body was in there. I just looked at the TV, desperately wanted to jump into the screen, take William out of the coffin and cuddle him, hold him so close, breath him in, kiss his face, cry over him and love him, physically. The raw, painful reality of never seeing him again came flooding out. My tears the words my heart cannot say. At this moment in time, I would do anything, anything in this world to see William, even if it was in that tiny white coffin, to see his face, to feel his skin, to hold his hand and to feel his body close to mine.

I think i will have to watch the DVD several times, maybe more for me take in the readings, the poems, and the people. I can barely remember anything from that day, I can’t remember standing up and reading two poems or the letter I had written for my precious boy. “Being your Mummy and Daddy made our lives worthwhile, only YOU gave us that.” At that point i looked across at his coffin, emphasising the word ‘you’, maybe somewhere, subconsciously I wanted to make sure William heard me, but I think William heard it all.

The curtains closed and the song that led us out begun and I knew then I would never see William again. As I watched this on the DVD I relived that moment all over again, watching myself having to walk away was heart wrenching. Sobbing, the screen turned off and ‘In memory of William Oscar Mead’ appeared once more.

I don’t want William to be a memory.