Managing my depression, mood swings, and volatile behaviour

In 2003, my husband and I decided to have children. Although battling mental illness, I had been stable for over a year. I had been diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Severe Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. A pregnancy meant stopping my psychiatric medications. That was difficult. I suffered bouts of terrible depression and panic attacks. In December 2004, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Soon I was again stabilized on my meds; but that stability would be short lived as I became pregnant again in May 2005. Life was difficult with one baby requiring constant attention while my hormones and chemical balances were off kilter. To make matters worse, the military deployed my husband on a six month tour.

Mostly, I got by okay; however, I did suffer some obstacles. I was so depressed and self destructive, that I stopped paying the bills. The money was in the bank, but nothing was getting paid. My doctor, too, was concerned about my health and called National Defence to have my husband returned home. By the time he had returned, we were being sued by the bank and were dangerously close to losing our house. In February 2006 we welcomed our second son.

I don’t remember any real difficulties when the kids were babies, although my husband says I was moody and volatile. I remember things were fine until he was once again deployed. This time, however, we arranged for our nineteen year old niece to stay with me to help with the boys.

Life during his deployment was difficult as I did suffer from severe mood swings. Coupled with panic attacks that seemed to come out of thin air, and losing significant blocks of time, my depression worsened. I was hospitalized. My niece looked after the boys and brought them to visit me in the hospital. My doctor added Dissociative Identity Disorder to my diagnosis.

During the toddler years, we were posted from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario. The move was especially hard as all of my therapeutic supports were in Toronto. I found it difficult to get a psychiatrist in Kingston. Mostly, my life was a series of downs and deeper downs. My eldest, who was in kindergarten, was having behaviour problems at school. My youngest, while a happy toddler, demanded a lot of attention. As soon as my husband returned from work, I would sit outside where I would hide and smoke. Sometimes, I would spend days in bed. He remembers having to tell the boys that “mommy isn’t coming to dinner because she is sick.” Again, I was hospitalized for over a month and a half. The military granted my husband a compassionate posting back to Toronto.

In Toronto, things seemed to stabilize but I had panic attacks and was again losing blocks of time. I was experiencing incidents where I would see myself from a distance, as though I were floating above my body, interacting with people but acting completely out of character. I had no way to ground myself and felt completely helpless. I struggled to keep any of this from my family. I was mortified when I would dissociate in front of the children because I could do nothing to stop it, although the frequency of these incidents when I was with the kids was rare. When I felt a panic attack coming on, often I only had seconds to react, I would consciously slow my breathing and put a smile on my face to mask the attack from the children. I was in my own personal nightmare.

We moved to North Bay. The panic attacks worsened into rolling attacks where I thought I was dying, and had to be brought to the hospital by ambulance. When my husband was away with work, a neighbour watched the kids and simply told them that I was sick. My children have grown up with these incidents and barely noticed my absence. Now, at eleven and twelve, I believe that they have come to see their father as the stable person in their lives, and although I know they love me, we are not anywhere as close as I wished we were. My mental illness has affected these relationships. Either way, I hope the boys will see that I am making progress toward recovery, and that they are a major motivating factor behind my work.

– Anonymous