I used to scoff the idea of depression and anxiety. Only a person of weak mind and soul would not be able to control and compose themselves. The idea that your ability to handle a situation or emotion rationally could be beyond your control was almost laughable. But I sit in the grips of both myself presently, as well as experiencing it in previous months and it is very real. It is terrifying to be perfectly honest, to know that your thoughts and fears cannot be controlled, that situations that you would normally handle calmly and rationally are able to paralyse you beyond reasonable comprehension.
Our daughter is perfect, she is beautiful, intelligent, strong willed, determined, resilient and one hell of a fighter. She also struggles immensely with gaining weight and has a history of oral aversion that shook me to my very foundation. It brought out a side in me that I never knew existed. I was faced with a situation that I was completely unprepared for, it paralysed me, it made me unbelievably angry, it caused me to doubt myself, it caused me to resent my daughter, it caused so many raw, ugly emotions that I’m yet to come to terms with.
A few months back we conquered so very much with our daughter, we were on the road to recovery, all be it slower than I had anticipated, but she was improving daily, yet I couldn’t shake the fear. I feared regression, I feared the threats of medical intervention, I feared her failure to thrive and grow and mostly I feared myself. I doubted my abilities, with every bottle or meal refusal I found myself angry at the unfairness of it all, I found myself resenting my daughter, why wasn’t she trying harder, didn’t she know she needed to drink in order to grow, why was she making things so difficult on me, as if she had any control over her issues. I was consumed with fear day and night. I counted the minutes and hours on the clock to the next feed where I would struggle to remain positive when she refused or fought back against drinking, or didn’t drink enough to satisfy the graph intake the paediatricians and dieticians insisted she needed to meet in order to grow.
At the crest of this I started to resent my irrationally calm and logical husband, I resented his calm demeanor and ability to remain composed and rational. I myself couldn’t find the strength to move forward with a single rational thought or positive emotion, so how was he able to do it so easily. I lived in a dark cloud filled with tears, shouting and tantrums that I felt terrible about, but I couldn’t stop myself. I would shout at my daughter, I would say terrible things to her, I resented her very presence. I knew what I was doing was beyond wrong, but I was powerless to stop myself, it was crippling. The guilt and shame of my actions further fueled my levels of anxiety until I could take no more. I would console her, apologise, promise to try harder, promise to remain positive for the both of us, but at the very first sign of a struggle I would fall apart all over again.
I was eventually diagnosed with Post Partum Depression and Post Traumatic Stress and was given doses of anti depressants and told to seek council. With the support of family, friends and my husband I was able to pull myself out of the cloud for the most part, but as her first birthday draws closer, I find myself tripping and sliding back into that dark place. The emotions and memories of the weeks leading up to her birth, coupled with a spate of recent bottle refusals has me right back on the precipice of a place I had hoped I would never see again.
Raising a micro preemie is not for the feint hearted. I have no doubt that, had I been younger that I would not have been able to make it this far alive. I am faced with a life that I asked for, yet I didn’t. She is all consuming and needs me 247. The knowledge that I am her entire world is beyond terrifying. This is not her fault, nor is it mine, it is something that we were both unfairly thrown into.
But I do know that my actions and reactions to her struggles and refusals do not make things any easier on any of us, the inability to control these reactions, the inability to remain focused and positive, the inability to handle stressful situations as rationally as I would before, the inability to pull myself out of that cloud, the knowledge that I make stressful situations worse instead of better, this is what kills me. The guilt of knowing that I am not strong enough or good enough for her is consuming. I find myself wondering what her and my husbands life would be without me in it. Surely they would be better off without me in the long term? What if I just got in my car and drove and never turned back, would they be better off? But what kind of a selfish coward would that make me.
I love my daughter more than life itself. That I am often faced with crippling fear and the inability to remain positive for her is crushing to my core. It makes me feel as though I am a complete failure at being a mother. It makes me doubt whether I deserve to be in her life or if I am good enough for her. I am determined to conquer my demons for her and for my husband, I fail more often than not, but I keep pushing forward, hoping that sooner rather than later I will be able to find the light and when I do, I’ll never let go of it.