“I have Postnatal Depression” - words I never expected to say. But 2 years since Reuben was born I was finally diagnosed. It was a long and difficult road, to get to that point. In truth, I knew when I was pregnant that something wasn't 'right'. But there was so much else going on with my antenatal heath (with size and growth issues) that I didn't have the time or energy to face it.
It hit me like a ton of bricks, as soon as Reuben was born. After my c-section, when they handed me my baby to hold, the only reaction I would muster was "Oh". It felt surreal, but not in a good way. Not in a "oh my goodness I've just met Brad Paisley" way, in a "this is not my baby" way.
As the visitors left Reuben and I alone in the hospital ward, the darkness set in. Fear. I was utterly terrified. I knew in my heart that "this wasn't going to work". I looked at Reuben and felt nothing except a desire to turn back the clock. He lay asleep in the plastic crib and I lay awake, texting a friend who was up feeding her 2 month old baby, hoping that some of her excitement would rub off on me. It didn't.
My first night home, as I sat on the sofa chatting with Gavin, Mum and Dad, I had to resist the urge to hand Reuben to them and walk out the door and never come back. I angrily told myself - "tough luck, you got yourself into this mess, you'll just have to put up with it". So that's what I tried to do.
I learned how to practically care for Reuben, telling myself soon all the other feelings would flood in. They didn't. I rationalised that even if I didn't feel a bond with him, all I did for him was me showing care and concern, and that's what he needed most. When the disconnection, I felt towards him, was so deep that I feared what might come next, I told myself that I don't believe that love is all about mushy feelings, it's a choice, an act of will, so I would 'choose to love him' no matter how I felt. Still none of that worked to fill the dark hole that was inside of me.
You might be wondering why I didn't just speak out and tell someone. Well I did. Two people, in fact. When Reuben was between the ages of 2 and 4 months, I spoke to two medical professionals, both woman. I had to summon the courage to do so. Both of their reactions were far from helpful - one rolled her eyes and said "You've just had a baby, what do you expect, you're all over the place", the other asked "Is it because your baby is so badly behaved that you feel this way?". I was gutted. So that lead me further down the path, as I began to assume this is "just me". That there was something internally flawed about me that meant I couldn't be a mum. And once again, having got both Reuben and I into this dreadful situation, I'd just have to deal with it. So that's what I tried desperately to do. And it has made me very ill- mentally and emotionally. PND also made me very physically unwell, to the point where I have wondered (as did my husband) if I has another serious illness, the DR’s, too, tried to find lots of other solutions to my problems. I have had some very dark days and weeks, I have been living under a cloud of death for too long.
September 2015, just in time for Reuben's second birthday, I was diagnosed. Since then, I have started talking antidepressants, seeing a Psychiatrist and meeting regularly with a good friend, who has years of experience of working with mums who have PND and doing some CBT.
I am on the road to recovery. It's going to take time and a lot of it. But each day is a little bit of a step up, rather than a leap further down.
I've decided to share my journey on my blog Have you seen that girl?
I guess I wanted to break the silence there is around mental illness, especially this one, which many of us worry "makes us a bad mum and a rubbish person". Reading other people's truth has been a lifeline to me, so if this helps even just one other mum feel not so alone and that someone understands them, it's definitely worth it.
I have struggled to admit and accept that I have PND for too long, for too long I have lived in silence and fear. That stops now. Through my blog I have met hundreds of mum (and some dads) who know the battle with PND. There is power, hope and help in community. I love PANGS for that very reason! Feel free to come and join me on my blog, have a look around and get in touch if there is something you’d like to say or share.
If you’re struggling please know there is hope and help available and it IS possible to recover. You are never alone.