Chapter 20 : If in Doubt Do Nowt!
Explaining Anxiety and depression is never easy. This maybe because as much as people suffering want you to understand, they don’t have the emotional capacity at that time to explain it to you. This is very often one of the problems. I know it affects everyone differently, and to more or lesser degrees, but most people that I have spoken to over the years, which have been treated for depression, have described experiencing some or all of these symptoms, or effects, at some time or another.
Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It is the fear of failure, but no motivation or urge to be productive. It is wanting your friends around you, but hating socialising. It is wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It is caring about everything, and then caring about nothing. It is feeling everything at once, and then feeling paralysingly numb.
When people hear that you have suffered, they seem almost shocked that they didn’t know.
- ‘You always seemed so upbeat’,
- ‘You’re always making jokes’
- ‘You’re one of the chirpiest people I know’
I’ve heard them all. They aren’t wrong though, and they haven’t missed the signs or anything. How could they see something that doesn’t want to be seen? They have seen me laugh, they have seen me use humour as a way to deal with the direst of situations, sometimes, it may even be a little inappropriate, but that is me, and that is how I deal with things that make me uncomfortable or sad. I make jokes.
When Lewis was sick, and he was lying in intensive care with little hope of recovery, there wasn’t a joke about dead or dying babies that I didn’t know. This wasn’t because I found my situation funny, I’m not an animal! I was very aware of everyone else’s feelings though. I needed my friends, and I needed respite from the situation. We would leave the hospital feeling fragile and tired, and decide that maybe a few hours with some friends and a drink would be a welcome distraction from what our lives were, day in, day out. A life that was desperate, frightening and totally overwhelming. It was unsustainable staying morose and sad all the time. We had to refill our batteries between visits to enable us to cope with what was thrown at us next! After over a year of trauma, trust me, you need respite. I know that some people with children that are reading this couldn’t imagine leaving the hospital if their baby was in such a bad way, but until you have walked a mile in the shoes of someone that has gone through it, for months and months and months, with life threatening issue after life threatening issue, you can’t judge. You can have an opinion that may differ, but it would be wrong, so don’t embarrass yourself by voicing it. After watching child after child, that you become attached to during their stay, watching them die, and wondering if you would be the next parents that would be taken to the small white room at the end of the ward to await the devastating news that your child didn’t make it. There are only so many times you can go through that without needing a break.
I will tell you more about that another time, but let me get back to my point.
I would worry about other people, and be very aware that they didn’t know how to approach us, didn’t know what to say, didn’t want to upset us by being insensitive, so were tentative around us. It was terrible. We wanted to relax, to forget our pain for a short while, to laugh for just an hour, but with people walking on eggshells around us, it was difficult. They didn’t want to cross the line by accident.
The way I found that made it better was to set the line myself. If I set it so far past what they could imagine, then they would relax, knowing that nothing they said was going to upset or offend us. Hence the reason I knew all of these terrible jokes. Don’t get me wrong, they were quite funny, but extremely unexpected from someone in our positions.
Despite everything going on, I know from this behaviour that at that time, even though we were going through the toughest of times, I wasn’t depressed. I was sad, I was upset and fragile, and every emotion that I had was totally justifiable, but I was not depressed. If I was depressed during this time, I wouldn’t have cared about how everyone else felt. I wouldn’t have craved the company of happy people, and I wouldn’t have found the humour helpful.
I am having days where I feel like it is lifting. I am happy and grateful; I think ahead and make plans in my head. Other days I know that it will be a long journey this time. I forgot my tablet for two days, but when I realised, I was actually relieved.
I take quite a lot of medication at the moment, not as much as when I arrived, but still a fair amount. I never forget my medication before bed; it is all built in to my bedtime rituals, and have been for many years. The morning is a little different though. I didn’t used to need anything in the morning, but now I take my anti-depressant. For two days, I totally forgot. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why it took me so long to put things together, but I had an emotional few days. I was unable to hold back the tears when hearing happy news, or sad news, or relaying good news, or when speaking to Penelope and feel overwhelmingly sad that I hadn’t seen her and Baby Boo for a while. The amount of uncontrollable emotion scared me when I had been doing so well, so when I realised that I had forgotten my tablets, the relief was great!
People are asking when I am going back to Spain, but I just can’t answer at the moment. I feel safe here at home, and am enjoying being with my family.
I am aware and am so grateful for the compromises they are making to have me home. I am hoping that I don’t outstay my welcome, but for today, I don’t want to leave. Tomorrow may be another story, and so it goes on. I will keep taking one day at a time, and when faced with a decision to make, I will follow the advice of a very wise Scouser who said ‘If in doubt, do nowt’.