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A Dad with Depression

written by Stephen Lewis 13/03/2018

All I've ever wanted since I was 15 years old was to be a father. While other boys my age couldn't wait to lose their virginity, I wanted to meet the one I would spend the rest of my life and have a family with.

I spent the next five years waiting for the one, until it dawned on me that maybe I was missing out on something.

Although my attitude towards sex had changed slightly, in the back of my mind was how much I wanted to be a Dad.

In college I did work experience in schools and helped out with the students with learning difficulties and it was doing this that made me feel alive. I'd later go on to mentor a young boy with autism for 3 years and also went to Namibia to build a school, where I also had the opportunity to teach the young children.Stephen.jpg

So it's fair to say having a child was always part of the person I wanted to be and when I eventually met my wife, it was something that we both spoke about from day one and from very early in our relationship we started trying to conceive.

Long story short, we tried for many years to have a baby and eventually we both agreed that we would have to get help. It was at this stage that I knew that If there was going to be a problem then it would with me.

I know that this happens a lot with depression, you get these negative thoughts and feelings going around your mind and you always think that it's 'my fault' or ‘it always happens to me'.

But this time it felt different. As well as always wanting a child, I had always felt different to the boys around me from when I was 12 years old onwards. I never felt like I fitting in and  I was always full of emotions. I had questions about  my own sensitivities and sexuality, about my mental and physical health, but no one else was talking about these things so I hid them away, I hid them from everyone and I just tried to be 'normal'.

I put that mask on when I was 12 years old and even now I struggle to take it off.

But at that time, after years of trying to conceive and getting nowhere, when it came to biting the bullet and going to the doctors I was sure that if there was a problem it would be with me.

And I was right, in 2013 I was diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic disorder that only affects boys and men and although it's found in 1 in 600 men, it’s almost unheard of and rarely diagnosed early. Klienfelter syndrome (KS) symptoms include infertility in almost all men with KS.

This was no different for me and after wanting a child as far back as I can remember, I was suddenly being told that I would never be able to biologically father a child.

I was devastated, was/is the wrong word because I remain devastated but when I heard from the doctor all I wanted to do was kill myself.

I tried and I failed.

And I was lucky I failed because, we were lucky enough to be offered IVF and a donor and within 6 months of my diagnosis, my wife was pregnant.

We welcomed our son into the world and now three years on he is the most fantastic little boy, who's full of life and very happy.

These voices are there every minute of every day and honestly I'm exhausted by them, but I've still got to work, I've still got to look after my son.

I love my son with all my heart and I would die for him, he is my son and I am his father. I know that.

But it's so very hard having Klienfelter syndrome and depression. Like probably every other kid out there, sometimes my son doesn't listen to me, not just once but a few times a day. And although I know this is just life, that is where depression waits for me, that is where depression fills my head with “He'd listen if you were his real Dad” or the voice that tells me I'm not good enough.

There's a voice that says he'd be better off if I was dead and a voice that says I should run away.

These voices are there every minute of every day and honestly I'm exhausted by them, but I've still got to work, I've still got to look after my son.

I keep thinking that I can't cope. There's so many innocent comments from people like “He doesn't look like you” that catch me off guard and break my heart and leave me devastated but on the outside I smile and say “lucky him!”

I grieve for the child that never was, for the part of me that although I feel I lost, was actually never there.

And yet every day I get out of bed.

Every day my son smiles and calls me daddy.

Every day he cwtches me like he never wants to let me go.

My mind is still angry, tired and confused

But when I see my son, my heart smiles.

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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Submitted by Dave Smith on Mar 14th, 2018

Stephen, thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. I too am a dad (of 2 wonderful children). Having been diagnosed with Bipolar in my very early twenties I was fortunate to marry the love of my life a few years later. Marriage has been the saving grace in my life and my children are, for the most part (!), my great joy. Mental illness often robs us of the joy of life and certain opportunities but it can never take away the massive love you have for your son or the bond he has with you. He is fortunate to have you as his dad.

Submitted by sharon lewis-bowen on Mar 14th, 2018

Your story is very touching and brought a tear to my eye. Every day you hear stories about the harm that happens to children, often by their own parents, and I can honestly say your child would not be better off without you, you are his father and he needs you....each and every moment of every day. Being a parent is hard and fills every one with doubts because there is no rule book, but it is so worthwhile.

Submitted by Raj on Mar 14th, 2018

Is the author aware of the KSA charity and the support it offers?

https://www.ksa-uk.net/contact-us/

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