Mental Health is not just for Christmas
Posted on 17th November 2020 at 14:31
Often, I write on here sharing my thoughts on world events and human affairs.
Today I share myself, my raw bones and an event which happened very recently. As I write this I am lying on my sofa, allowing my body time to heal, letting my heart slowly stitch back the fabric of my emotional self.
I have recently survived a tsunami inside my soul and it will take time to readjust.
In March, we decided as a family that it might just be time to welcome a puppy into our lives. Our youngest son, has yearned for a 4-legged best friend for many years – and I yearned to offer him that opportunity. To play amongst the waves in Cornwall, to cuddle up to in cold nights. I also knew that the training process would be good for him – something he could wrestle with and learn patience and endurance.
And so, when a dear friend announced her dog was pregnant, I set to organizing the surprise. We read books, visited the puppies, reorganized our house, had meetings with trainers, set up a puppy day care service, bought the crate, ordered raw food, saved pennies.
We watched YouTube videos / countless wonderful videos warning of the hard work but offering great rewards.
We were prepared as much as we could be for the arrival of our newest 4-legged family member.
When the day arrived, I set to picking up dear Amos and immediately fell in love with him. His warm eyes and soft ears which draped around his head like a cosy winter hat. Ginormous paws warned us as to how big he would grow. He wandered into our house with nervousness, and we did all the right things.
We taught him to sit, to lay down, to go to his bed, to sleep in his crate. We had waited until he was 12 weeks old so that he would be stronger in his sense of self, and it was the best idea we had had, because he was easily trained and easily settled. He was, just the right kind of puppy for us.
From the second day we had him, I felt a very familiar feeling. A long distant tyrant who had visited 13 years ago and took 18 months to get to leave, followed by 7 years of learning to forgive myself.
Tears flowed from my eyes at every waking moment, I could not breathe and realized it was my own hands choking my neck. My heart competed with the ticking clock for first prize in a never-ending marathon and I could not sleep.
Dark thoughts entered my mind, suggestions that I will not write here – but let’s just say, my mind refused to be my advocate.
In 24 hours, I had lost all sense of myself and post-natal depression had arrived alongside our new puppy.
Devastation is not big enough a word to describe what I felt, I struggled onwards. 48 hours arrived and I was still on the downward spiral. A wave threatened to completely knock me off my feet, but how on earth could I complain when my dear son was falling in love with the puppy that seemed to have arrived alongside my PND.
72 hours later and luckily, I have a sense of self enough to be able to catch hold of this dismantling, and I had to make a decision that was unthinkable.
Our dear puppy had to return home.
Admitting that I couldn’t cope was one thing, having to tell my son was an entirely different matter. I am extremely lucky, I have an incredibly supportive partner who held my hand as I gently broke my son’s heart. He lay on my lap all evening sobbing and telling me all the hopes he had had. Running alongside the sea, playing catch in the woods, teaching him to roll over, to jump. Taking him to France and seating him in a canoe.
I remember feeling the same when Ebbon was born, knowing I had all these dreams for our future yet totally overwhelmed with the pain of PND.
We took a day, Ebbon and I, to say goodbye to dear Amos, it will take much longer for Ebbon to heal. I have asked him to do something extraordinarily difficult, to hold in one hand the grief that he feels over the loss of his dreams, and in the other hand to have a level of understanding that it wasn’t possible for no other reason than a chemical produced in my body threatens to take over my ability to function.
I count myself a fairly grounded, emotionally centred self. I’ve done the work, read the books, paid my due hours in therapy, sat in circles of women wailing, laughing and learning to “feel” in a safe way. And nothing could have prepared me for my 5 days revisiting PND.
We like to imagine that mental health is something that perhaps happens slowly over time, and that there is a point where you can “catch” hold of it and self-right yourself. We like to imagine that a person can always – to a degree “ask” and reach out for help. Yet my experience has taught me that it is virtually impossible to even have the energy to reach out. A tsunami drowns you, and every waking moment – all 24 hours, are spent surviving and trying to breathe, to even contemplate having the energy to call someone for help – is craziness in itself.
So how did I survive, how come I arrived at the place where myself mattered.....the truth is, I didn’t leave it too long – the truth is I was spotted – the truth is friends did not leave me alone – the truth is that I recognized what was going on and acted on it – the truth is; I’m bloody lucky.
Mental health does not just happen to sad people, to lonely people, to people out of work or to stressed people. Mental health does not always look like someone behaving erratically, or someone isolating themself.
Mental health is in the room next door.
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