The Beast and his Shadow

The sudden death of a celebrity always gets people talking. Particularly when that death is linked to suicide.

Robin Williams the actor, was loved by millions, myself included. He managed to brighten up my world with his incredible talent and brand of humour. From the early days of Mork and Mindy right up until the very recent and funny The Crazy Ones and all of his critically acclaimed work in between. His charity work helped thousands of people who may not have even known he was working for them. He’s also touched me personally, by giving me the courage to finally publish this blog post that I wrote early last year.

I was in the throes of severe anxiety and depression secondary to my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My psychologist recommended I write my story from the perspective of a narrative to try and see my story from the outside in. This was to enable me to read it as though it wasn’t my story and try to think of ways to help the person who’s story it was. It helped me immensely writing this, but I didn’t feel strong enough to share it until today.

Everyone is sharing their stories. They are talking about mental illness. Personal accounts, smashing stigmas that have survived years and years. Survivors coming out of the shadows to admit to a secret that we may not have been able to admit to previously, for fear of feeling outcasted by our families and friends.

Thank you for stopping by to read my story.

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The Beast. By Clair

One day out of the blue, a Beast knocked on my door. He was very persuasive and scary; I tried my best to keep him out, but eventually I had no choice to let him in.

At first he was easy to ignore. He would lurk quietly in the dark, hiding behind the furniture and under the bed, waiting for me to forget that he was there, growing stronger and stronger day by day.

He would come everywhere with me, to work, to the shops, even on holidays. Sometimes he was quiet and other times he was very loud. He would hitch a ride wherever he would fit. Some days he was happy to just ride in the car, but other days, to be on my shoulders, pushing all of his weight down onto me.

However, he was not happy to lurk forever. He wanted me to be focussed on him all of the time. So at first, I tried to keep him happy. I let him do whatever he pleased, as I was scared to try to stop him. I figured that if I kept him happy, I could get on with my life too. He was very strong and powerful. He was also very greedy and wanted more.

Sleeping was my only break from him. Then one time, he decided to visit me at night, while I was asleep. I no longer had any break from him.

He would place his hands upon me, so I could feel him.

He would make noise so I could hear him.

He would wave his arms about so I could see him.

He eventually stood in front of me all day, so all I could do was see him and nothing else. He stood between me and the people I cared about. Even closing my eyes didn’t work anymore.

I tried to carry on, but little things would remind me and he would appear.

After a while, the Beast introduced me to his Shadow. His Shadow was a terrible creature; it switched lights off. It closed the blinds. It blocked out the sun. The Beast and his Shadow were a perfect team, they worked together so well.

The Beast and his Shadow would talk to me, taunting me. They made me believe that I needed them both to get through the day. The Beast was telling me to ignore everyone else. I had him.

I was losing my ability to feel love. I forgot what it was like to feel happiness. I had to stop work. I couldn’t function. I struggled with the simplest of life’s chores. The Beast was smothering me with his weight and I was powerless to resist.

Being in the Shadow’s darkness all of the time, was frustrating and scary. I felt trapped. It made me so sad. The Shadow made me feel all alone in the world. The Shadow kept everything dark for so long, I had forgotten what it was like to see the light of day.

This went on for months. I had days where The Beast and his Shadow would let me see a little of the outside world. They would tease me. I would see something I liked and would remember see a hint of sunshine, but then they would take it all away again, plunging me back into the darkness that was gradually consuming everything.

Then one day came, where I reached breaking point. The Beast and his Shadow were standing before me, and I could not see anything except them. I felt angry, I’d had enough. My world was shattered and I was broken. So I screamed at them. I wasn’t going to be living under their power anymore. The Beast and his Shadow thought they had won, but I saw my chance to escape.

For this, they punished me. They closed in on me. They made me stay in bed and not talk to anyone.

I was alone in the dark all over again.

A little while later, I saw another chance to escape. This time I was stronger. I had help.

The Beast is still here with his Shadow, however he’s back to lurking in the dark, he knows that I am stronger than he is. Though he’s very persistent and he sometimes manages to get back in.

Sometimes I’m scared he’ll come back, for good, but I know that I’m now growing stronger every day he’s not hanging around like he was. I keep him away by talking. Even though I’m scared of him, I use all the courage I can muster to find a way to keep him at bay.

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On my welcome page, I have a list of services available to Australian residents. Please reach out and ask for help. It does take courage and it is scary. However I am here today because I did.

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Rough Day

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Rough day. However it’s all been written about before, word for word. Stop! Flashbacks. Panic! Anxiety. Stop! Flashback.

