"Pull yourself together"
Posted Wednesday 29 August 2012
If you meet me for the first time I will make you laugh till your stomach hurts with my wit and bubbly personality. When I'm in public, I wear a mask of smiles and tend to be the class clown and always cracking jokes. But behind closed doors it's a different story. I am terrified about so many things and I’m constantly reliving everything that’s happened to me.
I have had to deal with a restless childhood, traumatic teens, surviving domestic violence, caring for a child living with a disability, with no support from her dad, and holding down a job.
I was first diagnosed with postnatal depression after my second son. At the time, I was living in Germany and the support I got there was amazing. 7 years later I was back in the UK and, after having my daughter, postnatal depression reared it's ugly head again - 10 times more intense.
I remember the first visit from the NHS service - I was in a corner rocking back and forth because my baby girl would not stop crying. I hadn't slept more than one hour a day in weeks and I even blamed myself for the genetic disorder which caused her disability. At this point I told the nurse I didn’t think I was alright and she advised me to see my GP. I did and was put on Dosulepin tablets. I also told my GP I needed to see someone for therapy, but they said it would be over a year for an appointment and in the end, it took five.
The worst part for me is that as a person of West African decent, I had family/friends telling me "black people don't get depressed" "pull yourself together" "get a grip" "smoke some weed" "drink some booze" all this just made me feel worse. After a while I started shutting myself away from a lot of people.
I hated uninvited visitors, I would say “no, please don’t come to my house because you are driving past, call me first” and when people did come over, they always said I was really worked up and irritable. There would always be a tension in my head like someone had a belt around my forehead and kept tightening it. If people were late and didn't call to tell me they were running late, I wouldn't open the door for them.
People called me weird for acting this way but that's what I wanted at that moment and them critising my choices just made things worse. It even got to a point where I had people saying "oh did you forget to take your happy pills?" "do you need a moment" "oh you poor dear are you having a psychotic episode?" or the worst one the whispering to each other "she's got mental health issues you know" Eventually I stopped telling people I had depression and found other excuses not to socialise with them.
I have now been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and I'm still on anti-depressants, even though my daughter is 12 and a half now. They help me calm down at night so my head isn’t racing like a formula 1 car. I also have NHS counselling now, though I really didn’t like the first counsellor I saw. She kept saying “how does that make you feel?” I thought “errr, not well lady, that’s why I’m here.”
I have days when I just want to stay in bed and sleep forever, but I can't because my children depend on me, especially my daughter. It takes me two hours to prepare myself to face the outside world each morning, but I always get out there and do my thing. I volunteer for two local charities and I'm on the PTA committee at my daughter's high school. I've even received awards for my contribution to my community, which gives me good feelings that I need to cancel out the negative thoughts in my head. In March 2011 was awarded a Mayor of London Team London Team accolade. The link is outdated now but I’m still so proud of it. I was nominated by Beverley De-Gale OBE of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.
I have since managed to find people who I can trust with my feelings and who I know will not judge me if I say I'm having a bad day. These people understand, they have similar experiences and this helps me to get through.
You can also follow Kafayat on Twitter @OrignalBabydoll
Find out more about post natal depression - the help you can get and what friends and family can do.
Finding support can be really hard, if you're struggling, contact your local Mind or phone our Infoline on 0300 123 3393.
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