Lessons from the Black Dog
My name is Narelle, I am a 41 year-old married Christian woman and I suffer from depression. The following is my story and a few of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
I was adopted from a very early age, and throughout my childhood, always felt a little different to the other kids I mixed with at school. My adoptive parents did all they could to encourage me to socialize with others, even joining me up to a netball team and paying for tennis lessons. I didnt fit in, and much preferred my own company. Like I said, I was different, and I struggled with my uniqueness. I cant say I was what you would call a happy child, but I got through my childhood, successfully making it to adulthood.
Lesson no 1 for me was that I would always get through whatever troubles I was going through, and it was happening to me for a reason.
Because I never really had any friends to speak of, it was a long time before I discovered boys, and when I turned 21 I met my future husband, a man 13 years my senior, but someone who loved me despite (or was it because of) my quirkiness.
Lesson no 2 - Happiness comes to those who wait patiently for it, and I am responsible for my own happiness. No one can upset me without my consent. It took me a few more years to truly take that one to heart, to own the truth.
In 1991, I fell pregnant with our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Emily. I bonded with her immediately and can still remember falling in love with her the moment I looked at her. It was love at first sight, and I had no problems with caring for her. Breastfeeding was an absolute joy, and I marveled at how she seemed to know exactly what to do, without being taught. A few years later our son, Robert, was born in 1994, and I immediately found him difficult to relate to or bond with. I wondered whether I would ever love him as I loved our daughter. Three months after he was born, we both were admitted to Tresillian Hospital for Mothers and Babies, where I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression.
My initial reaction to this diagnosis was one of disbelief, there was nothing wrong with me, I was coping quite well, and I was fine. Unfortunately for me, I WASNT ok, I was very sick, which became apparent on being discharged from hospital. I wasnt coping at all with the demands of 2 children under 3, and I desperately needed professional help. I clearly remember, one particular evening, so wanting to drown my baby son at bath time, just to stop his screaming. Being a colicky baby, he seemed to cry incessantly for no apparent reason, but usually after a feed. This incident shocked both Bob and I into getting the professional help I needed.
Lesson no 3 was never to ignore the obvious warning signs.
So began our quest to find someone to help me. I baulked at the idea of seeing a psychiatrist, after all, only crazy people went to see a shrink. I found that nothing was further from the truth, but I also found it not so easy to find someone I was comfortable with. Firstly, I had to find a GP who would take me seriously enough to refer me on to someone. That was the first hurdle, but I found a kind young doctor who did just that. Next hurdle was to interview each specialist to see if we could work together. After meeting and talking to about 10 specialists I finally found a lovely lady in Campsie who counseled me for much of the next four years. She became my rock, and I began to look forward to our weekly therapy session together. I felt she understood me, and she allowed me to truly get all of my stuff out of my system.
Lesson no 4 was dont give up its important to find someone you feel comfortable with, after all, we ended up talking about some intensely private stuff.
Emily had started preschool at 3 years old, and seemed to love attending, As soon as Robert turned 2, the director approached me to offer Robert a place, as she could see I wasnt coping. I eagerly accepted the place for him, as I knew childcare places in the area were scarce, and I appreciated her concern for me. I had to deal with hostility of other mothers in the local playgroup I attended, who advised me specifically NOT to place him into long-daycare, as a young child should be with his mother. As much as I tried to convince them of the reason why I was fully prepared to let a stranger look after my child, I failed.
Lesson no 5 do what you do for your own reasons, as its nobody elses business.
Once both my children started school, Emily in 1997 and Robert in 1999. I had largely come out of the deep depression I had entered in 1994, and began to feel much better, although I had many issues I still had to face. At the end of 2001, the Principal of our primary school had retired, and though we would all miss him, we looked forward to the new man who would take over. After an extensive interview process, our new Principal started work just after Easter 2002. He was a much younger man than his predecessor, and he did wonderful things for our little school.
It was around this time that we were evicted from our home of 9 years, and it was left to me to find alternative accommodation for my family. I didnt know where we would go, but I was determined to find somewhere for us to live. I remember our new principal approached me in the playground around this time, and sensing my anxiety, invited me in to his office to chat. I agreed, and the next thing I knew it was recess time Id spent the whole morning chatting to this wonderful stranger and drinking his coffee. He was to become one of my most trusted friends, and someone who I was able to lean on through many of my tough times.
Lesson no 6 Angels do exist, we call them friends.
I later learned that our new Principal had a Masters degree in Psychology, having practiced his trade before entering the education system. Along the way, hed learnt various techniques to alleviate distress in depressed patients, one of those techniques being Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). He gladly agreed to teach me that very same technique, and I now use it daily. I thought Id been through every method of psychoanalysis known to man, and nothing had worked until now I now have a extremely useful, powerful weapon in my constant fight against depression and anxiety, and will improve in its use.
Lesson no 7 when youre at the end of your rope and all seems lost, tie a knot in it and hang on!
Thankfully, Im through the worst, but I get the feeling that I haven't quite learnt all the lessons life has to throw at me just yet.
If you'd like to talk to Narelle, contact her (aka. Narjoy) through the Fighting Fathers Forum
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