At the height of my postnatal depression, I considered driving my car into a wall.
I was parked at some traffic lights and the idea just came to me. I was an awful mother, a terrible wife, been horrible to my friends, the planet would be better off without me. Luckily I had the kids in the car and I would never have hurt them, so I drove them home to drop them off, and thankfully, the moment passed and I didn’t make that awful choice. Instead, I got help. Lots of help. I can’t really remember how, or when, but I ended up on antidepressants, and I remember angsting so much about it going through the breast milk and affecting my son so it must have been in his first year. Another thing to beat myself up about at the time.
I also had a lot of counselling. My son is now four and I’m not on any medication and I don’t have counselling any more, and I’m doing really well. My head is well above water and I have the tools in place to keep it there.
So why write this? Such a good question. It is very hard to write, knowing that the people who only know me now, will learn that I was once this vulnerable, it’s scary, however, I know that there are so many people out there that are currently in that black hole, scrabbling at the sides in a desperate attempt to keep from sinking. And so this is for you, anyone who feels like the walls are closing in on them, that the crushing weight of the responsibility of parenthood is suffocating them, that they need to escape, by any means necessary.
The first thing I want you to know, is that you matter. However bad a job you think you are doing, however much you are convinced that the world would be better off without you in it, it is not true. Secondly, if you can’t see a way out, and you feel as if it will always be like this, please, please believe me when I tell you that this is not the case. Postnatal depression is like a black blanket that gets thrown over you and blocks out every last ray of sunshine until you don’t believe there even is a sun out there anymore. You need to know that this isn’t true, this is only temporary and you will feel happiness again!
There are ways to lift, and remove that blanket. For everyone. Sometimes it’s easy to feel that it works for other people but you are in such a bad place that there is definitely no way out. This isn’t true. It will take time, and maybe trying different things, but there will be a way. And there are people out there who won’t judge you, who want to see you enjoying life once again, who are there to hold your hand along the journey. You just need to take that, seemingly huge, first step and tell someone. Make an appointment to see your GP, confide in your partner, they may not realise how bad you are really feeling, call a friend, phone your Mum, or Dad, or Aunty. Open that door and let someone in.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that it all sounds too extreme to be you, but that you have more sad days then happy ones, life isn’t that sparkly, you can sense a dark cloud hovering. If so, reach out too, life with babies is hard, the lack of sleep, the hormones, the relentless neediness, (my son pretty much screamed solidly for his first 12 months!), but if the low mood is stubbornly clinging on, and you are just not enjoying life the way you want to, just tell someone. Sometimes people think that they are ‘not depressed enough’ for it to be postnatal depression, but if it’s effecting your quality of life, it is important enough to be tackled. Everyone deserves to be happy.
The most important thing to remember is; No one will think that you are a bad mother. No one will think that you don’t love your children. No one will judge you and everyone will want to help you. I remember being terrified to tell anyone how much I hated my life in case I sounded ungrateful. I knew that I was blessed, so blessed to have two healthy children and yet there I was, unable to enjoy them, resentful of one for needing me over the other, then resentful for the guilt they made me feel that I couldn’t look after them both, at the same time. Added to that a huge dose of Mum guilt that I wasn’t the ‘perfect pinterest mum’ I’d so wanted to be and it’s no wonder I crumbled. I felt that admitting to anyone how unhappy I was, was like saying that I didn’t appreciate what I had, and it just wasn’t true, but I just couldn’t appreciate or enjoy it either.
The antidepressants worked pretty quickly. I felt like a bit of a zombie, but a calm zombie! I was out of that maelstrom of horrid thoughts that had consumed me. And slowly, very slowly, life righted itself. I rebuilt bridges with the people that I’d pushed away, I stopped berating myself for every little thing, I relaxed the hectic schedule that I’d forced myself to keep to prove that I was coping, when I clearly wasn’t. Eventually, the unbelievable happened, and I found happiness again.
And now, four years on, I’m doing well, really really well. I still get stressed, I still find it difficult to give one quality time without the other, I shout a fair bit and I often resort to cbeebies over pinterest, but I’m pretty sure that’s normal life with siblings, and I’m happy. And so are the children. I’ve found time for me, I have my blog, people tell me they like what I write, we do trips and have days out like the families I’d envied, (and resented so much!), when I was depressed. Life is rosy again. And yours will be too. Trust me. You are not alone in this. When I last posted about anxiety, I had so many people messaging me to tell me how the post had resonated with them. Whenever I mention Postnatal Depression I have so many people tell me that it affected them too. People I’d never imagine had suffered.
Let’s break the stigma of talking about mental health. The very reason that I feel nervous about sharing this is the exact reason why I am. Shame keeps us behind closed doors, fear of what others think of us keeps us in the black hole, when really, we are all going through our own things. No one has the perfect life, despite what they may choose to share with you. It’s so important to say, “hey, I wasn’t ok, and that’s ok.”
If you are finding life difficult at the moment and feel as though you aren’t coping, there are postnatal depression helplines and support options that you can find below. (United Kingdom)