Depression – what’s it like?

The recent news of a mother jumping to her death 10 days after her delivery shocked many mothers, bringing back memories of our own journey as new mums. Many have blogged about it, or shared about their own experience on social media. 

I personally have experienced what they called “baby blues” in the second month, postpartum. I don’t think I was depressed (coz I know what it actually feels like being depressed, but we will get there soon enough), but I was definitely resenting the very situation I was in. The total lack of sleep (as the baby was up every 1 hour, and it took another 45 mins to put her back to sleep), the “shortage” of breastmilk (or so I thought) with the constant negative input from the elders, the witching hours when baby would cry for no reason (not convinced it’s colic, as gripe water solved the problem in the end, after 3 weeks). I remember leaving the baby to cry in her cot after yelling at her to stop crying, shut her room door and went to our bedroom and shut the door as well. And screamed. And cried. And cursed. And hit myself. I needed to feel the physical pain as I was numbed from all the regret of having a baby. The life that I thought I’d lost. No more sleep-ins. No more traveling the world. No one told me about how hard it was going to be. The books I bought didn’t warn me about postnatal remorse. I didn’t sign up to be a demented mother resenting her own child. I went back to her room after one hour. And she was still crying. But she stopped eventually. And I stopped resenting eventually too. 

I suppose I had it easy. I was the lucky one I guess. Some mothers had it much worse. Probably lack of spousal support. Or too much negativity going on around her with family members spewing accusations that she’s not doing enough. That she’s just acting up. That she’s just being a drama queen. And it takes just one trigger to flip the switch. And she breaks. 

But you see, postnatal depression is not the main culprit here. The people surrounding the patients are. There are so many people out there suffering from depression, the colleague sitting across you. The lady who serves your coffee at your favorite coffee joint. The cab driver. The person sleeping next to you. And because you never bother to read up about depression and learn to pick up the signs, you’ll never know what to look out for in a person suffering from depression, and help that person heal. 

I suffered from depression back in my late-20s. I was stuck in a job I hated, the boss was sexually harassing me, and I couldn’t leave the job until I found another one (needed to support my family, don’t have a dad, remember?). So I cried every single day. For close to 6 months until I got a new job to move on to. The crying stopped. I should be feeling fine by now, but I wasn’t. I was perpetually shrouded in a “dark cloud”, looking fine on the outside, but feeling miserable on the inside. It was torturous to attend social events, even a small friends gathering would tear me inside as I dread meeting and hanging out with people. I would cry in the showers for no reason. I would hit myself just to feel something. I would wish to just disappear from the face of the earth. Imagining myself getting hit by the bus. Imagining slitting my wrists. Pondering over the bottle of sleeping pills at the pharmacy. But the next day, I’ll just pick myself up, and get ready for work. Did pretty well at work actually, bosses thought I was a very hardworking and commited employee, staying back during lunch hours to work instead of going out with colleagues. I needed to complete my work, that was my excuse. Yea, good excuse really. Met my KPIs, bosses real pleased. But no one knew the real reason. I was suffering. I needed to be on my own. 

But I knew myself better. This couldn’t be right. I can be picky with people, whom I hang out with and befriend. But there’s no way I can feel so low all the time, day and night, wishing to disappear. So I read. A lot. I researched on the web and read all I can about what I was going through. And I went to see a doctor and told him about my own prognosis. “Doctor, I think I have depression”. He agreed and prescribed me Paxil, a type of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) to manage my condition. 

It didn’t work immediately of course. It took time, and for a long while, I didn’t have any feelings at all.  I didn’t feel low anymore, neither do I feel excited or happy. I just felt flat. Like meh. Like whatever. But after a couple of months later, I started to function normally again. I didn’t feel like quitting life anymore. I could even joke with my mum and call my meds my “crazy pill”. My then boyfriend (who’s my husband now), didn’t know anything at all about depression. He didn’t read up about it nor made any effort to. I was the one who had to educate him about the illness. Thank God he listened and trusted what I told him (I mean, I could have been bullshitting him, and he would just believe me). And with the info I gave him, he stood by me and was patient with me on my road to recovery. A rather long road. Close to 7 years actually. Yea, depression don’t just leave you in a jiffy after you take your meds. It’s not the common cold, you know. LOL.

And I decided one day to stop the meds myself. Let’s try to do this, I told myself. Well, I failed. I went back on meds. But I never gave up on my hope to be meds-free. You know why? Because i want to rid my system of these horrid chemicals. Paxil causes complications for pregnant women, including the risk of serious birth defects. I may not have decided that I wanted children at that point (I was already married by then), but it takes 1 whole year to fully get rid of the poison from your bloodstream. So I had to do this for my future child (we decided to try for a baby 1.5 years after I was “clean”). And in those 7 years, no one knew. Bosses didn’t know. Colleagues and friends didn’t know. Why? Coz it was a taboo. What if they think you’re mentally incompetent for your job? How do you progress in your career? You must have had the devil in you which made one go “mad”. Or not praying enough which was why one is sick. It’s just hormonal imbalance, dear people of “faith”. Of course, I prayed. I prayed for a faster recovery. But just because recovery didn’t come sooner, it does not make me a person of lesser faith. 

Well, the moral of the story? Read up about the illness folks. It’s not so much a taboo these days thanks to the advent of social media. Everyone’s got their own struggles, so stop being judgmental and presumptuous. Don’t be a hypocrite and jump the gun accusing another person having a weaker faith. Shame on you. 

It’s a medical condition. Be aware of the symptoms and be there for the patient. Doesn’t matter what’s the trigger point. What matters is your continuous support and understanding, and your walk with the patient, no matter how long and arduous the walk is. 

And to all new mothers out there, you’re doing a great job by the very fact that you carried your child in your womb for close to 9 months, go through physical and emotional changes, caring for your child till this very day. Sleep or no sleep, we soldier on! Supermoms ftw! xoxo

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