Depression – by Cheryl Haggard

Some people struggle with it for all their lives. Some people struggle with it for a period of time. But nobody talks about it. Depression is just about as taboo as the death of a baby. I can only talk to you about my struggles with depression. What I did to help myself. Know that I am not a medical doctor, or experienced in the medical field in any capacity.

I never struggled with depression until after the death of my son.

Who I am is a bereaved mother. A mother who experienced the death of one of the greatest loves of her life. A mother who struggled after her son’s death to find any sort of normalcy for herself, her family and her marriage. A mother who suffered from anxiety. A mother who couldn’t sleep. A mother who found herself in the deep pit of depression. Is this the norm for a bereaved parent? Yes, it is.

After Maddux died, my ob-gyn offered to write me a prescription for anything I needed. I politely told her, no, only to be in total despair a few weeks later when she offered again. This time I accepted a prescription for the sleeping pill, Ambien. I remember taking this for about two weeks and really didn’t seem to notice any difference. One night I remember the most (this is pre-Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep), was sitting on the sofa watching a movie with my three older children and having a few glasses of wine. I remember sitting there, looking at them, watching me. The realization hit me, how I grieve, and what I do in this process will affect them and influence them for the rest of their lives.

That was a wake up call for me. I quit taking those sleeping pills.

But it wasn’t until two years later that depression really hit me hard. Trying to sleep at night was the worst. I would wake up in a panic. My mind never shut off. My husband would get mad because I had to have the TV on at all times. I found that by doing so, my mind was focused on what was going on with the television, and not the endless worrisome scenes that played over and over in my head. I could only fall asleep as soon as it started to get light outside. My alarm would wake me an hour later to take my kids to school, maybe throw a load of laundry in the washer, load the dishwasher and immediately return to bed. I would get up an hour before I had to pick up kids to shower, maybe throw that load of laundry into the dryer then grab kids from school and drive them to their activities. I would put a smile on my face and pretend that everything was alright. This would be considered a good day.

My husband had no idea, because he traveled and wasn’t home for weeks, or sometimes months on end. Most days, I just ended up back in bed and rewashed the load of clothes in the washer because it had sat so long it would smell. I wouldn’t answer my phone when people I knew called me. People would ask me why I never answered my phone or called them back, and I always had an excuse. I was busy with NILMDTS, or I was out walking the dogs, or busy with kids and their activity. I would get offensive. Tell them to give me a break. That I was doing everything on my own. This went on for at least 2 years.

It wasn’t until I confided to my friend Rhonda about how my marriage was suffering. I couldn’t sleep and I was suffering from anxiety attacks on a daily basis. She simply asked me why I hadn’t seen a doctor.  I think what stood out the most about our conversation that day was her saying, “Cheryl, there is medication available that can help you. Why would you refuse this help?” I didn’t want to take any medication. I told her, “I could do this on my own.” But, I couldn’t. My depression was only getting worse. It took a few conversations with Rhonda, and I finally agreed to see a doctor. I didn’t go back to my ob-gyn, and I didn’t go to a doctor.

I went to a lovely nurse practitioner. She knew me because our daughters went to school together. She took her time to talk to me, asked me questions. She really cared about me and my well-being. She talked about several options and then we decided together which one would be best. I think this is the biggest fear of most bereaved parents. To see a doctor and feel belittled by what we are feeling. I went on Lexapro and immediately started to be able to sleep at night. The simple act of sleeping without waking up in a panic, changed my whole day. I didn’t feel drugged or groggy. I felt good. And after about 1 1/2 years, I was able to quit taking this medication. I have been off of Lexapro for almost 4 years now. My strongest medication now is Tylenol.

Again, this is my story and what I did to help myself. I knew I needed help. I fought getting help for many years. I thought I could do it all on my own. I couldn’t. I reached out. The simple act of reaching out probably saved my marriage. Saved my family. Saved myself.

Don’t let anyone tell you that if you take medication you are weak. But then again, don’t let anyone tell you that you need to be on medication.

Reach out to a friend. Talk to your doctor or in my case, a lovely caring nurse practitioner. Be honest and open. If you need help, ask for help.

Make the best decision for YOU! You are not weak! As a bereaved parent, you become stronger each and every day. But remember, sometimes it’s ok to stop and adjust the weight of the world on your shoulders. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Heal yourself.

I want to hear from you. I want to hear about your struggles. What did you do? Did you seek help and support? How did you do it? Who helped you? Did you take medication? For how long? Are you opposed to taking medication? Why?

The stories we share help those who walk this journey behind us. Thank you.

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