I had an antenatal appointment booked at my nearest hospital, which I assumed would be a general check up and maybe a scan. It was pretty much that. My SO and I went into the doctor’s room where a nurse sat on the edge of the ultrasound bed.
I’m not sure if it was just me but the vibe in the room felt almost unfriendly. I barely wanted to say anything when the doctor asked me some questions about my overall health and my health conditions (coeliac disease, etc.). He then asked me about my depression and anxiety, whether I was on any medication at the moment and whether I had felt low recently.
I almost said no to the latter but thought I should be honest about it. Over the last few weeks I’ve had some terribly low days. My thoughts have spiralled and I’ve been numb from tears on several occasions. I’ve retreated within myself and felt completely hopeless.
I actually really struggled to tell my SO about how I was feeling not long ago. He knew that I had been feeling down (as he had too) but to admit to him how dark my thoughts had actually been was really difficult.
One morning, all the stress, anxiety and upset from the day before turned into a quick descent into depression. I thought about how my mind just doesn’t work like others; how do ordinary people live so contently? Am I crazy for disliking the way things are or must be, to be considered normal? How can I imagine hurting myself in the morning and then happily go book shopping that same day?
What about my unborn child? Will she feel the same way? Will how I am feeling somehow infect her? Will she have to put up with a depressive mother?
That’s when I started to cry.
I tried my hardest to tell my SO all that I have been and am feeling. It took several attempts, and a lot of tears, but I finally said those words;
“I feel like I’m maybe depressed again.”
It took so many tries to say that out loud, even to somebody so close to me who has helped me with my depression in the past. I felt stupid for saying it – the stupidity coming from the thoughts that I was either 1) overreacting, 2) being dramatic, or 3) being hormonal from the pregnancy. But then I thought about how suicidal thoughts still cross my mind, how I am somewhat lacking joy when it comes to my regular hobbies, how I wish to stay exclusively in my SO’s company because he is where I feel safe.
It’s never easy to talk about these feelings, nor is it easy to hear them from a loved one. We cried together in bed, sipping our warm coffees in-between tears. I don’t know how many times I said sorry, or how many times he said there’s no need to be sorry. The baby began kicking fast and we both took a moment to just appreciate her, to focus on our daughter who clearly wanted us to know that she was responding to our voices.
So when it came to telling my doctor, you can imagine how awkward I felt, sitting in a room with some unwelcoming vibes with a nurse who somewhat lacked bedside manners (she wasn’t particularly friendly when getting me ready for my scan).
The doctor asked me if I had had thoughts about self harm, and I said yes. He asked when this was, and I replied; “about two weeks ago.” He then said to us that he was going to have to talk to his consultant about how they can help me, himself and the nurse getting up and leaving the room.
They were gone for what seemed like ages as my SO and I patiently waited. Then only the doctor came back in, telling me that with the consultant’s guidance and permission he would like to give me a prescription for Sertraline, refer me to some counselling services, and have me come back in two weeks time to check up on things.
Immediately I was hesitant. I’d already assumed that if I were to speak to a professional about how I have been feeling, that they would instantly try to get me to take antidepressants. I’m not against antidepressants in any way – I took them myself for several months in 2016, and I know that they are literal life-savers for many people who struggle with mental illness. The thing that bothered me was the thought of feeding them to my unborn baby*.
So I declined. Seconds afterwards, the nurse came in with a green prescription booklet in her hands. The doctor told her I had said no to the prescription, and she left the room again as I avoided eye contact with her.
I felt as if the doctor and consultant were treating me like I needed to be kept an eye on, as if they were trying to look at me through a huge magnifying glass. The check-up in two weeks felt accusatory in some way – like they thought I would hurt myself and consequently, hurt my baby.
I haven’t self-harmed in over 10 years, and since then, even though sometimes I’ve felt close to doing it, I’ve never attempted to take my own life. That two week check-up felt as though they were just waiting for me to do something like that, like my daughter was unsafe.
Like anybody, I have my good days and my bad days – it’s just that my bad days can be really bad. Over the last week I have actually been feeling better. I’ve been more hopeful about the future and less on the verge of crying. Things are slowly coming together, ready for the baby to be born in November. I’ve also started to journal a lot more, using writing as a therapy tool.
I plan to go to the therapy sessions (if the waiting list isn’t 6 months long, which is how long I waited before), but mostly I wish to just look after myself better and use my own ways of coping to get through those darker days. I’m hoping that the love and protection I already feel for my daughter will not only motivate me to keep going, but also remind me that there is an even more magical time coming in the next few months.
*= FYI, I do not judge any pregnant woman for taking antidepressants. Medication is there to help treat symptoms, and I think it does in most cases. It is just a personal decision I made.