Postnatal Depression is something that everyone knows exist but often it not actually discussed. Most people know that Postnatal Depression can be deadly but beyond not much else is generally known.
When you are pregnant so many staff talk to you about the risks and signs of it. If you have had depression before you are warned that you have an even higher risk.
As someone who has dealt with her own black dog I know my fair share of what destruction depression can have. It has been apart of my life for years so I have my own existing methods of how to cope when things got really hard but none of this prepared me for Postnatal Depression.
Every new mum gets hit by the baby blues so it can often be hard to work out whether you have the baby blues or Postnatal Depression at first. For me it seemed to be just anxiety and baby blues but then it was clear that this was Postnatal Depression.
Everyone’s experience is different and for me it always linked back to my own existing self esteem issues. I loved my LO the moment we met so an issue that many women deal with wasn’t what I struggled with. For me it was that I was never being a good enough mum for her. I constantly felt like an utter failure of a mum.
All around me people would come and visit spouting off “aren’t you doing so well!” or “you’re such a natural mum” yet all these just made me feel worse. I felt and still feel like a fraud. Every day I look down at my little girl at some point on the brink as I feel like I am not doing a good enough job.
I have lost count of how often I have hidden away and broken down in the 4 months since LO was born. I know that BF knows of some of them but I am not sure that he is aware of just how much I feel broken.
It is a strange existence – while I feel utterly broken, I am also extremely happy as I curl up with her in my arms or in bed with BF while she sleeps away on his chest. That might be why Postnatal Depression is so scary – you often feel so alone, scared and upset but to the rest of the world sees you as this new happy mother. I think that is why there are so many cases of sudden suicides of mothers – to the rest of the world you seem happy yet alone or inside you are broken.
If you asked any of my friends and family, they wouldn’t have any idea that I was remotely depressed. You always seem to wear a mask. For the world to find out your dirty secret feels like the end of the world. To openly talk about it too makes it all the more real. Trying to tell doctors, midwives or health visitors is just as hard, which only makes getting the help that you need even harder.
I was lucky that my BF and Health Visitor were so great at spotting that something was wrong. It could have been so much harder to have those conversations but they made it possible. I’m not sure how much of my struggle that they are aware of but they know I am suffering and that is an important first step. There is still a whole journey ahead of me to recovery and I am at the start of mine with people who are looking out for me.
There are those out there though that make it hard. Even with my positive experiences of reaching out and being heard, I have had negative ones too. One doctor in particular was awful – twice I tried to talk to him about my PND and both times I was made to feel awful about it.
The first time was at my 6 week check up – an appointment that my Health Visitor asked me to talk to the Doctor about my struggles. At first he dismissed it claiming it was probably just baby blues. Next he then claimed that it was my health visitor who had to deal with referrals, something that is no at all correct. Finally his only approach was to throw drugs at the problem. In fact the conversation ended when he exclaimed “I can give you antidepressants but beyond that there is nothing that can be done.”
I knew that going for an only drug approach was not for me – drugs won’t help a terrible self esteem problem. I have taken similar drugs before to help with my recovery from a brain injury and I knew all too well the side effects. For me the side effects would just make me feel worse but would also would go through to LO’ milk. It wasn’t the right option for me but this doctor wasn’t willing to consider anything else.
The second time that I meet him was for an appointment about crippling back pain. For 7 days I had been dealing with 2-3 back spasms that lasted 4-5 hours – I was on the brink. It felt like these days of pain were just never going to end and I couldn’t see how I was going to survive. These back spasms had been happening for weeks but this was the longest bout of attacks.
I remember the days before the appointment being in the kitchen in floods of tears feeling like I couldn’t survive. I wanted it over. It went no further but even the idea that I didn’t want to exist if this constant pain and inability to breathe was what I had in store was terrifying once the pain lifted. I love my family and there is so much in my life that makes me so happy but in that brief moment I couldn’t see anything but pain. Hours later when the pain lifted I was so scared. I don’t want to ever feel that lost, scared and fearful again, nor even consider that it would have been better to not exist. While even in that amount of pain and distress, I didn’t want to act on it but it was still enough to know that I needed help with my physical pain as well as my mental health.
I went to an appointment and after trying to explain about such negative thoughts, he just dismissed them. In fact he ignored 90% of what I said and ended up putting me on drugs for pain relief that I later found out was scarily dangerous for breastfed babies. This doctor though has made me fearful for bringing up my emotional pain. Since that appointment I have struggled to open up.
On top of all this, when I was finally referred to the mental health team locally I was informed that despite Postnatal Depression being a very common and possibly deadly mental health issue, there wasn’t actually any Postnatal Depression run by the well being service. It was really shocking that the only real Postnatal Depression support was run by the health visitors and I would have to wait until January for the chance to go to that support group. The lack of support for women with Postnatal Depression is shocking.
The only option that the mental health service could provide was Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. So here I am the day after my first appointment and I finally felt like it was time to finally open up that I am struggling with Postnatal depression. I might seem like the world that everything is OK but behind it all I am struggling. I am though starting my journey to recovery and hopefully soon those days of crying on the kitchen floor while LO sleep will soon be far behind me.
So many people since LO was born have asked how I am. Some people have even been so far to say “It’s not like you are suffering from Postnatal Depression” or “it is great that you don’t have Postnatal Depression.” Every time I have managed to change the subject or avoid the question often telling them how adorable LO is. I still may not be able to share in conversation with people and I will probably still keep changing the subject if it comes up but as normal writing it out is so much easier. This way I can share my story and feel safe. Hopefully others will be able to find comfort or help too.
I don’t want Postnatal Depression to shape my life nor my family’s – I want to be the better for them. Recovery is hard but I am starting and that at the moment that is important. So here is to the start of my journey. It can only go up from here, till then I will just have to have extra baby and BF cuddles. With them in my life and by my side I know I will get there soon.