My name is Zoe and I am a fighter!
It's amazing where you can find strength from, for me it's from my husband Shawn and our four amazing boy's. It's from knowing how far I have come and what I have achieved in that time. It's knowing that I am loved and supported no matter which version of me is current, I've lived a bit of a whirlwind but I've come through the other side stronger than ever, and I hope by telling my story it inspires others to tell their own and help to end the stigmas.
Here's my story about living with depression for the past 18 years it's a bit of a long one so make sure you grab a cuppa before you start.
At 13 years old my parents discovered I'd been self harming, I don't remember how or exactly when and to be honest I don't exactly remember their reaction what I do remember is sitting in that doctors room being asked question after question and eventually hearing that word, the word that carries so much stigma, that people are still ashamed and afraid to say, the illness with no physical signs but is as debilitating as those that do...depression. I remember going to counselling sessions and how they were defiantly not for me, I'd spend whole sessions sat in silence afraid that the truth, the reasons I was doing this and why I felt this way would result in something much worse than what I was currently going through.
I eventually ended up on anti depressants, I was living with my Father and Step Mother at the time and I was unhappy, I was beyond unhappy, my only let up would be getting to spend time with my best friend and her family who took amazing care of me or getting to spend time back with my Mum, my sister and my little brother. I hated having to go back to my fathers, constantly being grounded and locked in my room but I was trapped, I had no way out, they had a hold on me and I hated it.
I was still self harming at this point but I learnt to hide it better, in places that couldn't be seen, I felt nothing more satisfying than that feeling of relief each time I cut into my skin but it was always short lived. I was lower than low, I felt like I was drowning, I could see no way out, something snapped inside of me, I still don't know why but I decided to take all of my anti-depressants in one go and then once I started feeling drowsy I panicked, I sat in my bedroom scared but almost relieved. I picked up my phone and called a friend, I cried down the phone and explained what I had done, they somehow, I'm not sure how but they persuaded me to go downstairs and tell my father and step mother what I had done, they called an ambulance. In hospital I was sick, I was so sick, I couldn't walk straight, see straight my Mum had to help me to the toilet and then it goes blank. I remember waking up on the children's ward confused. I don't remember much about being there but I know I was in a while, my Mum says I was kept in on suicide watch. I'd like to say things got better from that point but sadly they didn't, I still felt trapped, panicky, with no way out, I continued self harming, taking even more care of where I cut so as not to be found out, things got worse, I got lower and one night climbed up to the outside of a motorway bridge and zoned out, I just stood there, I came round to a police man gently urging me to come down. My friends, my Mum and my Father where down the bottom. I cried, I screamed, I broke!
My Father's response was to ground me, I refused to go back with him...enough was enough, that hold on me didn't matter anymore. After that I moved back home, to Mum where I belonged, slowly I progressed, the self harming became less, I started smiling again, not the false put on smile, a real one.
I was an awful teen I bunked off school too much, was always in detention and to be fair gave my parents hell, but it's taken until recently for me to be able to apologise for how I behaved to everyone all those years ago, I asked for forgiveness, I said I'm sorry but please understand it wasn't something I could control because at that time I couldn't, I felt it was the only way.
