I'd just finished a three year illustration course at Twickenham, near London, when I became pregnant. We found out during the students' Diploma Show. As you do.
I'd been fine before that. Well, no I hadn't. I'd been a tad moody and prone to tears and feeling 'odd' over big changes, such as getting engaged, married, and moving into our married home, and then, in later years, moving house. We accepted that that was the way I was and left it at that. I'd travelled a fair bit before I met Husband, done a Foundation Art course, and had a number of interesting jobs - among them, working at Kew Gardens as a messenger and various art studios. The full depression and anxiety didn't arise until the births of both the kids.
When I became pregnant with my first child, Samantha, ante natal depression snuffled up and messed with my head. I remember the moment. We were holidaying with Husband's sister, brother in law and their daughter, in Suffolk, and a grey cloud snuck up on me as Husband and I were walking beside the river. We returned to the house, I threw up, and then I felt better, physically and mentally. I don't remember being depressed from then onward, but I think there were moments before Sam was born. I just remember feeling okay. The moment after her birth at 12.05am on February 15th, 1985 - literally the moment she was placed in a cot at my side - that great black cloud materialised, and the worst depression plunged me into a gaping great hole. Absolutely horrible. I put it all down to me being 'arty'. 'Over sensitive'. I'd get over it.
When my parents turned up, I bunged a smile on, stopped sniffing, and all emotion was spent on being cheerful. Emotion wasn't encouraged. I was always teased over my emotions. 'Just like your Aunt Betty. She loves being emotional. She's never happier than when she's worrying.' Etcetera. If Betty had ever had the opportunity for the fix I finally had thirty years later, I bet she would have grabbed it with both mitts.
Anyway, the depression came home with me and the baby and stubbornly stayed put. I can't over-emphasise how much I hated young parenthood. Adored my kids, hated looking after them! A year later, Post Natal Depression was officially diagnosed and I was prescribed Prothiaden. That did help tremendously, and got me through the next twenty years, including anti natal depression with my son, and the months and years after, when I became even more severely depressed. Then Prothiaden wore off, and I was prescribed Velafaxine, which also helped my anxiety. That wore off seven years later.
A variety of medications later, five years ago, my psychiatrist prescribed Prozac then buggered off for his Christmas holidays. That's when I became suicidal and was introduced to the brilliant mental health team who literally saved my life by prescribing 'California Rocket Fuel' - the medication combination of Venlafaxine and Mirtazipine that brought me almost to where I am now - and a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which challenges negative and distorted thoughts (in my case garnered over thirty years) and rips them apart. Today, five years later, I'm better and happier than I've ever been. I know that my parents, siblings and other family played a huge part in the non support of my depression and anxieties. They certainly didn't help. In fact, they exacerbated it, particularly my mother and siblings. My parents died within days of one another three years ago, and I've never felt freer, and able to be myself. The person who was trodden down all those years ago, unwittingly, probably, was free!
But now the crux of this matter. I've always maintained that, even had I been mentally well, I would still have been bored rigid by the process of bringing up young kids (you can't tell until the time comes, unfortunately). You have kids, you bring 'em up the best you can. But I had travelled the globe a bit, been to art school, had various jobs, got heavily into my wild west hobby as my alter persona, Kitty Le Roy, and started to write not only published anecdotes but my epic novel. The last thing I wanted was to be at home with two young kids. But I did what I had to do and when they reached secondary school age I said a partial: 'You're on your own now, but I'm here if you need me.' Not entirely true, but if you get my drift, it was fab that they were no longer small children that you couldn't leave alone in the house while you bogged off for a coffee when you'd had it up to your earholes. Also they were becoming more interesting. Particularly when it came to conversation, their views and Sam's clothes! And Sam was an inspiration to me as far as one's appearance went.
When son Tom reached eighteen, I said: 'That's it! No more nannying (not that I'd done that much, anyway...). You're definitely on your own now. Good luck!' Again, not quite that drastic, but almost. I love their independence! And Tom's search for adventure inspires me no end, with rides on the back of his Harley and listening to his heavy metal guitar playing. Fab! We three – Husband, me and Tom – are ten year old schoolboys having fun. I don't want him to leave home.
Which brings me to the inspiration for this article. You've guessed right that me, domesticity and motherhood didn't quite crack it. I did/do what one has to do and that's about it. Adventure - offbeat and otherwise, creativity, travel, renaissance soul stuff (writing, wild west living history, canoeing, archery, digital photography, architecture, social history, archaeology, beachcombing, paranormal, flying... makes one's head spin, doesn't it?) The point is, that being a renaissance soul/scanner/polymath (which has not a lot to do with maths) is a fab thing, but domestics and motherhood doesn't half put a damper on it all! But I'm now out the other side, I'm mended in the head department, and I'm pursuing it all and making up for lost years.
Finally, the main reason I decided to write this is to suggest that people who suffer from depression - whatever kind of depression it is - might benefit from a taste of adventure or madness! Whether it be a balloon flight, being a nude model for a life drawing class, going skinny dipping, learning to pilot a small plane (I did a few hours years ago) or whatever else one can think of. Because - honestly - sometimes depression can plant its nasty grip on a person who feels stuck in a situation that just doesn't suit them. So - bugger cleaning the loo when you're feeling like that (unless you're the kind of bod who has to finish the chores before you can escape) - and go ice skating, or ghost hunting...whatever! Something a bit barmy. Or start that novel, or take up judo. Whatever rings your bell, floats your boat, lights your candle. You never know where it might take you. Your depression won't necessarily be cured, but it may be alleviated, if only for a few hours. So go for it!