A wonderful friend of mine has written her story about Postnatal Depression and I'd like to share it with you...
I have been thinking about writing this, whatever ‘this’ is for a long time. I always felt that Postnatal Depression was yet another craze hyped by the media, a label used freely much like ADHD. To me PND was simply a case of someone realising that ‘shit got real’ and not being able to handle the change in life. I also believed it was about not bonding with your baby.
I was wrong. Really wrong.
I fell pregnant with our son Albert, really quickly. Other than total exhaustion and an obsession with anything pork related, the pregnancy was very straight forward. There was a court hearing with my daughter’s Father over contact which at the time I had passed off as nothing and explained it away by rationalising that it was totally normal and just one of those things. This coupled with 6 sessions of extremely stressful mediation with him, meant that mentally I’d been really up against it. But, I was strong. I’d left a domestically abusive marriage and was still 3 years later dealing with the aftermath. To me, another court case was just part and parcel.
Albert was born, much like his conception quickly, except this time rather than being cuddled up with my new born at home (Amelia was born at home) I spent the first night in hospital away from my boyfriend (Chris) and daughter. They were all I wanted and instead it was sweaty, hot and overcrowded. Me and The Boy didn’t sleep. When I laid with him that night I couldn’t believe it, all I had come through from my previous marriage and divorce and look at my life, a boyfriend who I adored and who adored me, a daughter, this amazing baby boy, a good job and a house. I’d survived, I’d made it.
Albert was a different baby to his sister, he cried a lot and was really unpredictable. Not unusual I hear you say, except when Amelia had arrived she literally never cried, slept hours from birth and I never understood what the fuss was all about. I did now. What worked one day, wouldn’t work the next. When my boyfriend returned to work I remember laying in bed with Amelia, Albert was laying with us screaming his head off, she was crying asking if it was too late to have him adopted and I was crying not really sure what the hell was going on.
I came downstairs with Albert and didn’t feel right, my love for the pair of the them was like nothing I had experienced. I almost felt sick, why was this baby so unsettled if I loved him so much?
About 2 weeks after that I was at a friends house, she had given birth 3 weeks after me to a 10 week premature baby who was just home from hospital and was tiny and angelic laid in his moses basket. As I stood there rocking a screaming and red faced Albert I swallowed hard and said “I’m struggling, really struggling, nothing seems to work with him and I feel utterly stupid and ridiculous but I don’t know what to do next” I cannot explain to you how bloody hard it was to say that out loud, to admit that as a Mother I had no clue. I was 35, I had a child already. How could I not know?!!
My friend looked at me sympathetically, tilted her head and said “You know it’s funny isn’t, with my second it was shock but with this one it has been so easy, a dream in fact.’
So, I was imagining it all and being self indulgent, I needed to pull my big girl pants up and crack on. Everything in my world was peachy and what a lot of people were striving for so I needed to just keep going. And I did.
When Albert was 6 months old, sleep deprived and mildly hysterical we moved house. We moved to a perfect brand new build with fresh carpets and a beautiful kitchen, the kids had new rooms and we had an en-suite no less (I say this tongue in cheek you understand). An Audi on the drive and a decorator on her way what else could I need?
Immediately after Christmas I crashed, I felt dreadful, I cried and cried and cried. I told Chris I felt mental, not well, I wanted to crawl out of my own head. So, I did what I thought was right, I went to the doctors. She was lovely and young and had no children of her own, and within in 2 minutes of me sat there hysterical with snot bubbles she prescribed anti-depressants.
I wanted to talk, I wanted to tell her I wasn’t good enough, that I was a rubbish Mother to Amelia, I was a crap girlfriend who snapped at her boyfriend one minute and then was so vulnerable the next, that I couldn’t be without him and almost wanted to melt into his body. I wanted to scream that I wanted my ex-husband to leave us alone, to leave me alone. I wanted my In-laws to see that we were slowly disappearing into a black hole but we couldn’t tell them. I wanted to tell her that my own Mum was doing her best to support but to keep telling me ‘it’s not good for a baby to cry’ was the last thing I needed to hear. I wanted an off switch, I wanted to silence the noise and I wanted to love myself more and my children less.
I came away with the prescription knowing damn well that I wasn’t going to collect it. Instead I took to the internet, did some research, bought supplements, St Johns Wart and vowed to not drink wine and get myself sorted. Whatever that was.
