At first I argued my side but that just made the conversations take longer and I still ended up having to apologise for simply being in order to be allowed to go to bed. The only way to get peace and quiet was to just take the blame. Unfortunately, by the time she started to get better, I had depression. I'm still not quite the person I was.
It took longer than it should have done for us to get help. The health visitor tested my wife for depression a few weeks after the birth and reckoned she was OK. Looking back, I now realise that the test was flawed. It assumed a 'normal' domestic set-up with the woman stuck at home with the children and the man out at work all day. Half the questions didn't really apply, so my wife's score was lower than it should have been.
I regularly told my wife to see a doctor. She was convinced, however, that I didn't want her to see a doctor. She thought it was all in her head. She just needed to pull herself together. She felt guilty. Then she felt guilty about feeling guilty. It didn't go well. Even well-meant sympathy from other mothers for having two young children to cope with made her worse because she felt she had no right to it, what with me at home doing much of the work. Eventually she saw a doctor and was prescribed medication. That (and later some counselling) helped her cope but it was when her periods started again and her hormones went back to normal that she really improved.
That was when I needed to go to the doctor. I'd been holding things together for as long as I could but a series of minor disasters, culminating in the Royal Mail returning all our post to sender for a fortnight, pushed me past my ability to cope. At least I knew it wasn't all in my head. I'd spent months telling my wife how depression is a 'proper' affliction, as debilitating and real as a broken leg. I got medication and told people what was wrong with me. I ditched my duties at church and stopped writing. I concentrated on keeping my family afloat and on getting peace when I could.
I was on the tablets for a year. They were useful but not wonderful. They allowed me to cope by numbing my feelings rather than making me better. There were side-effects for a week (dizziness, grumpiness, tingling) whenever the dose went up or down. After about nine months, I felt they weren't doing me much good anymore and came off them very slowly.
To my doctor's dismay, we decided to have another child at that point. She figured that we were risking a relapse before we were even better. We figured that we'd be risking a relapse whenever we had another child and it was better to just get it done. Of course, we didn't count on Sproglette being the awkward child. She didn't sleep through the night until she was two, she still won't eat much and she had tantrums from fifteen months. We've survived without the medication but it's been close at times. No more.
The lack of sleep has held my recovery in check but we're past the worst. I'm starting to do other things (well, this, anyway). Hopefully, as time goes on and I get more time to myself, I'll have fewer panic attacks and my self-esteem will return. The trick is to not over-stretch myself and to not feel guilty about the things I'm unable to do.
- Get medical advice as soon as possible if you think you or your partner has depression.
- Take care of yourself. Take some rest. Get some exercise.
- Cut out stressful or unpleasant things which can be avoided. If you could get out of doing it with a broken leg, then you can get out of it with depression.
- Tell people. Lots of them will have had experience of depression too and will be able to give you support and sympathy. Ignore the few who say you just need to pull yourself together and get out more. In fact my wife found more time with the kids helped her, while I needed peace and quiet at home.
- Don't take anything a depressed person says personally. Get them to talk to other people. Talk to other people yourself. I didn't get counselling but I went to rant at the health visitor every week for a while. It just helped being able to tell someone my side of things without being argued with.
- Accepting you're ill is the first step to getting well.