Even I am bored with it. Need new subject matter, one which doesn’t involve that day.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So wine. I take comfort in.

Comfortably numb.

Blindsided by The Beast

Sometimes a trigger blindsides me. I can’t see it coming and all I can do afterward, is try not to relive the flashback over and over. Which sometimes I do for days, like a record stuck on the needle.

I’m not going to deny that I haven’t been the easiest person to live with in the last eighteen months. I’ve lost friends (and solidified some amazing friendships) and I’ve made some serious changes to who I am as a woman, wife and mother.

Just today, I found myself scooping up my Missy and smothering her little face in kisses. She was giggling and saying “Mama” and cooing and garbling indeterminable sounds, which mimicked me saying “I love you”.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t have done this. Six weeks ago I loved her, but was keeping her at arms length.

I’m not sure what happened with the turnaround. I’m still seeing in vivid colour, feeling and sound, the events of ‘that day’.

I saw my scar in the shower two days ago and was back in the theatre being cut open. Me saying to my doctor as he shaved my pubic hair back “I can feel that”. Him rubbing my belly with iodine and me saying “I can feel that”.

How can I avoid a trigger that is on my body? I’ve deleted the people from my online life who were in my mothers group. I’ve left my job at the hospital where she was born. I avoid driving past the hospital at all costs and if I do, I shield my face so I can’t see the building. I’ve also deleted most of my former colleagues from Facebook as I couldn’t cope with seeing updates from work. I have actually done what Sarah suggested and replied to an inquisitor, with my hand up saying “I do not want to talk about it”. It felt so good and empowering.

This year, I decided to start with a clean slate and change my mindset and lifestyle. It doesn’t sound like much and it’s not a New Years resolution that will be all but forgotten by February, but tonight I did a 3.2km walk in my neighborhood. All 3,982 steps, according to my iPod pedometer. It felt good to strap my sneakers on and put my iPod on and just go for a walk. No pram, no baby, no mobile phone. Just me and my music and my thoughts. I read online the other week about waking helping to stop depression. You know what? It was so so good to just get out into the fresh air and see the birds flying, the sun setting and the dark clouds of nighttime rolling in. I’m actually looking forward to next walk. I also got my husband to hook up the Wii so I can get back into using the Wii Fit programme.

I may not be able to erase the triggers or the memories, but I may be able to learn to live with them, by seeking pleasure in other activities.

I know I’m pushing the memories to the back of my mind. I know I’m shutting the metaphorical windows without properly closing them. I know I’ll breakdown again in the future. That’s certain. It may not be this month, it may not be this year. However I know it will happen. I’m hoping that I know the signs and I have the mechanisms to cope next time.

Interestingly, today has been a day of talking about the past. The early days of motherhood when I was computing the enormity of what had happened to me, while navigating my way around my newborn. Spending so much time online, a great deal of my socialising is with the people inside my computer (well, in my case, my iPhone). I’m still not sure how people missed the red flags. I’m not blaming anyone, not at all, I just wonder how me saying what I was at the time, was not a red flag for anyone.

Talking about the past has its good and bad points. Good to reminisce about the good times. The first time I saw my Miss, her wide open eyes. Her first breastfeed. The first time she said “mama”. Her first steps. When she ran to me from across the room and leapt into my arms for a cuddle. Those times are great.

Then there are the bad times. Like the first time I told her that I hated her and that I regretted her because of what her birth did to me.

I’m not proud of myself for telling her that more than once. But I did it. I need to own that. I need now to remember that things will never be that bad ever again, even when I do breakdown again, because she deserves better. I can’t let her hear those words ever again, even though she won’t remember me saying them. She can’t help how she got here. All she wants is love. That’s what gets me through. One day when she’s older, if this blog is still about, I might let her read it. I think it’s important that she knows her story and my story.

I think I’ve waffled on enough for today.

xx

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Have a wonderful week xx

Over It

I’m a nightmare to live with. I’m annoying myself. What on earth am I doing to my husband and my daughter?

Meltdowns all the time. I can’t handle anything. I am so angry. I can’t control my temper and I’m just generally not coping.

Please tell me this will pass. I am not suicidal or at risk of hurting Missy or anyone else, I’m just so fucking over it.

Be PND Aware! PND Awareness Week 2012

It’s PND Awareness week, driven by PANDA .

As a result, there have been many mums and dads come out from the shadows and share their personal and harrowing accounts of their depression, anxiety and trauma. I feel so humbled and so privileged to have been involved in the sharing. I have read some terribly sad stories and have read some wonderfully uplifting stories. All real accounts of parents fighting their own inner battles, where they think they are alone, fumbling in the dark.

