I’m back in the eternal dilemma I’ve struggled with since having my second child. I know I’m (probably) depressed, but I don’t want to go back on anti-depressants. I’ve been on them once in my life, when I had a breakdown after three years in my first grown-up job. I needed them, as I wasn’t sleeping and could barely function. But they put me in a glorious bubble where the world couldn’t touch me. I left my job, my home, my friends, my guide unit, my family, and I barely felt it. No joy, no grief. And, when I came off them, I was introduced to the world of anxiety and panic attacks as an unexpected (as unknown at the time I guess) side effect. Since then I’ve been prescribed the same drug three times and each time I’ve carried the pack of pills home as a lifeline and refused to take them.
But now I’m spending more and more time in the dark place, where I am worthless, where I am a terrible mother who is damaging her children beyond redemption, where it makes perfect sense that they might be better off without me. Where I cry and cry and it never gets better. Or the rage builds, inflating like a balloon in my chest with every petty annoying thing the children do – every time they whine, or refuse to eat, or don’t listen, or ask and ask and ask, until I pop and the shouting starts.
The I Wasn’t a Good Mom letter that I included in The Parent I am and The One I Aspire To Be post has a whole heap of supportive comments underneath. But the one that stood out, when I re-read them this week, was the one which said your poor daughter, you need medication, she will remember these days and be scared for life by them. And it raised the endless debate that wars away in my brain.
Should I medicate?
Will it take away the extremes of temper and grief? Will I lose me or find me? What if the shouty ranting person is me? Or what if I realise I’m a hundred times better on medication, and I’ve been battling all these years – making the children’s life, hubbie’s life, my life awful – for nothing?
The bit that’s stopped me in the past is the part in the information leaflet that tells you it gets worse before it gets better. I’m not sure there’s any capacity for worse.
I remember, also, that last time I slept and slept. I don’t have that luxury now, who would run the house? Who would take the children to school and pick them up? What would I miss?
And then I realise there are whole chunks of the kids’ lives I don’t remember because of the sleep deprivation (did you know you only write the events of the day to your long term memory if you reach second-stage sleep? Like that ever happens in this house). So what difference would it make?
The biggest challenge is finding someone to talk it through with who understands. The last time I saw my GP she blamed everything tangible, refusing to accept that I might be depressed. She even suggested I send my husband in to ‘fix’ his snoring because clearly that was the cause of everything. A factor, occasionally, possibly, but hardly a major one. Might as well tell me to give up being a wife and mother completely, because husbands and kids cause sleep deprivation and therefore mood swings. That makes about as much sense as my sister’s doctor prescribing her prozac for PMT. my psychiatrist said it sounded like I was overwhelmed, rather than depressed, and I just needed to take more time for me. (I take half the week to do my writing, how much more would it take?)
It’s true that it’s got a lot worse since my daughter started school and I lost both my long nursery days – which gave me time to reset – and my freedom to manage our week as required. Quiet days at home to nurture, days out to recharge. Which terrifies me. I always thought it would get better, as the kids slept better, as my time became my own. The opposite is true: my time is so much more squeezed, my chores have increased, with extra ironing, packed lunches, assemblies, home work, and my self-doubt increases with every day nearer to adulthood my children get.
How many mothers need medication to survive the school run? It makes me feel selfish and pathetic. But every time my daughter sobs hysterically for no reason, I take the blame that she’s learning it from me, and it eats away at me. I remember my own mother battling with depression as I grew up. I read somewhere that children who grow up taking care of their parents end up missing out on their childhood and spend their grown life adrift and unable to connect. I could relate to it and it hurts me each time my son pats my shoulder and asks “Are you okay, Mummy?” as I sit sobbing. He’s three. It should be me comforting him, not the other way around.
Sigh. I wish life, or at least parenting came with an instruction manual. Or a crystal ball. Something, anything, to give you a hint about the right path to take. Until I find one, I guess I’ll muddle on through, getting it right and wrong and never knowing which is which.