I haven’t had a chance to write anything for a while now primarily because I’ve been so fucking tired. And, also, because there’s no time to do anything other than baby stuff. I’m not complaining about that believe me. I’m just saying; the idea of being able to do things that are not baby related when your baby sleeps or plays is near impossible especially as they grow and you end up needing to entertain them more… and more.
The extra entertaining part isn’t a bad thing at all though. It keeps us busy and it’s nice to see my little one respond with smiles and babbles and hugs – those things alone make the hard stuff, that 95% shit stuff I spoke about earlier, worth it.
The PND has been there, it’s always there, hanging around like a low storm cloud on an otherwise sunny day. Some days the sadness is worse than others, those are the days when it feels like the air has been sucked out from the world around me. It’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to think, it’s hard to eat and to sleep. Existing itself is a chore. Then, just as quickly as that wave hits, the pain disperses and, just like Plath explained, the Bell Jar is lifted just a touch and I can breathe again.
I know I bang on an awful lot about mental illness but there’s a good reason for it. It’s only been recently, in the last five years or so, that I’ve felt confident and comfortable enough to be honest about my own illness. For years I suffered in silence (God I HATE clinches but I’m struggling to remember what year it is at the moment thanks to baby brain so that will have to do), ashamed of how I felt and terrified of how others would treat and think of me if I revealed I wasn’t perfectly put together.
It was only after I started reading people like Plath and Anne Sexton and, more recently, \Lena Dunham, who were so open and candid about their struggles that I realised I was depriving myself of a very unique resource – my own authenticity.
They were candid and so open about their pain. It gave their work a kind of mystical power. That deep, dark place they went to isn’t accessible to everyone. And, instead of hiding and denying it, they embraced it and explored it. They tried to understand it. That’s what I wanted to do.
Now, I want my little girl to be able to do the same if she too suffers from any kind of mental illness. I don’t want her to feel powerless beneath its stifling sadness. I want her to know it’s OK to speak out.
This all came to a head this week after I suffered one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had. I’d been sick all day with a stomach bug and went to the doctor to get a drug that’s supposed to stop the nausea. Only problem is in the past I had a negative reaction from one of the most commonly used anti-nausea drugs. I’m talking a really, really bad reaction. The kind of reaction that saw me leap out of the hospital bed and try to run out of the ward (spoiler alert: everything turned out fine). Anyway, I told the doctor that but she didn’t believe me and decided to give me said drug. I went home. Fifteen minutes passed. Then, I exploded. All panic, all adrenalin. My husband took me back to the doctor to see what she could do (if anything). After taking me into a room to try and “calm me down” she told me: “Control yourself. You have a young daughter now”.
The rest is a blur. I know I spent the rest of the time walking around the room shaking and crying and telling the doctor I was dying. I eventually walked out with my husband in tow.
The experience was so traumatic that I’m still trying to escape the horrific mental hangover it produced. Along with that I’m still trying to process the total and absolute callousness of the doctor’s treatment.
But that wasn’t the only insensitive incident that week. After explaining what happened to someone they decided to offer the sage advice to “get off the medication as it can become addictive” and to “exercise more” (wonderful advice for a recovering anorexic – which they knew I was) and “go to church”. Yes, I’m serious.
Look, I get it. Some people don’t know what it feels like to have a mental illness and that’s fine. But I don’t understand what it feels like to break my leg and yet I’ve still got empathy for those that have.
Comments like these are damaging and downright cruel. People who are suffering from a mental illness are usually a destructive mess of self-hatred and guilt. Telling them that the reason they’re sick is because they are not doing enough of “something” adds fuel to the fire. They’re trying, my God are they trying. Don’t think for a second they haven’t tried every fucking available option out there. Including God and exercise.
(A friend jokingly recommended I try exercising IN church. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong)
So can we stop trying to pretend mental illness is anything but just that, an illness? Can we stop trying to pretend depression has something to do with the sufferer’s character or their disposition? Can we stop pretending there are quick fixes out there? Can we just see it for what it is – an illness. A very real illness that, with proper treatment, is totally and completely manageable. Oh, and can we start to give those who are suffering and coping and dealing with it a little bit of credit? Let’s start being a bit kinder, a bit gentler and a little bit more empathetic. It might even do those who aren’t suffering a world of good as well.