I shared. I opened up to the Facebook world. I admitted to my post natal depression.
It was terrifying- and it was done somewhat impulsively, but I am pleased I did.
I realised that as long as I, and others like me, continue to keep quiet about things like this, then change will not come.
I was scared of judgement, scared of what people will think about me.
Yes, I have PND, let me explain to you what that means, and what it does not mean.
I do not regret being a mother. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mum, and now I am I feel complete. My life, pre motherhood, was missing a piece, and now it is not. I have regrets about labour, I have regrets about how I parented in the early days, but not for one second have I ever regretted becoming Mum. This post explains my before and after feelings.
I do appreciate what I have. Please stop reminding me that life is great and I am lucky to have a healthy beautiful girl, a job, a house, a loving husband and anything else you may think I am ungrateful for. I know all of this. I do not choose to feel miserable (who would!?), and your expectation that I should be happy only adds to my depression. It leaves me feeling guilty and feeling selfish. I am fully aware of all that I have, and I value and appreciate it. I count my blessings every single day. Twice.
I did not have difficulty bonding with my baby. I fell in love the moment I urinated on a stick. I fell deeper in love as she grew inside me, and when she was placed on my chest as she entered this world my heart stopped. She and I have an amazing bond. Nothing can rival it. The joy on her face when I return from time away from her is beaten only by the joy in my heart.
I do not avoid spending time with my daughter. In fact the opposite is true. Whilst it is the case that some women with PND may not want to spend time with their babies please do not assume that this is the case for us all. In my case, time away from my daughter is like time away from oxygen. A half life with half my heart missing. This is how my PND manifests.
I am not a risk to my child and I would never ever hurt her. In reality this is incredibly rare. There is a different condition which does require strong monitoring to ensure baby is safe, I am no expert on this, (but I do know that this also is an illness and not a choice), PND does not, in any way, mean that I will hurt my child. If anything, I am a risk to myself, but support has kept me from that dark path.
I am not sad or crying all the time. Equally, just because I smile or laugh does not mean I am better. I can function in the world, granted, some days I find this harder than others, some days you will find me crying in the stationery cupboard, but not every day. Not all the time.
I do not need to be told to cheer up. Or to look at the beautiful flowers and enjoy the glorious sunshine. This shows much more about your ignorance than about my illness.
A good nights sleep will not “fix” me. Yes, it is true, I have not had a full nights sleep in over 8 months. However, sleep is not the problem. I actually love my nighttime cuddles. I no longer feel exhausted all the time, my body has adjusted and sleep is really not an issue.
Stopping breastfeeding will make things worse, not better. I breastfeed. I love it. You may think that the hormones attached to this are causing my problems, you would be wrong. The truth is that if I were to stop before my daughter weaned herself naturally then I would be overwhelmed with such deep feelings of loss, guilt and regret that I would fall deeper into the pit of depression, not start to climb out. I breastfeed because I want to and because she’s worth it.
Having PND does not make me weak. In fact, I was once told by a therapist that it is usually stronger women who get the illness. Strong women who hold things together, over analyse and strive for perfection.
I don’t expect, or want you, to offer me solutions Please don’t suggest ways for me to cheer up. Please don’t offer advice or helpful suggestions. Just listen. Smile at me, and nod in the right places. I am receiving professional help for my illness. You would not try to cure someone who had flu or asthma with helpful tips, please treat my illness with the same respect.
My daughter is not starved of affection. You just need to look at her to see that. She is a loving, kind, strong, confident and secure individual. She has a mother who loves her and who tells her so every day.
A Facebook status and picture can hide a thousand truths. That status that tells you I am happy is not a lie, but nor is it the whole truth. It does not tell you how hard I have worked for that happiness, nor does it tell you that the happiness is singed with guilt and worry. The picture of my daughter crawling or laughing does not show you what is behind the camera. A mother who is so proud that she cries. Cries for the time that has already passed, the tiny life that is already going so fast. She cries for opportunities missed and with guilt that she can not spend every second with her daughter. She takes this picture, and all the others, in an attempt to hold on to the moment, to record the memories and make them last forever.
I am not a bad mother. I will repeat that. I am not a bad mother. In fact, do you know what? Excuse the pride, but I think I am a bloody brilliant mother! I love my daughter, I put her first and I consider her in everything I do. I chose my words carefully and I praise often. PND does not change this and it certainly does not, in anyway, make me a bad mother. (Although in my lower moments it might make me question myself.)
So, here I am. I have post natal depression. But it’s not what you think.
Please don’t assume you know me, please don’t stereotype me. I might need you to smile at me more than others, I might worry more than others, I certainly have days when I feel like I have failed at everything and I may well cry more than most.
Don’t judge me. Just try and understand me.