Fast forward a few years, I was 15. Life was much better, I still wasn't 'better' but I was finding me again, I still lacked the confidence I always had and people I didn't know where normally met with silence but there was progress. My father had been out of my life for a while by this point and things had got so much better and I was off my medication. One thing I always looked forward to was the steam rallies we'd been introduced to, I loved camping anyway but these were great fun. They were a step out of reality for a while. August 2002 we were at the Purbeck Rally, one of our favourites, I kept watching one of the men that appeared to be working there and got butterflies. They say there's no such thing as love at first sight but I beg to differ. I was still so shy and lacked so much confidence I just didn't have the guts to approach him...so I roped in my little sister to give him a note. I cringe now thinking about it, but it worked. His name was Shawn and he was the kindest, funniest person I had ever met. He joined us one evening for a drink, we chatted and laughed for what seemed like forever, until the evening was up. I walked outside with him to wish him goodnight and he kissed me! The feeling I felt right then is one I can still remember all these years later (almost 16 years to be precise). The day we had to leave we swapped numbers, although never expected to hear from him again...BUT I did! He took me on a first date to the beach with a picnic and things progressed from there. I was still not quite as I should have been but he supported me through it all, I spent every weekend at his but after being together 6 months we discovered I was pregnant. We were both shocked, scared, petrified of telling my Mum but we received endless support. I developed obstetric cholestasis during pregnancy which then was still so unheard of, there weren't really any treatment options and the few leaflets we were given were scary and unhelpful, they spoke about still birth, risks to mum but nothing to ease the worries. I developed prenatal depression which sent me on a downward spiral, I spend days barely leaving my bed and then nights never sleeping at all, I cried, I was angry, I was confused, I was numb.
Eventually after being induced I gave birth to the most perfect baby baby who we called Robin, born the day after his due date on the 17th October weighing 6lb 13oz, what upsets me is I was shortly after that diagnosed with post natal depression (stemming from the prenatal depression) and was instantly put back onto my medication, because of this I can barely piece together moments from his first year of life, I sit and look through pictures and just can't remember those moments in time, I was hard work.
By the time Robin was 3 years old, we'd moved from our tiny little studio flat into the biggest 2 bed flat I'd ever seen and even better I was doing well, I was no longer medicated, I was living life as I should have been. We made the decision to try for another baby, I was scared and excited at the same time, scared that the PND would return but we decided to go for it. A year passed, 2 years passed and in those 2 years we enough early miscarriages to make us realise our chances for another were decreasing. We sold almost all of Robin's things from when he was a baby and gave up. We focused on what we had, we moved to a quieter area, one much better for Robin with good schools. Secretly though we were both gutted but guessed it wasn't meant to be.
Four years after we had first started trying for another baby...two years after we gave up I was pregnant! It was the most amazing feeling, pure elation and this time the pregnancy ran smoother, a few additional checks due to previous problems but everything was always okay.
The 12th October 2010 5 days before my due date and Robin's 7th birthday Robin gained a little brother, Owen, at 7lb 13oz he was a whole pound heavier than Robin was and boy did he look it! I spend the first few weeks on edge, worried, looking for signs that the dreaded PND was going to return...but it didn't I stayed happy, that black cloud stayed away.
We'd been engaged for a fair few years by this point and we finally decided to set a date, we had under 6 months to plan the wedding! It was stressful but exciting, we planned a small registry office wedding with a get together at a village hall afterwards and it was perfect! On the 9th April the sun shone, the day was hot, everyone was happy and my stomach spent the whole day in knots, I put it down to a mixture of nerves, excitement and pure happiness. We decided instead of a honeymoon, we wanted to take the boy's on holiday, dubbed the familymoon. We took a trip to Cornwall. 2 days in I realised, I was late! It turned out there was a special guest at our wedding, we just didn't know about it. After trying so long for Owen we were amazed.
My pregnancy was full of complications, I was backwards and forwards to the hospital, constant growth scans.
2 weeks before my due date I was sent to hospital by my midwife as my measurements had decreased significantly and I was then admitted after a scan showed a bleed was found on my placenta, there was a plan in place for me to be induced 6am the next morning.
