It became the new normal for me. The feeling of fear. Like a heavy weight on my chest that would squeeze so tight, I found it hard to breathe. From the moment I opened my eyes of a morning, I was frightened. Properly scared. There was no rationale behind it, it was just there. And so fear and I, we became both friends and enemies, entwined in a paradoxical way: I felt alone if I wasn’t afraid, like something was missing, and yet it debilitated me to the point I could not function. Sometimes the fear would dissipate into numbness. Sometimes it would escalate into blind, uncontrollable panic. But it was always there. This was my normal.
For years and years, I carried around the weight of 100 bricks. Every lift of my arms was painful because of the bricks. Bricks, bricks hanging off my body. Bricks squeezing around my heart…bricks everywhere. I was tired. So very tired from carrying the weight. It hurt, and I felt alone. I had to be strong for my family. I had to be strong for my special needs daughter. I had to be strong for my dying mother. I had to be strong for my grieving father. I had to be strong because of my pride. I had to be strong because of my faith. Oh, deluded, pathetic me!
People greeted me with the usual question: “How are you?”
And I would say, “I’m okay.” But really I wanted to say, “I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid. Afraid of nothing and everything at the same time.”
And then one day I did know. After a violet panic attack, I knew something had to change. The abnormal became my normal, and my new normal was destroying me.
I remember the day. The day I sat in a chair in front of a doctor with kind brown eyes. The chair was the typical office maroon colour, mottled with flecks of grey. I knew I had to be there — to do this thing I should have done a long time ago — even though I didn’t want to. It was time. The kind-eyed doctor: he looked at me and said, “What can I do for you today?”
I sat straight and rigid with my arms involuntary grasping the sides of the chair, and in an errily calm voice I told him how panic was overtaking my life. It sounded strange as the words came from my lips. Like I was telling a story that was not my own. The doctor, leaning slightly forward, sat quietly and listened. The quiet became loud in my ears. So, so loud was the silence. Then, a sudden pain exploded in my chest, like someone pulled a plug from my heart. I gasped. Mid sentence. My body shuddered and I buckled over, trying to find my breath. My body convulsed in deep sobs and my breath came in short shallow gasps. I knew this feeling. I knew when I reached up to grasp the rope, it. would. not. be. there. I knew when I called out, no one would listen, even though they may hear. I knew I would have to ride the wave of panic until I fainted with exhaustion, or became fixated just beyond the ceiling.
“You’re safe. You’re safe here.” I heard someone talking to me, breaking through the wall of panic. The words repeated over, and over again. I remember feeling annoyed at the words. I knew I was safe; why would someone say that to me? But in an odd way, the worlds calmed me, despite my inner protest. “You’re safe. You’re safe here.”
After a little while, the kind-eyed doctor pressed a tissue in my hand and said to me, “I was waiting for that to happen. All those things you were telling me — hard things, difficult things — with such calm; I knew the dam wouldn’t hold much longer.”
There’s something very unnerving about being read so well by someone you hardly know, but I had come this far. I had come to the point where I could admit there was something wrong, which in turn helped me to realise I needed to do something about it. I had come far indeed.
Depression. I suspect I had suffered from it, undiagnosed, since my first child was born. And in my trying-to-be-strong I fought it, which gave the depression strength. And when the balance finally tipped over, and my strength failed, and depression rose up, the battle was lost. But not to me. No. The battle wasn’t lost to me. Depression lost in that conquouring moment, because the strength it fed off was gone. I wish I hadn’t tried to be so very strong for so very long. Therein, lay my weakness.
Lightness. Possibility. Endless possibility. After two weeks on medication, I could see two things very clearly. Firstly, I realised just how very long I had been depressed, so long it had become normal to me. And secondly, I reacquainted myself with how wonderful, truly wonderful it was to breathe, to dream, to live! Oh the joy of it! I thank God for that doctor who was so gentle with me when I needed it. And for bringing the good out of depression; I no longer constantly live in my own strength.
Within a month of receiving help, I set up this very blog. This blog, has been very much part of my recovery process. The love the moment concept is not just a random idea, it’s my new normal. The normal I slowly discovered after living under such a cloud. Be A Fun Mum was born out of my recovery from depression and helped me find my voice again.
You can see my journey in the templates; both are beautiful in their own way. One reflects me at the birth of my blog: still dark with emerging shades of grey, and a header full of a thousand possibilities. The other shows more of what Ive become: bright, focused and joyous. These themes are very extreme but they both reflect me and my journey, and I’m excited about that.
Some are shocked at how deeply I can share but I’m not afraid. Not here. Not anymore. Depression: It doesn’t have to be the new normal. There’s no shame in it. I share because I can, and because someone, maybe just one person out there, might not feel so very alone. There is always hope.