My name is Casey, mum to a 4 year old girl.
I am a qualified mental health nurse, a wife, a soul searcher, and someone who experiences depression and anxiety.
My mummy journey was not planned. I had been with my boyfriend around a year and we just were not careful at all. I never planned to have children, I was so naïve thinking I would not get caught. ANYWAY… we did.
The day I found out, I cried, I know that sounds awful! I did not want to be pregnant.
So my anxiety began. This was day 1.
Me and my boyfriend discussed all our options and decided to have an abortion (sorry for those who do not agree). We booked the appointment, I attended and broke down completely, my head told me to agree to it, but my heart sank. The day arrived to go in for the abortion, it was snowing that day, we arrived at the hospital and it took every ounce of me not to cry, I thought well my boyfriend is not asking me to keep the baby so he must not want it….
So, the snow was not that bad, but apparently it was bad enough that there were no anaesthetists available at all. At all, in a hospital! I knew from that second fate was decided for me. Where I had been unsure before, fate stepped in and told me this is your baby!
We cried in relief, and went home and planned our child and future.
So, months went by, getting bigger by the day, growing more anxious by the day. I would wake having panic attacks during the night worrying about what a bad mum I would be, crying into my boyfriends arms as I knew that my daughter would hate me. How I could never truly love her, as I never wanted her, so how could I? These thoughts and dreams continued throughout my pregnancy and my anxiety was overwhelming. I remained untreated.
So the big day arrived, I went into labour (no one tells you the truth about how much that hurts! IT HURTS!). She was born, I remember her coming out and them immediately putting her onto my bare chest. I remember thinking this should have been an amazing moment, but it wasn’t, she felt warm, wet and very long, that is all I remember.
I didn’t feel that immediate flash of love. It is hard to admit as I know most people do, but I didn’t. I wanted to be left alone, she was out of me, and I needed to shower. I should have known then that I was struggling already. She was kept in hospital for around a month due to a paralysed vocal chord which meant she could not feed. She was sent to the baby unit and I was sent to the mother and baby ward.
I hated the staff for that, I cried, I closed my curtain around my hospital bed, hugged my pillows and cried as quietly as I could. The other 3 mums were in their beds with their babies, crying, feeding, moaning about wanting to go home, about breast feeding and vaginal pain from birth. I was crying because I thought my baby would die. I was not sure if I loved her, but I knew I had to protect her.
I visited her in her tiny plastic little “oven” and I could not control myself. I cried, every single time I saw her. I think the nurses were annoyed by me. There were children with more serious conditions but I could not contemplate why mine had to be there and why (at that time) they didn’t know what was wrong with her.
Anyway, she was discharged with a feeding tube around 4 weeks after diagnosis. I am a nurse, I new how to insert a tube. Doing this to my baby though, wow! I struggled. She was also given a breathing monitor as they thought she was at risk of breathing difficulties. My anxiety at this point was sky high. I though she would die, every. single. day.
I understand this sounds extreme, but this is what illness does to a person. At that time even with my career of choice I had no idea it was anxiety. I thought it was normal. I thought imagining all the possible ways my baby will die and stressing about this was normal. It was making me ill. I was making myself ill.
I started to adapt, I started a new job and she eventually was able to regain use of her vocal chord and could eat and drink without difficulty, we then followed the usual stages of childhood. However, I felt that everyone had moved on from her traumatic birth and I could not let it go. If I be honest still to this day I often check on her several times a night to check she is breathing!
The last 3 and a half years since I started working again I have coped. Sometimes well, sometimes not at all. I did not notice how irrational I was. I thought people were strange for not experiencing the guilt I experienced any time I left her.
I was exhausting myself everyday with worry, guilt and depression due to this. I knew that I was having difficulties with my mental health when she was around 1, I was driving my car (alone) and all I could think about was how much better I would be if I just switched off. I could imagine in detail dying. Just driving off the motorway, into a barrier, even at a quiet time to ensure I did not endanger others. I did not have actual intent, but the plan was very real.
I will be honest, my guilt was the only thing that prevented an attempt. Peaches Geldof had committed suicide that year. I remember reading about how much her mums suicide had impacted her, and then she did exactly the same, leaving her children. I cried reading this. I considered what impact my suicide would have on my daughter, I would have ruined her life before it even got started.
I never really told anyone, I had a few sick days. I approached my GP, I told him how I felt, he advised with my career it is best not to have it on my file and to have a week off. I then had a visit with the health visitor to check on my daughter (routine), where I wanted so badly to tell her, but when she asked what I did for work, she laughed and said how do you manage that? I cannot deal with the crazy mums!!! Well, I did not tell her!
I remained untreated, with no help. I hid everything from friends and family.
Time went on, I started some natural medication that was advised on a blog I saw, a natural antidepressant apparently. I thought it was helping, I had good and bad days. Some days I hated everyone, some days not so much. I was able to engage with friends, attend social events, I even went abroad on a hen do! What I didn’t tell my friends was how hard that was for me, for weeks, no, months I was dreading it, I had sleepless nights, I had a flare up of physical conditions, cold sores, migraines, the first night of the hen, my head was so bad from the guilt and anxiety I had to stay in the room alone anyway to recover, of which I spent half the night worrying about people breaking in and killing me! (anxiety at its best).
So fast forward a year, I started to experience severe fatigue, shoulder, neck and back pain, weakness all over my body. I was under several investigations, had flare ups of flu like symptoms and was convinced I was dying (obvs). My depression was under control, well I thought it was, I had lost all feelings, I had only married my husband 5 months before, yet I had lost all feelings in this time. I was no longer unhappy with life, I just felt nothing. I was an empty shell. The only time I felt anything was pain and panic. This was depression at its worst.
I had no idea I had anxiety. I am a mental health nurse, and had no clue! How about that! I guessed I had depression, but at my worst did not recognise the severity. I just thought this is me, my life is crap, I don’t want to live, but I suppose I have to.
Everyday I would experience what I now know is anxiety, I would see friends, then mull over conversation’s I’ve had with them weeks after, wondering if I said the right thing? Did I sound crazy, or like a cow? How did I approach situations and how were my reactions…I was mulling over everything. Things that happened in the past, I would worry that I was a bad child and that is why my dad never wanted to know me. This had become the norm for me, then it increased. Then, the worries about my daughters health increased, I worried about her possibly being abused at nursery (there was nothing to suggest this) but I would worry, worry about being caught in a terrorist situation, dying on the motorway, dying on an aeroplane.
It was so bad, that I am sure you will remember the little girl that died in Disney (RIP) from the alligator attack, well I dreamt every night for a week, in full vivid imagination style that it was my daughter! I grieved nights on ends for her. We have never been to Florida!! I do not have current plans to, and someone lost their little girl, yet all I could do was worry that it “could” happen to me.
Work was becoming too overwhelming, I had a week off sick, I broke down at my doctors, she advised I have 4 weeks off. This turned to 6 in the end. I commenced medication at this point (will cover this in another post).
Since this time, things have improved. I am no longer suicidal, I have some enjoyment in life and do not feel empty. But the anxiety is still present. I struggle on and off with it. Usually always around my daughter and dreading the worst.
I try to remember I have an illness, I have good days and bad days. It is not me, and I cannot let it control me again.
So the baby that I never wanted, she turned 4 last week. She changed my life, despite the anxiety, the depression, the emptiness…Everything revolves around her, she is my world. Being a mummy is tough, being ill is tough, and all of us struggle, we are all human.
That is my story in brief. (ish).
I hope this offers insight into why I want to share my stories, in a hope that other mummies do not feel as alone as I did.
Stay strong mamas.