Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.


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Trauma, depression and children.

Thinking back, in conversation with others, about the phases my eldest has gone through, has spurred on a serious whirlwind style re-cap of the last five years since I became a mother.

At first, I was seeing it all in a self-centred way. Phrasing it like I was a victim (although sometimes it did feel that way, I fully admit it was/is a self absorbed, immature kind of way). How I labelled her third year the traumatising threes. Then I’d go on and think about how I did not even have those fantastic fours which was the pep talk to get me through those threes.

You’d swear she was a tyrant. Which she wasn’t. She was normal.

These days, I see snippets of who she is becoming and she is just so wholly beautiful my heart swells. She is nearly 5.5 now. Still whinge-y and wild but I’m so proud of her. She has come a long way, through social anxiety, intense shyness and of course, this tiny little person has lived through her mothers depression. A trauma of its own.

And it is this sudden realisation where I stop in my tracks. A big dead heavy STOP and my breath sucks in deep and I hold it for a long moment; only for it to slowly stutter out of my lungs as if there were clumps of earth in my trachea. The kitchen tears away from my psyche and suddenly I’m standing out on a dirt road in a bland desert. The twisted crunch of dry hard stones under my boots has a grating echo vibrating through my body. The air is hot and dry, suffocating. There is no wind. No sound. No leaves rustling. An empty void giving me the space for this realisation to take hold.

 

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She is here five years and I was severely depressed for the first 2 years of her life and then (milder, thankfully) again after I had her sister.

There I was. So deeply stuck in my own crippling, heavy, world of depression that I never even took stock to measure how this little one was suffering too. I was so focused on my own surviving that I disassociated from hers.

Imagine coming into this world to a mother who fights daily, those thoughts that are trying to take her out of it.

I only heard it there recently, for the first time, a new narrator in my head.

It said ‘I want to be alive’.

What a smack that was. To hear, for the first time in… as long as I can remember, a new inner voice. One that actually wants to be alive.

That is intense, I know. In recent months I’ve been working to find the root of this and it seems to all fall back on the car accident I was in when I was ten. I had what some might call a near death experience. Or, well, a death experience. I just remember being sucked back into my mind and waking up, instantly alert, to give people my home phone number.

A fearful memory that subsequently has led me to teach my eldest my phone number, back when she was just aged three.

It’s since then that I’ve had this overriding feeling. Was it fear? Is that what suffocated my will to live? By live I mean to live, not just be alive. I’ve mastered staying alive through depression. I have never shared this aspect of depression with you before. That way of thinking lives on the shameful side of the depressive spectrum.

Really though, what I really came back with, was premature self consciousness. Self consciousness and an immature mind do not live well together; and I think that is what they mean when they say, ‘let kids be kids’. Leave them in their ignorance, for that is peace. I lost that peace, violently, when I was ten.

There are worse traumas; war, abuse, grief. So in one way I struck it lucky. On the other side of that coin, though, it was left for a long time because it was easy to dismiss once the physical healing took place. I never looked at it as a trauma. It was just something that happened. Once my physical body recovered and I started, as a coping mechanism, living as if a chameleon, it was easy to forget the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma of the experience. It didn’t help that I never verbalised it. How could I? I came back into my body in survival mode. I didn’t trust life. I didn’t trust myself. I had lost faith. Everyone around me was clueless because my coping method is silence. Pretend everything is under control. Blend in.

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The voice that says “I want to be alive” does not mean that I have been saying that I want to die all this time (although there have been times, during my darkest hours). I’ve just never wanted to live. It was like, staying alive was a battle enough, a burden. To actually LIVE always seemed out of reach and much of my living has revolved around the quest to be healed.

Finding the originating factor of the depression has been a blessing. I’ve been able to see that before that time, the accident, my hazy memories are happy, content and easy going. That who I was before the accident was a settled, secure child; well protected, loved and supported.

It is easy to blend in through childhood and adolescence because you’re busy. You’re busy being directed into adulthood by guiding hands. It is only when you become an adult that the shit hits the fan because, well, you are alone. No matter how much support you have, you are alone when navigating your inner world. Until then, you’ve been told what to think, what to feel or, more aptly, what not to feel; and what to be.

So there I was, lost in my inner world while this little one went on about her traumatising threes, ferocious fours and so on. Being born onto a depressive is a trauma. It is not war, or abuse or grief. Although, maybe grief lives there at times, especially in more severe lifelong cases.