What’s so incredibly uplifting about PND Awareness week, is it hasn’t just been about telling those who have not been affected, but it’s also been a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the online community to let other vulnerable parents know that they are not alone. That even on their darkest days, where the isolation and depression is at its worst. When it feels like you’ll never come through the other side. There is another mum or dad out there struggling too. There are mums and dads out there who can tell their tales of triumph. It gives us who are still fumbling in the dark the knowledge that we too can beat The Beast.

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. I needed to get my feelings off my chest was first and foremost. Secondly, I wanted to share my story in the hope that another mum or dad who was hurting, may find my posts and seek help. It’s also this reason that I have linked other organisations to help, like Beyond Blue and also listing the phone number for Lifeline 131114. Proving that no matter how alone you feel, there is always someone out there who will be a sympathetic ear and will help you.

So thank you to everyone who has read my words this week. And previous weeks. Some of you have said that I am a strong woman and honestly, my strength as a whole comes from you all. My friends who’ve known of my struggle for a while now, have also been amazing. The love of my husband and my family. And finally, the absolute love of my baby girl. There have been days where I have resented her. I wouldn’t be sick if not for her, but I also wouldn’t know the greatest love of all without her.

Until next time my friends, xx

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Thank you PANDA

I’m So Tired

I’m stuck in this funk still from yesterday. I’m so angry and so frustrated. I don’t know what to do. I feel depressed, but my depression isn’t organic, it’s reactionary to my trauma and anger that makes me feel sad. This I know and understand. It doesn’t make it any easier though.

I’m sick of making sure other people are ok. I’m sick of trying to minimise my pain for the benefit of others. I keep having flashbacks. They’ve now been constant since last night.

I’m so tired of running. I’m so tired of keeping everything together on the outside, when inside I’m a million pieces. My glue isn’t working anymore. My tough exterior is starting to crack. The tears I’m crying are soaking through all of my tissues and I’m at a loss of how to stop.

I wish yesterday never happened. My psychologist says to minimise my exposure to known triggers. I didn’t see yesterday coming. I didn’t know that I’d be lambasted with that conversation. So do I have to stop associating with my friends now? Cut myself off from the people I like to reduce my exposure?

I’ve already lost so much. I don’t want to lose anymore.

This Beast is a nightmare. One that I can’t wake up from. One that keeps nipping at my heels. One that keeps barking at my door. I want to be strong and fight him off, but he’s so much more powerful than me. He fights me because he wants me left with Nothing.

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I’m sharing this post with PANDA for PND awareness week 2012. #bePNDaware

The Day My World Changed

I’m prefacing today’s blog with a disclaimer:

This is my birth story. It’s a little edited still as I just cannot share one hundred percent of what happened. It’s just too personal and still too raw. Please do not ask me any questions, it’s ok to comment but I do not want to discuss this. It’s still incredibly difficult, but I feel it’s time to share. There are some contact details for organisations that may be able to help you, if you’re experiencing PTSD on my welcome page.

If you are pregnant, think carefully before reading my story. It’s not pleasant.

Also, I am a registered nurse and have been a nurse for eleven years. The system I worked for, failed me.

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I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy. Morning all day sickness until about 20 weeks, migraines until 22 weeks. Baby was always growing well according to the ultrasound reports and I was actually liking being pregnant. Then I got to around 33 weeks and like all mothers to be, was totally over it. I was in pain all day and the Braxton hicks were getting more intense in nature. I was chugging raspberry leaf and hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait much longer to be put out of my pregnancy hell. At 35 weeks I felt her move up. I can’t really explain it, I just experienced intense lower back pain and I suddenly became unable to do anything. Plus my ankles had disappeared and replaced with fluid filled space occupiers.

At my next appointment my doctor told me that the baby was posterior and that’s why I had so much back pain. Also that her head was not engaged. I was distraught, the back pain was getting me down, I couldn’t sleep, then to be told she wasn’t engaged was a massive blow. She had been fully engaged at 35+1 when I had a ‘sizing’ ultrasound. As she had always measured on the lower side of size, my doctor wanted to ensure she didn’t have IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Retardation) which I felt pretty certain of that she didn’t.