For the first 3 weeks that was great and worked well, see, it was simple. A case of positive thinking was the way forward. I didn’t need drugs, neither did I have PND, stupid doctors love to label. They wanted to stick me in a box and put me aside. I knew better, of course I did. My body, my mind.
What happened over the next few months I have no idea, it all just raced away, I resigned from work, did a couple of freelance events, nothing was particularly fulfilling. I loved my children more than life itself and wanted to be with them but not be with them all at the same time, there was no break. Chris working 6 days a week and with no family close by ‘getting through’ was the order of the day. But just to be clear it was not PND. It was just life.
May bank holiday was the turning point, the end of the season was upon us. Chris had to work on the Monday away at Football and I desperately didn’t want him to go, I went outside and cleaned the rabbits which ended in me really shouting at Amelia which shamefully couldn’t tell you what for now. I felt for the first time a real darkness, I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to be here any more either, doing this. Again, whatever this is.
On the Tuesday I rang the doctors, made and appointment and off I went, again. Except this time it was completely different. It was a male doctor and for some reason that made me feel relaxed, regardless I knew I needed help and that’s exactly what I said. I said “I’m ill, I feel silly as I don’t know why, but my head is ill, I have everything I have ever wanted right here and I feel worse than I have ever felt in my entire life”. And you know his response? He said “that’s ok, how are we going to sort this out then?”.
That sentence will stay with me forever, he wasn’t trying to fix me, he acknowledged what strength it had taken to go and see him. His advice was to write a diary and would I think about taking Sertraline, an anti-depressant that would help me produce more of the serotonin I so desperately lacked. He said to get outside whatever the weather and walk or run. 25 minutes of daylight everyday and to write in my journal.
That day I truly understood the phrase ‘weight off my shoulders’, I wasn’t mad, I had Postnatal Depression. Something that lots of women had suffered with. PND comes in 1000’s of different forms, it doesn’t have to be about not bonding with the baby, or bonding too much or not getting out of bed or too many scenarios to note.
I took the first tablet and went to bed, I did the same the next night and then the next night. The 3rd night was the worst, I couldn’t eat my tea I felt sick, almost pregnant again. I couldn’t concentrate. I put the kids to bed and climbed into bed myself. The feeling of wanting to crawl out of my head was so over whelming that I couldn’t settle. Chris came home from work really late and I mumbled from the covers ‘I can’t take these pills I feel horrendous, please cuddle me, please’.
When woke up the following morning something was wrong, well not wrong, different. I felt like I hadn’t felt since before I was pregnant. I felt lifted which was weird because I thought I was always like that. Something, regardless of what it was had shifted.
So, I took the tablets again that night. And the night after and so on. From someone who had never believed in anti-depressants or the culture of them suddenly I was so grateful for them I could have got down on my knees and wept. Over the next weeks finally I was getting a glimmer of life again, life as it should be. I loved Chris to his bones and he was no longer an irritation. My feeling for the children was more level and Albert started with a childminder, this was short lived but just what needed at the time.
We got married and I had my 6 month review of my tablets, everything was good, solid, stable and ok which given where I’d been for so long I was more than happy with.
Then in May, and this is when PND is a total bitch, much like an unwanted period everything was messy again. I couldn’t function on a normal level, the feelings of self loathing started again, the not being good enough, the Chris would be better off with out me feeling. The unsettled, 10,000 thoughts at a time feeling was back with a bang. I went back to my wonderful Doctor who asked me what I wanted to do, did I think that talking would help or would I like to go up with my tablets or both or nothing? I opted for both and again it started to shift and I felt lighter again.
Roll forward a few months and it’s happened again, this time its been darker than ever. Only negative thoughts day in day out. Unable to cope with the simplest questions from Chris, tired but wired, that feeling of ‘just getting on with it’ and frequently using the phrase ‘well it is what it is’. Living but not feeling.
What’s different this time is that I have a feeling that this time is the last time which is probably why I want to write. I have upped my dose again, but I have also booked in to start seeing a counsellor, drugs on their own are not the entire solution. I sit here writing this having just dropped my daughter to Brownie camp and watching Albert snooze feeling genuinely blessed to have the life I have and the people that are in it. I am strong.
Becca is a mum of two with an obsession with human beings and how they tick.