LOVE, MARRIAGE, BABY...AND THEN A MENTAL BREAKDOWN
Jon and I got together under tricky circumstances, we broke up 2 relationships to be together, and we faced severe backlash from the people we left behind. We hauled up in my little cottage in a small village and hunkered down until it all blew over...that took some time.
We were married 4 months when we found out we were pregnant with our son, we had been trying for a year and had suffered 2 miscarriages.
The pregnancy was all ok, we had regular check ups and scans as I was under a consultant but I couldn't help feeling anxious as I just couldn't believe I was pregnant and we were getting a baby something we longed for! The labour was 60 hours of 'effin hell!! I refused drugs as I wanted to be "active and natural", but he was stuck, it was shoulder dysplasia and no amount of pushing was gonna get that bubba out, so he was delivered by forceps, not breathing until 60 seconds and scaring the flippin' life out of us, but he was here battered and bruised and pink and sticky and beautiful...our world, our Elias.
Well, new parenting hit us like a freakin' freight train right between the eyeballs, I didn't make enough time for just baby and me, or getting used to feeding, (Elias was born 22nd dec and we were out of hospital on Christmas Eve night) some family came round for xmas (YUP!!!)....then the in slew of visitors..so what with me unable to say no, meant that 2 days later my son had lost weight more than the expected and I was under feeding him, I spent days trying to make it work and I just wasn't producing enough milk despite being constantly told there was no such thing, I made a choice to feed my son with the much contemptible Formula. Elias thrived and put on weight and all was well....except the lack of sleep, forgetting to bath him, feeling like a whale, fearing the nights etc etc bladda bladda.
Jon and I muddled through, and 18 months later, I was back to work and had been for nearly a year, and as all mothers do, I was trying to be the best mum & wife I can be. However, after a drunken night out at a friends wedding, the next morning Jon woke up unable to sit up without being sick, he had slurred speech, at first we put it down to a hangover from the depths of hell, so I went out picked up Elias from the in-laws went about my day and let him sleep it off, he was in bed all day and that evening he was no better. I rang NHS direct and they asked question and told me to monitor him overnight, suspecting possible alcohol poisoning, the next day he was worse, he couldn't open his eyes, move or speak, so I called an ambulance. He was admitted to a stroke unit at fist with doctors baffled about what was wrong with him, it took over a week to find out he had a condition called cerebellum ataxia, a virus had attacked the cerebellum area of his brain stopping his co-ordination and speech...he needed weeks of physio and speech therapy and was sent to a specialist unit for treatment.
All the while I was coping with an 18 month old, my job and studying for accountancy exams. My family live miles away, his family helped, but there were tensions at times because I was calling the shots (which didn't go down well) I had taken over decisions in view of what was best for Jon and his recovery, I put my foot down in a strong but diplomatic way and worked on getting Jon through his therapy, he wanted to give up, he had lost over 2 stone and didn't want to try, but I made him, I quizzed him with crosswords to make him talk more, made him sit up in bed when he was slumping, encouraged him to eat, took him out in the wheelchair to feel the sun on his face, at times we argued and I walked out, but always I was there for him, willing him to persevere.
8 weeks later, he was out of hospital, able to talk again, no longer dizzy, back to his normal weight and very nearly walking unaided...this stage of recovery was miraculous, we were so happy to have him home, but now it was down to me to care for him through his final stage recovery.
It was tough for him, but after a few more weeks, Jon was better, fully better and he went back to work!
But we soon realised our relationship was damaged, Jon had become cold and unkind towards me. Doctors had confirmed he didn't have any long term damage, but it was slowly realised he had some PTSD, he refused to go to therapy, and after a really difficult Christmas we broke up on our 3rd wedding anniversary, he told me he didn't love me anymore, and so I told him to leave.
I was determined I had done my best for him, and that I was fine without him, albeit with a broken heart....I loved him.
He wanted to come back after a week saying he was wrong and he did love me but I told him I didn't want to just go back to where we were, i wanted him to prove that he meant it, I urged him to get therapy. By now I felt completely broken hearted, I had cared for him, honoured every vow I made to him. I didn't have my family close and I was lonely...I struggled on as a single mum for a bit. Jon thought he could push away all that challenged him in life, and when I said "fair enough go then" I had called his bluff, he was lost without us...I made him sweat for a bit, and he came back home after starting therapy and working through his problems, and he has worked hard on our marriage ever since, and is more loving and thoughtful than ever before.
But sadly it was all too late for me, It was as if my brain had given a big sigh after all the years of being strong and "I can cope with whatever" bravado, and it had cracked like a fractured egg.
This paired with some bad things happening to a few close friends of mine, I just couldn't cope inside. I was fine as a mum, I could mum with my eyes closed, my love for Elias was unbreakable and he was and always is my priority, he was what I was living for...but I couldn't self-care...I fixated on the bad, felt a nagging sense of doom everyday, I worried, agonised and felt lower and lower each day. I took on everyone's problems, and worried about them. I looked too far into things.
I wasn't that person normally, I was positive, a "do'er", strong as an ox and kept trying to pretend I still was....but this wasn't the truth. If the slightest thing happened I would start to shake, panic and go into breakdown mode but try to hide it from anyone seeing. This went on for some time. I couldn't cope with watching anything remotely perilous on tv, and stuck to whimsical comedy programs on repeat to escape my brain demons. If I read anything in the media that caused me worry, I would obsess over it and stay awake picking it to pieces worrying if it would happen to me/us/friends/family....it was destroying my life.
Jon was so great when I finally told him, he listened to me when I said I felt my brain was broken, he took me seriously and told me to see a doctor and offered his full support. I was avoiding this as I knew they would suggest i take meds, and I had always feared any medication....believing what cured one thing would cause another.
So one day I plucked up the courage and made the appointment, the doctor took me through the typical "do you have depression?" tick list, on a scale of 1- 10 and all that...and I came out as having severe anxiety and moderate depression. I was put on Citalopram, a mild dose to begin with and then he upped it, the stigma of meds melted away for me, and I realised that I could function just that bit better each day with the help of these tiny little tablets.
10 months on, and I can now say I haven't had a "bad day" for a long time. I can plan without worrying about the future and impending doom and I can look forward to things. I still haven't opened up about this to many, choosing only to tell my mum and sister, I do feel anxiety isn't fully understood by some people and I didn't want to deal with explaining my condition to all and sundry...so this is kind of a big deal getting it all out like this!
My next step is to start some therapy and look at coming off the meds, I feel I am ready to face my issues full on and work through it. With the added help of exercise and relaxation techniques.
I still struggle with self-doubt, after the man you love tells you he doesn't love you and picks you to pieces, despite all the sorry's and I loves you's, fixing the marriage doesn't mean that I'M fully fixed, I still remember how it felt to be taken down by the person I love. I find concentrating on self-care hard, I realise the importance, but there is never enough hours in the day/days in the week etc etc...but I am me again.....Slightly broken, mostly mended, silly old me.
We have just celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary, and we had fun, but I did remember our 3rd anniversary at times, I remembered the "i don't think I love you anymore" but it was a quieter whisper this time....he's here, he is loving me, and we are changing....its bloody tough being an adult and I don't think we knew how to "adult" before, but when life hits you with the brown smelly stuff, I think there's no choice you can face it head on, and if that's your bag go for it good for you, but facing it can also involve admitting you need help...be it meds, therapy, meditation, yoga...whatever it is, asking for help is the first step to showing your strength.
Life eh, bl00dy life!
Written by Rebecca Hale
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.