After it was confirmed that my baby was a healthy size, we continued with the pregnancy as per usual. The same story continued through weeks 37, 38 and 39 though, that she wasn’t engaged. It was at 40 weeks that I started to get super worried. Why wasn’t my baby engaged? Why wasn’t I starting to show any signs of labour other than Braxton hicks? I was in pain 24 hours per day and was at the end of my tether. We decided to wait until 41 as I still very much wanted to avoid induction and or cesarean, so did my obstetrician, so I started doing more exercises to try and encourage the baby to engage. Unfortunately all my efforts were futile and at 41 weeks and one day, I saw my doctor again and we booked the cesarean. I was advised against an induction as there was high probability I’d end up with a cord prolapse an end up in cesarean anyway. My doctor had been doing ultrasounds at each appointment in the end to monitor the babies progress and check cord location.

I was booked in for 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I had to be nil by mouth from 6am and at the hospital at 10am for check in. To say I was terrified was a total understatement. I didn’t sleep the night before and I sobbed the whole way into the theatre and also while the operation happened. I’m a registered nurse, I know the risks to both mother and baby from cesarean.

When I was wheeled into the theatre, the anaesthetist had to put a cannula in my arm. This was for syntocinon (pitocin) and also in case of emergency. Then it was time for my spinal. The anaesthetist kept telling me to lean forward, but with an almost 42 week old foetus in my womb and an extra 18 kilograms (just under 40 pounds) of weight, I was quite literally as far forward as I could be. It hurt like hell going in. I yelped, but stayed perfectly still. Then my legs felt hot and heavy. I was swung up on the table by the staff and then I had a catheter put in. I told them I could feel it. Then they put betadine solution on my belly. I told them I could feel it. The doctor had to shave some of my pubic hair, I told him I could feel it. They ignored me. I was terrified. They started the operation. I could feel lots of tugging and pulling. They said it was normal, I kept telling them I could feel it and they kept telling me it was normal. I shut down. I totally dissociated from what was going on. Then the doctor told me that I would feel some pressure as they pulled the baby out. The pain was incredible as they pulled her out and I screamed. Everyone went silent. They all stopped. I just cried. Then it was business as usual. They kept going. I was still awake. Next thing I know, the baby was brought over and we had ‘happy’ snaps. Then they took her away. I was on my own in the theatre with the doctors. Stupidly the staff took the surgical screen down after the baby was born and I was able to see my reflection in the reflective coating on the light on the ceiling. The things I saw happen to me is stuff nobody should be privy to. I still can’t really talk about it. It’s so traumatic and violating. I can’t remember feeling it after that. I tried to zone out. I wanted to just be anywhere but there.

When the ordeal was over, I was in agony. My abdomen hurt so much. I was moved into recovery and I told the nurses I was in pain, but they didn’t believe me. They kept telling me that I had a spinal and I shouldn’t be in any pain. Which compounded my feelings, as I am a nurse, I know I can never ever tell my patient that they are not in any pain. I was in so much pain. I wanted my baby but I didn’t know where she was, nobody could tell me. I wanted my husband but he was gone too. I was on my own with a nurse who kept telling me about her baby, who kept ignoring me and who kept wanting to look at my ‘bleeding’. She didn’t ask either, she just kept lifting the blankets and looking at my vagina and telling me how “easy” post op cesarean ladies are to care for.

When they finally believed me that I was in pain and that I needed something, they told me that I would have to wait longer in recovery before I could go to my baby. I was so scared, so I told them just to take me to my room. I finally got some Endone or something a few hours later.

To add insult to injury, I suspected my daughter had reflux and was fobbed off by the nursing and medical staff. She would lie in the crib in my hospital room crying and screaming, then would vomit fountains of milk out. I was told she was just a “difficult” baby and as a “first time mum, you should expect to be nervous and unsure”. I finally had my daughter diagnosed and treatment commenced at 16 weeks old. We both suffered so much in those early days.

I physically recovered well from the operation and thankfully bonded well with my daughter. I’m still not ok in my head, it’s very early days. She’s now 16 and a half months old and really is the light of my life. There have been moments where I have regretted having her. In honesty, I would not be where I am in terms of my mental health, had I not had her, but she makes all the trauma and aftermath so worth it. I know also if we were to ever have another child (I’m still very much in the ‘no’ camp) and I needed another cesarean to ensure that babies safety, I’d do it without hesitation, but likely under a general anaesthetic.

Without the constant support and understanding of my husband and my parents and his parents, I know I would not have gotten through.

Without my amazing support network of friends. Some of them have been able to give me the greatest hugs and their shoulders to cry on. Most of them live inside my computer. However I count them all as the closest friends a girl could have. Such amazing women, willing to give so much of themselves to me in support.