A couple of months ago I had a meltdown, which resulted in the collection of slowly fading scars on my upper arms.
It also resulted in a few hours of me being absolutely convinced that I was leaving Squidge and the Northern One behind to start a brand new life on my own.
I don’t remember what happened to put my in such an unstable mood nor can I think of any particular triggers that sparked the whole episode. We’d been to a birthday party at a friend’s house the previous day and social situations like that are something that I always find difficult but the reason behind my having such a spectacular meltdown remain unknown.
After a day of feeling incredibly tense and angry I stormed off to the bathroom to have a bath with the door locked, leaving the Northern One to put Squidge to bed on his own. The opportunity to have some time to myself did nothing to calm the rage I could feel simmering just below the surface and even after an hour in the bath I felt anything but relaxed.
The only thing that bought me any relief was the repeated slicing of my arms which, somehow, with the pain and the blood came a calm clarity; crystallizing my thoughts until I became absolutely certain of one thing.
I couldn’t live like this anymore.
The longer I lay in the bath, my arm burning but my mind quietening, the longer the list of reasons as to why I needed to live my life on my own became and the more compelling those reasons became.
I’d have the career that I’d planned without being restricted by childcare or part-time hours.
I wouldn’t be exhausted all the time because I’d be able to sleep all night and would actually be able to have a lie in on my days off.
I’d be able to lose weight and improve my physical health because I’d be able to exercise whenever I wanted and the only person I’d be buying food for would be me.
I’d have the best chance of being able to regain control of my mental health because I’d be able to focus on what I needed.
Every decision I made would be about me and what I wanted from life, without having to take anyone else into account.
I am aware of how unbelievably selfish and if anyone wants to take this opportunity to tell me how despicable I am go right ahead because there’s honestly no way you could make me feel worse than I already do.
While I imagine many mothers occasionally secretly fantasize about being able to leave their current life full of stress and worry and demands behind, for most it probably remains just that; a fantasy. Something to sustain you on a day when everything has just become too much and you need some sort of outlet so that you don’t explode.
I, on the other hand, made such coherent plans that by the time I eventually got out of the bath that I told the Northern One exactly what I planned to do.
I had it all figured out.
I was going to get a new job somewhere that I’d never lived before and rent a little flat so that was going to be full of books and art and absolutely nothing to do with children.
I was going to start running and horse riding again and I was going to get back into the sort of shape that I hadn’t been in since my teens.
I was going to sleep peacefully at night and wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to do all the things that I wanted to do.
I was going to have baths that lasted hours and spend mornings reading books in bed and do everything completely on my own terms.
The tiny, realistic part of my brain knew that I couldn’t leave straight away, if for no other reason than the fact that I had to complete two weeks notice at work so that I could have the reference I’d need for a new job. I knew that actually finding a new job wouldn’t be difficult as neonatal units throughout the UK are always recruiting; it would just be a case of deciding where in the country I wanted to live.
When I told the Northern One that I was leaving he reacted in exactly the way that you’d expect; he was shocked, upset and more than a bit frightened that was actually serious about leaving. He also seemed to think that I intended to leave straight away and so I decided that if that was what he thought, that was what I was going to do.
I can see the pained, shaken look on his face as I shoved past him to go upstairs and get dressed so that I could get in my car and go. I don’t know where I was going to go or what I was going to do when I got there but I honestly felt as though now that I’d started on this course of action, everything would just fall into place as I went.
I went into our bedroom to dry my hair and find some clothes but before I could do anything all of the rage went out of me so quickly that my knees started to wobble and I had to sit down on the bed before I fell. A few minutes later, after realising that he could’t hear me packing the Northern One came upstairs to find me lying in bed with the duvet over my head, completely and utterly exhausted.
With the exhaustion came the tears and the beginning of apologies that can never be enough for the things that I said or the things that I planned to do.
Looking back, the worst part of the whole episode was the fact that I was absolutely convinced I could just walk away from my family without feeling anything negative at all. Somehow I had ended up in a place so dark that I couldn’t think why I would miss them or remember why my life, difficult as it can be, would be so much less without them. At the time I didn’t care about how much my leaving would damage Squidge and the Northern One, the two people that I love most in the world and I have no idea how I ended up there.
Depression manifests itself in unpredictable ways and while I’m not trying to excuse my behaviour by blaming in on my depression I also know that when I’m in a good place with my mental health I just don’t act like this. I continue taking my prescribed medication, attending counselling and appointments with my psychiatrist but despite these things there are still occasions when I still find myself in a downward spiral with very little explanation as to why it’s happened.
All I can do is carry on with my current treatment and try not to hurt Squidge and the Northern One by saying or doing things that I can’t take back.
Louise is a full time mum, a part time neonatal nurse and award nominated blogger who has battled depression for many years but was particularly ill during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss. She’s also involved in #MatExp (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MatExp/); an online maternity experience campaign that was formed to help improve maternity services in the UK. As part of this she hosts the #MatExpHour Twitter chat every Friday and would love to see you there.