by Ajike Akande
A Little Bit of Truth...
The following is a brutally honest, account of my experience with depression. It may be a hard read for some. Please know, readers, especially family and friends, all is good over here. Life is good. I am okay. Better than okay. xo
I’m sitting in a library, far from home and my life, hoping to write something (quickly) that is worth reading for this week’s blog post. As I opened the computer and quickly checked my email, I received an article about black women and depression from a good acquaintance. Just reading the title, I thought why would she send this to me? How does she know?
A friend suggested that this week I write about something a little less funny, a little more serious. The only not funny thing I’ve been waiting to write about is depression. So, in the interest of being totally unfunny, here goes.
I have been living with depression since Wife and I started the journey toward a family. Before that, I certainly felt things “extra”. My family would agree that I have always been a deep feeler (or drama queen depending on who you ask). And of course I went to therapy, but hey, I’m a lesbian, it’s kinda our thing.
The anxiety and depression got really bad when I got pregnant with our first babe, Isaiah. She grew, so did my anxiety. My anxiety grew, so did my intense sadness. My sadness grew, and my anxiety took over. It grew until she was born. She died, the anxiety died, but sadness grew and grew. Like so many newly bereaved parents, I felt like my life was no longer worth living. It seemed so obvious to me, and so scary to Wife. Those days after Isaiah died, was the first time I truly wished that I were dead. Loads of therapy got me through that period, and life went on, offering up the most amazing, wonderful gifts in the form of living children.
Depression is a weird thing though, it goes dormant, but once you’ve been there – in that place of deep depression, I don’t think you are ever fully restored. Before I got pregnant with The Littles, the depressive feelings would creep up and I would drag myself back to therapy and tune-up my heart. It felt like I had run my engine into the ground, and I just needed things tuned up. But when I got pregnant with The Littles my engine just started to completely fall apart. The anxiety came back and I became truly obsessed with what was happening in my body. My OB sent me to a psychiatrist. I was medicated. I was sent to a social worker that specialized in maternal anxiety. I panicked. I counted kicks. I did everything I could to satisfy my overwhelming anxious feelings. I sat in this weird space desperately wanting the pregnancy to end because it was too scary and desperately wanting it to continue as long as possible so I could deliver healthy babies. My partner held me through these agonizing months and when I was just too broken, cared for and loved our children enough for the both of us. She was terrified that she would lose me and our babies. She was quietly strong, and quietly weakened by my sadness.
When the The Littles arrived – screaming, we celebrated and began the ridiculously hard work of raising five under five (four under 3). My crying was because of the hormones and sleep deprivation or because of a little guy with failure to thrive. It would pass. It didn’t pass. It got worse. So much worse. I often called Wife sobbing from the car with crying babies in the background. “I can’t do this. You have to come home. Please.” In those days, I would nurse babies and close my eyes and imagine ways I could end my life. It got to a point where I couldn’t even stop the thoughts, they were just in my head all the time. Sometimes, I would pick up a happy babe and offer them a nursing because I realized that while I was holding them, I couldn’t go anywhere no matter what thoughts were running through my head. I would share these thoughts with Wife but reassure her that it was fine, obviously I wasn’t going to actually kill myself. I wasn’t lying, although she didn’t believe me. I knew that my thoughts were just thoughts and not plans.
The funny thing is, the best reason I could come up with not to end my life was that everybody would be mad at me. They would hate me and think I was a horrible mother. For me, that would be the worst thing – for people to think that I was a horrible mother. Don’t worry family, I am overly focused on what people think of me, so I’ll be sticking around.
At some point though, I stopped being so sure that my thoughts weren’t becoming plans. I was in so much pain, the medication wasn’t working and I just didn’t trust myself. When I shared this with Wife, my mom and a dear friend they started panicking, which in turn made me worry more. I was looking for “Don’t worry, Ajike” and they were calling each other trying to figure out what to do.
For a while this was a horrible secret that a few of us shared about just how depressed I was. To the rest of the world I looked pretty good. Let’s be honest, people have low expectations for a mother of five young children including two sets of twins! My jokes were good, my cursing on point (F$*K can I curse!), and my kids were alive and happy and I was doing a reasonably good job as mama bear. Behind the scenes, I cried and I yelled. It was horrible. Eventually I accepted the advice of my psychiatrist and increased my dose of medication and added a new medication to the mix. I reluctantly agreed to take more help with the kids. And I prayed for things to change.
Right now things are pretty good. I mean I’m on 295mg of psychiatric drugs a day, but hey, it’s not such a bitter pill to swallow considering the alternative! Besides, the drugs thing is kind of funny. Wife and I joke that with every little person tantrum, it’s another 10mg of the good stuff! I suspect my psychiatrist father-in-law does not appreciate my humour, but when you’re waiting out a tantrum, it’s best to crack a few jokes.
This post is so much longer than I had intended, much more raw and less eloquent than I would have liked, but it’s truth. I’m suffering from, living with, and laughing through the shit-storm that is depression. So is my family, which I hate, but we kind of have this deal, that we’ll see each other through.