If I'm honest, I had been suffering from post natal depression since I had Jasmine in 2006. The doctor tried to tell me this back in April 2007. I thought I was just stressed about being back at work and not being at home looking after my baby girl. I thought he didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't think he was treating me like an individual, you know, asking me what I was going through or something like that. If he had, he would have known. Depression - not me!! I'm different, I'm normal, things like that don't happen to someone like me. I have a great sense of self awareness, I would know if it was happening to me and I would deal with it, there is no way it would happen to me, I was just living with a difficult set of circumstances right now, how could he not see that.
I walked out of the doctors with a prescription in my hand, tears in my eyes (I was under a lot of pressure at work you understand). Jamie and I sat in the car and both refused to accept that I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. 'I would know,' I said. 'You're not, love,' he said, 'you're just under a lot of pressure and you miss your baby.' For the next year I battled on, with the idea of depression firmly stamped down, deep deep down so no one, especially me, could see it.
I fell pregnant with my son and knew I had to give up work if I was ever going to be happy. After all, this is what was causing my 'low moods.' Someone was looking down on us, Jamie got headhunted for a brand new West End show. This was it! The money he was going to earn was more than double what we were earning together now and it meant my dream had come true, I could give up work.
Sonny was born in April 2008 and I had everything I wanted in the world. A lovely house, a girl and a boy and a wonderful husband with an exciting job! He was around during the day, we did lots together. Life could not have been better. So why did I still feel so bad? Why did it still feel like there was a dark dark cloud that hung over me? I couldn't understand it, I got angry with myself for feeling like this. I tried to make sense of it, to rationalise why I was still feeling this way.
I finally came to the conclusion (after all, I'm a level headed, intelligent, confident person) that Jamie must have been putting something in my food to make me feel this way. It had to be true, how else could I have everything I ever wanted and feel this bad. Yes, that had to be it. He hated the fact that I was so successful and confident and liked by so many people. After all these years of being with me, he could no longer cope with it and had decided to 'poison' me to try to destroy me.
This idea grew and grew in the back of my mind until one day, I got so scared I had to call my best friend and ask for help. The next thing that happened, I believe, was the sliding doors moment between me getting help or having a complete breakdown. I can remember it clear as day. I was standing int he kitchen with my mobile phone in my hand ready to call Wendy. The next few moments, it was as if I was outside of my body watching myself. But it was a future self, just a few moments in the future. I was playing out what was about to happen in my mind but watching it like I was watching a film. Time stood still as I watched this daydream play out... The 'film' showed me calling Wendy up and saying, 'you've got to help me, Wendy. It's Jamie, he's trying to poison men, he's trying to make me go mad and it's working...' Suddenly I was transported to Wendy's house in the 'film' and I watched her calmly and kindly tell me not to worry, stay where I was, and that she was coming to get me. As she disconnected the call from me, she dialled another number. I watched as she spoke to Jamie... 'she's lost it Jamie, you've got to get her taken away, she's going to hurt those kids if you don't do something soon.'
Crash back to reality and I'm standing in the kitchen, shaking, sobbing, and slowly sinking to the floor. As I sit there, hugging my knees, I realise for the first time - I am going mad! I'm actually losing the plot. The harsh truth hits me like a ten tonne lorry. I have lost my grip on reality. What if I lose it so much that I hurt the kids. What if I'm on the news, one of those mums that hurt her children so bad. 'No one can understand how she could do that to her kids.' FUuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!! I need help!
I needed to get the help straight away. I couldn't wait a moment longer, I told Jamie I needed to see someone straight away. I told him everything I had been feeling, that I had been wondering how I was going to cope with life and how it seemed a much easier option just to not be alive... Within hours, I'd been seen by our community health visitor, who told me they knew this was coming. She had seen it and had been keeping an eye on me. Straight to the doctors, straight on antidepressants and straight into counselling.
The next 3.5 years would see me in psychodynamic therapy, where the first year was honestly all about me coming to terms with the fact that I was in therapy! 'Why am I here, I don't deserve to be here, I've never been raped, abused, beaten. I had a good life, you should be free to see people who really need you,' I would repeatedly say to my therapist. Eventually, I slipped into the routine of therapy and gained a lot of insight into my 'darkness' and my inability to let go of some negative beliefs.
After some years, I grew stronger, more able to cope and had learned so much about myself. I started to think about finishing the medication and therapy. This was mostly met with the advice that I should come to therms with the fact that I would be in therapy and on meds for the rest of my life!
I had taken up fitness, running, and triathlons in the years after having the kids. I'd read so much about how exercise could help manage depression, stress and anxiety. Exercise did help me, enormously. But it wasn't enough on its own. I trawled the internet to find some evidence of anything that would show me that I could manage my life without meds and therapy. I read books, articles, studies. Over and over, I came across evidence that exercise AND good nutrition together, as well as a good arsenal of tools for the mind, go a long way to improving your life. This would be my journey for the next few years and the direction I eventually took my career.
Now? I'm not going to say my journey is over. I still experience bouts of depression, stress, and anxiety, but guess what? These occur when I have either been in a period of eating too much junk, or have not been able to exercise regularly. Daily movement and high quality nutrition keep me grounded and balanced. At times, this can be tiring, having to constantly think about what I'm eating. At times, I've rebelled and gone completely the other way, with disastrous consequences and me plummeting into my dark place again.
My conclusion? For me, the slight challenge of staying on track with food and exercise outweigh a period of darkness and despair. It's not a place I want to be. Life has no beauty, no passion, no fun, no laughter, and no love when I'm in that place. In fact, I have difficulty justifying being alive at my lowest.
Over the years, I've encountered challenges from people around me, judgements about my lifestyle with common phrases such as, "yeah, but you've got to live, Mel." The darkness is not living! When I'm full of good nutrients, when I'm challenging myself and growing physically, mentally and emotionally... that's living! I choose life!