If this was a YouTube video, I’d be starting with a sigh.
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this blog for a few days. Back and forth. I had something else ready to post, but knowing this blog was on the horizon, it didn’t feel right. And even since deciding not to post that other one, I’ve ummed and ahhed.
But here we are, with that title. So here it goes…
I’ve not been in a good place recently. I’ve been struggling for around six or seven weeks. But I only realised what was going on about 10 days ago.
I’ve written about feeling like a useless father before, and in these past seven weeks, it hasn’t got much easier. In fact, it’s gotten so much worse. While I have absolutely no trouble getting Raife to sleep at bedtime, I’ve had a lot of problems getting him off to sleep and back in his cot in the early hours.
Over time, I felt more and more guilty. Guilty that I couldn’t get my son back off to sleep. Guilty that Emma, who looks after him all day, who gets up to feed him in the night, had to take over. Guilty that I was letting them both down.
Those feelings intensify when I’m on my own. Trying to get back to sleep, driving to work in the morning, sitting in the office waiting for my colleagues to arrive. That’s when I’m at my worst. I can’t see any solution, any way that things are going to get better. When I’m with people I feel so much better. So much so that I don’t feel down at all. Most of the day in work, when I get home, I’m absolutely fine. I’d go as far to say I’m actually really happy. When Emma and Raife to bed, though, those feelings start to come back. At its worst, it felt like an unbreakable cycle.
Despite how tired I am, I struggle to get to sleep; either through feeling down or feeling anxious that I won’t be able to get Raife to sleep later in the night.
For weeks I put most of it down to tiredness. ‘All parents go through this’, ‘you’re just tired’, I told myself.
I just want to cry. I find myself driving to work in the morning, sitting at my desk, sitting on the sofa in the evening, and just wanting to ball my eyes out.
I started comfort eating. And this is the part that I’m ashamed of. I went beyond the odd bar of chocolate as an afternoon snack if I was hungry. A few times, perhaps four or five, I went to Tesco and bought three chocolate bars. I ate all three as soon as I got into the office. I made sure I ate every one before anyone else got to the office. Why? I wasn’t hungry. Because I didn’t want my colleagues to come in and see me eating three chocolate bars at 8am. I didn’t even put the wrappers in the bin in case they saw. I’d stuff them in my bag, burying them at the bottom of our bin at home so my wife wouldn’t find out. And that would make me feel even worse. I’d feel more ashamed of myself. I’d feel more guilty about letting my family down.
I’ve been so much more irritable. In general, Emma and I rarely argue. But we began to bicker. I’m more snappy, I’ve not been the nice person I think and hope I am. During our biggest argument during this period, Em told me I’d been miserable for weeks, and that other people had started to notice it too.
Breaking the cycle
Everything changed the night before that argument. I read a blog from a fellow Dad blogger who wrote about the post-natal depression he suffered when his daughter was born. My first thought was ‘Guys can get post-natal depression???’. As I continued, the same thought kept coming back, ‘that’s me’.
That’s when it clicked. I wasn’t just tired. Not all parents go through this.
The next day, I still bought the chocolate bars. But that was it. That was the moment I knew something had to change. I knew I needed to tell my wife. I finished my final bar and messaged her, saying we needed to talk (I’m sure that didn’t worry her…). I felt sick. I hadn’t felt so anxious in the past seven weeks or so. If struggling to concentrate was an issue for me before, I could barely read what was on my laptop screen. I was so close to telling my boss I needed to go home. I didn’t think I’d be able to go another nine hours until speaking to Emma.
I told her. I told her everything. I knew she’d be understanding and supportive. But it was still the most nervous I’ve ever been, preparing to say those words, ‘I think I have depression’.
I’m happy to say that things have been a lot better ever since. Talking about it with Emma has helped to understand how I’m feeling and to help take that stress off my shoulders. That did happen to coincide with a switch in getting Raife back to sleep. Ironically, I’ve been able to get him back to sleep in a few minutes without any trouble. That has helped to prevent, or at least, limit the feelings of guilt.
I still have those feelings sometimes. But they are fewer and further between and I’m better able to think rationally about them, helping myself to see that it’s not my fault, that I have nothing to feel guilty. And I haven’t had any morning chocolate bars!
I haven’t told anyone else. This post is how my entire family will find out, my friends, my colleagues. I don’t expect to be completely fine in no time at all. I’m still really anxious about how I’ll react the next time or few times that I can’t get Raife back to sleep. I’m anxious about whether or not those feelings will return to that extent again.
For now, though, talking about it all with Emma has helped so much. I feel a lot freer having written this blog, and I feel like I’ve made the right decision to write it.
If you’re feeling down, even for a day or an hour, tell someone. Anyone who will listen. You’ll feel so much better, and you’ll have someone to support you on your journey to getting better.