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When a Doctor Gave Me the Permission I Needed to Accept I Was Ill

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I went to an emergency, after-hours doctor’s office on a Saturday evening on a bank holiday weekend because I didn’t know what else to do. I expected a change in my antidepressant medication or a prescription for anxiety medication, something to take the edge off and help me through another day. My mental health had been declining throughout the past 48 hours. I was, frankly, terrified. I didn’t know what was happening to me and it was freaking scary.

I have battled depression, anxiety and an eating disorder since I was a teenager. I also suffered postnatal depression with my first child but nothing I have faced in the past has given me the sheer terror I have felt on this evening. Postnatal depression hit me again, but this time it was different.

Depression is like an old friend to me now. We have spent many days together. I know his ways and what to expect from our relationship. It is hard but it’s nothing new.

This was something altogether different. It felt like my mind was not my own. In a few days, I became unable to do simple household tasks and care for my children. I needed help at all times and feared being alone with my 2-year-old and 3-month-old. This is no longer the old friend I recognize. This disease is a stranger in my body and the alien nature of my symptoms was utterly terrifying me. The rate at which I was deteriorating was alarming.

It left me constantly wondering, “What is happening to me?” It was nothing I had ever experienced before, which is why the kind words and genuine care from the tired doctor, at the end of what must have been a long shift of frustrated patients irritated by the hour-long wait, were better than any medication I could have hoped to receive. I was given knowledge and felt empowered. He told me sometimes postnatal depression can hit you out of nowhere. There doesn’t need to be a reason why and the quick decline, while scary, is also common. He reassured me while regular depression is an unruly menace difficult to adequately treat, postnatal depression responds very well to treatment.

In that conversation, I was given permission to accept that I am ill. It is not a case of my mind not being strong enough or not thinking enough of the right things. It doesn’t necessarily need a cause or a reason. Sometimes it just happens. I was given hope that I can recover and that people do get through this. I was reassured I am not losing my mind or going mad.

I have an illness, and I have now accepted it. I will need to take time to rest and recover. I will need to accept help to care for my children and to run my household. None of those roles I play are as important as my life. People can fill in for me with childcare and housework, but no one could replace me if I was no longer here.

I need to work toward being OK again. I need to keep myself safe and keep going forward. I need to let go of the guilt of not being able to look after my children right now. I am ill and I need to rest. Rest now mama.

Originally published: July 13, 2016
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