Occasionally, it rains.

I made it through the storm of depression. The winds were strong and the waves were high. My boat was rocked, it took on water, heck, it even capsized at points. But I made it out the other side.  I found land and my family is happy. I am happy. 

I now say things like “I suffered with awful Post Natal Depression when I had my first child” and “I’m so lucky that this time around I’ve been well”.  I am well.  I am no longer depressed.  The sun shines and I have been happy for a long time. 

But, occasionally, it rains. Like all habitable climates my mood experiences the odd scattering of clouds. Sometimes the sky is a bit darker and, yes, occasionally it rains. 

Rain is not depression.  Rain is a bad day. Actually rain allows the flowers to grow, in turn making the sunnier days more attractive and more appreciated. The bad days allow us to cherish the better days with more passion and more love. 

Rain is real life.  Rain is an inevitable, unavoidable part of life. Noone wants the sun to shine all the time.  It would be too warm, too bright, too dry.  We wouldn’t appreciate it.  It only takes a week of sun for people to complain, but, let that sun break through a dreary, wet weekend, and it is loved with more passion than cake at a party.

I will say it again because it’s important: rain is not depression.  
A bad day is not a storm. 

The sun shines, the sky is bright, the breeze cools us and yes, occasionally, it rains. 

Advertisements

The light.

The chink of light that breaks through the curtains…

The torch that is turned on in the dark…

The pregnancy following the loss.

I am pregnant.

I am pregnant with a baby that has made it to the womb. I am pregnant with a baby, who, at 13 weeks looks to be doing well on the scan.

The light is shining again and my heart has hope.

This does not mean I no longer mourn my lost baby. The sibling we never met will always be with me.

But for the first time since the pain of loss there is hope.

I was lost.

I have found a map and I am on my way home.

What does post natal depression feel like?

I am a survivor. I am surviving. There were times I did not think I would.

Now, with the clouds above my head allowing sunlight through, I find myself reflecting.

My husband, a kind, generous, sensible, modern man, is not a great believer of mental illness. It is one of very very few areas on which we disagree. A disagreement this evening has led to his admission that he is only now starting to understand how ill I have been.

And so am I.

It is an impossible thing to describe to someone, but I am going to try. Post natal depression, for me, was, at its worst, a series of questions and statements. My post natal depression was triggered by the financial necessity that I returned to work when my daughter was less that six months. This still haunts me.

Why can’t I stop crying?
I cried a lot. And I mean a lot. It breaks my heart that my memories of my daughters early life are seen through blurry eyes and tears. I know, people cry, it doesn’t make them depressed. But when that crying becomes a large part of your daily activity, when that crying becomes the first and the last thing in yours day, there is a problem. When your eyelids swell from crying so much, when your face mottled with dried on tears, then, those tears are taking control.

I did everything wrong, and I am still doing everything wrong now.
I feel guilty. I didn’t do labor ‘properly’, I didn’t have enough skin to skin, I didn’t hold my daughter enough at the start, the house is messy, I haven’t cooked for my husband and I haven’t been the mother or wife I should have been. I watch too much TV, I don’t read to my daughter enough, I eat too much, I eat too little, I failed and am still failing at everything.

I’ll never get that time back.
My baby girl is already grown, I missed it. I looked away and I missed it. It hurts, I’ll never regain the time I missed, ever. Time has taken my baby and I let it.

I don’t remember that.
Now, this one is different, and this one scares me. There are chunks of January and February that I can’t remember. Colleagues have talked with me about days I “seemed a bit out of it” and told me of things I did. I have no memory of these days. January and February were very dark days, my mind seemed to have shut them away, to protect me from the pain.

I’m tired.
Curled up here in bed, with my daughter on my breast, we could sleep all day, we could snuggle and pretend the world is OK. We don’t need to leave the room and face the reality outside. Let’s stay here, let’s forget the truth, let’s avoid thoughts of how much I have failed, of how soon my maternity leave will be finished and how much I will miss you.

How could you say that? You don’t love me at all.
You don’t understand. It hurts, I miss her when she is near me, the thought of her being more than arms reach away leaves me short of breath. My stomach hurts and my eyes sting. I can’t swallow and my pulse races. You don’t understand. Nobody loves her as much as I do, and I am failing her.

