So how bad was I? This was not my opening question to my husband when we went on a walk to discuss my PTSD and the loss of our child. My first questions were definitely more subtle in face of him suddenly having ‘forgotten’ that we were supposed to have a chat about it. To be fair if I were in his shoes, I would have tried to forget as well. I would have gone straight for the Ivinghoe beacon and avoid a chat at all cost, even though said wife is stubborn and would not let you get away with it.
I have come to realise that terms like depression, and especially PTSD, cover a whole spectrum of conditions. It is not a case of comparing grief and pain, but accepting that every trauma is different, and therefore every reaction is different. Except for us. We had exactly the same experience, at the same time, in the same context and yet we reacted radically differently.
In answer to my first question, it was bad, really bad. I wanted to leave him and the kids. In all honesty, if I go back to that time, I was not looking to break up or get a divorce, I wanted a divorce from my own life, and just not be that Mum who lost her son. But I can see that from his point of view, him on his own with our two young children, the future did not look good. In my defence, I genuinely felt that they would have been better off without me.
So going back to the walk, it was muddy, I had the wrong footwear, it was so windy, it was going well. Actually it was great. We were at the Ashridge Estate, and exploring somewhere new in the middle of the countryside, half an hour down the road from us. It was only the two of us, and this does not happen often. And yet all I wanted to do is talk about my depression – it is part of my process, and my way to move forward.
Let me really honest, I had no idea how depressed I was. And in fact until the psychiatrist gave me my diagnosis I knew that I was not well, but I did not feel that bad. I could function after all. And even now, it is quite unclear how I was, and hard to remember. I was not present at all. I was elsewhere, where this had not happened. Today, I do still get overwhelmed, and maybe anxious at time. I do have mood swings, Marc kept pointing this out, but I have a social life, I do not hide from people. and can even write this blog without crying.
We talked about medication, as this is something I felt quite strongly against. I did not consult him when I decided not to take any drugs. He thought it might have helped me in the short-term but in the long term, like me, he is worried about me getting dependent on them. We talked about our decision of having another baby. In the short-term I suffered, from PTSD and post-natal depression, at the same time, if that is possible. I nearly cried when he told me that he picked up loads of leaflets on post-natal depression at the hospital. I had it with each of my children. He knew better than I did what to expect.
How does he think I helped myself? Stop being a vegan came into the conversation, not being pregnant (doh) as well – I may have not have my hormonal balance back now. therapy with Louise. Starting to talk about depression. Of course the fact that Louise is now 2 years has helped a lot. I found it really hard until she was 10 months, I used to stop the car every 5 minutes and be up all night to check if she was breathing. I did that with the boys as well, but I was never obsessive about it.
How do I know I am better? I can see a future here with him with my kids. I can feel again. I feel emotions seeing the beautiful scenery around me, I am affecting my other people’s issues. My heart has opened up again. I have been numb for so long that it is a surprise every time.
But why did he not succumb to depression. We lost our child, this made me so angry. His response is simple. If I was depressed, and he was going to be depressed, who was going to look after me, look after Luc and Louise. He did not have time to get depressed. I got there before him.
We have a long way to go to move forward with our lives. Every day Luc is asking trickier and trickier questions, today we ended up talking about the cemetery. He did not come to the funeral and did not know about it. We take his questions one by one, knowing that Louise will have hers as well. Did we want her? Did we plan to have her? It is probably a whole other blog post to be written at some point.
What is next? I will be talking to friends who have experiences of mental health issues directly or indirectly. If you are starting opening up about your own issues, people respond and share their stories as well, and you find that this is not an abstract concept. A lot of people are affected, and so are your friends. And sometimes you just need to be there to ask them to go on a walk with you.