I’m 24 years old and growing up in the 90s, depression just wasn’t a ‘thing’ I heard about. It was never, ever a topic of discussion. I never knew what depression was or that it even existed, let alone any other form of mental illness. I suppose I was only aware that you could be physically unwell.
When I was growing up I would have told everyone, and believed it, that I had a perfectly normal childhood. But as I got older, went to school and started mixing with other children I realised just how abnormal my childhood was. Even to this day I’m still finding out about things that I wasn’t aware of that take my memories away even more.
I now know that I put up with a lot of shit when I was little. I went through a lot of battles from an early age and always came through it, undamaged. I was lucky that it never affected me when I was younger but, boy, am I paying for it all now. Everything that happened that affected me in ways I once didn’t understand quickly caught up with me and took me out in one clean shot.
I have a bunch of other mental illnesses but today I’m going to just focus on the one; my depression. There is one point in my life that I can easily pin point as something that had a great part in me finally getting diagnosed with MDD – my Dad passing away. My Dad passed away from lung cancer in 2011 and I didn’t realise how much I was struggling with it until me and my partner were expecting our first baby in 2014.
When my Dad was ill I was 200-300 miles away at University and I did everything I could to push it to the back of my mind. I wouldn’t know how bad the state he was in for a few more years – partially because I locked it all out. I never took anything on board that I was told and only travelled down on the day of his death, after getting a call telling me that this was ‘it’.
When we all got to the hospital to see him after he had died and got into the room I immediately felt the difference in the room. My Dad wasn’t there anymore and he looked so different. In that moment I couldn’t help but think that this is all we become – something, a body, just lying there… forever. It wasn’t until then that I became terrified of death.
In typical ‘Kaiden style’, the day after the funeral I went back to University and only told two people what happened. I don’t often talk about things in my life while they are happening, if at all. I’m very much the kind of person who keeps it all hidden. Something massive happened in my life and I tried to pretend it didn’t and attempted to just get on with my life as before, without paying it a second thought. This is definitely the theme in my life. I run away and I run away a lot. But I’m also definitely not the type of person who can forgive or forget. I struggle to get over things and I would honestly say that I have never gotten over anything bad that’s happened in my life to date. I guess my way of coping with things that I cannot get over is to pretend it never happened. But after 24 years of doing this, I was a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off and watching everything crumble around me. And it chose the most important and special thing to happen to me to do so.
While Jamie and I were expecting our first baby, it seemed to unlock everything that was caged up inside my head. I was expecting my first baby and my mental health started to plummet incredibly quickly; but I would never realise something was wrong for another year or so when my partner would finally convince me and make me go to the doctors for some help – for our son and our relationship.
My fear of death controlled me throughout the entire time we were expecting and continued on after the birth. Every time I would fall asleep, I was terrified, as to me that’s the closest thing to death that we can experience while still alive. And I had to do it every single day. I couldn’t stop telling myself that one day I would be dead and gone. The idea of that petrified me and still does today. I had this for two years before we got pregnant with our first baby and it only got worse from then on.
I slowly became convinced that my unborn baby would die. At each milestone, during the pregnancy and after the birth, I was convinced that my baby would die before the next. I knew we were expecting but never actually thought I would be bringing a baby home with me. All the preparations of buying a cot, pushchair and clothes were just in case. I wanted to have our baby more than anything in the world but didn’t think I would be that lucky.
The birth of our baby wasn’t anything less than a traumatic one and I may write more in-depth about that another time. After our son was born I only got a one second glance at him before he was whisked away and a team rushed in. Seeing all those tubes, the oxygen mask and injections that they were stabbing my tiny little newborn with just scared me even more. In that moment I knew I was right all along. I lied there watching the team of nurses and doctors try to get him breathing for what seemed like hours. I was completely numb from what was happening. A few nurses tried to speak to me but even back then I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what was said to me – I was too busy waiting for my baby to die in front of me.
Over the next year I was just waiting for the day I would find my baby boy dead and it was the scariest thing I could imagine. The fear of my baby dying was the worst pain I could picture. When he was newborn I would never, ever leave him alone and wouldn’t leave his side unless someone else would take my place; because I didn’t want something to happen to him. I remember one time that I left him with my partner; Jamie, I went to the toilet and sat there for a little while thinking that I was never going to know what it was like to have a toddler.
I had this overwhelming fear that if I wasn’t the one who looked after him, someone else would do it all wrong. I just needed to be there 24/7 for him, to look after him and protect him from anything that could possibly happen. I hated it when others wanted to feed him, cuddle him, look after him or make a fuss of him in any way. I just wanted to scoop him up and never let him go. When it was bedtime, I wouldn’t sleep. Not until I was so exhausted that I just drifted off. I would just lie there, with my hand on my babies chest so I could feel it moving up and down. Jamie and I decided we would swap over every other night but when it was Jamie’s first night I couldn’t believe that he actually wanted to sleep instead of keeping an eye on our baby, so I took over. It seems mad to me now, but back then I really couldn’t understand why we would sleep when we needed to protect our baby boy and that he could die at any moment.
He was only eleven months old, perhaps younger, when people first started asking to have him for a day or even over night and it was my worse nightmare. They couldn’t have suggested anything worse. Jamie and I have had many disagreements over it. When we started letting people take him, I would be clock watching. He had a routine, certain ways of doing things and often speaks in his own way that only we fully understand. Everything that he’s used to, we always stuck to, and no matter how many times you tell someone how you do things and how your baby likes things to be; they may not and that terrified me.
Eventually, as the months went on I did sleep. But I still didn’t like anyone else looking after him and I had to be the one to do it because I was the only one who knew how to or could do it in the right way. This is still partially with me now, although I’m much better with my partner helping to get me through it.
I never thought I would be in the position where I could send him off to preschool to be cared for by others, let alone to be doing that almost every single day. I may still have a fair distance to go and have many other battles to get through, but I have come a long way. I’m starting to see my son for the little person he is becoming and not my fragile little baby who I had to protect.
My son, Joshua, deserves only the best parents and being the best I can for him is what gets me up each morning and keeps me going. Joshua is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, he’s kind, caring, intelligent and amazes me every single day and never fails to have everyone around him laughing. He’s my motivation and inspiration. I live for him. I hope one day that I can be the person and parent he needs and deserves.