Last week was hard.
It shouldn’t have been. We stayed with my parents while Wes was away, and got up to all kinds of fun.
Walks in the woods.
We had visits from friends, spent hours in the library, went swimming, and ate far more cake than normal. The children had a lot of fun. But I was numb.
As the week went on, I drifted further and further into my safe little box of feelinglessness. The more early mornings I had – because of teething, or a noisy cat, or the sheer excitement of being at Grandma’s house – the grumpier and more tired I became. Some evenings I had my pyjamas on by seven o’clock. It didn’t help. Turns out you actually need to go to bed as well.
I was exhausted. Physically and emotionally. Even with my own parents around, there’s no escaping the fact that I was the only parent my children had this week. The only one getting up in the night when their teeth hurt or the duvet had rolled off their bed. The only one with a monitor in my room to hear Joel stirring at 5.30 in the morning. The only one who they wanted when the tantrums set in or the fun became a bit too much.
That’s been the pattern this summer. Over the last four weeks Wes has had 16 nights away with work. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – this is always his busy season. But it’s tipped me over the edge. Aided and abetted by my manic tendency to fill my days as soon as I feel even remotely better.
Suffice to say, this week I was not feeling better. Not even slightly. When my therapist called on Thursday she was a little surprised that my scores were worse than before. I could have told her that before she even picked up the phone. I didn’t write anything all week, determined to ‘give myself a rest.’ Ironically, it probably would have helped.
Looking back, from the safety of my own lounge, I’m mostly angry. Not with my children, or my parents. Not even with myself. But with this big stupid heavy sack that I’m carrying around. I can’t seem to let go of it as quickly as I’d like.
This week has taught me two things. Firstly, that when you have depression, you can’t just ‘snap out of it.’ I’ve known that for a while. But I tried so hard this week – to smile and enjoy things and have normal conversations with people. Safe to say, it didn’t quite work.
There is no magic fix for depression. You won’t just wake up one morning and feel better. It’s not like having a bad day, or being in a grump. You can’t just suck it up and get over it. That sounds defeatist, or pessimistic. It’s not. It’s the truth. Depression is an illness. A very real one. And it needs treating, just like any other illness would. Therapy, or medication, or self-help, or all of the above. It takes time. At the moment it feels like forever.
The second thing I’ve learnt is this: I need to look after myself. Not just my children. Not just Wes. Myself as well. I’ve done alright at looking after everyone else through my depression. This time round, anway. There has always been food for everyone to eat, and clothes for everyone to wear. Clean dishes and fun activities. It hasn’t always been service with a smile, but it has at least been service.
Last week even that was too hard. I couldn’t find any motivation, or any willpower. No matter how hard I tried. Every little task felt like too much effort. Every conversation felt as though people were criticising my children or my parenting. Every morning felt too early. Every bedtime too late.
Part of me knows that, if I looked after myself better, I’d stand a chance of avoiding these extreme weeks. Or limiting them, anyway. If I slept more, allowed myself the occasional little treat, fought harder for time by myself. Asked for help when I needed it, instead of expecting everyone to be telepathic. Simple things. Little things. But it’s always the little things that make the difference.
Wes is home now. Things feel brighter already. I breathe a bit easier just knowing hes around. Today he’s taken the children to his mum’s, so I’m enjoying the most peace and quiet I’ve had for months. I’ve picked blackberries from the front garden. And drunk a whole cup of tea. Next I’m off to make a fish finger sandwich and watch Masterchef. Simple things. Little things. But they’re making a difference already.