There was no clarity, just cloud
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:I was so scared of my feelings, I knew I needed help, writes ALANA KIRK-GILLHAM
I HAVE ALWAYS been a glass half-full, solutions-seeking sort of person. Give me a problem and I’ll find a way through it. The day I knew I needed help for my post- natal depression was when the blackness in my heart and the fog in my head clouded the glass so much, it wasn’t that I suddenly saw it as half-empty, but that I couldn’t even see it at all.
I couldn’t find my way through the mire, and I had no idea how to manage the next hour or the next moment, never mind my life, a new baby, two children and an ill mother. I wanted everything to black out. It wasn’t at all that I had any desire to die – far from it – but it was just that I found it too unbearable to live in those moments.
There was no clarity, just cloud. There was no freedom, just fear. There was no peace, just panic. There were no solutions, just insurmountable problems. I had no will, just weariness.
Looking back, I think the pressure of two young children, an exhausting pregnancy and the grief of losing three precious babies to miscarriage had already begun to take its toll. But when my world fell apart five days after my third baby was born, all my skills at coping deserted me and the glass shattered into sharp shards that tore into me, unravelling my very fabric.
My mum’s catastrophic stroke left me bereft of the person who had helped me through all aspects of my life, as well as the nightmare of now suddenly caring for her as well as my family. It became unbearable. I found the days unbearable.
I wanted it all to go away. I didn’t want my baby, I couldn’t bear the state my mum had been left in, I wanted to hide in a ball and not resurface. I would find myself screaming and not remember how I started.
In those first weeks, the doctors told us to prepare for the worst. They meant death of course, but my mum survived and the worst was still to come. The beautiful, loving, glamorous, tactile woman who had nurtured me all my life had died, and I was left with her shadow . . . a grey, unengaged person who didn’t know my name.
My mum was with me in the hospital the day I gave birth. Our second last photo together is of us laughing just before I went into theatre – she had just painted my toe nails when a nurse walked over with a bottle of varnish remover and a shake of her head so Mum had to take it all off again.
Our last photo together is of her holding me while I held my new baby. Hours later she had a stroke and has never said my name since. People harp on about living in the moment, but there is a lot to be said for being enriched by the past, and excited about the future. My mum entered a world where she had no memory of her life before, and no curiosity about the days ahead. And I entered a world I couldn’t bear to be in.