THERE’S a tradition here in Ireland every Christmas Day where people gather at The 40 Foot, a bathing spot on the coast, to do a charity swim in aid of whatever particular cause they feel passionate about.
It makes the news every year and every year I look on in amazement thinking fair play, because trust me, although we’re in Europe, the Irish Sea is never warm. There are no balmy Mediterranean temperatures here. Think ‘going for a swim in your freezer’ and you’d be halfway there.
I’ve always wondered what goes through the swimmers’ minds before they take the plunge into the icy waters, whether they want to back out or whether they relish the challenge.
Yesterday I got a flash of insight into what it might be like to line up to take a dip into the unknown as I decided, with the help of my doctor, to come off my anti-depressant medication.
(Ok, it’s not the same as leaping into the Irish Sea in deepest winter, but work with me here, it’s an analogy!)
This is a big deal for me. I had never had depression nor taken antidepressants before I had my son, so post natal depression was my first experience of it and it terrified me.
The meds helped so much, they worked quickly and they helped me to feel back to myself. I’ve been on them for roughly 18 months now and at various points I wondered about coming off them but never felt quite ready.
My fear is that I only feel well now because of the meds, not because I’m actually well. I worry that the occasional down days I have means that I’m still ill, that I’m not healed yet.
My doctor assures me that all of this is normal, that even people who have never had depression can have down days, that this isn’t a reason to continue to take meds that I might not really need.
We had a long chat – I’m sure the rest of the patients in the waiting room were making Voodoo dolls out of me I was in there that long – but he was so kind and so helpful that I now feel ready to take the plunge.
For the next month I’m going to be weaning off my meds, reducing the dose down to nothing and after that I’ll be on my own.
I’m excited and terrified all at the same time. But I really do feel like I’m ready. I’m sick of post natal depression, I really am. It robbed me of so much and I’m tired of giving it space in my head and in my heart.
I’m done. It may take its last breath because over the next month I’m going to be inching closer and closer to the edge of the waves, then I’m jumping in and washing it all away.
Of course there’s a chance I might sink, but I’m really hoping I can find the courage to swim.
(How’re you all liking these swimming analogies? Doing anything for ya? Anybody? No? No? Ok, I’ll stop now.)