This post is part of the ‘Tales From The Other Side Of …’ series. There are so many stages, achievements, milestones and heartbreaks we go through as parents and whatever we are experiencing, whether good, bad, exciting or terrifying, it’s always nice to know someone else has already done it and come through the other side. To find out how you can get involved and share your story/tips and tricks click here. Today we have the lovely Emma from Cubkit with the tale of her recovery from Post Natal Depression.
My two children are playing together on the floor. My eldest is pushing his big red fire truck around on the carpet and the little one is crawling after it, trying to hit the flashing lights with his squidgy hands.
I sit back and relax, my hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee as I enjoy a slice of contentment.
It has taken me a while to get to this point of calm and happiness. Earlier in the year, I was battling postnatal depression, an illness that affects one in ten women in the UK.
If you are reading this then you might be going through postnatal depression now, wondering whether it will ever end and waiting for that dark cloud to lift.
Although I’m early on in my recovery, I can assure you that it does eventually get better and there is support out there to help guide you through the pain and loneliness.
My postnatal depression caught me off-guard. I never experienced it with my eldest child, despite going through a traumatic birth. I waited for it to appear, but it never did. I was a really happy and content first-time mum.
The second time around, it crept in rather unexpectedly. I don’t know how the door was left open when I was sure I had a good lock on it. Perhaps it was during a particularly hard night feed, or when I developed mastitis in both breasts and full body hives.
It may have been triggered on the day we bought our baby home from the hospital. I was sad and upset that the house wasn’t ready for a new baby. The floors weren’t mopped, the sides were cluttered and the baby’s room wasn’t prepared for his arrival.
During the dark nights, I held my baby closely, tearfully saying, “I’m so sorry, baby” over and over again.
The first three months were a blur. I can’t remember much. I look back at photos from that time and can’t recall the days they were taken.
I was torn in two directions most of the time, struggling to cope with the needs of a toddler and a baby, like I wasn’t doing anything right for either of them.
I felt strange and detached, like I was in the room but not there at the same time. I suppose I saw postnatal depression as something that makes you sit and cry all day. But my only feeling was numbness which erased my ability to enjoy both of my children. The sparkle and shine of first time parenting had been replaced with an undercurrent of gloom.
Most of all I felt guilty.
Guilt is an odd thing. Some days it can let you know when you have done something wrong and when you need to make something right. But when you have postnatal depression, guilt takes up space and steals your energy, creeping in and creating a wall between you and the people you love.
I was frozen by guilt. I did not know how to fix whatever it was that I perceived myself to be doing wrong.
Instead, I dragged myself through the days, trying to raise a smile, connect with my children and be the ‘fun mum’. I ensured they were well fed and loved. But my mental health was fighting a losing battle.
Inevitably, anxiety wormed its way back into my life. Worry consumed everything. I had panic attacks, was paranoid and filled with fear. Some days I was convinced there was something out there to get the children, me or my husband.
When my baby turned eight months old, I had a realization that the baby days were slipping by and I was missing it. Enough was enough.
I desperately wanted to reclaim my state of mind and get better. So I spoke to my GP who offered medication but I decided to take a therapeutic route instead. I contacted IAPT who were able to help me get back on track by offering cognitive behavioural therapy to manage my postnatal depression and anxiety better.
The most important thing I have learned is that you need to admit when you are struggling and that it’s okay to feel down.
In the quiet moments when I let my mind wander, mum guilt slowly pulls and tugs at my insides. My heart aches when I think that my youngest son has yet to see his mummy smiley and happy. But I’m getting there and he is such a happy boy so I’m sure there’s no damage done.
Parenting is hard, relentless and at times, lonely. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends as you never know who has been through the same thing.
My therapist reminded me that it was okay to take some time out, too. Self care is crucial when you’re a parent. As they say; happy mum, happy baby. Every now and then treat yourself to a solo trip to the shops, a quiet coffee or a long bath. Although it won’t cure postnatal depression, it will give you much needed breathing space when your mind feels muddled.
So if you are reading this and feel like you need help, please speak to your GP, health visitor, friend or family member.
The storm may be wild and frightening right now, but once the rain stops and the clouds start to clear, you will be able to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the moment once more.
Emma, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Postnatal depression really can affect anyone and although we are getting better at talking about it, people find it really hard to admit it when they’re struggling. We’re all so good at putting a brave face on, and pretending that everything is ok, but we really shouldn’t. If you’re struggling please do as Emma suggests and speak to someone, don’t suffer in silence.
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