I’m 24-years-old and I growing up in the ’90s, depression just wasn’t a ‘thing’ people spoke about. It was never, ever a topic discussed around me. I never knew that mental health was ‘a thing’ as such – I guess that I was only aware that you could be physically unwell.
Growing up, I believed that I had a perfectly normal childhood but once I started school and got older, I realised just how different my life was to my friends. Even to this day I am finding out little things I do, think or even eat isn’t something people do.
I now know that I put up with a lot when I was little. I went through a lot of battles from an early age and I always came through it, undamaged. I never considered that everything I was going through was potentially going to cause mental health problems. I know that if my children went through anything that I did, I would be concerned for how it would affect them. I’m lucky that things never seemed to affect me when I was younger – well, I guess they did, I just wasn’t over aware of it. Everything that affected me in ways that I didn’t understand eventually caught up on me and wiped me out in one.
I live with depression, PTSD and memory loss.
There was one time in my life that I can easily pin point as something that had a great role in me getting diagnosed with depression – my Dad passing away. My Dad passed away from lung cancer in 2011 and I didn’t realise just how much I was struggling with it until 2014, when I found out that we were expecting our first baby.
When my Dad was ill I was 250 miles away at university and I did everything I could to push it to the back of my mind. I wouldn’t know how much I was suffering for a few more years – I blocked it all out.
The day he died, I travelled home on the train and I made it home with just a couple hours spare before he passed. When I got to the hospital after he passed away, I will never forget what I felt in that room. I had an overwhelming feeling that all we become is that. A body, an empty vessel… forever. It wasn’t until then that I became fearful of death and it has taken over my life ever since.
Every night after, I have suffered with thoughts of death. As I drift off to sleep, I panic and jump awake. I’m filled with thoughts that one day I will be nailed in a coffin, buried in the ground, everything will be black and I will become nothing. I will not exist.
The day after my funeral, I went back to university and only told two people why I had gone home for a short while. I’m the kind of person who keeps things hidden, because it’s how I like to think I deal with it but after 24 years, I was now a ticking time bomb. A bomb that exploded after I had my first baby.
When we were expecting our first baby, it seemed to unlock everything inside of me, everything that I had caged in my mind. I was expecting my first baby, I should have been the happiest I had ever been but it was the start of my mental health plummeting. I’m not too sure why it happened when it did, but I guess it needed to happen one day.
My fear of death controlled me and ruined the first year of being a family of 3. I not only had anxiety around death for me, but I also became convinced that my baby would die. I was convinced that our baby would be stillborn and that I would never get to bring my baby home. When I prepared for the arrival by buying a cot, pushchair and everything else we needed, I did ‘just in case’ but I didn’t think that I would be that lucky.
The birth of our baby was traumatic and it ended with me waiting for the team to announce that my baby had died at birth. Over the next year I was waiting for the day I would find my baby boy dead and it was the scariest time of my life. I was convinced that unless I was looking out for him, he would die, and everything anyone else did was wrong – whether it was the way they held him, fed him or played with him; it was wrong and could hurt him.
I remember once I refused to go to the toilet until Jamie promised me that he would sit next to our baby and literally not take his eye off of him for a second; just the way I did. I hated the idea of anyone else holding him and I dreaded visitors because I knew they would ask for a cuddle. I wanted nothing more than to scoop him up and never let him go.
When it was bedtime, I wouldn’t sleep until I collapsed from exhaustion. But not because I wanted to keep an eye on him but because I forgot that sleep existed. I used to get angry at Jamie for sleeping because sleep just wasn’t ‘a thing’ people did. How could we shut off when we have a baby? I just didn’t understand it.
Our baby was 11 months old, maybe a bit younger, when people started asking to take him out for the day or have him sleep over and it was my worst nightmare. Jamie and I had many disagreements over it. It terrified me that they may not do things in the same way I did.
Eventually, as the months went on I began sleeping and I started being okay with leaving him with other people. I still struggle with it, but I allow it to happen. I never thought that I would be able to send him to preschool to be cared for by others, let alone doing it almost every single day. It feels like a huge achievement.
Joshua deserves only the best and I’m trying to be the best I can for him. He is the reason I get up in the morning, my motivation and inspiration. I live and breathe for him. I hope one day, I can be the parent he needs and deserves, but for now… one step at a time.