How do you first react when you hear that someone you know or know of, suffers from depression? Most often than not, the first thought we have is, "I would never have guessed...he/she is the last person I'd have thought to have depression." We almost always think, "But wait a minute, they are such bubbly personalities, always happy, they light up a room", etc.
That is because depression is the common cold of mental illness; so many people have it, that for the most part it goes unnoticed. In fact, many depression victims don't even know they are sick. We chalk it up to financial stress, job dissatisfaction, unhappy relationships...and work harder to just suck it up and keep moving.
I have three and a half years worth of story to tell, and I'm going to try and condense it best way possible. The end of my pregnancy was dramatic. My husband and I suddenly had to relocate from Cape Town to Nairobi due to a job change. We had three weeks to pack all we owned, and sell most of it. We gave away all our crockery to friends. We sold our car to a suspicious Russian businessman who paid in cash, and 10% above our asking price. There wasn't any time to ask questions. We needed the money. We donated most of our clothes to a homeless shelter and with our seven suitcases and my very pregnant belly, got on a plane and left. When we landed in Nairobi, we discovered our luggage had somehow been sent to Singapore. My feet had swollen during the flight and I now had these tree stumps that couldn't fit into my shoes. Picture a tired and fed up woman, with a backache for the ages, walking barefoot in JKIA, shoes in her hand, tears streaming down her face. We were taken to our hotel/apartment, and I remember sitting on the bed and crying my eyes out. I felt we had been violently yanked out of a home we had loved with all our hearts. We had the room our baby was going to sleep in. We had a wonderful doctor who was going to help me during delivery. We had picked out the hospital a 10 minute drive from our house. We had a church community. We had a solid group of friends. And in the blink of an eye, we were back in a city we hadn't lived in in years. No house. No furniture. No car. No clothes! It was ridiculous. That night we went to a 24 hour supermarket to buy toothbrushes, soap, underwear, slippers for my feet. I still remember two young girls in short shiny dresses in one of the food aisles staring at my barefooted self like I was an alien. I wanted to throw a loaf of bread at them. My mother in law brought me a couple of dresses I could squeeze my belly into. And we fell into an exhausted sleep.
From then on it was one shock after another. Our luggage arrived two days later, the same day I went for my doctor's appointment and found out I would be admitted immediately because my blood pressure was through the roof, and my son needed to be delivered as soon as possible. My husband took me home a teary mess once again. I thought I had six weeks to get everything ready!
I went to the hospital, consumed by sadness and terror. We had nowhere to live. How could we take our child home to the studio apartment the company had rented for us? Where would he sleep? Would he be healthy being born so early? It was overwhelming.
I had an excruciating and traumatizing delivery. It was 18 hours of hard labour before it was decided that the induction had failed and my baby was in distress. I had about five minutes to process the information. My mother burst into the room as I was being wheeled out, and she hugged and kissed me. I was so afraid, I thought that would be the last time I ever saw her.
The next thing I remember is her face once again, smiling down at me. She said, "Meet your son", and handed him to me. I'll never forget that moment. I was overjoyed- God had given me a beautiful baby. I was petrified, how could I possibly take care of such a tiny premature baby? And I was heartbroken beyond all reason. I was not there to see my boy come into the world. I never heard his first cry, I never got to hold him to my bare chest and kiss him. I was asleep on the operating table the entire time and for the next two hours of his life. I was gutted.
The blows continued to rain. My husband couldn't be with me. He had just began his new job and it was hectic. Any free time he had he spent it house hunting for us. I was alone in the hospital for five days. My son couldn't breastfeed, I had to express milk and feed it to him in a tiny cup. The hospital, Aga Khan Nairobi, treated me horribly. I had ZERO assistance from the nurses. I was flying blind.
I got mastitis. My surgical incision became infected. It was unbelievable how one thing came after another.
We were discharged and went home to an apartment that had nothing but a bed and a baby cot. We had bed sheets for curtains. My mom brought us a refrigerator from her house. We survived on food donations. My son developed colic. He cried 6-8 hours every single day. I walked and walked and rocked and rocked and he would keep crying. I had no helper in the house. I had to put him in his car seat and take him to the bathroom with me when I needed to take a shower. Did I mention the sleepless nights? He now breastfed every hour on the hour at night. I was a zombie. My husband was a zombie.
Finally, at about the seven week mark, I snapped. The bough broke.
I had full blown postpartum depression.
And our household sank into a consuming darkness.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.