Harry was born at 3:15am just under 3 hours before my planned induction on the 24th November, he was tiny at only 5lbs, he was malnourished, my placenta had failed and it was afterwards discovered I'd had a partial placenta abruption. He spent just over 2 weeks in the neonatal unit, it was petrifying. Once he was home I became obsessive with germs, over protective of him, I hated leaving the house in case anything happened, I knew something wasn't right and for the first time I took myself to the doctors, It was confirmed the depression was there once again, that big black cloud that hadn't loomed for a while, deep down I knew it anyway. I was given a milder dose so i could still function, worried about the effects I'd had in the past with it. I eventually weaned off it but my germ obsession has stuck and I also developed a mild form of OCD after having Harry but in the bigger picture that's not a bad result. Life was good, I was probally at one of the better points I'd ever been. 2012 we decided to try for one more, 6 months in I was pregnant and we were overjoyed but it wasn't meant to be. Time passed, we carried on trying a year after the last miscarriage I went to the doctors and was referred to the fertility unit at our hospital. It was discovered I had a tilted womb (which explained why I always carried back to back) and polycystic ovary syndrome. December 2015 I was started on clomid, It made me feel awful and having a schedule we had to keep to was tough and certainly took all enthusiasm out of it but we knew if it worked, it would be worth it, it was tough on my mental health and a few times I was unsure if it was the right thing to be doing but that yearning confirmed it was. Our family wasn't quite complete.
6 rounds later we got that positive test, we kept it quiet until after our early scan were we saw our perfect rainbow for the very first time and then we announced to our closest family and friends. January 24th Noah our #littlerainbow was born at 8lb 2oz and completed our family.
I had an amazing health visitor with him afterwards, I explained my history and my worries and after a weight gain issue with Noah made me paranoid and so on edge she came back every week and eventually every fortnight to weigh him and have a chat with me, much longer than she should have. She asked me if I had ways of coping with how I felt and to helped me find other things to help.
Whilst I was pregnant with Noah I discovered Instagram I started up an account @meandmy_men (which is still full of the most random things ever and not one of the prettiest) I discovered accounts with such beautiful snippets of life in those perfect little squares and then I discovered #instashops and the world of #repping.
With his own page @lifewithmyrainbow Noah's first ever gig was with Clare at @freddie_foxandco and she's been stuck with us ever since, being on the Freddie Fox team I have made some amazing muma friends, people I can talk to, kindred spirits who have each fought or are fighting battles of their own. It's opened up a whole new network of support that I never had before and those amazing muma's know who they are, I tip my hat to you ladies!
I have now been unmedicated for 6 years, I'm proud of that. So much has happened in that time including renewing our wedding vows. Sometimes that black cloud try's to loom back over but I fight it, I've discovered coping strategies that help me, I garden, spend time outside, clean, bake, draw, take photos. Things that all keep me busy but sometimes all I need is half a hour just for me, which when your a mum to 4 can be a hard task in itself but Shawn, my wonderful husband, my best friend, my rock, knows if I say I need it, I need it and he will move mountains to make sure I get it. That black cloud will probally be just round the corner for the rest of my life but the longer I fight it the stronger I get. The stronger I get the less likely it is to win and take that place back above my head. I have good days and I have bad days but they are nothing like what once was. An even bigger achievement I personally believe is the fact I am not ashamed! I'm not ashamed of my past, of my mental illness, of who I am, at the end of the day it's what has shaped me to be the person I am today.
I AM strong, I AM a fighter, I AM ME!
I have my husband Shawn, my amazing children, family and friends by my side for support. I've dug myself out before and I'll do it over and over again, it's a battle I'll keep on fighting because it's worth fighting! There is no cure for depression, there's short term relief but there's still little help and so many people end up under the radar. It's something that is always a part of you. It's not something you can just snap out of and sadly people struggle to understand that even one unkind comment can have such a huge impact on a person. I hope that by speaking out it may help get us a little closer to ending that stigma, I hope that one day it's recognised as the proper illness it is and people gain so much more of an understanding of it, living with depression is hard, you can't predict how you are going to feel and the smallest thing can tip your mood significantly. I hope my story helps, even if it's just one person in my eyes it's a story worth telling, no matter what you are going through, you are never alone even when it feels like you are. For all those fighting your own battles remember you are not alone, you can find the strength you need and you will. If you know someone fighting a battle and are unsure of how to help....listen! Sometimes all it takes it knowing that someone is there, that you have someone to turn to.
Take a look at the NHS MOODZONE for a list of mental health helplines, providing advice for yourself and loved ones.