This post has been written in support of Mental Health Awareness Week and the Heads Together campaign.
Once upon a time, I ran out of the house and down the road, in the rain with no shoes on. In a few seconds of rationale I had grabbed my wellies but my main mission was clear: get out, get out, run, get away.
My baby was safe. She was with my husband who was back for a couple of days. Now was my chance. I took the moment and ran. In that moment I needed a break so desperately that fleeing in such a dramatic manner, became the only way to do it. The pot had been on the boil for some time. I felt completely overwhelmed.
It was that day that I realised I might possibly be struggling a little.
A few days later I booked an appointment with the doctors. I told her, with a wobbly voice and my baby gurgling in her car seat, that “I hadn’t been feeling quite myself, for quite a while…”
I was prescribed some anti depressants and some counselling. 6 months later I felt better.
Looking back, what concerns me most was how I didn’t recognise what was coming. It took bolting out of the door with no shoes on, driving to my grandad’s old house and parking outside sobbing, to make me realise I possibly had depression. Of the postnatal kind? This was a good 4 months after my baby had been born.
Why didn’t I realise earlier?
In antenatal class we did a session on postnatal depression. Having had a mild dose of depression before, I was almost enthusiastic in my knowledge and contributions on the subject. If I got it, I would know without a doubt! I was an A* student, there’s no damned way I would let myself get poorly again. However – in glorious hindsight, I realise I absorbed the text book details too much and didn’t listen to myself.
Before having a baby I learned that: PND can prevent you feeling any love for your child. I noted that it can give you insomnia. I noted that it could make you feel suicidal.
Well, a few times I did check for those symptoms. But I did NOT check in with MYSELF. I mentally ticked my symptoms against what I’d learned in class and I concluded I did not have PND! I loved my baby more than anything. My baby was the ONLY thing making me happy. When I was crying and she woke from her nap and gurgled and smiled at me, I had so much love for her. The other thing was sleep. Was I having trouble sleeping? Well YES, what a surprise that was – I had a newborn, of course I was having bloody trouble sleeping. But believe me when she did sleep, hell, I was out like a light, into the deepest and most delicious naps of my life. So that was another box I couldn’t tick. The third. A dark one. Suicide. Had I had suicidal thoughts? No. The complete opposite. I was terrified of dying and leaving my baby behind. I thought about it several times a day, it gripped my heart with fear until I would force myself to think of something else. Then it would creep up again a little later on, like a dark shadow. One day, my friend invited me ice skating. I did one round of the rink and that was it – I was out. I didn’t think I’d die on an ice rink obviously, but I didn’t want to even risk hurting myself. There was a massive fear there.
So I didn’t go to the doctors, because I didn’t tick all the boxes. A tiny part of me was also worried that ‘they’ (the NHS, I think?) would take my baby, my only happy, away from me. Or at least, social services would note it. A note would be bad enough to crush me, to make me feel like an utter failure, to feel like I had let myself and my child down. No, I couldn’t risk that. So I didn’t talk.
It was all codswallop of course. Utter crap.
If you feel more anxious than you have ever felt in your life, if you don’t want to see anyone or go anywhere, if the things that used to make you feel happy don’t anymore, you need to check in with yourself.
You need to ask yourself honestly: is this normal, for ME? If the answer is no, then be bold, brave and strong for you and your baby and pick up the phone to your GP. There is also an amazing charity called PANDAS who offer support. And there is 1 in 10 of every mum you meet on the street (but, I personally, think it is more like 1 in 5): new mums, middle aged mums, grandmums. I was amazed when I finally opened up to friends and family, the amount of “I had it too”‘s that I heard. We need to talk more.
You are not stuck, you are not alone.
Your baby is fine.
And you are a wonderful mum, doing so very well.
Mummy Rules x
This post was easy to write, yet difficult to share. If you have read this story, I would really appreciate a like, comment or message, if it struck a chord with you. I’m doing this for all my friends who have/are having new babies. Thank you for reading. x