A very special anniversary came at the beginning of September this year. It’s important to know that September 2014 was the darkest period of my life. Five years have passed since my depression, where my whole being collapsed.
I invite you to follow me in my two-part story that will make you experience, from the inside, what I have lived through, how I got better (and with whose help), and how I am doing now, five years later.
I hope this will give you hope. Because there is always a before-and-after at everything, this is my story.
THE HARSH REALITY OF MOTHERHOOD
It all started when I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy in September 2013. He was such a cute baby but had so many needs. During his first six months, he cried for 3/4 of the day and didn’t sleep at night. He constantly needed to be wrapped in arms. His father worked night shifts and wasn’t really present. And with all the cost of a baby in terms of milk, diapers, clothes, care products, etc., it wasn’t long before money problems started to appear. It was a huge stress factor for me, who had no savings at the time. I isolated myself with my exhaustion, money problems and my complicated motherhood. My friends were strong women and/or super mothers to me. And I wasn’t able to overcome what was happening to me. I felt underqualified and unworthy of being a mother.
AN INCOMPETENT PSYCHOLOGIST
At that point, I had the idea of consulting a psychologist through the employee assistance program at work. Unfortunately, my psychologist was underqualified. She belittled my fears and performance anxiety. She had no respect for me. She kept arriving late for all the appointments, telling me that the notion of time was relative for everyone. It was so confusing and unjustified for me that I filed a complaint with my helpdesk against her. That woman made me feel like a nobody. I came to think that psychologists were all the same, that no one could help me, and that I was the problem.
This woman, without even noticing it, contributed to my collapse.
THE ONLY THING I COULD SEE WAS TO GET OVER WITH IT
September 2014 has arrived. I had to start working again on Tuesday after Labour Day. I was so tired because my son still didn’t sleep at night. All the love I had for my boy couldn’t fill my inner void.
I had to find a solution and the only thing I could see was to put an end to my life. I thought that my relatives would get the money from my insurance (so no more financial problems) and that anyway my boy wouldn’t remember me. On that Saturday, I asked my son’s father to accompany for the afternoon, with the idea of emptying our pharmacy and bar. I was seeing my son for the last time. My eyes filled with tears, and I burst into a crisis of uncontrollable crying. I then confessed everything about my plan.
I don’t have many memories of that moment because my state of mind was impaired. They called the ambulance to take me to the hospital. All I remember is that in the ambulance, I kept saying, “I can’t be like this, I can’t be like this!”
My hospitalization started with three days in the psychiatric emergency room. I was told that I had postpartum depression “that had gone wrong” according to them. This postpartum, over time, had become a severe depression with a suicidal tendency. We started the medication to calm my fears.
THE PSYCHIATRIC EMERGENCY
The psychiatric emergency was so weird. We had no clothes, except for the famous blue hospital gown and our underwear. I spent my time sleeping. And when I wasn’t asleep, the nurses told me to get up and walk around the unit, a circle around the nurses’ central station. Quite alienating, I must say. I was also afraid of patients who were in psychosis. It’s really scary to see those who are locked in shielded rooms and keep screaming all night. The only way I could calm down and focus on something else was to draw. I was dissociating from myself in those moments, and I wasn’t so afraid anymore. My parents visited me. They were in tears and didn’t understand what was happening. I was hiding so much from everyone that it was a shock to those around me.
THE PSYCHIATRIC FLOOR
After those three days, I went up to the psychiatric floor. It was kind of like a micro-society. Anorexic and/or bulimic women who were confined to bed after eating so he wouldn’t vomit, elderly people with Alzheimer’s or dementia who said incomprehensible things and depressed people like me. The most severe cases were upstairs above me. The white codes (violent patients) were having a great time there. They even wanted to take me up to this floor one day because there were fewer people and it would be—according to the staff-quieter there. I had one of those panic attacks. My psychiatrist couldn’t believe it. I didn’t hear about the top floor again after that.
I was in therapy every day with the psychiatrists. When you get there, you have no choice. You expel everything you feel. It was also the beginning of more specific medication: antidepressants. The drugs were taken like in the movies: in the nurses’ office, at specific times, in line with the other patients. It was an unreal place, but I still made friends. We try to stand for each other between those whom life has beaten down.
My parents took care of my son, and I had special permission from my psychiatrist to see my son at the hospital or at the shopping mall across the street from the hospital with my father. It helped me in my treatment. My boy was the reason why I didn’t want to put an end to my life.
Over time, I was allowed, with permission, to go to the shopping mall or to my apartment for a few hours. I felt isolated from the rest of the world. My friends came in turn, especially my best friend. It was a breath of fresh air from the hospital atmosphere. After three weeks in the hospital, I was permitted to go back home to my routine. I left the hospital two days before my son’s first birthday. My psychiatrist at the hospital made the decision to enroll me in a specialized mental health day centre, where I would be able to learn how to live with depression. I was beginning to have hope for the future again.
THE DAY CENTRE
Less than a week after my discharge from the hospital, I had to deal with a new challenge. The mental health day centre. It was difficult to live without a specific hospital schedule, so this centre brought me a new routine. I dropped my son to daycare and go to my “classes” at the centre all day with my little lunchbox. In this centre, there were between 8 and 10 patients with different mental illnesses or disorders, workers, nurses and psychiatrists. I didn’t have time to get bored; I had emotional control classes, some to understand medication and its effects, relaxation classes, art therapy workshops, musicology classes (to see what music can do for us in life) and many other ones. There were also weekly meetings with the psychiatrist and the nurse, time slots for cooking, tasks to do to make the centre pleasant and clean and finally group therapies every morning where the other participants could express themselves and give us advice.
All of this helped me express what I felt and understand that I could be imperfect, that I could be loved for who I was, and that I didn’t have to endure situations that hurt me.
The experience lasted two months and allowed me to know tricks that I still use today.
My next article will be about my “after”; what happened during the years following my depression diagnosis and who were the actors in my journey.
This post was translated from French to English by:
My name is Aimy and I am a second year-student in translation studies. I discover my truths through my passion for literature, arts and culture. I have a keen eye for beauty, a lust for life. For me, every day is a chance to acquire knowledge and create. As Einstein once said, “creativity is intelligence having fun.”