Depression is something that has affected, at different times in our lives, my mum, my dad and my brother as well as me.
I always found my mum being ill the hardest to cope with; partly because she was my mum and partly because she didn’t really want to take antidepressants and so would stop them randomly and have severe relapses.
There are two or three occasions where I remember my mum transforming from the somewhat stressed but loving person who kept the house running but who always had time for cuddles into a zombie. For two or three days at a time she would sit in an arm chair in the living room barely moving or speaking. If you did manage to get her to speak she would answer in a monotone, her face blank and devoid of any expression.
She still did the cooking and the laundry and helped us with our homework but it was like mum had been taken away and replaced with a robot who looked exactly like her but who had no idea about the existence of emotions. If you asked her for something; a drink or a cuddle then she’d do it but I still remember the awful sick, dizzy feeling I got when she stood there with her arms loosely round me while I tried not to cry and make things worse.
My dad would try and snap her out of it when he came home from work but she didn’t respond with anything much, not even anger.
She would sit in the chair, almost catatonic, doing the bare minimum and not interacting with any of us.
It was completely bewildering for both me and my brother as we had no idea what was happening. We didn’t know what depression was or that mum had or that it was an illness that needed treating with medication. Instead we came to what we thought was a logical conclusion.
That it was something we’d done.
That we must have been so naughty and horrible we’d caused mum to become so sad that she couldn’t function and this was a terrible realisation for us.
We tried to make her feel better by being good and playing together nicely, drawing pictures for her and bringing soft toys for her to cuddle.
Twenty years later my heart aches and I feel like a small child again, completely unable to understand why the picture I’ve drawn my mum has been met with a monotone “Very nice dear.”
It’s one of my worst nightmares.
There was no way to reach her; not even her children’s tears.
After a few days she would slowly return to normal, either because she started taking the antidepressants again or because she had adjusted to not taking them and a week later there would be no indication that it had ever happened.
But I knew it had.
From then on I was always afraid that it would happen again and that this time she might not come back.
I know that she didn’t do it on purpose; that she was unwell in the same way that I’m unwell and that she would never deliberately hurt me and my brother, ill or otherwise but from the day I found out I was pregnant I was petrified that I would put Squidge through the same thing.
That I would never make Squidge wonder if I still loved him.
Time after time I would sob as I remembered how helpless and abandoned I felt and no matter how I felt towards Squidge throughout my pregnancy I would never want put any child through that. But I had experienced days where my feelings overwhelmed me to the extent that I would essentially shut down and spend most of the day either on the sofa or in bed unable to do anything but cry.
The Northern One would persist in speaking to me, trying to distract me or, if that didn’t work he would try and make me angry. He knew that if he could make me angry I would rage and scream at him but would break my numb state and I would end up in pieces that he would then put back together.
It was hard enough for him but I was determined that either through getting better or through sheer force of will that once Squidge arrived it was something that I would never do again.
Me and the Northern One have already decided that when Squidge is old enough we will explain depression to him and how it affects me. We will tell him that sometimes mummy’s head doesn’t work properly and that it makes her sad but that she sees the doctor and takes tablets to control it. We will make sure that he understands that I won’t die or need to go to hospital and that he doesn’t confuse depression with other illnesses.
But even more importantly we will make sure that he knows the even though sometimes I might be sad it will never, ever be anything that he’s done or not done and that I will always, always love him.