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. 

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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.

My thoughts on the quote “It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”

I saw that quote on Facebook.

I have since learnt that it is a poem by David Jones, (read about it here and the way in which these wise words have spread)

And it hit me- that’s my problem. Every single thing I feel is felt to the maximum.

And it really is true. A blessing and a curse.

When I am truly happy then I am full. Overflowing and face aching. When asked to think of a happy occasion, I think of my wedding day. I think of how my face hurt from smiling, I remember my husbands vows and feeling as if there was noone else in the world as he looked into my eyes. I remember feeling love. Love more than I had ever experienced. And feeling safe, knowing that whatever life throws at me, with my husband by my side I will survive.

Every second of that day was felt deeply. And what a blessing that is.
In contrast, when I feel sad, I feel empty, sadness consumes me and I am unable to focus on anything other than the sadness I feel. The negativity overtakes me. It forbids me from seeing the light, and stops me from hearing advice and kind words.

When I find myself in a black hole, it is deep. A true curse.

These are the emotions I am blessed to feel deeply.
Love
Pride

And the emotions that I am cursed to feel to the full.
Guilt
Worry
Paranoia
Jealously
Insignificance

I am saddened by the length of the lists.

EDIT JUNE 2014.
This post was huge amounts of traffic. I assume that this is people looking for information about the quote and not about me. I find this slightly embarrassing as this is not one of my strongest posts! If this applies to you and you have read this far, can I please urge you to have a read of some of my better posts?! In my opinion the 2 best are
To my daughter before you were created.
Mythbusting, Why I told the Facebook world about my Post Natal Depression.

Mundane is amazing.

Supermarket shopping made my Saturday.

I stood in the cleaning aisle of my local Tesco, and I had one of those moments. A ‘grin like a lunatic, sing to yourself and start skipping’ moment.

There I was, my 11 month old sitting in the trolley, looking at bin liners and the complete normalness of the situation overwhelmed me.

Mundane is amazing.

Boring is great.

The bread and butter of everyday life is what makes the world such a great place.

I’ve started to notice things more now. I don’t mean that in a hippy, look at the sky and the flowers and hear the birds way. I mean this. I notice life. I notice all the little things about family life that I do everyday. I notice the opening of the curtains in the morning and the pop of the toaster. I notice when I am stuck in traffic listening to the radio and I notice when I get the bus to town to meet Mummy friends for lunch.

The small things matter.

I love noticing them and I love the fact that they happen to me.

No.

I love the fact that I make them happen.

I’m leading a normal life and doing normal things. Mundane things. Yay. Go me.

I can see clearly now the rain has gone…

…I can see all obstacles in my way.

It’s leaving me. The cloud of PND that has been following me for so long is leaving.

It’s a very strange thing to feel happy. This feels like true happiness.

Not the kind of happiness that makes you see the world with rose tinted glasses, but the kind if happiness that makes you see the dull colours just as clearly as the bright ones. I can see the bad in the world as well as the good and I can cope with it. This, to me, is a much more sustainable form of happiness. This is not a bubble that could be burst at any minute, this is a house. A brick house with solid foundations.

In fact, things have been far from easy recently. Family illness and work pressures have made things tricky, but the exciting thing is, that despite all of this, my head is above water.  Waves that would previously have drowned me are simply washing over my back. I can cope. I am coping.

I can indeed see all obstacles in my way, and by seeing them I can face them.  My head was covered in a rain cloud that made me unable to see the path ahead, unable to see what was in my way and therefore I stayed still. I was scared to move towards happiness as I feared tripping on route and being stuck in deeper mud that I was before.  Well, now the rain has cleared and I can see the path clearly ahead of me. I can even see the destination. I am not there yet, but I do now have my map.  I can make it.  There will be ups and downs along the way, but I can get there.

 

 

Happiness. I owe it to my daughter.

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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.

A life of contradictions.

Does anyone else battle internally on a regular basis? My life appears to be one big contradiction.

I want to be a feminist and the perfect little wife.

I want to be strong, but I want to be looked after.

I am proud of judging people on merit not looks, but I so want to be beautiful.

I want me time, but I don’t want to give up my commitments.

I want to be noticed, but I want to hide away behind an invisibility cloak.

I want to stand out, and I want to be “normal”.

I want to be happy, but not forgotten.

I want to be fit and healthy, but still vulnerable enough to be looked after.

I want to be honest to the world, but I also want everyone to think I am great.

I want to be a grown up, and a fairy.

I want to be whisked off my feet, and be the only two people in the world, but I want everyone to know how happy I am.

I want to be myself, and to be someone else.

I want people to like me, and I want to not care if they don’t.

I want a fight, but not a reason for one.

I want to stand up for my beliefs, but not to have to defend myself.

I want to be recognised for my intelligence, but also seen as “girly”.

I am beginning to see why my brain is so confused. Perhaps I need to pick a side. What is more important to me?