The most important character in this story is my little boy, Master D.
I have always maintained that my depression, my illness, was never anything to do with Master D. The blackness hit me like a ton of bricks only a few days after his birth, but deep inside I knew my despondency wasn’t to do with him. Master D was the catalyst but not the cause.
People gave me all sorts of advice. They told me I should go back to uni, get a job, find a hobby, go on vacation, take time out for myself, or (my personal favourite) give myself a footbath. I know these people meant well, and they were only trying to help, but I felt like screaming. I knew that even if I were to put Master D into full time childcare, get a fantastic job, go on a holiday, and give myself a footbath every evening the blackness would still be there waiting for me. It wasn’t circumstantial.
It’s very hard for anyone to understand a non circumstantial depression. People understand the depression of someone who has lost a family member or a job, or their health. But how can someone be depressed when they appear to have everything going for them? I certainly didn’t understand my depression. I felt I had no right to be depressed. A psychiatrist at the emergency department of a hospital put it into words once. She asked me “You have a healthy baby, a loving husband, a roof over your head? Why would you feel depressed?”. Why indeed.
I was so ashamed of how I felt that I began to try and hide it. I got up every morning and showered, cleaned my house, returned phone calls, all the while giving Master D the utmost care and attention. Depressed people didn’t get up, didn’t clean their house, and certainly didn’t return phone calls – I had been there before. Therefore I couldn’t possibly be depressed. Yet at night I soaked my pillow with tears, and every morning I woke up wondering how I would make it through the day.
But there comes a point when you can’t fake it anymore. I stopped cooking, cleaning, doing anything other than the absolute necessary. I took care of Master D’s basic needs, he was well fed and always clean, but afterwards I would stare at him, wondering what I should do, wondering if – in fact – he was still my baby. At the end, just before my admission, as the psychosis began, I became convinced that the police were looking for me for being a bad mother.
But Master D, my darling boy, remained a ray of sunshine in a dark situation. He warmed my heart with each smile and cuddle he gave me. He taught me how precious life is, and gave me something to be strong for. Master D, ultimately, is the reason why I never attempted to hurt myself.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder things started to click into place. I was told that women with the disorder are at high risk of experiencing manic or depressive episodes in the postnatal period due to the immense hormonal and biological changes. Usually these women are treated promptly, but since I was unaware I had the disorder and was therefore treated for postnatal depression (which requires an entirely different treatment protocol) things got to the stage they did.
Sometimes I feel guilty that Master D endured what he did. Even though he is too young to understand. I feel sad that he spent two months of his little life in a psychiatric institution, and I have virtually no photos of him between 7 and 9 months old. But then I look at the positives. Master D and I have an incredibly strong bond now, and I treasure the time we spend together. I have a WHOLE lot of photos of Master D from 10 months onward! He is used to being handled by strangers and is happy to be passed to new people. But most importantly Master D has a very happy mum.
There’s always a ray of sunshine. My son. My sun.