The visions are mostly beautiful

At some point, about half way through my happy pregnancy; the one where I carried my daughter, four and a half years after my wedding, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t me: it was as if some imposter had taken over my personality. I still resided within the recesses of my own mind, but I had taken up an observatory role; the tasks I carried out, the way I spoke, these were not driven by me. I remember trying to explain it to my sister, as I sat there in my dungarees (who, please; WHO said it was ok to wear dungarees when one is eight months pregnant?)
“I feel like I’m trapped inside a cage, and I can’t speak and I can’t let anyone know I’m actually in here.”
She nodded like she understood. Maybe she did. She knew I wasn’t myself but like me, she didn’t know why.
My energy was at a chronic low; I had been told it would be this way, but I had nothing to measure it off; I didn’t know what too low was. Geoff took care of me, fed me, ensured I ate well and all I had to do was heave my bulk off the sofa to bring the empty plate to the dishwasher, but I couldn’t even manage that. It occurred to me at the time that this couldn’t be normal; how do people keep going if they have zero energy?
She was born on a foggy day in January. It wasn’t an easy birth and Geoff saved her life by cutting the cord that threatened to strangle her.
“It’s a girl,” someone said. A team of perhaps ten attended my birth; it might have been any one of them.
“Aisling, so.” Said Geoff.
The name I had chosen if he had been a girl. Before. I fell in love with Aisling, the name; the baby that might some day be her. The Irish word for a dream, a vision of Ireland. It was romantic, tribal; it gave me joy when times were dark. We hadn’t discussed it, not really, but Geoff knew what the name meant to me.
“Aisling.” I said. And that was that.
The light of my child was the only thing that kept me going; it had been a difficult birth, I couldn’t feed her, everything was sore. My ward was like a war zone; too many women cramped into too small a space; nurses over worked and unavailable to just sit and listen. My last time in this hospital had been in a private room, just me and the baby. This time it was too loud and too bright. I couldn’t feed and she was understandably upset. I kept the curtains around my bed for the full horrible five days. I didn’t sleep at all. I could not get out of there fast enough. There was though, the day she was born, a moment of sheer brilliant joy, when Geoff came back with clothes and food and our clunky old fashioned video camera; he showed me some footage he took of the snowdrops that were growing in the park beside our home. They were and still are my favourite flower, their lives so short and so delicate that it would be a sin to pick them. He knew that but he wanted me to see them. That memory smells sweeter still than any flowers he could have brought me.
Snowdrops in the fog; that is Aisling’s birth. Her sister brought a wild wind. And my first born; he showed me my first sunrise.
There was another moment of joy leaving the Coombe; the knowing beyond all knowing that as we passed out the door, the three of us, that I was exorcising the ghost of the lonely heartbroken girl, the me of twelve years earlier, waiting in the foyer to go home, alone.
“She’s free now.” I thought.
And we went home, where I sat and cried and cried; irrational thoughts that I would never be able to protect my daughter from the world; what if she pulled a pot of hot water all over her two years from now? What if she got knocked down? The dangers of the world were psychedelic and I didn’t think I could manage to keep her safe. It went on like this for six months. It was early summer and my friend had invited us to her house for a barbecue. By this time, I was two stone overweight, ugly in the extreme and just repulsive to look at. Or so I thought. Walking down the road was torturous; I could feel the silent catcalls of every driver going past me. I was worthless – I couldn’t even reach my own self – that vague idea of me, so suppressed and worn down. We got to the house and I couldn’t get out of the car. I was frozen, a bizarre feeling of helplessness. I was cajoled somehow and we went in. I was happy to see my friend but it was immensely difficult for me; there were wasps everywhere and what if one of them stung Aisling? And then, the most awful thing happened: neighbours called in. I was thrown into silent turmoil; they would have to look at my awful face and it would disgust them. I tried to hide behind Aisling as she sat on my lap but the wasps! I literally broke down. Came inside. We all decided it was best if I went home. I said to Geoff,
“I think I have post natal depression.”
I thought he would laugh and say nonsense.
He nodded. He agreed.
I had been grasping at straws; I didn’t really think I was depressed – I mean, I was living happily ever after, right? This was a joyous pregnancy and birth. This was the baby I got to keep. Why in the name of God would I be depressed?
And yet.
I was.
I had been, I realized, depressed the whole way through my pregnancy; ante natal depression as well as post natal. It’s a thing. It’s real. I told my sister. She also nodded and said it made sense. When I look back now, it’s as clear as day, but back then, it was murky and sticky. But naming it helped. I went to my doctor. We talked. She asked if I wanted to take anything. I said I didn’t think so. Now that I knew what my monster was, I could deal with it.
Fucking monsters.
It helps to visualize them.
When I finally gave up smoking a couple of years earlier, I imagined my addiction as a long tentacled alien type monster. Every time I had a craving and I didn’t give in, half a tentacle would disappear, just like that. I carried the knowledge of that monster all through the two weeks of weaning myself off nicotine, knowing he was there, but reveling in the power I had over him, every time I stood up to a craving.
Depression was another monster.
I knew his name. I could see him now. I walked my way out of his life.
Every day, I put Aisling in her buggy and I walked, fast as I could, pushing into my pain. I walked and walked. One day, I stopped mid walk. I literally couldn’t go on: I wasn’t tired, I was just…well the fucking monster had a grip on me. It’s all visuals with me: I was at the bottom of a pit. There was only one thing I could do, and that was crawl my way out. I had to. The only way was up. That was what taking a step forward was like that day. But I took it. And another and another. I walked and I walked until the weight fell off me and I left the monster behind.
It always amazes me. I should have been happier than I ever was. I should have been powerful. But depression doesn’t need a reason. We need to remember that; there might be nothing wrong, but everything can be wrong. I was living happily ever after but the monster came anyway. He came, but he didn’t stay. Monsters come, but I’m less afraid of them the older I get. They don’t scare me so much anymore, as piss me off. I try to tell my children that if something goes wrong; don’t worry about me, I have the hide of a hippo. Thick skinned, tough, a warrior woman with fifty years of shit I no longer take. But I won’t stop dreaming; the visions are mostly beautiful.

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