Back here again. In the dark room. Behind a closed door. On the floor. My head in my hands. Trying to escape the noise.
The floor was strangely familiar. It didn’t feel that long ago that I sat here. Waiting to calm down. Escaping life. Opting out of my responsibilities. This time was different. There were no tears. I didn’t feel out of control. I didn’t picture knives and blood.
I just felt defeated.
Sapped of energy.
Exhausted by life.
And no one would know. Because I could truly say I was fine. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t suffocating. I wasn’t swirling in a whirlpool of chaos. I wasn’t ill. And I could laugh and smile and joke again.
But, here I was. Back on the bedroom floor. August 2022
Remember, remember the 4th of November! The day my month of hell began. The day my youngest started vomiting. Followed with 24 hours of not so much as a sip of water staying in her system. 5 days later, thinking we had all escaped, my eldest started. And combined with a nasty cough that woke us all, we spent the following week treating her with a nebulizer. No sooner had we stopped the nebulizer, the youngest returned to our bedroom floor with a bowl next to her. The next day, our eldest started with what looked like bites. The day after, many said it looked like chicken pox – it wasn’t. (It still hasn’t gone and no one knows what it is.) No less than 48 hours after, we were in the doctor’s rooms trying to sort out our youngest after two days of uncharacteristic vomiting. That night we burnt the midnight oil in casualty with a sick little girl hooked up to an IV line.
To say I have had enough would be an understatement! 6 weeks of no reprieve. I am done!
Not much can strike fear into me like sick children. And nothing terrifies me more than vomiting children! While I may sound somewhat dramatic, I really am not exaggerating. I lie in sheer terror. The anticipation tightens my chest. My heart races and makes me feel nauseous. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat.
But that’s not the worst part.
It’s the complete lack of maternal compassion I feel. The panic I feel about where it will happen; on what it will happen; how I will ever clean it and scourge every germ away – it frightens me. How long will it be before I can see people again? Will anyone else get it? How do I sanitise everything they touch and purge the germs? When will I wake up from the nightmare?
Do I feel sorry for them? I feel sorrier for myself. Selfish.
Four of us stood on the side of a busy highway stripping off soiled clothes and scrubbing a car seat. While I helped dig through suitcases for extra clothing, I saw my mom cradling my sick child.
It should have been me.
But it wasn’t.
Because I didn’t actually want to be near her. I couldn’t do it.
And that frightened me.
What was wrong with me? Where was the compassion? Did I have no maternal instinct? Was I just being a selfish human being? Why couldn’t I bring myself to hold her?
This sickening feeling would become a familiar one as the months rolled into years.
Why did I never want my children around me? Why did they bring me no joy? Why did I not ever want to pick them up or spend time with them?
Was it possible that motherhood, the dream I believed God had called me to, was not actually my calling in life?
It was all (apart from marriage) that I had ever lived for. My entire life, from as young as four had been on the path to motherhood and marriage. My dolls, although inanimate, I believed had feelings. They stayed in my room until high school in their cots. They were still a part of my life in Grade 8 even though I had to hide them away. The prayers I prayed from when I was 6 until I was 16 that my mom would fall pregnant again. The baby my mom lost in utero whose due date was marked in my diary for a decade after. The babies in the church I cradled. The babies I bathed. The babies that slept in my room when we babysat them overnight. The Sunday school classes I taught from primary school. The youth groups I led. The work experience in the maternity ward. The career I chose in teaching. The fact that I chose teaching because I knew I’d get holidays with my own children one day. The reason I chose preschool because my day would soon end before my own children’s school day did so I could make it in time to pick them up. The tears I cried longing to be a mother. The tears I cried when I fell pregnant. All my life, all my choices – literally all of it – was preparing me for the greatest calling of my life.
And then, C-section birth while hearing other mothers in labour. The painful, debilitating recovery. The exhaustion from feeding a prem baby every few hours. The colic. The screaming.
Then a reprieve and a joy.
Another pregnancy and feeling like I didn’t pay attention to the little one growing inside my belly. Not sure how would cope financially. But so excited.