They have a right to be angry, or insecure. Or both. It’s a good thing. When they stand up and fight. When they moan, scream and whine. It means they’re safe. They know they are loved. Coming from my perspective, it is the silence that is worrisome. Silence comes from fear.

 It is a natural process, those terrible twos, threes, fours, fives and beyond.

There is a whole person evolving inside this tiny being, trauma or not.

It is precious.

I am truly grateful for the honour to bear witness to it,

and to live for it too.

 

 


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Every depression is valid

Sometimes it’s acute.

Sometimes it’s chronic.

Sometimes it’s severe.

Sometimes it’s mild.

Sometimes it’s just depression.

Sometimes it’s depression and anxiety and paranoia and ocd

maybe mania alternating with severe lethargy,

or suicidal ideation

or suicidal

and millions of other symptoms that there are no words for,

that have to be labelled as a condition beyond depression.

Sometimes it’s just depression.

Sometimes you can get out of bed, strap a smile on your face and nobody,

NOBODY, can guess what you are hiding.

Sometimes you just can’t hide it.

Or get out of bed.

Sometimes you’re nuts.

Sometimes you’re sane.

Sometimes you can’t control yourself.

Sometimes you can’t stop controlling yourself.

Sometimes you have it once.

Other times it doesn’t go away and is a chronic illness, you need to manage.

Depression is a wide, infinite, spectrum.

Every single experience is unique.

It’s genes, it’s receptors, it’s environment, it’s lifestyle, it’s trauma, or, it just is what it is.

No matter how severe, or mild it is,

whether you use prescriptions or exercise or counselling,

or everything.

Or nothing.

EVERY depression is valid.

 

 

My Random Musings


19 Comments

Wave Riding (when depression ends)

It’s no secret that life is tidal.

Up and down, back and forth.

Always moving, sometimes crashing.

Some of us handle it better than others.

Some are riding bigger waves.

But we’ve all had to learn to ride them.

Some are natural born wave-riders.

Others are swallowing buckets of salt water and barely reaching the surface for air.

Magnificents were born deep under the water but found their way out and won life over.

Then there were those of us who were born wave-riders but trauma set us back.

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That is me. I was born upright, skimming those waves on fearless feet.

But I got hit.

Literally.

***************

By a car.

When I was ten.

I left my body.

I came back into it.

Changed.

Fearful. With a hole inside of me.

When I recovered, I built myself a ship. So I could ride the waves of life, protected.

Although I was protected behind this hard steel shell. I was dry.

This ship floated from destination to destination,

I stayed dry while I watched others surf, and fall.

Then surf and thrive.

Inspired, I might have dived back in again.

Only to quickly swim back to ship because I’ve forgotten how.

Then after a while, you realise your life is stuck.

There you are, sitting on your empty ship, listening to the ominous creeks,

trying to remember,

when you used to be wet,

and alive.

So you work on a way to dive back in.

You tie a rope around your waist and dive in, only to pull yourself back up.

Unfinished business.

You keep trying. Waiting.

Waiting for the clouds to lift.

You experiment with chemistry to see if they’ll go away.

All kinds of tricks.

Everything. You try everything.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, you find the formula.

Sometimes there is no formula but you have to find a way to just ride the storms.

Bring your crazy to the ocean because those clouds are going nowhere.

****************

When the depression lifts and you feel like your real self again…

It’s magic.

I’m ready to cut that rope and dive in.

To clear, fresh moments and cloudy aspirations.

Coming up for simple, deep breaths, for no reason.

Not to relax or unwind or to become mindful.

Just me right there, breathing that air, with no need for a reason.

Or an explanation.

Or a purpose.

Just being.

***************

Of course, I have to start from the beginning.

I have to relearn everything- joy, peace, survival.

There I am, in the deep with unborn souls, babies, kids and the plenty of adults who,

like me,

delayed.

For whatever reason.

My arms are weak but they keep going. Once I get afloat I’ll find it.

My wave.

And I’ll f*cking own it.

You will see me soon, at the shore, and we will ride alongside one another.

And I’ll realise that there is room for me on this Earth.

I have a place.

Then we’ll meet on the beach, light a fire, laugh.

We’ll look at the stars,

and I will feel the universe in my belly,

again.

And for the first time, in a long time,

I will want to be alive.

***************

Radical Face: Welcome Home

 


25 Comments

Depression is not Dirty Laundry

I find it incredible, the reactions I receive from some folk after I have written about depression or shared posts about depression on my Facebook page.

