The black dog that keeps on biting me

Churchill called his bouts of depression, the black dog . I think of it like a heavy oppressive cloud which descends and blocks out all the light. Everything turns dark and meaningless. Whichever metaphor you use to describe it, depression seems to dog my footsteps each month that I try and fail to get pregnant.

This past month, the cloud that descended hasn’t lifted. It was the month that my baby boy was due and as the date came and went, the cloud seemed to settle itself more permanently around me. This was also the month that I made the decision not to continue with fertility treatment. After the last failed attempt, I found that I couldn’t face another month of injections, scans, procedures, waiting, hoping, and then, nothing.

I’ve had it said to me that you will know when you are ready to make the decision to stop treatment. I’ve had two years of TTC and three miscarriages in that time and I thought perhaps this decision might bring with it some acceptance, an end to the turmoil each month. Instead I am left with an aching emptiness and overwhelming grief and sadness. I don’t feel any certainty either that I have made the right decision. But I do know that I can’t keep riding this rollercoaster of emotions each month, so it is time to step off the ride.

My husband doesn’t agree with any of this. He thinks I am making a mistake and that I will regret my decision. We can’t seem to talk about it anymore without it ending in an argument and tears, so we’ve stopped talking about it.  

I feel like such a  failure – a failure for the months I haven’t been able to conceive, a failure for not being able to carry my babies full-term, and now a failure for giving up on my fertility treatment.

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Miscarriage and Depression

A miscarriage can cause depression and anxiety that continues even after the birth of a healthy baby, research has shown.

Women who have lost a baby are significantly more at risk of mental distress during a subsequent pregnancy, a study found.

The symptoms carried on for nearly three years, on average, after they successfully gave birth.

Professor Jean Golding, from the University of Bristol, one of the researchers whose findings are reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said: “This study is important to the families of women who have lost a baby, since it is so often assumed that they get over the event quickly, yet as shown here, many do not. This has implications for the medical profession as well as the woman and her family.”

British and American scientists questioned more than 13,000 pregnant women enrolled into the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Alspac).

They were asked about their previous experience of miscarriage and stillbirth, and assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The assessments took place twice during pregnancy and four times after giving birth.

In total, 21pc of the women reported having had one or more previous miscarriages. Only 0.5pc had experienced a previous stillbirth and just three women had suffered two stillbirths.

Dr Emma Robertson Blackmore, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the US, said: “Our study clearly shows that the birth of a healthy baby does not resolve the mental health problems that many women experience after a miscarriage or stillbirth. This finding is important because, when assessing if a woman is at risk of antenatal or postnatal depression, previous pregnancy loss is usually not taken into account in the same way as other risk factors such as a family history of depression, stressful life events or a lack of social support.”

“We know that maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children and families. If we offer targeted support during pregnancy to women who have previously lost a baby, we may be able to improve health outcomes for both the women and their children.”

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome report that makes an important contribution to our knowledge in this area. It underlines the need for midwives to be able to spend time with women to discuss their pregnancy and their worries and fears. This is so that they can spot signs of depression when it is happening, offer timely advice and give these women the best possible care.

“I worry that the because of the significant time pressures on midwives and the fact that we do not have enough of them, this may mean that women suffering from perinatal depression will not get the help they need.

Press Association

Why crying is good for you

After the failure of my IUI last Friday, I cried all day until there were no more tears left. I woke up with red rimmed swollen eyes next morning, feeling tired, sad and drained, but in other ways much better. It was as if those tears had cleansed away some of the pain.

Today, my blogger friend Therese, has a wonderful post on the healing power of tears and outlines seven ways in which a good cry can heal us physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually. Her list is based on Jerry Bergman’s The Miracle of Tears and I particularly like the points about crying lowering your stress levels, elevating your mood, releasing your feelings, and my favourite – building community.

Check out Therese’s post – it is a good read and next time you feel like giving full rein to your tears,  go right on ahead – it’s good for you!

You are not alone

I am so grateful for those of who have taken the time to leave me a message at this blog and help me feel less alone and isolated at this time. Thanks especially to you Stacey and mkewer for all your regular comments 🙂

I was thinking of this as I was reading a piece written by a G.P. in today’s Irish Times about loneliness and depression.