The birth. The falling asleep after delivery and having no memory of seeing my daughter after birth. The watching as my older baby, still in nappies herself, tried to help herself when I could not. The colic. The screaming. The nights of co-sleeping I vowed I’d never do. My mom sitting through the night with her finger in my baby’s mouth so we could sleep.
Then, the darkness. The place that haunts me. The place that I wish upon no one. The pit where I fantasized about torn curtains, shattered plates, speeding cars and trees; and knives; and blood.
Those days of emptiness. Loneliness. Desperation. Anger. Despair. Darkness. Lots and lots of darkness. Numbing me. I wanted to feel. I longed to see blood. My own blood. Running down my legs.
Finally, I saw a doctor. The clouds parted for a little while and I was smacked with regret. And a grown up baby, whose early days I didn’t remember.
The clouds soon gathered again. The irrational temper made a glorious return, complete with feet stamping, door slamming, sheet scratching and screaming. Lots of screaming. I screamed at God in rage. I didn’t talk to Him. And when I did want to, I couldn’t because there were no words left. And the tears would have wracked my thinning frame if there were any more left to cry. I screamed at my little two-year old. I shut her inside. I shut her outside. I pushed the baby’s screeching mouth into my shoulder trying to smother the screams. I jumped high and hard while trying calm her, wanting to be rough, but knowing I couldn’t be. I dared to speak words I had thought but never verbalized – God take me away and give my husband and children someone who will be better for them.
I saw the doctor again. I came out with a higher drug dose.
COVID hit. My OCD spiraled. My conscience kept me away from my support system. My world darkened. My spiritual walk became rocky.
But my depression wasn’t the enemy anymore. COVID was.
But then, when restrictions began to ease and my support system was all around, life was dandy and fine.
But then, it wasn’t.
And I found myself at the kitchen sink, knuckles white from holding it so tightly. Because I knew that if I let go, I would pick up that knife. I found myself audibly trying to talk myself out of it. But I wanted to pick it up so badly that I lingered and couldn’t take my eyes off of it. When my husband came home, I ran outside and collapsed in a heap on the lawn as my body lurched in gutted sobs. I felt his arms wrap around me and tell me it was time to go back to the doctor.
The medication changed. And things got better as I started to see the world in colour for the first time in two years.
The year I resolved to bring change. The year my Business Instagram page would take a backseat so that my primary attention would be directed to my family. The year I would be that mom that I hadn’t been. The last year I had to live the dream that I had treasured in my heart for two decades.
But where was the motivation? Why was I waking up so lost and aimless? What was I fit for? What was I good at? What was I good for? Who was I if not a mother? Why did I still not want to play with my children?
Why did memories of my lovely childhood hurt? Why did I feel like I was a burden to others? Why were there no tears?
Maybe I just needed to feel purpose again. Maybe I needed a reason to get up. A motivation. But what was my calling? Who was I? Who was God?
A Kruger trip. Nausea. Panic. Realising severe anxiety accompanied every waking minute.
A friend who understood. A friend triggered by sick children. A friend on the same dose of the same medication. A friend who could be called not because my other close friends wouldn’t have come running, but a friend who had been in the hole I once was. A friend who I could support because I had been there. And my demon was behind me. So I could help her.
A new number on my phone. A psychologist. A professional I was resolute about never contacting in a professional capacity. A secret conversation that only a handful knew about. A conversation about medical aid. A thank-you-and-maybe-maybe-not-will-contact-you-again. I hope.
Taking photos. Opening Instagram and watching the cursor flash. No words. Discard post. Scroll Instagram. Again.
A meeting. A meeting where I felt that I would never be good at anything. A good conference that filled me with deep despair that I wasn’t good at anything.
A concert. My other dream realised. A real, in-person audience. Clapping for me. Was I good? Why did it feel so good to sing? Why was this high so giddy? When had I last been this happy?
THUD THUD THUD – the drumming of my internal rhythm pounding in my ear.
A reminder that I’m still alive.