For the most part, friends or loved ones might mention, the next time they see me, that they read it and ask how I am doing. Nothing huge. No big deal. Just a gentle reminder that they care for me.

Some might say nothing at all- and that is perfectly OK too as they might not have anything to say about it, or might just not know what to say. But they acknowledge it in other ways through simple acts of kindness.

Some might be uncomfortable letting me know that they read my blog, which I understand.

Very occasionally, I find a small number of people change.They may be hostile or passive aggressive- I don’t know what airing my depression triggers in them. Embarrassment? Are they embarrassed that someone else might read or know about it? About me? Some may post on Facebook about how people should just get on with it or how we all choose to create our own happiness. The folk who react like this are minuscule (and of course they may actually not be reacting to me, because, I know it’s not all about me), but I need to be clear when I say this:

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I don’t care for attention. I don’t care for pity. Let me tell you now, I would much rather FEEL the happiness and joy that is in my head.

And although I cannot always FEEL my joy and although, sometimes, there is a chemical cloud suffocating my joy, I will never stop talking about it.

Why?

Because there are people out there who suffer in silence. People who have depression and don’t even realise they have depression. People who end up causing serious harm to themselves at this time of year. People who commit suicide just to get away from the pain that many people simply cannot fathom to exist. But it does.

Why do I risk being seen as a person looking for attention, or airing their dirty laundry or simply not behaving the way you want me to behave?

Because I CARE about those suffering in silence. I want them to know they are not alone. I want them to know that although I may not be capable of empathising with the depths their depression takes them, I can say to them that they are not alone, that it is nothing to be ashamed of and that even if there are a few incredibly stubbornly ignorant people out there who seem to think depression is something you choose, I understand.

And I have hope. I have hope that one day people will feel brave enough to own it, and find ways to pull themselves out of the gutter or to even just survive while they are down there. I have hope that one day people who have never experienced depression will see it as yet another physical illness- because it is.

It is physical. It is debilitating. It is the loneliest place you will ever find yourself. It is the worst pain. The pain you can’t escape. The kind of pain that makes you wish for death.

Depression is NOT a choice.

It’s the cards you’ve been dealt.

And I have no problem exposing all that is flawed within me to the world.

HERE.I.AM.

FLAWED. IMPERFECT.

DAMAGED GOODS.

I am more than that, though. Much more. But those things aren’t as important to talk about.

Nobody suffers being a good mother. Nobody suffers being a caring, empathic person. Nobody suffers being good craic. Nobody suffers being accepting of others. That is not suffering.

I don’t need to tell the world how fucking amazing I am and I sure as hell am not going to lie.

I need to speak to those suffering in silence from a physical disease, in a world that seems to think it’s a ‘makey-uppy’ excuse for feeling a bit sad.

Depression is a debilitating illness that has serious consequences if it continues to be brushed under the carpet with ‘You’ll be grand’ or ‘Sure aren’t we all a bit down sometimes, and don’t we all just get on with it’.

So, if you have found this post and it is relevant to you I implore you to please not take offense. I implore you to hear me. I implore you to not respond to a depressive with a suck it up, or a lecture on choosing happiness. If you don’t know what to say because you don’t understand it, you can stay silent, you know?

Or you could just be honest and say:

I really don’t understand depression, but it sounds really awful. You really don’t deserve that and I hope you get better soon. (Optional) Is there anything I can do to help?

Watch this: (Many thanks to Emily in comments for this recommended watching) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

 

 


20 Comments

The dark side of motherhood

I don’t miss a day of gratitude for my blessings. It echoes out of me in waves of intense devotion.

So, I feel guilty when I feel this.

I’ve had post natal depression for a few months now.

I recognised it early and went straight to the doc.

We’ve played around with dosage and still haven’t found the right one (suitable for breastfeeding).

The anti-d that fixed me the last time is not suitable for breastfeeding.

I thought this one was keeping me afloat but it’s not, really.

I’m surviving.

I’m too busy to be depressed.

Then there are occasional days when the cloud suppresses me to the point where I just can’t, or sometimes don’t want to, breathe anymore.

I can’t cry, I can’t think, I can’t possibly iterate the depths this icy fog goes within my soul, eating me.

It’s nothing.

There is nothing wrong with me or my life. I have no reason to feel this way.

But it’s there, nudging me to the edge.

I look at my children and I feel intense love.

Then the three year old starts pushing boundaries like any three year old should and my patience lasts about five seconds.

Then there’s the guilt because right now I am being a shit mother.