Everyone is judging me.
Everyone. They are laughing at me, they are mocking me. Every Facebook status I write, posts I share in a bid to convince myself, and those around me that my world isn’t falling apart, they laugh at them all. They whisper, they snigger and they talk about what a bad mother I am.

I am a bad bad bad mother.

I deserve to feel this way.
If I had done things differently I would be happy, this is therefore my fault.

I don’t deserve to feel this way.
But I tried, I really tried. I love my daughter, I work hard, I am a good person. It’s not fair that it hurts this much. Life hurts. Life itself actually hurts.

I need to snap out of it
My husband is fed up of seeing me like this, I need to put that brave face back in. It must stop skipping, pretend pretend pretend.

Why won’t anybody help me?
Please. Anyone. I need to be a mother, why won’t anyone help me? Please. Please.

The ultimate question. Would everyone just be better off if I wasn’t here?

And so, the next time you hear of someone who is depressed, a new mum, struggling with their new world and an overload of feelings, please don’t dismiss them. Please don’t roll your eyes and sigh to your friends about “attention seeking” or “drama queen”.

Just be thankful that it is not you.

Happiness. I owe it to my daughter.

image

Post Natal Depression is a horribly selfish illness. Not selfish in the way that many assume, not always selfish in the “I don’t want to spend time with my child, I want my own life back” way that is the common perception. But, for me at least, selfish nonetheless.

I feel guilty all the time, I constantly feel like I am failing my daughter, (despite much evidence to the contrary) and I often find myself crying without reason. The selfish side is in my lack of happiness. My daughter is a happy, smiling, amazing girl. At 9 months she is the light in the dark, and thankfully, she seems completely unaware that her mother is a wreck. But I fear this will not last. My PND is selfish because I owe it to her to be happy.

Like all parents I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. She can be rich, famous, intelligent, married, single, unemployed, a stay at home mother, a business woman or anything else she wants, I don’t mind what path she chooses for her life, as long as she is happy.

My daughter will learn from me. Like it or not, I am the most influential person in her life. Therefore, I want my influence to be a good one. My happiness is essential, not for my own mental health, but for hers.

Imagine the following; as a child of six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk the kitchen floor, it smashes and the milk goes everywhere. She says, ‘Whooops, never mind, accidents happen.’ As a child, learning from their mother, you will learn not to panic, you will learn that accidents happen and are not the end of the world.

Alternatively, at age six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk on the floor and she says, ‘Oh no, what a disaster! I keep getting things wrong, I am so stupid and can never do anything right, now everything is ruined, I spoil everything.’ As a child learning from their mother in this situation your learning would be very different. You would learn that mistakes are awful, that there is blame and that when things go wrong it is very difficult to fix.

I do not want this for my daughter. I want her to learn love, to learn happiness and to learn resilience.

I want her to have what I call “bouncebackability”. I don’t want her to spend her life full of anxiety, jealousy, concern, sadness or fear. I want her to get back up after falls. I want her smile and intelligence to change the world.

Therefore I need to be a role model. If I want her to be happy, to be calm and to be confident then that is what she must see in me.

Happiness. I owe it to her.

Today I felt a Rainbow

Ever get bored of the standard “Fine thanks” answer to the obligatory “How are you?”

I have already told you What I really mean when I tell you I am fine. I’ve decided it’s time for a new answer. One that gets across an honest answer, quickly, but does not drag the unsuspecting questioner into an awkward conversation.

I have started answering that question with colours.

Colours can mean a multitude of things to different people. Each colour invokes memories and images that in turn help you relive emotions. This is all personal. Here you will find my colours, and what they mean to me. I have deliberately left them as a series of words rather than a clear sentence as my use of colours to describe mood aims to negate the need for succinct sentences.

Beige, boring, time is running out, unnoticed, unloved, unloveable

Black, dark, alone, fear, safe from acknowledgement

White, blinding, dangerous, truth, clean, hospital

Orange, sun, sunset, warm, fire,

Yellow, danger, mocking, noticed too much, humiliated

Red, love, blood, lips, sex

Purple, loud, false, uncomfortable

Green, fields, ill, ignored, alone

Grey, death, power, stench, jealous

Pink, carefree, hopeful, young, fresh

Blue, disconnected, disjointed, forgotten, failing, failed, failure

Today I’ve felt a rainbow.

Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

The Diary of an Insecure Mother

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…

View original post 1,025 more words

Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

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.