“In many ways we are all lonely. Deep inside all of us exists a well of emptiness, which can be filled only with the love and friendship of those encountered on our journey through life and beyond.

The more we research the brain the more it seems we are “hardwired” to long for human contact and acceptance.

Empathy lies at the heart of the human condition. But just as the connection between neurons in the brain shrivel and die if not nourished; so do human beings. We desperately crave affection and acceptance – these are the nutrients that make us grow and develop – from the cradle to the grave.

But for many, loneliness is a constant companion: an aching emptiness yearning to be filled. Life for some can be a bleak and arid desert where the waters of companionship and love are in extremely short supply.

For those with depression, loneliness can be a two-pronged enemy. On its own it can often be a powerful trigger to both kick start and prolong bouts of low mood. Then when the red flag of depression actually arrives, it creates its own special brand of isolation.

I often feel that loneliness is an underestimated stress trigger for depression – especially in our fast moving, technologically isolating modern world; where there is no time to “waste” on actually talking to each other; where we are all immersed in a sea of “individualism”; so busy with our own needs; obsessed with our “houses” but forgetting the importance of “home and hospitableness”; so preoccupied with the packaging of life that we forget the substance lying beneath.

Life can be very cruel to some – with tragedy, loss, bullying, relationship breakdowns and broken dreams confining them to mere spectators – enviously observing those more fortunate, surrounded by love, affection and acceptance.

Some may find the loneliness too much and spiral into depression. Young and old; male and female; rich and poor; all are at risk for loneliness is a cruel companion.

For those going through a bout of depression, loneliness can present in a different but equally destructive manner.

When we are very down, our thinking can become so negative that we may find ourselves feeling totally isolated and lonely. We become worthless; of no value to ourselves or others; not worth talking to; a burden on those closest to us; walled off in a world of pain and emptiness.

Because they find it so hard to communicate the way they feel, many with depression feel isolated from even those closest to them – a particularly distressing state for both.

This loneliness can be very destructive to relationships and can, in some cases, lead to them breaking down – causing further loneliness, isolation and, on occasion, suicide.

There is much for all of us to learn from a deeper understanding of loneliness and its role in mental health. Every day we will encounter at least one person who will be lonely – but will we notice or care?

Suppose we decided to become more attentive; decided to ‘waste’ some of our precious time, sharing it with somebody who we feel is lonely and helping to fill that empty void just think of the positive effect we could have.

In many ways there has been a subtle shift of responsibility for mental health away from the personal to the “state”. Many feel it is nothing to do with them but constantly wonder why self harm is such a problem. If all of us realised our immense capacity to transform the lives of others with a kind word and open heart and were prepared to do so – how many lives could be transformed?

There will be many reading this who will be living in the isolated world of depression, who are cut off and lonely and longing for somebody to break the wall of silence and pain.

Some will have become down because they were lonely to begin with and their depression only adds to their feelings of worthlessness.

All will feel they are on their own and will have to face it alone, thinking, who else can help?

My message is simple – you are not alone. Negative thinking is the chain that is binding you; the belief that nobody could understand or help and that you are on your own. In reality, those closest to you both love and care for you and you only have to “open up” to get the help you so richly deserve. If you are unable to do so, or if you are genuinely on your own, then groups like Aware are there with a listening ear and open mind to help dissolve the wall of isolation and pain that surrounds you.”

So once again, thank you to you all for sharing this journey with me and making me feel less alone. It has been a life-line for me at this difficult time.

Struggling today..

Well, there I was thinking I was handling things so well, but today I feel as if I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders….good thing crying is good for you, as the tears are in abundance again.  Overwhelming feeling of sadness and a feeling of not being able to cope. Have just returned from the doctor with a sick note for another month and a prescription for anti-depressants; was hoping for the former, not so sure about the latter. It’s normal to grieve and I don’t believe in self-medicating /covering up the grief process, but having had a long chat with my GP, he believes I am slipping from grief into depression. I have a history of depression in the past and he believes I am showing some classic symptoms. What is more debilitating is my anxiety levels are shooting through the roof and there is no reason to be anxious – I am not in work, the sun has been shining and I have had fresh air and exercise – still my anxiety is mounting. I feel though as if turning to drugs is a cop-out -that I should be able to deal with this without resorting to anti-depressants….will have to go away and have a serious think about this and do some research….