Deep down I want to go within. I want to be alone. I don’t want to converse or play or feed anybody. I just want to feed myself for a while, but I can’t. I use food to mimic this but food just numbs my stomach where these feelings reside and when my stomach is empty this dark dog growls through my bones so I eat more even though I know I’m not hungry.

Pnd is a lonely road. Depression fullstop is a lonely road.

You don’t talk about it because there’s nothing to talk about really, it’s just chemistry.

It feels like nobody understands or everybody forgets because you’re able to get out of the bed, smile and socialise. You’re able to hide it.

It stays hidden until you are sitting in a quiet room, feeding your infant, and the walls start moving toward you.

Or when your buttons are pushed and you yell or scream or bang things to just shut the world up and get everyone away from you.

I seek God, Spirit, ANYTHING that can take this away and I get no relief.

And then tomorrow I’ll get up to my two girls and ignore it all again because I can’t let it out while they are near.

And I don’t want to let them go because I’ll miss them and a few hours without them does nothing to heal me.

I know this will pass.

I know it’s just chemistry.

I know that they are just feelings.

I’ve already got a plan of action.

But do you know what? Sometimes these things just need to be said.

(I’ve written a follow up to this post here)


6 Comments

A time travelling letter to the first-time mother in me

Dear Laura

Everything is OK.

I am writing to you to try and wake you from your slumber.

This is the first year with your precious gift and you don’t realise this, but you are losing these moments to a state of numbness, anxiety and worry.

You will regret this in less then two years time, when you look at photos and realise that you can’t remember any small moments with your tiny infant. You will feel like you were there in body but not in mind or spirit.

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I know how you are feeling right now but trust me, all will be well again. I know you think this is it forever, but it’s not.

Some unsympathetic people will tell you what you are feeling is normal but please don’t listen to them. They are the same kind of people who tell depressed people to ‘just get on with it like the rest of us’. You need to stop talking and sharing your vulnerabilities with the small number of people who do not empathise with you and who have no intentions of nurturing you.

Maybe you could go to counselling or healing? You know, your dog just died and you really did have a labour from hell. Do you think that maybe you have some kind of PTSD? If I could go back in time to where you are now I would search for a lovely maternal woman who would lovingly nurse you back into the present moment. Oh wait! That is your own mother. Don’t wait another year to break down to her, when your body starts aching. Do it now.

Laura, your labour is a bad memory and it is still too raw but please seek help to overcome the anxiety it has left you with. I am glad you went back to our homeopath. Believe me, 20 months on I can tell you it works but maybe you could get there a bit quicker if you stop fighting it and go get some help- the talking it out kind.

Since we have had Elfie, I have met a couple of other first time mothers who are taking it in their stride and being so… happy. I have felt there is light at the end of the tunnel. And guess what? There is.

You will feel happy again. You will bond withElfie in a way you can’t even imagine. She will be just another part of your soul. Do you know what? One day- you will put her to bed, and go down to the couch and actually miss her. You may shake your head now, because you are struggling to cope with the lack of headspace and independence but trust me, one day you will forget what it was like before she came along.

You will get your health back. You will work hard and I swear to you girl in 20 months time you won’t believe it but you are still consistently exercising, enjoying every minute of it. You will take a long long time to get back to your pre-pregnancy self so take it easy on yourself.

I know you say you don’t want another baby. I know that when others say ‘Ah but you’ll wan’t a little pal for Elfie you feel smothered and terrified. But guess what? You will. You will realise, when Elfie is about 18 months old that it is so so worth it. But you will achieve a half marathon and (hopefully) enjoy one Summer in your pre-pregnancy clothes before you go in for no2.

Please please stop what you are doing. Stop cleaning, stop walking the legs off yourself (I swear to you it makes no difference- you won’t start losing weight until after Elfie turns 1), stop trying to set up a business. Just STOP. You will very soon realise you are happy at home, for now. In a while you will enjoy taking clients again but for now you are actually happy. Please just stop distracting yourself and enjoy the time. It gets so goddamn busy once she turns one and starts walking around.

You will never ever experience enjoying just one baby again because next time around you’ll have an energetic toddler to get up for each morning; so why don’t you take Elfie upstairs for her next nap and lie in bed with her (I know you want to) and stare at her little alien face and watch her folds uncurl. Please do it, so in 20 months from now I can look at that photo and have at least one memory beyond broken breasts, broken sleep and the constant stressing over whether or not my routine is OK (which, by the way, is OK).