Was this my last night? Should I hold my husband closer? Why was I, for a split second, thinking that it could be? Why did I sit down at the piano last night, only with the kitchen and staircase light filtering into the darkness, close my eyes and play one and then two haunting notes, holding them and listening to them reverberate in the body of wood? What made me linger over my sleeping children, fingers laced through their hair and breathe in their scent, teary at how I had failed them? Why do I do this from time to time? When I looked through a photo album discarded on a pile of clutter by my children and see their baby faces, why did my line of sight fog up? Why were the tears not filled with blissful happiness in remembrance the way their faces were frozen in a frame? Why did every memory hurt so much? Why did sunshine feel hollow? Why did a toy strewn bath not bring the overwhelming joy it should when I imagined my life cluttered with evidence of children?
When did decisions become hard again? What was so suffocating about the thought of making dinner or cleaning the bathroom? When were those things I felt physically sick at the thought about and not just suffer the usual procrastination to complete? When did I start walking away and closing doors again? Why wasn’t I crying? Isn’t that what I normally did? Why did I feel so detached? What was this feeling of having “had enough” accompanied with such calm? Why did it feel so strange? Why have I felt so aimless? So lost? When did I starting finding solice in social media? When did I start scrolling every time I panicked, felt sad, felt angry, felt depressed, felt overwhelmed…felt?
Lying awake and not falling asleep. Something I had never experienced. Before, sleeping to numb the pain. Now being able to sleep. Worrying. Dreaming macabre, vivid, violent dreams. Exhausted from restless sleep.
A conversation. A conversation 6 months too late. The word depression again. Relief. Heart-wrenching sobs. Broken.
Not wanting to wake up. Not wanting to get up. No more good days. No more joy. Despair. Darkness. Instagram. Escaping.
Six weeks of sick children. An appointment with a doctor. For me. For medicine. To stop the pain. To lift the darkness. To stop falling deeper into the pit that was starting to look so familiar.
And then, a doctor. Medication to suppress anxiety.
And a referral. To a psychologist.
How long I have wanted to write! But words have failed. They find me in my dreams. They appear as I fall asleep. So clear and so raw. But then when I wake, they’re gone. And I have to live another day. I don’t want to die. But I don’t know how to live. I want to talk to the Lord. And I do. But I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to open the box I’ve shoved everything into for fear that I’ll never be able to shut it again.
How strange that I can walk out of my front door and many would never know. How ironic that I can laugh and genuinely laugh or smile and really mean it, but come away with the thorn still deeply embedded in my side. How incongruent to have fun and thrive around others so they have no idea the daily battle I lose. How ironic that many will not be able to marry the two parts of me that seem so conflicting yet are true to who I really am.
These last few months have reminded me of a place I never wanted to see again. And, if I’m honest, I’ve revisited it a few times. While the experience has been slightly different and not as violent and self-harming as before, the thought of where I’d be without medication terrifies me.
I have been on new medication for 9 days. Some things have changed. And they’ve been bittersweet. I’ve seen what life could have been like the last few years and I have wept for those moments, stolen forever.
But there have been moments of healing too. The prayers that have stopped short of my lips, I have found myself praying. The thanks that I thought I was unable to offer, I have. And while I have wandered far away from God – still knowing to Him to be true but feeling unnerving doubt – I now know He can redeem all my lost moments. All my failings as a mother, wife, daughter and friend. All my “unforgivable” sins. All my regrets. All the worthlessness and despair.
He may not remove the thorn in my side. But may He use it for His glory. Because there must be a greater good in all of this.
While the enemy will kill, steal and destroy, God can redeem.
My faith is wobbly. My heart is unbelieving. The road ahead is long.
But I know that God can turn even the hardest heart to Him.
I know He has me in the palm of His hand.
And while I may wander, He will never let me go.
His grip is stronger than mine.
When I let go, He will catch me.Tags: anti-depressants, children, covid, depressed, depression, kids, medicated, medication, mom of girls, mommyhood, motherhood, parenting, parents, postnatal depression